Episode 52: Fanfic v. FANtasies
Elizabeth and Flourish discuss the new Fullscreen webseries FANtasies, in which YouTubers act out scenarios loosely based on Wattpad fic. They discuss the show in concept and in practice, changing ideas around fan/creator interaction, rethinking conceptions of the fan-to-pro path, and more. They also read a letter from a listener who loves female original characters in fanfiction and reflect on feedback about the discussion around comics in the previous episode, meditating on why some people feel like “real fans” and some people don’t.
[00:00:00] As always, our intro music is “Awel,” by Stefsax!
[00:03:03] Make sure you RSVP to the OTW party!
[00:05:17] We’ll put a link to Al’s email here as soon as we get permission to share it :D
[00:07:45] “Tanya” here is Tanya DePass. We talk to her in Episode 42, “Fresh Out of Tokens.”
[00:17:28] In case you are wondering, Drew is the guy on the right:
You have already seen Hannah, so here is Grace Helbig reacting to that viral big chicken video, in case you are still struggling to put YouTuber names to faces or something:
[00:23:02] Here is Drew Monson’s twitter post about the series if you want to confirm the prevalence of “dad” type responses.
[00:23:09] The tweet Elizabeth is talking about:
[00:25:50] The New York Times article is “When Fan Fiction and Reality Collide,” by Amanda Hess, who probably normally spells it “fanfiction” but is following the Times’ style guide so we forgive her.
[00:27:11] Go ahead. Go follow Pentametron. You will enjoy it!
[00:32:39] We really wanted to link you to some good coverage of James Cameron and Harlan Ellison’s battle of the science fiction dudes, but everyone who’s covered it is such a clear partisan on one side or the other that we couldn’t find a better link than Wikipedia. And you can Wikipedia things yourself. So just, you know, go look into it. It’s silly.
[00:46:44] The episode we’re talking about is Episode 51, “Desi Geek Girls.”
The listener comment that sparked all this to-ing and fro-ing is here! It’s from @missyuka.
Flourish Klink: Hi Elizabeth!
Elizabeth Minkel: Hi, Flourish!
FK: And welcome to Fansplaining, the podcast by, for, and about fandom!
ELM: This is Episode 52, it’s entitled “Fanfic v. FANtasies.”
FK: With all capital FAN.
ELM: Yeah, I said it like that for a reason. It wasn’t just me not knowing how to say the word “fantasy.” F-A-N, FANtasies.
FK: So we’re gonna be talking about three topics today. First one’s a reader comment, listener comment, we have listeners and readers but this was a listener comment I think.
ELM: Was it just a listener? Could’ve been a reader cause this was about our “Mary Sue” episode, right?
FK: Hard to know.
ELM: That I wrote.
FK: Maybe a listener and reader comment. OK. Number two, we’re gonna be talking about the Fullscreen show FANtasies, which is…
ELM: FANtasies, you think every time they say it in pitch meetings and stuff, FAN!!!!tasies?
FK: I can only assume! So this is a show wherein YouTube stars sort of act out, kind of act out, fanfic written about them that was posted on Wattpad. It’s a little more complicated than that, we’ll get into it.
ELM: It’s a lot more complicated than that, so stick around.
FK: And third, we’re gonna be talking about our last episode, specifically some commentary we got about comics and…I don’t know, I wrote a whole personal essay about my life and comics and how I view ‘em and stuff, and I got in my feelings. So. We’ll talk about that.
ELM: Flourish had like a personal breakdown because of this.
FK: I don’t know, breakdown seems very dramatic.
ELM: Break…like, not down. Like, just…
FK: Break sideways?
ELM: Like a flat tire, not like, you didn’t drive into a ditch.
FK: There we go, that’s nice.
ELM: These are terrible choices for metaphors but that’s fine.
FK: Had to call AAA.
ELM: I think that you fixed that tire yourself.
FK: Aww, that’s so sweet of you!
ELM: Oh my God. [laughs]
FK: And we should also, actually before we get into all this I think we should note that we’re gonna be at Comic-Con. Should we note that?
ELM: Oh, you wanna note that up front? I was gonna note that at the end.
FK: Let’s do it up front! We’re gonna be at Comic-Con.
ELM: The next time we’re gonna see each other and possibly see you is at San Diego Comic-Con from July 20th through July 23rd. I’m gonna be on the Harry Potter panel which I believe is on Sunday.
FK: It’s on Sunday.
ELM: I don’t know if the time’s been announced yet?
FK: I don’t think so but it’s usually in the afternoon?
ELM: No, last time it was super early. Do you remember? It was early for me. Like ten o’clock.
FK: Oh, you’re right. It was like ten o’clock.
ELM: And I had to be there at like eight and I was like “I CAN’T DO THIS.” So I will be on the Harry Potter panel, Lord knows what I’m gonna say, shoutout to Heidi Tandy, the moderator, don’t listen to this, and we are also going to be at the OTW party on Thursday night at Analog Bar, and that’s actually a time if you are obviously I think most of our…a good portion of our listeners are in the fanfiction OTW adjacent realm, so if you are going, you should definitely come to that party regardless.
FK: OTW doesn’t just do fanfic either! If you’re a fanvidder or a filker or do any kind of fan creativity…
ELM: You know what I mean though. In that realm.
FK: Fanworks realm. Fanworks.
ELM: Fanworks, but also the OTW realm, not the, I don’t know, writing fanfiction on Reddit realm.
FK: Well, if you write fanfiction on Reddit you should still support the OTW because they fight for all of us, not just of Archive of Our Own users.
ELM: I didn’t mean to set this up as some sort of “Only people who are on AO3 should go to this party.” [FK laughing] Anyone who’s into fanworks should come, if you’re at SDCC!
FK: There we go.
ELM: And I say this also because I have felt in my two years at SDCC, the past two years, that while I spend a lot of time with people who are into fic and stuff, it’s not a very fic-friendly space. I don’t think it’s necessarily unfriendly, just doesn’t feel like it’s part of any conversation ever.
FK: Just because it’s so much more look at the cosplay, maybe some fanart, definitely lots of official stuff.
ELM: The cosplay, that’s part of why I have this perception. I remember last year there was a whole fandom track, and almost every single panel was about cosplay, and it’s like call this the cosplay track then! It’s not, there’s so many other fan practices. So that was a little frustrating to me.
FK: In any case, this is a party, it will be good, we will be there.
FK: You should be there too.
ELM: I’ll be there just complaining about things.
FK: ’Splaining. ’Splaining and complaining.
ELM: I don’t wanna do any ’splaining at the party. Don’t make me.
ELM: So you should come, go to, we’ll put a link in the show notes but I’m sure that if you just go to the OTW site you’ll see them advertising. They want an RSVP for a head count, no entry fee but I believe it’s a cash bar.
FK: Yes, and I think that it’s over-21.
ELM: It is a bar.
FK: Because it is a bar. So under-21 listeners, we’re sorry, you’ll have to see us at the Harry Potter panel.
ELM: You’re gonna come to the Harry Potter panel?
FK: Probably, I’m in town, why not, right?
ELM: You gonna heckle?
FK: I’ll heckle. [laughs] OK OK OK. Should we read our listener feedback, reader feedback?
ELM: OK! Let’s do it.
FK: All right, so we got an email from a listener who calls themselves Al, who had an ask which I thought was really cool and interesting, which is they wanted to know whether we could ask our followers and listeners to write more original characters in their fanfic.
ELM: Original female characters.
FK: Especially female characters, yeah. So this person says that they’re really fond of canon and when they really love something they want fanfics to expand on the universe they love, to explore new themes, and they feel like especially female OC characters give them room to explore parts of the universe or to read about parts of the universe that they don’t already see in canon. And I thought that was amazing, because this person is saying that it makes them sad there’s a stigma around original characters, and wants everyone to know that they love original characters. This is music to my ears.
ELM: This is a very interesting angle into this though because it’s set up in opposition to people…it venerates canon and that’s why they want original characters, because they don’t want characters from the canon doing things that seem like things they might not do in canon.
FK: Right, that was really interesting!
ELM: Yeah, it’s very interesting!
FK: They were saying, like, “I’m on board with Draco/Harry, but I can read Draco/Harry as canon.” I was like “Woah! So there’s this one non-canon pairing that you can read as canon in your head.”
ELM: What do you mean it’s not canon? What are you talking about? [FK laughs] It says “set years after the Battle of Hogwarts,” too.
FK: That’s true. So post-wedding and babies and all that.
ELM: Right. When I started reading Harry/Draco again last year, having not read it since 2002, I was interested to see that there was such a large subgenre that rather than erasing the epilogue, just worked with everything.
ELM: There are plenty of ways to do it respectfully, divorced dads. And there’s plenty of ways to fridge the ladies involved, too. So maybe don’t do that guys.
FK: There’s, well, OK, there’s also some Snape/Hermione fic, to get on my typical thing, that have Snape being randomly still alive somehow and then getting revived many years later. Which conveniently deals with the age difference, and all you have to do is fridge Ron! So.
ELM: Man. OK, but I don’t think that the reader wants that, because…
FK: I don’t think they do.
ELM: No OCs.
FK: No OCs. This is a problem. Well, you could have Snape and an OC. How would the reader feel about this?
ELM: Well that’s interesting though! And I think it is interesting that you…so it sounds like, I remember talking to Tanya. Did Tanya talk about this? And video game fanfiction, fandom, there are a lot more OCs, but it’s partly because you are sort of…the canon is a little less set in terms of characterization, right? Because you’re making choices that determine how things play out.
FK: Right, and also you’ve been embodying this character, right? So you’ve sort of been…in addition to making the choices you’ve also kind of been controlling this character. You’re in it, it’s a character that you’ve designed, often, especially if you’re in a Dragon Age space, you’ve designed what your character looks like and chosen if they’re an elf or a Qunari or whatever else.
ELM: Yeah. So it’s interesting though, when I think about this in media fandom, when I’m talking about books, TV shows, movies, I don’t know why I couldn’t think of the word “movie,” when I think about shipping, and I think about how people read and write within ships, and I think about how it doesn’t seem like…it’s not like, oh, I really like Harry Potter and I wanna see him in a romance with someone. Right? You don’t, I mean, maybe there is Harry/original character, or whatever. Maybe that’s a robust subgenre that I haven’t encountered and I’m speaking out of turn.
FK: I think it exists but, like, on fanfiction.net more.
ELM: I’m sure it exists, right? But it’s interesting that the stuff that seems to be more popular is…and it’s not like, “Oh, I like to see Harry with blank and blank and blank,” right? People fight wars between blank and blank and blank. You know?
FK: Yeah, a lot of times, yeah.
ELM: I’m not, I’m speaking in generalizations.
ELM: Seriously! But you know what I mean? So I think that’s interesting, because it’s not just about the individual characters, it’s about the idea of those characters in connection to each other. So that’s how I think that maybe, maybe because that’s so prevalent, that’s one reason why there’s less space…you know, the Mary Sue and the stigma around female characters aside. It’s not like you see a ton of original male characters in the slash world, for example.
FK: Yeah. I totally agree. I mean, I think that I have a slightly different attitude towards fic from this person because I don’t venerate canon as much, it’s not as much my thing at all, and of course I have some favorite pairings, but I feel like generally I read across pairings much more than most fans do? I think that’s a fair thing to say. I read different characters with other characters and there’s some fandoms that I don’t even have really a ship in. Right?
ELM: I would say you’re more agnostic than most people I know.
FK: Like in Star Trek, I’m very happy to read Spock and Uhura or Kirk and Spock or Sarek and Amanda or Spock and some random chick…
ELM: Wow you’re all over the place Flourish.
FK: Or Kirk and Kirk in certain places because thank God for multiple universes…so in Trek fandom I don’t even have a pairing. So yeah, I feel that. Cause it’s like, it’s a different…it’s a different take on it.
ELM: Sure. Flourish, you didn’t even read the best part of the email.
FK: By “best” I think you mean “your favorite.”
ELM: OK. So in the final paragraph Al says, “and can I say how happy I am about your new love for Black Sails, Elizabeth?” Though after that Al says that they’re not reading any fic for it. But it says, “interestingly I didn’t feel the need to read OC fics for this one,” but then they’re not reading any fic at all. So. And then it says, “there may be something wrong with the way I engage in fanfics.” That was the conclusion they came to. And I don’t think that’s true!
FK: There’s no wrong way!
ELM: It’s interesting because, I can’t say too much without giving anything away and if you’re watching have a nice time, you wouldn’t believe the number of people who have started watching this show because Gav and I were like, “EEH!”
FK: You are literally constantly talking about it and you have a very large fan platform where you can tell people what to go read and watch, so I’m not surprised.
ELM: No! I didn’t realize that!
FK: You hit Metafilter with it, Elizabeth, you hit Metafilter with it!
ELM: Did I tell you this or did you know this?
FK: I knew it. I read Metafilter!
ELM: Wait, really?
FK: Yeah! [both laugh]
ELM: Yeah, it’s funny, because I almost…I almost never, it’s not like Gav. Gav is a—Gav, anyone who doesn’t know, I’m sure you all know at this point that Gav is my newsletter partner, Gavia Baker-Whitelaw, but—is a critic of pop culture stuff. So she gives her opinion on everything she sees when she sees it, and obviously she gets a lot of traction and then some of them turn into reviews. I almost never talk about stuff that I am reading or seeing, you know? It’s not my instinct, cause I don’t really wanna…I saw The Big Sick last night, I found it incredibly delightful, I don’t really wanna write that on Twitter. Cause then someone wants to argue with me about it? I don’t. I’m not in the mood. You know what I mean?
FK: I do.
ELM: Especially if it’s something I like. So it’s rare that I think I aggressively recommend something, even though I have a newsletter called “The Rec Center.” Most of what I recommend is Harry Potter fanfiction, no one needs any convincing on that front. It’s been really funny. But anyway, it’s interesting because there are…I wonder what it is about it for…but this reader doesn’t need original characters for it, but also is not reading any fic. So maybe that’s not really a useful example. You know what I mean?
FK: I do.
ELM: So. I don’t know. It’s tricky. It is true, if you don’t like people….disrespecting canon is the wrong word, but not privileging canon, or being happy to kind of erase canon or fix it or correct it or whatever term you wanna use, then it is gonna be hard in the fanfiction world because that’s the driving force for a lot of people.
FK: It totally is. I have more thoughts about canon to do with comics so maybe we should put a pin in this and take a break and then come back to the topic…
ELM: Our next topic isn’t even about comics, Flourish!
FK: After we talk about FANtasies.
ELM: We’re gonna make people remember what they heard 40 minutes prior?
FK: It’s a test! Can you remember?
ELM: Oh my God. All right. [laughs] Yes. So thank you to Al for this…
FK: THANK YOU.
ELM: Maybe we can reprint some of it on our Tumblr so people can read it, and just, I guess if you want to write an original female character, know that you have at least one person out in the world who is clamoring for this. It’s not just people hating on it even though that stigma definitely still exists, and I can understand why you’d be reticent!
FK: Awesome. [both laugh] OK, should we take a break?
ELM: Yeah, let’s do it.
FK: All right, we’re back, and it’s time to talk FANtasies.
FK: OK OK. So first off, let’s talk about what this thing is. Because I don’t know that everybody who’s listening to this even necessarily knows. Although we’ve gotten a lot of requests to talk about it, so some of the people definitely do.
ELM: Yeah, tons of people have asked us to talk about it. And if you need your memory jogged, you may have seen, there was an article in the New York Times a couple of weeks ago by Amanda Hess about the series. And it’s partly, you know, explaining what it is, it’s partly somewhat of a review, and partly a critique. And I think she was far more generous than I would have been but I think the critique parts are within the realm of…where I would begin my critique, is what I would say. So it’s not, it’s not just a straightforward “here it is.” I would definitely say it’s worth a read.
FK: So generally speaking, the concept behind this, it’s a webseries on Fullscreen, the idea behind it is that you have famous YouTubers who are acting out, this is the concept as stated, acting out Wattpad fanfic written about them.
ELM: It says this right in the opening credits. It has the word “fanfiction.”
ELM: What if your favorite fanfiction came to life?
FK: Came to life! And the YouTubers are generally, like YouTubers are, they’re comedy YouTubers, and so everything is comedic, whether I find it funny or not [laughs] lots of people obviously do, and it’s hosted by someone who comes in and is like “Welcome to the weird corner of the internet! I have a fanfic for you!” And hands it to some YouTubers and then they act it out.
ELM: That’s not how it goes! I mean, I’ve seen two episodes.
FK: How does it go?
ELM: He gets…somehow, the YouTubers talk to him via screens.
FK: Like old TV screens.
ELM: One was a computer, remember, the first one with Hannah Hart and Grace…
FK: Oh, that’s true.
ELM: Grace… [sighs]
ELM: OK. [laughs] I was like, “What the hell’s her name!” Oh we’re terrible. I used to watch Hannah Hart back in the day, way back in the day! She was charming.
FK: My Drunk Kitchen, I’ll watch it forever. Hannah Hart, if you’re listening to this, I love you for My Drunk Kitchen.
ELM: She’s not. She’s not listening to it.
FK: She never will listen to this.
ELM: Right when that started I saw her at Housing Works, so I felt like I was really in on the ground floor, like a hipster.
ELM: No, like at an event. I didn’t see her browsing the books. It was on purpose. Anyway.
FK: OK. Anyway.
ELM: So Grace and Hannah dial in and contact him via the computer. His name is Drew Monson?
ELM: And also is a YouTuber?
FK: Yes, correct.
ELM: And he’s like, “Do you guys wanna act out some fanfiction?” And OK: this really set the tone though. Cause he goes “Oh, it’s everyone’s favorite secret internet couple,” and they’re like “Ugh, we are not a couple, oh my God!” And he’s like, “Do you want to act out this story about you?” And they’re like “Sure, it sounds like fun!” And then he’s like, basically, summarizes it, and “you’re a couple” is the joke. And then they’re like, “Oh, what the…” and then it cuts. Right? And so from the start, you know that the idea that this is a ship is a joke.
FK: Yes. Then it’s like, “You’re right.” And then it’s like you’re in the world.
ELM: Right, and then it cuts to this fantasy world. So the one I’m talking about is called “Paging Dr. Hart,” and it’s RPF, and in the Fullscreen version anyway, because we also wrote the story on Wattpad, Hannah Hart is a doctor. Apparently, I was saying, did you notice this, though? You didn’t watch ER, did you?
FK: I thought that the cane was a Dr. House…she has a cane, and I thought it was a Dr. House reference.
ELM: You thought it was a House reference?!
FK: I thought it was a House reference! Cause I’ve never seen ER, really.
ELM: I thought it was a reference to Dr. Carrie Weaver, who is lesbian, lesbian icon, on ER. Icon is stretching things.
FK: I was gonna say, and then the person who wrote the original fic in her notes talks about it being very Grey’s Anatomy. So which hospital show is this actually based on? We don’t know.
ELM: I wonder if it was supposed to be a House reference! I love that I assumed. It’s just because, Dr. Weaver, she’s a small woman with a butch haircut who just kinda storms around.
FK: Well, that sounds very accurate.
ELM: I don’t know.
FK: So Hannah is this, whether it’s Dr. Weaver or Dr. House, she’s this grouchy butchish [ELM laughs] you know…
ELM: And Grace is a patient and it’s done in this absurdist style…yeah. In a kind of, knowing fourth-wall-breaking sort of absurdist style, I would say.
FK: Right. And it was in a way, what’s interesting to me about it is that the tone of the fantasy itself was not something that seemed to me like something that was impossible to get in humor fanfiction. Right? But when we actually went and read…no, I mean, really! I’ve read humor fanfiction that has a similar tone. But when we went and read the fic that it was based on, it’s totally different.
ELM: The fic was straight up, just romance RPF.
FK: And serious!
ELM: It was serious! There was nothing jokey about it. It was just a serious romance story.
FK: The characters were also all very different, right? So, it’s not just that the tone was changed, and it was mocking specific things in the fic. Actually it wasn’t. When I saw how serious it [the fic] was, I was like oh shit, is this mocking specific elements of the specific fic? Ugh! And I’m still not sure that I’m totally into it, but it wasn’t doing that, because it actually changed who the characters were, even. Grace Helbig is a completely different character than in the fic. So basically the only thing that’s similar is that they’re…
ELM: In a hospital.
FK: In a hospital. And that there’s sexual tension, kind of maybe.
ELM: No, not even. It’s treated as a joke!
ELM: It’s completely treated as a joke. It’s interesting because on the surface when you hear about this concept, the idea, so basically the concept is people write stories on Wattpad and then people at Wattpad pinpoint specific stories, and then approach the writer of the fic, say “We’d like to buy the rights to your story, and you’ll obviously get credit.”
FK: I don’t know if it’s “buy the rights,” exactly. I don’t know how the conversation goes down specifically.
ELM: Correct me. I am literally, you’re the one who works in Hollywood, and tell me if I’m speaking out of turn.
FK: No, you’re not speaking out of turn! I just don’t know what the actual, buying the rights is a specific thing that people do, but…
FK: I’m sorry! [laughing] I’m trying not to misrepresent things here! But you’re right, they do approach the author and say “we want to use this in this possible project.”
ELM: So say they’ve somehow compensated the author of this fic and the author agreed, which is what happened.
ELM: There seemed to be some confusion when people were encountering this via the Times article that they were just mining Wattpad and ripping off the stories and making fun of the authors, when while they may be gently mocking the authors and I think less gently mocking the concept of what they do as fanfiction writers, it’s all with the consent and probably compensation of the writers themselves.
FK: Yeah. Absolutely compensation. So full disclosure, I reached out to people at Wattpad, you know we’ve had them on the show before, on Fansplaining, and I asked for clarification and stuff, they sent us a screener so that we could talk about it with full awareness, and one of the things that they noted was that everybody was compensated, everybody agreed, and they actually reached out to a bunch of people who said “no” as well. So it’s not like, it’s not a situation, I think…the thing that makes me glad about that is it’s not a situation I think where people felt strong-armed into doing it.
ELM: I appreciate that.
FK: It’s not the big man coming down being like, “UHHHHH,” you know?
ELM: You should appreciate the gesture that was. [laughing] Yeah, I was looking around to see if there was positive reaction from fans of these YouTubers so I went around, I was looking on Twitter, which may not be the ideal place to do this obviously, but they all have a bazillion followers, and as I was hunting around, and I will say that from fans of these YouTubers who were involved…in this one anyway…it was a very positive response. Positive in the sense of like, people being like, “YES.” Just literally tweeting the word “YES” or something. It wasn’t like people were saying anything substantive.
ELM: Thank you, “Dad”! That seemed to be a popular one. But then I found one, and oh, I should, can I pull up exactly what it said? Hannah Hart just tweeted about it a week ago, maybe a little longer than that, so I saw someone had tweeted back at her, “Writing that fanfiction was beyond fun and this happened, right now it’s so amazing, I can’t even handle how happy I am.” So I clicked through and it was the author of the story. You know? So that was her response. It wasn’t…she’s not embarrassed. She’s not angry with them.
ELM: She loved writing the story and she loved the output. And so I mean, all right.
FK: Yeah, and I think that…I think it’s interesting because I’m not, I’ve got some questions, right, [ELM laughs] obviously about the whole process, but one thing that I did note was it didn’t…however I feel about, yeah, however I feel about it it seems clear that the audience it was intended for, the people who wrote the fanfic and the people who are watching the show, seem to be really into it. I don’t know.
ELM: So, OK. There’s a few things that I think we should discuss. One thing I would like you talk about, when we initially discussed this, you were talking about how this is in actuality a high-level Hollywood style deal. Do you remember you using these words?
FK: [laughs] I mean, “high-level,” I’m not sure, [ELM laughs] but this is exactly the kind of, this is totally a normal thing, the way that this deal worked in terms of the fanfic being used and credited but being totally different, seems perfectly normal to me.
ELM: Pause. Connecting into my second point, and these are all connected. Here’s what I don’t understand about this: so we’re both like “OK, the author seems happy, everyone was consented and compensated, the fans of these YouTubers who have bothered to sign up for this paid subscription service for this, it’s not on YouTube, seem to enjoy it, and who am I to say this is just a different kind of fan-creator interaction and I shouldn’t criticize it.” What I have a problem with is the fact that they are saying “we’re taking your fanfiction and turning it into your fantasy,” when it has literally nothing to do with the fanfiction itself.
ELM: It treats the element of shipping, which is a pretty deep part of the culture and not a joke, as a joke, and it kind of presents this view to the world…the part I got so mad about was the quote from the showrunner where he was like…I’m gonna pull it up, aren’t I? I have to.
FK: [laughing] I know you’re gonna pull it up. I know you don’t wanna get this wrong.
ELM: I don’t wanna get this wrong.
FK: You’re mad enough that you don’t wanna get this wrong.
ELM: So when Amanda Hess spoke to the showrunner, whose name is Lon Harris, who described the show as a “snarky alt-comedy sensibility,” he said, quote, “This is a community that we appreciate, and we’re not mocking it. We recognize that a lot of fanfiction is kind of absurd, and it’d be inauthentic to pretend that it’s not at all absurd or that these are totally rational stories that flow just like any other story.” And actually let me read the paragraph that follows, because I think it’s an interesting addition. She writes, “that ambivalence is on display in the fifth episode, in which a skeptical Mr. Rogers is summoned on-screen to act out some murder-related fanfiction about him.” I’m sure Mr. Rogers was a person and not Mr. Rogers the man. “Mr. Monson,” that’s Drew Monson, the host, “warns him that the story doesn’t make much sense because it comes from 'the mind of a teenage girl,’ then turns around and chides Mr. Rogers, ‘if you’re going to disrespect the stories, get out of my splitscreen.’”
And like…that’s infuriating to me. These things are really dumb, but you should respect them anyway? That just feels like it doesn’t actually have any knowledge of the community. And admittedly I’m the one who in our maybe first or second episode said there’s a lot of bad fanfiction out there. There is. I’m not going to, you know, I’m not going to walk that back, because in a large pool of writing that’s done for free on the internet…just like most tweets are bad, you know?
FK: [laughing] As you can learn if you look at the bot Pentametron, which forms iambic pentameter couplets out of tweets, and you’re like “Wow, who tweets this.”
ELM: [laughing] That’s a very specific example! But you know what I mean, it’s like, yeah, sure. Sometimes fanfiction can be illogical. Sometimes it’s not a “rational story” or “rational narrative” or whatever. Having watched what they produced and having read the story that they based it on, I just, I was infuriated. This was a totally logical, normal story! It just seems like they were determined to have this idea of what fanfiction was, that’s not actually based on anything. Or any real understanding of the form or the way it’s practiced.
FK: Right. OK. So these three things all seem to me to be connected with each other, and maybe not in the right…maybe they were asked in a different order.
ELM: They were asked in a wrong order. Part of the thing I was trying to get to was the idea of like, I understand that the way it works in Hollywood is you say “I’m gonna pay you money for this idea,” and then it doesn’t have anything to do with what they produce, so why not just…my suggestion was, say “these are your favorite YouTube stars, what are some fun situations you want to see them in?” And so then in the comments I’d write, “What if Hannah was a doctor and Grace was her patient and they were in love?” And then you go wherever you want, write your bad absurdist comedy about it where it’s not taken seriously. But why do it this way, is my question.
FK: I don’t think I can totally answer that. One thing I do know is that Wattpad themselves was not part of the creative process, they sort of, as far as I understand it, they create…they marry the fic writer to the producer, basically, and then they’re out. So I don’t know that they had any, I don’t know that Wattpad had any control over what fic went to the…or they did know what fic, but they didn’t know what it was gonna turn into in the end, you know what I’m saying? So in that context, this seems kind of like a normal deal situation. They’re like “OK, well, we have this fic, we know that Hannah Hart and Grace Helbig and these YouTubers are interested,” or whoever’s running it at Fullscreen is interested, “so why don’t we offer you a bunch of fics that we think are interesting for you to do whatever you’re gonna do with them.”
The deal gets made, right, and then creatively in the deal they go off and they make it into this other thing, I don’t know whether there were any comedy fics to be offered. I’m sure Wattpad could’ve offered them comedy fics if they had wanted to, which actually I think there are are fics, as I said, I’ve read—at least in the Harry Potter universe I’ve read fics that are absurdist in the same way as this.
ELM: Crack obviously exists.
FK: Yeah, so all I’m saying is I don’t know at what point that decision was made, but I would suspect that it was done from someone further away from the source and at a point when they’d already signed on to do this particular fic and then were like “Oh, but we wanna do it in this other way.” And that’s how you get that distance.
ELM: But it seems that’s the way they’re doing all the fics.
FK: I think so.
ELM: This is the idea of the show, and this is our nod to the absurdist nature of fandom, you know, which is like…
ELM: I rolled my eyes just now. So just so everyone knows.
FK: I think it’s also possible that, I think a lot of times people encounter fanfic first in this absurdist, comedy crackfic whatever way because humor is something that’s short and easy to read and so forth, and so people get this vision, some people get this vision of fanfic as being either the dramatic epic of ridiculousness that’s terribly written, or…
ELM: Like “My Immortal” or something.
FK: Like “My Immortal,” and “My Immortal” is actually kind of in this genre too, right.
ELM: Or, there’s such a proliferation in the last few years of articles that are essentially fanfiction. About the news. Like parody articles. Could be a dialogue or a short story, and they’re meant to be absurdist and it’s supposed to be a joke, that’s the whole point of writing a fictional story about Donald Trump. Sorry to say his name.
FK: And I also think that YouTubers already do things like ask people to say, “what should we act out” and so forth. The hook on this was fanfic, so that’s why it had to be fanfic, that’s the point of it. But then it doesn’t actually follow through on that promise. You know what I’m saying?
ELM: Yeah! I know what you’re saying.
FK: It doesn’t feel entirely like it follows through. Not that there wasn’t a fanfic to begin with, not that there wasn’t any of that, but in the process it got very far away from what it was.
ELM: This is the part, all right. So. I need you to tell me more about Hollywood because it just seemed so stupid to me that you could essentially pay someone for the concept of a doctor AU in a ship. That’s it! That’s all that is, right?
FK: I don’t know that I can explain any of this. I am not a lawyer and I don’t work in this area. But I will say this, having the…sort of chain of title, or having the rights to a particular idea, even if it’s gotten very distant from the original one, can be really really important. So here’s an example: there was a Twilight Zone episode written by Harlan Ellison, everybody’s favorite sci-fi author who tends to grope women at panels, ha ha.
ELM: Ha. Ha.
FK: And it’s about a time traveling robot basically. That comes back and kills people from the future. And when James Cameron made Terminator, he ended up through legal battles having to credit Harlan Ellison for this, even though James Cameron says he dreamed about a killer robot and this is how Terminator came to be.
ELM: Can you tell me why copyright law is good? [FK splutters] Or why intellectual property law is good? Honestly. Hearing that, are you kidding me.
FK: I don’t particularly love our current setup of intellectual property law. I can tell you that the original idea was that you would have five or seven years to profit off a physical book that you had printed.
ELM: That’s good. I felt bad for Charles Dickens that everyone was just rippin’ him off all the time.
FK: So in any case, I’m not an expert on this, I don’t actually know how this works, but the point being that in my experience you end up paying for lots of things, lots of ideas that you know you’ve read and that sparked. In order to be a good person, basically, in fact. So for instance, I’ve known people who’ve made deals where they’re like “Well, here’s this book, it has this basic concept, I know I’ve read it, the author knows I’ve read it, I could probably get away with not paying anybody for it, but I’m going to do it anyway, A, because I don’t wanna get sued and maybe lose, but B, also just because it’s true, that’s where the idea came from.” Right?
So this actually seems to me like it’s much…I’m not saying that I love anything about the outcome, but the actual deal that got made, I feel like, is treating fan writers in a super professional—this is the way that people who write things and get optioned for movies and optioned for TV, this is how they’re treated. This is how that happens. So it feels like on the one hand I kinda wanna be mad…I definitely wanna be mad about some of the ways that it’s portraying fanfiction and so forth, but actually I’m mostly irritated…I’m not so irritated by it, because for all of its faults it’s treating fanfic writers in this really serious way. In a professional way. So you know. I mean, I have my feelings about the way it is, but ultimately I look at it and I go “Well, but, on the other hand, they could…people can just potentially steal stuff and they weren’t.” [ELM laughs] Steal stuff, it’s not even stuff to steal, but it would be perceived that way in the industry if you did that and so…
ELM: I think that one thing that I’ve noticed, I mean I remember when we were discussing it and you were saying that people were getting…it was more interesting, people were not really getting at what’s interesting about it. And I feel like what you’re saying right now is part of it. I feel like there’s a perception in the fan world that fan-to-pro means that you’ll be paid for your novel.
ELM: And in reality it seems like Wattpad, not just this but some of the other things they’re doing for writers too, connecting them…our friend Kfan, I know, was paid to write what they called “fanfiction” but I wasn’t quite sure I would call it that, stories within the universe of a show on Comedy Central. As the show was airing. And it’s like, that’s obviously, that’s a pro situation and in fact…
FK: I would say that’s transmedia storytelling, that is…you are writing short stories. I’ve written stuff like that for shows and it was definitely not fanfiction. In that case it was pro writing.
ELM: Sure, so call it that. Giving these opportunities. But I feel like because the film and television world on this side of it is relatively opaque, people don’t really have a sense of what it means, I don’t think they know how many extraordinary numbers of fingers there are in the pots of…
FK: Oh my God yes. Look at, people were mocking Spiderman: Homecoming for having so many writers, and I was just like, “Well, this is a project that’s been in development for a long time!” I’m not saying, I haven’t seen it yet, I’m not saying it ends up being good or bad—though I’ve heard very good things—but that to me does not look like an absurd…it looks like a lot, but not a LOT a lot. You know?
ELM: Or the urge to, when discussing television shows, speak about a single showrunner as an author-god when in fact it’s very rare that the show will not have been authored by a number of people. Right? A whole room of people.
FK: And it’s also, in this case there’s also the complication that you’ve got the actors are acting out things that were written about them that they may or may not feel comfortable with.
ELM: You’re saying with the RPF issue.
FK: I’m not saying that like…I’m not saying, I’m, as everyone knows, I’m in favor of RPF, see my giant One Direction novel, but I do think that there is something that probably makes it…were they going to act out a serious fanfic?
ELM: Well, then I say in that case, don’t go near it. If your actors feel uncomfortable about the idea of being in a ship, and obviously this feels homophobic when you’re mocking…though it’s canonically queer women! Woman. I don’t know anything about Grace.
FK: I’m not sure about Grace Helbig.
ELM: Obviously it’s, when it’s a slash or a same-sex pairing and people are like “Oh, we don’t wanna force them to do that,” it’s gonna feel homophobic, but I could easily see them doing that with a het ship as well, cause it’s not…the idea of actors being comfortable about RPF isn’t isolated to, like, Benedict Cumberbatch feeling stressed out that…you know what I mean? I have to put him on the spot always. Though he wasn’t even mad about RPF, he was mad about Sherlock fanfiction, UGH, so mad at him still! You know what I mean?
FK: I just think it’s also complicated because YouTube celebrities are putting their real lives in a certain way…
ELM: Quote unquote “real lives.”
FK: Well, that’s what I mean, their “real lives,” that’s part of the pleasure of YouTube celebrity is the fantasy that those are their real lives, right? So it’s just a really sticky situation with that too, which I think may have made it an even higher difficulty level than one would normally have. Separate from anything else.
ELM: More so than RPF about A-list actors, or the members of One Direction, boundaries between fan and creator on YouTube are arguably more porous and I know that this has been a point of controversy in recent years, them referencing shippers, them essentially queerbaiting, teasing about it, in ways that would not be possible with a famous actor.
FK: Right, and it’s also complex too, because who knows? I don’t know what’s going on with them at all.
ELM: You’re saying that you’re a conspiracy shipper now.
FK: [laughs] All I’m saying is when you can go someplace like Vidcon and hang out and see people…it’s just this really porous situation. And I think that anybody saying that YouTube creators shouldn’t know about RPF, it should be completely kept separate from them, I think that’s living in a fantasy world yourself.
ELM: Did you just say fantasy world? FANtasy world?
FK: FANtasy world! But I just think, because their whole point, everything in their career is based on knowing what’s being said about them on the internet and leveraging it.
FK: I’m not against RPF in this situation, but I think that you can’t kid yourself, you know?
ELM: SO. What’s the solution?
FK: Well, one thing I can say that’s a solution that is good, I don’t know about anything but After, I guess, but I do know Wattpad has been engaged in selling fanfic that is either the serial numbers are rubbed off or whatever, but in a much more serious way as well. One thing that would have made me feel better about this would be if it were in a world where there was a lot more appreciation of serious fanfic existing. Maybe that’s a, that’s not a total solution, but I think it’s a partial solution. I want people to know that serious fanfic exists and it’s serious and something is not just absurdist because it makes Hannah Hart into a doctor.
ELM: Right. That could be the most serious story in the world.
FK: What do you think? What’s your solution?
ELM: Uh…I don’t know! Yeah. I mean, I guess in a similar way where we were frustrated with Slash: the Movie as being the way that many people will be encountering fanfiction.
ELM: Not that I think that a lot of people outside of the world of YouTube fandom are gonna watch this, cause it’s not like…it’s not on NBC and your grandma’s gonna sit down and be like “What’s this fanfiction thing?” Literally, it’s very hard to find if you don’t already have some sense of what goes on on the internet in these spaces. But.
FK: Yeah, I think it’s a pretty insider thing despite the New York Times article.
ELM: Right. But, the New York Times article existed and don’t read the comments, which are typical [in a silly voice] “Well, fanfiction is bad!”
FK: Make that voice again!
ELM: [laughing] Like we time traveled, and I don’t…I wish, I don’t know. Because I wanna be like, “all fanfiction is,” I’m holding up all fanfiction, and I am. But it’s true, I can’t stop the urge to wish that if it is going to be exposed then it’s going to be exposed as something that is serious, that should be taken seriously.
FK: I guess I feel like this, the way that I feel about GalaxyQuest making fun of Star Trek fandom and so on. The thing is in order for it to not be mean you have to know that this is serious and a real thing.
ELM: Yeah but also I feel like GalaxyQuest was made from a place of love, and there’s no love here, in this project, as far as I can see. I don’t know. I don’t wanna presume. But I don’t think there’s understanding. If you look at Fangirl, for all of the flaws that people…or the critiques that people have of it as a depiction of fandom, there’s obviously…Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, not a fangirl like me or you. There’s obviously embedded in the text a deep deep love of fanfiction. And I know people, I’ve said this before on the podcast but I have seen plenty of people saying “I didn’t know this was a thing and now I’ve started reading it.” And if it’s depicted as a dumb weird absurdist place then I don’t think you’re going to see people going like “I gotta write myself some of that.” Right?
FK: And it’s obviously not impossible to do it from a place of power, either. When you look at the way Orlando Jones has talked about shipping and all that, he’s absurdist and silly and makes fun of things massively, but I think one of the things that makes a lot of people OK with that is that he will downshift into talking about this seriously. We’ve all seen him be like “OK but wait, let’s stop and actually talk about this and have a real post, and then I’ll go back to being like #Olicity #Trollando #Gillovny, I love making David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson smash their faces as though that’s not weird because I am actually friends with both of them,” you know? [laughing]
ELM: Oh my gosh that was an incredible Orlando Jones impersonation, thank you Flourish.
FK: Oh God. Anyway, yeah! So you know, it’s not just that either. I think that you’re right.
ELM: Yeah. So.
FK: Well should we take a break, having talked about this, and not coming to any conclusions?
ELM: I didn’t think we were going to come to any conclusions. But the takeaways are, meh. And also, but, good for Wattpad for…
FK: For not being dicks, in a certain way, you know.
ELM: Honestly this would be my one thing to say to “fandom,” people who were coming at it from a, “they’re taking advantage of people” way. I think that stressing the idea that there are many spaces within the world of quote-unquote “professional writing”…I’m saying quote-unquote so many times. I’m sorry.
FK: I think it’s also, number one, the people writing it…I don’t necessarily love everything in it and I know that you don’t, but the people who are writing it and involved do, so maybe there’s different…we can have our opinions about who’s right about it but there is actually a different opinion that exists that people who write fanfiction have.
FK: And also, the world of professional writing is vast and various and this is a respectful way within that world to have adapted something. I’m not saying again that I would want my work to be adapted that way, but…
ELM: You’re getting a call next!
FK: It’s not unprofessional.
ELM: What if they called you Monday morning and said, the boys of One Direction have agreed to act out one fic from Wattpad.
FK: And they’ve picked mine?
ELM: And they’ve picked yours. You would have to say yes just for the hell of it.
FK: Well here’s one thing that I will say: I did actually have a conversation with a development executive who was like, “If you rewrote this as a script and made it any band, I bet we could turn this into an indie movie that was a vehicle for…”
ELM: With the mpreg and the omegaverse?
FK: Possibly, if they wanted to get into, you know, intense indie arthouse movie stuff? This was literally a conversation that we had about whether this could be a vehicle for ex-boybanders who wanted to be actors to get into an arthouse movie. So this is the kind of weird shit that happens when you talk to development executives.
ELM: So if this ever happens…
FK: IT’S NOT HAPPENING. Don’t worry. It’s not happening!
ELM: If it ever happens, if you abandon the extra fanfictiony elements, by which I mean the omegaverse and the mpreg, I will cancel the podcast. It’s all or nothing. You gotta do the whole thing.
FK: Don’t worry. I feel that way too, in general.
ELM: You’ll cancel it yourself. [laughing]
FK: But if I didn’t, I don’t think it would be vastly wrong. Anyway, we should take a break, cause we have stuff to get on to.
ELM: Yes. OK!
FK: All right, final segment time.
ELM: Soul searching.
FK: Why don’t you set us up for this one, Elizabeth?
ELM: So in the last episode, we had two comics experts on. Swapna Krishna and Preeti Chhibber. And they both are comics journalists, I know that Preeti had a podcast about comics and Swapna was the comics editor at Panels, I think, at Bookriot. Right?
FK: Yes, correct.
ELM: So. Flourish, without giving any personal backstory, kind of made reference to the fact that the comics world can be not so nice to people of marginalized backgrounds. Do you think that’s correct summation so far?
FK: Well, I mean, I came into it being like, how can…I haven’t been in comics for a while, and by comics I think I really meant superhero comics, but I didn’t say that. And then I was like, “do you have any tips on how to start,” and they were talking about all these things, and then they were talking about how you can get comics, and I was like “Oh yeah, because I’m kind of intimidated by comics shops.”
ELM: Right. So that was the undercurrent though. And it was the idea of, “Oh, you can’t go into a comics shop without getting someone, some man being an asshole.” I mean…
FK: I guess. It was actually pretty mild. When I re-listened to it and looked to the transcript I felt like it was an undercurrent. But it was there.
ELM: Yeah, that’s the subtext. So they gave you some tips and they also talked about the industry and we talked a bit about the recent conversations around diversity in comics which are not great right now. And in the end you were hesitantly saying that you were gonna try out some stuff.
ELM: And I said, my role in this is not important, but I also said I’m not going to try out anything, and to clarify, I have literally no opinion on the comics industry or the comics fandom or anything.
FK: You just don’t read things with sequential art. It’s just not your thing.
ELM: No. I have tried and I genuinely don’t enjoy it. It’s about the comics themselves.
FK: I don’t totally get it, you have tried to explain it to me many times, but I accept you as who you are.
ELM: First of all, I don’t like cartoons. They make me uncomfortable. And comics are inherently cartoons. I’m not the only one who doesn’t like cartoons, by the way! This is a thing.
FK: It’s OK! I’m not saying…
ELM: You know my vast struggle through Yuri!!! On Ice whenever they made any face that wasn’t, look close to a human face.
FK: Yeah I do.
ELM: SO UNCOMFORTABLE.
FK: OK. I get it. Totally. Anyway.
ELM: YOU DON’T GET IT, you literally don’t. So that’s the backstory. So then we got a series of asks from a listener, and I corresponded with this listener because I had been really turned off by the tone, I found it a bit aggressive, and the listener apologized and said they didn’t mean it that way and I apologized for assuming it was aggressive so I hope that…I hope that we’re friends again.
FK: Aww. [laughing] Elizabeth! Well it did, so the listener was like, “Why are you guys so down on comics, you make it sound like everybody in a comics shop is a mouth-breathing asshat…”
ELM: “Shitlord” was the actual word.
FK: “Shitlord” was the term.
ELM: That was the correct term. And being like, “Why do you act like it all sucks, you had people on and your guests said that comics all suck,” which I mean, first, I feel like it’s kind of a mischaracterization of the episode. I totally get that that was the emotional content of it for them, but I don’t think it’s true that they were like, “Everything that Marvel and DC does right now sucks.” I think they said that they were pissed off at them right now, but then they listed Saga, which I think is one of them, as a good comic. But whatever.
FK: It got me going and thinking about why, cause one of the major comments on it was assuming that I knew nothing about comics, and I realized I had positioned myself as though I knew nothing about comics and this is completely not true.
ELM: Or that you were basing your opinions on what the comics world was like on what people say on Twitter, which is kind of a weird accusation to me because the people on Twitter are people I know. I know people who’ve gotten harassed in comic book shops. And obviously, you get harassed anywhere, most women and plenty of non-women do, you know? So…but it’s not like this is coming out of nowhere.
FK: Right, but it wasn’t even actually the content of that that weirded me out. It was more noticing what I had done to myself about it.
ELM: You self-gatekeeped. But then we got the email from Maia. That was what I think really turned for you.
FK: Then we got an email from another listener who was like “Yeah, you…” first I looked through everything and I was like “Yeah I think we weren’t jerks, the end.” I went through everything and tallied it up because I am basically Alexander Hamilton who will show up with the itemized receipts and I was like, “I am satisfied that we were not assholes.” But then we got email from Maia, from another listener, who was like, “I think that you were kind of jerks about it. And you said that you didn’t know anything and here are some things you should know. You should try out comics, because comics are for you.”
ELM: And Maia, for clarification, has illustrated a bunch for us. So maybe you’re familiar with eir work. And studies comics, right. Is studying to be a comics artist and draws comics and things, yeah.
FK: Has studied. So what was funny about that was that I got the email, and all of a sudden I was like “THIS CANNOT STAND, I actually know all about comics!” I realized I have multiple bookshelves of comics in my home. And I was making it sound, I was completely making it sound like I was not at all involved in this. And I realized that…really, a lot.
So I wrote a little essay about my life with comics which starts around age 13 and goes on to talking about experiences in comic shops and experiences reading comics and all this. And it was interesting because I realized that I had self gatekept, particularly out of superhero comics, even though, you know, I read the entire run of Ultimate Spider-Man and I have all these feelings about Spider-Man, but… [laughing] I couldn’t even recognize that maybe I’m a Spider-Man fan if I have enough feelings to say that the Tobey Maguire movies should be, I really hate them because they don’t represent Spidey as I see him! And then I’m excited for the new one… Anyway, it was just this weird experience.
ELM: Yeah, you went on a journey, I would say.
FK: I went on a big journey.
ELM: So it’s interesting too, that post, by your own admission when we discussed it, it felt like it still is a little bit muddled in terms of…and I think that’s OK, if you’re still trying to figure out how it slots together, talking about your gender and sexuality and the way that you’ve seen yourself and presented yourself over time and the way that other people see you and I think they are all connected though I’m not sure that the post really…I think it was a little muddled, I would say! You agree.
FK: I mean, if you can un-muddle me about these topics that would be great! [laughing] You wanna un-muddle me?
ELM: I don’t think it’s as simple as that! I think it’s complicated. And I think the way that, all the facets of our identity, I can only speak to gender and sexuality in this case, I think it’s intrinsically tied up in the way that we encounter media, and especially in fandom, the way that we engage as a fan. Right?
FK: And the way that we encounter fandoms, right? After I posted this essay, I was amazed. One of the things that was so funny to me was I had three different people contact me, all of whom are comics professionals, one of whom has written for a major big two, like major superhero, one of whom edited an Eisner-award winning book from a couple years back, one of whom is a professional illustrator. And they all were like “Holy shit, how didn’t we know that you felt that way? We thought that you thought you were a comics person!” And I was like…and these are old friends, people who I’ve known for a long time and who are obviously deeply in comics. And they thought I was a comics person and they were like “Holy crap how could you have been not showing to us this ambivalence about this?” I was like, “I don’t know!”
So I wonder how many people who listen to this podcast, or who are in fandoms, feel complicated about fandoms, or don’t identify with the fandom that they maybe objectively seem like they “should,” quote, be in, or…
ELM: This was interesting to me and this is what I brought up with you because I was saying it sort of feels like you, and we were talking about other examples where you do this too, we were talking about your completionist desires to read every Star Trek novel and understand the entire canon of Star Trek or understand the entire canon of Star Wars, wow, you are grinning like a fool right now! [laughs]
FK: I love, I love…
ELM: It’s your Star Trek fool grin that you have right now! That’s really good, thank you. It’s interesting cause you’re setting these goals of completion and what it means to be a true fan within this space and I was saying that what I find striking is that that feels like, literally, the opposite of how I feel, where it just feels like too much, and it’s like, oh, this is bad. Right now, I’m reading fuckin’ Thomas More, right? Because the character, Thomas More! From the 16th century! To write a fanfiction!
FK: Can I just say that we had one of the funniest, we are very similar in this way to some degree though, because we did have that conversation where we were talking about how hard it is to write somebody from very long ago…
ELM: Oh, well, that’s part of it, but…
FK: Cause there’s all of these words that it turns out you can’t use.
ELM: Oh my God, it’s so annoying, yeah.
FK: You can’t say “I’m bored,” because that was not a term, you can say that someone IS a bore…
ELM: Flourish. I looked it up after we talked about this. For context I’m writing Black Sails fic, it’s partially set in 1705. I would like them to not speak in anachronisms, and so it is shocking the number of phrases that did not develop for a hundred years. I looked it up, you were writing about a character who came from the late 18th century. So you don’t get to complain.
FK: I was! I’m…
ELM: I’M DEALING WITH A HUNDRED MORE YEARS!!
FK: You are dealing with a hundred more years, it’s true, you’re dealing with a hundred more years, however…
ELM: WHAT WORDS CAN THEY SAY? They can just say words that are in Shakespeare. No, they had a hundred years after that. Anyway. This aside, and I was saying this and I’m gonna subtweet one of our friends who I think does this too, I’m not gonna name this explicitly, she’s very deeply fannish but also has an academic interest in her own fannishness and I wonder if other academic-y, academically inclined people do this too, it’s when you feel emotionally it’s too much, when you feel like “Oh, I am far too invested in this and this isn’t right,” it’s easier to kind of say, “Mm, but isn’t it fascinating that I am so deeply engaged!”
FK: Oo, I’m imagining a beard-stroking gesture here.
ELM: “Let me study my affect right now!” Right? I feel like I’m more inclined to do that, that gives me a distance. So in a way I have never felt the need to self-gatekeep, it’s been more like “Oh, I can’t tell people, I can’t tell anyone, because I’m like… I like it more than you. And I’m always gonna like it more than you.” And I know that’s not true, but there’s no other way to feel that way when it’s the only thing you’re thinking about.
FK: Yeah. We both have [laughing] we both have this intense obsessive fannish aspect to ourselves, even down to the same thing where we both try and figure out how our characters would or would not use words…
ELM: That just means that we’re careful fact-oriented writers!
FK: Oh my God, don’t do it for everybody, it’ll be overwhelming, I can’t.
ELM: It is everybody cause it’s all of them! It’s the entire cast.
FK: I can’t. The only…we had a whole craft-of-writing conversation about this. Anyway.
ELM: That’s fine.
FK: Point being, though, yeah, maybe it is our emotional reactions to it are opposite. I have no problem with being really into something and talking about it but sometimes I self-gatekeep out of talking about it cause I feel like I don’t like it enough, and you’re like “I like it way too much we can never discuss this.”
ELM: Yeah, that’s how I feel! And I’ll try to talk to people about Harry Potter and if I don’t think they know as much as me I’m like, “I don’t wanna do this.” There’s always Tumblr posts about this. "You: I like that show!” you know, and it’s like, you-the-person, “Uh-huh! Me, too! I also…like it…” and I feel like I’m always in situations like that and that’s stupid because obviously people think about the things I like as much as I do but I have no way of knowing. I mean, in a way fandom feels like a relief, because it’s like, “Oh, clearly you’re doing this too.” Right? And so…if I only spent time in fandom spaces where it’s, it’s not even about showing that you have a lot of knowledge. I feel like in female-dominated media fandom it’s about showing that you have a lot of emotion and that you’ve been thinking about it and that you’ve been feeling about it. It’s not necessarily that, no one’s asking me to read Thomas More, that’s my own obsessiveness. But.
FK: I think that maybe the thinking about it and feeling about it and showing that, that’s not something that I think…I don’t do performative…I mean I do performative feeling in some ways, but not in all the normal ways that people in Tumblr fandom do. I don’t update my Tumblr very often, I don’t flip out in all those ways. I don’t know.
ELM: I don’t know, I kind of feel like you do. You seem to have a lot of feelings about One Direction. They’re not intellectual thoughts, they’re feelings, Flourish.
FK: That’s true.
ELM: Undeniable. I’ve yet to hear an intellectual observation about One Direction out of your mouth. I’ve just heard, like, “AHHHH!”
FK: Wait, you’ve heard me talking about my fic! That’s a thing! We’ve talked about my fic and that has intellectual things in it.
ELM: Your fic does and I think we’ve talked about how you try to use your fic to mitigate your overwhelming feels! We’ve genuinely discussed this.
FK: [helplessly laughing] Probably so.
ELM: So that’s fascinating, right? That’s like…you create this hyper-literary, still playing with all the forms of…we’ve discussed this actually with your fanfiction! Yes! I remember this now. We talked about how your fanfiction tends to be very, and how you’re obsessed with modernists, and so your fanfiction tends to be experimental and reflexive and metatextual to mitigate the FEELS that you just all the FEELS that you have about the things. So you do it too.
FK: We’re all the same. We’re all the same.
ELM: You have a lot of layers. You’re like an onion.
FK: So do you! Your layers are all like, “I don’t really like the thing. BUT I LIKE IT MORE THAN ANYTHING.” [ELM laughing] “But I hate the thing. BUT I LOVE IT.”
ELM: I don’t say I don’t really like the thing! …yeah, you know. I don’t know. For me it’s complicated too with this stuff because, not to go too much into it, but it’s definitely tied up with mental health stuff, and it’s like…I feel like, it’s my inclination to not really discuss my history of mental health with anyone really. I definitely have with friends, individually, in the past. It is all connected and it kind of feels like my instinct is to just not talk about that element, right? So that’s why it’s easier to downplay. And then you wind up hosting a podcast about fandom in which…I mean…
FK: Well, I can tell you for sure that my little spiral of freaking out about this was COMPLETELY anxiety-related. I do not need to go and ask my psychologist for further diagnosis to know that. [laughing]
ELM: No, but I guess it’s interesting cause we were saying that one of the fundamental questions around this spiral was how much you should have to disclose about yourself to talk about where you come from relating to fandom or your personal fandom. That’s a really tricky question and not one that I think we have any answers to.
FK: Cause there’s this idea of what it is to be…we’ve rejected the term “true fan” or “superfan” or “real fan” or whatever, but it’s still complicated. Who has the right to speak on different topics and how?
ELM: Right. I think this is a fundamental question within criticism too, especially I hear this a lot from people from various marginalized backgrounds, saying, “How much of myself needs to be in this?” If a black critic wants to talk about race, something racist in a comic or, we shouldn’t use comic. In a television show. And you see people coming at them on a personal level, or being asked to bring in personal experiences, and that’s really complicated, right? And then there’s the old default “neutral critic” or whatever. And I feel like that’s some of what’s going on in this. There is no neutral, because even a cisgendered straight able-bodied mentally…healthy…I don’t know if that’s the right term, white man with money, I don’t know, I’ve gotten all the axes, have I hit? American.
FK: And class privilege!
ELM: I said money, homeowner!
FK: No no, money and class are separate, Elizabeth, and you know that perfectly well!
ELM: I do know that perfectly well. He has money and he’s upper middle class, educated, all right. He’s got everything going for him. First of all, he’s not default. Second of all, he’s full of experiences! Right? And he might hate something because of something that happened to him once, and that’s not invalid. I’m standing up for this man for some reason. Does he have to disclose that? These are the questions.
FK: These are the questions.
ELM: And we have no answers.
FK: Yeah. I was actually glad that I went on that little self…
FK: The journey was a good journey, despite it not being a fun journey during all of it.
ELM: Yeah, I mean, I’m happy for you that you went on that journey.
FK: And, and, at the end of going on that journey, I was like, “Why DON’T I think about myself as a comics person more?” And I went and I picked up some comics that I haven’t read because, I don’t know, I just wasn’t picking them up. So now I’ve read the first two trades of Ryan North’s Squirrel Girl and it’s delightful and I don’t know why I put off getting it for so long. So let me recommend Squirrel Girl.
ELM: [laughs] And she’s not just saying she read Squirrel Girl to prove she’s not a fake geek girl.
ELM: You’re in good faith recommending it.
FK: I am in good faith recommending it! I can also recommend the entire run, as I said in my essay, of Ultimate Spider-Man, but it’s like, ten volumes and that’s a lot.
ELM: So for my recommendation, there’s some early modern literature that I think would really inform your Black Sails fanfiction…
FK: OH MY GOD. [laughing] I think we’re done with this topic, Elizabeth. I think that we should wrap up and head out.
ELM: Head out to San Diego, California!
FK: Let’s do it!
ELM: Final reminder, Comic-Con, we’ll obviously put everything on Tumblr so if you want the details of where we’re gonna be, I’m not sure what else we’re doing there but I think those are the two spots to catch us, the party and the panel. Very quick business before we wrap up:
FK & ELM in unison: patreon.com/fansplaining!
ELM: And we are going to be doing the anniversary episode soon, and we’re also gonna be doing our little pledge drive to bump up the Patreon so we’re hoping to…
FK: We’re kind of on a bubble.
ELM: We’re gonna make some more, [laughs] bubble, extras, including this is totally on me, I’ve just got a new job so I’ve been a little busy, but we need to make the tiny zine for our $10-and-up patrons.
FK: There will be all of the tiny zines you were promised, just maybe not in the time frame as you were promised them.
ELM: I should lean into this. I’ve been really bad at emails the last few weeks, worse than normal, and I’ve apologized and people have been like “You just started a new job, really don’t worry about it.” So I’m like, “Oh, I should be milking this.” Yes. I have a new job. So. You know. I can’t do anything. I can’t respond to your texts. I can’t water the plants.
FK: You can’t do ANYTHING. OK. As always, if you want to go on iTunes and rate us whatever you believe we deserve, which we believe is five stars, and leave a review if you feel like it, that’s super helpful because it helps new people find the podcast.
ELM: And we are going to make a post that allows people to just click, because people have explicitly asked for it.
FK: Yeah, that’ll happen! Also, as always you can contact us. We have a phone number on our Tumblr, which is fansplaining.com, that’s the tumblr not the number, you can go there to get the number, and then we’ve also got a Twitter, Fansplaining, Facebook, Fansplaining, email, firstname.lastname@example.org…
ELM: Yes. And Tumblr ask is probably the best way to send us a message, or an email, and our anon is on, though as always constructive criticism only please. No flames.
ELM: Yeah. But anon is on, so if you wanna be anon, no worries.
FK: All right.
FK: See you at Comic-Con.
ELM: I’ll bring my Thomas More.
FK: [laughing] Bye Elizabeth!
[Outro, disclaimer, and thank yous]