Fan Film, Fan Films

OTW Debuts Fanlore & New Academic Journal

The Organization of Transformative Works (OTW) is a good idea that came together late last year, and now after months of laying groundwork, it’s finally starting to take off.

What is OTW? Basically, it’s a non-profit group of fan fiction writers and fandom academics who have joined forces to promote and protect fan-created work—an umbrella that includes fan films. OTW is primarily focused on fanfic, which makes sense since that’s the community it sprang from, but the fan film world is gently on its radar as something to deal with—and include—down the line.

OTW’s mission, generally speaking, is to record the history of fannish works, provide legal assistance for fans whose work is threatened by copyright holders and others, and promote the academic study of fandom as a whole. A number of projects were initiated over the last few months and now the first ones are starting to come to light., OTW’s fandom wiki which debuted last week, is devoted to chronicling the fan creation communities. It’s not really designed or intended for promoting individual work, so don’t go in there all gung-ho to promote your “Akira meets Teletubbies” fan movie. Instead, it’s a somber, fairly dry—and decidedly female-centric—take on aspects of the creative side of fandom.

• To me, more interesting is the first issue of OTW’s academic fan journal, Transformative Works and Cultures. The issue debuted in mid-September and is available for free online, offering a view of fan works that’s very different from the typical navel-gazing found in online fan forums. For a preview, try the journal’s press release that announced the first issue:

First issue of fan studies journal Transformative Works and Cultures Released

The first issue of Transformative Works and Cultures will be released on September 15, 2008. This open- access online multimedia fan studies journal publishes scholarly essays, personal essays, and book reviews. TWC is published under the umbrella of the nonprofit fan advocacy group Organization for Transformative Works, and although its audience will primarily be acafans (academic fans), its scope ranges widely with the aim of providing a forum for fannish voices, academic or not.

“One important aspect of the journal is its open-access nature,” Karen Hellekson, coeditor of TWC, commented. “It will be available for anyone to read, without any subscription restrictions. Plus it’s online, so the articles can use hotlinks and embed videos. It’s really time to move beyond the print model, so it’s exciting that we’re able to do that.” She points to Francesca Coppa’s essay, “Women, Star Trek, and the Early Development of Fannish Vidding,” as an example of an essay that uses embedded media. “It’s got screen caps from fan vids, plus embedded links to video, all to support her argument. It really explores the range of what multimedia has to offer.” The issue also contains an audio feature, presented by Bob Rehak, with two downloadable recordings of a discussion held at the 2008 Console-ing Passions academic conference.

The first issue ranges widely to showcase TWC‘s interdisciplinary scope. For example, the political realm is dealt with by Abigail Tycho De Kosnik in “Participatory Democracy and Hillary Clinton’s Marginalized Fandom,” which applies fan theoretical models to contemporary Democratic political behavior. “This is a great example of fan studies being used to inform the political,” Kristina Busse, TWC coeditor, pointed out. “The field ranges so widely, and I don’t think people realize how applicable the scholarship is in other arenas.” For example, pedagogy and writing is handled by Bram Stoker award-winning horror writer Michael A. Arnzen, whose essay, “The Unlearning: Horror and Transformative Theory,” uses a classroom writing exercise revolving around horror texts to emphasize the central importance of transformation in writing, and Madeline Ashby’s “Ownership, Authority, and the Body: Does Antifanfic Sentiment Reflect Posthuman Anxiety?” uses specific anime films as metaphor for the role of women’s writing online.

Several interviews also appear in the issue. The TWC editors interviewed Henry Jenkins, whose groundbreaking work in fan studies is required reading by all fan studies scholars, and the three members of the Audre Lorde of the Rings, a conglomerate of academics, artists, and activists. Veruska Sabucco interviews one member of the Italian writing collective known as Wu Ming to talk about Wu Ming’s activist project and fan writing in terms of collective authorship, copyrights concerns, and popular culture. And fan voices are also heard in the Symposium section, including an essay by the founder of the Fanfic Symposium, Rebecca Lucy Busker, whose “On Symposia: LiveJournal and the Shape of Fannish Discourse” focuses on fannish meta discourses and the particular ways LiveJournal’s interface has shaped and affected style and content.

“This is a strong issue that we hope will invite many more diverse contributions,” Busse said. The second issue of TWC, which will focus on games and gaming, is scheduled for March 15, 2009, publication; No. 3 will appear September 15, 2009, and will feature more general submissions.

This isn’t the kind of thing you read front-to-back; skipping around is to be expected. So far, I’ve only read the editorial and Coppa’s Vidding essay (which was great, BTW), but expect I’ll be delving into it again. To download your free copy, go to the Transformative Works and Cultures website.

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2 Responses to “OTW Debuts Fanlore & New Academic Journal”

  1. Francesca Coppa

    Hey, thanks for the kind words about my piece in TWC! And I wanted to say, as someone interested in fan films of all kinds (and full disclosure: on the OTW board and so interested in the success of all our enterprises!) that the wiki is a) brand new and b) open to all sorts of fan experience, not just female fan experience. There’s a totally empty “Fan films” page linked from the page. Anything you’d want to contribute would be awesome. (Also, I’m excited to read your book; I was JUST rereading Jenkins’s piece on fan films and it struck me as dated, so it’s really needed!)

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