Why I joined OTW

This is cross-posted to my LiveJournal here. Please feel free to comment in either space.

Here’s my day job: I copyedit journals and books. I take a manuscript. I run it through a bunch of macros to make it all clean and pretty. I code it for the typesetter. And then I edit it. I think I spend most of my time styling references. It’s hard to say. It all kind of blends together, boldface journal numbers, italic journal names, with or without periods, Index Medicus versus Biosis.

When I edit something, I don’t really read it. That seems weird but it’s better that way. I’m not focusing on content, because that was taken care of, one presumes, during peer review. I’m focusing on grammatical sense, subject-verb agreement, proper styling of P values, reconciliation of references, proper capitalization in display type, tricky italicization in things like restriction enzymes. And I write notes like this to the author: “Figure 3 is reprinted from a copyrighted source. Please ensure that permission paperwork is on file with the production editor.” Or, “Song lyrics epigraphs have all been struck. Please approve. If you reinstate, please ensure that you have paid the relevant fees to the copyright holder, and make sure the release paperwork is on file with the production editor.”

I know very well that the author had no idea she had no right to reprint Figure 3, because after all, she created it. But it was published elsewhere, and so she doesn’t own the copyright. The journal she printed it in does, and they must release it—which they will do for a fee. And I know that although the single lines of popular songs used as epigraphs to head each chapter probably fall within fair use, the publisher doesn’t care, as is their prerogative. They don’t want to get sued, so they ask me to cut all song lyrics, regardless of length, thus simply avoiding the whole problem.

I think something is wrong with copyright, or the way it’s interpreted. I think it’s ironic that I’m asked to do something I so fundamentally disagree with. I think that I have to do it anyway.

Here’s my fandom life: Not enough time to write, too much heavy-duty revision macro-level beta’ing that really takes quite a bit of time but results in a publishable story, and it makes me proud to see it even if my name isn’t on it. A fan archive, three complete virtual seasons, round robins, a mailing list, a fan LiveJournal (LJ), some writing awards, betas I love, people who always send me feedback, friends who support me because they just…get it. And the love, oh the love, for a text so rich and so meaningful for me that it has the capacity to reduce me to tears: the canon source, and then that valuable thing that comes after, the community-generated metatext.

Here’s my thinky life: I am not an academic. I have a PhD. My specialty is science fiction literature. Meta = fanfic = literary criticism, all of it looping together, the impetus for the one the same as the impetus for the other. I write for money and so sometimes it’s hard to write for love, even though I like the pay for the latter better. I published a personal essay about writing fanfic, and I still get notes about it. It was reprinted somewhere. I put together a book proposal and Fan Fiction and Fan Communities in the Age of the Internet was the result. I look around and I see connection, and I have a solely authored book proposal in me about the connection between fandom and articulations of history and historiography, but my strength really isn’t in my thinkiness or my meta. It’s in my practical knowledge of the publishing field, my ability to execute a complex project on time, and my ability to direct the work of others. That’s how I contribute to fandom, and that’s how I contribute to scholarship.

Here’s why I combined them in OTW: Get a bunch of people together who can actually execute a plan. Do you know how rare that is? I don’t really know them and that’s okay. I don’t share a fandom with most of them, plus my primary fandom is on the lists, not LJ, and I’m always slightly puzzled because I don’t have time to follow the metatext that is LJ, so I’m always a little behind. The bunch of people who are in charge seem articulate and smart, and if they say they are going to do something, then they do it. They are trying to create a long-lasting structure on a solid base. They are doing legal-type stuff that is important. And they are doing it all, the entire project, to protect something valuable.

Most people are excited about the Archive Of Our Own, but here’s what I’m excited about: an academic journal that welcomes, instead of rejects or overtly mocks, fan studies as a topic. That uses a Creative Commons copyright license so that the author can use that figure again if she wants. That thinks that teeny little snips of song lyrics fall within fair use. That will permit words from television programs or film to appear in print. That has open access, so readers don’t need a subscription to read the content. That is online, because more people will see it that way. That permits, even encourages, close readings of film, TV shows, or pieces of fan art, such as fanfic or vids. That has a way for readers to comment so they can engage in dialogue with the writers. And, most importantly, that takes as a given the notion that fans provide something valuable to our culture that ought to be analyzed.

My name is Karen Hellekson. I’m a member of the Organization for Transformative Works, and I’m the coeditor, with Kristina Busse, of Transformative Works and Cultures, a new peer-reviewed journal in the field of media studies that is especially interested in work by and about fans.

This post is part of Why I Joined OTW Week. Everything I say here is me, me, me, and I’m not speaking in any official capacity.


One thought on “Why I joined OTW

  1. Pingback: April Membership Drive: Spotlight on Transformative Works and Cultures – Organization for Transformative Works

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