Fansplaining: Destination: Stats!

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Title: Fansplaining: Destination: Stats!
Created by: Flourish Klink and Elizabeth Minkel
Date(s): January 13, 2016
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Fansplaining: Destination: Stats! is a podcast by Flourish Klink and Elizabeth Minkel.

The interviewee is Destinationtoast.

Length: 1:02:52.

For others in the series, see Fansplaining.


In Episode 13 of Fansplaining, Elizabeth and Flourish interview destinationtoast about her world-famous fandom statistical analyses. Topics covered include “2015: A (statistical) year in fandom,” bad math, the differences between major fanfic archives, and trends on the rise in the coming year—plus, Elizabeth gets trolled.


Topics Discussed


[Flourish Klink]: I think one of the things about it is that diverse media has always existed — well, maybe not always always. But diverse media has existed in the sense of, like, you can go and read books that are diverse. They do exist. There’s not as many of them but they exist. But one of the problems with fandom is, like, there sort of needs to be a foment for fandom to happen, I feel like. It’s not enough for there to be — at least for me, this obviously isn’t true for everybody, we’ve talked about it. But for me fandom is partially about finding other people who are like-minded and love the thing and love it with you and there’s a back and forth. So I think this was a year where you had diverse properties that lots of people saw and got excited about as opposed to, “I found this thing and I love it! But it hasn’t been promoted, so…”

[Elizabeth Minkel]: Not to go down this rabbit hole too much, I do think that yes it’s true that for a long time straight white men aren’t the only people who have created artistic media, but if you think about the kind of things that really generate fannish interest, I’m not gonna say it’s all sci fi and fantasy or superhero movies or whatever, but that does seem to have a bigger appeal than, say, I don’t know. I could list all sorts of female or black authors or whatever. So it’s like, if you like superheroes, you know?

[Destinationtoast]: But yeah. I wrote a lot of Hobbit fanfic mildly disguised, and then Star Trek fanfic and Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel Mary Sue fanfic as one totally does, obviously. So I was doing that by myself and with friends from early on without having any idea that there was sort of this thing of fandom. And while Sherlock is kind of the first time that I’ve done a deep dive into participatory fandom as an adult, and fandom stats is the first time that I’ve been sort of sharing data with fans as an adult, I would say I’ve been deeply a fan and creating fanworks of my own since I was very little. And at the same time, I’m totally a geek also in the sense of geeking out about stats and data has also been part of my life forever, so I definitely have done some stats through school and my career and stuff because I studied a bunch of sciency things in school, I went to grad school studying psychology and linguistics and stuff and running some experiments and I had to learn some stats for that, and I work in the tech industry and I’ve definitely done some amount of data analysis for that, and so certainly part of why I have the sort of mental toolset that I do for doing stats comes from that world. But I’ve always just geeked out about all my hobbies and everything I’ve done, and so I sort of started running at some point, or I started volunteering and wondering how to be most effective at volunteering or donating money or doing things like that, or I got cats and suddenly I’m posting graphs about my running and about charities and volunteer organizations and about cats! I’m a very curious person and a very graphy geeky statsy kind of person, and so I would say it’s not so much that I was in fandom first or in stats first but just that both of these are ways that I’ve always looked at the world....


I guess I joined the Sherlock fandom somewhere around the end of 2012, the beginning of 2013? And I think I kind of just absorbed fanfic for several months, just read all the fanfic that I could find, then started writing obsessively and was just consuming and producing fanworks for maybe six months. But as I often do when I’m in something that I’m really enthusiastic about for a bit, I pretty quickly got curious. So I went back and looked, I did my first analysis in May of 2013 when I guess I’d been in fandom for 5 or 6 months and I really just sort of thought it was gonna be a one-time thing, um, but I was just really kind of curious about, well, what does fandom look like. And I was curious partly because I came in and I knew what I liked and I knew what I was reading, which hilariously I sort of had five months or six months earlier thought to myself, “gee, I wonder if anyone’s ever written any fanfiction about John and Sherlock together.”

[DT]: But no, I was gonna say actually a bunch of people pointed out to me that all sorts of other Yuletide fandoms that actually are tied or also made that list even if they didn’t show up in the particular AO3 stats that I happened to grab for Yuletide. I wanted to real quick just while we were talking about things that fandom fights about based on the data that I provide, the other two big fights that happen again and again that I see in the notes are people fighting about whether or not readers should feel obligated to read more feedback for fanfiction writers, because I’ve sort of found that actually the majority of fanworks receive no comments or reader feedback. And you know, I think that a lot of people are just writing for themselves or publishing small drabbles, and there’s lots of reasons you could talk about why that happens, but a lot of people are horrified by the lack of kudos or comments and so there’s endless fighting about whether or not the roles of readers and fanfic authors and what they should play. And then the other big fight is just slash and why there is so much of it, and why there is so little femslash, and we can talk about that more with regards to the year in fandom and what we see there and the variation across the different platforms and what we see in the different ships. But those are the big things, the biggest conversations, even though lots of conversations come up with regard to my stats those are the things that people most like to talk about based on my data.

[EM]: So you get notifications every time someone reblogs your thing and adds comments! Is this very tiring for you to have to witness these conversations?

[DT]: It used to be, especially because at first I didn’t realize how Tumblr worked and I didn’t realize they weren’t talking to me and a lot of times people would get really angry or upset or say things that I knew the answer to or if they just clicked the “read more” button that they would know the answer to also, and at first I would go as a new Tumblrer I would go into people’s ask boxes and answer their questions or argue with them and they would be really upset and like “I wasn’t talking to you!” But then I realized more about how Tumblr works and I stopped doing that and I tried to stop caring. Now it’s mostly not exhausting and I mostly interact with the people who come into my askbox and it’s OK.
[DT]: I was actually so surprised by [Buffy fandom's popularity] that I went to see whether it was because AO3 had, like, imported a bunch of — AO3 the parent organization OTW does some importing of other older archives through a program called Open Doors where they go rescue other fanfic archives, and I thought that maybe they had rescued some big Buffy archive or something. But that’s not actually what caused that. Buffy fandom: still active! And there’s some other old ones, like that are not necessarily having a bunch of new canon but just have really awesome worlds and characters that continue to inspire people, and that’s really cool. The rise of gaming fandom and anime and manga and kpop and boybands on AO3, those are all sort of, and YouTube RPF — all of those were things that definitely had big fandoms but were less popular on AO3 previously and all of those are getting big there now, and I think that means that AO3 is more cross-culturally representative of more of fandom. It’s probably still very driven by Western fans, much more so than a lot of the rest of the world, I don’t mean to say that it doesn’t have big gaps, but it’s kind of cool to see a bunch of different fandoms coming and being popular there.
[DT]: Yeah! Other things that were sort of surprising to me: one thing that was kind of cool within shipping, it is definitely still the case that particularly on AO3 the biggest ships are the ones that are two dudes, but I was kind of pleasantly surprised to see how many of the femslash ships and also a bunch of the het ships are like producing a ton of works — produced over 50% of their works even! — in this past year and how many of those fandoms are surging. And I don’t say that as, I don’t say that particularly with a personal agenda like my ship right now is really still Johnlock, it’s two dudes, but I really like it when everyone can find the thing that they squee about most and when there’s a lot of representation and awesome female characters to write about and stuff, and so it’s exciting to me to see that there are a bunch of source media shows and other types of media that are sort of surging that have a bunch of female characters that people want to write about and that’s cool and I’m sort of cautiously optimistic that maybe 3016 will be another year where it gets easier and easier to find femslash and awesome female characters in various ships and genfic and stuff, so that’s cool.