Fan studies state of the field 2023

TWC Editor

[0.1] Abstract—Editorial for TWC No. 40 (September 15, 2023).

[0.2] Keywords—Affirmative vs transformative fandom; Race; Whiteness

TWC Editor. 2023. "Fan Studies State of the Field 2023. [editorial]. Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 40. https://doi.org/10.3983/twc.2023.2593.

1. The whiteness of white fandoms

[1.1]Just about one year ago, we officially began our tenure as editors of Transformative Works and Cultures with Vol.38. And yet, Vol. 40 is really the first issue that completes the transition that began all the way back in 2021. When we first started this journey, it was important to both of us that fan studies begin to more accurately represent the tremendous diversity that exists within fan spaces. This has been a major focus as we have spoken with potential authors over the past year, including especially those who may not think of what they do as fitting into the field because of who and what they are studying. As we stake out the annual "state of the field" that is characteristic of our September general issue, we continue to resist the tendency within fan studies' spaces, both casual and academic, to speak about fandom as if it's a contiguous whole rather than encompassing an enormous variety of people, cultures, practices—and conflicts.

[1.2]It is not uncommon to hear or read words such as "fandom has a whiteness problem," or "fandom has a race problem," but neither of those statements are true. There are and have always been Black fandoms, and Indigenous fandoms, and Latinx fandoms, and Asian fandoms, and fandoms of and for people whose identities exist outside of Western-dominant racial formations. Fandom does not have a whiteness problem. White fandoms have a whiteness problem. This was made particularly clear by this summer's End OTW Racism campaign that sought to hold the Organization for Transformative Works (TWC's parent organization) accountable for promises it made in the wake of George Floyd's murder in 2020: to take action against fandom racism, particularly in the OTW's fan fiction archive, the Archive of Our Own (AO3). This was a campaign fundamentally about white fandoms' whiteness problem. Part of that problem is the belief that white fandom is the default and does not require labeling as something particular rather than universal, but it does, because we cannot accurately and responsibly address the issues that continue to vex fan studies scholarship if we cannot name those problems.

[1.3]In its tendency to treat white fandom as universal, fan studies has historically been an active participant in maintaining and reproducing white supremacy. This critique has been raised over more than a decade at this point, both within the field and outside it. Scholars like Kristen Warner (2015, 2017) and Rukmini Pande (2018; Pande and Moitra 2017) have been joined by two TWC special issues (De Kosnik and carrington 2019; Gatson and Reid 2011), and Rebecca Wanzo's landmark 2015 article, "African American Acafandom and other strangers." Nevertheless, there is still much more work to do. As long as fan studies continues to primarily examine white fandom spaces and thus also white voices, white bodies, and white ideas to the exclusion of everyone else and the detriment of full knowledge of fandom, it will continue to be a field that conventionalizes white supremacist ideology.

2. Articles

[2.1]While we are proud of this issue and its many significant contributions to fan studies, we also acknowledge that we are not yet fulfilling our vision of combatting fan studies' whiteness problem; however, various articles published within are solid opening steps. In this issue, Rachel Marks examines the tendency for white fans to privilege and emphasize white characters and white noncanonical ships over characters of color and their relationships. Similarly, Joseph Packer and Ethan Stoneman investigate the radical right's love affair with Batman, particularly Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy which, according to some, functions as a trojan horse for white nationalist ideology. These two articles exemplify the kind of work that is needed if we are to ever move fan studies forward. Each succeeds in identifying how whiteness operates within the fandoms of the text themselves but without assuming whiteness as the inevitable default position.

[2.2]In addition, our editorial for Vol. 38 discussed wanting this journal to be at the vanguard of expanding and diversifying the field of fan studies. And while the focus of that expansion has been, and will continue to be, publishing works about and from communities that fan studies has too often and for too long ignored and erased, we are also deeply committed to examining fan communities whose discursive and participatory outputs challenge and subvert the affirmative/transformative fan work binary. Leonardo Augusto Borges Lima and Bertalan Zoltán Varga illustrate, through a study on Nintendo fans' nostalgia, the flexible orientation of fan identification. And yet, what's at stake for Lima and Varga is not that Nintendo fans occupy multiple fannish terrains but rather Nintendo's use of nostalgia as an affective coagulant. Similarly, Cody T. Havard, Carissa Baker, Daniel L. Wann, and Frederick G. Grieve turn their attention toward Disney theme parks and their almost Taylorist approach to converting visitors to fans and the role rivalry plays in that process. Kelsey Entrikin similarly examines power and identification but from within the context of Omegaverse fan fiction. In doing so, Entrikin sheds light on how the fan fiction subgenre's use of biological determinism reifies existing structural inequalities as innate rather than constructs of political power dynamics.

3. Symposium

[3.1]The Symposium section also previews some of the important new directions where we seek to expand the field. O. C. Cuenca explores the interplay between fans volunteering to translate and distribute Chinese cultural products and how the culture industry responds, considering its effects on the transnational diffusion of Chinese cultural products. Cuenca moves us forward to think transnationally and in particular about transnational flows where the west is not a pole. Second, Noah Cohan explores the internet browser–based baseball simulator known as Blaseball, arguing that it has changed the way fans understand the narrative possibilities of the sport of baseball. Cohan represents what we see as an important new direction in the field, highlighted by our upcoming special issue on sports fandom, edited by Jason Kido Lopez and Lori Kido Lopez (interested authors should submit by January 1, 2024). Finally, Martine Mussies examines the use of Artificial Intelligence for image generation in fan art, touching on our other upcoming special issue on AI and fandom, edited by Suzanne Black and Naomi Jacobs (also accepting articles through January 1, 2024).

4. Review

[4.1]Finally, the issue features reviews of Anna F. Peppard's edited collection Supersex: Sexuality, Fantasy, and the Superhero and Cory Barker's Social TV: Multi-screen Content and Ephemeral Culture.

5. Acknowledgments

[5.1]The following people worked on TWC No. 40 in an editorial capacity: Poe Johnson and Mel Stanfill (editors); Hanna Hacker and Bridget Kies (Symposium); and Melanie E. S. Kohnen, Regina Yung Lee, Katherine E. Morrissey, and Louisa Ellen Stein (Review).

[5.2]The following people worked on TWC No. 40 in a production capacity: Christine Mains (production editor); Robin F., Beth Friedman, Jillian Kovich, M. Lisa, Christine Mains, A. Smith, and Vickie West (copyeditors); Claire Baker, Christine Mains, Sarah New, Rebecca Sentance, and Latina Vidolova (layout); and Emily Cohen, Rachel P. Kreiter, Christine Mains, Aileen Sheedy, Cheng Shon, and Latina Vidolova (proofreaders).

[5.3]TWC thanks the board of the Organization for Transformative Works. OTW provides financial support and server space to TWC but is not involved in any way in the content of the journal, which is editorially independent.

[5.4]TWC thanks all its board members, whose names appear on TWC's masthead, as well as the additional peer reviewers who provided service for TWC No. 40: Sky LaRell Anderson, Megan Condis, Argyrios Emmanouloudis, Angie Fazekas, Marianne Gunderson, Jessica Hautsch, Lucy Miller, Milena Popova, Sabrina Mittermeier, and Olivia Johnston Riley.

6. References

De Kosnik, Abigail, and andré carrington. 2019. "Fans of Color, Fandoms of Color." Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 29. https://doi.org/10.3983/twc.2019.1783.

Gatson, Sarah N., and Robin Anne Reid. 2011. "Editorial: Race and Ethnicity in Fandom." Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 8. https://doi.org/10.3983/twc.2011.0392.

Pande, Rukmini. 2018. Squee from the Margins: Fandom and Race. 1st edition. Iowa City: University Of Iowa Press.

Pande, Rukmini, and Swati Moitra. 2017. "'Yes, the Evil Queen Is Latina!': Racial Dynamics of Online Femslash Fandoms." Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 24. http://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/article/view/908.

Wanzo, Rebecca. 2015. "African American Acafandom and Other Strangers: New Genealogies of Fan Studies." Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 20. https://doi.org/10.3983/twc.2015.0699.

Warner, Kristen J. 2015. "ABC's Scandal and Black Women's Fandom." In Cupcakes, Pinterest, and Ladyporn: Feminized Popular Culture in the Early Twenty-First Century, edited by Elana Levine, 32–50. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Warner, Kristen J. 2017. "(Black Female) Fans Strike Back: The Emergence of the Iris West Defense Squad." In The Routledge Companion to Media Fandom, edited by Melissa A. Click and Suzanne Scott, 253–61. London:Routledge.