Episode 5: SuperWiki!
In this episode, we interview Jules Wilkinson, the admin of Supernatural Wiki. Topics covered include intentional community building, creators using fan-made resources, Your Fave Is Problematic, squickfic, and tentacles. Lots of tentacles. Possibly too many tentacles.
[00:00:48] Jules is on Twitter—@missyjack.
[00:00:51] www.supernaturalwiki.com (Just what it says on the tin!)
[00:01:42] The book Fangasm: Supernatural Fangirls by Katherine Larsen & Lynn Zubernis talks about this a lot. You can also read some about it in this io9 article from 2014.
[00:07:51] Flourish maintains that IF “all Australian mammals have pouches” AND humans are mammals THEN all Australian humans have pouches and how can logic ever possibly be offensive?! (…wait, it can? Shit. Really, sorry, Australians.)
[00:12:07] If anyone knows a link to the thesis, we’d love to provide it but can’t find it!
[00:13:08] If you aren’t familiar, Wikia is a site that, well, hosts wikis.
[00:14:31] These terms were actually coined by obsession_inc in this meta.
[00:17:16] The SuperWiki Impala entry.
[00:17:20] The SuperWiki nipples entry.
[00:17:21] Flourish really should be better about Fanlore and understand the PPOV better.
[00:22:18] Yes, “what color is Dean’s hair” was a real wank. Sadly the original argument has fallen off the face of the web, but the Fandom Wank report lives on via the Wayback Machine.
[00:28:01] Jared’s post and the “DAD” response.
[00:28:47] This “Dead or Alive” cover (originally by Bon Jovi!) is by Il Chitarrista del Sabato, used under a CC BY 3.0 license.
[00:31:46] The party in question was excellent and worked out great, by the way!
[00:43:04] YOU DON’T HAVE TO SHAME HER! She got that article out! “Your fave is problematic: why are we so bad at talking about diversity in pop culture?"
[00:43:19] Jared next to a really tall guy.
[00:57:07] If you haven’t beheld the joy of the pizza rat, 1. what planet are you on? and 2. YOU MUST!
Flourish Klink: Hello, and welcome to Fansplaining!
Elizabeth L Minkel: You’re not gonna say hello to me first?
FK: Why would I say hello to you?
ELM: HI FLOURISH!
FK: Hi Elizabeth.
ELM & FK: [over each other] Welcome…
ELM: No, no, me, it’s me! [laughing] All right. Welcome to Fansplaining, the podcast by, for, and about fandom, this is episode 5, and we’re gonna be joined by Jules Wilkinson, who is the… admin?
ELM: Admin! [laughs] Admin of Supernatural wikip- wiki- wikipedia…?
FK: SuperWiki! Call it SuperWiki, it’s called SuperWiki. That’s what it’s called.
ELM: OK, which is the foremost…
FK: Supernatural wiki?
ELM: Yes, the site with all of the information that you’d ever need to know about Supernatural, and in fact, a random Facebook friend yesterday was asking me about Supernatural! And he was like, “why is that show still on the air?” and I was like, “oh, I don’t know! I think it has, even though the overall viewership has declined over the years, the core userbase is incredibly dedicated. They’re the most dedicated fandom currently active.”
FK: Also, angels fucking.
ELM: OK, I didn’t mention that. I didn’t wanna go there in the open Facebook thread.
ELM: And then he came back at me with some data from the SuperWiki in the next comment! I don’t know if you know, Flourish, but Supernatural is for men? Because it’s about men and cars?
FK: Oh oh oh, actually, I do know this, because it was supposed to be the show that was going to make at the time the WB more dudely.
ELM: Yeah, well, I know this too, because I read those two books about Supernatural.
FK: Backfired! Backfired. Backfired so hard.
ELM: Yeah, it’s like, who are all these women? I don’t understand.
FK: Why would women show up to look at two hot dudes driving around in a car? That’s also hot?
ELM: It’s about being brothers and male friends. Embracing. Do they embrace?
FK: Because homosociality is not something that women get into.
ELM: We wouldn’t understand it.
FK: We would have no idea what that was like. To be friends with someone of the same gender. Who sees you as a full person and not a thing to fuck. That’s not something we ever do.
ELM: OK! So I’m excited to talk to Jules for two reasons. Are you ready?
FK: I’m ready!
ELM: Neither of those reasons are the reason you’re excited, um…
FK: [giggles] You should see her waiting! Like, she’s waiting for me to have an outburst, right now.
ELM: I’m waiting for you to reference your extreme interest in tentacle porn. [FK dolphin laughs] It’s funny, usually you can’t stop talking about it.
FK: You asked me to stop talking about it! Context: there was a discussion before we started recording in which she was like, “you know you can’t lead with tentacles.” And I was like “why can’t I lead with tentacles?”
ELM: [laughing] “Lead with tentacles?!”
FK: And I was following Elizabeth’s—I was following her instructions!
ELM: All right, all right! So there’s a couple things I want to talk to her about. Um, the most important thing is, just to give context for people if they didn’t happen to listen to our first episode or if they weren’t one of the lucky few who got to be in the audience IRL at the panel, but, um, there was kind of a weird dynamic. I don’t know, not weird, but there was a dynamic going on on the panel.
FK: It was a dynamic not unlike the dynamic between you and me, where you try and say serious things and then I make a dick joke.
ELM: Wait, wait, no, no, no—well, there’s that. Yes. That’s true. That’s true. But [laughs]
FK: I am just saying, I am the official Jules of this podcast!
ELM: No, no, no, but she was, she was…
FK: And then Jules is gonna come on and like fight me for it.
ELM: She was derailing, that’s true. Which is fine, I also derail—maybe not on this podcast, because you also derail, too.
FK: Yeah, but it’s really important that there is somebody on a panel that does that, because otherwise you’re just a bunch of boring people. Somebody has to bring the tentacle.
ELM: Which she literally did. But, um, she was positioning herself as, ah—
FK: The fan-on-the-street?
ELM: Yeah, and a way that… I understand why, but in a way that I kind of want to challenge her on, because I know you said in the first episode, you were like, “Well, that’s all well and good, you know, and you can be frustrated by these corporate platforms, but ten years ago you didn’t get to hold your queer fanfiction readings in a bookstore and have it be sanctioned.”
ELM: I’m talkin’ about your point, Flourish!
FK: You are talking about my point, and doing a better job than I was! Yeah, I think that Jules was very consciously positioning herself as the fan-on-the-street who doesn’t really want anything to do with getting a job in the media industry or really interacting with the media industry, just wants to hang out and have fun—don’t we all.
But the thing I found a little disingenuous about that was that Jules runs SuperWiki, which is a really interesting site, it’s a great site in a lot of ways. Also? Used by the Supernatural crew. Really well known. As far as if there are Big Name Fans in the world? Jules is definitely one of them. Jared and Jensen know exactly who she is. Which, you know, I mean, that’s not a bad thing necessarily, but it’s not exactly the fan-on-the-street, so I guess I had a little bit of… I felt a little weird about that! I was like, look, you know, you can…
I got why she felt like the panel was very, very, um, focused on sort of interactions with media corporations and so forth because to some degree it was, but the reality is she also has those interactions. They’re just with a slightly different tenor, because instead of actually getting paid for her work on SuperWiki, she does it for free. Which, she gets a lot of positive things out of that, she enjoys it, other people add to SuperWiki, like, I’m not saying that I think she’s being exploited particularly, but you could question that in a capitalist society in which we live. Like, she’s making a choice to forgo the major way that people show their appreciation and, you know, recognition of one’s labor. So yeah, I mean…
ELM: Money is appreciation for labor.
FK: Well, in a capitalist society it is!
FK: This goes back to the whole thing where we were talking about how it’s both sad and true that people don’t, the major reason that people in publishing—you said this! People in publishing don’t understand fanfic because, like, you aren’t getting paid for it, why would you not…
ELM: You putting words back in my mouth?
FK: …do you not think it’s good enough?
FK: Yeah, I am!
ELM: Yeah, I did say that! Because that’s what they say.
FK: And the point is that, like, it’s sad that people value labor and talent and so forth primarily through money, but they do, so it’s, so it’s not as easy as just like saying, “I don’t wanna have anything to do with that,” when you’re gonna have something to do with that.
ELM: All right, sounds like you’re ready to interrogate Jules.
FK: I’m not that mean! I’m just gonna tickle her with a tentacle… NO, I’M NOT GONNA DO THAT! [general laughter] I’ve never interrogated anybody in my life!
ELM: Yeah, so, we should talk to her, even though it’s seventeen days in the future in Australia where she lives. Yeah? We’ll see what it’s like! In a fortnight!
FK: We’ll see what it’s like in the future in Australia! Where Jules lives.
ELM: Australia’s not in the future.
FK: With a lot of tentacles. [laughs] Australia also doesn’t have significantly more tentacles than anywhere else that I know of. Platypuses, yes; tentacles, no.
ELM: Oh my God, I thought you were saying that platypuses had tentacles—like, secret ones, in a pouch or something, and I was gonna have a crisis. All Australian mammals have pouches, right? That’s correct.
FK: All Australian ma– Jules probably has a pouch somewhere.
ELM: That’s offensive! It’s offensive to Australians! [laughs]
FK: I’m offensive. I’m sorry, Australians. I’m just goin’. I’m just goin’.
ELM: All right, all right, let’s talk to Jules.
FK: OK. Let’s talk to Jules.
FK: So, now it is the time that we should welcome Jules to our show! Jules is of Supernatural Wiki.
Jules Wilkinson: Thank you both for having me very much! Congratulations on the podcast, and I’m really excited to be here!
ELM: OK, so, um, you wanna give us a little bit of background to start off… Who you are—I don’t know how much of your non-fannish identity you talk about in this context?
JW: All of it! I have no secrets. Well, I do have secrets. I have secrets but everyone knows them. Um, let’s see. I was, I’m about the same age as Dr. Who and slightly older than Captain Kirk, which doesn’t mean I’m over a thousand years old, but, so I’ve been a fan since fannishness was around, been involved with Supernatural Wiki—scuse me, Supernatural fandom since is started, um, I discovered the show when it started airing in Australia which was about three or four months after it started in the US.
I was already on LiveJournal, so it took me about two clicks to find the Supernatural fandom, which was already just exploding, it was incredible for a show no one knew anything about, you know, three or four months into the first season. The amount of fic particularly was just incredible, and we were really lucky that we had some—a lot of fans from other fandoms, um, Smallville, Lord of the Rings, DC—we had a lot of DC Comics fandom people who are amazing authors, who also knew about setting up fandoms, which I think was really important. So what a friend of mine called the “husbandry of fandoms.” So how to set up communities, how to nurture nascent challenges and do this sort of stuff that fandoms need at the beginning.
FK: Who’s going to be in charge of the wiki? It’s you!
JW: [laughs] Well the wiki, I should say I didn’t start the Supernatural Wiki, it was started by another Australian fan, coincidentally, who I didn’t know back then called Emily, and she originally started a website called “Super Canon,” and her idea was to document all the myths and legends and mythology of the show and I got involved doing some transcribing and stuff for her and coincidentally she started doing her honors thesis on Supernatural fanfic in the beginning of 2006. So she was in at the ground floor! I think she might be the first Supernatural aca-fan.
But she came, I suppose, from a very… [She] brought a queer feminist approach to wanting to run a site and a community. She realized that if she set up a wiki site, what it meant was it was open to everyone. And that that meant that it brought in that sort of community and collaboration that she valued about fandom, rather than it being her project and her inviting her friends to be part of it. So I think that was a key thing and it was a key motivating force behind her dropping the website she’d just set up and going “Oh, I’m going to set up a wiki.” And remember, this was back in 2006, so there weren’t a lot of models around. The main fannish websites at that time were the traditional websites. So there was OneRing and Leaky Cauldron, and the sort of places…
FK: Yeah, Wikia didn’t exist!
FK: You had to actually set up a wiki-wiki.
JW: Yeah! And, um, it’s funny because a lot of people say “Well, why aren’t you on Wikia?” And, well, it didn’t exist at the time, and also it gave us total control. There were decisions made at the beginning such as the fact that we would never have advertising. Because we didn’t want that interference, either that visual noise or that idea that we might be beholden to, you know, what advertisers like and don’t like.
The other big decision she made at the beginning was that the wiki would document and be part of fandom alongside the show. And that, that was quite unique. So it was not just episode entries and transcripts and stuff about the characters and mythology, it was anything and everything about fandom. It was shipping and fanfic and videos and conventions and all that as well. And not just having them there, but having them integrated, so you can go to a character page and it’ll list the roleplaying Tumblr sites for that character as well as all the stuff from the show. And I think, you know, I think that’s a very feminist thing, because it was valuing our fannish input and creations as much as the show’s creations.
ELM: That’s funny, because right before we talked to you, Flourish and I were talking about things we wanted to cover, and one thing that really struck me is, you know the terms affirmational and transformational fandom?
JW: Vaguely, yes.
ELM: We actually talked about it in I think two previous episodes and it wound up on the cutting room floor. But, uh…
FK: So there’s this like idea sort of among—I mean we shouldn’t say it’s an idea among aca-fans, or among academics, because I don’t think that that’s necessarily true, but some people think that there’s—
ELM: Oh yeah, it is.
FK: Well, not everybody agrees with it, is what I’m saying.
ELM: Oh sure, sure, but it’s academia, no one ever agrees about anything.
JW: Welcome to fandom! Welcome to real life.
ELM: Yeah, welcome to the world.
FK: But some people say there’s affirmational fandom, which is very male, which is about, like, recording everything that’s in the canon and like memorizing where every door is on the Enterprise…
ELM: Well, like, and your fannish capital is determined by the amount of knowledge you have.
FK: Right. Like being a Star Wars fan and knowing every detail of the Extended Universe. And then there’s transformational fandom, which is typically more female, and that’s fanfiction and fanvidding and all of that. What’s funny is that usually people talk about wiki sites as being the center of affirmational fandom, and being very male and so forth. So hearing Supernatural Wiki be discussed as, it’s actually kind of perfect that it’s a queer wiki.
JW: Yeah, and I think that’s interesting, because I’m aware of, certainly, I didn’t know the terms but I’m aware of those concepts, which are I think bogus, basically. Because being a fan is about being passionate and obsessed, and creative, and that comes out in different ways. Certainly, fanfic, there’s no doubt, is women’s work, that’s our space. But just about everything else is whoever does it. And I think one thing the wiki does is showcase that, although we have (and this is another interesting thing) the wiki grew out of Emily and then a group of fans based on LiveJournal. So you can’t get a much more, you know, sort of essence of female fandom more than what was on LiveJournal in the early 2000s.
Yet contributions to the wiki have always been broader. People found the wiki quite early on outside of that. We made efforts to move beyond, to recognize that there are many fandoms within your fandom and to make efforts to get around to all the other sites. I mean, from the very beginning there were websites, there were message boards where Supernatural fandom lived. And to try and get out there. And over time, and the rise of social media, that’s spread even further. So we have a really diverse range of people who work on the wiki, and I think that shows, you know, it shows in the content. We do everything from, you know, catalog all the engine parts of the Impala through to every occasion that we have seen male nipples on the show. [general laughter] So, no female nipples, no female nipples unfortunately. But you know, that…
FK: There’s an empty page just waiting!
JW: Oh no, we, we actually do talk about the fact that there are no female nipples on the show. So…
ELM: I, I don’t think that they’re allowed to show those on the CW, are they?
JW: No, no, they have very strict standards. But yeah, so, I think the wiki is a perfect example of all those parts of fandom coming together and being on show.
ELM: So this is interesting, the fact that you were documenting like the fandom itself. I wonder… Sometimes I read Fanlore, I don’t know if you guys ever do this, and I’ll read it about a person, and, and I’ll be like, it’ll be the most, it’ll be a little subtweety in a sense that… [general laughter] Flourish is making the best face!
FK: 90% of my reading of Fanlore involves me reading it and being like, “well, that’s wrong, but I’m not gonna change it, cause then if I change it it’s gonna be subtweety, but nobody else knows…” [general laughter and chatter] But I should change it, because I should preserve this information. But then I’m just going to be a dick to somebody that I don’t care about now! Like… it’s such a problem!
ELM: Sometimes you read it and it will be like, “Some people had strong reactions to what this person said,” and you’ll be like, “Oh, I get it, you’re just being, you’re being diplomatic.” Wait, Flourish, you look like you wanna say something!
FK: Well, there’s just all sorts of hilarious factual things that are wrong—but I don’t even wanna touch it. But yeah, have you ever read into that?
JW: We, yeah, we’re different, and some of these things… We can talk about how open and accessible the wiki is and how all those diverse inputs give a lot of different voices a space. But of course it is curation and decisions are made about how the information’s organized, the voice we use on the wiki is also constructed in a certain way. So it’s not, I’m not gonna pretend it’s some sort of open neutral all-embracing all-diverse space cause that’s bullshit. But some things happened that I don’t think were conscious decisions, but we, we don’t document individual fans, we only, and again, you’ve gotta remember that some of the stuff we started doing early on was because the fandom was so new.
So we used to have, like, fanfic lists on the wiki, because there were no rec communities. We don’t do—we stopped doing that. We kept some of them, we kept a few of them, particularly the crackfic cause I love it, you know, so people can go and have a look at it, but we only tend to cover individual fan projects when they’re big collaborative projects rather than individual fan works. So we don’t have “This is the most popular fanfic ever written.”
Now, as I said, they weren’t necessarily conscious decisions, but I think it came from a place where we–and I”ll use “we” as the admins who were there in the early years–realized that to do that would be pushing probably our experience of fandom. And everyone thinks fandom is their own friendslist. And you know, there would be people who would go onto Fanlore and would be reading about things and going, “I don’t even know who these people are. Never part of my experience of that fandom.”
ELM: It’s like me the whole time.
FK: This is… Yes! Our constant thing with the Harry Potter fandom. I’m like “Don’t you remember that time that that guy with an axe threatened to come to the con—how can you forget the guy with the axe?!” And she’s like “…guy with an axe…?”
ELM: We have this conversation like once every three seconds I feel like.
JW: And, there are some things, again, particularly from the early days where Supernatural fandom was very small, where there are, you know I can think of a few fannish memes or that that came up that are recorded that you know these days there’s no way you could record every fannish meme that appears, because Supernatural fandom has the population of a small European country.
So… they’re just decisions that were taken. So that helps move it away from feeling it’s coming from some particular point in fandom. I mean, obviously the more diverse contributions are the more multifocal the wiki will be and the more people will be able to connect with different parts of it. But it’s still, you know, it’s still coming from a particular point of view. But it’s always gonna record someone’s version of something.
We tend to go for a sort of neutral voice and we will link to more detailed meta, arguments, wank, points of view, but on the wiki we try and keep it, you know, “People really like this except these people who didn’t like it but if you want to find out about this here are the links underneath,” rather than… and as I said, some of that just grew up because that was the approach of the admins to fandom. We want you to know all this is out there but we’re not going to try to get into giving our point of view on it because we recognize we’re as biased as everyone else even though we think we’re wonderful.
FK: I was just laughing at the “wank point of view.” Like the idea that you could just say “wank… or point of view!” [general laughter] That’s the diplomatic way!
JW: Well, you know, one person’s wank is another person’s passionate defense of something that they care a lot about! And sometimes wank, sometimes wank is about what color is Dean Winchester’s hair.
ELM: You know, one thing I’m curious about, saying that like people were coming from other fandoms to Supernatural, I wonder if it was because in those fandoms, was this certain good times, like were they, all the various fandoms that kind of pulled the big groups, like, dying at that time? Do you think that Supernatural appeared on the scene at a good time?
JW: I think “dying” is probably a negative term. [general laughter] Um…
ELM: They were…
FK: You don’t shy away from controversy!
JW: They were probably post-peak! And I think DC fandom was probably, some people would say that. They’d got to a point where we’re talking early 2000s, that that was not exciting them in the way it had any more. But also, Supernatural from the beginning contained a lot of the elements that really set it up for fandom. It had a, you know, a central, close, angsty relationship; it had great mythology; it had pop culture stuff; the story, particularly in the beginning, was so open it was great for fanfic writers and I love going back to those early days where there was hardly any set mythology on the show and so, you know, it was a great space for new writers to come and go, Oh! We can do anything we like.
FK: Praise hands!
JW: Certainly fandoms like Smallville were like, had plateaued maybe? [laughs]
ELM: I’m trying to think of, wait, was this like 2004 when it debuted?
JW: No, it was…
JW & FK: 2005.
FK: Because it was the second semester of my, maybe it was the first semester of my sophomore year of college? Because the other reason I got into it was that I was in a White Wolf RPG that was about hunters…
FK: …and then we saw Supernatural and were like “Wait a minute! They stole our idea!” [general laughter]
JW: And it was also, it was obviously post X-Files, but Buffy and Firefly, so there were a lot of I think Whedonesque fans, sort of it was ripe for them, and of course the comparisons to Buffy were very strong in reviews in the early days, ah, certainly from other WB, what was the WB at the time. It was interesting because you know—stop me if this is again tangential!
ELM: No, it’s fine!
JW: I get nerdy about the history of fanfic! You had a show where the central relationship was an incestuous one, which did turn—ah, slash and incestuous, which did distance some people from wanting to write it, which—
FK: But it attracted other ones!
JW: It attracted many others…
ELM: Too obsessed.
JW: …and it led to one thing, we had a huge amount, and more than I’ve seen in any other fandom, of gen fic, which persists until this day, which is fantastic, you know also we were lucky enough that a lot of the early writers wrote across pairings and genres, so the big slash writers wrote gen as well. And het! We had some really strong het people who wrote het. Kinky bastards they are. [general laughter]
FK: It’s really interesting how, I think, people don’t have the same perspective if they come in later, because Supernatural is such a long-running show now, like, I think about Supernatural and in my head it’s all about, you know, “Wincest is the best!” and, you know, hanging out and just having like literally no money to spend on any other cast members except them and the Impala and the soundtrack… [general laughter] And that’s the money you’ve got, so like, we don’t have any other recurring actors because we can’t pay them! But, but now there’s a very different, like, Destiel is such a big thing, like, people, I mean, it’s the biggest ship of all the ships! And it’s like…
JW: Well, and that was interesting, because of course then with the slash fans who had felt uncomfortable with Wincest who then had a non-incestuous pairing. The other thing it did though was it meant that RPF, um, real person fiction for those of you playing at home, became very big. And at the time RPF was still quite controversial, it was still the moral quandary of fandom. But in Supernatural it was like “Well, you can have incest or you can have RPF. You choose.”
FK: “Pick one!”
JW: And we dovetailed into a very strong RPF tradition with WB shows, I’m thinking Christian Kane, David Boreanaz and [inaudible] from Smallville, there was a big RPF fandom around that which Supernatural dovetailed into, because these guys knew each other as well in real life! Which, ah, which helped. So anyway, that’s the history of fanfic in Supernatural, ha ha. But yeah, and it’s continued to grow! I mean, that’s the amazing thing is that going to AO3 I think there was a thing recently where half the top pairings on, or genfics on AO3 are Supernatural. It hasn’t slowed down at all.
ELM: And on Wattpad, too! Did you listen to our Wattpad episode?
JW: Yes! Yeah.
ELM: OK, Aron’s example of like how you can have different age groups in a fandom, did you hear this part? Was Supernatural, and he was like, “Some people wrote, like, Dean Winchester is my brother, and some people now write Dean Winchester is my father”! [FK wails] Because he looks like a father to them and they’re just… I died. I thought it was the funniest thing I ever…
FK: Well, it’s wonderful! Like, I love it, but at the same time I had this moment where I—
ELM: Thirteen year olds!
FK: Where I suddenly had to come to terms with my own mortality.
JW: Well, funnily enough, I was just—I’m sure you’re both aware of the DAD! phenomenon on Twitter?
ELM: What do you mean the Dad phenomenon? Is that like the Mom phenomenon?
JW: So, well, so, people—I always say it started in One Direction fandom but I say that for everything, um, people responding to celebrities just with “Dad” or “#dad”—
ELM: They do this with “Mom,” too! They don’t say “Queen” anymore, they say “Mom.”
JW: People get really confused [ELM laughs] and sort of annoyed by it, I think it’s hilarious, but, uh, Jared from Supernatural just tweeted about National Suicide Prevention Week and the first response to that was “Dad.”
ELM: Oh my God.
JW: Which is slightly, slightly more subtle than my favorite one from recently, which was “Dad, please cut and paste your dick inside me.” [general horrified laughter]
FK: That is going in the final podcast. That is GOING IN. We are including it! By the way the Apple Store thinks that we are an all-ages podcast, and I think that that is an all-ages Twitter comment.
ELM: We’re talking about parenting! That’s all ages, don’t worry!
JW: Pretty sure the person who tweeted it was under seventeen.
ELM: Oh my God. I think that is a good cue to take a short break. We’ll be right back.
FK: Bee are bee! [ELM snorts and giggles]
ELM: OK, so, I think that the one big issue that I want to talk about, and I think now will be a good time, on our panel you positioned yourself…
JW: [gales of laughter] As tentacle porn!
ELM: No, not that part!
JW: Sorry, sorry!
ELM: We’ll talk about your positions with your tentacles later! Flourish really wants to get to that.
JW: OK, back to, back to—this is the panel we did at San Diego Comic Con.
ELM: That’s right. That’s right.
FK: That is the excuse for this whole podcast.
ELM: Yes. And I actually think that in the first episode we may have played a clip of your positioning in this way where I think—
JW: [snickers] On all fours with my ass in the air?
FK: You just love the term “position” so much, both of you!
FK: It’s so magical!
JW: I’m naughty… sorry, Elizabeth! I’ll give you some space!
ELM: [laughing] No… My positions… Sorry! So. Do you think that you, you played the role of in opposition to the rest of the panel as a regular fandom person. Would you disagree with that way of describing…?
ELM: Or is that too harsh? I mean that sounds ungenerous and I don’t mean it like that. But do you think…
JW: No, no, no, no, no! I think, look, I was, I like to—in Australia we would say “I like to stir the possum.” [all laugh]
FK: Wait, wait, wait, what part of the possum–—irst of all, possums are different in Australia than in North America!
JW: Yeah, ours are cute, yours look like zombie rats!
FK: Ours are zombie rats, yours are cute, how do you stir a possum?!
JW: Well, if you went to that panel, you would have seen me stirring the possum. Look, I like to be cheeky and to poke people with a stick, maybe that’s a better way of saying it.
But also I did find myself, I think I hadn’t—just remember I was running a cocktail party for 300 people an hour after that panel started, so I was on an adrenaline high and slightly anxious. And I also thought the panel was going to be talking a bit more, was gonna be about fandom. I didn’t realize it was more about platforms or copyright or that sort of stuff. So I suppose I was probably voicing some, maybe I felt other people were positioning, were positioned as being “I run a platform,” or “I’m a copyright lawyer,” or whatever, and I’m not saying those things disinterest me, because anything about fandom interests me, but it wasn’t—I mean, I think the subtitle of the panel was “We All Live in a Coffeeshop AU,” so I thought we were going to be talking more about those sorts of stuff!
FK: I think we all sort of thought that we were going to too…
ELM: I had no idea about what we were doing.
[all talking over each other, inaudible]
FK: …and then we got through, like, literally Heidi sent me a list of questions, and we got through I think two.
JW: Yeah, and I should say, the cocktail party I was running was actually with Heidi, so I should perhaps have been better informed! And so yes, I will own the fact that I think I during the panel was trying to set myself up as the voice of the other, “the fan,” as opposed to the lawyer or the person who ran a platform like Wattpad or Tumblr, at the same time being aware that I do run a website, so, um, I have a particular position in fandom that it would be disingenuous to say that I’m a whatever a regular fan is, because… And it’s something I’m always aware of, and I think anyone who has a voice within fandom and you know to use the old—I don’t even know if it has currency anymore, the old “BNF” [Big Name Fan] term—
FK: Totally does.
JW: Anyone who has a voice within fandom, and whether that’s due to popularity or because you run a big website or because you had your photo taken 4,000 times with the lead actor in the show or because Steven Moffat sends you flowers, whatever it is…
ELM: Yeah, that’s me. Yeah. [all laugh] He sends me flowers pretty regularly actually.
FK: Are we talking roses or just like some lily-of-the-valleys or some carnation shit…? What?
ELM: Steve mixes it up. Um, it’s usually an apology for, you know…
JW: Deadly nightshade! [all laugh]
FK: Oh, those had better be some fuckin’ gold-leafed flowers right there.
ELM: Yeah, they’re top shelf flowers.
FK: Anyway, sorry, Jules.
JW: Oh, no! Just to say, I’m always trying to be reflective about what that position in fandom means. I mean, I have 70,000 followers on Twitter and I have to continually remind myself that whether I like it or not, that gives me a big voice in fandom, and that’s something I continually work with. Because you know if someone says something mean to me on my personal Twitter, and I might retweet them and go “what a dick,” that’s one thing. But if you do that when you have 70,000 followers, it’s a very different power differential.
And I’m continually, people are continually calling me on things like “Why are you saying that on the SuperWiki twitter, that’s your point of view, you should be there to represent the SuperWiki” whatever that is, but I suppose I don’t have a—there’s no formula for that but I’m continually trying to reflect on what that means and what, what responsibility I feel that brings in fandom. And people will say “Oh, you represent fandom.” Now that’s a construction of—what they’re saying is “You have a loud voice.” As I do even anywhere! And so the things I say get heard by more people. And I think I owe myself and I owe fandom to be reflective about those things, because I’m not just, I’m not only a regular fan, so obviously you touched on something if you think that too! Basically I was really badly behaved on that panel and—
ELM & FK: No no no!
ELM: I think that everyone coming from a platform obviously had that, to represent that perspective, sometimes even in a very like, HAD TO, like they were sent out, and you know, they have their—
FK: Yeah, they have, there’s some PR person who is like “This is what you can say, this is what you can’t say,” which is—I mean, like, that’s their job, the PR person’s job, but it also doesn’t make for a great panel…
JW: Yeah, my point of view about the platforms is that that’s what they are: they’re things we stand on and jump off, but whatever they are—and you know, I’ve been in fandom long enough to see us use different platforms in a whole lot of different ways—fandom is what makes it. We all make it our own. We will take whatever the architecture or infrastructures of that, and we will make it work for fandom.
You know, and I’ve seen the leap really from LiveJournal to Tumblr, I wrote a very boring chapter in a book about the differences between, like, how do you structure things, how do you find things. How you found things on LiveJournal depended a lot on person-to-person contact, and having things set up like a newsletter, because you couldn’t search on text the way you can on Tumblr and things like, fandom will make of those things. So I suppose when I hear people from those platforms speaking as if they’ve allowed us a space, or set up a space that encourages fandom, they can certainly put up barriers and they can certainly make things that enables fandom to do more things, but really—put two fans on an apple box and that’s a platform. Really, it doesn’t…
JW: So really that was my reaction on the panel was really a feeling that fandom runs fandom. Whatever the platforms are, and Supernatural interestingly grew up with social media. YouTube was only six months old when we started. Facebook didn’t exist. Tumblr didn’t exist. Twitter didn’t exist. LiveJournal was quite different in form. Things like Dreamwidth and AO3 didn’t exist. So I’ve seen us move across private message boards and newslists and everything. So, yeah, fandom will make a space for ourselves. It’s nice if you have people running a platform who are on board with fandom, and that’s a shift we’ve seen, some acknowledgment of us as an active and valued userbase, but, you know, at the end of the day you could take all that away and go back to a news list and we’ll still do fandom.
FK: Yeah, I think that what was, what I had been hoping would come out of that panel and didn’t really but maybe someday still could was thinking—
JW: Next year! Next year!
FK: Next year, maybe! Now that we’ve done the first two questions, next year we’ll circle back and we’ll do the next three! [general laughter] Um…
ELM: Yeah, at San Diego? We’re all comin’ back!
FK: San Diego! This is, ComicCon, this is my pitch! [general laughter] No, but I think one of the things that I was interested in getting to that you actually sort of already touched on is how platforms do make decisions about the actual platform based on their userbase, based on fandom showing up. I mean like one of the things that came out that I appreciated was that we were able to talk with Wattpad about was them making changes on their site based on fandom’s expectations, as compared to people’s feelings about the Archive of our Own which was like “Oh, this was made to represent the way I search for fanfic.”
FK: And then you were already talking about choosing a wiki very consciously, I mean, not you, but the founder choosing a wiki very consciously…
JW: And continue to do so. I mean, how you curate any space is going to shape it. And it will be… I’m lucky with the wiki in that when someone says “Why don’t you cover ear hair on the wiki?” [general laughter] my answer is as simple as, “Why don’t you go and make an entry?”
FK: Do they have visible ear hair, are they that old?!
JW: No, not yet, but I’m sure they’ll get there.
JW: Dads, granddads! [general laughter] And that’s always gonna be shaped, um, by your views of privacy, and just your political views, as I said, the wiki was set up by a queer feminist and that’s always gonna be in its DNA, it’s been inherited by a queer feminist in myself, that’s always gonna be important to me. And, and, I think the wiki lives that in very practical ways in the way it continues.
My main job now is helping people access the wiki in terms of learning how to code on it or learning how to do entries or whatever and for me that’s a feminist project in helping that community and that collaboration and actively seeking out the voices that aren’t represented, whatever they may be, and again that’s a very feminist project. I think again representing fandom alongside the show was, you know, there from the beginning and I love that because it means–the wiki is used by the people who make the show.
ELM: It is?
JW: It’s used by the writers, it’s used by everyone, yeah! Everyone from the, well, because it’s an electronic—they don’t have electronically what we have. They have a copy of every script, but they don’t have an electronic database of transcripts. It’s used by—
ELM: So you help them with continuity. That’s great! That’s a delight!
JW: Yeah! They, the VFX department will go, “We’re doing a Vetala creature again. What did these look like last time? We can easily go to the Wiki and find out what episode it was in, in, like, in a minute.” Art department uses it. You know, at—and this is gonna sound incredibly boastful and it is—at the recent con Jared was saying he often references the wiki on set when they’re doing something to think “Hang on, what was that episode where Sam did the thing with the thing?” So, that’s, one, I love the fact that Show uses a resource that fandom makes, that’s amazing. And also, it uses a show [sic] that fandom makes that has entries about Jared’s penis, and [general snickering & laughter] about…
FK: Does it really?
JW: Yes, two, the Padacock and Sam’s Peen of Death. [general laughter] And I’m really proud about that! I’m really proud—
FK: Oh, me too!
JW: I’m really proud that we haven’t compromised in terms of, because porn slash fanfic is central to fandom, and I’m—as you can tell—very passionate about that because fanfic is still the, I think often by many seen as the let’s-not-talk-about, [laughs] Flourish is doing fist pumps now…
ELM: Yeah, fanfic fist pumps!
JW: A lot of big websites it’s still looked down on, you know, shipping per se is still much maligned—
JW: In whatever form it takes, whether that’s in fanfic or shipping purely in discussions or in representations of the show in fandom. So I love that we can have a resource valued by the people who make the show that owns all that stuff and continues. Which, if you watch Supernatural—which apparently you don’t, Elizabeth, and it’s obviously a character flaw [general laughter]—you would know that the show from the beginning has acknowledged, it’s the only show I know that talks about, you know, is own fandom in a very specific way. Not a general “we have fans,” but “we have Wincest-writing fans and Destiel loving fans.”
FK: And it’s been, and it’s been good or bad at different points but it’s always been genuinely trying to interact and—
FK: —to engage and to represent it.
ELM: Guys, I read two books about Supernatural. I know all this! I don’t need to watch the show!
FK: YOU DO THOUGH.
ELM: Two entire books.
FK: How else will you know about how huge Jared Padalecki is?!
ELM: Wait, what?
JW: Well, you could look up ‘Padacock’ on the SuperWiki.
FK: [giggling] I didn’t mean it that way!
ELM: I thought that’s what you meant too!
FK: OF COURSE you took it that way, oh my God!
FK: Did both of you think—he’s six fucking five or something!
ELM: I knew that he was really tall because I have a Tumblr and, uh, I saw a gifset. Of some tall man in the audience?
FK: Of him next to normal people?
ELM: Being, no, there was some tall man in the audience, do you know this one, and he was like a lot taller, and it was like hilarious.
JW: That was at, ah, at Nerd HQ in San Diego.
ELM: Was that at Comic-Con?
JW: Yeah, this guy got up who would have been close to probably seven foot.
ELM: It was a tall guy.
JW: And it was hilarious to see him next to Jared because you know everyone looks up to Jared. So that was, that was a gorgeous moment.
ELM: Yeah, he’s huge. Flourish. [snorts] Um, Jules, I have a question for you. I am writing an article right now which will be finished by the time this comes out, Flourish, I promise—
FK: You heard her say it here, folks. If it’s not in the show notes, go shame her.
ELM: …about problematic faves. Do you know the project Every Single Word Spoken By A Person of Color? Are you guys familiar with this?
JW: I’ve heard of it, yeah.
ELM: So he’s this actor, he’s one of the actors on Welcome to Night Vale, and he’s doing supercuts of every single word spoken by a person of color in certain movies. And he did Harry Potter recently and it was a nightmare. It was like .4… he said it was .47% of the entire—
ELM: —of the entire dialogue of the movies? It was insane.
JW: Not surprised.
ELM: Yes. And he got so much pushback, like, he got people furious with him. They were like “How dare you,” like… Um, so I interviewed him and I’m working on this article right now, and I’m going to finish it, but it’s not just about that, it’s about you know the Tumblr Your Fave Is Problematic, um, I think that we have a lot of tensions in fandom when things… you know, I like a problematic thing, right? We already talked about how Steven Moffat gives me flowers. [Jules laughs] That’s so problematic!
JW: Life is problematic and we live it! That’s my bottom line.
ELM: It’s true!
JW: We have to negotiate our way through that!
ELM: So it’s really interesting hearing you talk so much about the wiki being a feminist space, and I know I’ve witnessed secondhand a lot of the wank going on in Supernatural this year about, ah, female characters, or queerbaiting, or all these political issues—
FK: This is every year in Supernatural.
FK: THIS IS EVERY YEAR IN SUPERNATURAL.
ELM: I haven’t had it in my life! Now I finally am following some Supernatural people and their social media feeds. I wonder what that’s like for you to be running an explicitly feminist place but it seems like also sort of somewhat of a neutral place, because it is a wiki, it’s supposed to be facts, you’re not trying to imbue these…
JW: I hate the word “neutral,” I don’t think it has any place in fandom.
ELM: OK, so you’re not neu–
JW: I’ve often been accused of, particularly on Twitter of people saying, “Oh, but you’re meant to be neutral.” I can’t be neutral, I’m a fan and I’m a person! I’m obsessive and passionate about things. So I hope I can perhaps be, for example, even-handed—
ELM: OK, all right, that’s good.
JW: Or representative? Or things like that. But not, not neutral. I suppose there’s two things, there’s the wiki and there’s me. I think as I alluded to before we’ve been lucky because anyone can put up stuff on the wiki, if you look at our major shipping pages on Wincest and Destiel, amazingly spaces that you’d think would be lightning rods for wank but they’re not because we cover them as the ships that they are but we also do link to, whether it’s articles about queerbaiting or female representation on the show, or people of color on the show. So we try and cover all those things.
Personally, I think that is being a fan, is thinking about what you’re watching and why you’re enjoying it. I think an interesting thing that often doesn’t get talked about in these discussions is if you think of fandom as an identity itself, I think we have an internal conflict because often we’re consuming and being passionate about shows that are about two white guys.
JW: Two straight—
ELM: Overwhelmingly so.
JW: —white cisgendered guys.
ELM: Oh, and there’s a dark haired guy and a light haired guy, too? That’s really important to a lot of shows. [general laughter]
FK: That way you can tell them apart! But sometimes there’s just a slightly larger guy and a slightly smaller guy, like on Supernatural.
ELM: Larger, Flourish? LARGER?
JW: “The taller brother,” we call him.
FK: And then there can be the sort of slightly blonder guy with wings.
ELM: Or in fanfic when they’re like “the older man caressed the younger man,” it’s like, can we stop? Just use their names please!
JW: The taller brother and the, we get the taller brother and the shorter brother. [general laughter] The younger brother. The taller brother is the younger brother.
FK: Oh, come on, epithets—Homer—they were good enough for Homer, they’re good enough for fanfic writers, OK, [general laughter] I’m gonna start referring to Jared as being “ox-eyed” and then you’ll enjoy that.
ELM: You and your classics.
JW: He’s got cat eyes, sorry, liquid caramel cat eyes, as opposed to Jensen’s emerald orbs. [general laughter]
FK: This is—the emerald thing is also in One Direction fandom where Harry always looks at you with his piercing green eyes.
ELM: Let’s talk about how I thought there was gonna be a single episode where we didn’t talk about One Direction.
JW: No, you can’t! You can’t not talk about One Direction!
FK: [through laughter] It’s my new baby!
JW: Larry forever! Um, but yeah, we have a tension, and fandom I often say isn’t quite self aware? We don’t often take that step back and go, “OK, we love this thing. This straight white guy thing. We’re passionate and obsessed about it. But on the other hand we recognize that, you know, its lack of representation of people of color or queer people or women or whatever.” And I think there’s a tension there, I think somehow sometimes that cause a lot of the conflict.
Because on the one hand we’re demanding something, something that we also love, and I often say to people, we can demand–one show is never gonna be all things to all people. It can’t be. And every story shouldn’t be, you know, some sort of bingo card of have you represented all these people or all these stories. That’s not how storytelling works. So I think we have that conflict. I often say to people “What other media do you consume that is representative or diverse,” or whatever. [They say] “Oh no but I want it in Supernatural. It all has to be in Supernatural.”
JW: Now, you’re not gonna get any argument from me on presence of women in Supernatural and particularly, I mean, the dearth of people of color on Supernatural is, is, it’s a snowstorm out there. And you’re not gonna get an argument from me. But then I have 400 other shows that I watch that are diverse and queer female led and have trans characters and are people of color ensemble or whatever. Within one show fandoms we do get that tension, but I think often we need to step back and go, OK, look at our fanfic. And I said this recently: Our fanfic is all about these two guys. And people go “Yeah, but that’s what the show’s about!” But it’s fiction. We can write anything we like.
JW: You can write original male or female characters. You can change, you know, the characters in your fiction. You can introduce other characters. But we don’t. And I think we often project our own discomfort with what we create onto the show that we create it about, if that makes sense. So if we don’t critique ourselves, if we don’t sit back and go “hang on, why aren’t we making diverse media? Why aren’t we creating diverse fanfic?” and the default excuse is always “well, the shows we watch are all like this.” Well, they’re not all like that and it is actually fiction so you can make up stuff as well. If you can have coffee shop AUs and space opera AUs and tentacle porn, YES SHE GOT IT IN THERE–
FK: “She got it in there,” did she?
FK: OH YEAH.
JW: If you can have Castiel with tentacles, you can also have Asian Castiel! You can also have—
FK: Please send me links to both of these. If there is Asian Castiel I want it, and I also want Castiel with tentacles. If there’s Asian Castiel with tentacles, I want that too!
JW: So Elizabeth, I’m sorry, I probably got off your actual question…
ELM: No, that’s exactly—
JW: …but I suppose that’s something I’m often trying to say to people: we need to be more reflective as fans about what we create. That doesn’t remove any of what we should be critiquing and, and as I said working through you know your favorite is problematic, working through that as well, but we’re also problematic, and I think we don’t own that enough.
And I think fandom is good at doing that—I’ve seen it particularly in fanfic spaces, but I don’t know if we’ve lost a little bit of that as fandom and Supernatural as we’ve become more dispersed. There used to be a lot, and this may, again I’m reflecting my own experience, on LiveJournal a lot more focused discussions on representations in fic and that may be happening on Tumblr, I don’t, just don’t, I’m just not connecting with it. But I think we need to be interrogating how we represent, um, people who aren’t like ourselves in fic or diversity in fic. And that it should be a project. That we should be encouraging that. Or, just reflecting on the fact that “hey, I wanna write about Dean/Cas, and they’re two white guys, and I’m gonna live with that, but you know, over here I’m gonna have another project of how I’m supporting diversity and representation in media.”
FK: Unfortunately it’s time for me to use what has apparently become my catchphrase, which is, I hate to be a party pooper, but we’re basically out of time. So thank you so much for coming on the podcast.
ELM: Thank you so much.
JW: It’s been an absolute pleasure. Thank you for letting me ramble on about fandom and a small amount about tentacle porn, I feel I need a return visit to explore more of that topic in depth as it were. [general laughter]
ELM: OK! I think that was a really fun conversation, I don’t know how you feel about it?
FK: Uh, I’m just sitting over here thinking bout tentacles.
ELM: Yeah, but that’s, I mean, what’s different from normal.
FK: Nothing. I have not changed. This has not been a hero’s journey.
ELM: You haven’t learned and grew.
FK: No, I have learned and grew, actually I—[laughs] Learned and grew. Grammar. I’ve grown as a person.
ELM: [laughs] GROWN!
FK: I feel—
ELM: Oh, you’ve learned and grown?
FK: [squawks] What is it? I—
ELM: No, that’s correct! You’re right! I’m laughing at myself!
FK: I have learned and grown! Uh huh, uh huh! Which of us did a literature degree now, bitch?! Um—
ELM: Not only that, I work for multiple magazines in, uh, somewhat of a grammarly capacity.
FK: Yeah, good on you.
ELM: It’s cool.
FK: We’ll show that to your bosses.
ELM: I catch typos! [both snicker]
FK: In any case, I was really actually excited to hear about the way that SuperWiki was founded and the thought that went into creating that community as a democratic space, I thought that was really cool, and I felt like Jules ably defended herself against my thoughts about, like, “You’re not just another fan!”
ELM: Yeah, I am really pleased by—I put her on the spot by telling her the topic of an article I was writing and she had such a thoughtful answer, and yeah! So, so, just future warning to all guests, I’m just going to list all the articles I’m thinking about writing about and then you’re gonna give a ten minute speech basically telling me what I’m gonna write.
FK: This is her strategy for brainstorming.
ELM: Yeah, it’s like a collective, it’s like a group brainstorm.
FK: So if anybody was not as convinced by Jules as we were, or wants to tell us that we’re corrupting the morals of The Youths, or something, you should send us a comment and ideally you should send us an audio file that we can use so we can talk about your comment on the show. I, someday my prince will come. Someday somebody will send this.
ELM: I want it to be like, do you ever listen to call in shows on the radio?
FK: Yeah! Except not like Howard Stern yelling at someone.
ELM: No, not that, but I really enjoy, we both live here in New York City and I listen to Brian Lehrer and he asks, he gets like the traffic commissioner on or whatever and they have like a call-in and people call in and they’re like, [in a Queens accent] “Yeah, the corner of Queens Boulevard there’s a stop sign that’s dented and—” [giggles] the traffic commissioner has to be just like “thank you, sir.” Like, “I”ll write that down.”
FK: So what you’re saying is that you want our listeners to be like an incoherent person from Queens talking about a dented stop sign? Is that how, is that what you think of our listeners?
ELM: Are you, are you mocking my family!? That was not a incoherent person! That man was a poet! [Flourish dissolves into laughter] It’s really, it’s always, and it’s always like someone will call and they’ll be like “the corner of 75th and Columbus is incredibly dangerous. I think it’s the most dangerous intersection in the city.” And you’re like there’s literally no way. They have to [inadudible] on this. And it’s always someone on one of the upper sides.
FK: Yeah, that sounds about right. That sounds about right. Speaking of our fine city, did you see that the pizza rat was at my subway stop?
ELM: Was that at yours? Because—
FK: THAT’S MY SUBWAY STOP! [singing a song] PIZZA RAT, PIZZA RAT, PIZZA RAT!
ELM: Do you know the only place I’ve ever had a rat run over my foot in the entire world was coming onto the First Avenue L train?
FK: Oh, oh, there’s rats all over here, and they’re all really cute, which nobody else understands. Like, I am literally the only New Yorker who thinks that these fuckers are cute, and, and I never used to! I didn’t like rats in Boston! But there’s so many of them around here!
ELM: I’m sorry, I saw Ratatouille, you don’t need to convince me that rats are cute, I think they’re adorable and they’re great at making omelettes.
FK: I’ll get a rat and it’ll make me an omelette.
ELM: Yeah, I’m not gonna eat that.
FK: Yeah, me neither.
ELM: [laughing] It’d be too tiny!
FK: [laughing] TOO SMOL! SEND IT BACK!
ELM: All right, all right, I think we gotta go! But, um, thank you so much for listening, and next week, finally, we are very excited to welcome our final panel member, Amanda Brennan from Tumblr [Flourish makes a fanfare noise and Elizabeth laughs at her]
FK: Amanda Brennan.
ELM: Amanda Brennan.
FK: That was a fanfare for her.
ELM: She’s ready to go and she informs me that she will be fresh out of NJCon—which I believe is a Supernatural convention, which really ties it all together! And if you despise Supernatural or hearing about it, maybe you should not have listened to this episode. Or any future episodes.
FK: Yeah, I mean, we do talk about things that aren’t Supernatural or One Direction.
ELM: NOPE. Even though I haven’t seen Supernatural I’m just gonna keep talking about it. It’s fine.
FK: It’s OK, at some point we’ll do an X-Files episode. Moving on. I’ll talk to you later, Elizabeth! Peace out!
ELM: Yeah, bye Flourish!
FK: The opinions expressed in this podcast are not those of Stratus Media Ventures, Chimera Media Group, Chaotic Good, or our clients, or our employers, or anyone’s except our own.