Episode 109: Covering Fandom

 
 
The cover of Episode 109: J. Jonah Jameson shouting “MORE ARTICLES ABOUT FANDOM!”

Amidst a string of mediocre-to-bad articles about fandom in mainstream publications, Flourish demands answers from Elizabeth: How does one of these things get made? They discuss different kinds of publications, pitching, editing, differences between academic and journalistic writing, and fandom’s tall poppy syndrome. They also respond to a listener who asks whether there’s a statistical way to determine a fandom’s percentage of “filthy kinksters.”

 

Show Notes

[00:00:00] As always, our intro music is “Awel” by stefsax, used under a CC-BY 3.0 license.

[00:14:36] The film Elizabeth is referring to is After the Wedding, and this review, entitled “Michelle Williams and Julianne Moore lead the glorified acting exercise After The Wedding,” suggests she was not alone in her take on the film. 

[00:24:48] Our interstitial music is “Not My Problem,” by Lee Rosevere, used under a CC-BY 3.0 license.

[00:25:17] The episode in which Flourish explains the TV-making process is #17, “The Powers That Be.”

[00:34:01] Elizabeth’s articles for the New Statesman.

[00:37:22] The N. K. Jemisin book Elizabeth is referring to is How Long ’Til Black Future Month?

 
The cover of N. K. Jemisin’s  How Long ’Til Black Future Month?
 

[00:47:01] Trekkies is a great documentary—don’t be put off by the fact that one of the reviews calls it the “greatest laugh generator since Something About Mary” (ugh)—that’s not the tone at all!

 
 

[00:54:32] The Benedict Cumberbatch press tour hall of shame: the Out article, the Elle article, and the New York Magazine article…and the New Statesman article in which Elizabeth yells at him. 🙃 Oh, and that picture:

 
Benedict Cumberbatch in a limo with girls pressing on the windows staring at him.
 

[00:56:18] Truly, you don’t need to give that Devin Faraci article your clicks. So instead, read Elizabeth’s or Aja Romano’s response to it.

[00:57:19] The Times piece about politics and fandom (but actually MEMES) is called “How Fan Culture Is Swallowing Democracy,” enough said.

[00:59:08] The New Yorker piece is “Superfans: A Love Story.”

[00:59:34]

 
 

[01:00:32] We interviewed Emily Nussbaum in Episode 105.

[01:09:34] Keidra’s article is “The Empowered Stan.” And if you can’t get enough of her (who can?!) she was our guest for Episode 101, “Stan Culture.”

[01:14:32] Pogs!! Apparently the generic name for the game is “milk caps” and “Pogs” is a trademark? Who knew? Anyhow, Wikipedia can teach you all about the subject if you really are confused and desperately need to know more.


Transcript

[Intro music]

Flourish Klink: Hi, Elizabeth!

Elizabeth Minkel: Hi, Flourish!

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

ELM: This is episode number 109, “Covering Fandom.”

FK: “Covering Fandom.” In which Elizabeth is going to get to explain to me how bad articles about fandom get made.

ELM: That is a big over-sell. I’m going to explain some of how media works. [FK laughing] This seems to be quite opaque. 

FK: And also good articles about fandom that also get made this way!

ELM: Yes, yes. So. So. You may have seen some bad articles about fandom recently in some mainstream publications. Actually, I saw a few this past week in some very small publications, some of which were too small to drag, cause I didn’t feel like that was fair. But like, it was not a great week, past few weeks, probably the past few months, for coverage of fandom.

FK: Yeah, there’s just been a spate of like, bad, or like, mediocre-but-should-be-better…or like, mediocre but the longer you stare at it the worse it seems, like some terrible unfolding dimension of…yeah. Like that.

ELM: Yeah. And I think sometimes we talk about the media, over the past few years, one of the trends that we’ve seen and one thing that frustrates me is like, there’s been a rise of this sort of like geek media in the past five years? And a lot of the content is very churny, I would say. And [FK laughs] fandom gets evoked and sometimes the word gets used and people will equate fandom and quote-unquote “geek properties,” like fandom and superhero things or fandom and sci-fi or whatever. And that’s, like, somewhat of a different problem to me than the mainstream media, the generalist media, doing a feature or trying to write about fans. Those both suck in their own special ways, but I feel like we often talk about the former and this kind of crappy pipeline that gets created where it’s just people churn out content around SDCC announcements and that kind of thing, you know.

FK: Right.

ELM: And in the process, kind of create weird narratives about fans.

FK: Right. You can name like 500 quote “geek media” sites. Like, I don’t wanna pick out any one of them because they all do it. Like, literally every geek media site does this. Churning out.

ELM: In fact you can’t name like 475 of them, because—and then you’ll be like “according to whatevernews.com,” and you’ll be like, “What?!” I mean, you tell me that people—it makes me kind of mad that actually sometimes people in Hollywood don’t care about the actual publication, which makes me think maybe I should make a churny website where I just say things.

FK: Yeah, yeah. Well, I mean, I think it’s partially a legacy of like, “We just want to have a good quote, because on the poster the way to sell things is to have a good quote from a review, but no one cares where it’s from.” [laughs] I think that’s part of what’s going on with this.

But this is an aside, because the point is that’s all, like, one sort of thing, but then, like you were saying, that, like, adds to sort of cultural understanding of what fandom is and so on, and it can be quite bad. But then there’s also this other thing which is: “Here is a publication that would normally never talk about fandom, or that isn’t about fandom, or that isn’t about geek stuff at all, and now we’re going to,” you know, “go find out what those nerds are doing!” You know?

ELM: Right. Well, that’s the way it was ten years ago, maybe even five years ago. Now I think it’s not even, like, “we’re gonna go find them out.” I think it’s people with a little bit of knowledge.

FK: Yeah.

ELM: Trying to present themselves as experts with grand theories.

FK: That’s more accurate.

ELM: That are not based on much. So that’s what we’re gonna be talking about. But let’s set that aside first because we wanna answer a letter from our inbox.

FK: Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah! OK. This is an anonymous letter from our inbox, and just to remind everyone, if you email us, fansplaining at gmail.com, you can be anonymous! Just say so and we won’t say who you are. OK. So I’ll read the letter.

“Hi Flourish and Elizabeth! I have a question about sex and explicit content in fanfic.

“I’m in a f/f fandom that gets hate from f/f antis because of the nature of our ship: adoptive siblings. One of their recent tactics has been to claim our ship has way more porn than other ships in the broader fandom for this property, implying that this says things about the motivations of the fans in this fandom, what they come to fandom looking for, or even what they’re quote ‘kinking on,’ so to speak. It’s been interesting to unpack. I guess I have two questions.

“One, what does sexual content and the ‘Mature’ or ‘Explicit’ label mean about the motivations of the person writing it? Is there really a statistical way that you can explain what a fandom is like or cares about based solely on ratings and sexual content? What, if anything, does it mean to have three times the amount of porn than other ships in a property? 

“For example, I write fanfic for this ship, and I write smut almost exclusively, regardless of the fandom. Autobiographically, I can tell you all about how this anti’s implications don’t jibe with my experiences of the fandom. I can tell you why I’m comfortable writing smut, and sometimes even prefer it, or that I’m a Women and Gender Studies major with a focus on Queer Studies and queer theory, and extremely comfortable discussing the ins and outs of gender and sexual identity, sometimes in very explicit terms. But I also know that my comfort level isn’t representative of creators in my fandom as a whole. There are authors who’ve expressed a very strong aversion to sex in fanfic, but their characterization informs the characterization I engage in with my smut, and so in my mind the ecosystem is much more complex than this framing of quote ‘more porn equals we’re all bad kinksters,’ which to be clear I don’t think would be a bad thing.

“And two, I know that there have been explorations of what fanfic provides in terms of feelings porn or emotional satisfaction, but I haven’t been able to find any really landmark or comprehensive posts, journalistic articles, or scholarly articles. Do you know where I might find those, and do any of them relate to smut? I remember seeing a lot of explanations of what transformative fans got out of shipping and fanfic, smut included, in the early 2000s, when some fandoms were fighting hard against mainstream perceptions of fandom. But a lot of these older posts and sites don’t exist anymore.

“Thank you for being awesome! I discovered your podcast this past year and it’s brought joy to my fannish heart.”

Aw, so nice, nonny!

ELM: This is a really good letter!

FK: It is! OK, what—what are your thoughts?

ELM: My thoughts. OK. So, there’s a lot going on in this letter, more than two questions.

FK: Yeah.

ELM: Many questions! [FK laughs] Some of them are statements. So, tackling the first bit. I think the letter writer knows, but I would like to state, for the record, that I don’t think you can divine the motivations of anyone based on the, like, it’s not even metadata. Based on the, like, stats on the page. You know what I mean? Like—well, it is metadata, right. But you know what I’m saying, right? Like, the tags at the top of a fic. Right? 

Especially—first of all, side note, ‘Mature’ I think generally doesn’t mean…people will use ‘Mature’ to mean there’s some sexual content without it describing anything explicitly, absolutely. ‘Mature’ also means a whole host of other things. If you’re depicting graphic violence, I think you probably choose ‘Mature’ if there isn’t explicit sex. I think ‘Explicit’ usually is—I mean it’s not universal of course, these are kind of communally-determined labels that I know people argue about, but I think ‘Explicit’ generally means they’re gonna describe, like, actual body parts used in sexual activities. 

FK: Right.

ELM: Doing, doing the sex.

FK: [laughs] Well I mean the other thing being though that it also doesn’t say anything about, like, what proportion of the fic is that, right? So you would have something that was a total plot-what-plot porno-fest that would be labeled ‘Explicit,’ and you could also have a very long plotty fic in which there is like one incidental situation of sex that is labeled that way. So it’s also a bit weird—I mean, you know, yes, you can say, sure, maybe like…but it’s a bit weird to me, I don’t know. Like, just the whole measurement of that, I would be hesitant to say like, “Oh yes. Every fic labeled ‘Explicit’ is porn.” Every fic labeled ‘Explicit’ maybe has those descriptions in it, but I don’t, you know. I don’t know. That’s just a weird, like, way that people look at things statistically.

ELM: I’m gonna need you to go back. You prefer “plot, what plot?” as PWP, as opposed to “porn without plot.” Both are valid. I don’t think there’s a—

FK: Yeah. I think that I first learned it as “plot, what plot?”

ELM: Interesting. I first learned it as “porn without plot.”

FK: Interesting. Well, regardless. You know what I’m saying, though, right?

ELM: I just wanted, I just wanted to know if that was something that you had come to or if that was where you’d started.

FK: No, I think it was where I started and like—

ELM: Interesting.

FK: Yeah.

ELM: Interesting. I like that both definitions are valid on this one.

FK: [laughs] They are.

ELM: Yeah. Validity. Right. I mean, and it’s also like— [sighs] There’s nothing inherently immoral about writing PWP! 

FK: Nope!

ELM: And of course these antis would say “There is something immoral writing about adoptive siblings and, you know, your interest in only writing porn about them.” I mean, I don’t, I doubt an anti would—who didn’t like the idea of an adoptive siblings ship—would think that PWP was significantly better than a 1,000 word, you know, fic with a bunch of really raunchy sex scenes scattered throughout, you know, that’s only 10% of the word count, right? I don’t think that that makes it better for them. They don’t like the idea of it at all.

FK: Right.

ELM: But, the suggestion that there’s something—I can see the implications in what anon is saying and I imagine what they’re saying is, “Oh, there’s something wrong with you because you just want your dirty fic about this ship that is gross,” you know, right? “And it’s especially telling that all you want to do is write porn.” Right? Which is like—I think a very, there’s a lot of discourse in purity culture conversations about…

I think the word “Puritan” gets tossed around a little too much, especially when Puritanism doesn’t, I mean, it is ideologically foundational to the United States of America, of course, but like, a lot of people of all backgrounds, including ones that aren’t particularly religious, currently contemporarily have these kinds of rigid moralistic frameworks. And I just think it’s sometimes kind of a little weird how people are like, frame it as like, throwback attitudes when it’s like—these attitudes are quite contemporary, also! It’s just, it’s just different cultures exist within this country and within the world, you know what I mean?

FK: Yeah, I totally know what you mean and also, it just seems to me like fundamentally, like, the question here is—desire is political, I’m not trying to say it’s not, but if you’re the kind of person who thinks that someone, you know, fantasizing about a pair of adoptive siblings, sexually, is wrong? Then I guess that you could say that, sure, if you have a community full of people writing smut about adoptive siblings and you feel certain that they’re doing it for wank purposes, like, sure! I guess someone could feel that that was wrong! I’m not sure you can statistically figure out why people are writing this smut, but OK, fine.

But like, I don’t think that? You know? [laughs] I don’t think that that is inherently wrong necessarily, personally, so like—I just don’t know, I don’t know what to say about this. There’s a, the framing—and the idea of the ecosystem of like, characterization and smut and so on, right, that also like highlights the fact that there is characterization in smut, right? Smut is not just purely absolutely, like, [laughs] I mean sure, I guess, there’s some smut that is absolutely nothing but tab A into slot B or slot B against slot B or whatever you’re gonna say. [laughs]

ELM: Let’s just say not just some. There is quite a bit, I’m sorry, there is a lot. Like, definitely.

FK: But there’s also other stuff that isn’t like that, and you can certainly not find that out statistically.

ELM: I mean I also don’t think you need to frame it as, like, “Oh, but there’s other good stuff too!” I know that you weren’t saying that, but like—

FK: No, not at all.

ELM: I think it’s often, you know what I mean?

FK: Yeah.

ELM: It’s, I think that defending—I mean, I do not read PWP, this is not what I come, as I’ve said many times in the podcast, like, I do not read fanfiction for, you know, for the sex scenes. And often when I don’t feel like a sex scene is contributing anything to the plot, I will skim through it. If I feel like it is there to just be a depiction of sex, that is not something that I find particularly compelling to read. 

FK: Right.

ELM: Right? And I know this is out of step with a lot of people in fandom, but it’s actually not out of step with—as out of step as people often make it seem, like… 

FK: Yeah, no! I mean, I like, I like sex scenes for various reasons, but often if it just feels like—like, if I’m in a fic where there’s like 500 of them, I’ll be like “All right, we got the picture. Thank you. Let’s get back to the plot.”

ELM: Yeah, or my enemy—so there’s the sexilogue, right? Which is like, you’re goin’ along just find, the story concludes, and then, BOOM! Sexilogue. And you’re like “Oh, OK!” You know? Fine! I know a lot of people want that, but I, I’ve started calling it the “rote sexilogue,” because it’s like, you can tell when someone’s like, “I know people will say this story is incomplete unless I write that sexilogue.” And it’s like, OK! I guess! Do what you want, you know? This is not—I don’t need that but if you wanna do that… 

FK: And there are other people who do need it and that’s fine.

ELM: Sure, right, exactly. Well, people who need it, I don’t, that’s a little bit like, if you don’t wanna write a sexilogue…I don’t know. I get a little mad. I know friends who have gotten comments on their fics, like, “God, I had to slog through like six whole chapters for them to get to the good stuff!” And it’s like, “Go—go read something labeled PWP if you just want the good stuff!”

FK: Go find this fandom, which is apparently full of PWP! [both laughing] People! We don’t know what fandom it is, but look at that! Three times the amount! Of other pairings!

ELM: Oh my God.

FK: This is your, this is your, this is your holy grail!

ELM: I can’t! But also going back, I actually wanted to say, because talking about, like, characterization forming as some people are writing smut, some people are not, like, I also would say—so like I’m writing a long fic right now, and all this, they are definitely boning. Right? Like—that is undeniable. But I don’t really wanna write a sex scene cause it’s not really my scene, so it’s fade-to-black. I don’t feel like the way they’re characterized is divorced from people who don’t fade to black, right?

FK: Right.

ELM: Like, these are the same characters to me, and just because you’re not depicting sex doesn’t mean the characters aren’t necessarily having it. Maybe they’re not, right, but all these things can exist at once, and I don’t know. I do think that fanfiction broadly, I would say, I hate to make generalizations, but I do think fanfiction unfortunately has a tendency—I think because it’s a lot of amateur writers and readers, and like… Often there’s an attitude of like, more-is-better, that there are many things that get written down that sometimes the story might be a little bit better if they…you know what I mean? Like… 

FK: Yeah, I do totally know what you mean. There have been plenty of times where I was like, “There was so much delightful tension and now we are, boink, one-third through this story and now that’s all over!”

ELM: Not even talking about sex scenes solely, this happens with all sorts of things.

FK: Oh, yeah, absolutely.

ELM: I was thinking about this a lot, actually, I just saw a movie that was quite bad. I can’t remember the title. I saw it in the theaters. Starring Michelle Williams and Julianne Moore and Billy Crudup? Do you know this movie?

FK: No. [laughs]

ELM: Julianne Moore is married to Billy Crudup—I don’t know if that’s how you say his name—but their daughter is actually Michelle Williams’ daughter, Michelle Williams thought they were giving the daughter up for adoption, but Billy Crudup, the father, kept the daughter…whatever, it’s not important. This movie is really bad, I’m sorry. But it’s like, Julianne Moore’s character is dying, so the kind of plot that emerges is that she wants Michelle Williams to come back to America and take over her spot as the real mother. And all of the scenes that should have been fade-to-black essentially, as it were, they do.

So like, she tells her daughter she’s dying, and it would be so much more powerful if her daughter had just walked into this glass conference room and closed the door, and she’s like “I have to tell you something.” And I would have been like “Oh God, that conversation is probably gonna be so sad.” But instead they showed the entire conversation.

FK: Right.

ELM: And it wasn’t sad anymore. It was just like “yeah, these are normal human emotions.” Right? And something about the showing so much really took away from the power of it, do you know what I mean?

FK: I do.

ELM: So it’s not limited to fanfiction, but it was such an illustrative example of like…someone should have edited this down, you know?

FK: Right, right. And when it happens in films it’s often in service to, like, what—actors wanting to get their teeth into a difficult scene to portray, and that’s fine, but it doesn’t necessarily always serve the greater purpose of the film, right?

ELM: Absolutely. Like, I know that Julianne Moore can do a real [FK laughing] sad lady dying of cancer, you know? Like, she did it! And there’s like a scene where she just starts wailing like “I don’t wanna die!” And she’s like lying on the floor. And you’re like, “Yes, she was allowed to do some capital-A Acting here, but I’m actually not sure this is serving any purpose.” Like, it’s really sad, but actually this is making it less sad for me because now it just seems like…there’s so much in the absence of it.

FK: Yeah yeah yeah.

ELM: You know, like, sometimes just thinking about something can make me—

FK: Totally.

ELM: —tear up. But then I see it and like, “Ahh!” You know?

FK: Yeah, this, this happens actually—this happens a lot in, I’ve been rewatching Star Trek: The Next Generation. Every once in a while they, like, give an actor an episode that’s like their episode to be an ac-tor! [ELM laughing] And you’re like, “No! You were really good in the other ones where you were not trying to be an ac-tor! But here, it’s been written for you to act!” Anyway, OK. This is all very very very far from what our letter writer was asking.

ELM: Well, I mean, it’s all relevant to people interested in fanfiction I think! I think this stuff is really interesting. As far as the second question, just briefly, I do think that—I know exactly the kind of post the letter-writer is talking about, in terms of like, early to mid 2000s long “here’s why we do X” kind of Livejournal-y posts. 

I feel like that kind of thing, in general, has really diminished in the era of Tumblr, I think partially because Tumblr lends itself a lot less to that sort of thing. And it’s unfortunate, I think it, this connects to our conversation that we’re about to have in terms of the media. There’s so much theorizing that we kind of do. And I think sometimes, you know, we’ve talked about this a little bit. Last year I remember when we went to Wheaton to talk to the kids, the young people.

FK: The youths!

ELM: The youths! We, Josh Stenger, who’s the professor who brought us there, said “what would you be doing with this energy,” you know, the thoughts and the things and the words coming out of this podcast if you weren’t doing the podcast, and I was just like, we both were like, “I don’t know!” You know? [FK laughs] And I think it was really revelatory for us because I think the conversations that we get to have here with people, I’m not sure—I’m not going to sit down and write a 1,000 word meta, like, “why do we do X,” you know. And I feel like I might have done that 15 years ago, though I personally didn’t. But people were doing it, and I feel like there’s a lot less space for that now.

FK: Yeah, people were doing it. And maybe we would, maybe if like—if it were 15 years ago we would be doing that, I don’t know.

ELM: I just, I think that there was a more of a conversational I’m-just-spitballing here sort of attitude, or “I need to try to theorize why I’m doing X,” you know. Whereas now I feel like there is—I personally feel a little bit of reticence to do that. I don’t wanna put down, you know, I, and this is ironic as a journalist and someone who does write somewhat meta-like theorizing articles for us sometimes, but like, I wouldn’t just sit down at like, you know, elizabethminkel.tumblr.com and be like, “Why do I do this?” You know? “Lemme give my grand unified theory over the course of 2,000 words,” and hit post on my Tumblr. I don’t wanna expose myself that way. You know?

FK: Exactly. I think I would be worried that—[laughs] I would be worried that antis would come after me! You know? But honestly this actually makes me think like, you know, it makes me think about why we don’t do that anymore and it kind of makes me want to—want to write something like that, you know? Want to think through it, and, you know, do it.

ELM: Well, to be honest I mean, you do it more than anyone I know! You wrote a big meta about why you liked Reylo and put it on the AO3, you know?

FK: I did, I did!

ELM: Yeah!

FK: But it makes me want to do it more!

ELM: Yeah!

FK: But then I also think about, you know, there was—sometimes I put those things out and the response is extraordinarily negative. [laughs] So… 

ELM: Sure.

FK: Maybe I don’t want to, right? As a person who does it more than anyone you know, I will tell you that probably a third of the comments I get on posts when I make a post like that—whether it’s about Reylo or whether it’s about something else even—are people taking it super negative and yelling at me, you know? 

ELM: Right and not critiquing you in an honest discussion way, but just being like “I don’t know what you’re talking about, but fuck you!” You know?

FK: Yeah, exactly, exactly.

ELM: “Are you, are you anti-Reylo? Fuck you! Are you pro-Reylo? Fuck you!” And you’re like… 

FK: Yeah, or like… 

ELM: “Read the words! Read the words.”

FK: Yeah, exactly! Anyway. Well, maybe, maybe we’ll write some.

ELM: Uh, I’m not. But good luck. [FK laughs] I’ll back you up.

FK: OK.

ELM: Yeah, but I would be curious, if anyone knows of anything, you know, ideally within the last 10 years. Because I do feel like some of the conversations around gender, sexuality, slash, desire, porn, erotica, smut, feelings—this big group of topics all together—I think a lot of the academic literature I’ve read has been a little bit, I’m glad it existed in this time but I think that it needs to be taken a few steps beyond there, and I haven’t seen a huge paradigm shift on that front, you know? I’ve seen work that builds on that but not a lot of, I don’t see—and maybe people will wanna tear that down—but it seems like very fragmented in terms of how people think about this stuff right now.

FK: You mean like, yeah. It felt like awhile back there was sort of an idea of like, “Well, when we write fanfiction, it’s like liberatory, and it’s progressive because we’re like, putting these characters—” You know. And then people critiqued that, correctly. Right?

ELM: Yeah.

FK: Being like “Well, no, actually, slash is not inherently progressive, there’s all these issues,” but I’m not sure that there’s like, an unified idea about what people are doing that has emerged from that.

ELM: Yeah.

FK: And maybe there shouldn’t be, in the sense of like, maybe there’s not actually a unified thing? But [laughs] having a unified theory does make it easy to communicate, like, you know, an idea about fanfiction to someone who knows nothing about it, which is the seductive appeal of it, even if it’s not the right way to, like—even if it’s not the truth, I guess, is what I mean.

ELM: Sure.

FK: So take that as you will. But I would be—I would be interested to see if there is some kind of a narrative that ever does emerge, or whether we’re sort of now at a point where we’re just going to understand that this is a sort of fractured thing, that this is a community that can be viewed in a lot of different ways and expressed in a lot of different ways.

ELM: I mean, or frankly, many many different communities that kind of overlap.

FK: Yeah yeah yeah, yeah!

ELM: That’s the part of the problem, right? It’s not really a problem necessarily, multivarious—that’s not bad. You know? It’s just like, it’s hard. And I think it’s also, you get a lot of people coming into it at different levels, so it’s like, different, people all throughout the galaxy brain. And then the brains start, like, diverging into different paths, you know? 

So when you still have a lot of people on like panel one, where they’re like “It must be progressive because I am not a man directing a Marvel movie, I am a woman and it’s gay!” You know? And you’re like “No! No. There’s, you gotta go past that,” right? You know? 

FK: Yeah yeah yeah, totally.

ELM: So. But I understand that people come to it at different times and I wish there was, I wish there was more writing that—I don’t know. I say this but I don’t actually, my answer’s like “It’s complicated,” if I had to write about it I’d be like “Well, this, and then on the other hand this.” There’s no—my galaxy brain stops ascending and starts being like, “Uh…?”

FK: Yeah, one of the things I often think about with this is I think about how sort of fractured queer or LGBTQ or whatever-term-you-wanna-use culture can be in these areas, cause—and I say that, like, I say those many, you know, words and acronyms very specifically, because when I hang out with like, older people, like—so one of my friends is an older woman and she’s a lesbian and she reacts super negatively to the term “queer.” She really doesn’t identify with it at all. And I’m like, “I will defend queer to my death.” And then there’s, like, younger people who are not into “queer” as a term and use, like, same-sex, you know, or whatever—which to me and to her, my older friend, both of us are like “that sounds like you’re a TERF!” You know? “It sounds like you’re, like, gonna—same-sex attracted is a thing that people say who are like, deeply—” You know?

ELM: Yeah!

FK: So everyone has these different ideas about what the right way to talk about it or think about it is, and I think that it’s easy to see when you have, like, multiple generations in a community. You begin to, like, pull that out. And I think we see that in fandom more now maybe than, than at some other times.

ELM: Well sure, and even taking that example, you also have all that stuff overlaid into fandom, right, you know?

FK: Yeah! Exactly, like, that’s part of it too, right?

ELM: Yeah, totally so. All right. Well so, people send us stuff, if you know of anything good, worth sharing. We can make a little list. Scholarly or non-scholarly, I can say definitively there is not much writing about this in the, in the not-amateur nonfiction world, as I would probably label the media. But you know, maybe, maybe I missed something somewhere. But I don’t think, you know, Vanity Fair published the definitive, you know, whatever.

FK: No. [laughing]

ELM: A random publication.

FK: Vanity Fair!

ELM: I don’t think Vanity Fair does a lot of great fandom work, but uh… 

FK: Can you imagine, like, a con suite party or something covered à la Vanity Fair? I wanna write that now.

ELM: That’s incredible actually, that’s a really good idea.

FK: I think that we should, like, go to WorldCon and cover it as though it were Vanity Fair.

ELM: Ideal. Great. Pitch it.

FK: Let’s do it!

ELM: It’s so easy to just pitch it!

FK: Pitch it!

ELM: And then, in fact that’s the subject of our next segment: it’s not that easy.

FK: OK OK OK. Let’s take a break and then I want you to explain things to me.

ELM: OK. I’ll do it. I love doing that.

[Interstitial music]

FK: All right, we’re back!

ELM: Hey.

FK: And I’m so prepared, this is gonna be like—so, in the past, on this podcast, we did an episode where I told you about how TV gets made.

ELM: Yeah.

FK: And I am really looking forward to kicking back and having you tell me about how covering fandom happens. About how an article gets made.

ELM: OK. All right. “Covering Fandom,” let’s not start there. I think it might be helpful to talk about just some basics of the media. I think that it is very opaque to a lot of people, and when I say “the media” I mean, I’m not talking about broadcast media which I don’t have any experience in. 

FK: Right. But I think that most of the time when we get mad about, like, an article that’s bad about fandom, that’s like an article, not like a clip on TV or something.

ELM: I mean I think there’s very little coverage of fandom in broadcast media outside of like, “I’m live at San Diego Comic-Con! Look at all these people!”

FK: Yeah, local news! Local news at cons. [both laughing] That’s a thing!

ELM: Um, and, and I think broadcast media too tends to be extraordinarily reductive on most things, you know. So even if you saw like a 60 Minutes segment on fandom it’d be like, “Fandom is big business these days!” You know? You can imagine the voiceover over the like, you know.

FK: [hoots] I can, I can completely imagine it and it would be “fandom is big business these days” for sure. That’s it. 

ELM: And then they’d show, like, people taking out the Harry Potter books out of the boxes for the midnight release party.

FK: They would! 

ELM: Yeah, I could, I could write this segment for you actually pretty easily, so.

FK: Yeah, yeah.

ELM: But no, talking about print media in particular because I don’t wanna, I don’t also wanna go into radio. But I think there is a lot of confusion, because I think it looks the same to a lot of people, but publications actually tend to be operating at different levels. Right? 

So, like, you have a huge ecosystem that’s developed in the last 10 years or so of digital publications that are open for pitches, basically. So you have editors who work on these and they usually have quotas that are actually relatively high. They may need to publish five, six, ten pieces a day, depending on what kind of site, you know.

FK: Right.

ELM: And one of the unfortunate things over the last 10 years is you, you know, when I started being a journalist, like, my first regular thing was blogging for The New Yorker’s books blog when I was on the editorial staff there. And it was truly a blog, you know? And it would be like, I would write like two-, three-paragraph posts, just like “Look at this item! Kinda fun,” you know. And that’s really diminished. The Cut at New York Magazine is still kind of bloggy in that way, right, you know?

FK: Yeah, it totally is.

ELM: Jezebel sometimes, and the other Gawker sites or former Gawker Media sites, can do that sort of thing too. And people still sometimes treat those sites like they did in the early 2010s, where there’s regular commenters and they know the writers and they—

FK: Absolutely.

ELM: —get into a sort of feedback loop, right. But for the most part you have a lot of sites where people are pitching things that kinda should be a blog post but they have to present them like they’re a little article. And they don’t really have a point, you know, and they maybe don’t have an argument, and you know, there’s tons and tons of culture coverage. And you’re like “this does not need to be an article, my friends.” You know? And it’s like… 

FK: Yeah yeah yeah.

ELM: It’ll be stuff that, this happens a lot.

FK: I mean, People. People’s like, presence, is like—People magazine or whatever now has everything like this on their social presence, which at one time in the early 2000s there were, like, gossip blogs. And you would read a little gossip item and be like “OK!”

ELM: And now it’s like a whole article.

FK: Right.

ELM: You did not have enough information to fill up these 700 words, I’m sorry. Like… 

FK: Right. You did have five grainy pictures, and we saw all of them.

ELM: Yes. Right. So you find in this ecosystem also there’s a ton of articles. People with an argument, this is where thinkpieces exist. And at a lot of places, there’s a huge mix of where that content comes from. So there’s a lot of places that are open to pitches. A lot of people rely, a lot of editors are told they have budgets for freelancers and then they have budgets for people within their, kind of—so they’ll have regular freelancers that they, they contact, right? You know? Or they’ll be open to pitches.

I can say as someone who’s been on the receiving end of open pitches it is a fucking nightmare, you know. [FK laughs] You get, you ask for something, something even relatively broad, and you get—the confidence with which people pitch stuff. Men. I’m sorry. People say this, it is true. A man is like “This is not related in any way, but I’m going to send it to you.” You know. And it’s like… [FK laughing] What?! You, right here there was a line that said what we were looking for is one topic and you were like “this isn’t related!” And you don’t say it’s not related, you’re like “wanna publish it?”

FK: Yeah.

ELM: And it’s like—it’s just—it wastes everyone’s time, it’s infuriating to me. And I say this with the full knowledge that, I mean, that’s probably majority white men too, white women and people of color are much less likely to do this kind of like confident bullshitting. And I—that being said I don’t want anyone to confidently bullshit! But you’re more likely to think, like, “Oh, am I not qualified enough to send this in.”

FK: Yeah, totally.

ELM: So that’s like a really shitty system. There’s a lot of freelancing out there. The rates really vary. It’s a really precarious situation for the freelancer. You’re rewarded sometimes, historically, for pitching something that might be incendiary.

FK: Right.

ELM: But you don’t actually have the institutional support.

FK: Right.

ELM: Because you’re a freelancer, right. So like, if trolls swarm you or you know try to dox you or whatever, you’re really on your own.

FK: Right.

ELM: And often you are the, you are the only face of this, not the article’s publication. Cause they don’t know your editor. 

FK: Right.

ELM: They don’t know that person’s boss, but they know you and your byline was on it. So that’s a really hard part of this ecosystem.

FK: Right, and I guess now that—now that you say that, like, being rewarded for that, I guess it’s also…that makes perfect sense, because a publication wants more clicks, but I don’t know, I guess, I guess previously I always felt grouchy about this and I was like “why would someone write this thing that is just intended for clicks?!”

ELM: That’s why! That’s because they wanna, they wanna—

FK: That’s why, because I wanna pay my rent!

ELM: —keep their jobs! Sorry to say. Just as Hollywood is capitalist-driven… [FK laughs] You know, and… 

FK: You mean we’re not the only awful industry that makes people do bad things because they need money?!

ELM: I’m gonna actually assert that that’s all of them! [FK laughs] So…that’s fine. 

FK: Right.

ELM: That’s cool. But anyway, that’s a lot of the media you see and sometimes the staff writers…there’s, especially at a site with a lot of high traffic, a staff writer may have to write multiple posts a day too. And it’s really really hard for people to kind of catch their breath. They’re constantly reacting, right? You know? And I have friends who are staff writers who try to write longer stuff and more thoughtful stuff, and that kind of stuff kind of gets shunted by the wayside, because people are just like “No no. React, react, react.” 

FK: Right. For sites like this that have, like, a quick turnover of things that—

ELM: I mean, most sites, frankly. It’s—even on sites that might give more space to really thoughtful journalism… 

FK: They still have this like… 

ELM: Maybe on their print side or whatever. You still have this churn, you know, this reactionary churn. And so I think one of the hard things about that with fan culture stuff is that you can sort of get a, journalists can get ideas in their head about what fans are, and then you sort of slip in references that you’re like “What?” I was thinking about this with, the Times does this a lot where they’ll mention the word “stan” these days and they’ll just be like “stan, a superfan.” And you’re like “What?! That’s not what that means!” You know? But it’s like—it got into the back of people’s heads, little definitions or little ideas, and so that’s really insidious, because that kind of builds up. And it’s not like you’re writing an article about fandom, but you just have this kind of baseline misunderstanding or like lack of nuance about fannish topics, and that just seeps into all of your culture coverage.

FK: Right, and then the volume… 

ELM: Yeah, exactly.

FK: Right, right right. And then that—and then I imagine that makes it a harder row to hoe too then if someone comes in and is doing something that’s more thoughtful and like—I mean, not saying “more thoughtful” that, like, insults people who aren’t, they’ve gotta do it, I get it. But like if someone comes in and writes something that’s more nuanced or whatever and you come in but everyone’s like “But that’s not what that means, we use that term all the time and it means X!” And you’re like, “WHAT!”

ELM: Exactly. Which I don’t think—we’ve seen this a lot with “stan” recently but there’s a lot of fandom terms that are this way. Including “fandom” itself and definitely “fanfiction” I would say. 

FK: Yeah.

ELM: Gets really, really abused. So then, there’s, there’s—the element of print media or written-word media, I don’t know, text-based media [FK laughs] that I think is very opaque to people is what really happens at the level of, like, high-level mainstream publications who have staff writers. You literally put your hand on your chin and you leaned in cause you’re so ready for this.

FK: I am so ready for this! Because this is, this is, because I know—I have some sense of what happens with open pitches and so on, and I have some sense of how that works in sites where you can do that, but I really have no clue. [laughs]

ELM: So basically there’s a lot of different ways it works, and I’ve worked at a number of different magazines. In the interests of full disclosure, I think people know because it’s public information and I’ve talked about it from time to time, but I’ve worked in some capacity at The New Yorker for most of my career, including full-time like making the magazine every week for about five years before I went to grad school. And I’m not specifically talking about The New Yorker and I wouldn’t feel comfortable going into the details of, like, their frankly—they have the most unique and buttoned-up of any publication I’ve ever worked for.

FK: So to talk about that would not be representative anyway.

ELM: No. I mean, and it’s interesting, but it’s also not my position to do so.

FK: Right.

ELM: And it’s increasingly, people inside The New Yorker are kind of lifting the curtain a little bit, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing that and I just wanna say that for the record. 

FK: Yeah yeah yeah.

ELM: And if you do want that curtain lifted, they’re lifting it slightly. [FK laughs] I remember when I started it was like, “No curtain lifting! That’s completely inappropriate!” And now I think they know that people are so curious about the magazine, you know. That, just giving a little bit of insight into the process? I think that’s not my position to say. But I will say things that are more universal to that kind of print magazine that, you know, maybe has a companion website.

But basically, there are editors, there are staff writers. Staff writers usually have contracts that often have some sort of agreement, like “I will write X number of pieces for you in a year; I will write X number of words for you; I will be compensated this much.” They kind of have a thing to meet. But it’s not the same thing as “I need to write eight articles for you a day,” or you know, “ten articles a week” or whatever. That’s very different. These are stories that they may work on for months, right.

FK: Right, right.

ELM: Uh, often, you know, writers who have regular relationships. And also they have regular relationships with freelance writers sometimes. They’ll have an editor, and they—I’ve had editors too, you know. When I’ve had a regular relationship at a website. And we go back and forth. And like, “What do you think of this idea?” And she’ll go, “Mm.” You know? Like, “I don’t really think so,” right? [FK laughs] And so I know what she’s thinking about, she knows what I’m thinking about, she’ll check in with me, that kind of thing. I had this with my editor at the New Statesman. Cause I wrote for her for several years, right?

In a big print publication, you also often have people generating ideas. And this is separate from the journalists. Sometimes they are journalists, but I know people who have been contracted to generate a list of ideas. 

FK: Oh, so that’s fascinating. That’s a little bit like, that’s a little bit like sort of the thing that happens in the film industry where there’s like, sometimes writers write a script, but sometimes someone comes up with a concept for it or whatever and they go find a writer.

ELM: Exactly. Right. Did you not know this, that this is like that?

FK: No, I mean, I guess I sort of had some sense that it must be, but I didn’t really like… 

ELM: No, I think a lot of people didn’t know this, but I was curious if you knew this because it is like the film industry, actually.

FK: I think it’s not so much that I didn’t know it as I hadn’t formulated it. I think I knew that it had to be the case, but like, didn’t put it all together.

ELM: Yeah, I think that a lot of—and I think some journalists aren’t aware of this because I think when you work on a website where you’re like, “What ideas are we doin’?” and then “We gotta get it out! Gotta pitch it! Gotta get it going! Who can write about this for us?” Blah blah blah. 

And it happens on a smaller scale. I’ve been approached by some editors being like “We want someone to write about X.” I actually just got, a couple of months ago an editor wrote to me and was like “We want someone to write about YA authors self-canceling!” And I was like, “NOT IT! Oh my God, I am absolutely not interested in writing this, NO!” [FK laughing] But I was like, “Thanks for thinking of me! Literally no!”

FK: Save yourself! Save yourself from the pit!

ELM: Like, what, you could shoot me in the chest and then you could take my hand and write the article with my hand, but. And I was also like, at that point it’s not my place to be like, “Do you need to cover this?” You know? Like, but that’s what I would say if I was an editor there. Like, “Do we need to weigh in on this topic?” You know, like… 

FK: Yeah yeah, totally.

ELM: You know, and these are things editors think about. Like, I’ve been editing, you know, my site is now closed because we didn’t get our funding renewed. But this site I’ve been editing for the last few years was about the future of science and technology, and also we looked at it through the lens of culture. And you know, there was some really interesting speculative fiction that came out, there was an—N.K. Jemisin has the collection of stories that came out about black speculative fiction. 

FK: Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah.

ELM: And I was like “Oh, we should write about this!” And, like, the moment passed, and then I was like…the moment kind of passed and I don’t have time to commission a black author really, you know, a black journalist who really knows what they’re talking about, and I could write about this, but do I need to weigh in on this? That kind of thing. And these are the kind of questions that you sort of think about within the space of like, do we have the right person to cover this? If not, do you need these white people giving their opinions on this topic about people of color? Or whatever.

FK: Right, right, and is this the moment, have we run out of time to cover this in a timely fashion… 

ELM: Yeah, and say anything new. 

FK: Is there something else going on… 

ELM: Right, right. Obviously there’s always space to say something new about something. I don’t think there’s, like, a window where a story is fresh and then it’s dead. But it’s also like, do you need to add to the pile of people saying the same things, or a white person summarizing a bunch of people of color or a straight person summarizing a bunch of queer people, whatever. You know what I mean.

FK: Yeah yeah yeah. It is truly—like having, recently tracking certain stories or whatever for my job, it is fascinating to see how, like, you’ll have like five pieces that are all basically the same, and then every once in a while you get a straggler that’s like, whatever, piece number six, and it’s like two weeks later and it’s saying exactly the same thing and you’re like “Oh, something got delayed there, didn’t it!” [laughs] You know? I’m not sure, like… 

ELM: This has kind of happened to me too sometimes, where I’ll be like, writing about something that a bunch of people are writing about, and I obviously have my relatively unique perspective that’s like, there aren’t a ton of journalists who are, like, branding themselves as fan culture experts. So if I can bring that to it. But then it’ll come out, like, a week later than the other ones because it just got like tangled up in me missing a deadline or like, it gets like, kind of stuck in an editorial, like, black hole. And then it’s like “Oh God, the moment has passed,” you know? Like, everyone already read enough words for this story, and I am not adding to this conversation, you know, by just writing something slightly better but like two weeks later, you know.

Anyway, back to these big magazines though. They do have people—and I don’t know if this is hugely widespread, but I know of multiple publications where this happens—where either they have people who are ideas editors, or even ideas contractors, essentially, saying “We’ll pay you this amount of money to come up with some ideas,” you know. Or, they’ll have basically pitch meetings, ideas meetings, where people will say, “What about an article about blank? I read this story, this quick news story, and I think that, you know,” and one place I actually really would recommend if people are interested in the way journalism works is Radiolab has done a lot of—the radio show—has done a lot of really great work in the last couple of years about lifting that curtain about their process. And so they kick the tires on an idea for like a year.

FK: Right.

ELM: “Kick the tires” is even too generous. Like, they will beat the idea to death. They will prod at it from all angles. It’s a true development process.

FK: Right.

ELM: And along the way, the thing that I think people would find frustrating, if they’re mad about mainstream media coverage, is that a lot of tires have been kicked. And so then you get into this sense of, who are the people kickin’ the tires? They didn’t even know where to kick! You know? They didn’t even wear the right shoes, right? And Radiolab knows, like, Radiolab’s not above critique, they’ve gotten into hot water from the way that they’ve talked about certain topics that they’ve taken an angle and the main character who people thought was not the best person to be the center of the story in terms fo their beliefs, that kind of thing. You know?

FK: Right, but it’s very obvious that the length of time can help. I mean obviously again coming from the film industry, it’s interesting hearing—like, I didn’t realize that anything, anything in this space got thought about for a year before it got written, and that seems like a very short amount of time in comparison to the film industry. But as we all know that doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you’re gonna end up with a product that is like, you know—

ELM: Absolutely. Absolutely.

FK: —that’s great, right? Like, some of the stuff that’s bad in the film industry kicked around for 15 years before it got made, and not just kicked around but like was revised and like the tires were all kicked.

ELM: Yeah, I can see some similar problems between those two things as well of like—I think after a certain point if the same people are just kicking the tires, you’re not gonna have anyone in there to be like, “The, like, suspension on this thing is just bad!” [FK laughs] “You need to like,” not to do an extended car metaphor, but, “you need to gut the, you know, the engine.” Pull up the hood, “This was a poorly constructed car to start!” But instead you’re like, “I don’t know, should we paint it red?” Like, “I don’t know, maybe yellow.” You know? And so if you don’t have the, maybe you don’t have the best mechanics in the room for this particular kind of car, and like, you have no way of knowing that.

FK: Yeah, this is also sort of interesting to me because it clarifies some of these—it also makes me think about, like, why so often—so often one of my pet peeves is people writing articles about fandom that seem to have, like, very old ideas about what fandom is. And I think, “Oh! Well, OK. If someone learned some things about fandom and thought about it for awhile, and then finally like, pitches the idea of talking about it in an ideas meeting or something, and then it kicks around for awhile, and none of the people are particularly experts who are talking about it, they’re all just sort of pokin’ around and they’re, you know,” and then like, oh, of course! By the time this gets going and everyone is on the same page about it, it’s quite out-of-date, you know?

ELM: Right, right, exactly.

FK: The concepts in it are quite out of date, and so when the fundamental concepts are, no matter what you do to dress it up or paint it red or whatever, OK. You know? [laughs]

ELM: Sure, sure, absolutely! And I mean I don’t wanna overstate it, it’s not like every single article takes like five years to make or something like that, you know. But ideas do sit in the general pool at magazines for quite some time. And it’s like “Oh, I think X wanted to write about blank,” or like, “Oh, I was talking to—” 

So you sit in a meeting, I mean, I’ve worked at a lot of different magazines, so I really again want to stress that this isn’t talking about just one. And then you also have this kind of idea of, editors will talk to the writers they’ve worked with or the ones that they, and they will come to meetings. So I’ve worked at magazines, like, I’m never gonna work there again so I’m happy to talk about Harper’s, where I worked like 10 years ago, and I would go to the pitch meetings. You know. And the various editors would come in with their, you know, pitches from the writers that they were working with, maybe they have a contract maybe they don’t, and they would bring the idea to the table, and then all the writers in the room would be like “That’s, no.” Or maybe you’re like, “I don’t get it, what’s the angle here,” and sometimes they’ll send it back and say, “Go talk to that person, get a better narrative peg,” you know. And then they might come to the next meeting and say, “OK, so revisiting this one,” you know. And the… 

FK: Right.

ELM: I know I’ve dragged television writing a lot for being lowest common denominator, written by committee, but you do get the same sort of—some creative decisions being made by committee in terms of like a whole group. You know. But that’s also a diversity of opinions—if you actually have a diversity of opinions in the room.

FK: People. Right. So you just said something that was interesting that I wanna hear more about.

ELM: OK. 

FK: Because you were talking about, like, the peg or the like angle on a story and so on. And I think that that’s interesting, because when I think about, like, my—I wouldn’t say deeply researched, but like, having been around in fandom for a long time, I feel like there’s sort of different eras in which fandom gets talked about in different ways in the media, broadly. Right? So like for a little while it’s all about, when Fifty Shades of Grey comes out it’s all about porn

ELM: Right.

FK: Everything has to be about mommy porn, you know.

ELM: And the publishing industry being ruined, yes.

FK: Right, right. And then like, whatever. Before that there was like Twilight and questions about girls

ELM: Yeah. Girls being ruined. Ruined girls.

FK: Right. And right now it feels like maybe we’re in a moment where everything’s about politics! Like, and there’s always like this angle. And there have been more. I’m just naming the ones that are on the top of my head.

ELM: Sure.

FK: So I guess I’m curious about how that impacts this kind of thing, cause it seems to me like maybe what you’re saying is you can have like—tell me if this is right: you can have like an idea that’s sort of unformed, and then, like, it gets attached to something that’s happening right now to make it feel new, is that what happens?

ELM: Well, not necessarily “feel new,” but you can’t write a—you can’t just say, I say this as an editor and a journalist, you can’t just come to me and say “I wanna write about fandom.” 

FK: Right. [laughs]

ELM: That’s like, OK? [laughs] You need a, you need a pitch, you need a thesis statement. And if it’s a big piece, you need a narrative, often. Like, none of the big pieces that I’m thinking of recently actually had that kind of thing, but you find this a lot with long-form journalism, people will say like “Who’s the main character?” You know? “What’s the way into this?” You know? It’s not a scholarly paper where you can just say, “Some people do this, and the theory behind it is this.” 

You actually, like, you’ll find if you start reading, if you read carefully for this, long-form reporting—and it’s not a profile, which obviously there’s a main character—there often will be a main character. Right? There’s often a narrative. There are structures that long-form journalism takes where you’ll start with a main character and then you’ll pull back and you’ll get the context.

FK: Yeah.

ELM: And these are, these are structures that work if it’s done well, you know. Like, I will have as an editor, saying, people come to me with an idea and I’m like, “How are you gonna sustain this for 3,000 words or 5,000 words? I don’t have anyone to hold on to, all you’re telling me is science word science word science word and I don’t actually have a way into this story, whether it’s someone’s research or someone’s struggle or someone’s misconceptions that were corrected.” 

I think one of the problems with fandom coverage, and I’ve found this pitching to people—here’s actually something that I will say cause this happened to me with multiple editors. They’ll say, “I want you to write for me about fandom.” And I’ll say “Well, this is a really interesting concept. Like, fanfiction is written communally.” Like, that’s a really interesting concept. How do these texts get created? Blah blah blah. They’ll say, “Well, who’s the main character here, could you profile a fanfiction writer?” And I’ll say, “NO!” You know? [FK laughing] “Don’t you understand anything about fandom? NO! That’s the whole point!”

FK: Yeah.

ELM: And they’ll be like “Well, you can’t just write about this amorphous group, you know, of randos.” You know, and I’ll be like—you know?

FK: And it’s funny because when you started saying this, the first thing that I thought of was the documentary Trekkies. Which has this, like, it has—it totally has this. I was like “Oh my God, I know exactly what you’re talking about,” but the first thing I thought of—

ELM: Most documentaries that are good have a main character that you follow, yeah.

FK: Is like this, right? So in this there’s, like, the narrator is the actor who plays Tasha Yar, and she’s sort of narrating it, but there’s a particular Trekkie who it follows and he’s, like, a young white dude and he has his own particular quirks, and by choosing him it centers a certain kind of, like, interaction.

ELM: Sure.

FK: But as he goes around, like, actually it does a pretty good job of showing that there’s like a diversity of people. But it’s still definitely following him around as, like, the emotional heart of it, right? Interesting.

ELM: Sure. Documentaries in particular, like, visual documentaries have more leeway in this sense. Because you could make that where you have three or four main characters. Documentaries will do that, and they go back and forth between different people’s stories, you know.

FK: Yeah, and this sort of does, because like the narrator kind of—and there’s a little bit—but yeah totally. No, this is fascinating thinking about it this way.

ELM: That’s, that’s a lot harder to do in print, you know? Cause then you have to be like, I’ve had this as an editor too where people will kind of jump back and forth between characters, and I’ll be like “I barely remember who this person is from 1,000 words ago, and,” 

FK: Right.

ELM: “I’m editing it, I have been staring at this piece of paper, or this screen, for five hours, and I’ve already forgotten who this is, we’re gonna have to do a little bit more grounding,” you know. And that’s a real challenge. And so I think fandom is a really hard topic often, and it’s really—because fans often are so kind of anonymous and communal, and like, just a member of a whole, then you wind up talking about big forces and industries, and I think often you can tend to be a little bit more sympathetic to, maybe the entertainment industry side, if it’s that kind of story, or someone’s been piled on. A creator. 

And when you’re talking about fan-creator interaction, then you wind up giving equal weight to the individual creator as an individual man—or person—and this big mass of undifferentiated fans acting as a unit. And inherently you’re gonna kinda get this, like, “Well, that’s a real guy with real feelings!” As opposed to, like, “That’s a big group made up of people with real feelings and real agency,” but it’s really hard to kind of present them as a character, because they’re a group, you know what I mean?

FK: That’s so fascinating. It kinda makes me wonder, I mean I don’t know that it is a good idea, but it kind of makes me think that one of the things that I had experienced before in fandom is the idea of, like, right, the—the tall piece of grass gets cut off, you know, the tall peg gets hammered down kind of thing whenever someone—

ELM: I thought it was a tall poppy.

FK: Tall poppy?

ELM: Just a more elegant—wait, is that not a—British people say this all the time, “tall poppy syndrome.”

FK: No, it’s totally a thing, I just couldn’t think of what the right, the right—

ELM: It just sounds so beautiful, it’s a field of poppies, and the one extra tall poppy… 

FK: Yeah, then there’s one, snip! But one of the things I’ve seen before is that whenever a particular fan does get called out in an article in this way, people get mad about it.

ELM: Yeah.

FK: And I get mad about it, too, let me be clear. This is not, I’m not, it is the “Why didn’t they consult me,” it’s the “Why is this person getting called up and not me.”

ELM: Sure.

FK: But I kinda wonder whether maybe that’s the wrong…not to say there aren’t irritations with who people choose to profile or who people think is worth calling out, right. But I kind of wonder if maybe that is, like, an attitude that’s not doing fandom any favors by not letting there be people who are sort of spokespeople in that way, or who are called out in that way, right? By getting mad about it, maybe that’s doing fandom more harm than good. I don’t know.

ELM: By us getting mad about it? I know! But it’s also like, it’s tricky the way stuff is framed. And I’m talking about big pieces at big magazines right now, and I think in the vast majority of this, it’s the quicker hit stuff. I’m not saying people don’t work on that, you know, for weeks or even months or whatever, but I mean often not because you’re being paid max $500, so you’re not gonna work on that for a couple months. 

But like, I think that one of the ways that I think that pieces that I have written have struck the right chords in fandom, or ones that Aja Romano or Gav—Gavia Baker-Whitelaw have written, not to say that we’re the only fandom journalists, but I think often we are doing more service journalism and explaining journalism.,

FK: Right.

ELM: And we are all often writing from the perspective of like, we’ve been in fandom for a very long time, and we are kind of the spokesperson fan. 

FK: Right.

ELM: And I think there are problems within that, but I think that that is—it has been helpful, I have gotten a ton, a ton of feedback over the years from people in fandom, like, anonymous Tumblr things, being like “thank you so much for speaking for us,” and stuff. And like, that has its own set of problems because I don’t wanna be the spokesperson for a fandom, because my perspectives are shaped by my individual—you know… 

FK: Yeah yeah yeah.

ELM: I’m not, I’m not the universal fan. You know what I mean?

FK: Totally.

ELM: But somehow that puts me in that position when I’m like, the fandom ambassador basically, you know what I mean?

FK: Yeah, well this kind of makes me wonder—I mean this is not the kind of thing that would ever be…I shouldn’t say that because I don’t know that. It doesn’t seem to me like this is the kind of thing that would be published, but I kind of wonder, you know, like, what would it be like to read narratives about a lot of different kinds of fans? Or to write narratives about a lot of different individual fans, like, from individual perspectives, having individual experiences. Right? Like, really well-written, interesting, not trying to make anyone a spokesperson but just trying to, like, represent different people’s experiences of fandom.

I don’t know. Like, who would read it is a question. [laughs] I don’t know who would read it, I don’t know who would write it, I don’t know who would fund it, but I think it would be really interesting, you know. Because I think what you’re saying about the spokesperson fan is probably part of this problem. Right? Because like you’re saying, your experience is just one experience, and like, if what you’re saying is being positively received it’s because you’re not necessarily, like, centering yourself, as an individual? And yet the centering of yourself as an individual, like, is inherent to your perspectives, so it’s like a little twisted… 

ELM: Right. And I mean like, I, I think some of the positive feedback comes from me being like “Well, this is a thing, this is one of the reasons that fans do this, it’s cause we feel this way.”

FK: Right.

ELM: And there are things that you would really only know if you talked to someone in fandom or if you were in fandom. Fandom makes, “I do this because I feel this way.” And people, the thing I’ve gotten more than—and I don’t wanna, this is now turning into me, like, praising myself, so that’s cool. [FK laughs] But I have gotten many many times over the years, and this is such a valuable comment to me, people saying “You articulated something I never knew how to articulate,” you know? Even things—so that’s not even explaining what we do, that’s like, “Oh, a feeling that was inside of me, about how I felt, you put it down on the page.”

FK: This kind of gets us back to something that we were saying in response to the question… 

ELM: Yeah.

FK: The question about smut, right? Because I mean one of the things that I do think is notable is that I feel like in the 2000s, in that first decade of this century, there was a lot more people writing their own experiences in meta or like talking about themselves as a fan or whatever, right, like, sort of doing that, and at that time I recall a lot more sort of, like, “Let’s find out what the nerds are doing!” kind of journalism, which was very like, you know—we’re coming from outside and coming in, and it wasn’t very good.

And now I feel like there’s more attempts to be like, “Well, fandom is just naturally part of our culture, and so we’re gonna write about this,” which is, you were saying, like, this is just—this is what you were saying at the beginning, that it’s like, less a “we’re gonna go out and find it” and more a “this is part of stuff,” but at the same time actual fans have stopped self-…maybe not stopped eternally everywhere, but… 

ELM: Maybe not stopped, but… 

FK: Less of a volume of like describing your own experiences and putting it out there and being like, “Here’s really what’s happening for me.”

ELM: Right, which I think is really interesting. And I know when these bad articles about fans come out, there’s a lot of—you know, not necessarily self-reflection but there’s a lot of very emotional posts, and they’re talking about how much it hurts me, and all, you know. I, I remember where I lost it was the Benedict Cumberbatch press tour of doom, when he was promoting The Imitation Game, where—there was a trio of articles, and in one of them he described how Sherlock would sex a lady. Do you remember this one?

FK: Yeah, I do—I remember it and I also remember your self-mythologizing around it, because you bring it up all the time! [laughing] Which is fair, because you really did, I think, have what I would describe as a “meltdown” about it.

ELM: Uh, excuse me! My self-mythologizing is not around the Sherlock-sexes-a-lady. That came out after the shitty Out article. [FK laughs] Here’s how it went down: the first article was Out magazine and he pathologized about why young girls wrote slash about him. And it wasn’t about him, it was about Sherlock, sir. And that was the one where I yelled at him and I’m happy to continue self-mythologizing about that. [FK laughs] And that’s why he’s my enemy.

But then he gave an interview, I believe it was with Elle? I think it was one of the women’s magazines? Where he described at length how he would get with a lady as Sherlock. And it was just like so cringey, and it was like “Congrats, bro, now you’re writing your own fic.” 

And then, the capper was a piece in New York Magazine which the journalist actually—because this was like being circulated around Tumblr—had gone into Sherlock fan spaces and pretended to be a fan to get them to talk to her, which I think was pretty bad journalism, and then the entire piece was mocking fangirls. And it was that famous image, do you remember, where he was in the limo like, looking annoyed, and the girls were like pounding the—do you remember this? We can include that in the show notes.

FK: I do.

ELM: Anyway, that, that press tour of doom, I feel like—there were a lot of reactions on Tumblr of people talking about the way the media depicted them and how angry they were and how sad they were and all this stuff. And it’s like, it sort of feels like that stuff with the self-reflection comes at a moment of crisis and sadness and defensiveness. Or when Devin Faraci wrote the “Fandom Is Broken” article, there was a lot of meta about what fandom is, but it was coming from such a defensive place.

FK: Right.

ELM: And I think that it’s harder when you’re not feeling like you need to protect yourself, and when you wanna be…I think that it’s harder to be self-critical when you feel like you have to defend this thing that’s a part of you, you know? 

FK: Yeah, definitely.

ELM: And then when you’re just sitting around not having a shitty article that you have to defend yourself against, and you’re like, “I’m gonna be self-critical today,” you know, I think that’s not in a lot of people’s instincts, and it’s less in the ecosystem than it might have been to kind of write an analytical essay about the act of being a fan. You know?

FK: Right. Right, totally.

ELM: I do think all of this is skirting around one of the things that we’re seeing right now which I saw, which we saw in these big bad articles the last few weeks/months, which is kind of the problem of like, fandom knowledge sort of…like little bits of it seeping into the mainstream.

FK: Yeah.

ELM: And then journalists with platforms and a little bit of knowledge running with it.

FK: Yeah.

ELM: I think that the New York Times piece about quote-unquote “politics fandom” was a, was a prime example of that. 

FK: To quote my response: words have meaning, “fandom” is not the same thing as “memes.”

ELM: And not to diminish memes—

FK: I don’t know what to say!

ELM: Amanda Brennan, you know, the meme librarian at Tumblr, was tweeting the same thing, but kind of in the like, “Memes are serious too! Like, you could write, make it about memes!” You know? There’s all these meme scholars, you know, write about memes! 

FK: Yeah! Words have meaning!

ELM: Ugh. It’s fine. But I think that was a really good example of, like, you know, this is a journalist with a huge platform, plenty of knowledge about the internet, and kind of took an idea and ran with it, and I think this is an additional layer of issues here. You have ideas floating around in pitch meetings and sitting in ideas banks and generally in the ecosystem of an editorial planning calendar. And if you have a certain amount of status, I think you kind of get a little bit of a pass, to say, you know, like—

FK: Right.

ELM: —you, you know, “You’re a big journalist, you know what you’re doin’, go for it.” You know, like, as opposed to saying, “Who is the right person who can really do the research on this?” And that’s not to say, I got really frustrated this past week with people—especially people who aren’t in journalism at all—saying “I could have written that piece!” About several of these pieces. It’s like, “Mm, OK. Have you ever pitched a piece to a publication before? Have you ever written any journalism?” Like, it’s not—it’s not like they were just taking open pitches from any ol’ person and they picked that guy! Or they picked that lady! Like, these are serious experienced journalists! And maybe they didn’t do a great job with this topic, but that’s the real “why wasn’t I consulted” sort of thing. “Why didn’t they talk to me?!” And it’s like… 

FK: Yeah, and I would also say it’s not always like a direct link, right? Like, one of the things—like it’s true that I was, I was quite upset [laughs] with the New Yorker piece, because it quoted Henry Jenkins and like, basically that’s it. And knowing that, like, Henry tries to, like, raise up the work of other scholars and is very very aware of his role, like, not as—as, you know, “Maybe I kickstarted the field of fan studies, but I am not in fact your best representative of it right now, so go find someone else!” Right? And that’s been his party line. But, on the other hand—

ELM: And he in fact—he in fact said publicly, in his response to it, that he had suggested some other scholars. So that is, that is a bit frustrating.

FK: He absolutely did, yeah. Which is quite frustrating, but I mean also, like, he’s so public about this that anyone who knows him immediately read that and was like, “Oh. They did not follow up on the notes that he surely gave.”

ELM: Yeah.

FK: Because there’s no way that Henry did not tell, like, 10 other people for them to talk to. But. But! That aside, like, I was pissed off about that, but at the same time also, like, this kind of article is not a Fan Studies article, either. Like, it’s not—this is not a situation, like, Fan Studies does its thing—academia in general does its thing, right? People who write film criticism are not just taking the work of academics who study film and, like, pooting it over there, right?

ELM: Well hold on, don’t say “film criticism” cause that’s, like, not what you mean. You mean people who, like, write a feature about filmmaking.

FK: Quite right. You’re right.

ELM: Take critics out of here, we don’t need that right now.

FK: Take critics out. Well, you know, I do mean critics too, but also people who write a feature about filmmaking. Like, neither of those people, like, just go and like—

ELM: As an aside, Emily Nussbaum talked about this a little bit, cause she actually I think knows more about the television industry than she might necessarily need to.

FK: Yeah.

ELM: There are critics who just treat the texts as they are—

FK: Absolutely, absolutely.

ELM: And they don’t need to know how it’s made, and sometimes—there’s an argument to be made that that’s not a part of their job, so like, yes.

FK: There are also academics who study film who don’t, like, deal with the material—anyway.

ELM: Yeah, sure. Sure.

FK: Moving on though, the point is though, that like, academia does not, like, directly jump over. So one of the things I find frustrating also in the narrative around this is the idea that, like, if only people paid more attention to Fan Studies then that would solve all these problems. It would solve some problems! Absolutely! But definitely not all of them, you know?

ELM: Right.

FK: It’s not just a direct one-to-one of like, academic knowledge production leads to better media coverage!

ELM: Absolutely. Yeah, and I think as we were discussing this, one thing I kept saying over and over again was, I think part of the problem here is there’s a real lack of trade nonfiction about fan culture.

FK: Yeah.

ELM: And I—this isn’t to put anyone in academia or Fan Studies in particular on the defensive or throw them under the bus, but like, a lot of Fan Studies writing is very much steeped in academia. Not particularly accessible even to me, a person with a master’s degree in related fields who, like, literally studied this at the graduate level, I don’t find a lot of these papers particularly accessible. One thing I was seeing that we were discussing, and I think you would agree about Henry Jenkins’ work, is he’s written some very very readable books that in fact are so readable that people in the entertainment industry—if they were to read something—might read something by him.

FK: And they’ve been marketed that way too, right?

ELM: Yes.

FK: Like, Convergence Culture for instance—it was funny, so actually someone, someone at my work their first reaction to this was “Why are they quoting Henry Jenkins, the transmedia guy, to talk about fan culture?” And I had to explain to him that before Henry Jenkins studied transmedia, he studied fan culture, and he’s sort of a big deal in that space. But.

ELM: Right, right.

FK: But if a random film person is, like, reading your books, then they’re being marketed as trade books.

ELM: Right, exactly. And I mean they’re very readable. I, I don’t wanna say that one style of writing is superior, and I’m not trying to put down academic styles of writing, but there is something to be said for clarity, and like, accessibility, in terms of like the prose itself. And so one of the things that—I mean I don’t wanna steal your words, but I do think you brought up science writing when we were discussing this over the past week. And like, science writers acting as this sort of ambassador between scientists, who write scientific papers that I could not read for the life of me, and the general public, you know? And science writing is a really clear skill and it’s not just journalism. I mean, it’s not just journalists writing for magazines and newspapers, right.

FK: No, I mean, and there’s literally like—there’s a graduate degree at MIT in science writing, you know?

ELM: Right, right.

FK: It is a specific thing that people learn to do.

ELM: And it’s about—and you know, I know this is a, it’s interesting because sometimes I think about the conversations about Fan Studies and talking to the rest of the world, and I think about historians and how they’re constantly having this conversation right now of like, “Should we be public intellectuals? What does that mean?” But there are a lot of historians writing trade books. And some of them are writing, dumbing them down a bit and picking and choosing in their facts. And those sometimes get to be bestsellers and then the general public has specific narratives about the Civil War or something, the dad-book topics, you know what I mean? 

FK: Right.

ELM: There’s no real equivalent to that within this corner of the humanities in terms of people kind of acting as ambassadors.

FK: Right.

ELM: And I think the suggestion that the general public read, journalists will read a bunch of fan studies books that are written in an academic style is not realistic. I think that most journalists doing research will read nonfiction trade books and they’ll interview people.

FK: Right.

ELM: And maybe they will read academic papers for kind of a foundational reference, but you know, I’ve—in fact as an editor, I’ve had people try to quote academic papers, very dry writing, in their articles. And I’m like, “You should cite this. We can link to it. But you need to put this in some better words that people can read,” because, you know, you just put a paragraph on like crop outputs. And I’m like “No.” You know? “Just say, like, ‘historically this has been true,’ I don’t need to know that from this exact year they output this much corn.” You know? Like, no one needs that information in this context, you know. And you need to act as a translator between—and cite it, and cite it accurately, but. You know.

And that’s a—it’s a question I have for Fan Studies. I think they’re put in a difficult position, because to actually succeed in the field of academia, they can’t devote their writing energies to writing trade books. You know? Or to writing journalistic articles. Like, they have to do very specific things to achieve any job security whatsoever and not be paid as an adjunct, $11 an hour or whatever. You know? And like, that’s—I feel a lot of sympathy for that position. But I also, I find that intersection with journalism to be a tricky one.

FK: Well, OK. So the cure is that people who can should write trade books, I guess.

ELM: I mean, yes! I would say that. I don’t know. What do you think? [FK laughs] Like… 

FK: No, that seems perfectly reasonable to me! I’m just, now I’m sitting here thinking about all the times I said “Oh, maybe I’ll write a trade book about fandom” and I never did! [laughs]

ELM: Yeah, I mean, maybe not about quote-unquote “fandom,” but imagine if you wrote a book that journalists could go to and say like, you know, instead of calling the same people to get the same quotes over and over again, imagine big books that talk to a lot of different people that, that really encompass some of this stuff. I feel like so much of this is coming out of this idea of like, “Oh, well, there’s no elevated fans, so no one can talk about fandom.” 

And I, I kind of wonder if—it’s interesting to me how many fans are becoming creators. And that’s not new, but more and more now, people of our background essentially. People who were like in Harry Potter fandom in their teens are now YA novelists or writing, you know, going into writers’ rooms in television. How much of that happens and how little you see people, you know, journalists writing about culture, you know. And there’ll be culture journalists who write culture books, and you’ll get this kind of hint of like, “Oh, maybe I wrote some like, did some fringey fan stuff when I was a teen,” you know, “But then I…it taught me some real lessons but I really grew out of that kinda thing,” you know that kind of narrative, right? And it’s like, [sighs]. What about all the people who are still in fandom, obviously everyone has their own job, but like, I kinda think that’s what we need more of. I think that would be a way to combat some of this.

FK: Well, great. You know what I think happened for once? We got to the end of an episode and we had a solution.

ELM: Right? More books!

FK: I always want a solution at the end of our episodes and we finally got one!

ELM: I mean—

FK: Maybe it’s not one we can implement, but it is a solution! Hey, you can’t take this away from me. You cannot take this away from me right now.

ELM: OK, it is a solution. Um, yeah. I just, I don’t know what to say beyond that in terms of like, I’ll tell any editor who wants to listen why I think some of these pieces in recent weeks have been real missteps. I don’t think they’re doing them any favors. I don’t think they’re doing publications any favors, I don’t think they’re doing fans or culture commentary at large any favors. So if any, anyone in the media would like to chat with me.

FK: [laughing] You can’t, this is not a visual podcast so you can’t see the coy little face Elizabeth just made.

ELM: Chat with me. No, it is, can I just say in a wrapping-up note too, it is, it is very frustrating to me to see this, because I do a lot less journalism now because I got kind of tired of having to say the same things over and over again, and, and I’m not writing for the New Statesman anymore which is where I wrote most of my work, but I will say it was very frustrating to see—I wrote over the course of several years media-stop-fucking-up articles, and then I left, and there were a couple things that I would have written angry articles about that came out and I don’t know—I’m not saying “Why didn’t you read my work in this important publication!” But it was a little bit like, [sighs] you know, just like, am I screaming into the void here? You know. So this is a hard topic for me to approach because it’s sort of like, how to tell people to stop fucking up when you’ve alread written 15 articles about how not to fuck up, like, [FK laughs] at a certain point I just kinda gave up and walked away. And like, you know.

FK: Yeah.

ELM: How can I keep being in the media when none of it gets any better, and we’re a good decade into mainstream coverage of fandom.

FK: Totally.

ELM: And it should be smarter than this. These people are smarter than this, and there’s no reason for this. So. That’s my despairing note. I’m done now.

FK: All right, well, all right, thank you for teaching me about this. I learned many things.

ELM: I’m so glad! I’m glad you were able to draw parallels between your own industry, the entertainment industry, [FK laughs] and the media industry.

FK: No, it was great. It was great. It was great. Things we should talk about.

ELM: Well, speaking of articles I think are actually good… 

FK: Yeah! We published one!

ELM: This is all, all big lead-up so we could say: actually read the things we publish!

FK: The things we publish! Especially our most recent article, which is by Keidra Chaney!

ELM: So, you may remember Keidra from seven, eight episodes ago, our “Stan Culture” episode. Keidra is the co-founder, co-publisher of The Learned Fangirl, which I believe she recently said was on permanent hiatus, sadly. Speaking of more media voices we need in there that we’re not gonna get any more. But we’ve got Keidra! On our platform! 

FK: Yeah!

ELM: So that’s fine! Um, she, she tweeted something a few…months ago? Weeks ago? Being like “I wanna write an essay about, you know, the really complicated intersections between, like, being a stan or a fan of something and empowerment and, like, self-care and liberation and also, like, that’s all in capitalism.” You know? And like, what does it mean when you wanna wrap up your identity in an artist and their work but like you also wanna critique them—

FK: Totally.

ELM: —but also like your support of them directly gives the money to the entertainment, you know, to the record label or whoever. Like, how do I be a fan in the world where these are the kind of like intersections.

FK: How do fan?!

ELM: And she wrote a really interesting piece, and I think especially too if you—one thing we were saying as we were working with her on this is, you know, stan culture I think has similarities and differences to other corners of fan culture in terms of like, there isn’t a lot of space for critique there, as opposed to other kinds of fan cultures where… 

FK: Right, right.

ELM: So I found it really interesting to edit and to work with her on this, as someone who comes from a like, “Of course I’m gonna critique them! Everything I like is actually bad!” you know? Like…can I say, side note, this is a total aside, but a friend of mine from IRL asked me, like, the plot of my fanfiction last night, and I started telling him. He kept asking questions and I was like, “This is so weird. You wanna know about this?!”

FK: [laughs] I wanna know about this!! Cause I don’t know the plot of your fanfiction!

ELM: Well you never asked me so maybe that’s where he went right and you went wrong!

FK: Oh my God I’m trying to respect the fact that you won’t show me your writing!

ELM: He just wanted to know the plot! But at every turn I just found myself being like, “Well, cause you know, the original movie is so dumb. It’s so dumb that I like it, it’s so dumb!” And I felt myself just beating myself, beating myself repeatedly, being like, “The thing I like, and I’ve currently written 21,000 words about, and am planning to write like 20,000 more at least, is so stupid.” And like, the self-hating element of that was like, it was just a very clarifying moment where I was like, “I can’t even talk about this thing that actually also gives me pleasure.”

FK: [laughs] Yeah!

ELM: And I had to be like… 

FK: Relatable, relatable.

ELM: Yeah, it was fraught.

FK: It also is like a, it’s sort of like, it’s like the opposite of when you see a really cute baby and you’re like “I wanna eat him,” it’s like “I love this thing but I also hate it!”

ELM: I don’t feel that way about X-Men: First Class. To be fair, like, I do think that all the writing choices should be critiqued. So. And I think it’s the best of all of the X-Men movies in terms of writing. That’s fine. That’s all right.

FK: You love it so much.

ELM: Anyway.

FK: All the clenching.

ELM: Side note. So Keidra, fantastic writer, I’m so glad we got to work with her. You should go to fansplaining.com/articles and you will find it there, along with all the other articles we’ve published. And I don’t wanna, um, put too fine a point on it, or too, too blunt a peg—these are two mixed metaphors here—but like, we were able to pay Keidra because of Patreon.

FK: Yeah.

ELM: And as you know, if you look at our Patreon you’ll see that being able to pay even remotely decent rate—I mean it’s not, we can’t pay very much to our journalists. But being able to pay at all comes out of the relatively, you know, as we always say when we talk about the Patreon, we’re takin’ a loss on this thing. You know? In terms of—

FK: Yeah, yeah. We’re very happy to do it, but also we are still takin’ a loss on this thing, so.

ELM: So, I would say that if you have been thinking about pledging and you enjoyed Keidra’s piece or you would like us to be able to publish more of that, the only way we can do more of that is if we—we can’t, we’re not going to give over all the money to journalists because we also have our own labor costs. You know what I mean? So, that’s patreon.com/fansplaining.

FK: Yes.

ELM: If you’ve been thinking about financially supporting us and you have any cash, even $1 a month totally adds up. We would really appreciate that if you’ve been upset about the media coverage and would like to get some more thoughtful fandom media coverage into the world. Or know anyone else who’s not even a listener but might be interested in getting that out into the world, just if they don’t want podcast stuff but they wanna read more good stuff like this.

FK: Absolutely. And just a quick note on the Patreon rewards, so there’s a bunch of different rewards for levels of pledging. The one that I want to highlight right now is enamel pins, which we added recently for the $5 level, which also gets your name in the credits. And I just want to report that the enamel pins are currently in production, they are being made as we speak. So.

ELM: I imagine like a big pin factory.

FK: Pin factory. It literally is a pin factory that is making them right now.

ELM: Do you know what I actually thought about as I was describing the act of the, like, making pins—my mother thought we were like making buttons, which you can buy a button maker.

FK: A button maker!

ELM: I was just like, no. She was like “You have to send this to China?!” And I was like, “That’s where pins get made! Has to be done in a factory, we’re not just making,” and so when I explained all this, then I remembered during this discussion in the ’90s I had a Pog maker. Do you remember Pogs?

FK: A Pog maker! Ahh! I remember Pogs and I remember people with Pog makers! I was not one of them. I remember them. I remember. You were one of those people with Pog makers!

ELM: Pogs, quite a dumb fad but I was really into it. Pogs, for anyone who’s not exactly our specific age of like, my age plus or minus two years, right? Like…no one over the age of 36 or under the age of 30 knows what we’re talking about. But they were basically popular in the late ’90s…mid ’90s?

FK: Yeah.

ELM: And they were like, plastic cardboard—not plastic. They were cardboard, and they had things on them.

FK: Some were plastic.

ELM: Oh really? You get a fancier Pog. Well the head Pog—you would like stack them up, and you would like throw the head Pog which was like heavy on them and knock them down. I don’t remember the rules, but it was exciting because—

FK: It was sort of marble-adjacent? Like, kinda marbles-like game?

ELM: It was mostly about getting cool things on your Pogs. And since they were a piece of cardboard, you could get a Pog maker where essentially you could like cut out a picture from a magazine and put it right on the circle and go boom!

FK: What if we found a Pog maker [laughing] and made Pogs?!

ELM: I said this in my conversation! I was like, “We could make everyone Pogs!” If we could find a Pog maker, I’m pretty sure I sold that at a garage sale for like $2 in 2002.

FK: I feel like there are Pog makers for $2 on eBay. We’re gonna look into this and get back to you. Possible future reward.

ELM: Yeah, we could personalize. We could say if you do $2 a month, make your request, we’ll make you a Pog. We gotta cover shipping.

FK: Well, we can’t promise this. This is—we are going to investigate this possibility.

ELM: This is a great idea, I bet everyone wants Pogs, a useless piece of cardboard in your house.

FK: Great, OK. So. [laughs] So, the other thing, just to note, we already said this but you should feel free to write in and give us your thoughts. Fansplaining at gmail.com. You can also give us a phone call at 1-401-526-FANS, F-A-N-S, that goes to a voicemail and we love receiving voicemails so much. So. You know. Do that too! It’s great. You can be anonymous there, just don’t tell us what your name is, if you really want to use like a voice anonymizer I guess you could, but that would be weird cause like, I think that’s too much.

ELM: That would be incredible if someone did that. [funny voice] “I have something to report.”

FK: I mean if you want to we won’t stop you!

ELM: If you wanna take a video of yourself, but do it like they do when they put them in shadow—

FK: Behind a scrim, right?

ELM: And the voice is: “So the thing is,” that’d be incredible. I’d love that.

FK: Ideal. OK. Yes. That’d be great too. You can also help us out by just spreading the word about Fansplaining, you know? Giving us a review on iTunes or wherever you listen to podcasts, tweeting about us, telling people who you think would enjoy Fansplaining—it really helps to get the word out very, very much.

ELM: Yeah. And for the record, we are on Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, all @fansplaining. That’s where you can find us!

FK: Yeah! All right.

ELM: Yeah!

FK: Do we have any other business?

ELM: I don’t think so. I’m gonna go start working on one of my 500 trade books that I am going to write about fandom. You can write your 500.

FK: Great. Probably I’ll start with a meta, but you know, we’ll get there.

ELM: No, I wanna make it like what’s-his-name, who’s the guy who wrote the Hamilton book? I wanna write some doorstoppers that all dads like.

FK: Right.

ELM: Or David McCullough, who wrote that like, the—

FK: David McCullough, yeah.

ELM: Yeah. I wanna write some dad books. So dads, let me know what you wanna read about. It’s definitely not about fanfiction. I can tell already.

FK: Goodbye, Elizabeth.

ELM: Bye, Flourish! [laughter]

[Interstitial music]

ELM: Fansplaining is brought to you by all of our patrons, especially the following people and especially everyone who’s pledged $5 or bumped up their pledge since we announced this cool pin. 

FK: Woo hoo! OK.

ELM & FK: Alaine Sepulveda, Amelia Harvey, Anne Jamison, Bluella, Boxish, Bradlea Raga-Barone, Bryan Shields, Chelsee Bergen, Christine Hoxmeier, Christopher Dwyer, Clare Muston, Desiree Longoria, Diana Williams, Dr. Mary C. Crowell, Earlgreytea68, Fabrisse, Felar, Froggy, Georgie Carroll, Goodwin, Gwen O’Brien, Heart of the Sunrise, Heidi Tandy, Helena, Jackie C., Javier Grillo-Marxuach, Jay Bushman, Jennifer Brady, Jennifer Doherty, Jennifer Lackey, Jennifer McKernan, Josh Stenger, Jules Chatelain, Julianna, JungleJelly, Katherine Lynn, Kathleen Parham, Kitty, Kristen P., Lizzy Johnstone, Lucas Medeiros, Maria Temming, Menlo Steve, Meredith Rose, Michael Andersen, Mark Williams, Matt Hills, Meghan McCusker, Molly Kernan, Naomi Jacobs, Nozlee, Poppy Carpenter, Sam Markham, Sara, Secret Fandom Stories, Sekrit, Simini, Stephanie Burt, StHoltzmann, Tara Stuart, Veritasera, Willa, and in honor of One Direction and Francis Crawford of Lymond and Sevigny and Captain Flint.

Our intro music is “Awel” by Stefsax. Our interstitial music is by Lee Rosevere. Both are used under a Creative Commons BY license. Check the show notes for more details.

The opinions expressed in this podcast are not our clients’, or our employers’, or anyone’s except our own. 

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