Episode 78: The Fan Studies Network

 
 
Episode 78’s cover: the Fan Studies Network logo.

In Episode 78, “The Fan Studies Network,” Elizabeth attends the Fan Studies Network’s annual academic conference in Cardiff, Wales, and interviews the founders of the FSN, Lucy Bennett and Tom Phillips. Back in the U.S., she and Flourish discuss some of the most exciting things she heard at the conference, the intersections and tensions between academics and non-academic fans, and the ways in which diversity is still a challenge for fan studies.

 

Show Notes

[00:00:00] As always, our intro music is “Awel,” by Stefsax.

[00:01:23] If you really want to get a sense of Cardiff, this famous photo series by Maciej Dakowicz will give you an idea.

Here is a picture of Elizabeth at the remains of Ianto’s shrine with fan studies scholar Dr. Naomi Jacobs:

Elizabeth and Dr. Naomi Jacobs standing in front of Ianto’s Shrine, a wall covered in flyers and photographs fans have tacked up commemorating Ianto from  Torchwood .

[00:02:37Our “Bad Fans” episode is #75.

[00:07:48] Listen to our interviews of Lori Morimoto and Stephanie Burt (also Stephanie part 2)!

[00:11:45] Also listen to interviews of Emily Roach and Owen Parry!

[00:15:36] Fangasm is an excellent book, by Kathy Larsen and Lynn Zubernis, and you should check it out!

[00:15:51] The Bundy erotic fanfiction was indeed Colin Meloy, the Decemberist, not John Darnielle, the Mountain Goat.

[00:18:58] The paper on SKAM was given by Briony Hannell, who you can find on Twitter! The fanvid Elizabeth recommends so highly is “Sana Bakkoush | Religion” by aphelia, and you can view it here.

[00:19:55] Our episode “Shipping and Activism.”

[00:20:38] If you aren’t familiar with the Harry Potter Alliance, check them out!

[00:22:12] The musical break is “Off to Osaka” by Kevin MacLeod.

[00:22:52] Lucy Bennett is on Twitter as @bennettlucyk and you can see her profile at her university. Tom Phillips is on Twitter as @thetomphillips and you can go to his research website. Here’s Tom giving a talk about his study of women’s wrestling, not at FSN:

 
 

The Fan Studies Network Twitter is @fanstudies, and you can also check out their Facebookmailing list, and website. If you want to check out the Twitter stream from the conference, the hashtag was #FSN2018 and it was GREAT.

[00:33:35] Henry’s series is “The State of Fandom Studies 2018″ and they’re published at his blog. You should definitely read it. The entries featuring Lucy Bennett and Ruth Deller are here: Part 1 and Part 2.

[00:50:01] The musical break is “Off to Osaka” again.

[00:55:50] Lori’s course Fan Studies For Fans is here.

[00:56:44] The Fan Meta Reader!

[01:02:15] We are complaining here about Chris Christie, and in this particular instance we’re complaining about how he (the Governor of New Jersey) fucked the future of Amtrak service to New York City by blocking a tunnel repair project called “Access to the Region’s Core” (catchy name, right?) (um, if you really want to learn about this problem you can read about how it’s getting fought over to this day).

HOWEVER he is much more famous for “Bridgegate,” which Wikipedia calls the “Fort Lee lane closure scandal,” in which he decided to create traffic jams for shits and giggles (and to get back at Fort Lee’s mayor for political reasons). He was also maybe going to be Trump’s VP and then that blew up his face, and he is basically a bad and highly pathetic person. And he spent a lot of time on Super Tuesday standing behind Trump looking like a hostage and becoming a meme. Like, he literally put out a statement saying “I was not being held hostage.” Because he had to say so.


Transcript

[Intro music]

Flourish Klink: Hi, Elizabeth!

Elizabeth Minkel: Hi, Flourish!

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

ELM: This is Episode 78, “The Fan Studies Network.”

FK: Woo hoo! And it’s a very special episode because you went on site to the Fan Studies Network conference and are reporting back from it!

ELM: All right first of all, every episode is a very special episode. Just wanted to make sure that’s out there. But yeah, I literally got back from the United Kingdom yesterday, I’m a little jetlagged. [laughter]

FK: Poor baby!

ELM: Don’t worry, don’t worry! [laughing] And yeah, I happened to be in the U.K. for work the week before the Fan Studies Network annual conference in Cardiff, which was—I guess it will be a week and a half ago when this episode comes out.

FK: Cardiff, a site close to your fannish heart because of Torchwood.

ELM: Oh yes absolutely. Don’t remind me. Actually do remind me. I went to visit Ianto’s shrine! It’s really hangin’ on there. [FK laughing] They’ve taken down a lot of the things. I think they had to. It was really, paper doesn’t last that long. Even laminated paper. You know how often it rains on that paper? A lot. A lot.

FK: It is Wales. It is Wales.

ELM: Anyway, I first, I went to half of a Fan Studies Network conference in 2014 when I was living in London and it was held there, so I was excited to go back and to go for the entire thing this time. It was nice to see everything from start to finish.

FK: Awesome.

ELM: So we’ll do this in two parts. I’ve already talked to the founders of the Fan Studies Network, Doctors Lucy Bennett and Tom Phillips, and so I think that we should talk a little bit about the conference, and then I can play the interview and then we can kind of debrief, since you didn’t get to participate in either the conference or the interview.

FK: Yeah, I’m just taggin’ along here. Yeah, that sounds good! But first I wanted to bring up an email that we got, because it seems important. So we got an email from Rachel, and she was commenting on a couple of episodes, starting with the “Bad Fans” episode where we were talking about redemption and antiheroes, about how we had been talking about our religious faith. We’re both Episcopalian, in case you missed the memo. And we were using that to sort of talk about fandom and fan culture and talk through that. 

And she said that we felt like we were assuming Christian hegemony, basically. That we had said “Oh, we’re gonna talk about religion and fandom,” and then we sort of slid into just talking about Episcopalianism and fandom. Yeah, I mean, I think we were pretty clear that we were talking about our own religions, but on the other hand we did talk a lot about a specific flavor of Christianity. A lot.

ELM: Yeah. It’s tricky. In some ways it’s nice that you and I share…we are in the same denomination and somewhat of the same level of participation and some of the same…it’s surprising actually, because I have friends who participate in religion in various types and ways, but you are one of the closer people to my own experiences and practices in my life. So that’s kind of funny that you are my podcast partner. [FK laughs] You know what I mean? At a time when we have to discuss morality all the time. Which is kind of neat sometimes, because I feel like sometimes it means we’re starting on the same page.

That being said, obviously…you literally majored in Religious Studies so, and I have studied a variety of religious backgrounds in anthropology, fully aware that there are many many perspectives on things. Unfortunately it is more likely that we’re often going to be talking about, from our own perspectives and through the lens of our own faith or spiritual practice. Which is, like, I don’t…we’re not gonna sit here and be like “Well, I feel like the Muslim view on the world is…” You know, which is probably for the best. We’re not gonna try to speculate or appropriate or anything like that. But it limits our perspectives obviously.

FK: Yeah, but on the other hand it was funny because when I read Rachel’s email I was like “Yeah, obviously…” and what’s funny is there's a lot of things about, for instance, the way that many Jewish people…not to speak for Jewish people, but the way that I…OK, two of my close friends are Rabbis, I feel like I can do a little bit about this, the way they speak about their faith…

ELM: You’re doing literally what I said we weren’t gonna do!

FK: No no, but I would like to hear their perspectives on this, because the way I have often heard them talk about their faith existing through community and practice and so on—that's important to Christians too, but I think it’s especially important to them personally, maybe not for all Jewish people, anyway…point being I think there’s lots of different perspectives that can be brought to this, and I would love to talk more with people of other faiths about the way their religious practices seem to reflect or not reflect fandom.

ELM: Absolutely. I hope this was already pretty clear to anyone listening but just as we had, Katie wrote in after this initial conversation and probably why it felt like we were talking a lot about Christianity… 

FK: [laughing] Because we were!

ELM: Katie was writing from a Christian perspective, but everyone is encouraged to do the same with their own either faith or lack of! Honestly, too, if we are coming at a specific question with that lens, kind of interested too to see if you come at it from an areligious lens or an atheistic lens too to say “Here’s how I frame it when I don’t have those structures,” that kind of thing, we would love that kind of feedback from everyone, so if you feel like you can articulate your worldview and it’s not being presented here, please please never hesitate to write or record a voicemail or whatever.

FK: Absolutely, and yeah. Absolutely.

ELM: Absolutely!

FK: I feel like here I need to say about “And you can't possibly offend me, because I was both raised atheist and am married to an atheist, so come at me bros, if you wanna argue let’s argue,” but I don’t think that I need to say that.

ELM: You can say that, but then if Richard Dawkins wrote in [FK gasps] doing his top Richard Dawkins, he would offend you and you’d be really annoyed.

FK: That’s true. It is possible in fact to offend me. [laughing]

ELM: I would be kind of pleased if Richard Dawkins wrote in to the Fansplaining podcast.

FK: We would definitely let Richard Dawkins be his dickish self at us, if only so that we could… 

ELM: Dear Richard, you’re invited to comment on fandom and morality.

FK: Great. OK. Now that that's settled [all laugh] I wanna hear about the Fan Studies Network conference.

ELM: OK. All right! So the Fan Studies Network was founded by the guests that I spoke to, Lucy and Tom… 

FK: That we will hear from shortly.

ELM: Yes. To clarify too, this year’s conference in Cardiff was organized by Lucy and also Rebecca Williams, who's on the board of the Fan Studies Network. The FSN is only a few years old, it was founded by these two when they were just starting out in their post-PhD and looking for a support network, and Fan Studies is a…we’ve had Fan Studies scholars on before, so I think a lot of our listeners will have some sense of the discipline, at least some of the work that’s done within it, if they’ve been listening for awhile.

FK: Yeah. I think the most recent person that we had who considers themselves a Fan Studies scholar is, I think, Lori Morimoto?

ELM: Definitely. The previous academic we had before that was Stephanie Burt, who I don’t think she actually…I think she engages with Fan Studies but wouldn’t necessarily… 

FK: Definitely not a Fan Studies person.

ELM: At some level there’s self-definition there because both of those scholars, or all the scholars we’ve had on, do work on fans, or think deep thoughts about fans, but I think there’s some level of self-definition involved.

FK: Right. Not everybody is in that field and not even everybody who studies fans considers themselves in that field. I feel like a lot of people who study sports don’t consider themselves to be part of the Fan Studies field, although some do.

ELM: Right, or I did my dissertation on fandom and Tumblr and Twitter book fandom in the digital humanities, was what I was doing my Master’s in. But I could have easily branded that as Fan Studies if I wanted, but I didn’t really know that was a choice. Plus I was just eager to turn that thing in, so.

FK: Right.

ELM: Never ask to read it. The number of people who’ve asked to read it and I’m like “Nope, I shouldn’t mention that I ever did it, and it’s fine.”

FK: Yeah, I have to say occasionally my Master’s thesis has been cited and I just think “Oh my God, what are you doing, stop it, that was terrible, don’t.”

ELM: Our bad academic selves talking about an academic conference.

FK: But to be clear, this IS an academic conference, right? It’s all academic, it's very academic, right? It’s not like a fan con combined with… 

ELM: Well, so it’s two days, Cardiff, the finest city in the United Kingdom. Cardiff is ridiculous, I can’t stress to you how ridiculous it is. And I’ll have you know that the second night I wound up with a new friend from the conference, against all odds, because we had thought to make an early night of it, at three in the morning, sitting amongst the utter garbage, sea of garbage, detritus, seagulls, styrofoam cartons, just drunk men lying on the…drunk women…drunk people of all genders lying on the ground! [FK laughing] Passed out! And sharing cheap chips from a street called Chippie Alley that runs through the center.

FK: Chippie Alley!

ELM: Yeah, it’s Caroline Street. If you ever wanna see a girl in a skirt so short you can see her butt from the bottom leaning over and chatting up a cop while eating some chips at two in the morning, that is where you should go, Cardiff, Wales, finest city in the world.

FK: Amazing.

ELM: Did I sell it to you?

FK: So you studied the local wildlife and… 

ELM: I have been out in Cardiff many times because I find it so hilarious, and so I was really glad that things wound up that way. Anyway, so, Cardiff, I went to Cardiff! The conference was two days long. There were two keynotes, one in the morning on Friday, one afternoon on Saturday. There was a party with a fannish pub quiz that I missed half of so then couldn’t participate in, the Friday night. It’s fine. Don’t worry. I didn't know what those Infinity Stones were so I wouldn’t have won that round, but now I do. Cause I saw the movie three months late. [laughter] 

So every day had a few sessions and each session would have a bunch of different, there would be three different things running simultaneously around a rough theme, and you had to pick which track you wanted to go to. And there was also a session which I didn't actually attend this year called Speed Geeking, where people who are just working, starting out an idea for a paper or research project can kinda do a speed dating thing where you make little teams and you go around from group to group saying “here’s my research” and people in the groups kinda question you, you know.

FK: Well that’s cool! That sounds very useful.

ELM: Poke at your research, yeah. And it seems to be very helpful, especially if you’re just starting out too and you’re trying to get some feedback from a variety of different people. I think that’s a really nice feature.

FK: Yeah, I wish I had had something like that, I can tell you that a lot of bad ideas wouldn’t have happened. [laughing] Or would have been better ideas.

ELM: I participated in it when I went to the one in 2014! So I saw a whole bunch of panels, some really interesting stuff.

FK: What were the stand-outs for you? What were, I mean, obviously you didn’t see everything so you can't speak to everything, but what was really interesting?

ELM: I’ll tell you, first of all I was given a Sophie’s choice, because Emily Roach—who was our guest from our “Queer YA” episode—was presenting on anti-fandom and tinhatting in one of the Friday afternoon sessions. Simultaneously, while Owen Parry [FK gasps] from “Larry is Real,” one of our first episodes, was presenting on…I can’t remember the topic because I’d already committed to Emily. But it was something about homonormativity and the queer domestic and I was just like “AH! Stab me!” These were two of the things I was most interested in seeing in the entire thing, because obviously those are deep within our sphere. All of those topics. I was just like “AH.” 

It was great cause I was chatting with both of them beforehand and they were both like “You can go to the other one!” and I was like “AH.” I should just go to neither of them! But, so, I thought Emily gave a great presentation. It was somewhat work to exonerate Snape, you’ll be pleased to hear.

FK: Ooh yeah, I’m into that! Let’s exonerate Snape.

ELM: There was another presentation in that same session that Tom, the person that, one of the organizers, we’ll hear from, gave on women’s wrestling fandom that I found very interesting. He was talking a lot about indie women’s wrestling spaces, in opposition to the WWE, of which people like Linda McMahon—who’s now in the Trump administration—are a part of, right. They’re more organic spaces, less corporate spaces, trying to combat corporate feminism.

It was really interesting cause he kind of situated himself within this research, because wrestling is a very participatory event, so the audience shouts things out and they play back and forth. He talked about some of his own times where he shouted things out and how his position as a male wrestling fan in a women’s wrestling space, it was really interesting kind of gender dynamics, and I thought one of the better examples of scholarship or commentary I’ve seen of a person of privilege writing about a marginalized space and how they can sit within it. So kind of acknowledging his own privilege while studying the more marginalized fan community, if that makes sense.

FK: That makes sense and it also sounds like a sort of interesting way to think about…everyone has talked a million times about “I’m a fan but I’m also a scholar, how do these things fit together,” et cetera, and in this case it’s like “No, let’s take a very concrete…” it sounds like. “Let’s take a very concrete incident of being involved in this experience and talking about that,” as opposed to sort of in a…I don’t know, a more abstract way. A lot of people talk about it abstractly.

ELM: Right! It was as if you were writing about Tumblr discourse or something, and you then cited your own posts and how you were involved in the conversation.

FK: Yeah! Which people could!

ELM: I really liked that and I really liked the acknowledgment of the lack of distance. There was one part he was talking about where he started chanting “BOTH THESE GIRLS,” I think that was the chant, because the women were wrestling and he wanted them both to win, and then that’s the chant…the chant started a little bit and then someone else corrected him and shouted “BOTH THESE WOMEN, BOTH THESE WOMEN.” So it was talking about the privilege he had to initiate the chant, to know the conventions of wrestling, to use his male voice and that privilege of not hesitating. But then being corrected within that, the mistake that he made, by calling them “girls.” So that was very interesting. I liked that a lot.

One of the other standouts for me, the panel that I thought had the most success of all the ones I viewed, was one about politics and fandom. My favorite paper on that was, actually there were two that I really loved. One was by Kathy Larsen, who is one of the women behind the Fangasm books, you know, those Supernatural scholars?

FK: Yeah, the Supernatural ones!

ELM: I’ve followed her, I’ve read a few of their books so I’ve followed her for awhile, but I really loved this paper. It started with talking about the Bundy erotic fanfiction thing, do you remember this? Ammon Bundy and the militiamen who…

FK: Yeah yeah yeah I remember this!

ELM: So if anyone doesn't remember, the militiamen in Eastern Oregon who were holed up with…it was a federal office that they were holding hostage, right?

FK: Yeah, they were holed up in it and people started writing fanfic about them, figuring they would hate this.

ELM: It was the lead singer of The Decemberists, I want to say.

FK: Yes, he’s a writer also.

ELM: He was like “These guys would really hate it if you wrote some gay fanfiction about them!”

FK: Wait, no, The Mountain Goats, wasn’t it?

ELM: No, I think it was The Decemberists.

FK: Well, anyway, one of those two, bands I listened to in college. [laughing]

ELM: I don’t think it was the Mr. Mountain Goats. But, so… [all laughing] So… 

FK: THE MR. MOUNTAIN GOATS. That’s very accurate.

ELM: Yeah, yeah, I’m your grandma. “How is that Mr. Mountain Goats that you listen to?” Not to be ageist. That was me. That was a person in their 30s, not a grandmother. [FK howling with laughter] But y’know, I remember being annoyed in that. It was the very first issue of “The Rec Center,” Gav made that the final thought. “At first this seems funny, but actually, hmm, seems kind of homophobic.” And it was. The entire point was to make them uncomfortable by writing erotic, explicit erotic slashfic about them. And so she took that and kind of dug into some of the…some of the tensions we explored a lot in 2016 about the political as fandom and fandom as politics as well, that kind of crossover intersections. A lot of the sort of…she described that as the act without the affect. So, people writing political… 

FK: That’s true, yeah yeah!

ELM: People writing political fanfiction during the election or even now: You’re not a fan of the Bundies, you're not a fan of Trump or Obama, people you like, obviously people write political RPF, but when these journalists are writing it it’s more like an exercise. If you told me to write One Direction fanfiction I wouldn’t have any passion for it, but I could do it as an intellectual exercise.

FK: Although you might develop it at some point.

ELM: Would I?

FK: Maybe. I did! I did!

ELM: I know.

FK: Genuinely! I’m probably a bad person because all I can think of is political lesbianism in this context.

ELM: What do you mean political lesbianism?

FK: Haven’t you ever met a person who says they’re a political lesbian, they’re not attracted to other women but as a political stance they can’t be with men?

ELM: Yes. I have.

FK: Yeah. Makes me think of that.

ELM: Yeah. So that was really interesting. There was another one in that presentation that I loved that was about SKAM.

FK: The Norwegian show?

ELM: The Norwegian show which is now becoming an international license.

FK: It’s being translated, yeah yeah yeah.

ELM: The Norwegian teen show. So the fourth season of the show centered on the Muslim character in the group, cause each season centers on one of the teens from this group. So the researcher was talking about how Muslim teen fans were using this character to kind of perform…not necessarily activism, but civic engagement and citizenship. There was a lot of kind of interesting discussion about, I would say there was not in this presentation, and this presentation was wonderful, highlighted this fanvid that I really want everyone to see. So we’ll put that in the show notes, cause it made me cry in the middle of things.

FK: Whoa!

ELM: It was really well done. It interspersed anti-Muslim rhetoric from current events with clips from the show and it just made it feel very very real in a way that I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a fanvid that did it in that way. I would love for you to see that too. There was in the political stuff, which was a recurring theme in a lot of the presentations, there was kind of a jumble between words like “activism” and “civic engagement” and “citizenship.” 

There was a great presentation in a different panel by a Brazilian researcher, who I think might be coming on this show in the future, about f/f romances on Brazilian telenovelas and fan, “fan activism” around those ships: making demands to the network, the kind of shipping and activism stuff we talk a lot about, especially around that episode where we talked all about shipping and activism.

And in some of these presentations, there was sort of a muddling of what activism meant. Not any of the ones I just named, but some of the other ones that I won’t necessarily name, because I thought they might have been a little less successful. There were a lot of invocations of the Harry Potter Alliance without a lot of explanation or sometimes understanding of what the Harry Potter Alliance does, which is actually formally training activists, not just making people civically aware or engaged in social justice ideas.

FK: Yeah, or doing book drives.

ELM: Actual activist training with actual goals and results and things like that.

FK: I find that a little startling, I guess, because I always think…maybe it’s just because of my familiarity with it I guess. But it seems to me like there’s been a few cases where the Harry Potter Alliance has had very well publicized successes in, for instance, lobbying to get Chocolate Frogs in the Harry Potter parks changed to fair-trade chocolate, things like this. Things that are actually, they engaged in activism and lobbying this company to change what they were doing. Successfully!

ELM: Right, or… 

FK: That’s not civic engagement, that’s… 

ELM: Or the work of the Granger Leadership Academy, which is, they genuinely do a lot of work that’s about helping young people who are civically minded and maybe social justice oriented into considering themselves actual activists and wanting to perform formal activism where they act. Where they have campaigns and goals and organize other people and all the things that we think of as formal activism. A lot of that got lost, and I found that some people were just citing the Harry Potter Alliance as “fan activism,” in a way that kind of frustrated me, to the point where at one point I literally mansplained what the Harry Potter Alliance did to the crowd.

FK: Oops.

ELM: I don’t know, I’m just not gonna sit there and hear people speculating the way they do. Hi! It’s a fact! So that was my participation if you were there, I was just mansplaining things in the back row, so. [FK laughing] That’s fine. I was actually in the middle, not in the back, so that’s fine.

FK: All right, all right, Hermione.

ELM: So those are some of my observations, but I don’t want to go too much into it, because we’re gonna have to listen to some thoughts about the conference from the Fan Studies scholars themselves.

FK: All right, why don’t we take a break and then let’s roll that interview!

ELM: OK, let’s do it!

[Interstitial music]

ELM: All right, I’m very excited to welcome Lucy and Tom to the podcast! Hi!

Lucy Bennett: Hi!

Tom Phillips: Hello!

ELM: [laughing] I’m excited flying solo right now talking to you guys. So, I’m wondering if you could each take a minute or so to introduce yourselves, I guess, as fan studies scholars in particular, but also as fans, if you wanna talk about your own background, what brought you into the field and into the work that you do. I don’t know who wants to go first.

TP: Go on, Lucy, I’ll let you.

LB: I’ll go first. Hello. So I’m Lucy Bennett. I’m a lecturer at Cardiff University in the Media and Journalism department. My work mainly looks at music fandom, although because I’ve been so busy with teaching and starting a new job I haven’t had much chance to do research lately, so that’s something I’d like to pick back up on. I’ve been a fan, a music fan all my life, since I was about six years old. I did my PhD on music fans, on the band REM, and since then I’ve tried to study things I wasn’t so much a fan of but that I had huge respect towards, such as Lady Gaga. I’ve also been looking at how music fans are using technology at live concerts. So that’s something I would like to pick back up in my work, hopefully doing a book proposal in this area.

I finished my PhD in 2010, so during that time or just after that I was contacted by someone named Tom Phillips through email [laughing] and we became friends. There was a few years where I was working hourly paid, so difficult to get a job, and I’d always had this dream of starting a network for fans to be scholars. It was a time when it felt a bit lonely, and I did know some fan studies scholars, but we were all remotely dispersed. I think it was 2012, it was one day, one afternoon, and I was thinking, you know, “What’s next for me?” And I said to Tom, “Let’s start a network.”

We wanted it to be somewhere, a place that was friendly, was welcoming, and really connecting people. I think that’s, I’m really pleased with how things have gone. That’s me!

TP: Well, that’s a pretty comprehensive biography for Lucy there! [all laughing] I don’t like talking about myself, I’m quite happy to hear from her.

ELM: Sorry you have to talk about yourself for maybe thirty seconds max.

TP: OK. So I’m a lecturer in Humanities at University of East Anglia in Norwich, U.K. My fan studies work at the moment tends to focus on pro wrestling fandom, so I’ve recently done work about fans dealing with grief, like when their favorite performer dies. I’ve looked at media representations of elderly women fandom, er, fans of pro wrestling, and I’m currently working on a project which is about women’s wrestling. So I’m writing a book about performance, promotion, and fandom within contemporary women’s wrestling, and particularly the transformative and activist potential that some women’s wrestling has.

So I did my PhD at UEA, and I did it based on the fan community of, filmmaker community of Kevin Smith. I finished that in 2013-2014, and yeah, as Lucy says we started the network just chatting to each other and then started it one day, and it’s been going for quite a few years ever since, so that’s where we are today.

ELM: So you’re in the Humanities department, there’s no real…except for a few exceptions, there’s no Fan Studies department at a given university, right? This is a very…and I'm wondering, Lucy, when you did your PhD, what discipline was that? Was it Media Studies or…?

LB: Yeah, Media and Communication. My department is leaning more towards Journalism Studies, but at the time…so Matt Hills was my supervisor. There was quite a few other people also being supervised by him, and of course he is gone now, so yeah.

ELM: Sorry, gone from the university.

TP: Yeah, he’s not dead! [all laughing]

LB: Gone from university!

ELM: I just saw him like two days ago!

LB: Very much alive! And you know, University of Huddersfield is, they’re establishing their Participatory Cultures center, so I guess that’s the closest thing at the moment.

ELM: But that’s a rare, almost all the scholars working in this field are finding themselves within various…so I’m wondering if that was part of the need for a network, was because it’s so disparate, so many people coming from different disciplines and trying to find some common space, is that a fair statement?

TP: I think so, and what I think we’ve been surprised at, how interdisciplinary it is. As we say most of us come from a media background—so Lucy was in Media and Communications, my PhD was in the Film and Television Studies department, and actually one of the fantastic things about what we’ve done at the Fan Studies Network conferences is getting people from different fields, getting people with different backgrounds, particularly when you’re in your film and television and media bubble, you kind of think that’s it. But we’ve had some legal scholars, English Literature, people who do work related to history, all sorts of different approaches to Fan Studies. I think that’s been one of the benefits of what we’ve done, is we’ve brought together quite a disparate group of scholars together.

ELM: So I did my masters in Digital Humanities a few years ago, here in the U.K. actually. Physically in the U.K., I’m saying that even though I’m not normally here. It felt similarly disparate in terms of the places that people were coming from into DH, which also is a set of tools people have just used in the humanities. I often found, though, that it felt like sometimes people had trouble communicating across those disciplines, and I get a little bit of that vibe from Fan Studies as well, especially when social scientists are coming from one side and people in the humanities are coming from another direction. Sometimes, not necessarily communicating as well as I want them to? I’m wondering if you find some of those tensions or you see good examples of people bridging those gaps.

TP: I think so, I think that’s right. What do you think, Lucy?

LB: I think so. I’m trying to think of any examples. We just have such a different, vast array of people presenting at the conference.

TP: I think to pick on particular examples might be a bit unfair to the people… 

ELM: Oh no, I’m not saying to call anyone out! [laughing]

TP: One thing that I see, for example, Business Studies research on fandom and very much treating fans as consumers. They think about consumer habits.

LB: Yes.

TP: That’s not typically how we would frame fandom, we’d be thinking about politics and identity and affect and all those kinds of things, whereas I think from a slightly different field they are thinking along different lines. Because Fan Studies as a field has its roots in Cultural Studies and Media Studies, there’s a lot of theory that we know, and when you come to an FSN conference, there’s a general understanding that we’ve all read this stuff. We’ve all read this stuff from 1992, for example.

ELM: For example. [laughing]

TP: And then what will happen is, you might have somebody writing something and they will point to Textual Poachers as “Wow, I found this piece of research!” Textual Poachers is Textual Poachers, but the field has moved on since then. So I think there’s perhaps a little bit of tension from where people from the outside of that don’t realize the depth of the material that there is in Fan Studies, and maybe do perhaps a bit more superficial analysis of fan behavior.

ELM: That’s interesting. That’s definitely something that I observed, and I also felt that one thing I really loved about the conference, which I really enjoyed by the way, that’s what I haven’t said yet, is that it seemed to have people from a wide variety of stages in their career. But I did find it seemed like some people were leaning on these texts that it seems like a lot of the people who are deep in the field have moved on from, or built on, in the 25 years since Textual Poachers.

But the number of citations of Henry Jenkins and Matt Hills, actually, I think seemed like a lot in the sense of…because we have a lot of conversations with people who are deep in fan studies on this podcast, I know that there’s lots and lots of scholarship that’s been built on that. I was wondering if maybe it’s partly because you do have people who are Master’s students and early PhD students who are just coming into it. I don’t know, do you think that’s fair? Not that everyone was doing that, but…I definitely felt like it was a lot of things sitting together at once.

LB: Yeah, I think so. This is a conversation we’ve had in previous years, where we’ve noticed there’s a lot of the same citations or mentions of certain texts when there has been more recent work that’s also very valuable. But I don’t know, maybe it’s just the nature of it that these are seen as the…for example, Textual Poachers, such inherent in the field that people do keep citing them and relying on them.

ELM: Sure.

LB: Do like to have a lot of, we get a lot of submissions from post-grads. In the past we’ve had some undergraduates presenting at Speed Geeks who have then gone on to do full presentations. For me it’s about trying to get the balance between these fantastic texts, which may still have resonance and value, but also trying to move on and look at some of the great work that’s out there. I think we’re still working towards that in the field as a whole.

ELM: Yeah.

TP: I think one of the problems is particularly when you’re dealing with people who are earlier on in their academic career, this is the kind of thing I talked to one of my PhD students about, is that OK, the field has kind of moved on since then. But almost when you’re writing your PhD, you still have to cite all those texts just to demonstrate that you’ve read them, so even though you’re like “Look, I know where this sits and I know how important it is,” every Fan Studies PhD has to talk about what a definition of fandom is. Just everyone does. So I think when you’re getting people coming to FSN conferences, you’re still very much thinking about those kinds of questions. That’s just the nature of academia and the way we have to phrase things for us to pass our PhDs.

ELM: Sure, sure. It definitely seemed like some of this was the general academic citation culture: these are the norms that are a part of it. Coming at this as a journalist, too, you know, Henry Jenkins gets cited a lot by people doing Fandom 101 articles, so it’s not like…glass houses. And it’s funny to me too, because I feel like the work he’s doing right now is literally just, not only, but it seems like there’s so much boosting of emerging voices, and it’s like he’s just begging everyone to say, “Quote these other people please!” Like that great series he’s doing right now which we should, we’ll put a link in the show notes so everyone can check it out, but it’s great to see and especially from a diversity angle too, to have an older white male scholar be cited over and over again and to have him really just kind of handing the microphone over so aggressively is great.

TP: That’s the really interesting thing I think about our field, is that it’s predominantly women or women-identifying people who come to our conference. It’s people who identify as men who are very much in the minority. However, you’ll still have Henry, Matt, Cornel, these older male scholars, not to discount their work at all, but they are the people who are cited. But actually our field is predominantly female.

ELM: Do you feel like this is something you can work to fix? Do you have any ways to deal with that? Do you think that the work you’re doing within the conference itself or the network…? You don’t have to come up with all the solutions right now, but.

LB: I think so. It’s something I’ve noticed as well. I do think these people are brilliant scholars, Matt, Cornel, Henry, they’re fantastic. But we try and give opportunities to people through the keynotes, to be keynoting our conferences… 

TP: And getting a gender split as well, that’s the important thing.

LB: A gender split, so always male and female keynotes. We’ve had that all the way through, except I think our very first conference just had Matt as the keynote.

TP: Oh and Henry, we had Henry just on his own, didn’t we? [ELM laughing] So actually we’re reinforcing those stereotypes.

LB: Twice, twice! [all laughing]

ELM: All right, you’re pledging to me right now to work to course correct. [laughing]

LB: But you know that’s something, unusual times we’ve just had the one male keynote, but it’s something we’ve been very clear on that we want a female and a male. As Tom said, the majority of people at the conferences are female or female-identifying individuals.

ELM: Right, so that’s why I'm curious. It’s great to have a gender balance, but I’m wondering if maybe the, should the scholars who speak demographically represent the people in the room? That is a question, right? 

One question I do have which I don’t really want to skirt around is one thing we do talk a lot about with scholars on this podcast, is the whiteness of the field. It was an undeniably white-dominated space, and I know part of that is the demographic makeup of scholars in the U.K. and Europe, but I’m wondering if you guys have any feelings about this or any plans to…not that there weren’t speakers of color presenting, and I think I went to most of those presentations, but it definitely felt like after conversations with, you know, we’ve had Rukmini Pande on multiple times to talk about decolonizing fan studies and things like that, and so I’m just wondering if this is something that you guys are actively thinking about for future conferences.

LB: Definitely something I’ve been thinking about. A couple of months ago I took part in a conversation with Ruth Deller as part of Henry’s series, and this was something that we discussed there as a prominent issue, but I don’t know what the solution is. Trying to reach out to more people? Because of course we can only go by who actually submits proposals in and wants to take them. It could be about giving more opportunities to people of color as keynotes, I don’t know. But it’s something that is definitely a concern on my mind.

ELM: Sure, something that you've been thinking about.

TP: Something that the FSN Europe conference may suffer from the most, because in the last year we’ve branched out, we’ve had an FSN Australasia, we’ve had an FSN North America, I think over in those two places there’s a more diverse cadre of scholars and that draws away from, I think we have far less people from the States come over this year.

LB: Yes.

TP: Our numbers were still good, but previously when there was no Fan Studies North America you would get that cohort come over here. But yeah, it’s definitely something that needs to be addressed not just within fan studies but within academia more generally. You mentioned Rukmini’s name, and Rukmini is an amazing scholar and does amazing work, but unfortunately comes up, a thing like “Oh there’s a collection about race, Rukmini’s doing it.” We don’t want Rukmini to be the default person, you know?

ELM: Absolutely. The idea of having diversity within any realm of marginalization so it’s not just the one person who then has to talk about the thing, you know, the one queer person has to talk about the queer issues or whatever. So, I don’t know. It’s a tricky thing. There were definitely, there were white scholars who were presenting on racialized topics, and that can be a complicated space to do as well, because you don’t wanna…the whole thing about erasure, but it’s also the Own Voices question that literature deals with a lot. I think there’s some of the same issues with scholarship in that anthropological, social sciences distance, but then you’re a white scholar studying people of color…you know what I mean?

TP: That’s something I'm dealing with with my research at the moment, my presentation at FSN last week was about women and feminism within the world of wrestling. It’s like, well, am I, should I not be doing that? Should I be letting somebody else, a female scholar for example, take that space and use that and have their voice? At the same time no one else is doing it, so…it’s a catch-22, isn’t it.

ELM: One thing…I really enjoyed your presentation, and one thing that I really liked about this tension is that you addressed it head on. You talked about yourself within your paper as you discussed your fannish engagement, saying “I’m a man in this feminized space and I…” You know. That’s a tension, that idea of where to situate yourself within your research, that I saw a lot of, and I really liked the way you handled it, especially because it was explicitly about identity issues. It was a really good way to handle it, I thought. I mean, I’m not a scholar so don’t take my word for.

TP: Well, thank you. Lucy, would you like to stroke my ego?

LB: Well I only heard it from a corridor, I have to say [all laughing] but it sounded good!

TP: I’ll take that, thank you.

ELM: Actually it makes me think, though, I do want to ask you about that. For context for the listener there was a lot of anxiety about “We’re fans, we’re studying fans. Do we belong in our papers? Do we have this really detached tone? Are we allowed to show that we love stuff?” And it seemed like people were really struggling with this, as a question throughout, and I was wondering what your take on this is, if you have feelings, if you observed that kind of tension as well, and the stuff you saw.

LB: I mean, I didn’t see as much, I have to say. Sorry! Because I was so busy.

TP: What about in regards to your research? REM fandom and that sort of thing? Like you said earlier… 

LB: Definitely.

TP: You wanted to move away from stuff you are a fan of. Why have you made that choice?

LB: I made the choice because I felt I had this attachment to my fan object that didn’t really shape what I wrote as such, in the thesis, but it came to dominate my thinking afterwards when it came to publishing. And in the end I didn’t publish all that I’d written because I was thinking “Oh, how will the band react when they read this?” Because I was looking at fans that did not fit in to the community. So who didn’t behave in a certain way, the accepted way of the community.

I just didn't like that feeling. I wanted to…to write something freely, without this thought of these people and how they would react. So that’s why I specifically chose to do something about an object or a person I didn’t have this attachment towards. So that’s why I did this study on Lady Gaga. As I said, you know, I have so much respect for her, I do like her, but I don’t have this emotional underpinning in the way I approach her, and I did actually enjoy that, writing about something that I didn’t have this attachment to.

I am leaning towards going back in to looking at some of the musical artists that I am a fan of. But to me again I think it’s about trying to get this balance between maybe looking at things that you’re not so invested in. Ultimately, I think there’s advantages and disadvantages towards both. Because if you’re doing something you’re a fan of, you have this deep knowledge, whereas for example when I did the Lady Gaga study, I did not have all this knowledge that I would have if I was a big big fan. So there were disadvantages for me, so yeah, I think it’s about trying to get this balance in your work I think between what you look at, yeah. And how about you, Tom? You were a fan of Kevin Smith, weren’t you, when you did yours? But didn’t that change?

TP: It did change, I became slightly less of a fan.

ELM: You hate him now?

TP: I don't hate him, just recently I’ve been rediscovering him. After doing a PhD you just get burnt out, don’t you? And there was a tension. I was an active member of his fan community, and part of the thing was that he was an active contributor to his message board, before social media was a big thing. And I think, I don’t know if I wrote about this in my thesis? I certainly struggled with this: on the board he was “Kevin.” Everyone referred to him as “Kevin.” But in my academic work I refer to him as “Smith.” And there’s this kind of distinct academic voice being used between “Smith” and “Kevin,” and when is he Smith and when is he Kevin for me?

Then of course the natural thing I just alluded to there, the dangers of studying that which you’re invested in, the lines are blurred, and I think particularly the way higher education is now in terms of thinking of mental health and burnout and thinking about stopping working, it’s really tough. I’ll be going in the next month, I’m going to three separate live wrestling events, and I’m going kind of as a fan, but I’m also going for research, so…I can’t 100% enjoy it as a fan, because I’m always going to be thinking “oh, that’s interesting,” or making notes on my phone or something like that, and so it, I think that’s dangerous from a mental health perspective because you’re always on.

ELM: Right, absolutely. I think we’re probably running out of time, but I’m curious about the network itself, beyond the conference. One thing I do wanna make sure that I ask you about too, in conjunction with that, we get a lot of undergrads or recent graduates who are interested in studying why they love stuff, and studying fans and particularly themselves, and I’m also wondering about the network and its space for non-affiliated people or people who are in fandom and are more interested in joining the academic side. I’m wondering if you have thoughts about that, in addition to talk about the network as a resource for more formal scholars with more formal arrangements.

LB: We’ve specifically tried to be as welcoming as we can to independent researchers. So I was an independent researcher for about six years after I did my PhD, so I know what it feels like, especially to have no conference funding. We have a specific unwaged fee for those without conference funding to attend the conference, and we also have a facility called Speed Geeking. So those who may not have done their first formal presentations yet at conferences, they can do a short presentation that pitches an idea for a research project they want to do or a paper and they can get feedback from a lot of the different conference attendees. That’s become very popular. Some undergraduates who’ve presented as a Speed Geek have gone on to do a full paper later on. So we've tried to be as welcoming as we possibly can to people who are just starting out their career. I think we’ve been quite successful so far from the feedback, and that’s something that is important to us.

TP: I think in terms of what the network is or what function it serves, that’s been something that we’ve struggled with in the last few years. Cause chiefly the centerpiece is the annual conference that we do, so we’ve just done our sixth conference and we’re really proud of it and we’re really happy to keep that going. Obviously we have Facebook groups, Twitter discussion, there is an academic mailing list, but it tends to center around Facebook more than not.

One of the difficult things as Lucy alluded to is when Lucy and I started the network, and we had our board members as well—so Rebecca Williams who organized this year’s conference, co-organized it with Lucy, Bertha Chin, Richard McCullough, Bethan Jones—we were all PhD students or early career researchers. And so we didn’t have a lot of job security, we didn’t have resources behind us, trying to kind of put together for example a research-council-funded network. So we could have money to get together and do stuff and we could draw in those other people.

That’s really difficult when you haven't got an institution behind you, so institutions can offer that kind of safety net, can offer those resources just in terms of rooms and space and money and money for food and refreshments and things like that that we’ve not had for a long time, and it’s only in the last two or three years that most of us on the Fan Studies board have had full time permanent jobs.

Then the trouble becomes that you’ve got a full time permanent job and you’ve got to try and organize an annual conference at the same time. You haven’t got the luxury of the time that you had when you were a PhD student and you could devote quite a lot of focused time. So for us as board members it’s always a balancing act between trying to cater to the network, get stuff done, and try and look to the future, but of course other stuff gets in the way as well. 

So that’s a conversation we have on an annual basis. “What are we gonna do now? What else can we do?” But it’s stuff that we think about, trying to bring more people together so it’s not just an annual thing…but it is difficult and it comes with its own barriers.

ELM: Sure. It seems like, you guys created this, you saw something that you didn’t have and you made it, and even if you are in institutions now or you have less time, the fact that you guys exist to say “These structures exist,” and to bring younger people in who have the resources, the time resources you no longer have, it seems like that’s great. You built the structure.

TP: I don’t know about you, Lucy, but one of the amazing things I’ve found about the conference specifically within the last two or three years, when we first started it was reasonably small, relatively small, we would go around and try to talk to absolutely everybody who was there, and make them feel welcome. And now it’s got to the point where there’s too many people to do that, and there are groups of people that I see at the conference who I’ve never had the opportunity to speak to, but they’re seeing each other year on year. So there’s these little social groups and networks forming independent of us, and that makes me quite hopeful for the future I guess, that maybe one day we just pass it on? I don’t know how Lucy feels about that.

LB: Maybe, maybe, yeah!

TP: If we ever wanted to do that, if we ever chose to do that, I would feel confident there would be other people to shepherd it. I think that’s a real positive thing, so as you say, we created that space and other people are now filling it.

LB: I noticed there were a lot more newer people this year that I hadn’t seen before, so I’ve noticed the same thing.

ELM: That’s great. I really enjoyed my time there, and as a non-scholar [laughs] thanks for letting me…I mean, I asked everyone aggressive questions in every session, so maybe you regret allowing me to come, but that’s fine. I’m just a journalist, that’s all.

TP: Thank you for coming!

ELM: Thank you for having me.

LB: Thank you so much.

ELM: And than you so much for talking to me, just good luck to you guys with this going forward! So.

LB: I just wanted to say I love the podcast, so I’m really thrilled to be on it! [laughing] I’m a fan!

ELM: I’m glad to hear that! I always feel slightly, I’m like, “Oh, does anyone in fan studies actually listen to this? Do they think we’re just posers with our…” cause sometimes we do these surveys, and sometimes people who are deep in stats yell at us, and they’re like “This isn’t proper!” and we are like “We are not academics when we’re doing these things!” So.

TP: Lucy’s gonna make me look bad for doing that, so I’m gonna say I’m not happy to be on a podcast at all and I think it sucks, so.

ELM: [laughing] Get out of here! We don’t need this!

LB: Aw, thank you, bye!

ELM: Thank you so much guys!

LB: Thank you!

[Interstitial music]

FK: One thing I thought was really interesting was how much what you guys talked about centered the, I guess, situation that people are in when they’re putting on a conference like this? Two PhD students decide to put on a conference and at first it’s like “We’ve got lots of time but no one’s paying us,” and then “Someone’s paying us but we don’t have any time to put this conference on,” right? It was interesting to me because you got into a lot of things with regard to the conference, in terms of its race and gender makeup as well as just who was able to be involved and so on, and that all seemed to come back to some of those really fundamental questions of how does a conference happen? How does it get made, how do people come to it?

It strikes me as really relevant to the whole question of fan studies as a field. Who is aware of fan studies? Who values it? Lori Morimoto has talked with us a lot about, where does fan studies sit within all of these other disciplines and fields? I don’t know. I’m not sure I actually have a point or a question within this, but it was just a really interesting aspect of your conversation with them.

ELM: Yeah, and one thing that I should clarify is, afterwards I was talking to a friend who’s a U.K. based academic in another field, and she was talking about how, some of the issues that we brought up, especially the overwhelming whiteness of the IRL crowd, not just the topics of scholarship. She was saying that reflects broader issues in European academia. It’s not a problem that’s specific to fan studies, it seems like. But that doesn’t mean that any one discipline has a pass. It means [laughing] everyone needs to try, you know what I mean?

One thing that’s interesting, I’m sure you were thinking of this from your perspective as a con organizer, sounds like you were relating to that. But unlike a fan con, there’s many more barriers to entry here, in the sense of while it is open to fans, it’s not just like you’re running your Harry Potter con and maybe you aren’t reaching the right people if you want a more diverse crowd or more diverse panelists or whatever. Obviously it’s a financial resources thing. Why you might find a much whiter crowd at a fan convention. But this is another level where you can’t just say “I’m going to give you a stipend so you can attend the Fan Studies Network conference and then become a Fan Studies academic.” It’s a much bigger thing than just a convention.

FK: Yeah. I would be really interested to find out more about this, and I don’t know that much. There’s been a lot of really widely publicized studies about women in STEM fields, pointing out, you know, because people will say things like “Oh, it’s a pipeline problem, women are dropping out,” and then people have said “No, that’s not true because when women enter…” Where do women drop out, they drop out in, I believe it’s PhD programs is the point in which women begin dropping out of science academia. And I would be really interested to find out more about the way that works with people of color in…in fan studies in particular, in media studies, in humanities fields.

ELM: Cultural studies, yeah.

FK: I think that there’s, unfortunately everyone cares about STEM and a lot of people don’t care very much about humanities, so I don’t know whether anyone’s ever going to actually do this. But I wonder if it is a pipeline problem or what are the points and what are the ways that that can be improved. Cause it’s not necessarily always—on the one hand I think it’s often who in general has the opportunity to take on this kind of advanced course of study, who has the option to do so, but then there’s also other stuff that maybe we’re not seeing that’s about…whatever. The design even of particular calls for papers or application forms for grad programs or who knows what. It’s a really complex question!

ELM: Yeah. I know that the Fan Studies Network North America, it seems already from the programming that there is more of a focus on race, and it feels a little excessive to go to two Fan Studies Network conferences in one year. [laughs] If it was within train distance I would go. But I don’t think I can justify flying to Chicago.

FK: No.

ELM: No.

FK: I would go if it were within train distance too, so we’re together on this one. But I’m also, one thing that I did find that I really appreciate about Fan Studies Network conferences is how much people tweet them. And sort of take part in them. I feel like in comparison to many other academic conferences I’ve taken part in, there’s been a lot of conversation that has put it out in spaces where if you want to interact with it, you can. So I did appreciate that a lot and I wonder… 

I guess I’m curious about people who aren’t fan studies academics and haven’t had any contact with it. This is maybe a question to our listeners, who are presumably interested in this but maybe haven’t gone to school to study it. Did they follow any of it? Do they find that stuff interesting? How could some of it be presented in different ways that would be more accessible to a broader audience? I think that’s something that people seem very interested in, wanting to make sure that communities that they’re talking about are also included in the discussion.

ELM: Yeah, it brings me, I feel like all the circles…Lori Morimoto is such a specter haunting our conversation, but I’m thinking about her Fan Studies For Fans course on Patreon that she talked about, because it doesn’t seem…I feel like you and I have more exposure to and familiarity with fan studies than most people outside of the field, [laughing] just because we pay attention to it a lot, just for obvious professional reasons. But it still doesn’t feel super accessible to me, even though I had a really nice time at this conference. 

But I also came at it with the full confidence of being a journalist and hosting this podcast and being like, you won’t intimidate me with your academia because I’m gonna mansplain the Harry Potter Alliance to you in the corner! But that’s one thing, is that I don’t know how to fix that, because I think some of it is inherently about academia. The other thing is that Lori’s other angle into this, and I don’t think she’s actively doing it now, but the Fan Meta Reader, do you know this project?

FK: Yeah yeah yeah, the Fan Meta Reader!

ELM: Which was trying to do the opposite, was trying to show the scholar, the world of scholarship that a lot of fans were writing really rigorously. And that was very absent from this. There were some things that I saw where I thought to myself, “Oh, I’ve seen better meta than the way this person’s presenting this.” Because there’s thousands and thousands of people in fandom, who are not academics in any way, thinking deep thoughts about a lot of this stuff. So inherently some people are gonna put together some smart thoughts, and I wish that that bridge could be crossed in both directions.

FK: It seems to me like your point about some of this being inherent to academia is one of my biggest hurdles with this. Because after leaving academia and going into, doing the entertainment industry… 

ELM: Selling out?

FK: Selling out.

ELM: Becoming the man!

FK: But genuinely, one of the things I enjoy most about my job is not having to use some of the academic circumlocutions, not having to… 

ELM: Cite Henry Jenkins and Matt Hills constantly?

FK: Right, exactly! Not having to define…when I have to define what a fan is, it’s because there’s a reason why I need to define what a fan is, and not because you have to do it because this is a paper and you have to do this.

ELM: Yeah, this is something I’ve thought a lot about regarding the position of academia, and I wonder what some academics think about this. There were definitely times in the presentations that I saw where I was kind of like…“I want you to go to the next step. You’ve stated what you observed, but you’re not painting any bigger picture, using that to draw conclusions,” and I don’t think it was necessarily a bad paper. I think it’s the nature of a lot of academic work, just based on what I’ve read.

FK: Yeah! I feel this way when I’m reading Transformative Works and Cultures a lot too. It felt like that at the conference as well?

ELM: Yeah, I had some of that vibe. Not with everyone! But I just think this might be the nature of the academic research, sometimes, the goal of the writing is not necessarily to connect these dots in the same way. And I was thinking about your job and my job and how the value of our work often—and you can correct me if this isn’t true, but I feel like it’s especially true for you—is often about being able to connect those dots. That’s the promise you can provide for someone, right?

FK: Yeah, you have to tell someone what to do at the end of it! You can’t just say “This is what’s happening,” you have to at the end of it say, “and therefore, you should do X.”

ELM: Right, because they can pay anyone to…I mean, anyone who’s good at scraping data. But A, you have to ask the right questions to know what data to get, and then you have to tell them what you learned from that data. I spend a lot of time in my job outside of the fan stuff, cause I’m an editor for a science and tech site, thinking about data in particular, and are we asking the right questions? Are we pulling out the right information? Are we giving people solutions? Because we’re talking about climate change and stuff like that. So you really have to talk about solutions in this stuff.

Yeah, a lot of that was missing—and I think it’s a little hard for someone like me and probably someone like you too, when we’re so used to looking at patterns, to the point where it kind of takes over my own fannish experience. Ruins it a little for me. “Ugh, it’s all the same! Everyone always acts like this,” you know? And that was interesting to see that absence and to see that disconnect between the way I think about fandom and the way that some scholars were thinking about fandom. And I’m not necessarily saying they’re wrong, or that we’re right at all, I’m just saying that the goals are different, I think. And maybe that’s some of the disconnect, too, with your average fan who likes to think about fandom at a meta level. The stuff that we do, the pan-fandom “what does fandom do,” the patterns that it has, that kind of thing.

FK: Right. Maybe we’re more interested in the theory, a theory of fandom, understand how does, what are the overarching ways that people behave, what are the patterns that we pick out, as opposed to just doing a study going deep into one segment of it and then not coming to sort of a bigger conclusion. But I don’t know that that’s quite right, because I think we also like to go deep into one segment. This is hard.

ELM: Don’t sell us short. It is hard. I would love to know people’s impressions of this, wherever you fall on the spectrum from pure fan to…well, I don’t know if anyone in fan studies is not even sort of a fan.

FK: I think that there are some people who consider themselves not-fans who listen to this podcast, so this one’s for you, guys!

ELM: [laughing] OK, anyone who doesn’t consider themselves a fan, tell us your feelings. I’m curious to know people's thoughts on this. It was interesting! I’m really glad I went.

FK: I’m glad you went too. I wish I had been able to go.

ELM: Next year!

FK: Yeah! Maybe the North American one will be train-able soon and then we’ll be able to both go.

ELM: If you’re involved in Fan Studies North America and you listen to this podcast, it’d be really cool if you could do it on the Eastern seaboard!

FK: Yeah Eastern seaboard! On the Amtrak! [all laughing] And please let’s not have the tunnel that leaves Manhattan break down just yet.

ELM: Oh. OK. Well, that’s outside of the control of the organizers of the Fan Studies North America conference.

FK: That’s true, but it would definitely ruin my Amtrak experience if it happened, so.

ELM: [laughing] All right!

FK: It would make it impossible! Just saying, while we’re asking the world for things.

ELM: Well as you know Chris Christie is an avid listener of this podcast. You shoulda said this sooner before he really screwed that tunnel up. He loves fans.

FK: There are few people in the world that I dislike more than Chris Christie.

ELM: Wow really? There’s a lot of people I dislike more than Chris Christie.

FK: OK well, you know, but…mmm. I’m allowed to use some hyperbole to express how I dislike Chris Christie.

ELM: Yeah he sucks. [FK laughs] But I would rate almost every Republican in Congress lower than him on my spectrum. He is like a total… 

FK: He’s so ineffective at this point that it’s hard to really get up a good, like… 

ELM: He’s also no longer the governor.

FK: Head of hate. That’s my point. He’s ineffective, it’s hard for him to do anything so it’s hard to get up a full head of hatred for him.

ELM: Also, it all backfired on him so severely that…and he was just such a joke… when he shut that beach?

FK: Yeah, it’s true.

ELM: Good memories. CC. Miss you.

FK: All right, now that we’ve established how much we dislike Chris Christie, I think that probably [laughing] it’s time…or how much we don’t dislike him compared to other figures.

ELM: How much I dislike Paul Ryan and every other…no, I’m sure people I like the least are awful awful hardline Handmaid’s Tale Republican congressmen.

FK: OK but now we’re falling BACK down this rabbit hole.

ELM: I don’t even know their names but I hate them. The ones who are passing the batshit bills. State legislators in, you know? Don’t get me started. I’m just having a lot of feelings right now.

FK: OK. Well, you can keep having your feelings, but I think that you should have them off the air. I think that we should wrap up, because I think it’s about time.

ELM: I'll save it for my Congress Watch podcast that I’ll just call Congressplaining. [all laughing] Can you imagine?? What a fucken bleak podcast that would be!!

FK: Congressplaining, great. OK so until Elizabeth starts her other podcast, Congressplaining, we hope that you’d like to support us, Fansplaining, the podcast that actually exists and only sometimes gets hijacked by Elizabeth’s feelings about state legislators.

ELM: You’ll have to split your pledges between my two podcasts in the future.

FK: Right, this is not happening AT ALL, but if it were happening, then the way that you would donate to Fansplaining, the way you can donate to Fansplaining RIGHT NOW, is by going to patreon.com/fansplaining. And kickin’ us some cold hard cash so we can keep making this podcast, woo!

ELM: As little as $1 a month helps support us. [laughs]

FK: Truth. OK. Also, if you don’t want to kick us some cash to support us right now for whatever reason, you can support us by rating us on iTunes, by giving us a nice review, you can decide what rating we earned, we think we earned FIVE stars. But you don’t have to think that. 

You can also send us your thoughts! We really really appreciate that and as I think, as I hope we’ve made clear, your thoughts and opinions make this podcast better. So fansplaining at gmail.com, we’ve got an open ask box on our Tumblr which is fansplaining at Tumblr, you can tweet at us if you really wanna do that, we’re Fansplaining on Twitter, we’re also Fansplaining on Facebook, this is a theme. And we’re even relaunching our Instagram! We’re gonna be at San Diego Comic-Con and we’re gonna do some Instagram stories and we’re gonna be posting on Instagram.

ELM: Yeah big news! Buried the lede!

FK: Starting soon! So we’ll come back at you on that, and if you want to communicate with us on Instagram I guess you can do that now!

ELM: I’m not participating in this Instagram, it’s all you, because I boycott Instagram because they won’t take down the person who stole my name. Like, literally.

FK: I know! I know!

ELM: It’s not another Elizabeth Minkel. They scraped my Twitter profile. Then I reported it and I even included a photo of my ID and they were like “Nope, sorry.” So.

FK: You should try it again now that they’ve been bought.

ELM: I was told that the really only way these things ever get acted on is if you know someone, which is really sad.

FK: Well, if you work at Instagram, help us out.

ELM: I would love you forever if you work at Instagram, even though I just said that I was boycotting you cause I was mad at you. I would take it back if you helped me. No, just think about it though, this is minor and who cares if I’m on Instagram or not, but imagine if someone was impersonating you in a way that was… 

FK: Yes. This is bad, Elizabeth. It is.

ELM: It’s really bad!

FK: Dear listeners, I wish you could see Elizabeth’s face right now. She’s just so, she’s so distressed.

ELM: It’s quite bad!

FK: OK. I think that we need to hang up now Elizabeth, the jet lag is kickin’ in, you’re getting into a space.

ELM: Yeah, let’s hang up. I’m gonna go pack because I have to get right back on a plane to go with you to California.

FK: Woo!

ELM: Next time I see you, San Diego Comic-Con, the place where everything is great and nothing matters. Oh, oh! We haven’t sorted out the details yet but I tweeted about the Marriott pool bar!

FK: Yeah!

ELM: And they tweeted back at me and now Flourish is sliding into their DMs to try to reserve a space to hold a little meetup! So.

FK: They haven't gotten back to us yet, but hopefully we’ll have a space reserved, so we’ll put that on blast on Twitter as soon as we know, but we’re planning on being there a lot.

ELM: Yeah, you can find us there literally at any time. If I’m not there I will be at the Maritime Museum once again. This is why I go to Comic-Con, to spend time in other places.

FK: Yeah.

ELM: Yeah, I’m pretty excited. So definitely keep an eye on Twitter and Tumblr. We’ll post if there’s actually an official Fansplaining meetup. We love to meet people!

FK: For sure.

ELM: That’s that! All right.

FK: All right!

ELM: OK well, I’ll see you in San Diego, Flourish!

FK: I’ll see you in San Diego!

ELM: Bye!

FK: Bye.

[Outro music and disclaimers and thank yous]

EpisodesFansplaining