Book review

Fandom, the next generation, edited by Bridget Kies and Megan Connor

Laurel P. Rogers

University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas, United States

[0.1] Keywords—Enduring fandom; Fan conflicts; Intergenerational fandom; Reboot culture; Transgenerational fandom

Rogers, Laurel P. 2024. "Fandom, the Next Generation, edited by Bridget Kies and Megan Connor [book review]." In "Fandom and Platforms," edited by Maria K. Alberto, Effie Sapuridis, and Lesley Willard, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 42.

Bridget Kies and Megan Connor, editors, Fandom, the Next Generation. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2022, paperback, $70.00 (256p), ISBN 9781609388331; eBook, $70, ISBN 9781609388348.

[1] In Fandom, the Next Generation, editors Bridget Kies and Megan Connor set the stage for exploration into a key aspect of fan identity and community that has been generally overlooked—that of generation, age, and fandom continuities and divisions across time. Responding particularly to Derek Johnson's (2019) recent investigation into transgenerational media industries and C. Lee Harrington and Denise Bielby's (2010a; 2010b; 2018) calls for sustained attention to individuals' enduring fandom, this new collection jumpstarts the scholarly conversation around transgenerational fandoms and fan relationships.

[2] Kies and Connor argue that in the age of reboots and perpetually recirculated content, we must consider generation as a key principle through which to understand fandoms today. Media fandoms endure through the transmission of fandom norms, values, and practices from longtime to new fans. However, as technologies evolve and cultural values shift, fans may have different opinions about and relationships to media texts depending on when and how they first encountered and continue to encounter them. While changing politics can cause friction between different factions of fans, shared love of a text can also serve to unite fans across somewhat arbitrary sociological cohorts. This edited collection offers a variety of ways to consider how to define a fan generation, how fan generations form and operate, and methods for investigating them.

[3] After an introduction, the collection's fifteen essays are divided into three sections. The first part concerns nostalgia and fans' responses to rebooted, remade, and revived properties. The rest of the collection deals with generational relationships among fans, whether those passed down through literal or metaphorical family ties in the second part or tensions and conflicts between generations of fans in the third. Taken together, these essays consider fans of a wide range of texts, from the oft-studied Star Wars and The X-Files franchises to less well-trod fan studies grounds like Jem and the Holograms, The Baby-Sitters' Club, and Turkish actress Türkan Şoray. The chapters also encompass an array of methods, including surveys and interviews, textual and discourse analysis, life course analysis, and autoethnography.

[4] The first section, "Reboots, Revivals, and Nostalgia," examines a variety of responses to new texts in a franchise. The first three chapters concern cult texts often cited in examinations of cult and long-running fandoms, such as Ghostbusters, The X-Files, and Twin Peaks. In the opening chapter, Kies points out that while their reasons diverge due to differing views on representational politics and textual fidelity, different fan generations are more often than not united in their dissatisfaction with new franchise entries. Shifts in representational politics also underscore Bethan Jones's examination of the ways that, in marked contrast to Dana Scully's perceived feminist and empowering portrayal in the original series, The X-Files revival shifted discourse to focus on the character's sexuality and Gillian Anderson's aging body. Relatedly, Siobhan Lyons suggests that fans' affective attachment to a text relies on the text—and the actors—having a sense of "agelessness" (67) or at least aging well. Revivals and sequels that confront fans with the aging of texts and stars can, therefore, potentially threaten fans' affective attachments, with the most vitriolic reactions targeting, predictably, female actors. Many discussions of reboot antifandom focus on toxic fan behavior, such as the vitriolic racist and sexist backlash against the female actors of 2016's genderswapped Ghostbusters (see, for example, Kies, this volume). In an interesting reversal, Andrew Scahill argues that dissatisfied reactions to 2015's Jem and the Holograms, a film reboot of the late 1980s children's show resulted in constructive transformational practices. In Scahill's analysis, fans judge that the film excises the progressive, queer pleasures of the original series, and thus antifandom of the Hollywood reboot "allowed adult fans to reassess the subversive pleasures of their childhood spectatorship and even produce content that celebrated, rather than commodified, their shared nostalgia" (44). He prompts a reassessment of reboot antifandom, asking whether "anti-fandom [is] only a process of negation, or does the rejection of an insufficient copy alter or even augment a fan's positive relationship to the original?" (47). Jem and the Holograms fans provide a crucial counterexample to the kinds of toxic fan responses often invoked in terms of franchise continuations. However, this analysis seems also to uphold the gender politics associated with fan studies' conventional distinction between transformational (feminized) and affirmational (masculinized) approaches: when fangirls protest a reboot or revival's representational politics, we celebrate it, whereas when fanboys protest, we condemn it as toxic. While the drive behind a Jem and the Holograms fan film that highlights the breakdown of the representational promises of the Hollywood film (52–53) is likely quite different from that behind the "De-Feminized Fanedit (aka The Chauvinist Cut)" of 2017's Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Scott 2018), we should take care not to elide the similarities in practice and that, as Kies points out in her chapter, both fan works similarly express dissatisfaction with a franchise's representational politics.

[5] The second—and longest, at seven chapters—section, "Generations of Enduring Fandom," looks at how fandom is experienced across a fan's life and spread to new generations of fans. First, Neta Yodovitch examines familial transmission of science fiction fandom. Her analysis shows that when fathers passed their fandom on to their daughters, they also conveyed a sense that science fiction was not for girls. However, these women, when passing this fandom on to their children in turn, use the opportunity to instill feminist values by questioning representation and using the consumption of merchandise to "stake their claim" (65) in science fiction fandom. In their chapters, Simone Driessen and Connor both examine the ways that fandom evolves over a fan's life. Driessen's subjects, female fans of pop artists, demonstrate the ways that engagement can shift over time with a fan's increasing independence and financial means. She also posits that long-running fandom encourages fans to be self-reflexive about the ways that their own fandom both evolves and provides them with a sense of continuity over time. Connor's autoethnography of her own Baby-Sitter's Club fandom demonstrates how fan identification is entwined with a fan's sense of personal identity and suggests that reboot culture gives fans greater opportunities to utilize fandom in the "storying" of their lives. With The Man from U.N.C.L.E. fandom, Cynthia Walker portrays fans who, while separated into different branches of fandom based on textual iteration, are united as a "fandom of waiting" for new content. Describing the intimacy and sense of family that Turkish fans feel with their stars, Yektanurşin Duyan examines actress Türkan Şoray as a "transgenerational star with transgenerational fans" who are united in their love of the actress without sense of division, generation, or hierarchy (106). Janelle Vermaak-Grierson looks at the process of gifting fandom, often through familial lines, and different ways Alien franchise fans perform their fandom and create hierarchies of knowledge and investment. Lastly, Meredith Dabek proposes that transmedia adaptation The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is an ideal meeting ground for Austen print and screen fans, as well as an entry point for new Austen fans, both uniting previous generations and welcoming in new fans.

[6] The third section, "Generational Tensions," deepens and nuances conversations around conflict between generations of fans of long-running and enduring texts. Dan Golding offers an outline of Star Wars fan generations defined by key entry and auxiliary texts, as well as technologies of access. He argues that in recent iterations, the Star Wars franchise has become "generationally thick" (148), aimed not just at new viewers and fans of the original series but hailing many different generations of fans at once. Maria K. Alberto and Dawn Walls-Thumma find three different generations of Tolkien fans have formed through shifts in evolving online fandom infrastructure, new additions to textual canon in the form of Peter Jackson's film trilogies, and changing attitudes toward gender, transformational fan practices, and explicit sexuality in fan works. Despite many similarities in practice (the line between fan fiction and Sherlockian pastiche, for example, is famously thin [note 1]), L. N. Rosales illustrates a historical exclusion of women from Sherlock Holmes fan societies based on the desire to distance themselves from an association with hysterical fangirl stereotypes. In the final chapter, Mélanie Bourdaa demonstrates that the length of time spent in fandom is a key factor in determining a fan's legitimacy, authenticity, and authority. Bourdaa describes how, while intergenerational mentorship can help to spread fandom heritage between fans, this process can also contribute to the construction of hierarchies of authenticity that feed into divisions and conflict.

[7] As might be expected with such a complex topic as fan generations, there is a fair amount of conceptual overlap between the second and third parts, with some chapters categorized under "enduring fandom" describing conflict and tension, as well as those in the third part displaying ways that fandoms endure. While each of these scholars proposes slightly different ways of defining fan generations, many of which may not be universally applicable across fan groups, this can also be seen as a strength of the collection, offering a range of ways to productively conceptualize notions of fan generations going forward as well as a variety of methodological approaches to the topic. Another strength is the diversity of scholars who have contributed. Not only do contributors range across various institutional affiliations, from early career and independent scholars to professor emeritus, scholars also hail from across the United States, Europe, the Middle East, Australia, and South Africa, making the collection and its insights more global than many fan studies works.

[8] The contributions, however, still overwhelmingly focus on American and UK texts, perhaps because histories of imperialism and global media flows have ensured that such texts have a long history of travel across the world—a necessary component in the study of this topic. Notable in this sense is Duyan's chapter on Turkish fans of actress Türkan Şoray, which provides a distinctive example of the relationship that fans can have with their object of fandom and with each other. Relatedly, this collection lacks a focus on race as a factor in fandom generations, belonging, and conflict, a significant and disappointing lack considering anglophone fan studies' recent and increasing reckoning with the implications of race in both fan communities and the scholarly fan studies literature (see, for example, Wanzo 2015; Pande 2018a; 2018b; 2020; Woo 2018). In addition, while there is some citational connection to literature on sports fandom, the collection lacks an in-depth perspective on sports fandom, which has insights about issues of place, long-running fandom, change, conflict, and familial transmission that could only enrich insights about the same in media fandoms. While these elements may be missing from this collection, their absence serves as an invitation for future scholarship to investigate these important and generative intersections.

[9] While the accessibility and ease of reading varies for each individual chapter, many chapters could be suitably excerpted as readings in upper-level undergraduate or graduate classes, which is helped by the well-known nature of many of the media texts covered. Scholars interested in specific media fandoms and in a variety of methodological approaches will find much to take away from this collection. As a whole, Fandom, the Next Generation is a necessary introduction to the emerging importance of generations to fandom and fan studies, and offers a rich, provocative base from which studies of fandom generations can—and should—proceed.


1. Neil Gaiman, for example, has referred to his Hugo-award-winning Sherlock Holmes pastiche "A Study in Emerald" as fan fiction on multiple occasions, for instance in a 2017 tweet ( and a 2012 Tumblr post (


Harrington, C. Lee, and Denise D. Bielby. 2010a. "A Life Course Perspective on Fandom." International Journal of Cultural Studies 13 (5): 429–50.

Harrington, C. Lee, and Denise D. Bielby. 2010b. "Autobiographical Reasoning in Long-Term Fandom." Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 5.

Harrington, C. Lee, and Denise D. Bielby. 2018. "Aging, Fans, and Fandom." In The Routledge Companion to Media Fandom, edited by Suzanne Scott and Melissa A. Click, 406–15. New York: Routledge.

Johnson, Derek. 2019. Transgenerational Media Industries: Adults, Children, and the Reproduction of Culture. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Pande, Rukmini. 2018a. Squee from the Margins: Fandom and Race. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press.

Pande Rukmini. 2018b. "Who Do You Mean by 'Fan?' Decolonizing Media Fandom Identity." In A Companion to Media Fandom and Fan Studies, edited by Paul Booth, 319–32. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons.

Pande Rukmini, ed. 2020. Fandom, Now in Color: A Collection of Voices. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press.

Wanzo, Rebecca. 2015. "African American Acafandom and Other Strangers: New Genealogies of Fan Studies." Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 20.

Woo, Benjamin. 2018. "The Invisible Bag of Holding: Whiteness and Media Fandom." In The Routledge Companion to Media Fandom, edited by Suzanne Scott and Melissa A. Click, 245–52. New York: Routledge.