Doing A Fandom Archive With Jeremy Brett and Lauren Schiller

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Interviews by Fans
Title: Doing A Fandom Archive With Jeremy Brett and Lauren Schiller
Interviewer: Steven Savage
Interviewee: Jeremy Brett and Lauren Schiller
Date(s): January 14, 2014
Medium: online
Fandom(s):
External Links: Interview: Doing A Fandom Archive With Jeremy Brett and Lauren Schiller - Muse Hack, Archived version
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Doing A Fandom Archive With Jeremy Brett and Lauren Schiller is a 2014 interview conducted by Steven Savage.

The focus of the interview is filks, archiving fanworks in academic libraries, and the importance of fannish history.

The two interviewees are librarians at Texas A & M University and work in with the Texas A&M Cushing Library Fanzine Collection.

Introduction

I heard some time ago about Jeremy Brett and Lauren Schiller at Texas A&M University. They were working on an archive and display of filk-related material, and when I was asking them about it I found they in fact ran a fandom archive of ‘zines and more. I of course had to ask more about this. Archiving culture is important – and of course we progeeks may get some interesting professional insights . . .

Excerpts

What is the overall goal of the archive and how’s it going?:

[Jeremy]: Here at Texas A&M we’re working to make the collection of fanworks (filk, fanfiction, vids, etc.) a real priority for the collection, because I think it’s important that along with the traditional literary, film and TV translations of science fiction, we also document the popular receptions and perceptions of SF. How do fans understand, embrace, and react to SF works that give them joy? To understand science fiction and fantasy in all their depth, we need to look at the audiences that are receiving it and drive it, as well as the authors and filmmakers that produce it.

Tell me about the specific filk collection you were working on?

[Jeremy]: Well, we do have some examples of filk that predate our recent call for it. We have a number of filk songbooks and recordings on CD that were given to us as part of a collection from a donor who’s active in Star Trek and particularly Klingon fandom. But the first collection we’ve received as part of the new strategy has been from a New Hampshire-based filker who’s supplied us with a box full of audio cassettes from many different filkers, including some prominent ones like Leslie Fish and Meg Davis. He’s also given us some songbooks, including a copy of what’s often considered the very first filk songbook, STF & FSY Songbook, which dates from 1960. Together these two collections will form the nucleus of the larger filk collection we hope to build.

How does this help academic research into culture?

[Jeremy]: Fan studies is a growing legitimate field of cultural, social and historical research. I mentioned above how we look to fanworks as a way of understanding how people engage with media products in which they find an interest or passion. How do popular perceptions about books, movies, TV shows, music, etc., change over time? Fanworks – like filk – also document ways in which people (fans, in this case) form and evolve social communities and networks. And studying fans and their interests and creative products is a good way of learning more about how we as a society are impacted by mass media and technology. In this media-driven, high-tech age, understanding how and why people react to the world around us is important. Finally, I just think it’s really fun and worthwhile to see just what other fans think and write and film and sing about movies and TV shows that I particularly like myself. It’s a weird and wonderful universe, and I like to see what people do with it.

[Lauren]: There are researchers looking into filk and fannish culture: when I’ve hunted around to see what articles are out there I don’t find much on filk, but fannish culture is something that I’ve been hearing more about lately, and people looking at filk are out there. That was actually something that prompted my suggesting that we start collecting filk; I was at OVFF, which is a filk convention, and there were two women there interviewing convention members about filk and how they used technology. I also saw a discussion online where filkers were talking about the need to record songs for preservation purposes. A lot of filk song books don’t have sheet music and just say “to the tune of ____” and when the tune is a well-known one that works. But when the tune is more obscure, or when the song book says “you know how this one goes” then unless there’s an older filker around who does know how that one goes, newcomers to filk won’t. So making an effort to make and preserve and identify recordings will help a lot with that.

How did your own interests play into this work?

[Lauren]: As I mentioned, I’m in the filk community. So there are a lot things there that lead into wanting to archive filk: the community has been a lot of fun and it’s very supportive and welcoming of new people who want to be involved and so this is both a way to give back by helping preserve filk history and by doing outreach by making more people aware about filk and what it is. I’m also a big fan of science fiction and fantasy in general and I have a lot of friends who are writers or aspiring writers and working at Cushing with the science fiction collection has been a way to connect those interests as well because archiving papers for science fiction and fantasy writers is one of the focuses for the collection. And my first library job was also in preservation so I’ve sort of come full circle there working with old and interesting things that we’re trying to provide access to while making sure they’ll still be here in the future.

So what do you see in fan archiving in the future?

[Jeremy]: I think that fan archiving is going to be increasingly popular as time goes on. There are fans now who are conscious of their history and have been self-archiving their own materials for years, and we hope that they’ll continue to maintain their creative legacies and hopefully collaborate with institutions like TAMU that have the available resources to ensure that materials in all formats (paper, film, sound, digital) can be preserved as well as viewed and studied by interested people. Making sure that fanworks are archived properly is getting increasingly important as more and more materials are born and live as electronic files than as solid paper.

I also hope that more institutions will follow the lead of places like TAMU and Iowa and others and recognize a real value in fanworks like filk. They’re important cultural artifacts, and they have a lot of inherent interest, too, as examples of ways in which we like to tell stories and make them part of our lives, gather together to share common passions and enjoyments, and creatively reinterpret media universes.