Episode 8: One True Fandom

 
 
Episode 8’s cover: female fans scream at the approach of an celebrity out-of-frame.  Image credit:  Melanie Lemahieu / Shutterstock.com

Episode 8’s cover: female fans scream at the approach of an celebrity out-of-frame. Image credit: Melanie Lemahieu / Shutterstock.com

Flourish and Elizabeth try (and possibly fail) to answer the question “What is fandom?” Topics covered include whether “fandom” implies “community,” the Buffalo Bills’ sad-sack Superbowl record, [Flourish wrote those words and just FYI Elizabeth has murdered her] whether transformative works are really central to fandom as we think of it, and rock fans… not rock’n’roll, geodes.

 

Show Notes

[00:00:00] As always, our intro music is “Awel,” by Stefsax, used under a CC BY 2.5 license.

[00:06:00] It’s @rozf!

[00:09:29] The favorite fic Flourish is referring to is The Student Prince, by FayJay. You don’t have to know Merlin at all!

[00:12:03] The Guardian article about the prolific romance author exposed as a plagiarist.

[00:12:35] The Diana Gabaldon fanfiction-compared-to-rape-and-white-slavery incident, in case you missed it.

[00:13:09] The musical interlude is “L’omelette Bourbon Jazz 2″ by nidhalskywalker, used under a CC BY-SA 3.0 license.

[00:17:26] The post we made asking people for their perspectives is here. @ceciliatan quoted @continuants here.

[00:18:07] Lori is @lorimorimoto on Twitter; her response was sent privately.

[00:19:41] Ice floe. Pride and Prejudice. Yes.

An animated gif of Colin Firth as Mr Darcy washing himself in the bath.

[00:20:54] Laura Miller’s book is The Magician’s Book: A Skeptic’s Adventures in Narnia.

[00:21:50] Flourish is like

An animated gif of Matthew McFayden as Mr Darcy standing in the rain, with the caption “OMG I CAN’T EVEN.”

[00:25:17] @meredithgene sent her response via email, so it’s not up on Tumblr for us to link in full!

[00:26:39] Yes, Flourish means LiveJournal. Also Fanfiction.net. ALSO THEY READ ALL THE SAME FANFICS, LIKE THE COMPLETE WORKS OF @bookshop, COME ON, ELIZABETH, STOP BEING LIKE THAT [end Flourish’s insertion into this show notes!]

[00:29:39] Specifically, @sophygurl is the one who wanted to push back about fandom being the sole domain of fan creators!

[00:32:13] A definition of Migratory Slash Fandom.

[00:33:20] However sure Flourish seems of it being smut, she’s wrong. The original quote is “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [“hard-core pornography”], and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.” It’s Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart in 1964 explaining why the material in the case Jacobellis vs. Ohio was not obscene under the Roth test.

[00:35:31] If, like Flourish, you never saw ER, Dr. Carter is this guy:

An animated gif of Dr. Carter winking.

[00:35:38] Once Elizabeth sent Flourish this video and she didn’t get it at all because she has never seen Frasier, not even once.

[00:37:09] Musical interlude: “Swing The Jazz” by Jazz Town used under a CC BY-ND 3.0 license.

[00:38:47] @sophiabee’s comment is readable in full here!

[00:40:31] Everyone is in the fandom of Elizabeth’s cat, Orlando, because she is the most precious little bb:

Orlando, a short-haired cat, standing on a bookshelf-stair and looking majestic.

[00:40:53] Allison sent in her comment via email, so it’s not up online, but we’ll see if we can put it up for you soon!

[00:44:58] You heard it here first: Pale Fire, Wittgenstein’s Mistress, and @courtneymilan. Basically the same things.

[00:50:45] If you don’t know Ravelry, well, it’s a site for fiber arts.

[00:54:19] James Heldman of Western Kentucky University at Bowling Green has you covered on this one with his paper “How wealthy is Mr. Darcy—really?” When Flourish says “a lot of things were cheaper,” she means that you could get tons of servants with that dosh, but of course you couldn’t buy a computer or Tumblr for any money so you know probably none of us actually want to be married to Mr. Darcy.

[00:01:02] The outro music is “Guitarra Jazz - Joe Pass (Música Jazz Tradicional)” by Danilo Dawson, used under a CC BY 3.0 license.


Transcript

[Intro music]

Flourish Klink: Hi Elizabeth.

Elizabeth L Minkel: Hi, Flourish. Could you not lean in like a scary shock-jock?

FK: …no?

ELM: No! It’s scary.

FK: It’s so delicious.

ELM: Ahhh, Flourish, I’m gonna hang up on you!

FK: Welcome to Fansplaining!

ELM: The podcast by, for, and about fandom. And this is Episode 8, and it is entitled…

FK: [announcer voice] ONE TRUE FANDOM!

ELM: I’m glad I left you to do that. That was good.

FK: Well, I was making all the funny faces about our tagline, because the point of this episode is we never really have defined “fandom.” Other than that we’re definitely part of it. We think.

ELM: Yeah, I’d say I’m a part of a fandom. I have been part of fandom…s? Ah, this is already tripping me up!

FK: Agh!

ELM: This is our first episode that’s just the two of us talking since the very first one. As we’ve done the last half dozen episodes, I think that we’ve kind of brushed up some of the same edges over and over again. Especially as we spoke to people who come from different backgrounds and different perspectives. Which is, I guess, natural and good? I have thought throughout the past two years that I’ve been a “fandom journalist.”

For me it’s kind of a double edged sword, because I definitely feel like I don’t have blinders on, I see fandom as multifaceted, many things far outside my experience, but I also have spent a lot of time trying to prop up my experience and the kind of fandom I come from because that’s the one that seems to be getting stomped on all the time. [Flourish laughs] “You stupid women….” The other day I was talking to one of my colleagues and he was all, “What do you write about?” And I was like “Fanfiction...” and he was all, “Oh yeah, it’s all porn, right?”

And I was just like, “No it’s not! …SOME OF IT IS!” and it was terrible! Like, “Screw you! But no, you’re wrong! And yes, you’re right! And that’s fine!” And so this is the land I’ve been living in fro the last couple years. And sometimes I feel like that kind of serves to refocus and make my focus narrow again, because I’m too busy… Does that make sense?

FK: It makes sense to me. I think that I also like to imagine that I have a broad view of fandom if only because for my work I dive into lots of different groups of people. Right now I’m working on a big project about video games, and soon I’ll be on something else. So I have to see a lot of ways that audiences react to stories or to games or to whatever, sometimes even to products or brands. I think that that gives me a broad view of audiences, but I’m not sure it actually gets me any closer to what fandom is, because “fandom” is a contested term, right? Like, the term “fan” is. What do we mean when we say that? We sort of have to choose.

I don’t know that there is a true answer. Because it means something to people who are in sports fandom, and it means something to people in media fandom, and it means something to… So I think in some ways the project of this episode is figuring out where we want to situate ourselves and how much of an allegiance we have to classic media fandom, or how much are we interested in broadening that perspective, or is it that we’re rooted in classic media fandom but interested in building bridges…

ELM: That one!

FK: I don’t know.

ELM: That’s the one.

FK: Well, gee, we don’t need to have the episode now, do we?

ELM: Done! Clocking in. Five minutes or so? We’re out of here. [Flourish laughs] I do think that we’ll find ourselves closest to that answer by the end, but who’s to say? Maybe by the end… I don’t know where we might wind up. One thing that I think we should clarify before we start is that when we say “one true fandom” we’re being facetious. Right? So, we don’t…

FK: Yeah, we’re definitely being facetious.

ELM: I just wanted to make that clear! So we are going to talk about all of this, we solicited your responses, we had a number of you write in and say some really interesting things, we can’t wait to read them. But first I think we need to deal with something that came up with last week’s episode.

FK: The universe gave us a present! And by “the universe,” I mean “a nice woman named Roz.” As you guys might recall, in the last episode I expressed my total befuddlement as to how anybody could read Carry On without being familiar with Harry Potter fandom.

ELM: You didn’t—no, no, no. No, no, no, you said Harry/Draco slash, even to start! So you even started narrower.

FK: Harry/Draco slash. You’re right. I even started narrower: Harry/Draco slash. To be fair to myself, I said that it’s not that I think people don’t have this experience, it’s that it’s so foreign from mine that I don’t know what it would be like, even a little bit even at all. And Roz is that person! She has provided us with an amazing audio file to listen to and talk about her experience reading Carry On.

ELM: Without having read, yeah.

FK: Yeah! Not even a book! No Harry Potter books, no Harry Potter movies, no Harry Potter fandom… [makes a head-exploding noise]

ELM: Flourish has never met a person like that! [Flourish makes a gulping noise] Every day you meet people like that, Flourish. You just don’t know it.

FK: I try not to. I try not to. I try to avoid it.

ELM: When you are buying milk at the store—Oh, you don’t buy milk, you’re vegan. Sorry, I gave it away! When you’re buying—

FK: Almond milk.

ELM: —groceries, when you’re buying flaxseed at the store, [Flourish laughs] I buy flaxseed! You just think “this person’s totally read Harry Potter.”

FK: That’s what I do. I go around my whole life. [Elizabeth laughs] My whole life is spent like this.

ELM: All right, let’s go to the clip and then we’ll talk about it a litle bit!

FK: All right!

Roz: Hey Elizabeth, hey Flourish, it’s Roz, and I was going to respond to the post about Carry On and sort of related to that Fangirl and how someone who has never read Harry Potter or seen any of the movies responded to Carry On. I feel like I should preface that with saying that Harry Potter as a series came out just as I was ending eighth grade, and I never in my high school years spent time reading for pleasure, so I never picked up on the whole YA craze of the late 90s, early 2000s to read Harry Potter and then I just never got around to it. Sorry!

But as to the specifics of reading Carry On having not been in or around or surrounded by Harry Potter—that’s not totally true, because I don’t think in our world right now you can be a fan of things either on Tumblr or on LJ or anywhere and not know about Harry Potter even if you haven’t read Harry Potter—vaguely speaking I read Carry On knowing that Simon was meant to be Harry, and that Baz was supposed to be some sort of Draco-like character because he’s supposed to be evil, and in that sense it reads perfectly fine? You don’t need to know the Harry Potter backstory.

It probably would’ve helped me understand a lot more? I mean, I sort of understand that Penny was supposed to be Hermione, and I sort of understood where Dumbledore was supposed to come in and where Voldemort was supposed to come in and… So it’s not impossible to read the book, but I think it reads much more like another sort of fantasy world, even if you understand that it is rooted—and maybe something sort of like a pastiche? Or sort of like homage reference to something that you know exists? I just didn’t read the original source materials to get all of that beforehand!

But it reads perfectly fine, it reads as boys in love which, oh, yeah, I’m in fandom so that’s a thing that I like. You don’t necessarily in that case need the specific fandom knowledge at least in my head from what Harry Potter is and what Harry Potter represents to get where Carry On was supposed to go. I’m gonna leave it at that and let you guys talk a lot about what I have to say. I hope to enjoy it later! Bye, guys.

ELM: You ready? To talk a lot? As instructed?

FK: I mean, I felt like that was kind of anticlimactic! Like, the answer was “I enjoyed it, guys! I dunno!”

ELM: You wanted her to be like “This was a piece of trash”?

FK: A little bit? I don’t know. Well, I did think it was interesting, actually, that she felt so strongly that Penny was Hermione and that she could identify Draco and Harry and Hermione and Dumbledore.

ELM: Well, so, if you don’t know who the inspiration for a character is, maybe you presume that much more of that character comes from the original?

FK: Yeah! Because it felt like actually in my head, Penny felt very different from Hermione in a lot of ways.

ELM: Oh yeah.

FK: To me Penny did not read as a one-to-one Hermione.

ELM: No, none of them did.

FK: Yeah.

ELM: Right? I mean… I’m trying to think of other examples.

FK: Yeah, I’m trying to think of examples of things that I’ve read without—

ELM: —having read the—

FK: —source.

ELM: Well, OK, have you read much fanfiction for things that you’re not in the fandom of?

FK: That’s actually exactly what I was thinking about! One of my favorite fanfics is a Merlin fanfic and I tried to watch the first episode of Merlin and I peaced out within the first ten minutes. I was just not there for that.

ELM: Yeah, but Merlin is… That story-world is a part of Western canon.

FK: It’s true! So it doesn’t really count. I love T.H. White and stuff, so.

ELM: I mean, I know people who do read fanfiction in fandoms that they don’t—and the comment from our listener! Was it last week or two weeks ago? She didn’t need to feel connected to the production cycle because all she needed to see was some gifs of some dudes and then she was ready to go.

FK: Yeah.

ELM: Which is interesting and maybe that’s widespread? So what’s the point of fanfiction? If you really like a certain trope, does it matter how far you are from the source material?

FK: Maybe we need further research into this. Because this is also, I don’t… It’s not that I’ve never read fanfic in a, in a…

ELM: Are you gonna make me read fanfiction in other fandoms? Don’t make me do that.

FK: No, I’m not saying that we should research it necessarily, I’m saying that our beloved listeners should give us more perspectives to, like, talk about this experience. Right? This phenomenon actually befuddles both of us, the reading of things that you don’t have background for, and we desire more input.

ELM: I don’t know though, how often do you read something and find out later that you missed all these references? This happens to me.

FK: Yeah. All the time.

ELM: I turned in a review for my job, professional review, and then the editor revised it, and I realized through his revisions, I hadn’t realized the book was based on a famous true event. [Flourish wails in empathetic embarrassment] It was really embarrassing!

FK: SO embarrassing!

ELM: That’s fine, I don’t—well, he’s not gonna listen to this, so it doesn’t matter. But, like, I don’t know if he realized I didn’t know that. I think he just thought the reader would like to know that.

FK: Right.

ELM: Maybe he thought I was just above it all and wasn’t gonna stoop to talking about the tabloid-esque story the book was based on.

FK: Yeah. Well, then there’s always the awkward thing that happens when you write something that you think is a clever reference and some reader doesn’t understand that it’s a reference and thinks that you made it up and you’re like “Uh, I’d love to take credit for that, but…”

ELM: Does this happen to you a lot?

FK: Sometimes? Sometimes in a fanfic I’ll like have a character quote something and the reader thinks that I made that up. But the character’s quoting.

ELM: Just go for it. Own it.

FK: No! That’s how Cassandra Clare got kicked out of fandom!

ELM: Wait—

FK: Elizabeth!

ELM: Did you see that story in The Guardian today about, or it was yesterday I think, about the woman who plagiarized?

FK: Yes! And I thought, Why didn’t I think of that first?!

ELM: Did you see how she called it “transformative”?

FK: I saw that. And you know what’s funny is, I’m not sure that I disagree.

ELM: STOP IT. No! She also said, she said oh, it was wrong by “her code of ethics” or something? I don’t remember what the quote was. And also by all the other…! The thing I was saying today on Twitter was that it angers me because this is what George R.R. Martin and whatever the white slavery woman with the Scottish fanfiction—

FK: Diana Gabaldon?

ELM: Diana Gabaldon. Whenever they talk about fanfiction, that is what they think is happening. They’re like “Someone’s stealing my books!” and you know what? No one, no one—someone is, but it’s not people in fanfiction, right. It’s book pirates.

FK: OK, that’s fair enough. But I feel like…

ELM: This is your conceptual poet world coming to the fore.

FK: Maybe a little bit.

ELM: You’re making a face that acknowledges the truth of the situation. Do you think on that note that we should take a quick break?

FK: I think we should!

ELM: All right.

[Interstitial music]

ELM: All right, so we’re back and we are ready to get to the heart of the matter. Solve all of the questions.

FK: Every one of them.

ELM: Yep. Kay, go ahead. Solve ‘em.

FK: [laughs] So we got a ton of really wonderful responses from a lot of different people, and we have pulled out chunks of those responses and sort of put them in a vague order of topics to talk about.

ELM: One thing that I’ll be interested to know is I think that based on these topics, this is gonna be a place where you and I disagree. I can see it already. I know you love spoilers, maybe I should just tell you in advance. [Flourish laughs] We also disagree on spoilers.

FK: We do disagree on spoilers. I love them.

ELM: I don’t.

FK: To me, part of my fannish pursuit involves seeking out the spoilers wherever they may lurk and—

ELM: That’s ridiculous.

FK: —consuming them.

ELM: That’s insane.

FK: It’s a classic fan activity, is getting spoiled!

ELM: Nope. Wrong. Do you want to hear something ridiculous? So here’s a spoiler for the sixth Harry Potter book. There were news stories about how people were, like, waiting for their books at midnight for The Half-Blood Prince and people would drive by and shout, “Snape kills Dumbledore!”

FK: Yeah, that’s an asshole move.

ELM: OK, so I was convinced and I either convinced my friend or we convinced each other that someone was gonna do that for the seventh book. So we went to the midnight release party and we brought headphones and, like, Walkmans or whatever. This was post-Walkman. This was 2007. We brought iPods. And we listened to music at full blast while we waited on line to pay for our books.

FK: This is the difference between you and me, because I—remember how a copy of the seventh book had leaked to the internet? I had already read it.

ELM: Flourish.

FK: What?!

ELM: To be fair there wasn’t very much to spoil in that.

FK: Eh. In fact, it actually probably made me more upset because I had received the spoilers and I had this hope that it was somehow wrong or fake.

ELM: [laughs] Or missing all the interesting parts.

FK: I thought, I honestly like I read the last chapter and I was like “J.K. Rowling didn’t write this [the leaked book]!”

ELM: [laughs] Awww.

FK: Whomp-whomp [sad noise].

ELM: But spoilers aside, there are other things I disagree about which I think come down to our experiences and perhaps our inclinations that shape those experiences or create those experiences.

FK: I’m actually not sure that we disagree as much as you think we disagree. But we’ll find out. OK, so the first, the first topic that people liked to talk about it seemed like was whether the experience of being a fan or fandom was solitary or whether it was collective.

ELM: This is actually a kind of really important verbal distinction, the idea of what is a fan versus what is a fandom.

FK: Yeah, completely. Cecilia Tan responded and she quoted our post in which… who said this? “When people gather around a thing, spend time and energy based on the thing that they love, it should be considered a fandom.” And it seemed like a bunch of people who responded to us agreed with this.

ELM: That was Amanda who said that. Amanda Brennan.

FK: OK. So Amanda Brennan said that, and a lot of people it seemed like basically agreed with that.

ELM: And you know, we asked her that because I was kind of pressing her—cause I went back and revisited that part of the transcript—because she had been talking so much about the candle fandom, and the other example she gave was the bathtub fandom. And I saw her speak a bunch of times for Tumblr this summer and she gave a lot of examples like that, like weird-keyhole-shape fandom or whatever. [laughs] Whatever, maybe that’s fandom too, right? And so it’s a question of do you think that counts as fandom. And she definitely does.

FK: And I don’t disagree with that, but what’s interesting is it foregrounds the idea of, like, the gathering, the shared experience. Whereas Lori Morimoto said, “I don’t see fandom as a domain of the like-minded. I don’t necessarily think it’s tied to group participation.” She had a good point too, right? Like, she talked about how that [group participation] limits it to certain kinds of experiences, like it’s pretty Anglo-American centric in certain ways, and it also means that if you’re really obsessed with something when you’re five, you’re not a fan of it?

ELM: Or when you’re fifty. Like, Lori is a friend of mine and she’s a fan studies scholar who moved from the US to Hong Kong when she was, I want to say about ten, and it was right when Star Wars was coming out. She has some really, really interesting work where she talks about how her fannish experience was this Western source material mediated through East Asian pop culture magazines, which is so interesting.

And it was, she said that there was stuff that the Western media would never get, too, which adds an interesting layer. But I think to her, I can really relate to this based on my own experience. I think this is where you and I might differ. I don’t know. I don’t think you necessarily have to be in the fandom space with a bunch of other people, whether it’s digital or physical, to say you’re in the fandom of something. Particularly if you didn’t know about it.

FK: I think that I’m not as interested in that experience. It is definitely—I think that that is an experience, I think that it’s reasonable enough for you to say that you’re a fan or that you’re in the fandom or whatever if you, even if you are truly isolated, right? Like if you’re totally isolated and completely obsessed with something and have never spoken to anybody else who is a fan of the thing.

ELM: Like if you live on an ice floe and you have one copy of Pride and Prejudice?

FK: Yeah, totally! Of course you can be a Pride and Prejudice fan.

ELM: Sounds great actually. Like you’re on a rock—

FK: My dreams of Mr. Darcy would keep me warm.

ELM: Oh, you could read it so many times! You’d be the biggest fan.

FK: Right?! But on the other hand, that’s like—I agree that that’s fandom, it’s just not the kind of fandom that I’m usually interested in. I think that there’s a lot of stuff that only happens when you have groups of people who are gathered around something.

ELM: You mean like wank and nastiness?

FK: Yeah, among other things. I would never say that those people aren’t fans or that they shouldn’t be considered to be, like, what does it mean to be a “true fan”?

ELM: You just said “those people,” Flourish. I see how you feel.

FK: Well, I did, because I have never—I’ve basically never been in that position! As soon as I get obsessed with something I’m like “HEY INTERNET WHERE’S MY PEEPS AT,” you know?

ELM: This is actually very interesting and this is my biweekly tradition of live-workshopping an article I’m working on, but I’m toying with the idea of this article right now because a couple of authors I’ve interviewed recently have talked about how the books that they loved as children, they never wanted to share them. And a book that I was just reading, the author was also talking about that. And she said when she—I’m reading, I’m just finishing up Laura Miller’s book about Narnia, C.S. Lewis. She talks about how she didn’t want other kids in her class to read it. She didn’t want anyone else to have her books. If you love something so much, you don’t want anyone near it. Which is kind of the antithesis of this modern idea of communal fandom, right?

FK: Well, I mean, that makes perfect sense to me as something that somebody would feel. I’m just not the person who feels that, and I—

ELM: You’re not interested in hearing about that experience.

FK: No, well, I don’t know a lot about that experience, but also because my job is about looking at audiences for movies or whatever, there’s a lot of things that get generated when you have fandom, when you have people talking to each other about stuff, whereas if you have a single isolated person like they buy a movie ticket, they buy fifty movie tickets…

ELM: Oh, you don’t like it because it doesn’t make as much money because you love money.

FK: [laughs] That’s not true! It actually probably makes more money in certain cases, but it’s, ah…

ELM: You think the ice floe Pride and Prejudice reader…?

FK: No, but the person who sees Pride and Prejudice fifty times in the theater but never tells anybody because he’s embarrassed and none of his guy friends will understand.

ELM: Who is this guy? He sounds so sweet.

FK: Right? But he certainly makes… Point being though that no, I don’t get what that is. Do you get what that is?!

ELM: Sometimes?

FK: Now I want to make you tell me about all those things you want to keep to yourself.

ELM: Uh…

FK: Gonna pull it out of you like teeth.

ELM: I mean, I’ve never left a comment on a work of fanfiction, but there’s some fanfiction that I love more than anything. …you are, you’re gonna excommunicate me from the podcast, aren’t you?

FK: [sputters] I’M THINKING ABOUT IT OH MY GOD. Oh my God.

ELM: I have bookmarks on the AO3 but they’re set to private. And it’s a pseudonym that is not my name with a picture of the back of Sherlock’s head.

FK: That’s fine, I don’t care about the pseudonym part.

ELM: Yeah, but like no one—it’s not like I’m scared that someone’s gonna link the stupid fanfiction… they’re not stupid, they’re wonderful. It’s not like I’m scared that someone’s gonna link this fanfiction to my professional name, obviously. Who cares.

FK: I’m struggling between the feeling that you have every right to enjoy fandom in the way that you choose to enjoy it, and the feeling that you are being a TOTAL JERK to not tell those damn writers how much you like their fic WHY DON’T YOU WRITE THEM FAN MAIL!?

ELM: I think, haven’t I paid it forward enough by writing a bunch of angry articles—?

FK: They might disagree with you!

ELM: Yeah, they might, but…

FK: And then you haven’t paid it forward at all.

ELM: But I am paying it forward for the millions of lurkers who don’t have a voice in that, whether it’s by choice or not.

FK: Yeah, and that’s fair enough, but I think that there’s something different about being a lurker to being truly solitary, right? Being a lurker in fandom is one thing. Being completely divorced from other people’s fannish discussions is another.

ELM: Yeah, I don’t know. I just feel like… and this is something I was talking about with Lori when I was asking her for her opinions on this. A lot of the discourse we have about collective online blah blah, older fans can feel very… It comes from such a place of privilege, to say “Oh well of course, I went online and I found everyone who loves something that I like—” Yeah, that’s the modern world…

FK: It’s the modern world in the United States and in other places where we have continuous internet access.

ELM: Right, which is a fraction of the world!

FK: Yeah, it is.

ELM: A small fraction! It’s not the majority of people in the world, you know. And also have the leisure time to engage with this stuff… The number of people who were like sharing fanzines and stuff like that was tiny, back in the, you know, 30–40 years ago. I think when you say that you have to, that you can’t be solitary, that your fannishness doesn’t count as much if you don’t communicate, even if lurking is a form of communication…

FK: I understand what you’re saying and I’m sure that by not talking about lurkers and by not talking about solitary fandom I’m contributing to the view that those people don’t exist or aren’t important. Those people definitely exist and are important when I talk about fandom in my day job. That’s just not what I’m as into.

ELM: I think part of it is that you do have zero personal experience in this realm.

FK: Yeah.

ELM: So…

FK: It sure is! Whenever I have to, like, talk about it or think about it, I have to go outside of my personal experience.

ELM: [sarcastic] That’s hard for you.

FK: [facetious] It’s difficult. It’s the worst thing in the world. But all I’m saying is… People can be different? I don’t know. [both laugh]

ELM: And that’s our conclusion, we’re done.

FK: People can be different.

ELM: I’m looking at our quotes here, we didn’t say… So Meredith, our first guest Meredith Levine agrees with me. Ha ha!

FK: [outraged] I agree with it too! We don’t actually have a disagreement!

ELM: [smugly] She wrote, “One can be a fan without belonging to a fandom if your experience of what you love is solitary.” …OH WAIT! She doesn’t. She kind of doesn’t agree with me. Never mind, I take it back.

FK: Well, she definitely separates out being a fan and belonging to a fandom. Which I think is actually maybe worth talking about.

ELM: I remember she said something about how the definition of fandom is going and talking to other people who like the thing that you like. I really bristled at that, as someone who… I mean, to be fair I guess I did talk to like my immediate family and my high school best friend about Harry Potter.

FK: Well, OK, but I do think there is something worthwhile in talking, in separating out the ideas of “fandom” and “fan.” Right? Because I certainly would never say that a person who never talks to anybody else but just really loves Harry Potter, of course they’re a fan. But I do think if someone started saying “Well, you’re part of the Harry Potter fandom, so X, Y and Z must apply to you,” and they’re like “What, I’ve never been—I don’t know any of these people you’re talking about,” right? If I started trying to put my experience of Harry Potter fandom on them, that would be wrong, just as much as it would be for me to try to put it on you or whoever, right?

ELM: Even though you do all the time, Flourish!

FK: But on the other hand we hung out on similar sites and so forth! So that’s even less of a—I mean it’s not great, but…

ELM: By similar sites do you mean LiveJournal?

FK: Yeah! You read things on Fanfiction.net at some point.

ELM: So did millions and millions of other people!

FK: I know! But millions and millions of other people loved Harry Potter without ever looking at LiveJournal or Fanfiction.net.

ELM: Yeah, but I bet Meredith never looked at Fanfiction.net. She’s not from fanfiction fandom. But she’s devoted her whole fannish life to Harry Potter.

FK: But do you see what I’m saying? I think that there is a…

ELM: Nope. What are you saying.

FK: I’m saying that there are multiple fandomS within, like, you can say Harry Potter fandom in the sense of people who are fans of Harry Potter, and that’s a really big tent which includes all of the solitary people, and then there’s like Harry Potter fandomS.

EM: I’m perfectly comfortable saying that “fan” can equal “fandom.” I want to say “Oh, you like Harry Potter a lot?” Doesn’t even need to be a lot. Whatever. “You like Harry Potter? You’re in the Harry Potter fandom.”

FK: Yes.

ELM: And then people who are in certain subsections need to chill out when it comes to calling their subsection “fandom.” Which people do all the time.

FK: All the time.

ELM: It drives me crazy.

FK: I think that we’re both trying to struggle on different ends with the same problem, which is to say that I think we basically agree that there’s circles within circles of this, but there’s a question of who gets to use the term… Like, the term “fan” I think we both agree applies to everybody. But then, like, what is “fandom”?

ELM: I think that applies to everybody too. I think it’s a self—I already said this, but I think it’s a self-definition thing. If you want to say you’re in fandom, go wild. Go for it.

FK: Yeah.

ELM: Whatever that means to you.

FK: I don’t necessarily disagree with that, but I do think that there’s like… I’ll often say things like “classic media fandom” meaning “the group of fans who consider themselves to have roots in fanfiction, zines and fanvidding on VCRs and so forth,” right? Classic media fandom. That’s why I use that term, is because I want to differentiate it as that thing as opposed to Tumblr fandom which doesn’t include a lot of classic media fandom, right?

ELM: So we solved nothing. That’s cool.

FK: Well, I feel like we solved some things…

ELM: Let’s move on.

FK: K.

ELM: Possibly not too much farther down the road. [Flourish laughs] Flourish helpfully organized all of our comments into some sort of core questions, and the next one is “participation / creativity required?”

FK: Right.

ELM: And I wanna, I wanna ask you what you mean by this. Do you mean—I don’t even wanna let you speak, I wanna silence you and give you the two options for what you might mean! Do you mean participatory… Are we talking about transformational fandom? Are we talking about whether you have to create fanart or whether you just consume it? Or are you talking about being in transformative fandom at all, versus, like, being in commercial or affirmational fandom…?

FK: Honestly, this came out of the responses to us. And there were two things that people were concerned about. So people were saying they felt like they’d seen folks say “Unless you are a writer or a fanartist or whatever you can’t be in fandom.” And they wanted to push back against that. And then other people were saying that they felt like people thought that if you didn’t communicate, if you didn’t participate in the sense of joining a conversation or having a Tumblr or otherwise posting then you weren’t part of fandom.

ELM: Oh, so this is kind of the same question.

FK: Yeah, and in either case I think the answer is of course you can be in fandom without…

ELM: Even taking it aside from whether you write the fanfiction or read it, I think sometimes this comes up where you’re like “I’m not into fanfiction, but I’m still in this fandom.” And I actually think this is the source of a lot of tension on both sides. I’ve been the victim of tension coming from people who are in the broad tent of certain fandoms who seem to have some very strong feelings against fanfiction, for example.

FK: Yeah. Completely.

ELM: I definitely think it’s at the heart of some things that are really turning me off right now about discourse especially on Tumblr, where I come from a very “fuck canon” kind of perspective when it comes to stuff, where I’m like I want my ship, and I want this to happen, and I want this to happen, and I want it to happen on my terms or the terms of the fanfiction writer that I’m reading.

FK: Yeah.

ELM: I think you see so, so many people saying “I want it on the terms of the creator,” and I always go “Why don’t you just write that yourself? Why do you care so much?” So that is a perspective not that interests me less but that confuses me. I understand it, but it is just… You know what I mean?

FK: Right. OK, so this is moving away from the big tent idea of fandom and into the different fandomS space. Sometimes whether you are in a fandom or not is a position you choose to negotiate yourself, right? So for instance, I consume Teen Wolf gifsets and I have read some Teen Wolf fanfic and I watched like one season of the show, I certainly don’t think I’m in Teen Wolf fandom, but in other situations like I might be like “Yeah, I’m sorta in Teen Wolf fandom.” Depending on who I’m talking to and what the context is.

ELM: This is really interesting to me because I find that I am really all-or-nothing, and it’s one way in which I find Tumblr a little hard to navigate. Because I wanna be friends with people and I want people to like what they like, but I kinda don’t wanna see gifs for random shows that I’m not in the fandom for. So like I started watching Sherlock because I followed one person who was a multifandom person… This is actually how I’ve joined every fandom. I’ll be reading someone’s fic and they’ll switch fandoms and I’ll be like “OK.” You know?

FK: So what you’re saying is you’re a part of migratory slash fandom?

ELM: Well… Yes. Migratory slash fandom. [both laugh] But I mean, spoiler alert, seeing Sherlock jump off a roof… I didn’t know there was gonna be some slash there! But I saw a bunch of Sherlock gifs and I was like, what is this? I WANT THIS. It’s very all-or-nothing for me, you know, that’s why I kind of feel adrift. I can’t really say “Oh, I’m sort of in this, I’m sort of in that.” And I wonder if that’s just a personality difference for some people.

FK: Maybe. Or just a way that you think of it, right? I’ve definitely experienced the feeling of being adrift when I didn’t have a particular new fandom. You saw my joy when I fell headfirst into One Direction.

ELM: Yeah, I did see that. That was a lot of joy.

FK: IT STILL EXISTS! They’re so cute and squishy. But my point, I totally see what you’re saying about feeling adrift but maybe it’s compounded by that?

ELM: Yeah, I guess I just, I don’t know how to do the kind of half thing. Did we already say “Fandom is like porn, I know it when I see it”? That’s fanfiction. What was it that was like porn? I can’t remember.

FK: I don’t know.

ELM: Do you remember? Was it porn or smut, was the original quote? I think it’s smut that was the original quote, right?

FK: It is smut. The original quote is smut.

ELM: Smut. That’s a category that I’ve read before.

FK: [singing] Smut, smut, glorious smut!

ELM: Yeah, so that’s the place where I kind of can run up against the way people do fandom. I feel not alone in the giant vast lurker world, or previously… I guess I still am in the lurker world because I’m still not commenting on anyone’s fanfiction. I’m sorry guys. I’m really really sorry.

FK: But that’s funny because in that way it seems like you’re almost more strict than—like, you were gettin’ on my case for being like “Community is really important to the things I think are important about fandom, you can be a fan singularly but eh,” you were getting on my case for that, but now you’re being like it’s all or nothing in your world!

ELM: I have been told by mental health professionals that I have all-or-nothing thinking. So.

FK: [laughs] Black or white?

ELM: Yeah. That’s kind of always the way it’s been, and I fall really hard into something including things I haven’t discussed here because they’re not major media fandoms.

FK: Give an example.

ELM: Well, between Buffy, which was my first like where I realized there was an internet full of of other people—well, it was the late 90s, so before that I guess I just played Thinker on Prodigy and I didn’t know there was anything else, cause we never had AOL—between Buffy and Harry Potter I would say I was in the ER fandom.

FK: Uh-huh?

ELM: I was obsessed. I recorded every single episode. I wrote fanfiction. I had this one story—lemme tell you! Did you watch ER?

FK: No.

ELM: It was like—you don’t even need to know it. The trope was like, the character I loved woke up one day in a completely different life. A completely different path of the life he’d been living. Does that make sense? Do you know that trope?

FK: Yep.

ELM: Awww, so good. He wasn’t a doctor anymore, you know. He’d chosen a different path… [laughs] Anyway, I purchased some ER merchandise…

FK: Do you still have this ER fanfiction, by the way?

ELM: I would have to look around. Possibly.

FK: I think that you should look around. The internet could enjoy your ER fanfic.

ELM: It’s about Dr. Carter, in case there was ever any doubt. That’s Noah Wyle. Do you know Noah Wyle? You don’t know who that is. That’s fine.

FK: I am so—this is like me and Frasier. I’m like “There’s a song that plays at the end of it? I guess there must be…”

ELM: Oh my god you know I love Frasier. Apparently I love NBC must-see TV programming. [Flourish laughs] ANYWAY, yeah, I was definitely in that fandom! I was so into it. You know how into it I was?

FK: How into it were you?

ELM: I was going to enroll in a program called… I believe it was called New Directions? I think it probably still exists… That was pre-pre-med. So I’d basically cease taking all regular high school classes and only take classes that prepared me for a pre-med major to then go to medical school.

FK: Wow.

ELM: Yeah.

FK: WOW.

ELM: I know!

FK: That’s really intense.

ELM: That’s deep level, right?

FK: That’s deep level.

ELM: And then I volunteered at a hospital and really hated it, and at the same time ER took a turn that I didn’t like, and I abruptly dropped that.

FK: All right!

ELM: So I guess that’s a long aside about a period of my life that’s interesting.

FK: It is interesting! But I think that what we’re coming down to is that actually we basically agree on these things, which is that you can be a fan even if you’re totally solitary, you’re definitely OK to be a fan if you’re a lurker, you definitely don’t have to write fanfic to be a fan cause what?! That makes no sense.

ELM: Yeah, no.

FK: That really doesn’t make any sense. You don’t have to do that.

ELM: No. Not at all.

[Musical interlude]

FK: So the next sort of subcategory that we have is the question of mainstream vs. niche. So Cecilia Tan talks about—and by the way, Cecilia Tan has written a lot of fanfic, she also runs an erotic romance press and she also writes about baseball, so she has cross-fandom experience, you know, into sports—so she says, right, “I’ve been trying to find out if there’s a fundamental difference between a fandom for a book/movie/TV show and fandom for other things, like rock stars or sports like Major League Baseball or the NFL etc. Is it just that sports fandom is condoned by the mainstream and nerdy fandoms aren’t, or weren’t? We could also talk about how now geekdom as a whole is mainstreaming and science fiction and fantasy media are dominant so media fandom is mainstreaming to be more like sports fandom.”

ELM: Sophiabee was another person who talked about this, who writes, “with media coverage and the publishing of fanfics that had been primarily underground, see Fifty Shades, there’s a lot more scrutiny. So what is it? At its core it’s love and inspiration, it’s people who gather virtually forming a community around a common theme. There are people who love Jujube diaper bags. They come together in forums to discuss diaper bags, and they form connection and community. That’s fandom.” The Jujube diaper bag fandom.

FK: Which sort of gets into the previous thing, but I thought it was interesting that sophiabee basically mentioned—I don’t think people would have used the term “fandom” for those people—

ELM: “Those people”!

FK: —those people who love Jujube diaper bags—

ELM: Those parents! —Cecilia’s comment is so multifaceted that I’m not sure where to start or where we should stop. Because on the one hand I would say that it’s not about the object of fandom, it’s about the practice, is where the difference lies. And my example would be that if you are in a bandom, you might write fanfiction, or you might speculate about people in the band on message boards, you might go to the concert, you might buy their merchandise, right? There’s a lot of different ways you might engage with them. All of those have parallels with what you might do about a television show, right?

But on the other hand, of course there are going to be differences, because everything exists within the context of the way society views these cultural products or whatever and the people who engage with them. But as far as the way you framed this question, mainstream vs. niche, I think there’s no doubt that, I mean, I think this all comes to the same—who knew this was all going to revolve around this question? But like, and it can be as niche as you want, it can be as small as you want. Can I say that it can be one thing? I don’t know. I’m in the fandom of my cat.

FK: [laughs] I’m in the fandom of your cat too.

ELM: Yeah that’s true. That’s fair. That’s a huge community, it’s vibrant… If you want to write Orlando fanfiction, I’m not going to stop you. As long as it’s—keep it PG. She’s a cat.

FK: That takes all the fun out of it. Should we move on to the next bit? Which is…

ELM: Creator approved or not.

FK: Creator approved or not is the next category!

ELM: Do you want me to read it? So this is from a listener named Allison Look who sent us an email. So Allison writes, “I think the central tenet of fandom is that it’s derivative, or less derivative than anchored in a pre-existing base—but that’s a lot more complicated to say. It springs into existence around something that already exists, whether that’s a story or an object or a person or an idea, and in order to maintain its status as a fandom it must remain a derivation and never be incorporated into its source.” Oh, this is so fancy.

“For example, philosophy is almost all derivative. Philosophers build on the theories and methods of those that came before them. However, because most published philosophy is considered to be a conversation with all the philosophy that came before it, AKA part of the the philosophical canon, by its authors, by scholars who study it, and by those they are deriving from that are still alive, these published philosophers are not taking part in a fandom. The same holds for any Star Wars novel deemed canon by George Lucas or any Holmes adaptation consented by the Doyle estate. They’re not part of fandom because they cease to be derivative when they’re embraced by the source material they originally derived from. However, I also don’t think this criteria of what isn’t fandom does enough to define what fandom is. I think that there’s a nebulous space between the two.” That is so interesting, possibly far too interesting in the amount of space that we have to talk.

FK: I actually think that, I think she’s right on in a lot of ways. I think the nebulous space between the wto is a really interesting space, also.

ELM: But one thing that does bother me about this, what’s the word I’m looking for, scenario?

FK: Formulation of…?

ELM: Yeah, the way that Allison frames it I think this is so well put that, and maybe the way they’ve framed it is indicative of the inherent imbalance of power, but I hate the idea that it’s Star Wars fanfiction until George Lucas says it’s not.

FK: But wait a minute, if George Lucas says it’s not, says that he agrees and this is canon, like…

ELM: I don’t know.

FK: I mean, what power is there? What power does he have?

ELM: I just, I think I just can’t leave the “fuck canon” school.

FK: Is what you’re saying then that canon shouldn’t be elevated?

ELM: Yeah.

FK: Which I think is, if you say that that’s fine, but…

ELM: Yeah, that’s fine.

FK: But if canon’s not elevated at all, is it just like fandom is a shared world and it doesn’t matter what the originary story is at all? Cause it just sort of goes out into this shared world space, and then…?

ELM: Sure, why not?

FK: Are you really saying that?!

ELM: Maybe! Why would you disagree with that? Go for it.

FK: I don’t know that I disagree, it’s just fascinating. It’s interesting because I feel like a lot of my pleasure in fanfic has to do very much with the canon and very much with my disagreements with the canon. And so if the canon isn’t somehow separate from the fandom then I don’t… Do you see what I’m saying?

ELM: Yeah, I don’t—I think I need less of that, personally. But this is another thing, I think a difference between our writing tastes. And I was thinking about you as I was reading that book about Narnia—which is called The Magician’s Book in case anyone’s wondering, and it’s very interesting, and I would recommend it. You really like modernists, right? You really like to see—you really like to see working parts, you like to see texts very self-consciously talking about themselves, right?

FK: Yeah, and I also—I like texts self-consciously talking about themselves, and I also like the other end of it, things that are so trashy and genre-conventional that they by default are talking about themselves and their genre. Like, I have no patience for realism in fiction.

ELM: I love realism.

FK: AAAAAAA!

ELM: I am gonna give you a big stack of books for Christmas that are all really real.

FK: They’re all—I’m gonna read them to you and I’m gonna be like why am I reading this?!

ELM: Yep. Yep. Yep.

FK: Oh man.

ELM: They’re valuable in different ways.

FK: Let me step back. I think I’m hyper, like, I’m exaggerating my position, I don’t hate any book that has any tinge of realism whatsoever in it. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that I can probably enjoy some of the books that you’re going to recommend to me, and I probably will. But I’m not gonna love ‘em the way I love Pale Fire or Wittgenstein’s Mistress or Courtney Milan’s romance novels. First time someone has listed those things in one phrase.

ELM: Pretty good things!

FK: But I like all of them for the same reasons. BOOM.

ELM: All right, yep, I can’t wait to make you this list. I feel like the other rabbit hole we could go down is one about affirmational fandom. There’s definitely people out there who would say that the way to be a fan is to really work within the space the creator’s laid out, and to lift that up, and that’s not something I’m interested in.

FK: Where as I’m actually, I’m really, I am interested in that. I find affirmational fandom really interesting. Among other things because it’s not usually as purely, quote, “purely affirmational” as sometimes people like to talk about it being, right. People have opinions about things, you know? As affirmational as sports fandom is, you still yell at the ump if you’re in baseball or the coach if you’re in football or whatever, right? You love your team, and you’re 100% sure you could coach it better than that idiot.

ELM: This is something that was really driven home for me when I was living in England is British football fans, soccer fans, are the most critical—they are the most pessimistic… Like, I don’t know. I’ve been a fan of this American football team the Buffalo Bills. You may have heard how they lost four Super Bowls in a row. No other team has lost four Super Bowls in a row.

FK: I’m so sorry.

ELM: Like, we’re a very self-defeating people and it’s Buffalo so there’s a lot of snow, everyone’s a little bit sad.

FK: It’s cold and miserable.

ELM: It’s really cold. It’s actually kind of magical, cause it’s always snowing. It’s not, you know. I wears on you. But I always thought Bills fans were self-defeating, but literally every British soccer fan is like, “Everything is total crap and we’re gonna blow it. And even though we won this game, we’re gonna blow literally all the games and everyone on our team is a piece of trash.” And we were like, “NO! You’re—this is the—you’re gonna win it all!”

FK: But also, the people who care about knowing the names of every Star Wars vehicle are all really angry right now because the new Star Wars movies are fuckin’ up their vehicle classes. Right? They’re the classic affirmational fans, that doesn’t mean it’s not a complicated relationship.

ELM: Yeah, I do find it interesting but more in the kind of baffled-anthropologist kind of thing where it’s like… I don’t know if I talked about this on the podcast, but I think I might have told you about this. This presentation I saw at the Fan Studies Network conference last year where this guy is playing YouTube videos of people who were alarmed by the canceling of the Extended Universe [sic] of Star Wars as canon, and this guy was just like “How, how will we know who Princess Leia’s mother is?!” and he was just having a crisis! And I was like, “Who cares? Make up a name and then give her a backstory! Why do you need someone’s stamp of approval on this?” And maybe we should retitle this episode “fuck canon,” because that’s really all I care about.

FK: To be fair I don’t really care about those things either, but I did care that they got rid of Mara Jade, AKA the best person in the world. Fuck you George Lucas, I want Mara Jade.

ELM: It’s not like this person doesn’t exist, it’s just not “canon,” and yes I did just put that in air quotes.

FK: It’s more like I’ve dreamed for years about getting Mara Jade in a movie or a TV version of some sort and now it’s just gonna be a fanfilm and it will probably be crappy.

ELM: Why don’t you write some fanfiction? Who cares what he thinks?

FK: I can have all the fanfiction I want, I don’t care what he thinks, I want a movie! I want a Mara Jade movie, Elizabeth!

ELM: This is fantitlement.

FK: [sighs] Yeah, well.

ELM: That’s a topic that I’d really like to discuss in a future episode.

FK: We can talk about fantitlement in a future episode, but in any case, yeah, fuck canon… I do generally agree with your “fuck canon.” But like, imagine, imagine if somebody was just like, Watson doesn’t exist.

ELM: Fine.

FK: I don’t believe you. I don’t believe that you would be fine with that.

ELM: I don’t know what that—what does that mean?

FK: I don’t know either!

ELM: If you told me Remus and Sirius were no longer canon [snorts] like, I don’t care! Do you know how much fanfiction I have of them? Like, I don’t care!

FK: But this is erasing an entire character from canon… Anyway, go on.

ELM: What is canon? What is canon? Go ahead, erase Sirius, my most favorite character ever. He’s not canon anymore. Go ahead! I don’t care. …are you giving me the finger right now?

FK: This is in the category of things like spoilers that we’re just going to have to fucking agree to disagree, OK?

ELM: [laughs] OK, but I’m serious now… One thing that I’m thinking about when we’re talking about affirmational and transformational is we haven’t really talked about materialist fandom, and I think that is actually where we… that has connections to both of these things. It’s interesting because I feel that the reason we wanted to talk about this was partly because I think some of the clashes we’ve been having… not necessarily like we’re fighting people on a weekly basis… have been about us questioning people who are into a material fandom kind of thing.

I mean, Meredith talking about YouTube. Similar stuff, like Amanda talking about the candle haul videos with people buying candles and burning them and talking about them, or Meredith talking about, what was it, beauty? It was a very similar thing with beauty products.

FK: Beauty vloggers.

ELM: Yeah, there’s some term for it. That to me feels more foreign than any sad Star Wars man getting upset about the loss of his fancy spaceship from official sanctioned canon and not from words. I already mentioned how I purchased ER merchandise, they were a pair of scrubs by the way that say ER on the butt, and I wore them a couple months ago when I visited my parents, so…

FK: You still own them!

ELM: Yeah! Oh I wouldn’t get rid of my ER scrubs. Or my, I’m going to England in a few weeks and I’m gonna go on the Harry Potter studio tour, that’s pretty material fandom right there.

FK: Yeah, but those things are material bits that hang off of a fictional fandom but for instance on Ravelry, there’s all these ways you can obsessively document the yarn you have, when you bought it, what dye lot it is, how much you paid for it, trade yarn with other people. People get really obsessive about owning yarn, and what type it is exactly and how it works…

ELM: Yeah, this is something I don’t have any experience with at all. I guess it’s kind of like the casual TV viewer who is like “Could you all just stop and just watch a show and stop going crazy over it?” Similar to me, I’ve never bought yarn, but…

FK: But perfume, maybe? That’s another one that people get….

ELM: No, I hate perfume.

FK: Really?

ELM: Yeah.

FK: [sadly] Oh. But anyway, the point is, you’re saying you’re coming from a casual viewer point of view on this one…

ELM: Yeah, I buy makeup, there’s stuff I like, I bought a new makeup brush a couple months ago and I might show my friend like “Oh, isn’t this cute?” But you won’t see me going and reviewing it and obsessing over other makeup brushes. It wasn’t and it never has been.

FK: I guess I see one idea, I see a collector’s impulse is potentially something that can be paired with fandom as we’re talking about it—but it’s not necessarily fandom as we’re talking about it. For instance, my mom’s really into rocks. She has a rock collection.

ELM: All right.

FK: She knows a lot about—she doesn’t know a lot about geology, she knows about it certainly more than I do, but she’s not, like, a geologist. But she likes rocks! Really cool rocks. Is she a member of physical rock fandom?

ELM: Yes.

FK: But it’s a collecting thing! It’s an aesthetic—

ELM: What’s the difference between her and the candle fandom?

FK: I don’t know.

ELM: Does she need to go on YouTube and make rock haul videos where she’s like “I got this great, this sick rock”? Does she need to write rock fanfiction?

FK: She does go to rock shows. She goes to rock shows.

ELM: So she’s in the fandom.

FK: She once hiked the Pacific Crest Trail from California to Canada and midway through she had put so many rocks in her pack that the pack broke. She also lost two inches of height because her pack was so heavy because of all the rocks.

ELM: Stop it. That’s not physically possible, is it?

FK: It is true! Your spine can compress a lot. She gained most of it back, but she actually did lose like a half an inch permanently.

ELM: She should join feather fandom. [all laugh] That’s ridiculous! Rock fandom. It’s such a difficult fandom to be part of.

FK: But I’m just saying, right, I think that there’s a question, though. Maybe she is part of fandom for that reason. I don’t know. But then is fandom anything different from just liking something a whole lot.

ELM: Yeah, because I think it’s about self-definition, so she wants to say that she’s in the rock fandom, more power to her, and if she doesn’t feel like that word applies to her, then she’s a rock collector and a rock lover.

FK: So we’re saying fandom more has to do with, like, the cultural idea of fans or fandom as opposed to the connoisseur, the collector, the expert or whatever?

ELM: Yeah, I think it’s about context. There’s not a vast amount of difference between… Well, there is, I don’t want to trumpet pseudo-academic work, but between the people in a Jane Austen fandom and the scholars teaching and researching Regency literature. The level of interest is the same and in a lot of cases the practice—not the practice but the amount of engagement and the level of intellectual activity is the same.

FK: But even some of the practices are the same, I’m sure. Both groups write papers about things like “How much money did Mr. Darcy make in today’s dollars.”

ELM: Ten thousand a year!

FK: Yeah.

ELM: Ten thousand whats, pounds?

FK: Ten thousand pounds. That’s what he made. That’s what his yearly income was.

ELM: But what does that mean?

FK: Well, apparently it means approximately three hundred and eighty something thousand dollars in 1988 money, but you also have to keep in mind that a lot of things were cheaper.

ELM: Yeah but what is it a year, how does he have a steady income? He doesn’t seem to… is that what he collects in taxes?

FK: It’s invested in the Funds.

ELM: I need more details. Maybe…

FK: His fortune is mostly invested in the Funds and then he also owns the manor and like a bunch of land and people pay rent.

ELM: Can you maybe tell me about the Extended Universe for Pride and Prejudice where we know exactly what he invested in? Cause without that I don’t know if I can actually enjoy this.

FK: I have questions about this actually [Elizabeth laughs] because he could have invested in, he could own like a sugar plantation in Barbados—

ELM: Flourish, that’s called Mansfield Park.

FK: Yeah well. But I mean Mr Darcy could too!

ELM: You know this was my entire academic career was reading colonial—was reading domestic British literature looking for hints of the colonial.

FK: Really? So I just stepped on your territory! Tell me all about Mr. Darcy.

ELM: Step off!

FK: Tell me all about Mr Darcy’s investments then.

ELM: Well we don’t, there are not even subtextual clues that would give us that.

FK: That’s true.

ELM: That would be entirely in our fannish minds whether he was…

FK: But fuck canon, right?

ELM: An extra problematic fave! Look, I don’t want—yeah, fuck canon, but I don’t want, like, does he have to be a slave owner?

FK: No.

ELM: OK, so we have been talking for basically ever, and it’s probably time to wrap up, so maybe we want to talk about what we learned today?

FK: Shall I propose things that I think that we agreed on and then you can tell me if I’m wrong?

ELM: Sure.

FK: So I think that we agreed that fandom and the term fan are both matters of self definition and they can apply to anybody, even if you are totally solitary sitting on an ice floe reading Pride and Prejudice obsessively, all the way to if you’re running Regency country dances and you know everybody who’s ever read Pride and Prejudice except for the person on the ice floe.

ELM: [laughs] Yes. I think I probably said that 100 times. So I definitely agree with that.

FK: And also that within this one of the problematic things about this conversation is that people use the term “fandom” to refer to their corner of this big umbrella, so for instance the Jane Austen country dance fandom versus the fanfic Jane Austen fandom versus the people who read Temeraire and also love Jane Austen and so forth fandom. Like they don’t really cross each other but they all think that they’re Jane Austen fandom.

ELM: I don’t even know what that last thing is but yes.

FK: And we think that there’s nothing about, you don’t have to be—there’s nothing about creativity or even participation. You don’t need that to be a fan.

ELM: Yeah. No. Not at all.

FK: And we agree that we’re interested in sports fandom and basically any weird, like, no matter what it is we’re willing to take it on on this podcast.

ELM: Go Bills! Like, that also isn’t up for debate.

FK: But even all the way to physical rocks fandom. Like geode fandom.

ELM: You think I’m gonna hate on your mom? I love the rock fandom.

FK: And we also think in general fuck canon although I’m still mad at George Lucas for de-canonizing Mara Jade.

ELM: You and that man in the YouTube video worrying about Princess Leia’s mom!

FK: But in general fuck canon even if there may be certain reservations lurking within my heart.

ELM: Yeah! Do you think we learned new things from each other? Maybe that wasn’t the objective so that’s fine.

FK: I don’t know that we learned new things from each other, but I do think that I learned that I don’t think our vocabulary is good enough at splicing out different categories within fandom in a way that’s not exclusionary, right? Like, I wish there was a better way to say “Now we’re talking about people who think this way, and now we’re talking about people who think that way,” without falling back on “You’re not a true fan” or “You’re not really in fandom” or whatever.

ELM: You think our, meaning you and me, are not? Or like…people involved in fan things generally.

FK: I think that we are trying very hard not to do that but it’s made harder by the fact that we don’t have a wide palette of terms to use. “Fan” as a term has to stand in for like all of these different relationships to the text and the community… if you thought about it as a big axis of, like—cares a lot about the text and canon—doesn’t give a shit about canon—cares a lot about community—doesn’t give a shit about anybody else? Like, the whole thing is a fan, anybody anywhere on that is a fan, which is fine, I’m down with that, but…

ELM: So it’s me on the ice floe reading Pride and Prejudice and not actually—

FK: Not giving a shit.

ELM: “No! I don’t care what happens in this book! I’m writing my own book! On the ice floe.” You make that matrix, add some visual art, I will illustrate myself on the ice floe reading Pride and Prejudice.

FK: And I will draw myself on where I think I belong and we can invite our listeners to draw themselves on.

ELM: Wait, we should totally make a matrix.

FK: We will make a matrix! OK guys we’re gonna start this. You’re gonna put yourself on this matrix.

ELM: Fan matrix.

FK: Fan matrix.

ELM: Yeah. Perfect.

FK: And then maybe we can come up wtih names for the quadrants?

ELM: I don’t know how it’s gonna work. But…

FK: We can always make up stuff and just be like “the flibbertigibbets are over here…”

ELM: Why don’t we just copy the New York Magazine Approval Matrix?

FK: [awkward laughter] Uhhhhhhh.

ELM: It’s the only matrix I know, so…

FK: Well, there’s the one with Neo in it.

ELM: I didn’t see it. No spoilers!

FK: Wait—I love that you’re from, like, normal NBC TV land and I’m from genre land and we’re both totally boggled by each other’s cultural knowledge gaps.

ELM: I am not—look, I like ER and I love Frasier and that doesn’t mean… I guess I liked Will and Grace. [FK laughs triumphantly] I hate Friends though, I’m sorry everyone, I hate Friends so much.

FK: I don’t like Friends either.

ELM: So I think this was a very interesting discussion. I didn’t have a vision that we would suddenly crack the code to what is fandom.

FK: It was never realistic.

ELM: No I’m sorry you can just write that fanfiction in which we discover the answer. [Flourish laughs] But it’s very interesting and kind of leaves me with more questions.

FK: But that’s good because that means that we’ve got a lot more of this podcast…

ELM: So much more.

FK: …to do!

ELM: It just keeps coming and coming.

FK: The next person we’re gonna have on the podcast is Jackson Bird of the Harry Potter Alliance.

ELM: Jackson!

FK: Yeah!! So make sure that you tune in for that.

ELM: Thank you so much for listening and, as always, if you’re not already following us on Tumblr and Twitter it’s fansplaining—actually on all three, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook. But you can use any of those social media platforms. Or email address! fansplaining@gmail.com to leave us feedback to tell us that we are, you know, bad people because I’ve never left a comment on a fanfiction. Or all the other things Flourish is a bad person for.

FK: I’m a bad person for so many reasons. She’s just got the one. I’ve got all of ‘em. All right. Talk to you later, Elizabeth.

ELM: Bye Flourish.

[Outro music]

FK: The opinions expressed in this podcast are not those of Stratus Media Ventures, Chimera Media Group, Chaotic Good, or our clients, or our employers, or anyone’s except our own.

EpisodesFansplaining