Fan Fiction Oral History Project with Rebecca Tushnet

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Interviews by Fans
Title: Fan Fiction Oral History Project with Rebecca Tushnet
Interviewer: Abigail De Kosnik
Interviewee: Rebecca Tushnet
Date(s): August 22, 2012
Medium: audio, print transcript
External Links: Fiction Oral History Project with Rebecca Tushnet
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Fan Fiction Oral History Project with Rebecca Tushnet was conducted in 2012 by Abigail De Kosnik and archived at the University of Iowa Libraries.

This interview's medium is audio (length: 1:01:36), and it has a written 36-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


So I have a very poor memory, so all I can tell you is that it was sometime in the '80s, it was either Star Trek or it was Sime~Gen, by— from a series by Jean Lorrah and Jacqueline Lichtenberg, who also actually came out of Star Trek. And in the back of some book, I'm pretty sure, I either went to a convention, or I saw in the back of some book that you could write off and get these things, because I did both of those at one point or another, I just don't know what the sequence was. And, that's, you know, I read a bunch of Sime~Gen fan zines, and some Star Trek, and really enjoyed it, and never forgot about it.


I was sort of, I was a science fiction fan but I was not in fandom at all. You know, I read zines, I wrote one letter to Jacqueline Lichtenberg and Jean Lorrah, which they were so nice about. I couldn't actually have had a better introduction, because, you know, I wrote them my little Mary Sue fantasy, and they were so just, they were, to one of the fan zines actually, and they were, everyone was so nice, they clearly recognized that I was just, you know, starting the arc.

... yes, the OTW came out of a bunch of things, not just the fan art deletion stuff but there was this FanLib project, basically, one of the more heavy-handed attempts to monetize fandom for the benefit of, you know, Hollywood. And basically, from my perspective, I had sort of occasionally handled, on a pro bono basis, these, the random cease-and-desist letters that sort of dropped like lightning out of the sky on, you know, Jane Q. Fan. And you know, I was happy to do that, but it was sort of, you had to know that I was there to find me. So only certain people could do that. And ... I ... and, you know, I think the other founders felt that there was room for an organization set up to try and be sustainable, and try and be findable, and be a voice, so, sort of not trying to speak for all fans, but at least trying to provide a counter-voice to some of the fetishizing and, you know, trivializing, and dismissive stuff that ordinarily gets said. About fans and popular culture. So, you know, we, you know, deliberately set up, we wanted to be a 501(c)(3), so we that could take donations if we wanted to, as Francesca Coppa says, own the servers. Sort of that's the, the concept is, not just the Virginia Woolf, you know, a room of our own to write in, but also, I always thought of it as the sort of Robert Frost concept of, it's the place where, if you have to go there, we have to take you in. So, we're, on the level of content, we're going to try and make as few distinctions as possible, in terms of, you know, what your fannish joy is.

For a variety of reasons. In, so, on a theoretical level, I've become convinced that a successful movement needs radicals and liberals that put each other in sort of productive tension. And also, that basically the resistance of the radicals actually helps the liberals out in speaking to the rest of the world—basically, by saying, "Look, you have got to reach an accommodation with us, and listen to our legitimate interests, or you're going to get nothing." And so, you know, I see the OTW as very firmly positioned on the liberal wing—and I should make it clear I'm speaking only for myself—it's not clear to me that, say, the board would endorse this, but this is how I think about it. So, you know. Our position has generally been, that the US doctrine of Fair Use actually provides pretty much all the leeway we need, although there are legislative reforms that we would of course support, and there are moves in other countries towards adopting more flexible Fair Use or Fair Dealing provisions that we also think would be a really good idea because in some other countries it's not at all clear that transformative uses, even for critical commentary purposes, and even that are noncommercial, are legal. But in the US, we think they pretty clearly are. So we're sort of there to defend that, rather than have it disappear because Copy Roadrunners, you know, threaten people. And then, individual citizens, whatever the law is, feel too intimidated to fight back, you know, completely understandably.