Fan Fiction Oral History Project with Aethel

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Interviews by Fans
Title: Fan Fiction Oral History Project with Aethel
Interviewer: Andrea Horbinski
Interviewee: Aethel
Date(s): July 21, 2012
Medium: audio, print transcript
External Links: Fan Fiction Oral History Project with Aethel
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

Fan Fiction Oral History Project with Aethel was conducted in 2012 by Andrea Horbinski and archived at the University of Iowa Libraries.

This interview's medium is audio (length: 01:55:59), and it has a 60-page transcript.

It was part of the series: Fan Fiction Oral History Project also referred to as "a Fiction and Internet Memory Research Project," "the Fiction and Internet Memory Program," and "Fan Fiction and Internet Memory."

The interviews conducted for this project were used for the book by Abigail De Kosnik called Rogue Archives: Digital Cultural Memory and Media Fandom.

Some Topics Discussed

2003 realization of fandom with LiveJournal, but reading fic on personal websites before then


I don't think I found fan fiction until 1998. I had seen Star Trek fan sites around earlier, but I think the first fan fiction I found was in Buffy fandom. And they were on—little—sometimes, just personal fan sites. I don't think I even saw the archives until later. And all those stories I found were terrible, so I didn't really try very hard to find it. But I was reading it intermittently and it was all—. Buffy was my main interest at the time. And I started—. I think I really got into reading it maybe around 2001. Before that I would happen upon it and maybe read it and maybe not, but then around 2001, I think, I really got invested in searching out fan fiction.
I was a Buffy/Spike shipper, and the show had reached a point where they were actually going to consummate the relationship, but it was going to be all wrong. I was really depressed, so I sought out fan fiction instead. (laughs) But really, the overall quality—. I hadn't—. I still—. even reading Buffy sites—fan fiction sites, I did not really find that much that was great. I was just really desperate.
I was mostly interested in Harry/Draco, but I did read a few other ships. But mostly it was because if an author had written more than one ship, I would read whatever other stories they had read, but Harry/Draco was my main interest. So somehow I managed to find three years of reading material, just for that one ship. And in fact, I never did read everything. Just eventually, I got tired of reading about one thing for three years.
So around 2007, I had been hearing vague rumors of this strange fandom where people were fighting over two characters named Ray. It was very confusing, but I found the pilot of Due South on YouTube, and I watched it all, and I loved it. And then I got the DVDs and I watched the whole series, and I loved it. And so I decided deliberately, to search out the fan fiction. And also, of course, some of the people who had been writing Stargate Atlantis had also been in Due South. So it was easy enough to transition and find their stories and go from there. And then— well, related to Due South, there was sort of a satellite fandom attached to that, that you could sort of segue into. It was called C6D — what, 6D, yeah. C6D. Six Degrees of Canadian actors. And so that was basically watching every Canadian movie that starred the actors who are in Due South, or were —or starred the actors who worked with the actors that were in Due South. (laughs) Although my main interest in that fandom was really just watching Canadian films, which is fun.
Before the [Robert Downy Sherlock Holmes] movie actually came out, I was a fan of it because some idiot conservative commentator had said that—had heard a grossly exaggerated rumor that the actors were going to kiss in the film, and he was saying, "Ugh, who wants to see that?" (laughs) So immediately, I decided that I wanted to see it! (laughs) And I was a fan. I hadn't seen it yet, but that was okay. And the thing is, I love the film and I love—. Actually, what I really enjoyed were all of the fan vids that came out after that. And I read some of the fan fiction, but I felt—it all felt a bit too modern, so it didn't really feel like Sherlock Holmes. So I didn't—I wasn't as excited about the fan fiction for that movie.
I often feel like—people actually write about this sort of slash goggles or fannish goggles when they watch media, and I don't necessarily see that when I'm watching it. Or it's sort of—it's almost—. I'm sort of a lazy fan, I think, because if there's fan fiction for something and the premise makes sense, then—say, a pairing—. If there's fan fiction for a pairing, and then it makes a good argument for why that pairing makes sense, then I will read more of that pairing. And whatever my—usually, my pairings are whatever happens to be popular that actually makes sense to me.
... I heard about Fanlore, I went and started editing. I had never edited a wiki before, but it sounded like fun, and so I signed up and—. Just as a regular editor, and I was—. It was very addictive, and I was editing all the time. And then, I guess I was involved in a lot of conversations on the Dreamwidth community, where they would post policy proposals and various editors would come in and tell them how wrong they were. (laughs) And I was one of the people doing that. So then I guess they had a vacancy, and they invited me to join the wiki committee. So that I could—I don't know— tell them how wrong they were, to their face. Or I guess, just that I had opinions and therefore—. Well, I had an investment, insight, and also actually, I had started making help pages because it seemed like we needed them, and no one was making them. So I volunteered to make them, and so then they said, Aha! She will just do work, voluntarily! So we will rope her in. (laughs) And then that was—. So the site opened in September 2008, so I was editing from then until April 2010, when I joined the committee. I still edit, of course, but I don't actually have as much time to edit, and then I became the co-chair of the wiki committee in January 2011, and then my co-chair quit at the end of the year, so I've just been the sole chair for 2012. And I hope to pass that on to somebody else. It seems possible. It's been a lot of work. It's been fun.
And actually, when you say "administrator," that's something I came up with in 2010. We had—the original wiki community had outlined the various roles of—the possible roles you could have on the site, and they hadn't actually implemented all of them. And one of the roles was administrator, which there was sort of—there was a role confusion that developed. And there was a lot of anger and frustration about who exactly was allowed to do what. Like what was a committee decision and what was something that editors could do for themselves? So I sort of created a second tier above gardener, which was administrator, which is actually one of the permissions when you—. In the user rights, you can check off various permissions, and one of them is gardener, and then there's administrator. That's actually the user permissions that the committee gets. But then no one who wasn't on the wiki committee became an administrator, so I don't know where that's going. I think we're back at square one. If I'm an administrator, I'm the only one. So I don't know what's going to happen next year. Anyway, that's something that keeps me up at night.
The only real barrier [to editing on Fanlore] was social and not technological. Wiki code is pretty easy. I mean, as long as you can—as long as the site navigation makes sense and you can find where all of the information is that you need to edit the pages, then you can just copy and paste, and it's—. I think, well, there are a couple of things I've noticed. Not me in particular, but that everyone has trouble with is struggling to figure out what content is acceptable on the wiki. And also, there's a tendency to assume that it works the same way as Wikipedia, and it really doesn't. And I think that's why I like Fanlore. And I don't like editing Wikipedia, because it's—I don't know. People have complained about the tone of the discussion on Fanlore, but really, that's nothing. It's all butterflies and cupcakes on Fanlore compared to the craziness on the Wikipedia talk pages, where you have this—I don't know. Everyone—well, people who are completely stupid and don't know what they're talking about, various trolls, and just people who are very legalistic.
One of the main things that I like about Fanlore that is completely different from Wikipedia is that Wikipedia disallows original research. But Fanlore—The purpose of Fanlore is original research. So you can put any kind of sort of wild speculation—not any kind of—you can put a lot of sort of speculative ideas that you don't necessarily have all the citations for immediately. And just add a note, like "Needs citation" or "This is something that I've seen somewhere. Can anyone else back this up?" kind of thing. So it's a lot—it's a lot more permissive than Wikipedia. And you can sort of write down your own personal impressions of the fandom. And I think some people are actually intimidated by that because they don't want to be the voice of fandom. Because everyone feels like their own personal experience as a fan is different and incomplete, and they don't want to—they don't want to speak for everybody and they don't feel like they can actually encompass what this fandom is about. But then you gotta start somewhere—I don't know. I have—I sometimes have trouble with that.
our plural point of view is necessary, especially for — is absolutely necessary for documenting fandom, because there is no official history for most of this. There are only histories. Plural. And the only way we can sort of capture what it's really like is just like using as many points of view as possible, and then everyone else can sort of figure out what was actually going on. Or maybe as many contradictory things were going on. And what else? Yeah, so original research, we love it. We love squee [unintelligible] and—yeah. Excitement, and something else—Well, Wikipedia has something they call "fan cruft." That's—I think it's mostly—Well, I'm not sure what they actually mean by it. But they—I think they mean, too much canon details, but also anything about what fans are doing, they think is totally irrelevant and unnecessary. And we are basically sort of a repository of fan cruft, but not the canon part. There was a case where someone created a page about a Harry Potter convention on Wikipedia, and then it was deleted because several editors claimed that it was not notable, because it was not special, even though four hundred people went to that event. And it was organized, it wasn't just a spontaneous group of people who happened to show up wearing a bunch of hats and scarves. But anyway, we now have a page on that fan convention that's—but most of the materials on Fanlore would not pass muster on Wikipedia. And that is one of the reasons why Fanlore exists.