Episode 53: Stealth Fandom
Elizabeth and Flourish discuss what could be called “stealth fandom”: subtle cosplay, non-narrative ways that people feel close to their favorite topic or story-world, all the tiny things that remind people of their fandoms (even if they don’t make sense to anyone else)—and how that differs from official merchandise. They also answer a pair of listener questions: one about whether one should seek permission to write fanfic of someone else’s fanfic, and one about monetizing fanart—but not fanfic.
[00:00:00] As always, our intro is “Awel” by Stefsax.
[00:00:40] We are informed that our ship is called “Klinkel.” Why it is not “Mink” we will never know.
[00:02:31] The anonymous ask was as follows:
Hey guys, I’m just wondering if you have any thoughts/opinions on whether you need to/should get an author’s permission to write a fanfic of their fanfic—out of love, respect, admiration, wanting to do something transformative and great with the original. Or just, in general too!
[00:04:30] We saw Britta (this is the ep where we interviewed her, btw) at Comic Con! Here is a picture of her.
[00:06:35] The stories Elizabeth is talking about are “Promised Eternity” by Setissma and “Promised Eternity (Ring of Endless Light Remix)” by musesfool.
[00:16:43] Who among us has NOT been Niall as fuck. This is a real question.
[00:22:44] The anonymous ask was as follows:
Hey guys, I’m just wondering if you have any thoughts/opinions on whether you need to/should get an author’s permission to write a fanfic of their fanfic—out of love, respect, admiration, wanting to do something transformative and great with the original. Or just, in general too!
[00:33:27] This is the song that reminds Flourish of Haldir. Oh, God.
[00:39:55] Flourish’s palindromic wedding vows
[00:57:32] Elizabeth’s art wall! The art is by taryndraws.
Flourish Klink: Hi Elizabeth!
Elizabeth Minkel: Hi, Flourish!
FK: And welcome to Fansplaining, the podcast by, for, and about fandom!
ELM: You thinking about that ask we got as you said it? Someone wrote and they said that based on the chemistry between the way we say hello to each other, they ship us.
FK: [laughing] What episode number is this, Elizabeth?
ELM: What? Sorry. I broke our format.
FK: What episode number is it, Elizabeth?
ELM: Thinking about all the RPF!
FK: What episode number is it, Elizabeth?
ELM: It’s Episode #53, and the title is “Stealth Fandom.” OK. Don’t do it. Your idea. Go ahead and explain.
FK: OK. So, one of the things that is interesting in fandom and fanworks, we talk a lot about how people make fanart and write fanfic and do all these things but there are lots of little things that people do every day that make them feel close to their characters, their fandom, the other members of their fandom, including things like owning and buying and having merch but also things like wearing stealth cosplay or like, let’s see, making a Spotify playlist. Doing all sorts of things. People have also talked about learning about topics and all sorts of stuff. So anyway, those things, they aren’t all equally classifiable, all of them, in fanworks, but they’re definitely fan practices and so, yeah, we thought it would be interesting to ask people about that and talk about it.
ELM: All right, I think that’s a good summary, even though you said the word that I hate, “merch.”
FK: We all have to live with the word “merch.” It’s a word.
ELM: It’s worse than “moist.”
ELM: It is! It sounds kinda douchey.
FK: Well anyway, before we get to that I think we have a couple of questions.
ELM: “Sweet merch.” Like, it sounds like…it sounds so bro-y.
FK: I don’t know what to tell you.
ELM: You wanna answer the questions first? You wanna do the questions?
FK: Let’s do the questions first.
ELM: OK. All right. And after that we will talk about merch. [FK laughs] See? It’s terrible.
FK: OK. OK OK OK. Before we do that though. The first question that we have is actually an anonymous Tumblr comment, and I’m interested to know what you think about this, because we’ve never talked about it before, not up to this moment, at all. This person wrote, “Hey guys, I’m just wondering if you have any thoughts or opinions on whether you need to or should get an author’s permission to write a fanfic of their fanfic, out of love, respect, admiration, wanting to do something transformative and great with the original, or just in general too.”
ELM: Hmm. Do you want me to go first with my thoughts and feelings?
FK: Yeah, I want to know what you think!
ELM: All right. So, this is all said with the caveat of, I’m a person who has as you know not posted any of my fanfiction. Right? So I’m aware that it’s a bit like I’m in my glass house, you know, piling up my stones. [laughs] Does that metaphor make any sense?
FK: Waiting to throw them?
ELM: I’m just saying, I’m fully aware of this, I think that…OK. Here’s what I would say. I think that it is courteous and kind to ask for permission if you, say, wanna write a remix of a fic. That being said, I don’t think anyone is obligated to do so, and I do see some hypocrisy in the reactions by fanfiction writers when other fic writers play with their ideas in ways that are similarly transformative and not plagiarising, but similar to what they were doing to the source material, it does feel a bit pot-and-kettle.
FK: Yeah, I totally agree with that. I mean obviously…here’s the thing: if I were writing fanfic about a published TV thing and one of my friends was a writer on it. Right?
ELM: What do you mean?
FK: Say I was gonna write Riverdale fanfic and I knew it was based on…
ELM: Of Britta’s episode.
FK: Yeah, Britta’s episode and a scene. I would probably mention that to Britta.
FK: Cause she’s a person and I’d be like “Hey, ha ha,” you know?
ELM: Flourish! You just made it a lot more complicated by tossing in…get the source material, get sanctioned professional works out of this conversation.
FK: No! Because this is a way in which it's similar. The reason I would tell her it is that she’s my friend and it's a thing that she to some degree wrote, and sure, I’m gonna have a conversation with her about it, cause we have a relationship and so forth and it would be weird if I didn’t. But if I didn’t, I don’t think that it would be immoral. And I don’t think it would be immoral for someone who didn’t know her, as many people have, to write fanfic about that and not talk to her about it. Right? It’s, to me the feeling comes from knowing, being friends with the person and not ever mentioning that you were doing a thing and not having a conversation about it, right.
ELM: OK, but I think in the vast majority of situations you’re not gonna be friends with the person you’re gonna be writing a transformative work of a transformative work of.
FK: Which is why I think it’s fine in almost every case, right.
ELM: You agree that it’d be nice if people asked.
FK: I don’t know, because asking someone puts them in the position for them to say “no.”
ELM: Maybe here’s what I’m conflating a little bit, is I’m thinking about remixes, which…you know what, do people still write remixes in the way they used to? Cause I feel like I don’t see them as often as I used to.
FK: I think some people do. I mean, I don’t think they’re as common. Step back. Let’s talk about what a remix is in fanfic, because maybe not everybody knows what this is.
ELM: Right. So a remix is literally, if you were to think of a remix of a song…maybe I could recommend one of my favorite set of original and remix stories from Harry Potter, Remus/Sirius, from probably 12 years ago at this point. Never in my life, this is one story that always makes me just weep. You wanna weep? Read it.
FK: I wanna weep!
ELM: It just twists the original, the remix twists, and they’re both really exquisite stories and they’re both really well written and I find that’s rare. Often remixes I’ve liked better than the original.
FK: What story is it?
ELM: Oh, the name of the story?
FK: What stories are they, I should say.
ELM: The name of the original I believe is “A Ring of Endless Light” because I remember the remix is called “Promised Eternity: Ring of Endless Light Remix.” I’m gonna look it up and put it in the show notes. But yeah, I feel like that was a good example because in that story there was a conceit and they kind of left a gap, and…like, an unfilled gap, it wasn’t like a plot hole or anything, it was just they told a story with an idea and there was some space in it and then in the remix they kind of dove into that space. Right? So it was already someone playing fanfiction games, you know, in the original fic, and then someone played extra fanfiction games on top of that. And so that’s why I think that remixes are often really rewarding because people who are already excited about the forms that fanfiction takes…
FK: Right. It is a fanfiction of a fanfiction which is actually a good thing. A lot of times it seems like it might not be, but if you really love the form of fanfiction, what it is, it’s extra good.
ELM: Right, and when I think about my favorites—not just this one, I’m trying to think of some other ones that I really love—it’s often stories that aren’t just straightforward narratives, just ones that are doing really fanfiction-y things.
ELM: I’ll try to dig up some of my favorites. Maybe you could think of some too, we could recommend a few remixes.
FK: Yeah, that would be cool, but this is exactly my point. This is why I don’t think I owe, don’t think people owe writers an ask-permission. I think giving a heads up is definitely polite.
ELM: I think with a remix…
FK: It’s the same thing as writing in a gap in a published novel!
FK: It’s exactly the same thing!
ELM: Well, I’m the one who initially said that you don’t need to ask but it’s polite if you do, so I obviously don’t need to.
FK: I mean, other people think you do, but I think that’s hypocritical and I don’t think that that’s…for what it’s worth, if anybody wants to write anything about my stories, please go right ahead, don’t even tell me.
ELM: Why, have you sanctioned it?
FK: Well, if I hate it I’ll want to un-sanction it, but I won’t be able to because I’ve now said it publicly.
ELM: This kind of falls into the conversation about unasked-for critical feedback. I mean, that one I feel a little bit more…we’ve talked about this before.
ELM: There are some similarities in the sense of, a lot of the arguments that you see against people, say, writing a remix without asking for permission, or against people leaving critical feedback, kind of separate fanfiction out as something very different from the rest of writing. And obviously I say this from a position of not having posted any of my fic, yet, hoping to change that, but I also say this—and I’ve mentioned this on the podcast in the past—as someone who’s probably published as much writing if not more than your average fanfiction writer on the internet, and not in a space of enthusiastic fans, but for the general public, which includes a lot of obnoxious people. It’s harder for me to dig up sympathy, you know what I mean? Just because…
FK: I think there are community norms, you know.
ELM: Yeah, definitely.
FK: And I think that if you post critical feedback on something then you may need to be aware that maybe people don’t want that.
FK: But if you write a remix of something and don’t tell the author about it until after or whatever, you also presumably know that they might not be pleased with you. Just like when you write fanfic, the person you’re writing fanfic for could turn out to be like Diana Gabaldon. She’s not pleased! Too bad!
ELM: Is the author of the original fic that you were reading, it’s not for them.
ELM: Just like your fic, your Outlander fanfic, is not for Diana Gabaldon…it’s really not for her.
FK: This is more of an argument, this is one I actually have a little more sympathy on the constructive criticism end. To some degree, if you’re leaving constructive criticism, hopefully part of the point is to talk to the author and not just to be mean or something—cause that’s the constructive part, right.
ELM: So this actually gets into an interesting space, and I was just describing this to someone who is relatively new to fanfiction, trying to explain how fanfiction is not for the people who create the source material or the actors or whatever. I’m like, “This is a really important community norm.” Obviously anyone who’s saying “no one should ever look at it,” the actor on a TV show shouldn’t be allowed to google that—then lock your fic. You’re not living in reality. You didn’t sign a contract with Benedict Cumberbatch that said he wasn’t gonna google that one story about him being chained to a bed in space.
All that being said, as I was trying to explain it to her, I was saying, we were also talking about ideas of what critical dialogue was. And for me, all fanfiction—even if it’s the most crack, nothing nonsense, and it’s deliberate, and you’re like “all fanfiction is a joke LOL I don’t care about anything nothing matters,” which is definitely a subsection of the fanfiction world, people who get resentful when you try to make it really serious—all that is still in conversation with the source material, all of it is in its own way some kind of literary critique.
FK: Right, because the only way that crackfic is funny is if it’s playing off of something that’s in the source material. Otherwise it’s not funny.
ELM: Don’t try to convince people who want everything to be for the lulz and nothing else that it’s serious, Flourish. Don’t go there.
FK: Oh, I know. But anyway, go on.
ELM: So I was saying, as a critic, and this is not just…this is not my fandom hat on here, this is as a critic, not that those are separate, but you know what I mean…in the critical world, where I am paid to critique things, when I’m reviewing a book I am not hoping that XYZ author is reading it. I’m not writing them a letter. I’m not saying “your book is a failure because blank,” I am saying “this book is a failure,” and I’m speaking to other critics and I’m speaking to readers. If you read literary criticism, scholarly work, obviously there are examples in history where people write letters to writers [laughing] and other writers to each other, but…
FK: I think that this is what’s fascinating, because with commenting I’ve noticed, as time has gone on, that people used to…when people leave reviews, now it’s become leaving comments on fic, and it’s become a conversation, where I respond when people leave comments on my fic because it seems like other people think that you should do that and it’s a polite thing to do. So in that case, it becomes like leaving a review or a comment on the fic is in conversation with the writer, whether you want it to be or not. But certainly if you wrote a review on your own Tumblr or somewhere, that’s not at them, right? It doesn’t get sent to their inbox.
ELM: Or in “The Rec Center.” When I rec a fic I’m assuming the author is never gonna see it, you know?
FK: But that’s different than leaving a comment directly on the fic.
ELM: Right. So it’s interesting that this idea of critique has been conflated with like, when you’re in a writing workshop and you have to give feedback, critique and feedback are not necessarily the same thing, they can be but they’re not inherently equivalent. Obviously there are community norms. But I kind of regret that there’s not a space where you can have a critical conversation about fanworks where you take them very seriously and you talk to other readers and other critics. You’re not just sending a litany of complaints or “you need to fix this, you did this wrong.” That’s not even feedback for a college level writing workshop, that’s just…I don’t know what people think you’re supposed to do based on your high school English class, you know what I mean?
FK: One of the things is, I think that maybe it’s still the case in some communities, but it seems to me like in the communities I hang out in, there used to be a lot more diversity in different ways you could respond to a fic.
ELM: Based on the platform is probably a big part of it, right?
FK: Probably so. And this is also partially because of having been part of FictionAlley, which was explicitly a community that was interested in developing writing skill and having feedback of various kinds come back and forth. So there were different spaces in the community, not just on FictionAlley but also on fanfiction.net, in other spaces on mailing lists, et cetera, that had different qualities of critique. So there were some people who had a mailing list for their own fanfic, or for a group of fanfics, and there could be very interesting critique there of the story and consideration of what was going to happen and discussion, but it was never con-crit in that way. And there were spaces that were totally about con-crit including sometimes the FictionAlley comments sections, which would be like “you missed an apostrophe”—sorry, I’m totally guilty of doing some of that shit myself. [laughing]
ELM: Wow, you’re one of those people.
FK: And then there's other spaces where, well, you know, in communities where that was a more normal thing, right? And then there were other spaces where there were more like review spaces that were separate. And all that seems pretty flat now to me, and maybe it’s not as flat as I think. I hope.
ELM: I don’t know, this is just what I’m observing, and I wonder if any people who are currently prolific fanfiction writers would have any opinions about this. I mean, obviously all this is said with a full acknowledgment that I understand the arguments against giving critical feedback. You’re not being paid, I mean, that’s not the contract that everyone set out with, even though it’s kind of an unspoken contract, right?
FK: Yeah, and there’s also…you don’t know who the person is who’s posting it, they could be a very young person who’s intimidated by it. You don’t know what the power dynamic is at all between the commenters and the reader and the writer.
ELM: You mean like in the opposite way, when people leave you comments on your fic on Wattpad and they’re like, “YAAAS, I’M LIVING.” Isn’t that the kind of comment you get?
FK: Not always.
ELM: What was the one that I loved so much? I can’t remember.
FK: I don’t know. I don’t remember which one you loved so much. They’re all lovable, inherently lovable comments.
ELM: No, I know, but they're all very, they’re a little basic!
FK: Well, they’re very in the moment. I mean, they’re basic in some sense, but they’re definitely…“I am responding to this sentence, and this sentence made me go ‘YEAH I’M NIALL AS FUCK,’” you know? [laughing] Who among us has not felt Niall as fuck at some moment?
ELM: Yeah, and you know, I guess I shouldn’t…I shouldn’t mock, in the sense of, I feel like the modern internet has kind of whittled down spaces of correspondence so you don’t really have a lot of middle ground between hitting “like” and writing a full comment.
ELM: Right? And when I think about when I read a story on AO3 and I have a really strong feel, right at one exact paragraph, and I’m hitting the…
FK: You wanna share it, right?
ELM: I don’t necessarily wanna share it but I’m, when I’m like “YES YES THAT” and I smack, do you ever smack the couch or the bed or wherever you're reading it?
FK: Yes. YES.
ELM: So you know, that. And I kind of, I kind of love that in some communities on Wattpad that actually is a place where you would vocalize that on the internet as opposed to just shouting in your empty apartment.
FK: I can tell you for sure that as a writer it’s really cool because you…I have not gotten great commentary in general on my fics on Wattpad as far as constructive criticism or writing help or anything like this goes…
ELM: “Niall as fuck.”
FK: But one of the things that is true is you can tell instantly what the things are that people are responding to emotionally. You’re like “YES, that paragraph was a winner.”
ELM: It’s kind of like, I love watching Facebook Live videos. [FK laughing] For anyone who hasn’t seen them, people react, I don’t know how connected the reaction emoji are time-wise, but as the video goes on, you can hit a reaction and at that moment it…so the reactions are a thumb and a heart and an angry face and a crying face. And it’s so good when someone is, you remember when they were doing it for Sean Spicer?
ELM: He’s just saying his bullshit lies and people were watching it live and just hitting the angry face over and over again, so it was like a sea of angry faces flying across his head. And I don’t know how connected that was with real-time reactions, but it was a delight to imagine it was literally just…whenever you watch for a live stream of something where there’s instant comments. And I’m like “Oh wow, look at all these people reacting at once!”
FK: For sure. For sure. Or when people are live-tweeting.
ELM: Yeah. Something good and interesting in the temporal sense of it.
FK: OK. I don’t think we answered this question…well, we did answer the question! We answered what we thought about the question. But people should send us their opinions, I’m sure that some of our listeners virulently disagree with us on all of the topics we just talked about. So we would love to hear about that for sure.
ELM: Yeah! I imagine most people are gonna disagree with us, because I think that…I don’t know. Maybe this is my own problem and maybe this is your problem too, but we assume that based on our jobs that writing is sometimes…putting writing into the world is not going to be a positive experience and it is what it is. When Flourish writes a draft of something and sends it to me for critique, first of all…
FK: Oh my God, she savages it.
ELM: I’m a very harsh editor with Flourish. You, if you expressed that you were delicate about this, then I wouldn’t.
FK: No I love it, I appreciate that you savage it!
ELM: And Flourish has got this archetypal Hollywood attitude of “Tear my shit apart and we’ll rewrite it. We’ll do 19 rewrites,” you know?
FK: We will do 19 rewrites and I don’t care if you need to rewrite a sentence and put it in there. I’m not precious about a single sentence. I don’t give a fuck.
ELM: Deeply unprecious. And I might be a little more precious.
FK: You are.
ELM: Well, I think my writing is good. [FK gasps hugely] YOUR WRITING IS GOOD, I’m not saying it's not!
FK: Oh my God, oh my God, the podcast came so close to being canceled just then!
ELM: [laughing] No no no no no there are reasons why I choose words. I think my words are carefully chosen. And so I need you to be…I need to think that you know what you’re doing as an editor, and I’m also not saying that you don’t know what you’re doing as an editor.
FK: [through laughter] OK, thank you.
ELM: What I’m saying is, for both of us I think we’re used to our words being critiqued, right?
FK: Sometimes the words that I put on a page are not just not perfect, they’re not good enough, because they’re not doing the thing I want them to do.
ELM: Well yeah. I mean, and that’s definitely something that I really appreciate, that you’re willing to hear. No, really!
FK: Well, if they don’t do the thing that I want to do, then I should make them do the thing that I want to do. And if I can’t make them do that thing, I should stop doing it altogether and have someone else do it who can do it right!
ELM: But I think you have an attitude that is actually quite rare when it comes to written communication where you assume that I’m, you’re like, “Oh, I’m not being clear enough, because you don’t understand what I’m trying to say.” I think another person might be like, “You’re just not, you’re dumb. You’re not getting it. You’re not getting what is obviously there.” And you’re like “Oh no, if it isn’t obvious then it’s not there.” And so that’s laudable. Okay. This was not meant to be…
FK: Thank you. Now I feel good. Thank you for this little bit of Flourish-is-so-great. [laughing]
ELM: Yeah, this is not constructive, it’s not con-crit, it’s just happy kudos to you right now.
ELM: Anyway, the point is, I think that we might have different attitudes towards this than people whose writing is just a fun experience and who aren’t regularly put in a position of having their stuff torn apart or putting it on the internet to a hostile crowd. That doesn’t mean that our experiences are somehow superior, they just are what they are.
FK: No, just that they’re different.
ELM: That’s what I mean. I think that’s worth clarifying.
FK: Well, let’s plan on talking about it a little more next time, if we get pushback, because I would really love to talk about other people’s perspectives on this as well. I feel like we’ve given ours and other people should give theirs.
ELM: OK, let’s do that then!
FK: OK, question number two is I think gonna be pretty short and then we can take a break, because question number two is “Artists will take paying commissions sometimes for fanwork. No one argues that these artists deserve payment for making the art. They’ll have shops sometimes too where they put their fanart on bags, pillows and so on, and it’s still fanart. They’re making money out of their craft and characters they don’t own. So why is it deemed morally and legally unacceptable for authors to do the same with fanfics?” So this is from monstermonstre on Tumblr.
ELM: We have already had this conversation, but I could have it so many times, and I’m just gonna keep arguing with people that I think it’s a weird double standard that should die.
FK: And we specifically had this conversation, I think, in our episode that interviewed Leslie Combemale?
ELM: Well sort of, not really. We talked about fanart, we talked about money, but Leslie was kinda coming from a different space in fandom, definitely talking about people who do copies. You know, we’re gonna—full disclosure, we haven’t left for Comic-Con yet while we’re recording this, we’re both flying out tomorrow, but we’re gonna be at Comic-Con very soon, and there’s definitely people who are doing exact recreations of the kind of artistic styles—of the way Spider-Man is drawn or the way Batman is drawn or whatever. So that’s what she was not happy about. But I think that’s a really different question than, I’m looking right now at the art that you in fact hammered onto my walls, this really beautiful fanart by taryndraws, it’s Harry Potter fanart, we should put the link in the show notes.
FK: You love it.
ELM: You agree it’s very charming Harry Potter fanart.
FK: It’s very charming! It’s perfect for your house especially.
ELM: Mm-hmm! I can never move. I’m tethered here by these small fanarts. It feels a little different in the sense of, remember we had this big argument with a bunch of people on Twitter, maybe two months ago. Do you remember this? It was right when they changed Twitter so you could have a canoe.
ELM: A very large canoe we were in. That’s a group of people.
FK: We were in a big canoe.
ELM: Twitter conversation. And there seemed to be some misunderstanding, since I was arguing against the double standard of not paying fic writers but paying fan artists. And one of the people we were talking to was like, “Well, I can’t afford to pay for every story I read.” I don’t think that’s a realistic system, and obviously I’m paying for a print of this Harry Potter fanart and so that’s partly materials and it’s partly for the uniqueness of an object that I can put on my wall, but I’m not paying for it just to see it on Tumblr. But I would contribute to the Patreon of a fan artist just as I would for a fanfic writer. Right? So it’s a patronage system. I can’t think of any realistic way that you would, I mean, you could pay for a commissioned story…
FK: For sure. I think the other complication with this is that on the Archive Of Our Own, you’re not allowed to mention that you have a Patreon or to do commissioned stories or mention that a story was written on commission or anything like that. And so some people think of this as…there’s a lot of opinions about this floating around. The reason is that the OTW is so involved in legal actions and so forthright, they’re very very conservative about that stuff. It’s not to say that they necessarily think that this is immoral, it’s just that that’s the rule on the platform because of their involvement in legal actions. So I think that’s another thing that makes this come up lately. But I agree with you that it’s a double standard.
ELM: And people post fanart to AO3, they have fanart accompanying stories, it’s embedded in an AO3 post. And these are some of the artists are selling their work elsewhere and talking about it. Just not on AO3. So it just feels, it doesn’t make any sense to me. And the argument of “Oh, there’s materials for art and there isn’t for writing,” that just devalues writing to me. Devalues the amount of time, time costs money, time to just get better at writing takes resources, right?
FK: Yeah. I agree with all of this, and I think that there’s a separate question of whether any of this should be paid for—on a legal level or a moral level or whatever that we’re not even touching, but I think that there’s a double standard regardless of where you stand on that.
ELM: But do you agree with the kind of idea, I think that everyone if they ask for it should be paid...I don't like to set up the idea, I remember when we had that giant canoe, someone said “Well, that just makes me feel bad because it makes me feel like no one…I know that no one will ever pay me for my work.” And I understand that, I understand that fear and I understand that insecurity that that adds to the community, and I’m not trying to diminish that, but I also do think that building a community over decades that is completely volunteer based…I think underpins some of the reasons why there are systemic inequalities within the fan space. Right? It’s not a very diverse space class-wise, it’s not a very diverse space race-wise, I’m not saying that if everyone was paid for the things that they were creating then all of a sudden that would solve all of fandom’s terrible racism problems or anything, but I am saying that I do think there’s a certain dominant demographic in fandom that is not disconnected from the fact that you need to have relative financial stability to participate.
FK: Right. I mean, it’s related to anything that upholds the idea of the amateur as the goal. We see this in any field where people are like, “The amateur is best.”
ELM: What are the other fields where the amateur is best?
FK: There’s a bunch! For instance, if you want to be in the Olympics you have to be an amateur. And that’s a big deal. That's a huge deal, especially in some sports where people can go and make money as a professional or they can compete in the Olympics as an amateur. And if you need that money, whatcha gonna do, right? I guess you’re never gonna be an Olympian, right? There’s also stuff like this in other arenas. I mean academia to some degree has this, because people don’t pay very well for adjuncts, but that’s another story.
Anyway, point being, I think we’re on the same page, which is that there’s definitely a double standard. People getting paid is a good thing inasmuch as it makes people be able to be part of the community. I still don’t know that I know for sure where I would draw that line, personally, as far as people profiting off commercial things and so forth. I think this also has to do with our broken copyright system, personally, and if that were fixed this would be an easier conversation. But yeah. We’ve talked about it some. We talked about related issues in the Leslie Combemale episode.
ELM: Sure. I feel like we talked about it in another episode too, I can’t remember when. Maybe we can look through the archives and if we find out…
FK: We’ll put it in the show notes.
ELM: Yeah, put it in the show notes. Cool. Great. So we agree on all things.
FK: As not usual, but that’s OK! [laughing]
ELM: Not usual.
FK: OK, should we take a break and then come back and discuss the topic of this episode, stealth fandom?
ELM: Stealth fandom.
FK: All right, we’re back! It’s time to talk about stealth fandom.
ELM: My title, I’m so proud.
FK: You came up with a great title. OK. So as we have admitted at this point in the episode, we’re about to go to San Diego Comic-Con. By the time it airs we will have been to San Diego Comic-Con. And part of the genesis of this episode was thinking about some of the kinds of things we see happening there that don’t necessarily get talked about on this podcast as much. And one of them was merchandise sales and so on, but then this initial idea totally exploded into way more than merchandise.
ELM: You’re talking about your own journey, cause I am not privy to any of this.
FK: [laughs] That’s what I thought happened!
ELM: Yeah. No. Basically here’s what you said: you were like, “You know when people like, buy things? Buy things that aren't official licensed merchandise, right?”
FK: That’s totally not—that’s not what I thought I said! This is amazing.
ELM: Do you want me to scroll back in our fucking Google Hangouts?
FK: I guess, I guess, OK, here’s the thing—
ELM: Wait wait wait wait, let’s let everyone know, let’s put it on the record, Google Hangouts is a garbage product. I just need to, I need Larry and Sergei and everyone else involved at Google to know that this is the worst thing you’ve ever done.
FK: It’s really been screwing up on us badly.
ELM: Please continue.
FK: OK. So regardless of this, I mean, I think regardless of what…I think that it is about both official merch, occasionally, and also things that you buy that are not official merch and also sometimes things that you…
ELM: Oh right, so that’s the way you framed it. Things you buy, official, not official. And I was like “Yo, I find this deeply unrelatable,” because here’s what I'm doing right now, and what perfect timing that I can talk about me being really active and deep in the early stages of being in fandom.
FK: Right, because you are doing all sorts of Black Sails stuff that is not making narrative extensions or reading—well, you're reading things, but not…yeah!
ELM: [laughs] Yeah. OK. So basically I am very interested in a certain set of characters, if you’ve seen the show you can probably guess which ones I'm obsessed with, and I am reading books that I think that they would have read. I’m also reading, I’m taking with me to San Diego a book about the history of piracy in Nassau. But that’s nothing to do with them because it’s a contemporary history book. So I’m reading, like I said in the last episode, I’m reading Thomas More’s Utopia, I’m reading a series of early modern utopias. I'm reading Spinoza and I’m rereading some of this stuff. Trust me, I already read some of it before.
FK: [laughs] So we asked other people to talk about this and it was, I mean, there were a bunch of people who talked about this, people who said “Well, I research everything about the time period,” philistella on Twitter said “I got three degrees in early modern literature and now work at Oxford, thanks Dorothies Sayers and Dunnett,” which I thought was the most amazing of these comments.
ELM: I'm glad you think that’s the most amazing, cause this is my Black Sails compatriot who’s given me half of my reading list.
FK: Maybe it’s just a Black Sails thing! But I think, related to this, there’s also people who make playlists for characters, cause sometimes that seems to have different…some of them are playlists about characters, and some of them are playlists of what you think a character would listen to.
ELM: This is actually a hang-up that I have, because people make playlists or they’ll be like “this song makes me think of blank,” and I’ll listen to it, so this is a thing that I’m having actually for Black Sails, cause it’s set in 1715, so people are like “This song makes me think of it!” And I’ll listen to it and I’ll be like “This song was recorded in 2004, this is completely inappropriate. I’m listening to Henry Purcell.”
FK: I have literally the worst one of these ever. Because I associated for some reason—and I don’t know why—the elf Haldir in Lord of the Rings with a pop song by J.C. Chasez or however the hell you say his last name, and it was a completely nonsensical mental association.
ELM: Flourish. Flourish.
FK: But somehow this got in my head and I couldn’t get it out and every time I tried to talk to people about it I sounded like I was completely completely…WHAT.
ELM: Yeah, because you were. That only makes sense to you.
FK: Yeah but I actually kind of wonder, sometimes, don’t people have strange associations like this too? That’s interesting. Surely somebody else has strange associations like this, it’s not just me, right?
ELM: Sure, sure, but it’s not gonna make any sense to anyone else. Right? So that kind of winnows down your fandom experience to something that's so personal that it’s not really shareable. If you were like, “Oh my God, this goofy pop song from the year whatever, 1999, makes me think of Lord of the Rings,” and everyone else is like…“OK, I’m never gonna understand why but OK.” [FK laughing] And maybe for you it’s partly when you read them and who you were then and…
FK: I think what I happened to be listening to while I was thinking about it.
FK: Cause it was on top-40 radio all the time.
ELM: Totally, and people will make playlists and it will be contemporary music or relatively recent and won’t from an outside perspective have anything to do with the source material. Obviously these songs are meaningful and they make you think of the emotions but like, yeah. The elves in Lord of the Rings are not listening to 90s pop…is it in the 90s, this song? That you’re talking about?
FK: I think it was the early 2000s by this point.
ELM: You know what I mean?
FK: Yeah, completely. But it is funny because even though people’s attitudes, some people take more your strategy, some people take the “Well, this is what they would listen to if they were around today” strategy.
ELM: I’m not here for that.
FK: Some people take the “here are some emotional songs that remind me of these emotions” or whatever, but a lot of people still, the overall idea of making the playlist, that’s so common.
ELM: Yeah, I think playlists are very common. I definitely, I have a bunch of music that I associate with my early days in Harry Potter fandom. It’s all very… [sighs] Can you guess? Do you wanna guess some of the artists?
FK: No, I can’t guess. I don’t know.
ELM: Think about it, we’re talking like 2001.
FK: I don’t know. I really don't know.
ELM: It’s vague enough that it’s not absurd and it wasn’t like…the Spice Girls, or something that had nothing to do with…though to be fair they’re British in the 90s, so.
FK: What was it? You have to tell me. The Spice Girls are actually weirdly much more accurate than many of my suggestions would have been. But go on.
ELM: I’m coming from Marauders land, too, so people would have strong opinions about what they…
FK: Oh, yeah.
ELM: What their feelings would be about various 70s…
FK: Artists, yeah.
ELM: And some of them just felt like, have you read any fanfiction? Do you know who these people are, on what planet would they like X, or whatever? On what planet would Sirius Black like the Beatles, ya loser?
FK: Oh my God.
ELM: That’s what I think about that.
FK: Only in their late late phases but probably not even then.
ELM: Probably not even then.
ELM: There's a couple different ways people go with him. Some people…my friend Charlotte in a fic she wrote I remember one of the tags she wrote in AO3 was “Sirius Black is too posh to be punk.”
ELM: And I liked that. I tend to read him as more of a Bowie, kind of a glam fan.
FK: Yeah. OK OK. But there’s other things people do too, OK, that were interesting.
ELM: Oh, you’re not gonna guess? You don’t wanna guess?
FK: You weren’t telling me, so I decided to give up.
ELM: I listened to a lot of Enya.
FK: OH, I DID TOO! SHE WAS IN THE LORD OF THE RINGS MOVIES SO I LISTENED TO LOTS OF ENYA! We were Enya twins.
ELM: It’s really good! [laughing] I was also really into Loreena McKennitt.
FK: I listened to the Anonymous 4 a bunch.
ELM: I don’t know what that is.
FK: That was a whole thing, they do chant.
ELM: So we’re in the realm of, “It’s not actually from the past but they’re really tryin’ for something.” You know?
FK: [laughing] Yes indeed. OK OK OK. So the other things that came in, it was funny, lots of people said they ate or drank food that matched with their vision. So like somebody said that, excuse me, this person’s name is Heather, hchas8tv on Twitter, said that she “chooses what adult beverage to drink based on what fanfic I’m going to be reading, like drinking mead while reading Merlin fanfic.”
FK: I was like, “YEAH.” Not to the mead, I don’t like mead that much, but yeah.
ELM: I don’t know what mead actually tastes like.
FK: I made it once. It’s sweet.
ELM: You can make mead?
FK: Yeah! In your kitchen! In a jug! You can make mead.
ELM: What are the ingredients?
ELM: And you let it ferment?
FK: It’s not hard. You can get a kit.
ELM: I never knew!
FK: Start making it right now. You feel special and sort of like you live in a fantasy adventure land.
ELM: Is this your way of leading into what you did as a child?
FK: Oh! Well, I guess. So OK, so this was my favorite, I loved eating adventure lunch, which would be some bread, not bread in slices, like a piece of French bread that had been torn off the loaf, right.
ELM: I imagine it's the end of the bread.
FK: Yeah! Exactly. And some jerky and maybe some cheese, especially the kind that comes wrapped in red wax, and maybe an apple.
ELM: Wait the kind that comes—like a Babybel?
FK: Well there are bigger ones, too.
ELM: Oh my God.
FK: Anyway, I don't know why I loved the red wax as part of this, it just felt old-timey. and then I would sit, like, maybe on the floor if it was raining, or maybe out in the yard, or wherever, and it would be my adventurer’s lunch, cause I was in a fantasy novel.
ELM: So Flourish told me this yesterday via Google Hangouts, the worst product ever made, and she was like, “Yeah, I just eat beef jerky and sit under the table.” And I was in the Rose Reading Room at the New York Public Library and I lost my shit. I was like, I could…I thought I was gonna start howling. I was, it was, I never in my life have I had to laugh so much and I was in a silent place.
FK: [laughing] But this story gets better because I tweeted about it and my husband, who is currently in Portugal, tweeted back at me saying “I did that too except I used crackers and called them hardtack.” And I freaked out cause I thought he was making fun of me but no, it turns out we were exactly the same kind of very tiny nerd.
ELM: OK. How did this not come up in your vows?
FK: [laughing] Well, they were palindromic, so it’s hard to write that into a palindrome.
ELM: Oh. My. God.
FK: You didn’t know that?
ELM: Your vows were palindromic.
ELM: This is, this is…I’m really glad you guys found each other. This is like a soulmate AU, but for a really weird type of nerdery, and you’re like, “Someday I’ll find the person who wants to do the palindromic vows with me.” [FK dissolves into laughter] And then your eyes met.
FK: No, it’s actually just that I am unsentimental and don’t mind having my work edited, because we didn’t have any vows written the night before, and Nick was like “I’ll write some!” And he did and it was fine.
FK: Anyway. Other things that people do a lot.
ELM: Tell me some of the responses.
FK: The big one was wearing earrings or some kind of jewelry or stealth cosplaying—even down to just, I’m just wearing the earrings.
ELM: OK first of all, I wear earrings that I got at GeekyCon that are the stars from the Harry Potter pages. [FK gasps] You know the little stars?
ELM: You’ve seen them, haven't you?
FK: I never identified them as that cause I never knew the story about what they were!
ELM: It’s the ultimate stealth cosplay, cause literally no one knows what they are except me and the person who made them.
FK: That’s delightful. I love it.
ELM: I point it out, people are like “Oh, that!” You can look at them tomorrow, I’ll be wearing them on the plane.
FK: That’s so delightful.
ELM: But we should describe what stealth cosplay is.
FK: OK. So cosplay as people know is when you dress up in a whole costume and you’re like, “Today, I am Thor, and I’m awesome.” And stealth cosplay…
ELM: Is that part of it? You have to say “I am awesome”?
FK: Well, if you’re Thor you are awesome.
ELM: OK, a better definition…not a better definition, but we had Teresa, a cosplayer…
FK: That’s true. We did have an actual cosplayer! [laughs]
ELM: Yes. And it was more than “I’m Thor and I’m awesome.” It may be worth listening to. This was maybe a couple months ago? Less than 10 episodes ago. Fewer than 10 episodes ago? I don’t know. So cosplaying I feel like can really vary. You could do a kind of approximation of a costume or you could do a full…
ELM: What would be an analogy? Not shot-for-shot. Stitch-for-stitch, right? Scale-for-scale.
FK: A complete screen-accurate or even more than screen-accurate, right. If it’s a historical costume and you’re like “They got this wrong, I’m going to fix it.”
ELM: Right. And then some people just wanna wear a costume and other people wanna get into character and they wanna be that character.
FK: Right. But then there’s also stealth cosplay, which is when you’re wearing either a costume that no one knows is a costume, like a lot of people really like finding Joan from Elementary’s clothing, she wears a lot of Rag & Bone, but also she wears all this off-the-rack fashion that’s not so expensive that it’s completely impossible for anybody to ever own. It’s fancy but not that, that fancy. So there’s a lot of people who like to buy that and wear her shirt, you know. Which is super stealth, but it’s still her shirt. It’s…
ELM: And when people wear that do they think of her? Yeah. Do they subconsciously channel?
FK: I can tell you that I think of her whenever I wear any article of clothing that is from a label I know that she wears.
ELM: You shop at Rag & Bone? You’re so fancy, Flourish.
FK: I have like one thing from Rag & Bone.
ELM: Wow. Jeez. Alright. So. It seems like it’s also like…when I see stealth cosplay, people talking about it, it’s often blocks of color.
FK: Yeah that’s true. Especially with superheroes, right?
ELM: Yeah, totally. So I remember the first time I learned about it was the only time I’ve ever met Gav, Gavia Baker-Whitelaw, my newsletter partner, IRL, literally only once have I met Gav which is incredible to me, in 2014 in Nineworlds in London, the con, and she was giving a presentation on stealth cosplay and I remember very distinctly that one of the examples was Hawkeye who wears a purple uniform…is that true? Hawkeye in the comic, not Jeremy Renner.
FK: There’s a lot of Hawkeyes, so that sounds right to me, but I wouldn’t say that I know.
ELM: I wanna say that it was purple and black and it was the example was, very specific. Just kind of lining up where the colors were on the uniform but not, obviously not wearing a superhero uniform. Right? Color-blocking in the vague spaces, one-to-one.
FK: We actually got, someone sent in their stealth cosplay. They showed themselves in cosplay as Loki and then in stealth cosplay as Loki, so we’ll put that in the show notes.
ELM: We should definitely share that, yeah, for sure.
FK: It’s delightful. So anyway there were a lot of people who talked about all the way from that down to just wearing little earrings like yours.
ELM: Sure. I mean, I guess sometimes I think about this. So as I was finishing up watching Black Sails, spoiler, the protagonist gets really mad. He’s really mad the whole time and he gets extra mad towards the end. And it was raining and it was April and May, oh it was May, and it was raining and cold so I had a coat so I was kinda stomping around in my boots. I always wear boots, almost all months of the year. And my coat. And I was just thinking, “I’m like an angry pirate just stomping around.” You know? And it was my normal outfit! I normally wear a coat that kind of flops around and a pair of boots, but it was more about thinking about it as I was moving around. I was like, “I’m mad. Just like Flynn.”
FK: Yeah! There’s also multiple directions this goes. One direction is what you just said, thinking about it or…
ELM: Did you just say “One Direction”?
FK: Sometimes I walk through…oh, God. [groans] Sometimes I walk through Washington Square Park and I’m like, “Ooh! If I got a Think Coffee I would be in Elementary right now!” Because for anybody who doesn’t know, they shoot there a lot.
ELM: Wow, I’m learning so much for Elementary tonight!
FK: Well it’s just because it’s very convenient. It'’ a very New York show in very particular ways and it happens to be, like, in the areas I’m around.
ELM: Do you know how many times I’ve been to various Think Coffees? Hundreds.
FK: Yeah! In the first season there’s an episode where a Think is featured and it’s the one by Washington Square Park. So every time I go in there I…
ELM: Where’s the Think by Washington Square Park?
FK: It’s not THAT close. I don’t know what cross-street it is. It’s nearby, though.
ELM: It’s gonna bother me. You’re gonna have to tell me the exact location.
FK: Well, I’ll put it in the show notes. Anyway, point being…
ELM: I believe you that there is one I just can’t figure out where it is in my head and I’m now mapping every Think Coffee in Manhattan.
FK: [laughing] Anyway, point being, there are some of those things that are more physical, even, than necessarily cosplay or whatever, and then there are things that are sort of marking you out as a fan.
ELM: Yeah. The physical stuff too, that's a whole other thing. I feel like at some point we should definitely have someone on to talk about fannish tourism or people who do…I know this is a big thing, not that I want to talk about Sherlock ever, but Setlock is a big thing, people going to the set, and I know that when I was living in London I had some friends from Sherlock fandom come and I would give them this little tour—and it’s funny, because it’s like, they were very ordinary locations in your daily life in central London, right. It’s like…
FK: It transmutes them for you as a fan, right.
ELM: You’re like, “That’s a park! It’s one square block wide! And that’s a bench they sat on.”
FK: People used to do this a lot with The X-files too in Vancouver, back in the 90s, which I always found particularly funny because Vancouver just looks like Vancouver, it’s Vancouver, I don’t know what to say about it.
ELM: I don’t know what that looks like.
FK: It looks like any city, because in the 90s lots of shows used to shoot up there. You could dress it to look pretty much like anywhere.
ELM: I’m sure it doesn’t look like New York City.
FK: No it doesn’t, but it also doesn’t look like DC and yet somehow it served as DC for many…anyway, so there’s those physical things, but then there’s also, no one knows unless I’m pointing at it and screaming about the X-files, that I’m looking at the FBI building because I’m an X-files fan, right? No one knows that I’m walking through Washington Square Park, no one knows that you’re stomping in puddles because you’re a pirate. And no one knows a lot of times with the stealth cosplay. But then people also wear things that telegraph that they’re fans, right? Your earrings are not there because they’re so subtle, but wearing a Gryffindor shirt. Or…
ELM: As I will be doing in the next four days. I’m packing only Harry Potter shirts.
FK: Right! Or wearing, you got me a mug that says “Don’t let the Muggles get you down.” And that mug is obviously not an in-universe item, because it has WB things on it. Right? So when I have it in a meeting and I’m on video with people…
ELM: Do you use that in meetings? That’s incredible.
FK: I do! Sometimes I do! It’s my little I’m-a-nerd thing. It’s telegraphing to other people “I love Harry Potter. I’m a nerd about Harry Potter.”
ELM: I also got it for you, this was for Christmas last year and I felt like we were all on a point of despair, and it kind of had a double meaning for me in the sense of I was feeling really sad about Donald Trump. Did you also interpret it that way?
FK: I did.
ELM: Great! [laughs]
FK: But you know what I mean, right? The Weasley sweater may make you feel like, it makes me feel like I’m a Weasley, but it also is a thing that if I wear it people on the street go “That’s a Weasley sweater!”
ELM: That’s really cute! Do you wear it out? I haven’t had the opportunity.
FK: I’ve worn it out a couple times and I’ve had little kids be like “That’s a Weasley sweater, yeah!”
ELM: That’s really cute.
FK: It’s like, both things. And sometimes those things can be in-universe and sometimes out-of-universe.
ELM: So all this is super disconnected from the kind of things that we’re gonna be seeing at San Diego Comic-Con…you don’t think it's disconnected? You’re making a skeptical face.
FK: Yeah, I don’t think it’s that disconnected.
ELM: I think that it is disconnected from me reading Locke and listening to Purcell.
FK: Yeah, but it’s not disconnected from me receiving a Harry Potter mug. I’m sure there are mugs of this sort on sale. It’s not disconnected from wearing a Her Universe dress, where there’s the Her Universe fashion show and so forth there, right?
ELM: In the sense of, you’re one fan, and that spreads out in different ways. But I don’t know. If I were to say “Oh, I’m gonna try to recreate what it’s like to be…” I was thinking about this today because it was Jane Austen’s birthday. Birthday? Yeah.
FK: Or death anniversary?
ELM: Whatever. It was some anniversary for Jane Austen, people were talking a lot about her. It was say-things-about-Jane-Austen day. I was reading this one article and it was talking about the rivalry between the people who like the text and the context. Right? And I doubt that this is a binary, I bet there’s a lot of people who like both. But the text people are interested in the books, and the context was people who were very interested in the period. Even people who wanted to try to recreate, see what it was like to live in the Regency era. That’s interesting because the distance between…what were some examples? Consuming the same amount of sugar that someone of Elizabeth Bennet’s class would have had in whatever year that was. Versus wearing an Elizabeth Bennet, a sassy T-shirt or something.
ELM: The only thing that connects those things is a very distant connection to the source material, and you, the fan.
FK: Right, but…well, to some degree too though…yes. OK. Yes.
ELM: [laughs] I mean the only thing that connects, you know…if I were to buy a Black Sails t-shirt tomorrow the only thing that connects that to me listening to Purcell literally is me. That’s it. It’s not even in the show.
FK: But if you compare it more like, if you buy a Black Sails t-shirt versus…I don’t know if there’s something in Black Sails, let me rethink it. If I buy a Battlestar Galactica t-shirt that says, like, “frak this day” or something, cause “frak” is the word they use instead of “fuck” and…yeah?
FK: Anyway. Versus, and I wear it, versus wearing Starbuck’s dog tags underneath my clothes where no one can see them, versus wearing it outside which is something that only other Battlestar Galactica fans would recognize as a nerdy thing…
ELM: Wait, already your example of Starbuck’s dog tags are something that’s from the world, whereas I’m talking about going one step removed. Or people doing research, we had I know in our responses we had Jenny was talking about how she was really into Rent when she was a teenager and so then she learned about the AIDS crisis. Right?
FK: Right. But one thing that connects them is they’re not narrative fan things, and they’re not…sometimes maybe they’re fanworks in the sense of, if you knit a Weasley sweater, that’s maybe a fanwork. But they’re fan practices that people choose to do that are…
ELM: So what I’m arguing though, and those examples were not ideal, I think my personal example stands not only that but say…OK. Say you have a headcanon for Hermione. That she really loved Lord-knows-what. The Spice Girls! Right?
FK: She might’ve, sure!
ELM: That’s time appropriate. She’s a feminist. And she likes…well, does she like fun? It’s unclear. Regardless.
FK: We never hear about it because she’s a little embarrassed about it.
ELM: Sure. Why would she talk about that? It’s just her thing. So say Hermione likes the Spice Girls in your head, maybe in your fic, the only connection between the Spice Girls and Harry Potter is you, is what I’m trying to say. You’re giving me examples of things that conceivably other fans could come to. But I’m talking about things that are super personal and that are only gonna make sense to you.
FK: Like my Haldir example.
ELM: I don’t know what that means, I’ve already forgotten.
FK: Haldir the elf. And the pop song.
ELM: YES! Yeah. I mean, that feels like it’s just you having…I’m trying to think of some examples…when I was watching Torchwood, for some reason at that time I was trying to try drinking scotch instead of drinking beer when I was having a drink after work. So I came to associate having a small glass of scotch with Torchwood. Literally nothing to do with the show, it was just what I had when I drank it, right. So that's a similar example that actually genuinely has nothing to do with it. It’s just something you associate with it.
FK: That’s true. I guess I feel like…I think that’s one of the things that’s interesting about this, is that when we asked people about what they do that’s non-narrative that makes them feel closer to their fandom, there were sort of three really…there were three types of things they talked about. They talked about the very private personal things; they talked about things that are getting them closer to the world—because it feels like you’re in the world somehow, whether that's personal or not; and then they talked about things that signal to other people that you’re a fan of the world. And to yourself as well. So there’s these three little…and they overlap. It’s sort of a Venn diagram situation here.
FK: But I think that’s interesting because I think that there…and it’s not to do necessarily, things that are merch could fit actually probably in all three of these spaces.
ELM: You just had to say “merch” again to hurt me.
FK: And things that are like fan creativity, fanworks, could fit in all of them and things that are just experiences.
ELM: Right, but I think when you're talking about merchandise, I think that a lot of the stuff we’re talking about, it’s unrealistic that anyone is going to say “Oh, I bet a Battlestar Galactica fan’s gonna like X” if it’s something so specific and something so personal.
FK: Yeah, obviously there’s a balance. Obviously no one’s gonna make a mix cd of pop songs that’s gonna make one person in the world relate to elves. But there are other things that might. Like the necklace, the dog tags. Like your Harry Potter earrings. There’s other things along those lines that could conceivably be merchandise. Some of them are and some of them aren’t.
ELM: And that’s the stuff that I find…that’s one of the things I find vaguely annoying about SDCC and big cons like that. It’s really hard to find stuff like that. It’s super easy to buy…
FK: A t-shirt that has Rey’s face plastered on it.
ELM: Yeah. A Harry Potter t-shirt or whatever. Not Harry Potter at this point in the franchise. But you know what I mean? Or, I’m trying to think of things I bought at SDCC. Like last year I bought a Captain Jack Harkness Funko Pop at the BBC booth because I was like, “I wanna buy something.”
FK: Yeah, because it feels like an important part of the experience.
ELM: I gotta get one thing.
FK: And that’s part of it too. Being a fan as consumption.
ELM: Right, and it’s not something that’s ever really been a part of my fan life but…maybe that’s not really true. I have always gathered things. It’s not like I would say no if you offered me a…
FK: You do have those adorable fanarts.
ELM: Well, art is different. Fanart is different to me.
FK: Is it different than a movie poster?
FK: I mean it is different, I'm not saying it’s not, but is it more different than a movie poster than a TV shirt with fanart on it is from an official piece of merchandise?
ELM: I think my fanart that’s on the wall is kind of an interesting example. I’ll put a picture up in the show notes, but as you know, because you hammered them all into the wall yourself and then my neighbor from the next building came over to yell at us, which was incredible, I thought, and I’m still not over it…
FK: That was amazing.
ELM: Literally the next building. We’re not in the same building.
FK: It was in the middle of the day on a weekend, there was no reason for people to be mad.
ELM: In a brick wall. Presumably she also has a brick wall. I’m not over it, she’s not gonna listen to this, I feel fine about it. And she climbed down four flights of stairs and back up my four flights of stairs to yell at me.
FK: I was boggled. Anyway.
ELM: So there’s four of them, and there’s one for each Hogwarts house, and they’re little collections of items. So the Gryffindor one…and they’re very, I don’t know how you’d describe the style. It’s very soft, kind of folksy style, maybe. What do you think?
FK: Yeah. They’re like, pencil and watercolor, maybe?
ELM: Maybe, yeah. And the Gryffindor one has a mug of butterbeer and a little pie and things like that. They’re little collections of items.
FK: That are in the colors and so forth.
ELM: And they’re themed around the colors, and each of them has a little plant and a little drink and something. And they’re very soft and it’s interesting because I cannot imagine Warner Brothers being like, “We’re gonna commission these four and sell them!” Even though they’re an aesthetic that I think that thousands of Harry Potter fans would be interested in. So it’s interesting to see fanart in particular and fanmade crafts open up a space for what some fans really want. That’s a space that's often completely overlooked by the rights holders of these properties.
FK: Absolutely. But I don’t think there’s…I mean, the question in this case is whether the rights holders of the property are aware that there is a market for it, think there is a market for it. If they thought they could make money on it they would probably make it.
ELM: Right. So they don’t know about it. So we shouldn’t tell them, so the money can go to thoughtful fan creators and not to the rights holders.
FK: I’ve got some bad news for you about my job, Elizabeth.
ELM: Don’t tell them. [FK laughs] We have this blurb at the end, the opinions here are not whatever whatever, this isn’t about your job, do not tell them, do not tell Warner Brothers that people would really love these fanarts. No! That’s not true. Fuck it! If the artist wants to make a bunch of money, go ahead. Tell Warner Brothers. But don’t let Warner Brothers rip them off, basically, is what I would say.
FK: Fair enough, fair enough. I don’t want anybody to be ripped off.
ELM: OK. Just as long as you don’t rip off fan artists I like.
FK: OK. I think we’re just about out of time. I don’t know that we came to any conclusions but I felt like we touched on a lot of interesting ideas.
ELM: You thought we were gonna come to conclusions on this topic?
FK: No, but maybe one of them would have appeared?
ELM: Yeah. I mean…
FK: A wild conclusion came galumphing over the plains?
ELM: What are you doing right now?
ELM: Galumphing. Is this you on one of your quests?
FK: Galumph. Galumph. Galumph. Yes.
ELM: Did you wear an outfit when you were on a quest under the table?
ELM: Interesting, why not?
FK: Cause I didn’t have one.
ELM: You didn’t put a blanket around your shoulders like a cloak?
FK: I don’t think so.
ELM: Hmm. Why do you think that is?
FK: Because I was more interested in reading the book I was reading about being on an adventure as I was eating?
ELM: [flabbergasted] You were…I’m sorry. You were eating fuckin’ jerky under the table! You were obviously…
FK: While reading a book! About being on an adventure! [all laugh] Shut up!
ELM: Well I just feel like…
FK: WE’RE OUT OF TIME, WE CAN’T TALK ABOUT THIS ANY MORE!
ELM: I wanna interrogate this a little! I just feel like what is more standard for children is to play dress-up. And I find it interesting that you bypassed the dress-up phase and you just wanted to eat jerky under a table.
FK: I really like jerky and bread and cheese and I did not really want to play dress-up. I wanted to eat my food and read my book.
ELM: That is so interesting to me. Endlessly fascinating.
FK: I’m so glad I am such a subject of fascination. Anyway, we should be done with this, though, because we are truly out of time.
ELM: OK, will you ask Nick if he wore costumes while he ate his hardtack?
FK: I will ask him this question, the only costume I’ve ever gotten him to admit to is a ninja costume.
ELM: In what context?
FK: With his friend Tom. Running around. And I probably should not say this on the podcast, sorry honey.
ELM: He doesn’t listen, don’t worry about it. We can say literally anything about him.
FK: Anyway, I’ll find out!
ELM: Please let everyone know, but especially me.
FK: OK. As always, there’s a couple of orders of business to just mention at the end. Please rate us on iTunes, write a review, we’ll have a link to that in the show notes. Please if you’ve got some cash chip some in towards our Patreon, it really makes a difference and enables us to do what we’re doing.
ELM: That’s patreon.com/fansplaining, and as you’ll see when you’re there, there’s different rewards for different levels and even $1-a-month helps. I just saw this post going around, and actually I put it in our drafts so we could probably post it too, where people were saying, “I hope that people are not holding back from donating only $1-a-month because they’re embarrassed.”
FK: Yeah don’t hold back! That’s the best kind of donation.
ELM: I know I’m not supposed to talk about how I get tips at the racetrack, but sorry, I do, this is a sorry to my mother who’s like “Don’t talk about it!” But sometimes people give me tips at the racetrack…in case anybody doesn’t know, I’ve worked at a racetrack on and off for a very long time, since 2003. And I’ve had people say to me, they’ll have like 80 cents in change and they’ll be like “Oh, you don’t want that, that’s too insulting.” I’ll be like “NO. Obviously if you gave me 80 cents and the next guy does, we’re already up to $1.60, this really adds up.” It’s not insulting in any way, and I’m so grateful to anyone who only has $1 to spare and chooses to give it to us.
FK: Yeah, incredibly grateful.
ELM: That’s so meaningful to me. So. Don’t let that hold you back! That’s $12-a-year, which is the equivalent of one fannish drink to have while you read your favorite fic.
FK: It’s so true! OK. So that, and then also, earlier we were asking for people’s responses to this episode, we thought people might have comments, you can send those to us fansplaining on Twitter, fansplaining on Tumblr, firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ve also got our phone number on our Tumblr page so you can call and leave us a voice message.
ELM: Oh, do that!
FK: We love those.
ELM: You know what I would love, for this question in particular, is pictures.
FK: Send pictures too!
ELM: If you stealth cosplay, if you have done something weird that only makes sense to you in a fannish way…
FK: Oh yeah.
ELM: I shouldn’t say “weird,” but you know what I mean, something where you’re like, “No one’s gonna understand this but this is very important to me, fannishly.”
FK: Admit it to us. Surely I cannot be the only one.
ELM: We don’t even need to understand it. Just very briefly explain it, send us the picture, we would love to post it, we can keep it anonymous if you want or just use a pseudonym or whatever, but yes. Send us stuff and we’ll post it in one big post.
FK: All right!
ELM: OK. I know that when everyone hears this we’ll have already gone to Comic-Con and it will have been epic, but I’m excited to see you at Comic-Con!
FK: I’m excited to see you too!
FK: Coming from the past and the future and all the timelines intersecting.
ELM: Wow, this is some sort of big romantic fanfiction, I’m glad that everyone ships us.
FK: Good NIGHT, Elizabeth.
ELM: [laughing] Bye Flourish!
[Outro music, disclaimers and thank yous]