OTW Guest Post: Mel Stanfill

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Interviews by Fans
Title: OTW Guest Post: Mel Stanfill
Interviewer: Claudia Rebaza
Interviewee: Mel Stanfill
Date(s): August 24 , 2017
Medium: online
External Links: OTW Guest Post: Mel Stanfill, Archived version; archive link
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

OTW Guest Post: Mel Stanfill is a 2017 interview done as part of a series. See OTW Guest Post.

Some Topics Discussed

Some Excerpts

How did you first get into fandom and fanworks?

I want to say by Googling, but it was before Google so it was HotBot or AltaVista or something. I was 13 or so and really liked Xena: Warrior Princess and went looking for information about it, and at some point in that searching I found fanfic and became an avid reader.

Then, when I was in college, some of the scholarship I was reading (specifically, I was assigned Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer’s The Culture Industry; they—understandably, because they were refugees from Nazi Germany—thought that the media controlled people) was directly contradictory to my experiences in fandom, and that’s what got me interested in doing research about fans and fandom.

Do you think your article on femslash readings of media is also quite different in 2017 than if this had been your focus three years ago?

Well, at the most basic, the argument is so informed by picking up Alex Doty’s Making Things Perfectly Queer again that it’s very different than it would have been in 2014. I had read it previously for my doctoral exams, but I didn’t pay close attention or something because coming back to it in the summer of 2015, because I was going to teach it, struck me in a whole new way and gave me this new perspective on femslash.

Then also, between 2014 and now I noticed the pattern that drove the essay -— that some shows are femslashier than others. It’s pretty standard that boyslash dominates all fanfic for the vast majority of media objects. It’s less common for shows to be heterosexual-story dominated, but it still happens relatively often. But it’s really very rare for femslash to dominate, and that wasn’t something I had been thinking about until more recently.

How did you hear about the OTW and what do you see its role as?

I’m pretty sure I didn’t learn about the OTW until after learned about TWC. That’s an occupational hazard of being an academic, maybe. That said, I’m actually not sure exactly how I did hear about it.

Regardless, I see its role as being an institutional advocate for fans. People cycle in and out of fandoms, and we lose a lot of institutional memory -— like people today not having any idea why older fans or older fics use disclaimers. Having the OTW as that institution that supports things like Fanlore and that brings different fandoms into a space where they might interact helps with that sort of thing. Also, obviously, the advocacy work the OTW does, like the DMCA exemption process every 3 years, is tremendously important as an institutional thing that needs institutions if it’s going to happen. Just generally, fandom needs institutions -— we need a fanworks repository that’s not beholden to advertisers or individuals’ finances; we need an academic journal that is not beholden to the academic publishing industry; etc.