Tag Archives: fan fiction

CCCC 2010 Thoughts

I figure it’s time that I post a few basic thoughts on some of my experiences at the 2010 Conference on College Composition and Communication in Louisville. But like everyone else, I’m wide-eyed at the amount of things waiting for me back home, so I’ll try to be brief.

Best Panels

  • In A19, Bump Halbritter and Jenn Fishman stepped back and let two students (J.R. Hammond and Casey Miles) share their multimedia work with us. It was a perfect example of how we might continue to remix the traditional academic paper format–lots of A/V goodness. Also interesting was their insistence that filming, editing, mixing, is all “writing.” But why not follow John Logie (K24) and call it all “composing,” including the alphabetic-based stuff we do on paper?
  • In C1, Bronwyn Williams became my new hero. He interviewed lots of students about their online activities, expressions of self, expressions of pop culture love, and shared some intriguing results, especially on students’ attitudes toward pop culture artifacts as authorless, and how appropriation blurs the boundaries between reading and writing. And shoot, his book is called Shimmering Literacies, and that’s just as cool as it gets.
  • D18 was my most pleasant surprise: I went to hear my buddy Dan Richards collaborate with Josh Mehler on “the active potential of metaphor” in the classroom, expecting to be a good supporter of a friend but not overwhelmingly interested in the material, but I left with a rich contemplation of the complex metaphors we use to help us make sense of things like writing and argument. And even better, they came across like two TV hosts, passing the proverbial mic back and forth with humor and just the right touch of silliness.
  • It was refreshing to end the first day hearing Rebecca Lucy Busker talk casually and persuasively in E08 about her experiences as a fan fiction composer, and how all the things we teach in comp are enacted in fic circles. Sweet.
  • My favorite overall panel was F12. Randall McClure, summarized: “There are tons of studies about the overwhelming amounts of information our students process every day, so let’s see what it can teach us.” Rebecca Moore Howard: “I used to say that patchwriting happened because readers didn’t understand the source material. But now I’ve got data that says it’s more complicated, and probably related to students’ lack of time.” Jim Purdy (who wins my Best Slideshow Award): “Let’s actually talk to student researchers about how they research. Here’s the beginning of my results.” Janice Walker: “Look at this video of what a student actually does when faced with a research task! Telling, huh?”
  • In the generally awesome I7 panel, I was most intrigued by Tim Laquintano’s points about the pressures felt by composers of online poker-playing manuals–this complex rhetorical situation of wanting to help other players (and thus make money when they buy your book), but not wanting to help them so much that they stomp your elite status as a player, and not wanting to alienate your buddies who also want to keep their reigns secure. Tricky!
  • I already mentioned K24 above, with John Logie and Martine Courant Rife. This was where I saw the Best Multimedia Presentation (Logie clearly breathes music through his pores and eyes, and it shows in his exuberance) and where I had the Best Discussion. Shall we replace the word author with composer? How about as long as there isn’t a reason not to?
  • Finally, I was glad I stuck around for P14 to hear some awesome applications of the inspiring work of The Citation Project. I was especially pleased to meet Crystal Benedicks, who spoke partly on her university’s attempt to complexify a “draconian” intellectual honest policy, and who told me about the book-length poem The Beauty of the Husband, which I will try my best not to read when I ought to be reading other things, but which I will certainly read in all the in-between times.

Best Experiences

  • Finding out that the roommate I randomly found on the WPA list was awesome, nice, and cool. Good Saved by the Bell conversations.
  • Wandering all around downtown Louisville on my own on Tuesday, and successfully navigating a few different bus routes.
  • Having Cindy Selfe sit down with my group at O’Shea’s pub.
  • Randomly chatting at the airport with Kathleen Yancey and Geoffrey Sirc about all kinds of stuff, for like half an hour. I love meeting nice people who know what the heck they’re talking about.
  • Feeling part of a Twitter conversation. Even though some lamented that the #cccc10 hashtag wasn’t very active, it was the most real-timey I’ve ever been on Twitter, and that was exciting.
  • Getting the idea for a Fandom SIG. Excited to see if that will play out for next year!

Best Food

  • The Mayan Cafe
  • Kashmir (Indian food)
  • Za’s (pizza)

Other Blog Posts on CCCC 10

I’m glad to post more, of course, but this is all that have naturally flowed my way so far.

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When Fans Love Too Much

Jim Sterling has an intriguing post over at Destructoid called, expressively, “Videogame ‘Fans’ Need to Shut Up About Everything.” It’s written in reaction to Sonic 4 fans who are extremely distressed about what they see as their fandom being royally twisted up. There’s also some summaries of similar fan frustrations over new Fallout and Diablo games, alternately sad and hilarious.

My favorite lines from the article, with brief commentary:

Instead of fans, I declare that they should be known as people who need to shut the f*ck up about everything.

After the scare-quotes in the article title, this is the second place where these over-zealous critics have the label of fan taken away from them–even though they would probably call themselves the most fannish of them all. Interesting how labels operate differently for different groups, and how they function rhetorically.

One of the main problems with these so-called fans is the fact that they never want things to change.

I have to agree here; I remember when the fourth Smashing Pumpkins album (Adore) was released and it drove fans completely bonkers because it sounded different (!) than previous albums. I wanted everyone to chill out a little and trust the band to give us quality stuff, since they had followed through so superiorly in the past.

But the more I think about Sterling’s comment, the more it makes me wonder: to what extent do certain fandoms have a mean streak of conservatism in them? In other words, is there something inherent in a fan (or fandoms) that rewards leaning on the past and feels threatened by change? Certainly not always; I see lots of fan fiction as the complete opposite, with people seeing things they want to improve on in the original and stepping up to make those changes themselves. Somewhat on the same topic:

This situation, again, stems from the self-important assumption that fans are the be-all and end-all of videogame knowledge. . . .

Blizzard, for its part, mocked the sniveling of the self-professed fans, who had become so obsessed that they doctored images to make them darker in a bid to “help” Blizzard understand what its own game should look like. Once again, the sheer arrogance of that is astounding. . . .

We tend to hurt things we love more than things we hate.

Again, here’s the vision of the fans who hold on too tight, along with frustration at the “arrogance” that fans would know more than the content producer. That’s such a tricky tightrope to find an opinion on, at least for me. I find my gut reaction is with this article, with the Sonic 4 producers, with The Smashing Pumpkins: make an awesome product however you like, and I’ll try to judge it on its own merit, not on my perceptions of what it ought to have been.

But on the other hand, I want these frustrated fans to have space to make their own worlds too that fit their vision, you know? I love that people are so passionate about the stuff they love that they want it to be excellent and awesome, and I don’t want them to simply shut up when their hopes aren’t met. I want them to go out and do something creative on their own that tweaks the official product in awesome, folk-culture ways.

But obviously, that’s where fans of different types of media differ and where genre becomes important. A fan can be dissatisfied with the narrative of a show, movie, book, or even videogame, and rewrite that narrative in fan fiction. But it’s a lot harder for a fan to be dissatisfied with, say, Sonic 4, and then go out and make his own Sonic 4. (Though the startlingly amazing stuff over at Zelda Classic isn’t too far away from that….)

It’s the sheer selfishness of these so-called “fans” that really irritates me. They don’t care about other fans, or even the developers. They don’t give a shit that if a developer catered exactly to them, that they could risk making a game with limited appeal and lose money. You’d think a fan would be happy to see a game in their favorite series make some money, but apparently not.

Ah yes, money always comes into the picture. Sterling is quite right here, methinks. ‘Nuff said?

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Remix Literacies Project

I’ve been working a lot these days on 2 main things: 1) getting syllabi in order (for my professional writing class and for the FYC program’s online curriculum), and 2) getting my survey/interview project together for my remix literacies project. And after typing all kinds of stuff on it, I thought, “Wait, why not just post this language on the blog? That shows I’m not dead, and it’s actually pretty interesting.”

So, here are two bits of language from my main project site: the introduction text and the FAQ text.

Introduction

This site’s primary purpose is to house four surveys I’m conducting about the ways that fans creatively remix culture. I’ve picked four fan communities that I love (see main survey page to see which), chosen especially because I know that people there engage in some variety of fan remixing. Members of those communities are invited to respond to the surveys, and some will follow up the survey with an informal interview.

You can read more about why I’m doing this on my FAQ page, but the basic idea is this: I’m a PhD student in rhetoric and composition at the University of South Florida, and I’m a fan. I want to learn more about the opinions of people who participate in fan communities that i admire, so I decided to ask them about what they do. I’ll benefit by presenting this work at academic conferences and perhaps by publishing the results–but I’ll also benefit personally through the enjoyment that comes from respectfully participating in the cool things that people are doing in fandoms that I admire. And hopefully, the fans I talk to will feel that they will benefit as well: by having a space to explain their remixing to themselves and to the outside world.

To access the surveys, you can use the links in the left menu bar or head to the main survey page.

FAQ page

What do you mean by “Remix Literacies”?
Well, when we talk about literacy, we often mean “the ability to read and write words on a page.” If you are holding a magazine and I ask you to read an article but you are unable to do so, you could be called “illiterate.”

But a number of people apply the word literacy to other contexts as well. If I show you a visual advertisement and you’re unable to “read” and understand the different strategies that the advertisers used to try to grab your attention, we could say that you’re lacking in “visual literacy.” If politics confuses you and you don’t really have any idea how it works, you’re lacking “political literacy.” You can’t read what’s going on.

Remix literacy is a term that I and lots of other people made up (just try Googling it) to describe the ability to understand and create effective remixes. (Of course, “effective” varies depending on your setting, audience, and purpose.) People are creating amazing compositions all the time that grow out of found material; these people are extremely literate in the world of remixing one object into something new. I happen to think that fans are some of the best people at these remixing activities, since they are often so well versed in the worlds of their fandom. That’s why this project is called “Fan Culture” and remix literacies.

And literacies is plural to emphasize that there’s no single kind of remix literacy–everyone does it differently, using different kinds of material and creating different kinds of compositions. And I think that’s cool.

What do you mean by remix? Wouldn’t another word be better?
Yeah, I see your point. People are right when they point out that the specific activities that make up remixing a song are different than those when, say, covering a song or altering it in other ways. But I wanted a single catch-all term that in some way encompasses the wide variety of activities that I’m surveying people about. What I’m really interested in could be called “composing from found material,” as long as you think of “composing” in a really wide sense and “found” as a metaphor for “existing in some way before you got to it to do your own thing.” But remix is shorter, catchier, etc.

Who are you?

I’m Kyle Stedman, a PhD student in rhetoric composition, focusing especially on intellectual property, fan studies, digital rhetoric, and teaching writing. I’m findable on my blog, Twitter, Delicious, and Facebook, and I occasionally go by BasementWall (because I was staring at a basement wall trying to come up with a name). I’m a fan of (in order of most well-versed to least) Lost, Star Trek, Star Wars, the various Zelda games, and various video game soundtracks.

How can I contact you?
Email is best: kstedman [at] mail [dot] usf [dot] edu.

Why are you doing this?

The idea of surveying and interviewing fan remixers was germinated by an inspiring article in the online academic journal Kairos by Jim Ridolfo and Dànielle Nicole DeVoss called “Composing for Recomposition: Rhetorical Velocity and Delivery.” Ridolfo and DeVoss describe the concept of a writer who knows that his or her work will be remixed in some way by someone else. Their example is a press release: the writer knows that journalists will take phrases and sentences from the press release and use them verbatim, mixed all around, added to and deleted from, in the eventual news story. I started to wonder how this applied to the creative work of fans, who “remix” ideas and images and sounds from their various fandoms all the time. What happens when fans create new work that they know other fans will take and remix again in a new way? What’s going on in these artists’ minds as they create?

Why don’t scholars stay out of my business?

I definitely recognize that scholars of fans have traditionally taken an us vs. them, anthropological role. (“Ooh, look over here and see what all the funny people are doing! How strange! I will now theorize about why they are so bizarre.”) But I also know that there’s a stellar tradition of scholars who are also fans stepping in to talk about themselves, represented most famously in Henry Jenkins‘ work, but also in the amazing collection Fan Fiction and Fan Communities in the Age of the Internet and in the work of the Organization for Transformative Works and its journal, Transformative Works and Cultures.

As much as possible, I’m trying to purposefully situate my work within the camp of the latter group by highlighting my own status as a fan and treating my survey respondents and interviewees as experts who are honoring me by sharing their perspectives with me, not as objects of my distant observation. In that, I’m trying to follow the position statement, “Fan Privacy and TWC’s Editorial Philosophy,” which describes its four “central ideas” as follows:

  • Fandom is getting mainstreamed, and there is no way to avoid that mainstreaming.
  • As fans, we prefer to control and possibly direct this mainstreaming, as well as the messages that circulate about us.
  • Academic work on fandom can be part of the explication and contextualization of fandom. In fact, that’s why the journal was created.
  • We think that fans can do a better job of writing academic works about fandom than nonfans can.

With that said, I admit that my role as fan could be seen as problematic by some, in that my fandom hasn’t led me to be an active participant in any of the communities from which I’m surveying and interviewing members. In other words, I listen to lots of music on OverClocked ReMix and I vote when streaming its music at Rainwave, but I don’t read the forums. Similarly, I love Zelda games and I’ve been working my way through one of the quests at Zelda Classic for a while now, but I don’t use the forums or create my own quests. I watch Lost rather more fanatically than anyone I know personally, but that only has led me to read lots of articles and blogs and occasionally update minor details on Lostpedia; I’ve never made a fan video. And I like a lot of the fic I’ve read, but I haven’t read much. (See my main survey page for links to all of these sites.)

So there’s a degree to which I could fall into the danger of becoming too academic and not fannish enough as I do this work. But at least I can say I’m aware of the dangers and am doing my best to keep my head above water.

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Disney Buys Marvel . . . Fans, Beware

So Disney purchased Marvel, and the rights to all of its 5,000 (!) characters, for $4 billion.  This gives me two fears:

  1. That Marvel fans are going to see a steep rise in the number of cease and desist letters for uses that really should qualify as fair use.  (It might be nothing, but the first option for a Google search for marvel fan fiction leads to a site–marvelfanfiction.com–that no longer exists. Coincidence? Probably.)  Hopefully website owners and creative remixers are prepared to band together the way Harry Potter fans did a few years back. (By the way, I’m speaking with no knowledge of Marvel’s history of super-strictly defending its intellectual property from people celebrating their love for it.  Maybe they’ve played mean themselves too?)
  2. That we’ll soon see videos like this one, but with the Incredible Hulk or Wolverine playing Baloo the bear and Spiderman playing King Louie:

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