The margins of print? Fan fiction as book history

Catherine Coker

[0.1] Abstract—Contemporary fan fiction is overwhelmingly digital in both publication and dissemination; it has never been easier to access this subculture of writers and writing. However, fan fiction in print has likewise never been so accessible, as a slew of recent popular novels proudly proclaim their fannish origins and make claims such as "More Than 2 Million Reads Online—FIRST TIME IN PRINT!" Further, traditional fannish mores insist that fan work should never be done for profit, and yet numerous print works adapted from fan fiction have become best sellers. I would like to problematize how we consider form and content in both creation and reception, how the popular value of work waxes and wanes in relation to its fan fiction status. In other words, how can we read fan fiction as part of a continuum of historical publication practices by women, and problematize our hierarchies of value between print and digital?

[0.2] Keywords—Fan writing; Fanzines

Coker, Catherine. 2017. "The Margins of Print? Fan Fiction as Book History." Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 25.

1. Introduction

[1.1] Contemporary fan fiction is overwhelmingly digital in both publication and dissemination; it has never been easier to access this subculture of writers and writing. However, fan fiction in print has likewise never been so accessible, as a slew of recent popular novels proudly proclaim their fannish origins on their printed covers in brick-and-mortar bookstores, making claims such as that of Anna Todd's After series: "More Than 2 Million Reads Online—FIRST TIME IN PRINT!" Published novels such as Anna Todd's series (which revises fan fics based on the boy band One Direction) and the infamous Fifty Shades series by E. L. James (revised from Twilight fan fics or "Twifics") have won their authors film deals, top rankings on best-seller lists, and heaps of scorn from both the fan and literary establishments.

[1.2] The transition from private circulation—much fan fiction is shared on platforms aimed at specific communities—to mass publication is less unusual than these examples would have us believe; indeed, it makes up the greater part of the history of women's writing. However, fan fiction has yet to be accepted as part of that history, or indeed, of the history of publication in general. Nonetheless, I would like to argue that if we problematize how we consider the form and content of fan writing in both its creation and reception, we can read fan fiction as part of a continuum of historical publication practices. This reading relies on acknowledging that we have accepted as a cultural norm hierarchies of value between print and digital that emphasize traditional patriarchal and public practices of reading and writing over private coterie practices, ones that have their roots in the history of women's reading and writing.

[1.3] To examine these points more closely, I would like to show how an interdisciplinary approach to fan texts using book history can reformulate our understanding of fannish reading, writing, and publication. I was once told that book history is not applicable to the study of fan fiction as, "by definition," such writing is not disseminated in book form—that is, as a printed codex. Though the contemporary discipline of book history looks beyond this narrow definition to include multiple technologies of production and consumption, from scroll to e-book, this challenge to including the study of fan fiction in book history ignores both the better part of fannish history and truly massive amounts of fannish production: library collections at the University of California, Riverside have fanzine holdings in the hundreds of thousands, while numerous other research institutions, such as the University of Iowa and Texas A&M University, hold thousands of issues as well. Fan fiction is also published online, whether in private and locked communities (such as some fan Web sites and closed groups on LiveJournal), on a semipublic platform such as Wattpad (which requires users to provide an e-mail address and register as members), or in completely open archives such as and the Archive of Our Own. Together, these sites provide texts in the millions. Too little fan studies scholarship notes that there is a linear progression in connections between and access to fan works in the transition from print to digital publication and circulation; for example, both Camille Bacon-Smith's Enterprising Women (1992) and Henry Jenkins's Textual Poachers (1992), seminal works in the field, focused on media studies rather than on literary study, and attempted to normalize perceptions of fans and fannish behaviors. While they both referenced print fanzines, they emphasized the why of their creation, rather than the how of their production and consumption. And they examined individual texts and authors as singular or exemplary case studies, not seeing them as connected to a significant body of work with its own history. Later studies, such as Rhiannon Bury's Cyberspaces of Their Own: Female Fandoms Online (2005) and Karen Hellekson and Kristina Busse's edited collection Fan Fiction and Fan Communities in the Age of the Internet (2006), similarly looked at specific fandoms and topics, including literary critique, but likewise considered only contemporary fan works rather than fandom's print-based roots. As a methodology, book history can usefully reframe and recontextualize studies of fannish production, dissemination, and consumption, enabling us to expand our considerations of such texts, rather than isolating them as unique case studies.

[1.4] The first American and British fanzines appeared in the early 1930s, concurrent with new technologies of what we now call desktop publishing; using stencils and gelatin, fan writers could quickly and cheaply copy volumes of commentary on fans and fandom, plus, of course, the earliest fan fiction. The term "fan fiction" itself was also coined in the 1930s, signifying amateur writing by self-identified fans rather than the transformative works derived from media and literary fandoms that we know today. This linguistic and intellectual shift needs to be queried further (note 1), but from the 1930s through the 1990s, bound and printed fan fiction was circulated, read, and discussed by numerous social communities in science fiction (and fantasy) fandom. In her book The Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction (2002), Justine Larbalestier describes publisher Hugo Gernsback, best known as the founder of Amazing Stories in 1926 and later memorialized through SFF fandom's annual Hugo Award, using the word "fan" to describe "the passionate readers" of his magazine—and, "strange to say," many of them were women—but Larbalestier's focus is on fans as readers and writers of genre rather than as transformative readers and writers (2002, 23). Helen Merrick's The Secret Feminist Cabal (2009) covers similar ground and introduces a number of women fans as readers and writers in the 1930s and later on, but she too avoids discussion of fans as readers and writers of transformative texts, and focuses on only a small number of specific fanzine titles as case studies rather than examining the medium more broadly. Further, both of these works are classified and presented as volumes of science fiction studies rather than of fan studies or literary history, though functionally they can be read as examples of both, since both examine literary production and consumption. This lack of attention is due to the low cultural value put on fan writing.

[1.5] While the history of fan writing is convoluted at best, its bibliography is neglected altogether. Very few bibliographies of fan writing exist, and almost all of them are created by and for fans themselves. This is largely because of changing practices of authorship in fandom; early works were often written under fans' real names, and so what bibliographies there are run the risk of "outing" them (note 2). They are also often out of print and hard to find. One example is the Trexindex, a three-issue fanzine with seven supplements issued between 1977 and 1993. Subtitled The Complete Encyclopedia of Star Trek Fan Magazines, it aimed to index all fan stories and fan authors writing during that period. (There are also bibliographic lists created as finding aids for fanzines in library holdings, and while these are public, they are limited in scope and context.)

[1.6] Bibliography itself, loosely defined, is the study and analysis of texts, their production, and their transmission. As a discipline, it is much more than the dry lists of books and technical data found in library catalogues that describe material objects; rather, to quote D. F. McKenzie, one of its most important champions, it reveals the history of texts in society itself, investigating "what their production, dissemination, and reception reveal about past human life and thought" (1992, 298). While fan studies shares similar concerns in uncovering and analyzing fannish regard for the creation and use of fan texts, the field has not made use of book history's methodology to do so. I would consider this an argument in favor of examining the methodology, and the material, more closely rather than disregarding them altogether, as I was urged to. To quote Leslie Howsam: "Like social class (in E. P. Thompson's famous formulation), the book is not so much a category as a process: books happen; they happen to people who read, reproduce, disseminate, and compose them; and they happen to be significant. The book can be a force for change and the history of the book documents that change" (2006, 5).

[1.7] At the same time, the field of book history is heavily invested in maintaining and reinforcing the traditional status of print culture, and especially of Western, Anglo-European printed discourse, and this investment has its drawbacks too. Indeed, studies of the book in Eastern and various indigenous cultures are only a few decades old; Henry Jenkins's Textual Poachers (1992) predates studies of the book in the pre-Columbian Americas and a great deal of work on the book in Eastern and Islamic cultures, among others (Mignolo 1995; Suarez and Woudhuysen 2013). This very narrow discourse is currently expanding, but it nonetheless remains invested in microdefinitions of—and so, I would argue, microaggressions to—nonmale and nonwhite writing, reading, and textual circulation. And so, the "objective" (I use this word with awareness of all its connotations) form of the "book" is a printed codex created by and for a Western, patriarchal culture that emphasizes the public masculine voice and pointedly minimizes all others.

[1.8] How then can we define a "book," when we have already acknowledged its wide range of meanings? The production of the printed codex, at least, has been best defined and revealed through Robert Darnton's famous communications circuit, a theoretical model created in 1982 that centers the book as object in a schema that

[1.9] runs from the author to the publisher (if the bookseller does not assume that role), the printer, the shipper, the bookseller, and the reader. The reader completes the circuit because he influences the author both before and after the act of composition. Authors are readers themselves…So the circuit runs full circle. It transmits messages, transforming them en route, as they pass from thought to writing to printed characters and back to thought again. (Darnton [1982] 2005, 11)

[1.10] Various interventions in this model have been formulated over the years (Adams and Barker 2006; Phelps 1996; McDonald 1997; Secord 2000; Bachleitner 2009; Weel 2015), but none of them query this basic context of masculine production or public consumption, nor how it functionally removes women both as writers and as tradeswomen. Moreover, this model is increasingly recognized as a picture of production during a very specific time period. In her 2014 essay "Do Women Have a Book History?" Michelle Levy points out these shortcomings, noting,

[1.11] Rethinking [Darnton's] communication circuit in terms of gender compels us to confront the gender asymmetry that existed within commercial publishing…Gender complicates some of the fundamental assumptions embedded in the communication circuit, which, by assigning discrete roles to various groups, obscures the overlapping roles that many individuals, and it seems, many women, played within the print marketplace. (312)

[1.12] However, by focusing explicitly on commercial publishing, Levy too bypasses manuscript culture. There are currently no models of the book that consider manuscript publication—the form in which most women's writing was disseminated and read for some 300 years. Nor have there been any expansive studies of private press or zine production, through which both SF fandom at large and women in particular disseminated texts through the second half of the twentieth century; nor of digital publication and print-on-demand, forms that are indisputably characteristic of contemporary fannish publishing and reading.

[1.13] Indeed, the patriarchal print model is only just starting to be disrupted. Margaret Ezell, in her 1999 volume Social Authorship and the Advent of Print, goes into more detail on the actual materiality of women's writing and publishing, particularly in the 16th through 18th centuries. She points out that women's writing and its circulation in manuscript form, as forms of social authorship and interaction, are critical not only to literary context but also to its reception by contemporary scholars, noting that

[1.14] having a "voice" is equated with being in print, with the obvious implication that "work" is equated with print texts and anything else, manuscript copy in particular, is only "silence." The sole criterion of the success of these generations of women writers is the amount they published, with no mention of the amount they actually wrote. Intentionally or not, we thus train our students to classify literary activity with print as the superior mode and to employ false gender dichotomies when interpreting early modern texts. (43–44, italics original)

[1.15] The insight that Ezell applies to early modern texts I apply to contemporary ones: by minimizing or ignoring digital production in favor of print, we erase significant patterns of production and consumption and deny the true impact of readers and writers on the intellectual, social, and economic fields of textual markets. Further, by erasing the larger history of fan texts aside from or prior to media fandom, we create an ahistorical narrative in which contemporary communities and texts are intellectually disconnected from previous ones, and thus minimized and decontextualized. In doing so we perpetuate and reinforce textual hierarchies in which print is valorized at the expense of the manuscript and the digital, masculine production at the expense of the feminine. We endorse intellectual values that privilege a specific image of the canon in our classrooms and culture. Unpacking these paradigms reveals a great deal about how the discourse of fandom is shaped by the discourse of the printed book.

2. Locating the space and materials of fannish publishing

[2.1] When literary historians consider the history of women's writing, they typically look at how women operated in the public, "male" space of print publication as compared to the private, "feminine" space of manuscript publication. In the 16th and 17th centuries women writers built communities to share writing that they could disseminate in manuscript, or handwritten form: private, gendered literary production for a specific audience of cultural "insiders" (often known as "one's friends"). We should consider how women fans' zine and Web publishing can function as an analog to historical manuscript circulation, especially since such fans are preoccupied with controlling access to their literary endeavors, how texts reflect small communities with specific personal ties, and how their writings often were and are denigrated by predominantly male publishers and scholars. In short, we should think how we might locate women's fan writing as part of the greater history of women's literary writing and production. By revising contemporary narratives of both book history and fan history, we can reread women's work in the literary and book trades from the 17th and the 21st centuries as a function of operating with and subverting patriarchal norms of literary production. In other words, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

[2.2] Problematizing the space of production is a key point of entry into considering how we value the public, commercial space versus the private space of affective labor, especially given that one of the major fannish mores is to never profit materially from one's writing. (Indeed, some of the greatest objections I have seen to the popularity of Fifty Shades of Gray and similar novels is their authors' betrayal of the fannish community by republishing their work for money!) A passage in Margot Adler's Drawing Down the Moon, an ethnographic study of contemporary neo-paganism first published in 1979 and revised in 1986, sets a scene that would have been very familiar—except for the nudity—to fans in previous generations:

[2.3] Eight or nine people sat around a long low table that was covered with stacks of freshly-printed pages…The sound of friendly chatter mingled with the rustling of pages, the steady firing of a stapling machine, and the occasional crunching of popcorn, which was being passed around in a large bowl…Only one person in the room was wearing any clothes, a fact that didn't seem noticeable after a few minutes…Everyone—dressed or undressed—was engaged in the business of the day, which was sorting, collating, and stapling, and mailing the 74th issue of The Green Egg. (265–66)

[2.4] Collating parties were a staple, as it were, of zine publishing. Zines proliferated widely in the late 1970s, moving beyond their roots in science fiction fan communities and into the punk, feminist, and New Age movements. Zines took multiple forms, from letterzines (typed copies of correspondence that were then disseminated to all members of a textual conversation) to bound volumes. Sometimes they imitated traditional newspapers or magazines in their format, typefaces, and paper; at other times they appeared as codices, with colophons and illustrated soft or hard covers. They would usually be distributed by subscription, with a set number of copies produced for a set number of subscribers, occasionally with a handful of extras that could be sold or given to others outside the group. Zines were usually made in someone's home (a private, domestic space), but they would often have significant public, and so "published," lives. Print runs could number anywhere between ten and several hundred, depending on the number of subscribers and the size of the potential nonsubscriber audience. Popular issues of zines could have multiple editions; colophons for certain Star Trek zines supply information such as "fifth edition, three hundred and fifty copies." Some of the most popular titles ultimately had two or even three thousand copies made and sold. Zines were thus not always small or inexpensive productions; they required a number of people to provide content, labor, and materials.

[2.5] We might then see contemporary fannish desktop and Web publishing as an inversion of historical printing practices. The very nomenclature of English and colonial American "printing houses" ties into a patriarchal government and guild system that legally required printers to work in their own homes for tax and census purposes, effectively combining the private and public spheres into one. For example, English printers were required by the Ordinance of 1653 to exercise their trade "in their respective Dwelling Houses and not elsewhere" (Firth and Rait 696). Women's labor was often invisible except in cases where the men were absent: jailed or dead. While these laws were not enforced in the American colonies, they (and particularly their emphasis on authority and power) have nonetheless shaped our conceptions of books as printed volumes. Adrian Johns similarly notes that the "bifurcated representation of the workplace as a home and as a business was consequently made central to the production and reception of printed books" (1998, 125, italics original). In other words, the known site of production legitimized a text in a way that the laborers who produced it did not.

[2.6] In contrast, today's home or self-publishing is now considered among the least respectable forms of literary endeavor, with fan fiction even lower because it is written for pleasure rather than profit. The "home" that was originally identified as the man's purview is now identified as the woman's, and this shift is key to redefining the discourse of public and private publication. Similarly, shifts in labor resources redefine our perceptions of activity; women's work in the 17th-century print industry combined text with textiles, including sorting rags for quality to be made into paper and sewing paper sheets for pamphlets and book bindings. Women's reading and writing have long been regarded with suspicion. To quote Elizabeth Long, it is always women who read "too much," and this criticism is leveled at both housewives and spinsters: "reading requires social control lest it take over from more worthy pursuits," namely more traditional (and feminine) domestic duties (2003, 13). Writing is equally suspicious, and publication not even to be thought of; redefining the home as the location of these labors subverts the intellectual power of masculine, public discourse. Consider the import of Virginia Woolf's classic text A Room of One's Own, which considers space and time to write as necessities.

[2.7] Further, Woolf herself co-owned Hogarth Press with her husband; she sorted the type for their fledgling press and typeset portions of the works they published; she learned bookbinding at the age of nineteen and continued to bind books throughout her life. And she was not the only one; women were an important part of the Modernist publishing scene. A recent biography of Blanche Knopf by Laura Claridge, The Lady with the Borzoi: Blanche Knopf, Literary Tastemaker Extraordinaire (2016), describes in great detail how Knopf cofounded that famous press with her husband, with whom she too sewed by hand the sheets for the books they published, as well as working as editor and agent, but was systematically written out of the history of the firm. Woolf as writer and publisher likewise speaks to the nature of book as object, with what Lisa Maruca calls "production values": "the social standards or community agreements as to what is worthy of notice and is best to uphold, and likewise what must be repressed in order to maintain these standards—that are promulgated both through the act of textual production and about textual production" (2007, 7).

[2.8] When we consider women's history in publishing—whether as writers, typesetters, binders, or other laborers—we need to consider the problems of invisibility. At this point in time, all too often books themselves are not seen; we usually don't consider the sourcing of paper, bindings, ink, etc. because we are so distanced from it. Looking at physical materials means a great deal in considering how they came to be. What, if anything, does it mean that different copies of the same issue of a fanzine are printed on different-colored paper? In some cases, these differentiate editions, while in others it indicates no artistic intention but only what paper was cheapest at the time. On the other hand, some zine producers went to great lengths to obtain high-quality paper and other materials for their zines.

[2.9] For example, the Darkover Newsletter, published by the fan club Friends of Darkover, saw 70 issues over 20 years, with a subscriber base ranging between 100 and 1,000 as Darkover and Marion Zimmer Bradley waned and waxed in popularity. (On Friends of Darkover publications generally, see Coker 2008.) Paper color changed with each issue, and was rarely repeated. Darkover fans I spoke to gave no reason for this beyond a shrug and "Well, that's what we had to work with." Presumably the various lots of colored paper were what they could easily and cheaply obtain. The Friends of Darkover published several titles in addition to the Newsletter, including Starstone, a serial that lasted five issues; eight different one-shot titles, including The Darkover Cookbook; and a small pamphlet with a poem by Bradley called "The Maenads." This last is the single exception I have found to the pattern of their paper usage. It was printed in three editions with different-colored paper covers: the first edition was gray and ran 25 copies, the second was green and ran 75 copies, and the third was yellow and does not indicate the size of its print run. In short, fan work in print requires not only significant labor, expense, and materials, but also the knowledge and expertise to combine these into a print publication.

[2.10] Fanzine publishing has become more expensive because of declining mechanisms of production, as well as the migration of much of fandom to online forums. Printed collections of fan fiction have largely been reduced to special publications, sometimes crowd-funded on Kickstarter or similar online venues. Agent with Style (, a fan publisher that specializes in reprinting vintage fanzines, must do so with significant markup. For instance, the first issue of the classic K/S zine Nome, edited by Victoria Clark, M. V. M. Varela, and Barbara L. Storey, was published in 1979 and displayed no cover price. Used copies have been found priced $1–$9; a brand new reprint from AWS costs $22, or $29 for overseas orders, though this does include shipping and handling costs. (Other issues with the publisher and its productions have been reported; see Most commercial printers today require a minimum number of copies before they will take a job on, with expenses increasing as page counts rise.

[2.11] Nonfiction fanzines are much shorter than fan fiction zines: 4 to 30 pages versus 60 to 150 pages, on average. The shorter fanzines generally are similar to flyers or circulars, offering book and film reviews and conference information; the larger ones tend to be fiction anthologies. Both are reflective of their primary audiences. Fan fiction fanzines have become an outlet for a niche market of vintage collectors rather than a viable introduction to a fandom, while nonfiction fanzines are aimed at an insular and preexisting audience that is already a community. Because they are intended for very different audiences, they are functionally invisible to one another's audiences.

[2.12] The invisibility of the material object becomes a point of erasure: what is not seen becomes nonexistent. A major change in fan publishing in recent years has been the migration from print fiction fanzines to online archives, with a seemingly gender-based segregation taking place at access points. The shorter sf zines, in print and online, tend to be created by men for male audiences, while women fans adopt closed online communities that replicate a form of private space. (A brief survey of, an online archive that contains pdf copies of sf zines that were once print and have gone digital but maintained their print layouts, demonstrates that most of the readers and writers there are men.) This shift is perhaps best described in a report on the 2014 WorldCon by Gavia Baker-Whitelaw (2014):

[2.13] During discussions about how to attract a new generation [to] the convention, I'd hear people talking about how the Internet is isolating and incomprehensible—or how it lacked the personal touch of fanzine mailing lists. One audience member asked what had happened to slash fanfic. Why didn't he see it in fanzines any more? What made it die out? Apparently he was unaware of the vast quantity of slashfic constantly being posted online, including in older fandoms like Star Trek, which long ago made the jump from print to Internet.

[2.14] When I read this statement during a conference the following April, the room laughed. To fan scholars, the idea of slash writing having died out is absurd, because of both the quantity of it that is produced daily and the quantity of scholarship studying it that has been produced over the past three decades—but the vast majority of both is by women. That male fans could ask about its supposed disappearance at one of the major genre conventions indicates how very gendered both this form of literature and its points of access are.

[2.15] A recent uproar (sometimes called "TheoryofFicGate") exposed, in a different way, how the invisibility of female fan space that is assumed, and that is problematic, is changing. An informal (student-led) undergraduate class called "The Theory of Fanfiction" at UC Berkeley upset numerous fan authors by directing students to read and comment on fan stories online. The authors had no warning of this, only learning about the class after some had received comments they found insulting or just upsetting. Gavia Baker-Whitelaw (2015) again summed the case up by saying,

[2.16] As is often the case in this kind of conflict, the basic problem was a misunderstanding of the difference—and overlap—between private and public Internet spheres. While most fanfic is published on easily accessible platforms, it's often posted with the tacit understanding that it will only be read by its target audience—and for the most part, it is. Fanfic authors are definitely not expecting their writing to be scrutinized by people who aren't familiar with the source material or with fandom in general.

[2.17] The conversations, debates, and flames that resulted from the assignment drew participants ranging from staffers of the Archive of Our Own (AO3) to acafans including Anne Jamison, Kristina Busse, and Karen Hellekson. Most interestingly for my purposes here, Jamison commented on Tumblr that "I advocate private communities, locked accounts, mailing lists and paper zines for people who value privacy but want to share. It's not just other fans reading here. Maybe it once was, but it just isn't true now." As a book history scholar, I am fascinated by the notion that print zines and print culture are a locked, private form of communication to a privileged few. It reflects our changing notions of publication and of the spaces in which publications are created.

3. Stigmas of print? Closing a loop in the history of women's writing

[3.1] As demonstrated above, the norms of print publishing above all else value public access: public publishing, public circulation, public market through public buying and public selling, public reading, public engagement. The average fan text flouts these norms, whether because print zines are sold literally "under the table" at conventions or because fan works are posted to member-only online communities. The meaning of the word publish, "to issue text for sale or distribution to the public," derives from its etymological root, which means "people." This raises a deceptively simple question that has long dogged historians of women's writing: What does it mean to be "published"? Historically, the difference between manuscript publishing and print publishing has rested on the insularity of the intended audience in the private sphere and the public acts associated with the public sphere.

[3.2] For many years, book historians maintained several truisms regarding the higher quality and value of print: the printed text always existed in more copies than the manuscript text; the printed text was always more stable than the manuscript text; and all copies of the same edition of a book looked just alike. Each of these truisms has been demolished in the last few decades. It was entirely possible for a manuscript text to exist in more copies than a printed text, because there were various restraints (including legal ones) on the number of books that could be printed at one time, while a popular poem, letter, or other text could be copied at will by hand. As happens today on Tumblr, some texts were shared so often that their origins were lost. Note the old aphorism that "Anonymous was a woman."

[3.3] Indeed, scribal historian Harold Love has argued that the gendered differences in publication created a "stigma of print" against women writers (1993, 54), and so their retreat into private reading and writing practices became a form of what he calls "bonding" (180), in which literary cliques were formed as conspicuous, gendered acts of exclusion. These coterie practices continued well into the eighteenth century, when both the rise of the novel and the industrialization of print transformed literary production into mass culture. However, this practice of gender-based bonding continues to inform and illuminate social literary production, especially if we consider men's fanzine and women's fan fiction practices in this light. Social bonds create norms within the community that are policed by community members, and these norms extend into the very definition of literary work. When interviewing male fans about fan history in the FanHistory group on Facebook, I was adamantly told more than once that "fan fiction" is not transformative work, but original amateur work, and "it's too bad no one writes it anymore." When I pressed further, a group member stated that the term had been co-opted, that its current usage was incorrect, and that "non-fans are too lazy to come up with their own portmanteaus; according to some dictionaries, 'fanzine' is no longer restricted to SF fandom's publications" because of "lazynes [sic] and a disregard for history, and disrespect towards niche interests. All is swallowed by the maw of 'popular culture.'" Not only does the comment reflect territoriality, it implies that authors of transformative works are not fans. It reveals much about how gender affects whether texts are perceived as literary.

[3.4] Finally, regarding the stability of text: printed texts were often more unstable than manuscript ones because of the physical make-up of the print workshop. With multiple people setting type and then putting their work together, it was easy to lose words and lines. These errors might be noticed and corrected later in the print run. The academic cottage industry of identifying textual variants and comparing collations is the backbone of studies of individual authors like William Shakespeare or Walt Whitman, and its chimerical goal is to recover a true text, the one supposedly intended by the author. Studies of the stability of fan texts have largely focused on comparing fan fictions to their published print revisions, such as Master of the Universe and Fifty Shades of Gray. However, there are multiple other avenues for investigating fannish textual stability. Aside from published fan fiction, numerous fics have both gen and slash versions (for example, Changing Destiny by Nadja Lee, a movieverse Lord of the Rings novel that has a cover showing Aragorn kissing Arwen on the gen edition and Aragorn kissing Boromir on the slash edition) or PG and NC-17 variations. The supposed stability of print is thus less than stable.

[3.5] If we compare historical coterie manuscript practices to digital fan practices, we see more than one similarity in social literary production: both feature communities of women writers in their private spaces, their homes, reading, writing, and sharing one another's work. In print fanzines, room was usually left for letters of comment, so that readers could respond to stories. In the early days of the Internet, readers' feedback was usually shared in private e-mails directly to the author, but increasingly sophisticated Web tools have enabled multiple forms of interaction. LiveJournal users could comment on a post, while the AO3 allows users to leave a wordless kudos instead of or in addition to a comment. All of these are "public" in that they can be seen by other members of the community, so readers and writers are fully aware of the reciprocity of these actions. This reciprocity helps to build community, as reading and writing are practices shared by all, and a communal history of that activity is maintained. But it is increasingly difficult to maintain that communal history.

[3.6] The topic of preservation and access continues to haunt readers of both historical and contemporary writing. In many archives, women's manuscripts are listed under the unhelpful cataloging title of "Domestic Papers," a barrier to scholarly access that is only slowly being worn down by academic inquiry. And until recently, the primary difficulty in locating and identifying digital women's writing has likewise been in preservation and access. However, the Organization for Transformative Works, which runs the Archive of Our Own, has been making progress in preserving fan writing from earlier days of the Internet. In 2012, the OTW launched the Open Doors project, which, together with other efforts at digital and print media preservation, invited maintainers of at-risk fan archives to import them into the AO3. First to be preserved was the Smallville Slash Archive, and the effort has since included over two dozen sites, including the Henneth Annûn Story Archive, a hub of Lord of the Rings fandom in the early 2000s, in 2015, and the Due South Archive in 2016. Maintaining access to texts is the first part of literary study; without the texts themselves, we only see part of the story.

[3.7] Print production has spent centuries solidifying itself as the dominant demonstration of literary force, training readers (and writers) to accept very specific codes of aesthetics as defaults, such as the Times New Roman font that is the mainstay of academics and the octavo format codex that is instantly recognizable to genre readers. However, print production is as artificially constructed and gender-biased as any other system, and we should acknowledge this before we think to apply any series of production and consumption "norms" to bodies of writing. Book history as a field has worked to unpack the processes and codes that we use to consider reading and writing practices, and its tools are likewise useful in examining fan works for literary study.

[3.8] As a final anecdote to demonstrate the usefulness of this methodology, I will confess that, as a fan and a scholar, one of the things I do semiregularly is trawl through eBay and various antiquarian book dealer aggregates looking for fanzines. I bring this up because, frankly, book dealers have no idea what to do with fannish material, and this is repeatedly demonstrated by the widely varying prices charged for the same item. For instance, Jean Lorrah's Star Trek fan novel The Night of the Twin Moons can be found selling for anything from $25 to $1,000. It was a very popular title in fandom in the 1970s; it went into at least four printings. It is 158 pages, stapled with paper covers and a strip of black book-tape along the spine, and its front matter states that it is available for $3 in person and $3.25 by book rate mail, or $4.50 for first class. Unlike mass-produced print material, fan publications have no catalogue of standard pricing and no bibliographies that can contextualize them. Book dealers have no guidance of the kind they are used to relying on. But the fanzine is a printed text, and if no one else has a copy for sale, clearly it must be monetarily valuable, right? That the monetary valuation of printed fan fiction, whether in the form of vintage zines or reworked into mainstream novels, contrasts so thoroughly with the literary valuation, which contrasts in turn with the academic valuation, is fascinating to me, and should be explored further. How do we value fannish writing?

4. Notes

1. Jack Speer's 1944 Fancyclopedia spoke of "fan fiction, sometimes improperly used to mean fan science fiction, that is, ordinary fantasy published in a fan magazine." When Dick Eney published Fancyclopedia II in 1959, the definition had become bipartite: "1) Sometimes meaning by fans in the manner of pros; that is, ordinary fantasy published in a fanzine. Properly it means 2) fiction by fans about fans (or sometimes about pros) having no necessary connection with stfantasy" (56–57; stfantasy is an obsolete fannish term for science fiction and fantasy). However, by the mid-1970s the usage had shifted to imply the derivative and transformative works more familiar today; Jacqueline Lichtenberg used the term to describe the stories included in Star Trek Lives!, the licensed anthology of fan writing that she coedited with Sondra Marshak and Joan Winston in 1975. This is the meaning most often used today, although older members of the fan community do hold onto the older definitions. In 2004 the Oxford English Dictionary Online defined fan fiction as "fiction, usually fantasy or science fiction, written by a fan rather than a professional author, esp. that based on already-existing characters from a television series, book, film, etc.; (also) a piece of such writing" ( Clearly there was a shift in fandom and fannish activity between 1959 and 1975, and while those years are concurrent with the rise of media fandom through the popularity of The Lord of the Rings and Star Trek, as well as an increase in the number and proportion of women fans, further work should be done in examining this shift.

2. The public/private discourse of fannish publication and its inextricable relationship with authorial anonymity is of ongoing concern to both fans and scholars. It is worth noting that the fanzine reprint company Agent with Style seemingly does not reproduce content without permission (though some fans will argue otherwise), meaning that reprint fanzines may be missing elements (stories, art) that appear in the original. And current scholarly standards for journal articles—and, increasingly, monographs and edited collections—require at least an attempt to contact fan authors prior to publishing discussions of their work. Similarly, access to fanzines in library holdings can be complicated by whether the institution treats the titles as published material (and therefore lists them as periodicals in catalogs) or as private literary correspondence (and therefore lists them in finding aids). Further discussion across various viewpoints can be found in Musiani 2011, Busse and Hellekson 2012, Whiteman 2012, and Kelley 2016.

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