A new “fandom is broken” article and the ensuing avalanche of responses is only the latest iteration of a familiar cycle

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com, or follow me on Twitter.

Two comparisons occur to me:

1.) to the extent that fanfic suggests the amateurs who can undermine the power of the professionals, there is an echo here for the criticisms that journalists made, over and over again, when the blogosphere existed, during the period from 1999 to 2008. That conversation when the blogosphere was destroyed by Facebook and Twitter.

2.) to the extent that gender is a factor in the hysteria of the reaction against fanfic, there is some overlap between this hysterical reaction and the hysterical reaction we’ve seen to the rise of new political leaders, such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

The arguments and counter-arguments go on endlessly:

Harassment is a problem all over the internet, it’s not specific to fandom, and why is a taste for a harmless coffee shop AU fanfic tantamount to abandoning difficult stories? fan journalists wrote. Conflating campaigns against inclusion with campaigns for inclusion is a weird move, some pointed out. Fandom isn’t so much entitled as it is increasingly critical of the art it interacts with, others insisted.

…More specifically, one woman defended woman-centric fandom. Her name is Camille Bacon-Smith (she is now, delightfully, the author of several series of paranormal romances), and back then she was a Star Trek fan. Bacon-Smith was into transformative Star Trek fandom: zines, fan art, fanfic. That fandom mostly comprised women, she wrote:

Male fans of the show generally balk at the restriction and prefer to engage in activities such as costuming or crafts, for which payment is not a traditional reward. Women, who traditionally spend large portions of their lives working in relative isolation for little or no pay, bring a different set of motivations to their writing and art. They want to talk to other women, to express themselves in the science fiction form that until recently has all but excluded them. The writers cannot sell their work, but they don’t have to meet commercial criteria for success either: they must please only the predominantly female Star Trek fan community.

Transformative fandom is still overwhelmingly dominated by women; Archive of Our Own found that more of its users identified as genderqueer (6 percent) than as male (4 percent). Men who are involved in fandom are more likely to participate in curative fandom. They end up on Reddit, ranking every Doctor on Doctor Who. Women who are involved in fandom are more likely to end up on Tumblr, dream-casting a racebent version of Doctor Who.

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