Fan Fiction Oral History Project with Jinjurly

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Interviews by Fans
Title: Fan Fiction Oral History Project with Jinjurly
Interviewer: Andrea Horbinski
Interviewee: Jinjurly
Date(s): July 7, 2012
Medium: audio, print transcript
Fandom(s):
External Links: Fiction Oral History Project with Jinjurly
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Fan Fiction Oral History Project with Jinjurly was conducted in 2012 by Andrea Horbinski and archived at the University of Iowa Libraries.

This interview's medium is audio (length: 1:54:32), and it has a written 28-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

Excerpts

[Attending Detroit-area Doctor Who Appreciation meetings]... at the time, I figured it was just me being weird, as a weirdo with a bunch of other weirdos, but no, there was some creepiness. So that had the effect of both kind of pushing me away from actively seeking that kind of a social interaction again, but it also actually introduced me to the idea of actually going to a convention, which is how I was first introduced to things like zines. I got my first zines there, and that would have probably been '87. Robin of Sherwood zines, I was there to—I think it was '87—I was there for Doctor Who, but after that I didn't really have much other fannish activity that wasn't just on my own, being really fannishly into things, until a mailing list for The Beautiful South, the band The Beautiful South. That would probably have been '97, '96 or '97. At that same time, or very close to that same time, Usenet for Babylon 5 and some Xena websites, some of the big Xena websites. I joined LiveJournal in—I think—2000. It's on my profile, I guess—2000 or 2001, so relatively early on, but I wasn't aware ... while I now know that I had several fannish people on my friends list at the time, I wasn't aware at all of the fannish use of LiveJournal. I was very much on there ... and still, probably half of my slightly mis-disused friends list is still that sort of day-to-day journaling folks. In 2004, I really started participating in LiveJournal fandom... and that was first with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and I lurked for a while, and then I started participating and then when ... because I had web space when people started putting up podfic. I had old University of Michigan space —just from being alumni—that I was actually paying to maintain. It was like eight bucks a month or something. And so people who put this up on temporary file sharing sites, and then they'd come down in a week or two, and I wound up offering to store them for people to give them a link, and that kind of evolved into actually creating an archive. It wasn't, of course, quite that straightforward, but that's really where I started more heavily participating. I also wound up creating and still sort of maintain an author's archive of her works. We haven't talked in years, but yesterday I got a domain name registration renewal notice, so I guess I'm still doing it (laughs), so. So that's pretty much it, in a nutshell.
But that's how I found my way to LiveJournal, and it's also—there were discussions that I had there about Xena. And so that would have been the only place that I really interacted with people about Xena, but most of my fannish behavior would have been on websites, and it was mainly that sort of meta and sort of semi-academic discussion, which I've always been a lot more comfortable with in any case, with the idea of participation. I'm pretty uncomfortable with the idea of creative present participation. I'm getting over that, really slowly, but until after, a while after I turned thirty, I was convinced that I just was not—that I didn't have a creative bone in my body, and I shouldn't even try, and it would just embarrass everyone, so that's where I was at, which was why I wasn't really looking for anything else. I liked the idea of that sort of semi- breaking the fourth wall that was going on on Usenet, as far as engagement with the creator, even though he was certainly by that time, a lot more hands-off and snippy at the best of times, but it was fun. It was nice feeling like I was a part of a community there, even if I didn't actually speak.
So I kind of had this little interchange with her and then a month or two later, she started posting things about podfic, and by that time, I was hosting probably a couple of hundred files, but she started saying things about—basically very, very prescriptive things about "how to" podfic that I found pretty offensive, this, sort of, this, "This is right, this is wrong. Reading this way is totally incorrect. If you end a sentence with an up intonation, then you're just bad." I mean, all kinds of weird weird stuff. "You must record at this bit rate." And it really pissed me off, and I'm not particularly confrontational, but I'm a little passive-aggressive, and she started talking about, Oh, how she was going to create a podfic archive that people could put their podfic in, and I was annoyed, and she went AFK for a couple of months, and I knew she was AFK for a couple of months, so I decided that damn it, I was going to have a full-fledged podfic archive before she came back. And it was all born out of spite and guilt. Mature, yeah. Anger and guilt are really my two big motivators, but part of why I went into that whole story was because it explains in part why my podfic work is not, and the archive, that the Audiofic Archive, is not a passive archive. It's not an archive where we wait around for people to submit stuff. We also don't curate. I had some conversations with this woman before she went AFK, and she had actually ... one of the things that she had brought up was a need to curate, a need to only have quality podfic. So I was like, Hmm, okay. So in a lot of ways, many of the things that she held up as ideas or needs, were the things that I took as things that I needed to specifically counter, which is why the archive now has—I mean, it's a relatively new role—but we have a cheerleader. We have a specific archivist volunteer who, when people contact the archive, and say, "I hope I'm not doing this wrong, and it's probably really bad," it is her job to contact them and tell them how awesome they are and that there's no wrong way to do it and that it is their work and that they are not providing a service for the author, but they're doing something that's valuable, that all accents are good, that ... The number of people I've seen apologize for having Southern accents is really pretty dismaying, or German accents, or whatever your unpopular accent of the month is. Early on, there were a whole bunch of podficcers from New Zealand, which was great, because we have a whole bunch of podfic with wonderful, really cool New Zealand accents. But that's still a fight that goes on. I mean, you see people self- castigating for accents all the time or warning for their accents or apologizing for their accents, and I do feel that it's a very creative thing. I do feel like at its root, fandom is about participation, communication, community, and conversation, and that conversation—I feel very, very strongly that that conversation cannot be top-down, that it cannot be hierarchical. Sure, a lot of the time we operate hierarchically, ... a lot of time that's what we're used to, a lot of the time that's what we're more comfortable with, whatever. I really think in order to have conversations that are productive and interesting and not just about gazing at our own bellybuttons while Disney is shoving stuff down our throats or whatever, we really have to listen to everyone...
There was, couple of WisCons back, Alexis Lothian proposed and moderated a panel about Internet drama, which was great. It was basically about—I can't remember what it was called, it was something like "Can Internet Drama Change the World?"—and the conclusion was, very definitely: it can. It will be exhausting. There will be people who, you never change their mind. Okay, I don't know how much of the time when you call people out, they're just going to flip out and seem to be even worse, but the fact that you may even be reaching some people who never speak and have their behavior change? My behavior has been hugely changed by fandom. Hugely. I feel like it's made me a much better, much more aware person, and some of that, yeah, I was doing without really specifically interacting with anybody.
I think that one of the things about podfic that's really wonderful is that it makes this diversity physical. It's very strange. It's very strange. It's very intimate. You are basically sharing a part of your body with people in a way that, yeah, sometimes people find really creepy. Usually, one of the objections that authors sometimes have, and fans in general sometimes have, to podfic, they have a really hard time putting into words, because basically it is that sort of, "I think it's creepy." Yeah, okay, that's valid. If you find it creepy, that's fine. It is a very physical thing that someone is doing that has this physical result with your story that you wrote, and it does change it. It may not change it a lot. It may be the equivalent of looking at a painting in natural light versus looking at it with a red light bulb, in your light —but it's going to look different, and yeah, it may be pretty subtle. Odds are though, it's not going to be what the author heard in their head, and it also demonstrates very, very strongly that we all have different interpretations.
Podfic is a transformative work in its relationship to the original source. Is podfic a transformation from a transformative work in relationship to the story? No. It could be. It very much could be. You could do a podfic as remix. What if you read a story and then an hour later retold it as podfic? That would be transformative. What it is is generally derivative, but that doesn't mean that is doesn't have a lot of creativity behind it. Its relationship to the actual fic, yeah, is derivative, but there's a lot of difference between reading Hamlet as a text or watching Ethan Hawke play Hamlet or watching Kenneth Branagh play Hamlet or watching, I imagine, Sarah Bernhardt play Hamlet. These are all probab—or hell, Mel Gibson— these are all very different characters, but they're all the same character. They're all delivering the same lines, more or less—as far I know, Branagh's the only one who delivers all the damn lines, but there are different parts of this story being told in different ways.
I was actually talking with someone who posted her first podfic yesterday about the role of a beta for podfic, and she was hemming and hawing about whether or not she was going to post it, and I think someone suggested to her—she was chatting with me at the time and also talking on Twitter—and someone suggested that she have somebody do a beta to reassure her that it was good before she posted it. I don't really think her objection to posting it was whether or not it was good. I think there's a lot of insecurity about yeah, putting this piece of yourself, putting your voice, this chunk of you, out into the wild, separating it from your body, when it doesn't sound good to you, and it does sound weird, and it doesn't sound the way it does inside your head. And criticism of that, the possibility of criticism of your voice, which you can't really do anything about, because it's your body, it's terrifying.
when I initially started the Audiofic Archive, it was a couple of flat HTML pages that I added things to. The initial impulse was preservation, and I didn't actually put that in towards, as far as the archive's mission, until a bit further down the road, but that was always ... the primary impulse was, provide a stable place to preserve this work, so that it doesn't have to be fleeting. It doesn't have to disappear, so that the idea that somebody can't afford storage space shouldn't stop them from sharing their work, which means that access is a secondary mission. It's very much first, preservation, which is why, okay, I might freak out a little bit, when the archive goes down, but I don't freak out hugely, because all those files are in a totally different place. They're all safe. They're all preserved. They're all backed up seven ways to Sunday, or three ways to Sunday, but they're being preserved, and the worst thing that happens is that the index to those things is lost. That would really suck, because there are thousands and thousands of them. I don't even know how many, but there are a lot, and in order to recreate that index, if it really completely disappeared ... it wouldn't, because there is such a thing as the Internet Archive. And there are a couple of snapshots that would help reconstruct a lot, and I do have some backups of the database, but if that totally disappeared, we'd have to open every one of those ZIP files and figure out what the hell it is and then re-index them, but nothing would be lost. All of the people who actually created them and decided to share them would still have the file URL. We always give that. I think that—okay, so initially started with that flat HTML. I then moved things to a WordPress installation, just because that seemed like the easiest way to make things expandable, and that was the point at which I actually decided that it was going to a for-real archive and not just a random index to these files I was hosting, and that was also the point at which it became an active archive. In a lot of ways, I see it as a preservation project, and because of that, I started maintaining it in WordPress, and the reason that I moved to WordPress was so that it could be database-driven, and so that it could be navigable dynamically using tags. WordPress has a tag limit though, so eventually the system completely broke, because we have too many podficcers and too many authors and too many pickings and whatever. It totally basically melted down, and I don't remember when this happened or how many the limit was, but I do know ... There's a lot of data.

References