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review 2014-12-04 02:22
Privileged Perspective of Fan Fiction and Fandom.
Fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking Over the World - Lev Grossman,Tiffany Reisz,Rachel Caine,Jen Zern,Heidi Tandy,Rukmini Pande,Samira Nadkarni,Wendy C. Fries,Jolie Fontenot,Randi Flanagan,Tish Beaty,Cyndy Aleo,Christina Lauren,V. Arrow,Brad Bell,Andrew Shaffer,Darren Wershler,Anne Jamison,Jules Wilkinson,R

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review.

 

Trigger Warning: Transphobia, I use a quote from the book where the author (Anne Jamison) misgenders transmen.

 

Additional Disclosure: I am mentioned in this book in the acknowledgements. I believe this was done to give the false impression that I’m on friendly terms with the author. In actuality I have a lot of issues with the author’s conduct both in gathering data for and writing of this book. The details of this dispute can be found here.

 

Review Proper

I have a lot of mixed feelings about this book that extend beyond my own personal experience with the author. It starts with the title and the assumptions it makes about the actual impact fan fiction has had on mainstream culture. Which doesn’t take such a blatant shape or scope the author tries really hard to convince us it does. All this aside the book has a poor construction. There are many really informative and fascinating individual essay that are mired in the authors ham-fisted attempts to string them together in a very specific narrative she’s chosen for them, but no matter how hard she tries they never quite fit. Leaving the reader with an scatter, often incoherent mess to sort out on their own.

 

From the start of the book seems to contradict the promise made by the title. While Lev Grossman’s forewords are well written and informative they’re be better suited for an introduction to fan fiction and fan culture, something this book fails to provide. Instead the book drops the reader head first into the world of fan fiction with very little help them guide the reader.

 

One of the biggest flaws of this book is it’s purposeful exclusion of hugely influential fandoms, Anime/manga in particular. In Jamison’s own words: “I’ve largely restricted the discussion to literary-and media-based fandoms, thereby excluding a number of vast, productive areas such as anime and sports.” This implies that anime, which includes magna a literary art form that actually predates Western comic books, is neither literature or media-based. This is not only wrong, but insulting. This kind of blatant ignorance about fan culture sets the tone for the entire book.

 

Fic presents a distinctly lopsided representation of fandoms. The majority of the contributors are actors, published authors, and a fan/fan fic writer with significant notoriety within their given fandoms (aka BNA/BNF, big name authors/big name fans). The fandom equivalent of the 1%, who are on first name basis with content creators or have even crossed over become published authors themselves. While these makes for great stories, they don’t represent the majority of fan fiction readers/writers or fandom in general. Not to mention that the majority of contributors (and the author herself) are educated, white, middle class women. That privilege shows in the book, specifically in how Jamison whitewashes the entire timeline and history of fan fiction.

 

Don’t even get me started on Jamison’s laughable attempts at trying to turn feminism into a shield to deflect legitimate criticism privileged, white female fan fiction authors like E.L. James and Cassandra Clare. A task easily done if you ignore the significant amount of women of color in fandom, but there’s no room for intersectional feminism in this book. Not surprising there’s also very little time and spotlight shone on the voices of POC in general or even the LGBTQ+ community. In fact, most of the discussion of slash/femslash (fan fiction featuring LGBTQ+ characters and themes) is mostly discussed by het, white women. That is not to say that there aren’t some POC and LGBTQ+ contributors, but their inclusion is a token effort at best. One that doesn’t outweigh the purposeful erasure of the significant influence that the LGBTQ+ community and media from non-white countries has had on ALL fandoms.

 

Jamison attempts to shift the blame for this lack of diversity on to marginalized people, claiming she “approached a disproportionate number of *self-identified men and people of color” and that they “declined to participate for a variety of reasons, including professional concerns and simply time.”

 

This is the most irresponsible non-excuse I’ve ever seen. I seriously doubt any college professor would accept a similar excuse from one of their students. [As a bisexual woman of color in fandom I can assure you there is a lot more to those "variety of reasons" than Jamison is letting on.]

 


*Special Note: The phrase “self-identified men” is transphobic. If some identifies as a man you call them a man. Qualifiers like this are disrespectful and damaging. Don’t ever do this.

 

Jamison goes to great extents to acquit herself of even the most basic responsibilities required to respectfully represent the literature of a subculture. Proclaiming she isn’t a anthropologist and saying she is examining fan fiction from an "literary perspective," which sounds good if you know nothing about critical analysis. Imagine writing a book about Victorian literature that makes absolutely not mention of how cultural attitudes of Victorian England and the Industrial Revolution influenced the genre. Likewise FAN fiction is a genre born out of FAN culture. To ignore the subculture that created this literature, or in this case selectively acknowledging only certain parts of that culture, isn’t examining it from a literary perspective at all.

Because of this lack of true understanding of the culture much of the information in the essays written by Jamison are laughably useless. There were times where I felt like the book was written but the SNL character “drunk girl you wish you hadn’t started talking to at the party.” This is not an exaggeration.

 

 

I’m far from new to the world of fandoms, I’ve been writing/reading fan fiction in multiple fandoms for decades and there were times even I struggled to understand the far fetched conclusions Jamison came to, not to mention the clumsy narratives of her own essays. Jamison’s own first hand account of discovering a BBC Sherlock meta fan fiction (terms she uses later in the essay but never fully explains) was so confusing I had to reread it a several times before I finally realized what the hell she was talking about. To get an idea of how convoluted it was, imagine having someone who has never used the internet try to describe Facebook.

 

Now, don’t get me wrong there are some great essays in here (that aren't written by Jamison), but they are buried deeply under Jamison’s agenda of selling herself as an expert in a field she does not, in fact, have a claim to academically. She is a professor with a degree in Medieval literature, who has been teaching classes on Twilight and Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan fiction for a handful of years. Her lack of knowledge shows in how little she mentions fan culture studies and the distinct absence of any contributions from established scholars in this field of study. Even though this book covers long established fandoms that have been studied for decades (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Xena, Supernatural, etc).

 

Like Columbus, Jamison walks into fan culture and plants a flag ignoring the hard work and existing presence of academia in favor of selling herself as the sole voice of fan fiction and fandom. This claim rings false, despite her significant social network presence in the Twilight fandom, consider her completely ignorance or at least lack of acknowledgement of the existence of acafans.

 

All this aside the book is poorly put together, scattered and rushed in its conclusions. The lack of comprehensive knowledge of the many fandoms being study, the willful erasure of the contributions made by people of color, non-Western fandoms, and the LGBTQ+ community to fan culture and specifically the fan fiction being produced in internet based fandoms today, will leave knowledgable readers infuriated and new comers woefully misinformed.

 

Though there are some really wonderful essays in this book I cannot in good conscious recommend it to anyone.

 

I would instead suggest reading The Fan Fiction Studies Reader by Karen Hellekson and Kristina Busse.

 

(I’ll add some more titles as I work through the pile of fandom studies books I have on my to-be-read list).

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text 2014-04-25 18:38
A very random start
Fic: Why Fanfiction Is Taking Over the World - Anne Jamison,Lev Grossman

Disclaimer: English is not my native language, but I really like it, and I want to practice expressing myself in English, so there.

 

Recently, I developed a deeper interest in all things fandom and fanfiction especially. As in academic research level of interest. Being a part of the whole fandom culture for over 10 years, I kind of take it all for granted, but sometimes I stumble upon people who just don't get it (sometimes violently so), and I feel like I need to justify my interests and defend their values. And it's not right, but I guess that's the way of life. So, while trying to collect my thoughts on the subject into some coherent line, I've discovered a fascinating amount of articles, meta, discussions, and even books about fandom and fanfiction. And I'm saying "fascinating" because, how come I haven't become aware of it before now? (Aside from metafandom on livejournal, of course. Which is brilliant.) And now I am kind of getting through this huge pile of collective knowledge, opinions and arguments, and it changes my views rapidly too. 

 

I was mostly reading about folks' personal relationships with fandom and fic, and discussions about slash, diversity, and all that, because I wanted to gather as many opinions as I could, before I got into the books. Because with books, even though they are usually comprehensive, they can also be too distanced from the subject or treat it as a holy cow, and I didn't want that first thing on my forays into serious research on fandom. Plus, I think with fandom it has to be personal, I think (so, imo, aca-fans get more credit), and you have to experience sort of a "fandom mentality", to really understand how this stuff works and not fall into oblivious misinterpretation or lauding. (E.g. saying how all fandom is subversive, and political, and smart. While it can be, most white priviliged girls at 13 really don't think in these terms, and maybe that should be addressed too. I mean, let's not assign more meaning to fandom and ff, than it already has. Then again, I might change my opinion in a week, because I will have read something that opened my eyes to the ways of fandom that I couldn't even comprehend before - this subject is very complex!)

 

Anyway, at a certain point though, I thought "why not", and purchased a couple of books for good measure. So, I've started with the book "Fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking Over the World" by Anne Jamison. At first, I wasn't sure because I've seen the table of contents on Google Books, and I was simultaneously excited and perplexed (it has essays about many diverse fandoms though, which is a good thing), but then I found this quote from the book on tumblr:

 

Irked fans produce fanfic like irritated oysters produce pearls. 

 

And it kind of spoke to me. So there we go. 

 

As I sort of try to study for my exams (and failing), and still read a lot of articles, I think I won't be progressing very fast with this book, but so far it does read as a good introduction into what fanfiction is and why. (I'm highlighting a shitload of quotes on kindle.) 

 

PS. I'm not good with blogging, because the most blogging I've been doing in the last couple of years is the 140-character kind, and whenever I try to write an essay my thoughts go all astray. So this might be the only blog post here, lol. But I want an extra-special place to make rants about books. 

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text 2014-02-26 20:23
The Problem with Privileged Feminists: Further Deconstruction of Anne Jamison’s Fic.
Fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking Over the World - Lev Grossman,Tiffany Reisz,Rachel Caine,Jen Zern,Heidi Tandy,Rukmini Pande,Samira Nadkarni,Wendy C. Fries,Jolie Fontenot,Randi Flanagan,Tish Beaty,Cyndy Aleo,Christina Lauren,V. Arrow,Brad Bell,Andrew Shaffer,Darren Wershler,Anne Jamison,Jules Wilkinson,R

“I would speculate that a great deal of the stigma surrounding Twilight and its fans- among other fans, even among other fan writers- has to do with internalized gender and genre prejudice.” 

 

Here we’re presented with the astoundingly obvious “speculation” that the “stigma surrounding Twilight and its fans” is based in sexism, but not just any run of the mill, culturally based prejudice against any and all things connected to women. No. This is the insidious “internalized gender and genre prejudice.” Basically women’s sexism against all things associated with women, especially the romance genre.

 

Now, this isn’t an untrue, but it is an over simplification of the pervasive culturally based sexism at the root of the Twilight hate in popular culture. It’s also an explanation that seeks to indict certain women “other fans, and fan writers,” for daring to point out sexism even when present in women’s entertainment, and lumps them in with the misogynist mob.

 

It’s especially interesting to note how Buffy fans and their “really strong feminist critique of Twilight” is lumped into with this, while none of the actual critique is explained or shown. Jamison instead summarily throws these feminist Buffy fans under the bus, in an effort to invalidate their legitimate issues with sexism in Twilight, and characterize them as "living in a glass house." 

 

“But frankly, I can do [a feminist critique] for Buffy, too, and that’s a feminist show of which I’m a big flaily fan.”

 

 

I’ll just let feminists and/or Buffy fans swallow that bitter pill for a second, while I point out how this “we all like problematic stuff so don’t be a jerk by point it out” brand of critical argument didn’t work for John Green and it isn’t working here either.

 

Jamison goes on to further demonstrate this with an example of what she considers a legitimate feminist critique. 

 

“...lots of Twilight fanfiction itself explores feminist critique from a variety of different perspectives-including the one that says, ‘We’re grownup women, and our sexual fantasies don’t govern our politics.’”

 

This is a great example of a brand of supposed feminism that, many call privileged feminism or white feminism, is not actually about feminism so much is it is about the using the idea of female autonomy to excuse any and all things problematic that adult, professional, women of privilege do, say or enjoy. 

 

It treats feminism like a “get out of jail free” card, where the oppression they experience as women is assumed to balance out very real misogyny (not to mention racism, homophobia, ableism, etc) in their actions and/or entertainment, like a dieter would drink a calorie free soda to assuage the guilt they feel over eating a candy bar.

 

Worse yet, this brand of feminism seeks to vilify legitimate feminist critique. Trying to rebrand it as bullying or even more laughably as sexism, and paint themselves as innocent victims, because the mean ol' feminists are trying to ruin their enjoyment of something by daring to show them just how deeply problematic it is. 

 

This is a common thread through out this section on the Twilight fandom. So don't expect for me to be taking off my ranty pants any time soon.

 

*rolls up sleeves and goes back to reading*

 

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text 2014-02-13 01:49
Reading progress update: I've read 39%.
Fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking Over the World - Lev Grossman,Tiffany Reisz,Rachel Caine,Jen Zern,Heidi Tandy,Rukmini Pande,Samira Nadkarni,Wendy C. Fries,Jolie Fontenot,Randi Flanagan,Tish Beaty,Cyndy Aleo,Christina Lauren,V. Arrow,Brad Bell,Andrew Shaffer,Darren Wershler,Anne Jamison,Jules Wilkinson,R

It is striking how Jamison continues to only reference a small group of Twilight fans (adult women in the Twilight Fan Fiction Fandom) when talking about "Twilight fandom" and never expands to examine how any of these issues affected young girls, or male fans. Again it points to the narrow scope of the book, and her own myopic perspective on the subject. 

 

I'm especially disappointed by the oversight of issues that directly relate to similar phenomena in literature and publishing, considering that is Jamison's area of expertise. For example, the controversy surrounding "under age" fans reading and writing erotic fan fic, which is not all that different from similar arguments about sexual content in YA novels.  Or how significantly more popular erotic fan fic written by men is in comparison to works by female writers. Which isn't all the different than Nicholas Sparks' success with writing what is essential romance, as general fiction. 

 

This isn't a new issue in this book. Time and again I keep seeing fascinating examples of how fan fiction and fan communities mirror mainstream literature, and publishing going unexplored. I'm not sure if this is because the author didn't see them or doesn't consider them as important to the points she is making. Either way it's a huge loss, and really disappointing as a reader. 

 

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text 2014-02-13 01:18
Reading progress update: I've read 39%.
Fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking Over the World - Lev Grossman,Tiffany Reisz,Rachel Caine,Jen Zern,Heidi Tandy,Rukmini Pande,Samira Nadkarni,Wendy C. Fries,Jolie Fontenot,Randi Flanagan,Tish Beaty,Cyndy Aleo,Christina Lauren,V. Arrow,Brad Bell,Andrew Shaffer,Darren Wershler,Anne Jamison,Jules Wilkinson,R

"They were rabid, ridiculous Twihards. And that's just what they said about each other."

 

I struggle with all these generalizations Jamison is tossing about at the start of this essay. I get where she's trying to go with it, but she's over simplifying way too much in order to back up her convoluted conclusions. The way she jumps from internal criticism in the fandom, to mainstream media’s characterization of the all Twilight fans in general, back to Buffy fans‘ criticism of the books/fandom, is giving me a head ache.

 

Jamison is attempting to characterize the MANY internal conflicts in the Twilight Fan Fiction Fandom as simply old school fangirls picking on newbie fans for not having geek cred, which is ridiculously untrue.

 

Not only were there a number of various, extremely common internal conflicts in the fandom. Many resembled conflicts in other fandoms, and were even mentioned earlier in the book. None boiled down to members of the community being “cred-checked” for being new to fandom and fan fiction. 

 

In fact, the majority of BNAs (Big Named Authors) in the fandom were new to writing fan fiction and fandoms. While the part of the fandom that had experience was relatively small and only a few even came close to BNA status. 

 

So why would Jamison use this as the primary example of internal criticism in the fandom and try to link it to sexist “fake geek girl” issues in other fandoms? 

 

My guess is the “lack of experience in fandom/fan fiction culture” is often been used to explain why publishing fan fiction became so prevalent in the Twilight Fan Fiction Fandom, opposed to other fandoms that see the practice as taboo. 

 

It’s another interesting, arguably manipulative, choice in framing the anti-P2P argument as sexist bullying. 

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