A History of Male Involvement in the Fan Fiction Community

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Title: A History of Male Involvement in the Fan Fiction Community
Creator: Laura Hale
Date(s): January 15, 2006
Medium: online
Topic: Fan Fiction
External Links: A History of Male Involvement in the Fan Fiction CommunityWebCite
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A History of Male Involvement in the Fan Fiction Community is an essay by Laura Hale. It has the subtitle ("Or: Challenging Assumptions: Fandom isn’t a bastion of femaleness").

It is part of the Fanfic Symposium series.

NOTE: It was one of three essays by Laura Hale that were removed from the Fanfic Symposium site between July 2–23, 2008. The removal was most likely related to the controversy regarding Fan History Wiki, something that became very heated during the summer of 2008.


There have been numerous explorations of fan fiction as feminist and fan fiction communities containing female traits. In Enterprising Women by Camille Bacon-Smith, the author claims that fan fiction communities are female driven and feminist for a few reasons. Among them was that these communities were less hierarchical, establishing a hierarchy being a male trait. The author also asserted that fan fiction was about communal ownership, not individual ownership. This again is a female trait. Jenkins discusses aspect of female participation and feminism in his book, Textual Poacher. Among the things done was the characterization of fan fiction communities as being largely composed of women, leading somewhat to a conclusion of female driven. These two works are some of the most frequently cited academic sources in the general on-line fan fiction discussion about the topic. They are sources that have become somewhat dated, with the fan fiction community needing to do an overhaul and analysis of their work. General assumptions about the way the fan fiction community works and the dismissing the work of men in the community in doing key activities or how they influence are ones that should be challenged because they are outmoded concepts that do not stand up to scrutiny, dating back to the earliest fan fiction communities.
When the early Star Trek community was founded, it was primarily founded by women. They had a lot of male help in terms of where they got the fannish traditions they were building their community on. While the early zines contributions were written primarily by women, they were written frequently with permission from the powers that be. In this case, the powers that be were male and many fen of that era began to develop relationships with these men. The fandom would later fracture and separate from its original science fiction roots. The conflict would play out at several conventions, including one WorldCon. The science fiction, generally a male bastion, did not feel comfortable with having a media product as part of its community. The Star Trek community, was largely composed of women, an estimate by Mary Ellen Curtin puts the community at eighty-three percent female. Ignore the demographics. People make an inordinate deal about them. The difference detailed in several accountings of the events, including the ones spelled out in Verba’s Bolding Writing, make it obvious that the split was not about gender. Rather, the split of the science fiction and Star Trek communities was over leadership and direction.
During the 1990s, men were still an active, key part of several zine based fandoms. They were fanzine publishers, fan artists and fan fiction writers. One of these was Space: 1999. The men in this fandom at this time included Ray Pluck, Stephen Le Vesconte, Richard Ferrrell. In the Forever Knight zine community, there was R.A. Johnston. In the Edgar Rice Burroughs pastiche community, there was David Adams. Mark Gardner was still active in fan fiction writing and fanzine publishing in the Doctor Who, Space: 1999 and Voyagers! fandoms. The Back to the Future and Quantum Leap fandoms had their share of men involved in writing and publishing fanzines. One male member of both communities was J. Robert Holmes. In the Star Wars fandom, there was Fiorenzo delle Rupi, Peter Iorillo, Mark Richards, Matt Busch, William Bevil, Ed Schode, Jef Czekaj, Jon Bradley Snyder, Bert-Olof Lundin, Karl Rydholm, Ed Baker, Mart Allard, Tim "Sompeetalay" Veekhoven, and Jason Grant. Men were part of the zine culture. They were writing fan fiction. They were publishing fanzine. These men are remembered years later for the zines they published, the stories they wrote. Many of these men transitioned into on-line fandom, on-line fan fiction. There are enough of them out there that they and their gender had an effect on fandom, did not allow for a willful female dominance of the fan fiction community.
On-line and off, men of the 2000s are finding roles for themselves that they are comfortable. These roles can be big, visible, very public and influential. They include running fan fiction archives, writing fan fiction, running fan fiction discussion communities, acting as panelists at conventions, publishing fanzines, and creating resources used by various fan fiction communities. They are doing things that are not as visible. They are writing fan fiction, sending feedback, posting to message boards, participating in fan fiction communities. The assumption that fan fiction is the milieu of women, that it plays by female rules, that men are largely absent or lacking influence, that fan fiction is female led is one that, when viewed from a historical perspective, does not hold up. Fan fiction communities seem to have equality of access, the possibility of equal influence for a person of either gender. The demographics, the actions and perspectives of fan fiction community does not make it intrinsically female, nor feminist.

Reactions and Reviews

Comments are archived here.[1]

There seem to be some typos in the essay...[2]
Huh. I find it interesting the author says "ignore the demographics" when it comes to the gender makeup of sf lit fandom and media fandom and the split between the two, but gives no actual reason for us to do so. Being involved in both the prolit sf/f field and in media fandom, I can tell you gender does matter, and there are still men who resent the presence of women in "their" club. I can only imagine this was worse several decades ago, when the two fields truly began to split. As a result, I'm afraid I need some actual justification as to why I should dismiss both the demographics and my own experience simply because they conflict with the point the author of this essay wants to make.[3]
I find it interesting how men are often the "owners" of fannish spaces (site/archive owners, zine editors, what have you), while women are (though that's not mentioned in that article) the ones who produce a lot of the material that makes up the "meat" of those spaces by writing fic or what have you.

As for fandom being considered a "female" (or even "feminist") space - I think that from the male perspective, there is, or there might be, some stigma associated with fandom in the sense that fannishness, or certain aspects of fannishness, is/are considered "unmanly". Men are not supposed to squee, or to write emotional fanfic (let alone slash!), or to draw cutesy fan art. That kind of stuff is considered to be "for (fan-)girls".

I think that could also be the reason (or one reason) why male fans do things like programming and server maintanence - things that are considered to be stereotypically "male" tasks. It might be a way, for them, to participate in fandom while still feeling like "real men".

Now back to the essay itself - one thing that's missing, to me, is a conclusion. Okay, so the author pointed out that men in fandom exist, but what kind of conclusions does she want us to draw from that? Are we supposed to acknowledge the contributions of males more (the snippish part of me is inclined to say that men are are able to see to their own acknowledgement)? Or should we become aware that fandom is not a feminist paradise of female self-expression? Or what? [4]
i think one of the central initial problems is how laura opposes TP's and EW's claims with examples outside of media fandom; yes, there has been fanfic and there are fandoms where man are more visible or even the majority. historically, however, this is not true for media fandom (and the fact that she can pretty much namecheck them might contradict rather than prove her point of heavy male involvement). i think it is important to note that there were men involved, but that does not deny the fact that their numbers were extremely small, plus, as ravenclaw_devi points out, it certainly raises the question as where and in what function they participated.[5]
and the fact that she can pretty much namecheck them might contradict rather than prove her point of heavy male involvement

Ya know, that was my thought when I first read this. I can't even begin to list all the women who've published zines/started or run archives (heck, the archive software that was for the longest time the most commonly used was written by a woman)/started and run cons/written significant fan fiction/good lord, don't get me started on viding. In an odd sort of way, I found this article drove me to exactly the opposite conclusion from its stated purpose.

also: Boldly Writing!

Hrm? [6]
and yes, the essay really shows how few men there are (or rather were, b/c i think once she gets to HP, it might become impossible to list names any more) but i also think it really is a definition issue. she and i have gone 15 rounds on the popslash/Good Charlotte issue, and I think to include Sherlock Holmes etc really complicates the issue b/c the women only thing has always ever been ascribed to media fandom (i mean, your comic fandom experience show significant differences too, don't they?) [7]
yes, i think that split is fascinating and resonates with other (not necessarily gendered but nevertheless full of wtf moments) mergings of media fandom with musicfic fandom and yaoi and...different heritages; differnt rules; different expectations.

also, on rereading laura's essay...she emphasizes a lot of fanzine editors but were all of those fanfic???? (b/c to me media fandom is first and foremost about artistic creations of various kinds; i mean, we know other fanzines existed before and aside those that were constituted of mostly fanfic...)

like the sherlock holmes connection, we may be talking about very different things here (b/c bacon-smith and Jenkins are clearly talking about "us" even if they never specifically police the boundaries and explain what's *not* included...i mean, i'm still trying to figure out what to do with soaps fandom!!) [8]
If the coolest thing about Bob Vardeman is that he later went on to become a published author, and that warrants him being included in this essay, how come it is not mentioned that female fan Jean Lorrah also became a published author? I remember reading her Sime/Gen books in junior high, and here is her listing at amazon.[9]
I'm not sure whether it's a difference between the UK and US experience, or one of 'visibility', but because of the position of Doctor Who at the heart of UK media fandom there has always been a high number of active male fen in the UK. The majority of the (men) writing Dr Who/Torchwood tie-in novels learned their craft by writing (and producing) fanzines. A fair number of the production personnel on the current Who franchise are also fen who've made a career in the media.

Comics fandom was also (until comparatively recently) an almost exclusively male forum in the UK (I've known female fen who have refused to go into a comics shop "because it's full of male geeks").

There are also differences in type of fannish activity - in my (possibly limited) experience, male fans tend to be more involved in the technicalities of production - whether of zines, websites, models, or video-making, while female fen are much more likely to participate in writing original fiction, or fine (as opposed to plastic) artwork. The latter lends itself to archiving, and much wider dissemination (pre-youtube!) which may skew the data in favour of women being seen as more 'active' within media fandom.

Thoughtful essay, but, like so much in internet discussion of 'fandom' it does make assumptions about the 'Fan Fiction Community' which (may) apply only to the North American portion of that community.

Has anyone ever done a proper evaluation of 'fandom', broken down by age and sex*?

*Yes, I know...[10]


  1. ^ "WebCite query result". 
  2. ^ from copracat, LiveJournal comment posted to the Fanfic Symposium Discussion Site community, January 16, 2006.
  3. ^ from ranalore, LiveJournal comment posted to Fanfic Symposium Discussion Site community, January 16, 2006.
  4. ^ from ravenclaw devi, LiveJournal comment posted to Fanfic Symposium Discussion Site community, January 16, 2006.
  5. ^ from kbusse, LiveJournal comment posted to Fanfic Symposium Discussion Site community, January 16, 2006
  6. ^ from cereta, LiveJournal comment posted to Fanfic Symposium Discussion Site community, January 16, 2006
  7. ^ from anonymous, LiveJournal comment posted to Fanfic Symposium Discussion Site community, January 16, 2006
  8. ^ from kbusse, LiveJournal comment posted to Fanfic Symposium Discussion Site community, January 16, 2006
  9. ^ from lastscorpion, LiveJournal comment posted to Fanfic Symposium Discussion Site community, January 3, 2007.
  10. ^ from inamac, LiveJournal comment posted to Fanfic Symposium Discussion Site community, April 18, 2007.