An Introduction to the Organization for Transformative Works (post)

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Title: An Introduction to the Organization for Transformative Works
Date(s): September 28, 2007
Medium: online
Fandom: all
Topic: archives, fanworks
External Links:
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

This was the first official post regarding the creation of the Organization for Transformative Works. It was posted September 28, 2007 at otw news.

The post included the original initial volunteers.


A set of archived links: page one; page two; page three; page four

Some more archived links, though incomplete: An Introduction to the Organization for Transformative Works, page 1, Archived version, page 2, Archived version, page 3, Archived version

The Post

Hi! Well, we promised more updates, and this is the first of several coming up over the next few days--we don't want to overwhelm you guys with too much information in just one post.

The name fanarchive is no more; instead a non-profit organization has been created to oversee the archive project. The Organization for Transformative Works--which you'll see frequently shortened to OTW around here from now on--has been incorporated in Delaware and is currently seeking federal tax-exempt status. (That's a process that will take us a little while--government red tape, after all.)

OTW has a website located at Right now it's serving as a placeholder, but our Public Relations committee is hard at work setting up a site that will be informative and helpful, particularly to those outside of fandom.

We're currently in the process of soliciting volunteers for the project--in all areas! Some of you who have previously volunteered may have already been contacted via email last week if we had your email addresses on file. If you have not received an email and you volunteered or you want to volunteer now, please email [email protected] and we'll put you on our masterlist of volunteers.

Our primary focus is going to be setting up the archive itself. That's our first priority. In addition, we'll be working on a few other projects, such as a fan history wiki, an academic fan journal, and a legal defense fund. We'll have more details on those projects in upcoming weeks.

A lot of people have asked about the possibility of OTW setting up a fan journaling service. While this has not been ruled out, unfortunately setting up a site like that would be very resource-intensive and would involve us in two heavy software coding projects at the same time. Because of that, it's not likely to hit our project timeline for at least another year, perhaps two. However, the archive itself will give fans the opportunity to house some of the content that might find them TOS'd in other places.

In its mission statement, the Organization for Transformative Works (OTW) defines itself as a nonprofit organization established by fans to serve the interests of fans by providing access to and preserving the history of fan works and culture in its myriad forms.

We're dedicated to doing everything possible to protect and archive fanworks across the board. Our goal is to be as inclusive of fandom as we can possibly be; our legal team is determining how best to protect fannish works that fall into non-mainstream genres. We as an organization want to celebrate fannish activity, to work for legal and societal recognition of the legitimacy and creativity of fannish works, to protect fanworks legally, to nurture fandom and fan creations, and to give all fans as much access to fan activity as we possibly can.

In order to do so, a number of committees have been set up under the direction of the board and are staffed by various members of fandom. Below is the listing of the board and all current committee members. All members of the board are associated with fandom, but due to legal requirements, they are listed by their public identities; for privacy issues, their fannish identities will not be overtly connected to their legal names....

We're all incredibly excited about the direction the organization is taking and upcoming projects. Keep your eye on this comm for more updates regarding projects and how you can be involved in crafting a fannish space for each and every one of us. And if you've any comments or suggestions or questions you're curious about, please feel free to comment here. We might not have all the answers yet---the various committees are doing a lot of setup work at the moment--but members of the Community Relations committee would be happy to talk to talk to you guys about what's going on behind the scenes. And if we don't have answers for you, we'll see what we can do to find out. Just be aware that at the moment, some of our answers might be along the lines of "we're working on figuring that out"--there's a lot of back-end stuff that's waiting on outside sources or even the answers to questions we're asking each other internally. :)

Thanks, you guys, and if you ever need to get in touch with the Community Relations committee, please email us at [email address].


Note: supporters of Hale and the very unpopular and controversial Fan History Wiki were hector rashbaum (archivist at Rockfic), screwthedaisies (owner of Rockfic, founder of FanworksFinder), and "anonymous."

At some unknown date, partly bouncy (aka Laura Hale) deleted all of her comments. They are archived below.

Some topics in the 325 comments:

  • supporters of Fan History Wiki were very outspoken in their disapproval of Fanlore
  • MUCH discussion of "media fandom," RPF, bandfic
  • gender language and inclusion
  • early Led Zeppelin fanworks
  • revealing legal names
  • much, much more
Laura Shapiro: How soon can I contribute medium-sized bucks to the legal defense fund? ::waves wallet::

Morgan Dawn: I too has monies that are looking for a good time. :-)

shrift: Yay! OTW isn't ready to accept donations yet -- it just got a bank account -- but we'll have that information soon!

lamardeuseJust - wow.

giglet: Yay! I am so proud of you, and excited for all of us!

mirabile dictu: Please remember that all our answers right now are very tentative; this is only the beginning of the outreach process. But right now, the plan is for the archive to include just fiction, at least at the start. There are lots of other projects being considered, though, so I hope that you, as an artist, will participate in the upcoming discussions about What Should OTW Do and Be. Kind of an unsatisfactory response, I know, but these are really early days.

anonymous: Kind of an unsatisfactory response, I know, but these are really early days. Not to beat a dead horse, but you were created in response to FanLib. This incident dates back to May. Early days are five months? FanWorksFinder has 261,000 works on it and was created in response to otw_news and they've been open since July 20. If I were doing your public relations, I'd try a new line. Comments like this just make otw_news look awful and incompetent. In five months, you haven't developed even that much of a policy? Yeah, awful. Why are we supposed to trust your organization? Where the heck is the rest of the board? Why aren't they here? Are they not invested in this process? Or is it just about something for resume filler and power tripping through fandom? More suck on your PR. If this is about fandom for fandom, get them here to discuss it with fandom.

anonymous: Wouldn't it be better to work with Fan History Wiki and its existing knowledge data base than reinvent the wheel?

tiferet: And [Fan History Wiki] is incredibly biased and bans anyone you and FW don't like. We need one that is interested in more than grudges. I still remember when you posted on one of the big SPN news comms asking for submissions for your wiki--you asked for grudges, wank and beefs, not anything else.

anonymous: I find your connection between the two to be somewhat disingenuous. From observation, FW, as far as you are concerned, means fandom_wank. However, it's pretty obvious that the general populace of that place dislike her even more than they dislike you. The Fan History Wiki does not equal the Fandom_Wank Wiki.

hector rashbaum: a fan history wiki: What's wrong with the existing one?

bethbethbeth: ...we don't think of it as a question of right and wrong, but rather that we're thinking in terms of bringing another voice into the preservation of fannish history, sort of like the way the OTWarchive, when it goes live, won't be the only archive in existence, but will be joining hundreds of other fanfic archives.

hector rashbaum: Which still doesn't answer my (admittedly, poorly phrased) question: "Why a wiki when there is an excellent fan history wiki already in existence," when the very nature of a wiki removes the need for "bringing in another voice", your initial reason?

partly bouncy: Can you address that please? FanHistory.Com, Fan History Wiki, is the largest resource of information related to fan fiction history on the Internet. It has over 6,400 pages. It has problems and needs work but nothing that a few contributors, contributors like yourself, couldn't help fix. So why didn't you contribute? Why didn't you lend your voice to it? And why, if you want a new face for fan fiction and having done your homework, didn't you reach out to me and ask for my assistance on this?... Find out why, when the project was planned, when my wiki was linked to, why I wasn't personally invited by the people behind the project. Because seriously, you'd have to be pretty... well, isolated in fandom not to have run across Fan History Wiki and my other fan fiction history type work. In the mean time, while you get your proposal together, could you please give a shout out to Fan History Wiki...

acchikocchi: "you'd have to be pretty... well, isolated in fandom not to have run across Fan History Wiki and my other fan fiction history type work. I wouldn't call myself "isolated" in fandom - I've been participating in various fandoms for seven years and I've never heard of it. Perhaps we have different interpretations of the word? What exactly do you mean by that? (Western fandom? Participation in fandom history activities?)

carmarthen: Because seriously, you'd have to be pretty... well, isolated in fandom not to have run across Fan History Wiki and my other fan fiction history type work. I don't know yet whether I want to be involved in OTW, but that assumption sure doesn't make me want to participate in the Fan History Wiki.

usomitai: Just like to chime in that I'm pretty active in fandom and I never heard of the Fan History Wiki. Glad to have stumbled upon it, though. New reading, woohoo!

miriad: Wow, that's pretty arrogant. I've been involved in fandom for twelve years, on LJ for almost 8 and I've NEVER heard of your wiki until today. Out of curiosity, why did you think that they needed to talk to you before they started their own? Do you own the rights to a fandom wiki? Or did you just want your name attached to the big new thing? Your argument that because your wiki was linked to that you should be asked to participate holds no weight whatsoever. People link to sites all the time, including wikipedia pages but that does not create some sort of contract or requirement on the part of the linker to make the linkee involved in their posting/e-mail/web site. Maybe instead of complaining, you could have just volunteered your time. Just a thought.

absolutedestiny: While a wiki can be edited by anyone, a wiki hosted by an individual does not belong to everyone. Without the individual who hosts it, the information, however open and collaborative may vanish and be useless. OTW, by opening ownership to the community, helps with this issue.

partly bouncy: OTW has a wider scope than merely fan fiction. specifies fic.

So... OTW is talking about doing a fan history wiki, to compete with Fan History Wiki which has over 6,400 pages already that touch at least 1,500 fandoms, touch on the activities of over 1,500 people in fandom dating back to the 1930s. Fan History Wiki looks at people, fandoms, archives, legal issues and more. It covers parts of vidding, fan art and general fannish activity history. Can I ask how the proposed fan history wiki that OTW is doing is going to be wider than that?

OTW, by opening ownership to the community, helps with this issue.

By not editing the wiki and by not offering to assist with the wiki, you're not helping to open it up to the community and not helping the community learn more about its won history. I've done more out reach with the wiki than OTW has done with their project. I've been committed to maintaining the wiki and helping the community since day one. I can't say the same for OTW.

absolutedestiny: The fact is that is not community information in the truest sense of the term because ownership ultimately falls outside those who created the information. Sure, anyone can contribute but what then? If I did contribute to what guarantee would I have that the information wouldn't be taken offline for no reason, locked by some biased moderator with no explanation or simply just removed by the isp never to be seen again? There is no privacy policy on the site. There is no copyright information detailing common ownership. Am I even allowed to quote the about page like I just did? For all I know could be collecting information with the purpose of taking it all offline, compiling a book and making money all thanks to the hard work of the poor saps who were "helping the community". I'm sure that's not the case (I'd hope!) but if there's one thing to distinguish OTW and (other than scope and many many other things) it is transparency. OTW has been transparent about its development from the very start with the entire organisation (from membership to mission statement) being developed collaboratively, organically, by the community rather than by one individual. It's an organisation established because of the inability to trust externally owned hosting, born out of user/owner clashes with corporations and individuals alike., whether run by a fan or no, is no different in this regard. The users that contribute to the information have no control over the final use, access and distribution of that information (as it currently stands). "I've done more out reach with the wiki than OTW has done with their project. I've been committed to maintaining the wiki and helping the community since day one. I can't say the same for OTW." Are we really going to get into a pissing contest about who has given more or whose dad is bigger than whose? The page count is completely not the point.

partly bouncy: OTW has been transparent about its development from the very start with the entire organisation

AHA HA HA HA! No. Seriously. You can't be serious. Where is the transparency? OTW is a train wreck, waiting to happen. They've made decisions with out consulting the community, appointed themselves the voice of fandom and were silent for months and months while decisions were apparently made with out the community knowing. When pressed for updates, no one could answer.

by the community rather than by one individual.

Got an article wrong there. "by a community" is correct. OTW's outreach has been horrible, awful, craptastic. I saw no representation on MySpace, Quizilla, FaceBook, AdultFanFiction.Net, JournalFen, FanDomination.Net, MediaMiner.Org, FanFiction.Net, HarryPotterFanFiction.Net, FicWad, DeviantArt administrators or users. I saw almost no outreach to mailing lists. (I think I saw three posts.) So you would be wrong on both counts.

Are we really going to get into a pissing contest about who has given more or whose dad is bigger than whose? The page count is completely not the point.

Hey, I'm not the one talking about being for the community and by THE community. If I can do the outreach on a wide scale, why can't OTW? It isn't about a pissing contest but OTW's effectiveness at their stated goal. Which, because of their/your lack of outreach, you're/they're probably going to fail. I outlined eight problems I had with fanarchive way back in June. At least two of your committee members were offered the chance to read it. They were perfectly valid concerns. Have they been addressed yet? Nope and I can't see them doing it. FanArchive, an archive for a community.

anonymous: How transparent is OTW when we don't even know the fan identities of its board? I respect their need for privacy, but you can't then turn around and praise OTW for being transparent in its organisation when members are prevented from knowing who its leaders are.

absolutedestiny: The irony of posting this as an anonymous user wasn't lost on me, thanks for the laugh.

partly bouncy: we don't think of it as a question of right and wrong, but rather that we're thinking in terms of bringing another voice into the preservation of fannish history I call bullshit. I've been after people for years to help me document this stuff. Years. Where were you then? Why didn't you reach out to me when this whole thing was being discussed in the planning stages? Why didn't you reach out to Steven Savage? Why didn't you reach out to MediaMiner.Org, RockFic, FanWorks.Org, FanDomination.Net, AdultFanFiction.Net, FicWad, SkyHawke, HarryPotterFanFiction.Net, SugarQuill and other large archives? Why didn't you respond when Heather, the founder of FanWorksFinder reached out to you? Where was your knowledge base and research being done that your group decided that years of fandom experience from people who have been there, done that wasn't worth consulting or inviting to participate in the process? Added to that, pretty much anyone can edit FanHistory.Com. Why didn't you edit the wiki to offer another voice? Why didn't you encourage others to edit the wiki to lend their voices to that?

hector rashbaum: You think OTW should have sent you a golden ticket Did you not notice the list of names after she mentioned herself? It probably could've been worded better, but what she was getting at was there has been no attempt made to solicit help or advice or partnership from outside LJ. There's a wealth of knowledge and experience out there about what has failed and succeeded in the past with archive creation, and no attempt to tap into that. Okay, there have been attempts. There was a nice post a while back with a long list of archives to look at - but other than the people who happened to know this community was here and offer their experiences, was there any attempt made to actually ask archive owners off LJ for...anything? I know of at least one attempt by an archvist to reach out to this project that was either rebuffed or ignored, screwthedaisies, who runs RockFic and FanWorksFinder to get in and make sure from the beginning OTW and FWF would work well together. And yes, there was a call for volunteers. On LJ. Possibly on the other journal sites, I don't know. But that's the issue - all this is taking place on journaling sites with no attempts made as yet to get out there and include other fen....My point is, considering OTW wants to be panfandom and cross all these boundaries, some outreach to people who know what they're doing, who have experience, who have knowledge would be a good gesture. In contrast? While it's more self-promotion than outreach, FanLib has made a point to go after not only LJ, but MySpace fen and Facebook fen and God knows who else. OTW appears to content to remain LJ-centric, which is all well and good except for this mission to cross boundaries.

norah: I'm far less likely to contribute to anything that has this kind of negative "but we did it already" railing coming from its organizers/contributors. You looked at OTW and said "this is a train wreck" and then wanted them to invite you specially to join them? As far as I know, anyone was free to join this effort, as anyone is free to edit your Wiki. I'm not sure why this is causing you such consternation. People sold books on the web before Amazon, and had blogs before Blogger, and had fan archives before, and sold burgers before McDonald's, and spoke out for justice before Amnesty International. Just because people did it before doesn't mean there's not room for someone else to do it, and doesn't mean there's not room for people to continue doing it afterward. If that were the case, then Wikipedia would be the only wiki out there, period. If the issue is that the people starting this one didn't take all your advice or agree with all your points, then all the more reason to do your own thing and let them do theirs, no?

ratcreature: I vaguely recall some long-standing kerfuffles with the admin/initiator of that wiki over fanhistory issues from mailing lists... Personally I'm not much into meta, but I admit to having been so aggravated in these past mailing lists discussions on fanhistory that it led to my avoidance of that project because of these connections even years later. Obviously that's by no means representative and it's not like I'm affiliated with the OTW project anyway, so I couldn't say whether those issues were a factor in making another history wiki seem a good idea, but because of my own history in fandom that was my first thought...

anonymous: I don't think past kerfuffles are scaring off OTW, seeing as they put someone as controversial as Heidi Tandy on their legal team.

ratcreature: I have no idea who this Heidi Tandy is, so wasn't aware of any potential controversy there and can't really compare, and I didn't think of it in term of conflict avoidance or even something like not wanting to have anything to do with that other wiki ever because of some old grudge. It was more a thought along the line that there's reasons beyond mere functionality or scope of a project that lead to redundancy in fandom. While I think that things like group organization rather than single maintainers and pragmatism can go a long way to make past (and current) kerfuffles have less impact, I really don't expect a "one fan organization to rule them all" model to possibly work anymore than previous attempts to centralize other things in fandom or in specific fandoms in the past, no matter how transparent, democratic, or outreaching its committees or maintainers are. And it wasn't my impression that that kind of centralization was even OTW's goal either, so mostly I see plans to have another wiki, maybe slightly different but similar to existing ones, just like the plan to have another multifandom archive, even though others are already out there.

seperis: I think it'd be kind of cool to have more than one [wiki with a fan history focus]. Redundancy ensures we don't lose as much when a site vanishes, or someone leaves, or just forgets, you know? I mean, there are multiple archives and communities for fic pairings, so why not more than one fannish history?

hector rashbaum: I get the idea of having more than one [fan history wiki], and I do agree about redundancy lessening the chance of losing that history. I think maybe why I take issue with the argument at this point in time is the biggest issue the wiki faces is a lack of participation - I've watched partly_bouncy begging and scrounging for people with knowledge to contribute, and if the problem is a lack of participation, ANOTHER wiki is gonna fragment the potential participants and exacerbate that problem - so we'll have twice as many repositories, but the same amount of information and a bigger hassle finding it. Which, of course, is probably not going to be a big problem considering the intended scope of OTW's audience. But I think it makes more sense to affiliate with the existing wiki, with all the information it already holds, and encourage people to participate while perhaps developing mirrors or working out a plan to spread out backup copies if the original DOES go under.

taverymate: In reality, in a wide variety of situations (from political parties to fan archives to wikis) what we see is that for some - NOT ALL - people, the choice is not between two equally attractive alternatives where only one can be the "winner". Instead, for some people the choice is to participate in or support one organization / resource or not be active at all. In other words, some people may have already made the choice (for whatever reasons) that they are not willing to contribute to the existing fan history wiki. For these people, having a second (or third or fourth) different fan history wiki is not pulling their efforts away from the existing wiki; it is generating new involvement that would not have otherwise existed. Then, too, many people do, in fact, contribute to multiple resources (e.g. archive their fan fiction at multiple archives, participate on multiple mailing lists or bulletin boards). So, while having more choices for fannish resources CAN reduce the number of contributors and/or users, it does not do so automatically, nor universally.

anextropian: 1. It is important that this project be open to every person familiar with fandom, so that decisions are not made in some secret place by a secret gathering. I have no remarks on whether this should be open to those unfamiliar to fandom. The fact is that at this point, I know almost nothing about this project, and that there does not seem to be any way to know more. 2. It seems that this kind of project requires eventual attention from many people. However, a Google search of "Organization for Transformative Works" yields 10 results. A Google search for "Fanlib" yields 251,000 results. Moreover, the only places I have heard about this that is not LiveJournal is Henry Jenkin's blog and this blog which I found which searching on google for information about fandom demography. Any outreach that is occurring is virtually nonexistent. This is the more disturbing thing. When I first found this, I was excited. However, I am worried that this might fail, and that the momentum might collapse due to the general lack of attention. I do not know whether the points I have outlined are merely temporary things in the startup planning, but I sure do hope that these two conditions remain for only the "startup."

carmarthen: Fanlib has been around considerably longer than the name "Organization for Transformative Works" and is also a commercial enterprise (which has bought advertising) that has generated a lot of controversy (news coverage and blog posts). A lot of those hits are negative mentions. Search engines take TIME to pick things up. OTW as a name has been around for what, a month? It takes about 6 months to get a new website picked up by search engines unless you pay a rather large amount of money upfront to get bumped up the queue with no guarantees. I'm not particularly vested in OTW at this point (intrigued, though), but I wouldn't assume it will fail based on search engine results at this point.

hector rashbaum: Why is it that outreach is something that had to be saved until core committees were formed and things were getting off the ground? Aside from the fact that it seems a little unfair to exclude everyone but fen with some connection to LJ from the early planning stages, from coming into this early on, before the core committees were formed - particularly the Community Relations committee, wouldn't it make sense to have reps from more than just LJ fandom? - it seems like with a little better planning, these long lulls between new updates would have provided an excellent opportunity to reach out to fandom elsewhere, so rather than waiting to bring non-LJers in until things get rolling, there's already a wider base to pull from when volunteers are needed for the wealth of jobs that are about to require doing?

anonymous: Not impressed. You're several months too late. And people capped the comments by your supporters where you dissed on anyone not located on LiveJournal. Do you think they'll stay with you after they learn that? I don't think so. Give more n00bs more credit.

anonymous: When the idea for fanarchive first started kicking around, fanarchive's supporters were calling fan fiction readers and writers outside their part of LiveJournal fandom idiots, feral, n00bs, useless and retarded. The caps of those comments have been circulating around fandom. What is fanarchive's strategic plan to address that issue? Or does it not have one because none of your reps here seem to want to take responsibility for anything?

seperis: Links to caps?

femmequixotic: Hi there. :) I can assure you that the organization doesn't hold those ideals in any way, shape, or form. The goal is to be inclusive across fandom lines. Personally, that was one of the reasons I wanted to be involved with the organization; I love the idea of a multi-fannish organization that works across fandom boundaries.

briarwood: You guys are awesome. I see a lot of negative commentary here - the stuff about being concentrated on LJ is justified but time will remedy that. Here's where it all began, after all.

anextropian: One of the major things here is to define its purpose. I am quite sure that the purpose of this project is to provide a legal defense and to protect the control of fandom by fans, so that fans will for the first time actually fight it in court if some person like Rice will try take it down. One other thing is that it should include its purpose in its profile page. This project came out of a response to fanlib, so that fans create their own "front door" rather than for-profit corporations. In other words, the main purpose is one of ownership, control, power, and intent: that it be not merely to add another "central archive," but to create a central archive owned by fans for nonprofit. I am still somewhat confused about its purpose. And even for all the points I have told above, I do not see how it could attract fans to participate in this.

femmequixotic: The project also was highly influenced by the Strikethrough debacle this summer as well, in which worries about fan content being censored by individuals outside of fandom rose. So protection of fannish content from a legal aspect is very important to us. Having been directly involved in both Strikethrough and Boldthrough through my LJ comm, I can say that personally that's why I jumped at the chance to be involved with OTW.

elfwreck: Make up your mind. Are you upset because it's early and they're not posting every discussion as they have them, or because it's late and you/your friends weren't invited into the decision-making committees?

Your non-responses are hurting your cause more than helping it.

Errm, I doubt that. The non-responses are being taken as "we're kinda busy, and we'll get back to you." If you can't handle a rename token and a basic site hosting account being bought before there's a public statement of income & tax deductible status, then you probably wouldn't support it no matter how clear the info is.

Can you make your books publicly available...?

(I'm assuming that was you as well.) Financial reports of nonprofit orgs are available through the usual legal processes. They're under no obligation, legal or moral, to disclose every financial decision as it's being made. Disclosing general goals and intentions will help people decide whether to support them—but that doesn't take a spreadsheet, just "we plan on spending some money on a website and some google ads; all staff positions are volunteer at this time, and that's the intent for the future.

logovo: Just a note to let you know that I'm impressed by how calmly you are handling all the comments in this post.

spectralbovine: I just wanted to second that. It's very impressive, given the amount of eye-rolling I've been doing.

frogspace: I just wanted to say that I admire you for staying so calm. OTW couldn't have chosen a better Community Relations person. You must have nerves of steel and the discipline of a Special Forces operative. Seriously, you are doing good work. :)

femmequixotic:As far as RPF, it has always been part of the scope of the organization's mission. The Archive of Our Own Project will host RPF, and OTW firmly believes that just because source canon for RPF comes from articles, interview or documentaries doesn't make it as a genre any less transformative or creative than media canon. Regarding the name, it was chosen based on earlier discussion posts in the community as well as based on the availability of URLs and corporation names. We firmly believe the name Organization for Transformative Works will help us proactively advocate the legitimacy of fanworks by having a key argument for such in the name. The transformative use test in copyright law has been one way that courts have analyzed right of publicity claims in regards to creative works; we're hoping to use the same concept in advocating fanworks as a legitimate creative avenue.

miriam heddy: All members of the board are associated with fandom, but due to legal requirements, they are listed by their public identities; for privacy issues, their fannish identities will not be overtly connected to their legal names. I'm just curious, but why is it that the board members (and only the board members) are listed without fannish identities? I'll admit I don't know much about this sort of endeavor's legal issues, but why would the board but *not* the legal team (and all the other participants) need this kind of fannish anonymity? Could you talk a bit about this dual standard, and why board members require more privacy than anyone else participating in the project?

femmequixotic: Board members are required for legal reasons to operate under their actual, real-life identities. Committee members and chairs are not required to disclose their real-life names/identities unless they wish to do so. Most, as you can see from the listing above, prefer to keep their fannish identities separate from their real-life identities for a variety of personal reasons. I myself do not use my real life name in fandom due to job concerns. Board members' fannish identities are not overtly being connected to their real-life names not out of any attempt to hide their fan identities from fandom (because honestly, they themselves will admit that it's not difficult at all for fandom to make the connections), but rather so that when outside-fandom sources look at the board list they don't automatically connect them with their fandom journals. It's an attempt to give their fannish spaces a bit of privacy so that someone, for example, doesn't do a Google search on their real life name and find on a public listing such as this a link to their journal right next to their name. I hope that explains it a bit. :)

miriam heddy: Okay, so if I'm following you, you're saying that the people listed under legal are *not* actually working as legal consultants for OTW? Because if they are (in the sense of preparing paperwork with their name on it), wouldn't they have to have their legal names on it? Also, in terms of PR, are the board members disclosing that they are, in fact, active, fanfic-writing fans (and thus insiders)? Or are they "passing" when speaking to the media by disclosing only that they are (for example) published non-fannish authors and fanfiction academic critics (positioning themselves as outsiders)? As you note, the connections aren't that hard to make. What happens when the public at large (i.e., the media) finds out who these board members are in fandom? Already, one comment here "outed" Naomi N. as astolat. This issue of RL names vs. fannish names and anonymity has long been a curiosity of mine. Usually, it doesn't seem to matter that much, in fandom, as everyone is participating on a given list as a relatively equal member as insiders. I'm wondering about the organizational effect, and what's going to happen when OTW starts to issue press releases and the like, and perhaps generates media interest.

cathexys: But isn't that just an issue of plausible deniability that acafans have been doing for a while now? I can admit to being in fandom without having to exhibit my fannish CV or link people to my LJ. I think of the board in a similar way. While many or most FANS will be able to connect the dots, most of us are pretty good about not doing so in public so that a google search, for example, doesn't connect LJ and RL name.

miriam heddy: Hmm. My first thought is come back to something you were saying about male aca-fen and their frequent desire to distance themselves from active fannish participation. What I wonder, in part, is what's going to happen if and when OTW starts issuing press releases or going to court and being covered by the popular media. Are the board members going to be explicitly stating themselves as active fans no different from those others on the volunteer board who are listed by their fannish names? In other words, will OTW be representing itself to the world (whatever part of the world that notices it or cares) as run by a prominent fantasy author and some college professors who study fans, or as slash-writing fans who've chosen to be anonymous. And if it's the latter, then, of the message of "fandom is legitimate and legal" which seems to be part of what OTW is hoping to argue? Recognizing the practicalities of wanting a private life (and yes, even sharing that desire), I do wonder whether it's possible to argue that slash is a good thing while it is clearly something so shameful that even a wealthy author and tenure-protected academics can't "own"? Or is the working assumption here that the board will, at some point, "come out of the closet" once some version of Stonewall has been achieved?

miriam heddy: Layered privacy... I get that. Though most of us already use filters for that, so that, for instance, our fic stands alone from our personal posts, which we f-lock, etc. As for the idea that our writing reveals our personal bedroom kinks, I certainly hope we can agree that it doesn't, and that any writer of anything risks people reading them into their work, but most authors are able to say (as Stephen King frequently does), "I have no personal desire to tie a woman to a bed and abandon her there to watch her struggle." I think that it might "read" differently if the chair wasn't a published, known author of genre fic, and if the others weren't academics writing about fandom. And I'm not talking about seeing slash as shameful myself (or even suggesting that the board sees it as such), but wondering how it's going to look in terms of publicity. In a sense, given that we're talking about writing, this feels different, to me, than an actor not wanting to have everybody know where they live or their home phone number. In that case, the actor is saying, "Know me for my work. I give you that. But I don't give you my self." But in this case, the board is telling the world, "Know me for my professional, paid life as a writer (which gives you some access to knowing about my private life, as you know my real name and thus can access much about my life, including where I work and live). And know me for my work on this board. But I withhold my identity and my work as an unpaid writer under a pseudonym."Does that make sense? I recognize that many fans could lose their jobs if anyone knew what they wrote. And because of that, few of them could afford to put their real first and last name on the board for an organization like OTW, simply because of its association with slash. They would have to use their fannish name (or not be on the board at all) simply because of the risk. So those on the board are exercising a privilege in feeling safe enough to associate their real lives with fandom, and yet are simultaneously distancing themselves from their fannish identities in the midst of working to legitimize fandom so that, someday, those who might lose their jobs could feel safe. I worry at the contradiction, and what that says about our community as it takes a stand and dares call itself "transformative.

miriam heddy: Sorry--let me clarify. I didn't mean to ask for LJ names (and I have to look back up to see if I misspoke and said that, rather than noting that the board used their Real Names while the rest used LJ names). I meant to question the exclusion of the names under which they write in fandom (not always the same as LJ names). As for that notion of "private fannish place," I sort of feel like I really love that idea, too, but it seems to me that OTW is, in part, responding to the fact that our "private fannish place" is no longer private (and to think otherwise is to indulge in an illusion). The internet has made it public, and academic fans have given it a public voice, as, presumably, will OTW. I also think that, as with anything, privacy and privilege go together, and are complicated. As I noted, many fans are private, not because they want a private space, but because their public lives would be imperiled by the revelation that they write slash. Hence, something like OTW has the potential to be really useful if it can defend fandom (and slash) so as to make it possible for all fans to have the privilege you do to choose to make your fannish life private for your enjoyment rather than out of sheer, economic necessity. As for Naomi's worry (and I don't mean to pick on her personally, but rather to note that, by becoming Chair, she's in a professional capacity, and thus public)--isn't that (the potential access of young people) one of the things that stands behind slash being potentially illegitimate, and why we often feel under attack? How are we going to take the on if OTW's board Chair seems to share the perspective of those who see slash as potentially dangerous to young people?

branchandroot: I have one wording worry about the current website. Number one under Values says "We value media fandom". Now, the valence of this term may be changing, as fandom terms do, but the meaning I'm familiar with for "media fandom" is specifically the fandoms of domestic TV shows and movies. *takes a quick look* That's still how it's defined on Wikipedia, which is generally a decent gauge of such things from a ways behind the cutting edge. I'm fairly sure you don't mean to narrow your scope to only those fandoms, but that's how it reads to me (who mostly hangs out in the anime fandoms). Perhaps a more explicitly inclusive phrase could be used? Other than that, looking good; the wiki and the journal sound like lovely ideas, too. Are you thinking of a journal focused on fandom itself or on canon texts? Or both? *grins* Or is that a 'don't know yet' question?

hector rashbaum: It was also pointed out to me, something I didn't initially catch, that specifying "predominantly female culture" - while true, in almost every case - isn't all that welcoming to male fen.

nestra: There's a difference between saying "we value media fandom's history and identity as a predominantly female culture" and "we don't welcome men...." it may reinforce the stereotype of fandom as a "girl thing", and that MAY come across to some male fen as wanting to keep it that way, if that makes sense? Hmm. Is it a stereotype if it's true? I mean, yes, this gets into "what do we mean when we say fandom", because there are areas out there that have more male fen in them, but on the whole, the tradition of media fandom that we're discussing is predominantly female. We really need to get someone like cesperanza in here, but from what I understand, part of the impetus with this project is to prevent the rewriting of history that so often occurs, where female-created work is co-opted by men. (See also: vidding.) FanLib is an example, where in the eyes of many of us, an organization peopled almost entirely by men decided that fanfic was the next big commercial thing and rushed into a female-dominated community to exploit it.

xtricks: I really don't think I suggested or expect to be 'catered to'. I dislike being invisible, just as women, people of color and many other minorities dislike being made invisible by current cultural assumptions. American politics is 'predominantly male', astronomy is 'predominantly male' many other endeavors are currently 'predominantly male' (and white and etc) and in the struggle to gain equal participation such terminology has been recognized as discouraging to women and other minority groups and there's been a lot of hard work done to remove that sort of language from school text books and to ensure inclusion of formerly ignored female political movers and shakers, people of color who were significant in science etc. As I said in my original post, the equally correct term 'predominantly white' was not included in the mission statement. Why is gender okay but not race?

shrift: I'm not sure if this will clarify things for anyone, but I thought I would try to explain. The OTW is an organization created to advocate for female-dominated transformative media fandom and its artworks. That is its purpose. The archive is one project of the advocacy organization, but is not the advocacy organization itself.

screwthedaisies: I understand that the goal is to be as inclusive as possible, which is why I'm taking the time, again and again, to say "My fandom is not a subset of media fandom." OTW can go two ways with this information: "Well, for the purposes of representing fandom we're calling fandom 'media fandom' and that's just that" or "Huh...maybe we should give the wording a little more thought so that it reflects our goal of being inclusive." So far what I'm seeing in comments leans more toward the former than the latter: people who are not in my fandom space telling me what labels I should accept for my fandom space. Thanks. That's not inclusive, that's making me feel, "Ohhhhhhkay. Not for me." (An aside that I really don't want to detract from the point I keep trying to get across, but that I do want to briefly cover since you brought it up: Many popslashers, I've been told by a friend who's been an avid popslash reader/follower for years, came from media fandom to begin with, so popslasher and perhaps also actorfic writers have a different relationship to the term "media fandom" than I do—but that doesn't make my experience in my fandom regarding the term "media fandom" any less valid. Overlap between fandoms—inevitable as it gets easier to communicate with wider groups of people—doesn't mean that a group can pick a term that has previously meant one thing and expand it to mean many more things without someone from the group that's being dragged under the term feeling a little bit "What the hey?!")

wickedwords: Actually, back in the 1970s, Led Zeppelin fandom was a part of the media fandom banner. Starsky and Hutch fans wrote Led Zeppelin stories, and while some of them did 'name changed' stories, others did not. Novels and zines and circuit stories existed for rock bands back then within the circle of media fandom, as did *gasp* stories about the actors on some of the TV shows, such as Professionals. If you want to go the gen RPF route, a very early zine story was 'Visit to a Weird Planet', which was about Kirk and Spock visiting our earth and interacting with real people here. So, yeah, there was some parallel development, just as Xena fans reinvented fandom when they got going, and other threshold fandoms (a threshold being a first fandom, the one that brings someone in and makes them want to seek out the company of others to talk to and interact with, and maybe read some of the stories or watch vids that they have done, rather than remaining in isolation.) But it existed within media fandom, even if it wasn't high profile.

wickedwords: Media Fandom is an umbrella term, encompassing RPF, and that has been there since the 1970s. (well, technically, 1968. I looked up "Visit to a Weird Planet Revisited", and that was its published date.) I know that Xena fandom and Beauty and the Beast fandom were both threshold fandoms, and had their own terms for things ('Alt' fiction for example, instead of Femslash), their own scholars and people very into creating their own society--but that didn't make it any less a media fandom. The people who wrote LOTRPS stories are also part of media fandom. I don't see how media fandom is defined to exclude band fandom.

screwthedaisies: My experience with [media fandom's] usage has been that bandom is not a subset of media fandom. When I see "media fandom," I think either, broadly, FPF, or, more narrowly, TV & movies. The reason I keep saying this is because I believe that if OTW and the archive want to be viewed as inclusive, they need to consider using inclusive—not exclusive—language. It may not seem exclusive to you, but I'm telling you it does to others. There are people in fandom who will see "media fandom" and think "oh that's not me." So why choose the exclusive term "media fandom" and not the more inclusive just plain "fandom"?

wickedwords: I don't speak for the corporation, but I think it's fine if some people see "media fandom" and think "oh, it's not for me", as someone else in the same community will see "media fandom" and think "Oh cool! that's for me!" They will join and submit their stories and have a great time, and maybe talk some of their friends into participating as well—or maybe it will become a huge kerfluffle in their community, the 'do archive' vs. the 'don't archive!', because that's just what we, as fans, do. For me, I am more comfortable with the term media fandom as that is how I am used to defining myself in a fannish situation. "Fandom" to me is male-centered and "media fandom" is female—we coined the phrase to identify ourselves, back when the women who were interested in star trek were shunned at science fiction cons, and I would hate to lose all of that history.

wickedwords: Again, I cannot speak for the corporation as I am not associated with it, but I'd tie in the discussion about fandom-as-women's space to this. Media fandom is a term that stemmed from the community of women who broke off from Science Fiction fandom because of the derrision they faced because they were Star Trek fans. It really only because 'Media' fandom once the community members started embracing other shows, like Starsky and Hutch or the Professionals. (Or Eroica, a japanese AU of Led Zepplin. Or a host of other stuff.) To not include it is to erase some of that history, and as far as I know, part of the goal of this project is to make sure that people are aware of the history of media fandom and archive our work, so it doesn't get forgotten or misplaced. So to me, when you say "take out the media thing and make it more inclusive" I hear "make sure you erase that." The goal of inclusivity and the goal of perserving history are in conflict, and it's up to the OTW's board to work it out.

screwthedaisies: I was thinking it you might be talking about the Tris/Alex and Eroica stuff (but hoping it would be something I hadn't yet heard of because that would be really cool). The problem with Tris/Alex and Eroica is that it's not reflective of the majority of band fiction. As I understand it, it was more than just a case of "names were changed to protect the author(s)" thing going on with both of these, which is something that's not all that uncommon outside of fandom. I wish my brain would supply me with some examples right now (because damn it they're right on the tip...grr), but in all likelihood you're familiar with movies or books, etc., where the main character was based off some real person, except he's got a different name, different job, lives in a different time, etc., etc.--something the author or filmmaker saw in this real person inspired something that created something original and apart from from the real person. In addition to that, only the original Tris/Alex author and the original Eroica writer(s?) actually did what I just described; those who wrote Tris/Alex or Eroica fic from that were writing Tris/Alex and Eroica fanfic, not band fic, so we're not even talking bandom anymore except tangentially. So this is interesting stuff, but in bandom (as far as I know at this point) an anomaly.

xtricks: A mission statement is an area where you talk about your organization in the largest possible terms. Most such things I've read for other organizations do not single out gender as key to the group (even of the group is domianted by one gender). I'm certianly not denying or suggesting that women didn't create, and continue to drive forward, fandom as a community. Nor that anyone should deny such things. I guess what I'm looking for is gender neutral or gender inclusive language in the nuts and bolts, rules and other areas where gender isn't instrinsic to the rule. I have written professionally for role-playing games and when I write rules and other non-'in character' pieces I have always made a point to use either gender neutral or gender inclusive langague, even though - technically - table-top role playing games are still 'predominantly male'. Why do I do this? Because it's the right thing to do, because I don't want some twelve-year old girl who likes gaming to see that the Storyteller is always a guy and so why should she even bother to try? I'm looking for the same thing women sought when the push for gender neutral/gender inclsive language in textbooks, rules, organizational documents and so on began.

elfwreck: I don't think identifying an expectations of gender involvement is discriminatory. (I have got to find smaller words. Gods, I sound pretentious.) It doesn't mean men can't play too... after all, I watch Spike TV; my husband watches Lifetime. But I don't expect Spike to play movies with less explosions because I find them annoying... and I wouldn't expect An Archive Of Our Own to "tone down on the slash" because male fans are squicked by it. Nor to discourage incoherent babble-squeeing ("Sfjfjworjlkfslkfjdsl!!!!") as comments on fic. There's a difference between "gender-neutral language" and "let's pretend gender doesn't exist." Because too often, that comes out to "let's pretend everyone is male." And even online, where gender can be invisible, there's often a tendency for Officials In Power to ignore anything said by someone they identify as female. I like the idea of an org set up by women, for women—without any intent to leave men out, just no direct attempt to include them. Most decisions would be entirely gender neutral. (Whether to charge $10 or $15 for an "advanced membership," should that ever exist, will not be based on the gender balance of the membership.) But some decisions—how to put warnings on fics, perhaps, or standards for minors—will be strongly influenced by gender roles. And, given the history of fanfic, it's only proper that women's opinions be given more weight than men's. And this can be done just fine by democratic vote. If more men wanted to play in the fanfic sandbox, they'd get more influence over the games. But there certainly shouldn't be any special consideration for 5% of the participants... especially when those participants get heaps of privileges in other settings.

boogieshoes: "while i understand and champion the female history of fanfic, i'd prefer neutral-gender language in a welcoming/ goals/vision statement, too. the reasons for this are many, and some verge on the complexly personal, but the one i can be the most coherent about is that i'm a believer in more inclusive behavior going forward (for society as a whole, not just here), and the fewest possible gender/religious/random-descriptor-here!defined spaces. i get really tired of people telling me that because i'm a girl, i can't be an engineer, or an x, or a y or a z - all of which is patently rediculous. likewise, i get tired of being told i'm not a real Wiccan because i'm an engineer, or other such silly things. going by the golden rule, i wouldn't want to do that to the guys in fannish space either, and just as there are a lot more in the way of subtle implications that 'girls can't' in society at large, i think we in fannish space should watch out for our own subtle implications that 'guys don't'. the guys are here, so obviously, they *do*, and we should do our best to welcome them.

cofax7: Saying that creative online media fandom was and continues to be primarily built by women is not the same thing as saying "no boys allowed." i get really tired of people telling me that because i'm a girl, i can't be an engineer, or an x, or a y or a z - all of which is patently rediculous I get really tired of people telling me I have to move over and make room for the boys. We built this, when they didn't want to: why should we now be obligated to make it less female? For a lot of us, what we value is that fandom (online fandom) is female. Nobody is saying, "no men allowed." But women are in the majority, here, and we respect and value that.

[boogieshoes]: here's the thing. if you want a female-only space, then you should make one, and declare it so - but you won't get me to play in that sandbox, for the precise reason that i am not a particularly 'female' female. i hate gendered spaces because even though i'm chromosonally XX, my thinking, organizational preferences, readerly preferences, and general behavioral and interaction modes would ordinarily be considered far more traditionally masculine. a female-only space isn't just excluding men; it's excluding those of us who *aren't* the 'normal women' who make up the space. and it's a thing i hate because i do get it from both sides of the fence - i get it from fanfic fandom, and i get it from the rest of (male-dominated) skiffy fandom, and i get it from home, and i get it from work. i get it already, i'm not normal. but i would like a place where i'm not excluded for not being normal, and to me, that means not excluding my choice of playmates, either. the problem with exclusionary wording is that it never excludes *only the people mentioned*, but excludes everyone who doesn't feel like a normal part of group dynamics. i consider myself a fan - i attempt to write fanfic, i read a ton of it, i like to talk about it and the impact it has on me, and giggle over inappropriate dialog moments. but i don't consider myself part of the normal group dynamic in fandom. i like a lot of people here, but i like my orbital mechanics book more. i'm all for being attributing the correct history to the correct people. i'm all for calling men on their bullshit when they try to claim that they invented vidding or some such thing, but this is more than that. on a gut-reaction level, claiming this fanspace as female-gendered is more like saying because blue people invented aspirin, yellow people can't have any. and as someone who's decidedly green, it makes me feel less like participating.

mayoi humbert: I get really tired of people telling me I have to move over and make room for the boys. We built this, when they didn't want to: why should we now be obligated to make it less female? For a lot of us, what we value is that fandom (online fandom) is female. That's fine, but you can't have it both ways. Either in your mission statement, you say fandom is female dominated, which implicitly excludes men, or you say it welcomes all comers, in which case, men aren't excluded. It's like (and I'm in engineering, too) if my engineering school said in their mission statement, "primarily created by and peopled men" (which would be true—1 to 10 in my electrical engineering classes). It would rightfully be criticized as exclusionary to women. To counter your example, bullshit if some guy told me bewilderedly, but it's "purely factual," and we "value our male space." It's explicitly contradictory to the idea of open inclusion. I would prefer that statements about gender were excluded in the mission statement, but it's not a strong preference, because I am sympathetic to the comforts of a space for like minorities (I'm ethnically Chinese). Still, I think it's not forward-looking to frame the mission statement in terms of gender, as if women will always have to be segregated to have any sort of a safe space. That it makes like-minded men feel excluded would seem to support that view. I mean, don't you want to advocate for a general open-mindedness when it comes to transformative works? I think for your mission, to advocate for transforming media, it would be more useful to leave off the gendering for future coalition building. But that's just my vote.

This Post Included Initial Volunteers





  • Chair: Jo Graham








  1. ^ She includes a link to the now-defunct Fan History Wiki.
  2. ^ "bios". Archived from the original on 2007-12-14.