Episode 10: Fangirling Through Time

Episode 10’s cover: an old illustration of a woman writing and appearing to swoon into a sofa as a man apparently confronts her about what she has written.

Can you believe we’ve made ten episodes?! In this episode, we interview Evan Hayles Gledhill about the Tumblr of the Victorian era, Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey and other depictions of fans in media, Walt Whitman’s reaction to his gushy fanmail (and other topics covered by historicalsquee), and the enduring patriarchal effort to police women’s reading and writing. In addition, we read listener stories about how fanfic has helped at difficult times in people’s lives.


Show Notes

[00:00:00] As always, our intro music is “Awel,” by Stefsax, used under a CC BY 2.5 license. The cover image is ”Dr. Syntax and the Blue Stocking Beauty" by Thomas Rowlandson; it’s in the public domain.

[00:01:10] Evan Hayles Gledhill is @gothicbodies on Twitter!

[00:01:33] If you find Evan’s work interesting, consider checking out the Fan Studies Network: fanstudies.org!

[00:03:10] Want to see all the responses to our question about how fanfic helped you? Here they are—and add your own!

[00:04:24] You know that Scully would love pumpkin spice lattes. Look at all the beige in her house. JUST LOOK AT IT. Also, she owns this suit, which is indubitably the suit of a pumpkin spice drinker.

Dana Scully, in an early season of  The X-files,  wearing red plaid.

[00:08:55] “A Room Of One’s Own” by Virginia Woolf—recommended reading for all. And you can read it free online!

[00:09:08] Reading the Romance by Janice Radway—also recommended. If you ever feel guilty for reading romance, read this book and then use it as a weapon to thwack people who insult romance!

The cover of  Reading the Romance  by Janice Radway.

[00:11:06] The musical interlude is “Indie/Nostalgic” by Paul Tyan, used under a CC BY 3.0 license.

[00:12:09] Castiel!!!

An animated gif of Castiel, illustrated in cartoonish style, appearing out of nowhere, landing on the ground, and disappearing.

(gif by nasell)

[00:13:07] Dr Who!! We would put a gif here but we didn’t ask Evan what doctor! And it would be downright insulting to get it wrong!

[00:13:34] Here, we looked up the AO3 tag for Darcy/Bingley for you. (There’s lots more of it on other sites but we are lazy and many of them require you to sign up.) But also, EXCUSE FOR COLIN FIRTH GIF! (And what a puppy!)

A gif of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, standing wet near a pond. He maks a worried face.

[00:15:19] @popsonnet has your official Fresh Prince of Stratford-Upon-Avon.

[00:15:50] We couldn’t find the Brontës’ juvenilia online (pretty sure it’s not available), but here’s a blog post about it. Wellington RPF!

[00:17:50] Elizabeth hasn’t written about her sentiment album yet, so we can’t share pictures! Send her messages to tell her to write quicker!

[00:20:15] Did you keep a sentiment album at any point? Share it with us! We’d love to see them.

[00:20:30] We’re working on tracking down these articles—sorry to not have them yet!

[00:23:00] “Just like framing your pictures of Scully” LET’S HAVE ONE. GIF WITH SPARKLES.

An animated gif of Dana Scully holding up her badge. Her hair and the badge both sparkle. Instead of her identification, the badge reads “i don’t care.”

[00:23:00] And one of Giles, to honor Elizabeth’s sentiment album preferences too!

An animated gif of Giles wearing a sombrero and snacking on Halloween candy.

[00:25:23] Yeah, so, reading that Robert Southey quote in context does not make it even a little bit better.

[00:26:55] The paper/talk: “Poaching in the Textual Enclosure”!

[00:27:53] Seriously seriously go see historicalsquee because it’s ~the best~ and you can help!

[00:28:30] Flourish is a total slacker and has not, in fact, read any of Virginia Woolf’s collected letters or diaries in order to help Evan. SHAME.

[00:29:25] Harry Styles and Iggy Pop: both have… kind of questionable but also majestic hair?

A black and white animated gif of Harry Styles, with majestic hair, gesturing.
A black and white animated gif of Iggy Pop singing “I wanna be your dog.”

[00:20:15] Elizabeth did not, in fact, write John Locke Johnlock fic. SHAME.

[00:31:53] The paper isn’t out yet - we’ll try to promote it when it comes!


An animated gif of the words “Smash the Patriarchy” over a field of glitter, which cycles through rainbow colors.

[00:35:41] This is a real gift that Flourish really received.

[00:36:48] #masculinitysofragile @masculinitysofragile and lord, do we wish we were joking. This wine is called MANCAN.

A can of red wine with a dog on its label.

And this yogurt is POWERFUL YOGURT.

A black and red container of yogurt with the silhouette of a bull’s head and the words POWERFUL YOGURT.

And this is definitely not a bath pouf, it’s a BODY DETAILER and a SHOWER TOOL.

A bath pouf in packaging that describes it as an “AXE DETAILER 2-sided shower tool” and promises “ergonomic grip & improved lathering.”

[00:37:33] The musical interlude is “Little Gruesome” by Darius Greene, used under a CC BY-SA 3.0 license.

[00:38:12] “Fan Girls and Fangbangers: gender and the Gothic audience” by Evan!

[00:38:47] Crimson Peak is highly recommended!

Mia Wasikowska clings to Tom Hiddleston in an animated gif from  Crimson Peak.  Everything is extremely Gothic.

[00:41:28] If you haven’t read them, Rebecca, Jane Eyre and The Gravedigger’s Daughter are all great—and the first two have excellent movie versions, if you want to enjoy them in filmic form as well!

In an animated gif from  Jane Eyre,  Jane says “Do you think that because I am poor, obscure, plain and little that I am soulless and heartless?”

[00:44:20] If you watch SPN and haven’t seen Luminosity’s classic vid “Women’s Work,” now is the time to change that—it is all about this topic!

[00:49:30] Flourish has a lot of thoughts about Cult and maybe will someday write meta about it, but for now, you should just read the meta Flourish missed while the show was airing: "They’re not fans, they’re freaks’ by Bertha Chin.

[00:50:48] “Oh, BECKY.”

In an animated gif from  Supernatural,  Sam asks Becky, “Can you quit touching me?” She responds, “No.”

[00:57:50] Lori Morimoto’s great “puppy postulate” about why women like Sherlock; she also discusses this topic here.

[00:59:25] While we’re saying “fuck the patriarchy,” remember that dudes used to be fans the way ladies are now, and when they were, fandom was tooooootally acceptable!

[1:00:14] The musical interlude is “Contemplating” by Khaos Consumes, used under a CC-BY license.

[1:01:41] Elizabeth has not provided a link to her crossover fic. BOO.

[1:02:33] Go listen to SRSLY if you don’t already! And follow them on Tumblr at @srslypod.

[1:05:11] The musical outro is “Make It Big” by James Fixx, now taken down (sadly!) but used under a CC BY 3.0 license.


[Intro music: “Awel” by Stefsax]

Flourish Klink: Hi, Elizabeth!

Elizabeth L Minkel: Hi, Flourish!

FK: And welcome to Fansplaining, the podcast by, for, and about fandom!

ELM: This is a very businesslike opening. I think it’s a first in our history.

FK: Y’know, we couldn’t always be, y’know, awkward and…

ELM: Yeah we could.

FK: Pausey…

ELM: I could. Really?

FK: Eh, you know. Variety is the spice of life.

ELM: So. Episode 10. And the title is, da-da-da-da—

FK: [Rod Serling voice, or something] Fangirling Through Time!

ELM: You know, we’ve had some connection troubles today as we’ve been recording and that actually sounded just like everything else you’ve been saying. So. [both laugh] But no, that was very good, I think that was well done for emphasis. Fangirling Through Time.

FK: And our guest is gonna be Evan Hayles Gledhill, who I think you first met, Elizabeth, at an academic conference?

ELM: Yes! In 2014 I went to the Fan Studies Network conference in central London, and I saw a lot of really interesting papers there. It kind of actually was one of the first times where I really understood the breadth of fan studies, which I think I had always assumed was just people looking at fanfiction, because that’s what I always assume about fandom. But the paper that was really the most impactful for me was the one that Evan gave about 19th century sentiment albums and how they resembled modern day Tumblr. And I don’t think we should go into it too much now, because I’m sure that they will give us a full rundown of this, but if the paper is anything to go by it’s going to be an incredibly fascinating conversation—so I’m so excited that Evan could come on to talk to us.

FK: I’m super excited too, I can’t wait to hear about it! It sounds like there’s so much in Evan’s research that reflects both of our experiences of fandom and I’m sure lots of other people’s. But before we get there, we have a lot of comments that people sent in. Last week we talked to Jackson Bird, who mentioned about how reading Glee fanfic had been really helpful and meaningful for him during college before he was out as trans at processing being trans and supporting and just being a real help in that experience. And we asked people whether fanfic had played a similar role for them, and how, and we got back—I think maybe literally a billion responses.

ELM: [laughs] I believe yesterday, when we were discussing how many responses, you might’ve used a more specific number which was a “metric fuck-ton”?

FK: Metric fuck-ton, thank you. That is actually the more accurate…

ELM: I mean, though, the rest of the world is on the metric system, so I think we kind of want to be inclusive in that sense [laughs] so our foreign listeners will know how many we got… in fact, I think partly thanks to one of our foreign listeners, Jules, who was one of the first to retweet it. It was actually funny just kind of watching the way the question spread through Tumblr and Twitter, especially Tumblr, because people were reblogging it in little bits and you could see it going through different fandoms. Did you see that one part where some Glee people picked it up? You could just tell by the usernames.

FK: Yeah, and then there was like a bunch of responses from Glee fandom, and then…

ELM: And then I reblogged it, and obviously I have a lot of Sherlock people so we got a bunch of those, which I was really happy to see… I don’t know, I always find that funny about Tumblr: when you watch, you can tell which little corners are picking up something that you have. Anyway, people have been very impacted by fanfiction, I don’t know—this is not, like, a news flash, but it felt… Not necessarily surprising, but I guess I wasn’t anticipating that level of response, and I was actually very moved by many of the responses. I think you were too?

FK: Yeah, completely. There was a really wide variety of responses. I think that we were both expecting that there would be a lot of people who talked about, you know, there’s one of the responses from Tumblr user pumpkinspicescully—A++ name—talked about how she was raised, like, “pray the gay away Baptist” and that fandom had helped her come to terms with being lesbian and that being OK, and I think based on Jackson’s comment we expected to have those kind of stories, which are awesome—but we also had a really wide variety of other things that people said fanfiction helped them process or figure out…

ELM: Oh yeah, for sure! I think, actually, was that the comment that I sent a screenshot of to you with a bunch of hearts when we got it? I think that was the one, right?

FK: Yeah, that was it. We sent a lot of these back and forth between each other with lots of hearts.

ELM: Yeah! One of the ones that we got that I thought was most surprising was the one about drug addiction, do you remember that one?

FK: Yeah, completely! It was an anonymous comment, and here it is. She says, “fanfic was really the driving force that helped me kick a four year drug addiction. During my worst point I had completely left fandom, but rediscovering it as I was trying to quit gave me something to focus on and a world to lose myself in that was so far removed from my life experiences at the time, even if it was the questionable world of Jonas Brothers RPF.” I love that.

ELM: It goes on to say that, like, fan studies led this person to go to university and consider a master’s degree, which is super awesome too. That’s wonderful to hear. So congratulations to this anonymous person. Yeah, so these comments are so, so great. There are a couple themes I think we saw a lot of. One was the mental health responses.

FK: Yeah, there were a lot of people who talked about either fanfic being something that helped them through bad days of mental health, or fanfic as being something that helped them work through something about their own mental health. You knew somebody who responded and talked about her stories, right?

ELM: Yeah, yeah! Pennypaperbrain—who if you’re in Sherlock fandom you’ve probably encountered, Penny is amazing, we actually just emailed today—she’s actually probably mad at me that I’m giving away that she’s a real person who is going to eat dinner with me in a week when I’m in—oh, I won’t say where! So, yeah, Penny wrote that “just after I got into BBC Sherlock I discovered I’m bipolar and it was shredding my sense of self, as well as trying to wreck my life in the more obvious ways. So I spent two years writing a novel-length fic about a bipolar Sherlock. The writing process itself provided a coherent thread through the chaos I was experiencing at the time and gave me some pride at being able to describe, if not actually defeat, it.” Which was very moving for me to read, because I actually didn’t realize, Penny, if you’re listening, that this diagnosis was so new and that it had coincided with the fandom in that way, and I just…

In kind of a similar way, I think we got a lot of similar responses that were like “fandom is my outlet, fanfiction is my escape,” that sort of thing, but this felt to me more along the lines of what Jackson said initially. “This is some specific issue that I’m struggling with, and I’m gonna use this specific topic and try to see it in characters that are familiar to me,” you know what I mean?

FK: Absolutely. I think there’s also another interesting aspect of it, which is a few people said that fanfiction helped them sort of build their own identity. Mazarin221B talked about how writing fanfiction, let’s see… She says, “It’s been a life-changing reconceptualization of self, an experience that has made my life richer for what it’s brought me in self-confidence and stronger grasp of my own identity when I needed it the most. I was in the grip of losing myself to the demands of parenthood and work and wifedom without anything of my own.” And a couple of people retweeted her and talked about how they experienced that too. So I thought that was really interesting, because I felt like Jackson and a bunch of other people all talked about how fandom helped them… maybe not create, but certainly reify and strengthen their own identities.

ELM: Yeah, but I mean—but this is coming at it from a different angle, though. Wouldn’t you say?

FK: Oh, absolutely, absolutely.

ELM: I don’t know, it’s just really interesting, it kind of brings it into a different realm where you think about fanfiction reading and writing as an act, not so much about the content of the stories but about the process of reading and writing these stories. And this kind of ties in closely to the rhetoric of women being apologetic about taking the time to, say, write. To have to—you know, it’s a big part of, there’s a feminist narrative about this that I’m sure you’re familiar with.

FK: Yeah, totally, it’s like Virginia Woolf’s “A Room Of One’s Own.” But it also relates to people dissing Twilight authors as being just bored housewives, and it relates to some, I don’t know, the early cultural studies work—I guess it’s not that early, but some cultural studies work on romance novel readers. Janice Radway did a bunch of work on looking at women who read romance novels, and it turned out that in her study, most of them were basically taking the time to read romance novels as a way of having the something that was just their own, that wasn’t part of their family life, and that was the way they could carve out that time for themselves—which gets us back to that “carve out” rhetoric.

ELM: Yeah, right! I just feel like it’s endemic. You see it in all facets, all kinds of writing. Women have to apologize for taking the time to write, even if they don’t have a partner or children to take care of, even when men do. It’s just not discussed that way. It was great for me to see these comments articulate it, because I just think it kind of falls into that conversation.

FK: Completely, and I think we’re probably going to get into that a bunch with Evan, actually, in a moment, because I think their research touches on some of that—but in the meantime I think we should probably say that there are so many, so so many responses, and we’ve only touched on like two or three of them here, but we’re going to republish all of them on our Tumblr. So you are highly encouraged to go and read all the responses that people gave, cause they were awesome.

ELM: Just because we’ve already recorded this tiny, tiny handful of responses doesn’t mean we don’t want other responses! So if any of this resonates with you, or if it doesn’t and you have a very different experience that still sort of answers this question of how fanfiction has helped you with any of your personal issues—I feel bad using the word “issues” so much…

FK: It’s OK, we’ve all got issues. All God’s children got issues.

ELM: Issues.

FK: Issues. OK now that we’ve said “issues” a million times I think we should call the UK and get Evan on the phone.

ELM: Talk about some issues.

FK: Issues!

[Interstitial music]

FK: So, we should welcome Evan Hayles Gledhill to the podcast!

ELM: Welcome!

Evan Hayles Gledhill: Hey! Hi guys!

ELM: Thanks so much for coming on, for calling us from across the ocean!

EHG: Yeah, it’s pretty easy though with modern technology, so. It’s nice to be here, virtually!

FK: So just to give our listeners some context for you, would you say a couple of words about yourself, where you’re at right now, what you do…

EHG: Sure.

ELM: Wait, you mean where you’re at, like, spiritually? Or…

FK: Where you’re at spiritually.

EHG: Spiritually.

ELM: No, uh, professionally and personally.

EHG: I got it. Spiritually, though, I’m definitely still Castiel. I’m very conflicted. But. Being sensible, I’m a PhD student at the University of Reading in the UK, and I work part-time at the British Library on a sound digitization and access project. But why I’m here is because as a subsection of my interests in academia, I look at the history of fandom and fan engagements. So I look at how people respond to mainstream culture across the last 200 years.

ELM: So one thing that was really interesting to me is: did you find yourself a fannish person in modern day media fandom, and you wanted to look backwards and look at the historical elements of that—or did you come at it from the other angle, or some combination?

EHG: I’m “second generation nerd,” is how I describe myself. So I am definitely fannish. I inherited Dr. Who fandom from my mother; I was very resistant to it for a long time but no, I have to admit, Whovian, and then my mum was the one who actually introduced me totally by accident to slash fiction. Oh yes. She was a, and still is and so am I, a big Jane Austen fan. And when that beautiful adaptation of Pride and Prejudice came out in the 90s, with Colin Firth, she went looking on the internet for things to read. And she had no idea that slash fiction existed, and she found Darcy/Bingley slash.

ELM: Oh my god, oh my god.

EHG: And she came barrelling into our back room going “My God, you’re never going to believe what I found on the internet, ha ha ha,” and I went “mm, interesting!” being about 12 or 13 years old. It’s entirely her fault; I blame everything on my mother.

So being a fannish person and knowing fandom and its little ways and means and back alleys, when I started studying the literature of the past, my PhD project looks at the Gothic, so that starts in the 1700s. I went to look at commonplace books that people were keeping, in which they wrote poetry. They would copy out poetry and send it around, and that’s how the romantic poets—that was a major source of publicity for them, that people would pass these commonplace books around. And I looked at them and I went, “Oh my God, it’s Tumblr.” And it’s Pinterest. These things look so much—Elizabeth’s seen some of them in a presentation that I gave at the Fan Studies Network conference—these books look visually so much like our visual media of fandom. And I found that fantastic.

And some of the same textual things are going on, so they’ll rewrite Shakespeare the way we—or not me personally, but other people will rewrite Shakespeare. So we’ve all heard “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” rewritten as though it was in Shakespeare’s rhyming couplets—hopefully, if you haven’t, go look at that, it’s great. But they were doing exactly the same things we were doing, and I found that fascinating. So I started to look at: Where does this stuff start? Is there a start? Has this stuff always been happening? And I look at how we have shared cultural responses, but also shared storytelling worlds is something I’m interested in.

ELM: Yeah, that’s the reason I initially was—you know, I got SO excited about your presentation at the Fan Studies Network, because A) it was really well done, so good job, but also…

EHG: Oh, thank you!

ELM: There’s something so incredibly comforting to me about the idea that this has a historical tradition. I hate the narrative that this is—especially with fanfiction, that’s not what this is about, but that it’s a newfangled thing, it makes me feel like it’s not so weird. Which is, maybe that’s not a good thing to say, maybe I should cut that out.

FK: It seems perfectly reasonable to me to say! You don’t need to feel bad about that. I think there’s one narrative thread that people use that runs through all of our culture, which says “The kids aren’t all right, they’re doing this weird thing,” so yeah, it’s comforting to be able to respond to that and tell the pearl-clutching person and tell them “Well actually, you love Jane Austen? WELL…”

ELM: And in a spectacular way, too!

EHG: Absolutely, if you go back, the Brontë sisters were writing RPF. They really did. About Wellington. They might not have been writing, as far as we are aware, anything particularly erotic, but they were imagining him and other personages—famous personages of their era, outside of the context of what they knew, outside of the news reports, they were writing about their home lives, writing about battles, writing about other things. And making things up! Which, yeah, it’s not new. It never has been a new thing to do.

ELM: I don’t know why I find that so comforting, but it’s just good. One thing I’ve already talked about, but I don’t know if I’ve told you about when I initially got in touch with you, is when I was 14 I had my own version of—it wasn’t networked, it wasn’t shared—I mean, it was shared a little bit, actually!—but I had my own version of a sentiment album. Did I mention this to you before?

EHG: No, you didn’t mention this! It’s great.

FK: Oh, it’s amazing!

ELM: I kind of want put video back on so I can show it to you! And I am writing about it. My friend had one, who was into Buffy, and right when I got into Buffy I created one too, and it’s just this kind of meticulous analog Tumblr. It’s very much of its time. Flourish has seen it. It’s very, like, late 90s.

FK: Oh, the moment I saw it I had so many feels for TV Guide, because I was doing the same thing except with The X-Files, and buying like two copies of a TV Guide and cutting all the pictures out of one of them and—

ELM: Yeah, well, I bought two copies so I could do back to back pages.

FK: You were way more advanced than me!

ELM: Well, cause I was doing it… So I cut a gentle black border to go around them, but then it was too flimsy in the page and I wanted some… Anyway, it was clearly very important to me. But it was so exciting to see, obviously it’s a great historical leap to say it was happening in the 1830s and then 1999 and now Tumblr, obviously there were steps in between. But it was just, it was so exciting to see your presentation on that. Just to contextualize my own experience.

EHG: Well, the collection that I was looking at, the Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections Library, they’re the ones that have a collection—I think it’s the Paige Collection—of over 200 sentiment albums. And they go from about 1790 through to about 1920 or 1930.

FK: Woah!

EHG: And I was only looking at Romantic era ones, because that specifically related to what I was studying at the time—what I still study, in the Gothic. So I haven’t been through this entire collection. But! If I can ever get some research funding—hey, guys, anybody listening, they want to fund some study?—I want to go in and I want to look at this. I want to track it as far as possible, see the… Because what I’ve been looking for so far is similarities; I’d also like to check out differences. What things die off, what practices do not continue, and why that is, maybe. Whether it’s change of medium, that people start doing different things in different ways, or whether it’s just simply the things that surround them in culture, that some things become permissible, that some things stop being permissible, I don’t know.

ELM: I wanna give you a grant right now. I wish I was a funding organization!

FK: But, OK, tell us more about exactly what’s in one of these ones from the 1700s. I think I have a good sense of what—I’m sure some of our other listeners kept albums like these in the 90s and 2000s, but what were in the in the 1700s?

EHG: Some of them were just text, so people would copy out chunks of poems that they liked, and the text ones have been looked at by another academic—a different collection of books, but she looked at the ways that the big six of Romantic poetry, so people like Byron, Keats, Shelley, how these guys’ poems were transmitted and transformed in these books.

So people were rewriting certain sections of it, or just changing little words to just change the meaning enough that it was becoming their own. The same thing that people do now. You recopy a quote, but you might change it a bit, because it doesn’t quite suit exactly what you wanted it to say, or the lyrics or whatever. So some of them are just text on a page, and then you’d get some which had a bit of visual imagery, so someone who would have tried out their sketching—because of course it was considered to be a thing that young ladies did to become accomplished, that they would be good at drawing things. So there’s sketches, some of which are clearly sort of learning tools, so someone’s trying to learn to draw all the parts of the flower. Some of them are sketches from like a holiday snap of where they are. And you’ll also get pictures cut out from the early sort of newspapers, and flyers, handbills for stage productions that they were going to see, even text cut out from the local paper or text cut out from a pamphlet that’s been sent round.

Sometimes you even find pages that look like they’ve been cut out of books with bits of poetry or sketches, funny little snippets, sort of jokes, and anybody who knows anything about Victorian humor knows that their jokes were absolutely terrible. It’s sort of an accepted fact among Victorianists that they just wrote really terrible jokes in that era. So these books really, really have a wide variety from simple little journals through to full on productions. I saw one where somebody had divided each page up to make it look like it was another stack of paper, so there’d be borders and some of those papers would be music, some of them would be scraps where there was a little aphorism written on, some would be pictures, but every page looked like it had multiple other pages in a sort of what they call a trompe l’oeil trick of the eyes test. So you look at it and you thought, “Did someone stick pieces of paper in? Oh no, they’ve just drawn it like that.”

FK: That’s amazing, because it’s sort of like some of Tumblr—

ELM: The theme! Like a Tumblr theme!

FK: Yeah, a Tumblr theme!

ELM: It’s true!

EHG: Yes, people had different themes in their books. So some people decided they wanted every picture on their page to have a little frame, just like you were framing your pictures of Scully or framing your pictures of something. They did the same things, and this is why I got so excited when I first saw these. I was like “Oh my God, this is Tumblr.” Some people’s were more like Pinterest, though, you know, quite rigidly laid out and very structured.

ELM: Some Tumblr themes—I’m a creeper and sometimes I just randomly click on people who have reblogged me [Flourish laughs] and I see a wide variety of Tumblr themes, but anyway… I can’t remember if it was another paper I was reading by someone else, or you, talking about how one of the complaints about these books from dudes was that women were taking things that were very serious, serious literature, serious poetry, taking it out of its original context and putting it into their frivolous context. Was that… was that something that you were writing about, or am I conflating it…?

EHG: I don’t think I ever said something quite exactly like that, but definitely the responses to how women read and what they were reading was very much a topic of conversation and derision from men. That “Oh, these women don’t know how to read.” And some of the books that we’ve got, scrapbooks, are identified, so you can tell whether it’s a man or a woman who owns it. Some of them you can’t, because they haven’t been passed down through families or anything, they’ve been bought at yard sales or some other sale, and you don’t know who they belonged to originally—no one’s written their name in the front of it, so we can’t categorically make distinctions about gender. We can say that more books were made by women than men, from the ones that we have identified that are extant, but what is said in discussions of these commonplace books is that basically women are doing culture wrong. That they’re misinterpreting things. That they’re concentrating on the figure of Byron and not his writing. “Oh, they’re only interested because he’s hot,” that sort of—worded differently.

FK: [sarcastic] Oh, that’s so unfamiliar!

ELM: Such a weird sentiment!

EHG: Robert Southey, also, he was very scathing about women’s contributions to culture. He even wrote to, I can’t remember which Brontë sister, it was either Charlotte or Emily—definitely wasn’t Anne, I know that much—he wrote that literature should not be the business of a woman’s life. Luckily, she ignored him, because otherwise we wouldn’t have some really really—some of my favorite books. So there was a lot of very gendered comment on who was doing what and how, how unfamiliar!

ELM: There’s so much of the Victorian era that’s been studied to death; why haven’t people touched this stuff before? Is it access to the actual resources? The primary sources?

EHG: I think partly people didn’t go look at these collections, or when they did look at these collections they weren’t people who were really involved in fandom. So they weren’t looking from that perspective. I went and looked at them and I instantly saw fandom; other people go and look at them and they see poetry, which might be what they’re studying. So when people are writing about poetry being transformed by its readers, they don’t think of it in fannish terms. They’re not looking at it from that perspective. They were looking at it from dissemination or publishing practice or something like that.

So the information is often out there, but it’s scattered across other specialisms within literature or culture or sociology departments, which is the great thing about fan studies: that it brings all this stuff together to give you this nice little portrait of a world, from all these different disciplines getting together. And some people are doing it; I wrote a paper recently and talked about 19th century poetry fandom, and there’s actually a few papers on this, talking about the fan letters that people write Longfellow and Walt Whitman and people wrote. Because some of these have been kept, and that’s the sort of material that people can now get access to and can read and discuss from a fan perspective and not just from a “legitimate historical study” perspective.

ELM: Wait, wait, so there were letters that Walt Whitman wrote as—he was the fan?

EHG: No, no, they’re letters people wrote to Walt Whitman. But—

ELM: Cause I was gonna say, then that would be like—people would say, “Oh yes, that was very serious writerly correspondence.” If Walt Whitman wrote the letters.

EHG: Absolutely, but you do get it in people’s correspondence! So Elizabeth Braddon, who was a poet herself—she wrote to her friends, and she discussed her fandom in her letters. You can see some of the excerpts of this on Tumblr, where I’m collecting this sort of stuff. It’s called @historicalsquee, and if people come across an example of this stuff, if you’re reading a book about the Brontës or if you’re reading a collection of letters of a famous author and you come across them saying something about their love of another author or a particular theater, I want to know about it! People, please, just go to historicalsquee and tell me where it is or give me a quotation so I know where this information is! Because there’s so much of it out there that I can’t do this all on my own.

ELM: This is a crowdsourced academic project that I can get behind.

EHG: Great.

FK: Now I’m just thinking about, I have the collected letters of Virginia Woolf and her collected diaries—maybe I need to go and read them just for the purpose of finding all the places where she talked about people she liked. She must have liked somebody, although she was generally pretty depressive.

EHG: Absolutely!

ELM: She liked Vita Sackville-West, does that count?

FK: Other than Vita Sackville-West! I don’t think that quite counts.

ELM: Is that quite fandom? I guess you can be a fan of another person… that you’re into…

EHG: I think it’s definitely fandom! And it depends how someone’s talking about it. You get people saying things like, I can’t remember who it is, I think it’s either, it might be Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who says “I would pick up a piece of heather or thistle on the ground if I only knew that Keats himself had stepped on it,” or something like that. You do get people behaving in ways that we would recognize as fandom even if they don’t use those terms themselves.

FK: Completely! That is the person who is fighting over Harry Styles’ water glass.

EHG: Absolutely.

ELM: Flourish always brings it back to One Direction.

EHG: A friend of mine once said that he was not going to wash his hand because Iggy Pop had shook it, and I said “In that case I’m never coming to your house again,” because, come on, dude, we’ve all read Danny Sugarman’s Wonderland, we know where Iggy’s been! [all laugh] Wash your hand!

ELM: One thing, so I think I told you that I’ve been writing a personal essay about my sentiment album, and that it was inspired by seeing your presentation. So I’ve been doing a little more research—obviously not the level of research that you’re doing as a person who’s studying this for reals. There’s a few different things that I’ve been reading about. One is the parallel of a commonplace book seeming like a very masculine thing, with what’s his name—

EHG: John Locke?

ELM: John Locke! Oh, I just said it like the Sherlock ship.

FK: You did just say it like the Sherlock fandom.

ELM: I’m sorry.

FK: That’s so embarrassing.

ELM: [laughs] Shut up! SHUT UP, Flourish!

FK: We’re leaving that in!

ELM: John Locke, Johnlock…

EHG: That was just too good.

ELM: Faunlock, squidlock, that’s for you, Flourish…

EHG: I think we need some sort of weird fic, historical fic tying John Locke into Johnlock.

ELM: I can write that for you right now.

FK: Do it.

ELM: Actually I don’t know much about John Locke. Wait, was he Scottish?

EHG: The philosopher. Yes.

ELM: All right, I can do it, then, that’s great. With my set of Scottish stereotypes. Yeah, so I was reading about him, he created this method for commonplace books. And I also was googling around and I found some articles in websites that were like, howtobeaman.com, they had ridiculous names like that, and they were like, “You should keep a commonplace book, like Julius Caesar kept a…” Maybe it wasn’t Julius Caesar. But it was some Roman general. And saying it was a place to put your serious quotes on manliness and, like, this one article I read was like, “Here are my categories.” And it was like “Quotes: Stoicism”—which I thought was incredible, he’s collecting quotes on stoicism! I’m wondering about that. The stuff you’re describing and the other academics I was reading feels so different from this serious place where a gentleman scholar keeps handy quotes that he takes…

EHG: Absolutely. This is something that I’ve written about, actually, and it’s gonna come out in an online free e-journal from Goldsmiths College, from the University of London, it’s gonna come out in December. It’s called GLITS, which is the Goldsmiths Literary Seminar Series. My paper there is talking about how this transformation happens.

So you get this idea that there’s this particular sort of Enlightenment thought about what it is to be human and what it is to be a thinker and all that. So John Locke has this way of categorizing and organizing information in a commonplace book, absolutely. And then you have this rise of women keeping them. And we change the name. We stop saying “commonplace book” and we start saying “sentiment album.” And men’s commonplace books had never been commodified; they were just notebooks. So people would talk about how you did it, but the what of it was just a blank book.

Sentiment albums, on the other hand, with their much wider variety of stuff in them—because I mean, a commonplace book might not just have quotes, people might have drawn little maps or put maps in them or maybe some pieces of music, absolutely. But it probably wouldn’t have had the exciting Tumblr aesthetic, shall we say. It wouldn’t have had a really good theme. It would have been pretty standard. And you got people commodifying them. So people would make albums pre-selected. So you could buy an album that was designed with certain extracts, quotations, poems, pictures already in it, and you could give them as gifts.

I argue that this to me demonstrates a very clear desire to control women’s access to culture. Men can be trusted. Men can be trusted with a guide. Everyone can discuss what goes in their man’s commonplace book. But a woman’s sentiment album, oh no, they might be doing it wrong! They’re probably definitely not talking about stoicism. So let’s tell them what to do. There was a particular book amongst the ones in the Paige collection up at Manchester that I found which has got a lengthy introductory essay from the person who wrote it, and he was writing it for the women in his family. He very deliberately says “an educated woman is like a safe harbor in society for men, that they can talk to her.” But it’s never about her learning being for her; it’s all about her learning in regard to and for the benefit of men. It’s got absolutely nothing to do with her as a person, her personality, her interests. And his book of selected verses for these women is designed to be appropriate.

How often do we hear that word, “appropriate.” And it ties into that thing, a really really famous quote about Lady Chatterley’s Lover when there was a trial for obscenity in the UK and whether this was going to be a book that could be sold or not, was the judge said to the jury, “Is this a book that you would want your wife and servants to read?” It’s so obviously about patriarchal control of culture! It just—I’m sorry. You can’t make it any clearer and I’m going to shout that over and over and over and over again. I’m a broken record on this topic.

FK: So that’s interesting also, because it reminds me a lot of when I was a kid—my grandmother would give me these books of poems, or quotes, or usually a mix of those things that were supposed to be about “a young girl’s life” or whatever. It really reminds me of that.

EHG: Yeah, they still exist!

FK: That whole genre…

ELM: That’s too bad, that she really wanted you to grow up to be a good girl and it didn’t work out!

FK: Yeah, it didn’t work out at all for her in that respect. No, I mean I think that she’s pretty happy with the way it turned out.

ELM: Oh good.

FK: But it was still a funny thing to get as gifts. I probably had 20 or 30 of them, and sadly actually I got rid of them, most of them. I hope Grandma doesn’t listen to this. Sorry Grandma. But then, as you get older it’s like, Jackie O’s Favorite Poems, right?

EHG: Yes, you can get those. There’s a lot of them. Other people curating, if that makes any sense? If you like somebody, oh, you’ll like what they like. This is so-and-so’s favorite book! We see it on the cover of books all the time. “George R. R. Martin says this is the next big thing in science fiction!” or whatever.

ELM: But it’s like, is it still a gender divide? Every book gets blurbs, right?

FK: I think there’s an argument with the blurbs, but those books… I mean, they probably exist, but I haven’t seen a lot of those books that are intended for giving to men or boys.

ELM: I wonder if that’s changing, though? Me over here on howtobeaman.com.

FK: Yeah, maybe!

ELM: Did you guys see that image going around Twitter today of the wine in a can for a man? Did you see this?

EHG: No…

ELM: Oh my God, you have to look at it.

EHG: Is this the—masculinity so fragile you can’t eat yogurt unless it’s, you know, particularly designed for men? Men yogurt?

ELM: Steak yogurt!

FK: Your bath puff has to be a “body detailer.”

ELM: This is an aside, but you’ve got to read the copy. It’s so good. It’s like, “Made by a man, we don’t care about bouquet, he lives with his dogs in an old firehouse!” Written on the side of this can of wine.

EHG: I despair for humanity.

ELM: [laughs] All right, I think that we should probably take a quick break.

FK: On our despair for humanity.

EHG: And on that note…

FK: And we’ll be back after the break!

[Interstitial music]

ELM: We’re back!

FK: We’re back from the break, and in a little change of pace I wanted particularly to ask you, Evan, about a blog post or a sort of mini-article you wrote about the way that fans are portrayed in Gothic literature that I thought was really interesting.

EHG: Oh yeah! I’m so glad you liked that one.

FK: So just for people who haven’t read it, we’ll link to it in the show notes, but for people who haven’t read it the article basically compares the way that the heroine of Mansfield Park is treated to the way that fans in True Blood and Supernatural are treated.

EHG: It’s not Mansfield Park, it’s Northanger Abbey.

FK: Jesus, I think I’ve been saying Mansfield Park this whole time.

ELM: Flourish, you get an F in English.

FK: I just re-read it—what’s most embarrassing is that I literally just re-read it because of seeing Crimson Peak.

EHG: Oh, yeah! I haven’t seen that yet so please don’t spoiler it for me, but I think it’s going to tie in really well.

FK: I’ll just say that it will tie in really well, but that makes it extra embarrassing that I can’t even identify which of Jane Austen’s lesser—

EHG: —books is actually a Gothic parody, yeah.

ELM: But actually I haven’t read this, so do you, would you mind summarizing it for me and all the other people who haven’t read this post?

EHG: Absolutely. So talking about how Gothic heroines, heroes, main characters, they often are very self aware. It’s a very self reflexive genre, the Gothic, in which people are often very aware that they’re sort of in a Gothic space or in a Gothic situation, and I don’t just mean post-Scream in a sort of meta-Gothic in which filmmakers are filming other people who are already being killed within a movie which is also then on screen. I mean all the way back to Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, it’s a parody of a Gothic novel in which a girl who has read lots of Gothic novels and really enjoys them then starts seeing her world as if she’s a Gothic heroine.

So when she gets invited to an old house that used to be an abbey, she becomes convinced that the family that lives there must have a terrible Gothic past and she finds things like a mysterious bundle of letters in the wardrobe—it turns out to be the laundry lists the maid has left there. And it’s very very funny, it’s very witty, but it’s clearly written by somebody who really loves the genre as well. It’s very hard to make mock of something that you don’t actually really like.

So that to me really sums up how Gothic as a genre enjoys itself and it enjoys its fandom and this ties very much into gender as well. So in Northanger Abbey, the heroine, Catherine Morland, is talking to the guy that she quite fancies, and when he tells her that he reads gothic romances, she says something like “I would have thought that men read better books.” Because she’s got these cultural associations that they’re not really proper literature, and it’s for women and all this sort of stuff, which is really strongly tied into things like True Blood where the vampire lifestyle, people who want that, are portrayed as sort of silly fans, and very often feminized. So you have what’s the phrase, “fangbangers.” They’re denigrating their own fans, as it were. It’s a big theme in the Gothic. The Gothic has a big female audience, and that’s one of the reasons that it’s kind of often a despised genre. There’s even a subgenre of the Gothic known as “women’s Gothic,” specifically, which deals with domestic problems, marital problems.

FK: Like, uh, would Rebecca be considered part of that?

EHG: I would definitely put it in there, but definitely things like Jane Eyre would certainly count—with the madwoman in the attic and these tales of bigamy being the problem, and Joyce Carol Oates, I would say something like The Gravedigger’s Daughter would be women’s Gothic.

FK: So how did you, when you started looking at the different ways that fans were portrayed... That seems really interesting, that Jane Austen was giving a maybe not respectful portrayal of Gothic fandom but at least a sympathetic one, and it seemed like that wasn’t happening…

EHG: I’m not sure that it’s not respectful, because she’s gently poking fun at everything. She’s not just poking fun at Catherine. Because we as fans, we do poke fun at ourselves. We know sometimes we can get really ridiculous. Like the joke about the water glass you guys made ten minutes ago. We know that we’re a bit silly. So I don’t think that it’s not respectful in any way, I think it’s inclusive fun.

FK: Right, that’s true. Jane Austen sort of does make fun of… there’s literally not a character that Jane Austen doesn’t make fun of.

EHG: Yes, she’s very aware. And she makes fun of herself as well in her letters. So I would definitely say that it’s quite a positive thing from her perspective, and she’s also questioning the gender roles. So when she has these conversations between Catherine and her beau about who reads what and men and women, it’s very aware of the cultural stereotypes, and it’s very much mocking those as well. You actually get lines in where she says, and this is Jane Austen addressing the reader rather than Catherine her character, she says “If the heroine of one Gothic novel will not patronize others, then what’s the point?” So the Gothic heroine has to read other Gothic books, it’s a club, it’s a sort of supportive little group. It is definitely fandom!

ELM: So if we’re making modern parallels, it seems to me—and maybe this isn’t true across the board—the writers who, and I’m thinking of some very specific episodes of very specific shows, use meta, you know, kind of circular looking depicting fans on screen…

EHG: Supernatural is springing right to mind.

ELM: And I’m thinking also of the first episode of the third series of Sherlock. I don’t know. I don’t see a huge, I mean obviously the people writing these shows are fans of the genres they’re writing in, but it doesn’t often feel like it comes from a place of the evenness of mockery that you’re describing.

EHG: No, I would agree.

ELM: So what’s the difference there, I guess?

EHG: I think that one—and this is where I said earlier that I sound like a broken record—I think it’s mostly gender. We’ve got men writing about women most of the time. And Supernatural has a massive problem with gender roles. It kills a lot of women, it’s quite disrespectful in terms of its structure of women, even if the actual characters or the actual people writing it aren’t, the constant use of “bitch” as an insult has been critiqued within the fandom. There’s lots of stuff in there that is to use a favorite term of the Tumblr and internet generation, problematic. We know it is, and we still like it.

We see this in things like True Blood as well. The books were written by a woman about a woman, and she allows herself to be as silly and as fun and as frivolous as she likes. But when it gets adapted by a man, we get an upsurge in the darker aspects of it, it gets a little bit more serious tone, people start taking it seriously in many ways, I mean I think even the introductory, I can’t remember what the phrase is now, what do you call it, the title sequence even won a Grammy or something. Once something becomes really well thought of, proper art, it’s generally made by men. I think this does have an influence. It’s a different perspective within society. It can’t help but be from the way our society is structured.

And I think that Jane Austen writing of a community of women of which she was a part is a very different thing from men who are not part of a fandom. Because I mean look at Brian Fuller. Look at Hannibal. Look at how well that integrates with its own fandom. This is a guy who loves his fans and joins in with them. Joss Whedon very much does it as well. He joins in, he listens to criticism, he was on the Buffy boards. They were listening to the fans. I mean he even named a couple of monsters after commentators on the fan boards. I think it depends who’s joining in with what. Are you part of it, or are you responding to it?

ELM: I haven’t seen True Blood so maybe I’m misinterpreting what you guys are describing, but you know, there’s an episode of Buffy where—have you guys seen Buffy?

FK: Yeah.

EHG: Oh, I know Buffy backwards.

ELM: Do you remember that episode in the second season where her old friend comes to town and it turns out he’s a huge vampire fanboy?

FK: Yes!

EHG: Yup.

ELM: That could have very easily been a bunch of dumb women who just wanted to be… I mean, basically I just feel like so much of the vampire… I mean, except for the fact of Angel and Buffy maybe not, but so much of the dynamics that characterize vampire stories just kind of get all mixed up in Buffy. Know what I mean? I feel like he’s, I don’t know, he’s a less problematic fave.

FK: This is making me think of two things at once. One of them is this short-lived show called Cult that I worked on that was by Rockne O’Bannon who made Farscape, and that to me was a really interesting case of a show that was I thought very respectful of fandom despite also being literally about murderous fans, which I didn’t think was possible.

EHG: Some people were definitely disagreeing with that!

FK: Oh yeah?

EHG: From what I’ve read online. Lots of people were quite, yeah, they were a little bit cross about that depiction of fandom.

FK: So that’s really interesting, because I felt like—maybe it’s just the first episode, but I wouldn’t have worked on the show if I had not felt like it was a fair or loving thing. But in any case, the other thing that this is making me think of is Twilight, with the gender roles. Twilight and—

ELM: Life and Death?

FK: Yes, Life and Death. And the idea of—you know, you can’t just reverse a vampire story, right? When you read Life and Death it reads completely differently than Twilight, even though there’s really limited changes made to it.

ELM: Go back to your first point though, Flourish, this is interesting to what we were talking about. Because you have a different perspective than I do, probably than Evan does about the fan-creator relationship, because that’s your job—is very different than our jobs, right? And I bet you’re more inclined to see it as coming from a loving place—I haven’t seen it so I’m talking out of my ass, but you know what I mean.

FK: Well, maybe? I think that, I mean, I’ve certainly gotten into a lot of arguments with people about their stuff not coming from a loving place. Like... [laughs]

ELM: Sure, I believe that, but I think maybe your tolerance for it… Because I don’t wanna, this shouldn’t come off as an attack, but you know…

FK: I do.

ELM: You’re at these meetings in Hollywood, blah blah blah, so fancy.

FK: I do think that—

ELM: That sounded attacky. Sorry! [laughs]

FK: I think that in this case actually the thing that made me feel better about it was that the fandom representation was, the villain was the showrunner on this show. And there were fans of this show who were not homicidal maniacs; there was a wide variety of people who were interested in the show and that it was actually more of a parody almost of set life, I felt.

EHG: It depends, I think it’s really perspective as well. You’re talking about set life because you’re part of it and it’s your side of the divide, as it were. So I just went and looked it up because I’m that nerd who does. So the blog post I was thinking about was on the blog Onscreen/Offscreen, which is about screen media, and it was written by Bertha Chin, who’s also a fan scholar—

FK: Yeah!

EHG: —and is one of the fan studies network, and the title of it is “They’re not fans, they’re freaks: CW’s Cult and how its pathologization of fans can’t have won them any favors.” That’s a pretty damning title, I won’t read the rest right now.

FK: No, it’s a serious title! I think that’s really interesting. It’s funny because I didn’t, at the time that it was out I didn’t see that. Maybe she didn’t post it right away, or maybe I just missed it.

EHG: Yeah, I think it was posted while it was still on air, cause it’s been updated to talk about its cancellation. That’s an update to the post, so it must have been written while it was still on air.

FK: Interesting, I must have missed it. Cause I, I mean, I’ll be very interested to read that, because I thought a lot about whether or not to—about how I felt about that show. [laughs]

EHG: Yeah.

FK: But since neither of you guys have seen it I feel like I shouldn’t, you know.

ELM: Don’t waste your breath defending it.

FK: Yeah, exactly.

ELM: I feel like this is hard too because I don’t even watch Supernatural but I saw the reactions to I believe it was called “Fanfiction,” the hundredth episode.

FK: Yeah.

EHG: Oh yeah.

ELM: Uh, I found them to be very split.

EHG: Very what, sorry?

ELM: I found people that I follow that watch Supernatural to have very split opinions on it.

EHG: Oh yeah.

ELM: More leaning towards the positive, but then some of that seemed to be tinged by, like, “Oh, but it’s way better than the stuff they had early on, with the—“ you know, which felt like a low bar.

EHG: Oh, Becky.

FK: Becky.

EHG: Becky.

ELM: Or, in my own fandom is Sherlock, and I don’t know… Wait, Flourish, did you say you’ve only seen the first season of Sherlock?

FK: No, I’ve seen all of Sherlock.

ELM: The whole first episode, which I enjoyed as kind of a meta… Some people don’t like meta things in general but I enjoyed that as an exercise, you know, there’s this fan, there’s this wacky conspiracy fan group and there’s two fan theories, right, do you remember this? One is Anderson’s, and it’s like this stupid action movie, where Sherlock kisses Molly, and the other one is from the girl in the group and it’s Sherlock and Moriarty about to make out on the roof. [all laugh] And that’s kind of seen, even though they’re both portrayed in a jokey way, it’s different kinds of jokes. And—

FK: Yeah, I agree.

ELM: They are less generous to the female joke.

EHG: I didn’t read it that way! To be—

ELM: Oh, really? Tell me! How did you read it?

EHG: I think it’s partly because I know who the actress is and what other roles she’s played in the BBC. And she’s a very funny, very witty, very feminist character in a lot of other things, which really impacts on how you interpret things. But I saw her as being confident and funny, and I loved her response where she’s like “well, it’s just as plausible as yours.” I found that they were both silly, they were both funny, but there was an equivalent silliness. It wasn’t as though the woman was being more denigrated than the guy, if that makes sense.

ELM: I think that the criticism that I’ve seen, it’s not so much when they cut to Anderson or they cut to her and say “that’s my theory, what’s your problem?” I think it’s that people were upset that her theory was done in a super jokey way where they were giggling on the roof, and then they cut right before the kiss, and that was what people took issue with. Because they were like, “Well, we’re gonna go for it and let Sherlock give Molly this crazy good kiss, and then it’s gonna be like, ‘Ho ho, Moriarty!’” And Gatiss is a gay man, I don’t think anyone could accuse him of being homophobic, and also when they were called out on it they were like “We thought what was the most ridiculous pairing?” And it was Sherlock and his enemy, you know? [Flourish laughs riotously] Cause it’s a show of men, you know? So that’s the way they think about it.

FK: Have they never ever… COME ON!

EHG: Yeah.

ELM: Yeah, I guess they’re not Harry/Draco shippers, but, uh. So. I think that we probably only have time for one or two more questions.

FK: So we’ve been talking a bunch about negative portrayals of fans in current media, or, you know, debated portrayals of fans anyway, I guess, depending on your perspective. You were talking about Northanger Abbey, but are there negative portrayals of fans in historical works?

ELM: Oh my god, I thought you were going to spin that and be like, “are there positive portrayals of fans?” [laughs]

FK: No, I want to know! Because we’ve been talking about it as though in the past people portrayed fans well if they portrayed them at all and now we’re all shitty and we have at best arguable…

ELM: All right, so where’s the shittiness of the past? Tell us about it! Unless it doesn’t exist, unless everyone was a lot nicer a hundred years ago.

EHG: Oh, the shittiness of the past! I’m going to say the worst fan representation ever comes from the past, and that’s Madame Bovary.

FK: [gasps] You’re right! Oh my god, you’re so right!

EHG: I don’t know if either of you have read that famous novel.

ELM: Don’t tell my professor from senior year but I only read half of it, you guys.

FK: What? Elizabeth!

ELM: He assigned, it was creative writing class and we had to write every week and, omigod I hope he doesn’t listen to this, he assigned one large novel per week also. It was like, how are we expected to do this?

FK: But Madame Bovary is like, simultaneously a great book and you’re right, it’s the worst portrayal of a fan in the history of the universe.

ELM: Is there a way to talk about it without spoiling anything?

FK: No. Are you really waiting? Do you really want to not be spoiled for Madame Bovary?

ELM: Actually that’s one I would really like to read. Wait, I know what happens in the end, is that the spoiler?

FK: Yeah.

ELM: Yeah, I know that.

EHG: There’s lots of spoilers throughout the book, but basically it’s all about commodification. The only things that this fan wants, the only things she takes from these novels, are objects. She wants a lifestyle that’s entirely about sort of capitalist materialism. Wow, thanks guys. That’s exactly how we want to be portrayed as fans of any fiction. Oh, it’s all about, you know, “Let me have my replica Mjolnir. Let me spend money,” rather than “Let me create, let me be creative, let me enjoy these things.” It’s like you were talking last week, no not last week, one of the previous episodes where you’re talking about commodification and collecting.

ELM: And how foreign it is to me.

EHG: But, like, how, if you walk into somebody’s apartment and see books all over the walls or DVDs, you don’t think of them as a crass materialist, whereas if you walk in and you see other signs of enjoyment and engagement with culture, you might. If you walked into somebody’s house and they’ve got lots and lots of Star Trek memorabilia, it’s judged differently.

ELM: Whereas I’m sitting behind 1000 books and no-one thinks I’m too invested in the book fandom. Well, maybe someone thinks that, but I don’t care, because I look smart, so.

FK: I don’t think that because every time I bring up a book it comes out that you have only read half of it. [EHG laughs]

ELM: Wow. Wow.

FK: I’m sorry Elizabeth!

ELM: I’ve read all these books behind me. Actually that’s not true.

FK: Yeah, I haven’t read all the books that are behind me either, so.

EHG: Negative portrayals of fans also crop up in biographies of writers all the time. So the place that I found out about these really good fan letters to people like Walt Whitman, or Longfellow, Longfellow’s son wrote a book about his father, and portrayals of fans in that can be really negative. People did talk about their crazy fans.

ELM: That’s interesting though to think about it historically because I feel like, one thing I write a lot about—I don’t know if you’ve noticed—is creators or actors being dicks about their fans, it’s like my favorite topic.

EHG: Yep.

ELM: And one thing that is interesting is now is probably no different than 150 years ago, it’s just if we had to wait 100 years to read Benedict Cumberbatch’s letters to his father or whatever, I don’t know, he’d be complaining about this, there wasn’t 1800 interviews per movie.

FK: It would sort of take the sting out of it, it would take the sting out of it if we didn’t have to hear Steven Moffat talk—

ELM: You mean in general, period? We can end the sentence.

FK: Well, in general, period, but if we had to wait until some book was published by him, whatever, it happened four years ago.

ELM: Oh my gosh, did you guys see just the other day—probably not, because you’re not in the Sherlock fandom. He’s at a convention right now in Australia and they asked him why women love Sherlock and it was just like—

EHG: Oh I saw this, Lori Morimoto wrote about this, a really good post.

ELM: I was just like “Oh, do I want to look at this?” And in fact he I think he knows now to not go there, but he doesn’t know. He still can’t figure it out. Which is sad. I would have loved if that just stayed in his private correspondence with Mark Gatiss until long after they’re dead and then I wouldn’t feel so annoyed all the time. It’s why he sends me flowers. [all laugh] I feel like it’s a question of exposure and access. It sounds like everything in the past was exactly the same, except the media—

EHG: More so.

ELM: Yeah. Probably worse, right? But then you wouldn’t know it, because you’d be sitting in your house and your dad would be forcing you to keep a special book the way he wanted you to or whatever.

EHG: Actually, I think that the commonplacing rules, just to say, I don’t think they applied to women. I don’t think anybody even tried to make them apply to women. It’s like, “Oh, those weirdos over there which have, what, breasts and things, they do things differently.” So I don’t think anyone was trying—I think actually they weren’t even allowed to engage with this intellectual tradition.

ELM: Yeah, they were just like left in the corner to cut their images out, that’s great.

EHG: Let them make their pretty pictures and we’ll just despair of them.

ELM: So the moral of the story is fuck the patriarchy.

FK: Fuck the patriarchy.

ELM: For the last 200 years, that’s fine. That’s great. This has been, this has been so, so interesting if not depressing.

FK: Interesting and depressing.

EHG: Thank you very much for letting me come and share my nerdery, because my best friends are really really sick of hearing it, so it’s good to have an outlet to talk about it with other people—who then call me interesting! Oo!

FK: Well, you can nerd at us anytime!

ELM: Thank you so much for coming on, we really appreciate it. It’s been so interesting to talk to you.

EHG: Thank you very much for inviting me on and letting me waffle about books from the past, because it’s my absolute favorite thing in the entire world, and yeah. Fuck the patriarchy! And Moffatt and Gatiss too, dammit. [all laugh]

[Musical interlude]

FK: Well that was awesome!

ELM: Yeah, that was amazing. I was sad to have to say goodbye.

FK: I think that we always say this, but maybe someday we’ll have a giant reunion episode and everybody will come on and we’ll ask all the questions that we didn’t get to.

ELM: Oh my god. Like, one question per—

FK: OK, maybe that’s not a very well thought out idea.

ELM: No, you’re spitballing. Don’t worry about it

FK: In any case, I am so pleased we were able to have Evan on, and I am so excited about next time, because this time…

ELM: No, Flourish, I’m excited!

FK: I mean, obviously you’re excited.

ELM: I’m more excited—

FK: Tell us why you’re excited!

ELM: I’m excited… you’re not allowed to be excited on my behalf! It’s all me, my trip!

FK: I can’t be excited for one of my best friends, Elizabeth? [Elizabeth awwws] Tell us why you’re excited!

ELM: That’s so nice! Cause I’m going to England in a week.

FK: Aw yes

ELM: Woo!

FK: And while she’s in England, we’re gonna be having a crossover episode—which I believe is your favorite genre of fanfiction also!

ELM: That is accurate. Even though you’ve never asked to read my crossover fanfiction.

FK: Cause I’m the worst friend.

ELM: Is it because you’re mad that I haven’t asked to read your One Direction fanfiction that’s freely available on Wattpad?

FK: I’m mad because you said you would never read it because it has alpha/beta/omega in it, so you know, until you reconsider that…

ELM: I think I’ve already said this, but if I didn’t I’m gonna say it again: if anyone from AO3 listens to this podcast, can I request a functionality feature in which you can filter out tags that you don’t like, so I can filter out Omegaverse and A/B/O and every other word related to that that I can find? Because it just is not for me and it really clogs up my search results. [Flourish laughs] I just want married-for-a-case fic, I don’t want married-for-a-case fic in Omegaverse land, OK?

FK: So in summary, we’re going to be crossing over with the lovely [Elizabeth starts laughing] ladies of the Srsly podcast, and we will not be discussing the Omegaverse—although I hear that one of them is a Directioner, and so we may have to sequester, like, a minute or two of the podcast for us talking about Harry and his silk shirts and why Zayn left and how sassy Louis is.

ELM: Oh my God, it’s like you already want to use your minute right now, and you’re wasting it on me.

FK: No, we’re gonna set a timer.

ELM: Like the 60 Minutes theme song! No, just, I feel like we kinda glossed over what this is, so the New Statesman is where I write regularly about fan stuff, and my editor there Caroline and another editor Anna have a really wonderful podcast called Srsly. It’s interesting because it’s a culture podcast, they have very broad and various tastes, but what I really love about it is it’s kind of like the New Statesman in general, they’re totally fangirls, right? So they talk about culture, but it’s the default that they’re into fan stuff. Which I kind of wish will be the mode of—I’m kind of waxing poetic about the magazine that I write for right now? That’s fine.

FK: That’s OK, it’s only a tiny bit shameful.

ELM: I just gave a long speech about the New Statesman. The New Statesman is a great publication.

FK: The point is I think that we both can wax poetic about Srsly which we are really really excited to cross over with next episode.

ELM: Yes! And one thing we will be talking about, if this interests you definitely tune in, is transcultural fandom. Specifically when two nations share a language and one of those nations, being this one, assumes that the way we look at culture and fan over things is the way that everyone else does. So yeah, Flourish has already volunteered to play the bad American, but I keep telling her not to.

FK: Oh yeah, but I have to keep expectations low. I am, Flourish Klink is, the ugly American.

ELM: Which GOP candidate are you gonna cosplay as?

FK: Donald Trump, obviously, I just have to bleach my hair, it’ll be perfect.

ELM: Your hair actually is really similar to his.

FK: I already live in New York City. Actually very close to Trump Tower.

ELM: Yeah, your dad gave you a million dollar loan, right, to get your start in Manhattan? Did you see this?

FK: If only that were true.

ELM: He said, “It’s just a small loan! Only a million dollars!”

FK: If only that were true. Hey Dad, if you have a million dollars lying around, I will take it!

ELM: So yes! This will be great. You’re not going to have to fall on the sword of America. Even if you try, I’m not gonna let you. [Flourish laughs] I will talk to you from across the ocean!

FK: Can’t wait! I hope you have such a great time and I can’t wait to hear about it, yay!

ELM: Thank you! Bye, Flourish!

FK: Bye, Elizabeth!

[Outro music]

FK: The opinions expressed in this podcast are not those of Stratus Media Ventures, Chimera Media Group, Chaotic Good, or our clients, or our employers, or anyone’s except our own.