These Curious Times Interview with Destination Toast

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Interviews by Fans
Title: These Curious Times Interview with Destination Toast
Interviewer: curious
Interviewee: Destination Toast
Date(s): September 1, 2015
Medium: online
Fandom(s): Sherlock
External Links: online here; Archive
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These Curious Times Interview with Destination Toast ("A Birds-Eye View of Fandom") is a 2015 interview with Destination Toast.

It includes lots of interesting charts.

Part of a Series

See These Curious Times Fan Interviews.

Interviewer's Introduction: Excerpt

Destination Toast creates fanworks out of questions and data, and the results give us a view into what we do as fans, what we like, what we create, and even how we identify ourselves. I’d never thought about looking at fandom from the top down until I came across a post she made on tumblr back in 2013. Her study sliced apart AO3 by pairing categories, ratings, warnings, and word counts. With a few pie charts I suddenly had an insight into what we as fans were writing, and where my works fit into the mix. Over the past few years, Destination Toast has sought out answers for an impressive list of questions that touch upon all corners of fandom. What are the most common AUs? Why is there so little femslash? What are the most popular tags on AO3? Toasty asks the questions we didn’t know we had and the findings are always fascinating. Her work has been cited on io9, The Daily Dot, and The Toast, because stats, much like bowties, are cool.

Excerpts

How did you get started in fandom? What’s your origin story?

I can’t even really remember not being fannish, to some degree. My family is super fannish. Not in the fandom creation kind of way, mostly, but we were always really obsessed with Star Trek and a bunch of other things. We quoted them endlessly and watched them over and over again. Mostly sci-fi or fantasy, but we also did this with Ren and Stimpy, Brisco County Junior, Rocky Horror Picture Show. It was a really weird amalgam of stuff, but we all had a fannish attitude: you love something a lot, you love sharing it with other people, you know it inside out, you quote it all the time. That was just how I grew up with all the things that I loved. My aunts also had pretended to do newscasts in the Star Wars and Star Trek universes, when they were young — so my family’s fannish history was rich.

In high school or maybe junior high, my friends and I started doing things like writing our own Star Trek stories, mostly parody. I also wrote some Mary Sue fic, about me and Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins. (I recently found and reread some of it. I will not be posting it to AO3…Just because it’s all WIPs, of course. Not because it’s not fantastic quality. Nope.) I also drew a lot of Genesis fanart.

So I was creating some fanworks early on without knowing that this was a thing that anyone did. It was more just me and my friends writing a combination of what we wanted the shows to do and a sort of wish fulfillment, like who we wanted to meet or how we wanted to be in the band. We did all of that without having any context that it was a thing that other people did.
So how did you go from fic and meta to stats analysis?

By way of background, stats is one of the tools that I apply to everything in my life that I get interested in. I studied psychology and computer science in school, and I had to learn a lot of stats for that. In my professional life I’ve continued using stats. So stats have long been in my toolbox, but I also like to apply them to my hobbies.

I had come into fandom via this one ship in this one fandom and I was just laser focused on it — and mostly on finding explicit fic relating to that ship. Because it was so easy to find, at first I had assumed for a while that no matter what you wanted from fandom it was much easier to get these days. So one of my first questions was whether or not that was true. I didn’t actually know if this was just my experience versus everyone’s experience. I knew what I was reading a lot of, but I didn’t know how representative it was of everything else.

I think what specifically prompted me to dig into the numbers and investigate is the AO3 filtering system. If you click on a tag on AO3, the site offers you a Sort and Filter sidebar. It will give you all kinds of breakdowns, by rating, relationship category, additional tags, etc. Because AO3 was putting those numbers in my face, I was probably quicker to be curious about what kinds of fanworks people were producing, and what things were like for people who weren’t in this one ship that I had a good view of. So I looked at those breakdowns that they have on their Works Search page and I thought, I’ll just do searches on each of those categories — each rating, each warning, etc. — and I’ll make some pie charts and see what the Archive looks like as a whole.
What are some of the most surprising realizations that you had from looking at fandom stats? One of them was that I was shipping one of the biggest ships that there was. That really surprised me, because I had come into fandom looking only for that and didn’t have anything for comparison. Also, Transformers can have three kinds of sex.
Do you feel like you have a bird’s eye view on fandom now that you’ve looked at it from a stats point of view? In one sense yes, I feel that I’m a lot more informed about what my corner of fandom is like, and what’s more broadly true of fandoms on AO3 especially. So sometimes when people have questions or beliefs about particular parts of fandom, I’m actually able to provide a broader perspective (e.g., when people assume that most fanfiction is pornographic, or that Mystrade is the second largest Sherlockian ship on all websites, or that teen AUs are the most common AUs, i can jump in and offer relevant data). But my knowledge is very biased towards AO3 and Tumblr, and to a lesser extent, Fanfiction.net, because those are the platforms I research the most. Every time I look at Wattpad, which has a much younger demographic than AO3, I find ways that my assumptions about fandom don’t hold universally.