Not to be petty but the divide between “curatorial” and “transformative” fandom is completely arbitrary

From Fanlore
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Title: not to be petty but the divide between “curatorial” and “transformative” fandom is completely arbitrary
Creator: patrexes
Date(s): January 14, 2018
Medium: Tumblr post
Fandom: panfandom
Topic: curatorial and transformative fandom
External Links: Post at Tumblr[1]
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

not to be petty but the divide between “curatorial” and “transformative” fandom is completely arbitrary is a Tumblr post by patrexes, criticizing the concept of curatorial and transformative fandom. It touches on gender in fandom. Responses expanded on that and also talked about autistic fans' experiences.

The original post:

not to be petty but the divide between “curatorial” and “transformative” fandom is completely arbitrary and a gross oversimplification of how many people who engage with transformative work do so and what their relationship with the canon is.

like it’s totally valid to not be a human-shaped canon.wikia or to not even want to be, but i’m really sick of this whole “ah yes curative fandom for boys and transformative fandom for non-boys, because boys dont want for rep and dont seek out new and better things with the characters they love” thing. its shitty and in no way actually describes the reality of the complexity of fandom. also it gives me, specifically, dysphoria




Also, I feel it’s pretty counterproductive to sneer at people who edit wikis and reconstruct timelines from various canon sources or make a spreadsheet summarizing what happened on each page of a webcomic, because as a fanfic writer I use that shit all the time.[2]


Thank you, OP.

I’m a so-called curative fan in many fandoms. It entertains me to Remember Things about canon. I’m only rarely active as a creator in the transformative fandom. The last time I checked, I wasn’t a dude.

Most of the posts about the difference between curative and transformative fandom (even the really good ones! which is a shame) make me tired and vaguely othered. If I sometimes care more about, say, the family trees and earnest analysis of the political implications of the worldbuilding than I care about what could be done with the work (fanfic, et cetera), then apparently I must be One of Those People. The ones who are so represented everywhere and just don’t know the beauty of centuries of oral culture being reflected in transformative fandom.Fuck that.[3]


It also feels like this attitude is maybe shitty to neurodivergent people?

I, for example, tend towards curative fandom trends because I’m autistic and like collecting and organizing information related to my special interests. Being told that one of my main ways of enjoying fiction is basically an “entitled straight white boy thing“ and therefore inferior to transformative fandom, kinda sucks![4]


Yeah, this. I do fall into the walking encyclopædia territory when I get going, but that isn’t stopping me from writing my own fanfiction or questioning the themes within the narratives of stuff I like, either. (Hello 5k and growing KotOR fic, nice to meet your ethically questionable face)

If anything, I’d say my transformative stuff largely hinges on me knowing a good deal of information on the source material and asking “what if?” or thinking that the source material did something daft, or missed an opportunity. One leading into another more than anything.

(Also I am with you on this whole thing being another false binary, it’s made me notably uncomfortable on many occasions)[5]


Also portraying “caring about details” as some sort of regressive, reactionary, male thing that isn’t pure and progressive is super shitty to autistic people, bc even autistic ppl into transformative works still tend to engage with things in a v curative way just as a symptom

(and also gives fanfic way too much credit)[6]


Both these impulses are vital to fandom and both have their downfalls. Like sure, I’ve never seen a primarily “transformative” type call anyone a fake fan for not knowing obscure trivia… but I’ve also never seen a primarily “curatorial” type police anyone’s harmless interpretation for not being “pure” enough morally.[7]


OH THANK FUCK, people said it.

I’m autistic and pretty much 80% or more of my fandom enjoyment is curatorial or adjacent to such, because I see stories as big puzzles to logically figure out, and so it’s hard for me to remember that when other people are looking to fill in gaps, they’re not necessarily doing it because of hours of research, but rather sometimes just because “it’s neat”.

When I first started out in online fandom on Tumblr I was confused and angered by mass amounts of transformative works everywhere. And while I’d be lying if I said I truly understand why someone would write AUs or draw reimaginings of characters with no ties to canon, I have at least come to respect that interaction as valid.

Oh, and while I’m here: shouting things like “FUCK CANON!” and such is extremely upsetting to us curatorial fans, especially those who keep facts and timelines in order. Canon is what we love, and often without us keeping track of minute details, you might have less or even no details to spring off from in your transformative works. Both kinds of fan and everyone in between or elsewhere are valid fans, so be kind.[8]



I only just learned that this divide exists and I’m uh… a lil pissed off. There’s enough of this obnoxious, black-and-white, only-two-sides thinking in the real world, we REALLY don’t need it in the things we’re supposed to be engaging in for fun[9]



Also the idea that “curative” and “transformative” fandoms are mutually exclusive or even opposed to each other is silly considering a few fandoms I’m in have these parts be co-operative and symbiotic with one another.

See Fedatamine,[10] a site containing all the dialogue and info about Fire Emblem Three Houses which exists thanks to people wanting an easy way to reread dialogue to their fanfics, or Mask of Destiny’s Tryna Initiative,[11] a project which purpose is to both conserve and archive pre-existing material both canon and fanon (curative) as well as create new material for the fans to enjoy and keep the franchises legacy alive and well (transformative). The Bionicle fandom as whole is a really good example of curative and transformative parts of the fandom being intermingled with each other, if not outright the same.[12]

Author Response

Patrexes after some responses about the post left the following comment:


Thank you for the terms I didn't even knew there were names and a divisions. I'm curatorial myself and the few fics I write are usually fill-in-the-blanks or sequels or prequels based on canon I didn't knew that was the wrong way to do it for some. Fandoms can fall into the hierarchy traps so easily. I guess is human nature :/


  1. ^ "eerie girl". 2018-01-17. Archived from the original on 2022-03-31.
  2. ^ "Minutia R — not to be petty but the divide between..." 2018-01-20. Archived from the original on 2022-03-30.
  3. ^ "Both sides - not to be petty but the divide between..." 2018-01-21. Archived from the original on 2022-03-30.
  4. ^ "not to be petty but the divide between..." 2018-01-22. Archived from the original on 2022-03-30.
  5. ^ "cursed, damned and not quite damned enough". 2018-01-22. Archived from the original on 2022-03-30.
  6. ^ "You Can't Unmake Me - not to be petty but the divide between..." 2018-01-29. Archived from the original on 2022-03-30.
  7. ^ "not to be petty but the divide between..." 2018-06-18. Archived from the original on 2022-03-30.
  8. ^ "Prinplup in a Sweater". 2018-08-08. Archived from the original on 2022-03-30.
  9. ^ "That nerdy guy and his blog — not to be petty but the divide between.…". 2020-08-22. Archived from the original on 2022-03-30.
  10. ^ "Home /". 2021-03-26. Archived from the original on 2021-03-26.
  11. ^ "Tryna Initiative – Mask of Destiny". 2022-03-30. Archived from the original on 2022-03-30.
  12. ^ "The Library of Forgotten Scripts". 2022-03-18. Archived from the original on 2022-03-30.