TWC No. 9 Fan/Remix Video

Transformative Works and Cultures has released No. 9, Fan/Remix Video, guest edited by Francesca Coppa and Julie Levin Russo. This vid- and image-heavy issue makes good use of the multimedia components of an online-only environment.

Topics include fan videos, AMVs, political remix, Lady Gaga “Telephone” videos, queer video, fake movie trailers, anime abridged series, and Star Wars recuts. The issue features interviews with Bradcpu, Desiree D’Alessandro, Diran Lyons, Eric Faden, and Nina Paley. And a special Multimedia section features curated lists of videos (AMVs and political remix) as well as an exploration of the queer; and Alexandra Juhasz explores the boundaries of online writing/presentation with a YouTour.

“Oh Internet (A Vidding/Remix Romance),” by Julie Levin Russo (2012).

OTW March 2011 drive

23-29 March 2011 OTW Membership Drive

What I do for OTW: I coedit the OTW’s academic journal, Transformative Works and Cultures (TWC).

Why this is important: TWC’s focus on the fan part of the equation makes it unique. Other academic journals will take articles about fan studies, but OTW does so within a framework that respects fan privacy and autonomy—for example, we request that contributors contact the fans that are being written about, so that fans can be informed and can help control how they and their fan works are presented.

What I do as a fan: I write fan fiction, maintain a fan fic archive, and maintain a couple mailing lists. All this has regrettably slowed down since I started working on TWC, but I also perceive working on TWC as a kind of fannish activity—service, rather than creation. However, lately I’ve been getting lots of feedback on old stories I’ve written and archived over at the Archive Of Our Own (did I get rec’d? what what?), and it’s making me feel all happy and shiny, so if I could just clear this backlog of TWC manuscripts I need to comment on….

“Fan fiction” hits MW

Yes, it’s finally happened: fan fiction is finally in Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary. The term dates from 1944, and it’s defined as, “stories involving popular fictional characters that are written by fans and often posted on the Internet —called also fan fic.” Culturally speaking, I suppose this means that fan fiction is now mainstream enough to make it into a lexicon known for its descriptive, rather than prescriptive, use.

Screencap of MW entry for fan fiction
Screencap of MW entry for fan fiction

In my capacity as production manager for Transformative Works and Cultures, I am the Keeper of the Style Sheet. As a professional copyeditor, I know that the only way to ensure consistency across the work of multiple people is to have as few in-house styling rules as possible. We thus slavishly follow two standard reference works: Webster’s for terms, and Chicago 15 for grammar rules, compounds, reference styling, and the like.

TWC’s overarching styling rule is simple: look it up. Thus it’s not website, it’s Web site; it’s not internet, it’s Internet. Potentially compound words that are not in the dictionary are treated as two words; thus it’s not gameplay, but game play.

TWC styled fan fiction as two words because the term was not in the dictionary, but we styled fanfic as one word. I made this call on the basis of the usage I saw most. However, now that Webster’s has stated a preference for fan fic as two words, TWC will begin to use that styling, even though fan fic does not have its own Webster’s entry. And we will retain them as open compounds always; the terms will never be hyphenated (that is, not “fan-fiction study” but always “fan fiction study”).

I oppose violating the dictionary on any number of principles, the first being that it’s just confusing; but one reason I object to fanfiction, as well as any other number of fan words made solid, such as fanart or fanvid, is that fan is not a prefix.

I sometimes see heated discussions of why a term ought to be presented a certain way, as though hyphenating or presenting solid or presenting italic (or whatever) is laden with shades of subtle meaning. I suppose it often is. But me? I just look the term up in Webster’s. It’s usually there. It represents a consensus of the most common usage. That’s good enough for me.

This text is copyrighted under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. This post was originally written on January 6, 2010. It may be freely copied anywhere. If you copy this post, please copy the image too and host it yourself. If you read this document at a site other than its original, I may not see any comments you might append, and I’d love to hear from you. Please comment at the original blog post if you wish me to see your remarks.

TWC and citation

My Transformative Works and Cultures coeditor, Kristina Busse, and I have written a document about “Fan Privacy and TWC’s Editorial Philosophy.” It addresses our editorial decisions about citation of publicly presented fan works in TWC. TWC’s submission guidelines strongly suggest that scholars seek fan permission before citing a fan artwork, but we fall short of requiring it. The document we wrote goes into detail to explain why this is so.

To summarize the problem: there is a divide between best practices in the academic and fan realms regarding the appropriateness of citing things like fan fiction, fan videos, or fan-manipulated art. In the academic realm, any text publicly posted is considered published, and it is not required to obtain permission of the writer to cite from it. Scholars wouldn’t ask Jane Austen (who is dead) or Philip Roth (who is not) if they could write about their works; such an idea actually seems ridiculous. It thus would probably never occur to your average scholar that there might be a problem with citing a freely available fan artwork. The text here is perceived as text only, separate from the creator. The academic stance assumes that citing the text violates no privacy concerns because it is publicly posted, and presumably the fan wouldn’t have posted it publicly if she didn’t want people to read it.

In some circles of the fan realm (but by no means universally), any fan artwork that is publicly posted is still considered a private document, meant to share with the community but not really the world at large. The idea of scholars publishing an article about a fan’s work without letting the fan know they are doing so is intolerable to many fans. The text here is perceived as a representation of the fan herself, an aspect of the creator. Citing the text is a violation of the fan’s expectations of privacy.

TWC’s policy is a middle-ground attempt to reconcile these two differing points of view. As we say in “Fan Privacy,” “We are an academic publication drawing from a myriad of different disciplines and fandoms. We have created an ethics guideline that forces scholars to seriously consider the potential costs of citing, referencing, and linking even publicly posted material.”

As a fan, I personally do not care if someone cites my fan fiction. I also don’t care if, for example, someone took it and disseminated it, maybe by putting it in a hard-copy zine, or maybe by adding it to a fic archive she wants to start. To make this stance abundantly clear, I have stated this preference in several places: on LiveJournal, it’s in my profile, and on my blog pages, in the navbar, I have provided a Creative Commons copyright that permits remixing and reposting, but with attribution. This is a signal to anyone, scholar or not, that they can take my work and I don’t care. There is no need to ask.

However, if I wanted privacy—if I wanted the documents I create to be part of the fan community but not the world at large—I would lock everything down. In LiveJournal and Dreamwidth, I would friendslock. On An Archive Of Our Own, I would adjust my privacy settings. I would take my fic down from any public fic archives, such as Wraithbait. The Internet is part of the reason fandom has gone mainstream: it’s just so easy to find these texts. Fans need to rigorously police their own online identities. The culture of silence that protected them is being broken—by fellow fans, especially ones who came to fandom recently via the Internet and who have no longtime background in fan culture, and by outsiders to fandom.

What it comes down to is risk management. Everyone who posts, fan or not, needs to balance the risks with the rewards: readership and the potential for new friendships, versus the possibility of intense and possibly unwelcome scrutiny.

This text is copyrighted under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. This post was originally written on December 5, 2009. It may be freely copied anywhere. If you read this document a site other than its original, I may not see any comments you might append, and I’d love to hear from you. Please comment at the original blog post if you wish me to see your remarks.