Publishing fanfiction – futures and forecasts (FSNNA21 #FanLIS abstract)

Just sharing the abstract to the #FanLIS panel at FSNNA21, for anyone who’s interested!

 

Publishing fanfiction – futures and forecasts

Library and Information Science (LIS) has always been concerned with the documentation and dissemination of information, and this includes the publication of creative works. In more recent years, LIS has begun to look beyond traditional information behaviours – for example, in this context – traditional publishing methods, both on- and offline – and towards the practices of amateurs, enthusiasts, hobbyists, and, even more lately, fans.

Fans are some of the first to utilise the affordances of new technologies to create, share and disseminate both information and fanworks. We have seen this from the earliest days of modern fandom, where Xeroxing technologies were used to share fanworks via fanzines, which were then disseminated through postal networks. We also see this with digital technology. “Fans”, as Henry Jenkins asserted in 2006, “were early adopters of digital technologies” (p.138); and De Kosnik (2016) reminds us that fans “were early developers and practitioners of both online archive building and archontic production” (p.11). As the internet became mainstream, fanfiction came to be published and shared on Listserv and Usenet, migrating from platform to platform as the World Wide Web became more sophisticated – from personal websites to Fanfiction.net, to Livejournal and Dreamwidth, to the more dynamic platforms of Web 2.0, such as Wattpad and AO3. Now, with the proliferation of social media, we see fic becoming more dynamic and collaborative on micro-blogging sites such as Twitter or Tumblr. And with the rise of print-on-demand technology, affordable publishing has been made possible for various fanworks, including fanfiction – a practice which is still taboo in fan communities.

Likewise, the pathways from fic to mainstream publication have seen a trend towards democratisation. Peckosie and Hill (2015) chart the unprecedented journey Master of the Universe took to transform into Fifty Shades of Grey, a pathway smoothed by the activism of fans, online forums, and social media. This unorthodox route to mainstream (and staggeringly successful) publication has opened up the opportunity for fic authors to sell their work by ‘filing off the serial numbers’, but also openly acknowledge – and even celebrate – the origins of their works in fan culture. Publishers now welcome, and even actively seek out, fanfic that already has a proven track record of success with its readership, that comes with an already built-in audience of ready-made consumers. Hugely successful fiction series, such as the After and Mortal Instruments series, have followed this model, going from popular fanfictions to film franchises. These routes to publication, fuelled by ‘fan power’ and readers as ‘active agents in the process’ (Peckosie & Hill, 2015, p.609), have rarely been given attention within LIS, as with most information practices that demonstrate heterarchical or bottom-up structures.

This portion of the roundtable asks a series of simple questions: what is the future of fanfiction publication? What formats will fanfiction take? Will fanfiction broaden from simply text to something more immersive, more immediately sensorial? Can we forecast where it will go next?

 

References:

De Kosnik, A. (2016). Rogue archives: digital cultural memory and media fandom. Cambridge, MA and London: MIT Press.

Jenkins, H. (2006). Fans, bloggers, and gamers: exploring participatory culture. New York: New York University Press.

Peckosie, J., and Hill, H. (2015). Beyond traditional publishing models: an examination of the relationships between authors, readers, and publishers. Journal of Documentation, 71 (3). http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/JD-10-2013-0133

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