Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture

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Academic Commentary
Title: Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture (on the cover: "Textual Poachers: Television Fans & Participatory Culture")
Commentator: Henry Jenkins
Date(s): 1992, 2012
Medium: book
Fandom: media fandom
External Links:
original edition of Textual Poachers, cover art by Jean Kluge: "The Quest"[1] Henry Jenkins writes that it "was constructed around a wonderful piece of Star Trek fan art by Jean Kluge, which my wife, Cynthia, had bought for me as a gift at MediaWest and which had been close at hand throughout the process of drafting the book. [2]
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Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture is a non-fiction book written by aca-fan Henry Jenkins and originally published in 1992.

It was massively influential in the development of fan studies and coincidentally introduced many new fans to media fandom.[3] The book was unusual for its time in that it celebrated fandom instead of pathologizing it.

The book's focus is on media fans as an "interpretive community" that "poaches" media texts in order to subvert their intended meaning and reclaim ownership of popular culture from massive corporate interests. In Jenkins' words, the book "documents a group insistent on making meaning from materials others have characterized as trivial and worthless."

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The book was published before commercial Internet service providers allowed mass access, and to some fans now, appears dated in its focus on old-school slash fandom. However it remains a sympathetic and insightful book about media fans and our creative community. It features chapters about fanac (fan activities) like fanfic, fan art, vidding, and filk. One of Jean Kluge's ST:TNG drawings was used as the cover for the book.

Some of the book was originally an essay published in the journal Critical Studies in Mass Communication in 1988.[4]

Another influential book published at almost the same time was Enterprising Women: Television Fandom and the Creation of Popular Myth.

An Oft-Repeated Quote

Textual Poachers has a quote that fans often employed in discussion, and as a statement, on their websites, particularly in the late 1990s and early 2000s: [5].

"Fan fiction is a way of the culture repairing the damage done in a system where contemporary myths are owned by corporations instead of owned by the folk."

Fan Permissions

Jenkins was adamant about preserving fan anonymity and permissions. In 1994, Gayle F wrote:

I can vouch that Henry Jenkins asked for my permission to use what material of mine he has in his books, and did not use stuff he wanted to when I vanished into Indonesia for two years and he did not know how to reach me. He did not do it, even though the permission I had given him could easily have been loosely interpreted to include the art he would have liked. I've heard him disapprove of academics using fan source material without approval. Yes, he could at some time do a major about face and overturn his character and ethics for some juicy fan goody, but I doubt it. I hope he does continue to write about fandom, just because I think that its fun to invade academia in that way. He said it was always possible that he'd think of some other fan subject that he wanted to write about, but that his career would be better served by treating some different subjects now, rather than be known for that one specialty. [6]

1992: Jenkins Talks About "Textual Poachers"

You should know that both Enterprising Women and Textual Poachers were very new books at the time this exchange took place, having appeared just a few months apart, and that the fan world was still trying to process what it meant to be the object of academic study.

2001: Jenkins Talks About "Textual Poachers"

In 2001, Henry Jenkins spoke at great length about the book's conception, reception, influence, the doors it opened (and closed), and the effect it had on his career. See: Intensities interviews Henry Jenkins @ Console-ing Passions.

Some of many comments:

In 1991 when Poachers came out I never imagined that it would still be in print a decade later, let alone still being actively taught. That’s not something as junior faculty that you can see for yourself or imagine. I saw Poachers as provisional work, as tentative work. But as we said earlier, there’s a scriptural economy that we get pulled into and now I get people quoting my words as if they were biblical and as if they had this enormous authority and certainty behind them, as if things that I tentatively put forward were well-established and proved once and for all: all you have to do is turn to Jenkins and quote it, and that’s the end of the story. I’m horrified by that; I want to shake those people when I hear it. This was the work of some guy one year out of grad school; yeah, it opened up the field and asked some important questions, but it wasn't set in stone.

I’ve written tons about audiences since then, but people almost always go back to the moment of Poachers, which is historically specific in the development of the field, the history of fandom, and it’s on the eve of the Internet explosion in fandom which changed almost everything I talk about, one way or another. To go back to that work, as if that was the right tool to unlock the present moment without regard to the fan community, the text, the historical moment, the medium of expression… that’s my worst nightmare. And that scares me a whole lot more than those guys who want to just summarise it in a paragraph and stick it in a textbook. Save me from my friends as much as my enemies! Ask some new questions, push in new directions, challenge what I said, as you do in your book. Don’t just accept it at face value, because it’s not a biblical text.

... you can’t go in and totally shed academic authority, which is so ironic to me; I’d been involved in the fan community for a long time, and I was just leaving graduate school when I wrote Textual Poachers. In the academic world I was truly puny; I was not yet a heavy-weight by any stretch of the imagination, so that this book carried the authority it did was a little disarming.

I saw myself as an agent of dialogue. But it’s not just academics who police this dialogue. The fan community has an investment in academic authority on one level, and yet, as you suggest, other fans say ‘sod off, don’t bring this language into our space, you making too much of things that don’t matter’, and there’s a resistance, an anti-intellectualism in some fan circles that equally makes it hard to create that kind of dialogue. We all bring our own baggage to that conversation, which is to say that the identities of the fan-academic or the academic-fan are always problematic ones that have to be sorted through, even though I think there’s more freedom to shed that issue today.

As an academic you speak with a certain degree of authority. I can’t be a normal fan anymore, not because I’ve somehow distanced myself from fandom, but because I’ll walk in the room and the response is different. When passages of your book are used as signature lines on peoples’ emails, and when fan websites describe Henry Jenkins as ‘the guy who dignified fandom’ then these sorts of statements make it very hard for me to speak without it in some sense carrying a level of authority that I’m uncomfortable with. It’s not what I want the relationship to be between fans and academics, but because the press calls on me as a spokesman for the fan community week-in, week-out, my role gets communally reinscribed in journalistic practices, and because Textual Poachers has now been passed from generation to generation of fans, it’s one of the things you read when you want to be integrated into the fan community. They say, ‘you want to be a fan? Read this…’ It’s become a sort of ‘how to’ book.

Glimpses of Fannish History

In his discussion of various fan activities, Jenkins used examples of then-current fandoms and fannish moments that now offer a glimpse into history:

Focus on Fans, Not Private Lives

...it seems in fandom not to be okay to ask what you do in your mundane life. If it comes up in conversation, fine. One reason I don't talk about the private lives of fans in Textual Poachers was, even though that's something that as an ethnographer I'm trained to want to find out, and anchor this in social experience and so forth, was, it seemed to me rude, it violated the code of fandom, a sense of the way fandom conceived itself, and I was uncomfortable with a lot of the generalizations that Camille makes in her book about personal life, because I think she crosses that line. I think she talks about the mundane in relation to fandom in a way that fans generally do not do, and are generally uncomfortable talking about. And what is important about fandom is that in fact it doesn't matter what you do outside. It's what you do [in fandom]. [7]

cover of the 2012 edition -- "One of the challenges of producing this edition was the struggle to come up with the right approach to the cover design. To be honest, it was very hard for me to let go of the original cover... But, in the end, we were able to produce a cover I am really very proud of — in collaboration with a contemporary fan artist who has chosen to go here by the name of GLM.... The selection of these figures was a challenge: we needed characters that were likely to be recognized by non-fan readers but which also had a rich role in the history of fan culture, and the press was a little nervous about certain rights holders who had a reputation for being a bit litigious in going after infringers (so no Disney, no Harry Potter…). So this is what we came up with... The book also includes a detailed artist’s statement in which GLM explains the process of photographic manipulation through which she generated the core image. The finish image, she tells us, involved 200 layers and 242MB of data. [8]

Slash and Male Intimacy

While the majority of "Textual Poachers" is not about slash, it was one of the first academic books to address it respectfully and thoughtfully. At a 1993 panel at Escapade, Jenkins described his beginning awareness of slash and what he felt were its possibilities:

... yes, I am both a male and a slash fan, and have really become excited, because I think that slash really speaks to men, including straight men, in a way that a lot of popular culture doesn't. The sorts of themes I talk about in terms of slash in the book, that breaking through of the barriers to intimacy between men, the creation of communication across the kind of walls that we as men put up around ourselves, is a very profound fantasy that a lot of men have. And I think back about the reality of my friendships with other men... One of my best friends as an undergraduate just about died of cancer, and I didn't know it. He just had disappeared for nine months. He couldn't communicate to me this vulnerability, and he was seriously ill before I ever found out and went to his bedside and we talked about it for the first time. But that was the reality, that I didn't notice, he wasn't communicating, and we were both into our little walls to the point that none of the stuff that's in slash was a possibility. The thought of crying, of communicating, of talking between men is so rare in our culture that slash really represents to me one of the few places where you can talk about those questions, where you can engage with it and fantasize about it. And I wish I had friendships with other men that were as good as the sorts of images that crop up in slash. But it's something that politically is very important to me, that I, going back to an undergraduate, during the same time period, ironically enough, was doing male consciousness-raising sessions. And I had been talking about masculinity as an issue, and a lot of my own writing that isn't about fandom deals with questions of gender or masculinity in one way or another. But it was slash, I think, that really opened me up fully to the implications at a most personal level of what I was actually talking about, and helped me understand that much better. So this book has been both personally and professionally a really important one to me. It's one that was intended to be written as a fan as well as an academic, to both academic and fan audiences. I've been gratified by the responses on both sides.

Regarding the Art on the 2012 Edition

From the book:

My hopes for the new cover were that it should represent, as the original did, the work of a fan artist and it should employ an aesthetic that grows out of the fan community’s own modes of cultural production; that it should represent a transformative use of existing source material; and that it should suggest the dynamic nature of fandom, which has absorbed new content and embraced new forms of production since the original book was published…. This cover embodies the new aesthetic of photo-manipulation, which remains controversial among some fans but which has also represented a clear demonstration of the way that fans turn borrowed materials into resource for their own collective expression. While the original cover was based on a pre-existing fan work, this new cover was commissioned from and developed in conceptual collaboration with the artist. As with the original, we wanted to suggest the play with alternative universes, which is a staple of fan fiction. We chose four characters — Spock, Darth Vader, Buffy and Xena — who represented four key fantoms that span the past two decades, and we positioned them in an alternative reality fantasy that allowed us the chance to imagine interactions between them. Keep in mind that Jean Kluge’s original was an alternative universe version of Star Trek: The Next Generation read through the lens of Arthurian romance. These characters are meant to stand in for the hundreds of fictional figures who have inspired fan devotion and creativity since Textual Poachers first appeared.

Reactions and Reviews


Oh, yeah, I've been recommending Textual Poachers to everyone, including my non-slash-fan filk friends — the guy got filk right, for cryin' out loud! And you read it and say "Yes, that's exactly why I am a fan/read/write slash!" Odd, isn't it, that a man wrote such a sympathetic and insightful work on female media fandom, while a woman (Enterprising Women's Camille Bacon-Smith) did such a lousy job of it? Henry Jenkins gets my vote for Honorary Slash Slut! [9]

I didn't find his book any more _dry_ or academic than Camille's. A lot of fans I know like his book quite a bit better. She (Camille) makes it very clear at all times that she is just an observer; Henry is more willing to call himself a fan (as well, of course, as an observer of fans.)

He had the guts to prints slash art, though most of it is pros (i.e., won't step on any toes in *this* country) and the one MUNCLE one is very clothed and romantic. Still, I appreciated him doing it. Camille chickened out, and didn't include slash art. She said protecting the artist. I have a feeling it was to keep her publisher sweet.

[Jenkin's] book has a beautiful color Jean Kluge TNG print. It also has a chapter on songvids; including slash songvids, and another on filksongs.

More importantly, they have vastly different theses. Hers appears to be fandom is a way of dealing with pain and risk in our 'normal' lives. It totally begs the question of why fandom? why not garden societies, etc. She especially makes the point that fan writers are writing to deal with pain. My question is how is that different than pro writers, many of whom have stated over the years that they write to exorsise (sp, sorry) devils. What makes fan writing different. (Her take on slash is mostly to say it isn't important, that hurt/comfort is where the real important stuff is going on.

Henry's thesis is more simple. He is just writing to refute another writer who said that readers can interact with written materials. They can "scribble in the margins" but that TV/movie watchers are totally passive consumers of images. He uses media fandom to say, bullshit. Look at these people interacting with these images, playing with them, adjusting them, etc.

I recommend both of them; they don't repeat that much, and both gave me great insight into my own hobby. [10]

Got Textual Poachers — and you're right, he got everything right. I read it and say, "Yeah. Yeah! YEAH!" What a change from David Gerrold and Richard Pini paternally explaining why the "K/S ladies" write such perverted trash (Pini used the term "inappropriate fan fiction"; there's a correct way to be a fan writer??) about their heroes ... And as a filker, I found the chapter on Filk right on target — it postulated stuff I'd never thought of, and it felt right! Wonderful book to read — even if there are times when he lays on the scholarly jargon and buzz words a bit too thickly for comprehension ("Rccontextualizatin"? Gimme a break ...) [11]

Got my hands on a copy of the Jenkins book, Textual Poachers. (Hot off the presses - one of the advantages to having academic connections!) I found it much better (more accurate and intelligent) than the Bacon-Smith book, though a bit drier. As you might expect from a man, there's more information and less blatant emotionalism. (And he actually mentions in the book that Tarrant's popularity has increased of late! Gee, we Tarrant fen have really hit the big time!) His treatment of slash is reasonable and different. Rather than obsess on why it turns women on, he merely analyzes it as literature. He actually appreciates it as well-written fiction — even though he apparently doesn't find it sexually titillating. (Rather like his conjecture that B7 slash is the dystopian side of the fan romance coin, with K/S, S/H, B/D, etc., as the Utopian side.) There's also a chapter on music videos that's pretty cooL It was interesting to read his analyses of familiar, well-loved videos. (Though I don't agree with his premise that MTV videos have nothing to do with fannish ones.)[12]

'Enterprising Women' brought back a lot of memories, both good and bad, about my early years in fandom. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in a women's persecutive of media fandom. If you would like to read a book that takes a wider selection of media fandom, you might want to read Textual Poachers. This book looks at everything from fanzines to filk and covers more genres than 'Enterprising Women' did. These two books make good companion pieces to each other. A note, however. Both of these books look at slash fiction in detail, with 'Poachers' using explicit excerpts. If you are offended by slash, you might want to skip those chapters. [13]

I have recently found a fanzine-related topic worth discussing: a book, issued July 31,1992, called Textual Poachers by Henry Jenkins. Don't be misled by the title—this is a highly sympathetic and insightful discussion about fandom and fanzines. I must warn potential readers, however, that this is a book for mature individuals—and not simply because one chapter covers slash (K/S), and not just because the author occasionally quotes sources using four-letter words. The language is unabashedly college-level English, written in academic style, and there is a detachment from the subject matter, which, in a couple of places, I found shocking. Beyond those drawbacks, however, there is a lot of fascinating material in this book. The title comes from an analogy made in academia about producers and consumers of popular culture. The movie, television, and book industries manufacture a text (in our case, Star Trek), and "the text becomes a cultural weapon, a private hunting preserve." The author goes on to elaborate:

Like the poachers of old, fans operate from a position of marginality and social weakness. Like other popular readers, fans lack direct access to the means of commercial cultural production and have only the most limited resources with which to influence the entertainment industry's decisions. Fans must beg with the networks to keep their favorite shows on the air, must lobby producers to provide desired plot developments, or to protect the integrity of favorite characters. Within the cultural economy, fans are peasants, not proprietors, a recognition which must contextualize our celebration of strategies of popular resistance."

Much in this book is made of the struggle between fans and producers for possession of the text. Part of the strategy fans use to mold the text to their own needs is the production of fanzines, and a lot of the book is dedicated to the analysis of fan publications. Another substantial portion of the book deals with the discussions fans have with each other through letterzines and the impact of these discussions upon fans as well as producers. Most of all, the author thoroughly debunks the myth that fans are "cultural dupes, social misfits, and mindless consumers," and instead presents fans as mature, intelligent, socially responsible individuals. This book also presents a concrete answer to the eternal question, "Why is Star Trek attractive to so many people?" Although this book covers many "media" fandoms, not just Star Trek (for instance, there is an entire section of Beauty and the Beast fandom as well as Alien Nation fandom), Star Trek is well covered, and many of the general points apply to fans of ST and ST:TNG as well as fans of other shows... I would be interested in reading the reaction of other fans to this book. [14]

I urge all of you to get a copy. It's a bit academic in spots (I still don't know what a meta-text is) but it's a well thought out, researched, fan-friendly portrait of our sub-culture. Mr. Jenkins has taken care to gain permission and feedback from every fan mentioned or quoted, including yours truly. This book would no doubt provide fodder for many discussions in SE. [15]


I've recently acquired a book which I heartily recommend: Textual Poachers by Henry Jenkins. It's a study of media fandom, and it's rational and interesting. Jenkins steers a realistic middle course between the get-a-life stereotype and the rose-colored view that fandom is an extended ideal family. He got a lot of input from fans and he treats us like people who are engaged in activities which interest him, rather than as case studies in maladjustment.

Unlike some other writers about fandom, Jenkins understands that fans have a deep sense of irony and are quite capable of semiotic double-entry book-keeping. A fan who expends time and ingenuity in rationalizing a continuity glitch still knows perfectly well it is a continuity glitch. If the author of Bimbos of the Death Sun had grasped that, she might have still written a funny book but the laughs wouldn't have been as easy. [16]

Textual Poachers could have been even dryer than it was, but Henry Jenkins wanted the book's subject matter to be able to read the book as well as the academics. I'm hoping he'll do another book. [17]

I just finished Textual Poachers and enjoyed the book very much. It's a good complement to Enterprising Women. In this reviewer's opinion, TP addresses Slash the better of the two books, while EW is best on the Mary Sue question and the sociology/politics of developing fandoms. TP seems to place fandom more securely in greater society, too. The author is quite comfortable as a fan himself, while EW seems to be a bit hesitant when confronting some aspect of fandom that seems - er - unusual to her. I definitely think they should be read as a pair; I certainly wish someone would gather together all the articles on fandom that they refer to in their texts. [18]

the art, by Jean Kluge, on the cover of the zine Sub Space Chatter
Has anybody read Henry Jenkins' book Textual Poachers? Jenkins is an Assistant Professor at MIT, and a fan. He examines fandom as a valid social phenomena, and constructs arguments for fans' motivations that take us well beyond the "geek" and "nerd" stage. There's an interesting chapter on Slash, entitled, "Welcome, Captain Kirk, to the world of bi-sexuality.' Other chapters cover filks, songtapes, and general fan writing. I think Jenkins comes very close to understanding what fandom is about, although I disagree with some of his conclusions, and the emphasis he places on some motivations. For instance, I don't consciously write K/S because I'm striving to create a new version of sexual politics, or to "thumb my nose at the world." Both those motivations are present, somewhere way down deep in my psyche, but really I write because I love these guys and their world, and writing is the best way that I can share that world. Jenkins talks a lot about the difference between male and female fans, and the fact that the slash relationship we write about is really an idealized version of what women wish relationships were like, but he misses the point. Feelings are what its all about. At least, in ay opinion. I'd be interested in hearing from other fans who've read this book. There was quite a discussion of it and other academic works as Revelcon; there was a great deal of resentment of this invasion and analysis of fandom, and a fear that we could lose something very special. I have mixed feelings on the subject. It would be nice to understand what makes me tick, but I wouldn't give up fandom for the galaxy. [19]

... about the Jenkins' book: The other one is Enterprising Women by Camille Bacon-Smith. This is, also, at times, massively off the mark. Despite the intriguing title, the bulk of the text concerns fandoms other than K/S, and at one point, the author refers to slash as "dangerous"! Evidently, she talked to some fans and writers who were pretty far out in left field, who needed a BIG reality check! Textual Poachers shares some similar problems. A treatise needs to be written, perhaps from the "inside", more in-depth interviews done with a larger segment of fans, writers and publishers. But, still, I share [name redacted's] doubtful feelings about having this thing analyzed AT ALL. While it's sort of fun seeing such a book in the mainstream bookstore, lending it an ersatz legitimacy, in truth, I don't want too close of an examination that might destroy the "magic" of K/S. I'd rather DO IT, than READ about IT. I'd rather curl with a good zine than analyze it to death. I'd rather discuss K/S with fellow K/Sers than read some report by an outsider (or maybe "outworlder"?) Sharing it with others is a lot different from explaining it. [20]

My (granted, brief) experience of Henry Jenkins was that he was a fan who had managed to turn his hobby into a meal ticket, about which he was tickled but surprised. I have it on good authority that he quoted no-one by name without express permission, and he made every attempt to avoid potential misunderstandings or problems by having fellow-fen proof his work before printing. I may not always agree with what he says, but I do believe he went out of his way to be fair and accurate.

I didn't feel this way at all about Camille Bacon-Smith's book. It was interesting, but did not accord with my (admittedly) limited experience of fandom. I was astonished when she concluded that h/c was the focus of fan fiction, especially since I have a really hard time swallowing most of what I've seen of it. Interesting that people tend to think that, because she's a woman, she would have a more accurate perception of the field--I felt that, if anything, she was distant and patronizing, the "uninvolved academic observer who maybe went a bit native in the course of her field study, but always maintained at least some objectivity..." [21]

Calling any slash story "realistic" reminds me of my problems with the Jenkins book. Yes, he did treat fans as active participants rather than passive TV-watching drones, but he really pissed me off in his chapters on slash. For those of you who haven't read it, he did an overview of the various "theories" of slash. Despite the academic bullshit, he was very approving of slash since we were turning the action genre on its head and making it fit our own needs. Then he finished the chapter with a section called "Fans Debate Slash". That's when my blood pressure sky-rocketed. You see, slash isn't politically correct and that is a big problem for academics in the social sciences/English departments. Jenkins makes it sound like fans are clamoring for more AIDS stories, female slash and stories putting Bodie and Doyle squarely into gay culture. I felt like he was patting fandom on the head, the implication being that non PC slash (one or both of the characters being hetero; he's not gay, he just wants to suck his partners cock, etc.) would evolve into PC slash as soon we quit buying into the same cultural and media myths we had supposedly already destroyed by writing slash in the first place. So, basically, we've come a long way, baby; but not far enough. Let me hasten to add that there very well may be fans who want more gay studies stories, but they are no more "evolved" politically or emotionally than fans who want Bodie portrayed as a Hessian Mercenary and Doyle as the tough, but vulnerable spy for George Washington's head of intelligence, Mr. Cowley. [22]

According to [T S], Patricia Lamb was one of Camille Bacon-Smith's committee members. Both Patricia and Camille are fans. But I guess Patricia is an academic too, and so maybe her academic loyalties won out over her fan loyalties and she didn't see fit to warn Camille about her unauthorized quoting and unsympathetic (maybe... in places, yes) version of fandom? Whatever the story is here, Camille was being read and refereed by another fan, and someone who should've known how many people she could be pissing off. [23]


Yes, Textual Poachers is sorely a must for you Americans. I am a bit less enthusiastic because Jenkins doesn't seem to have contacted any British B7 fans and so his criticisms of B7 are very limited - I can accept he chose not to develop the British aspect of B7, but am surprised he didn't state why. His interest in slash is marked and it's a shame he didn't put as much enthusiasm into his weak chapter on mainstream fanfic which concentrated too much on one ST story (I am not interested in ST and the mainstream fiction is more interesting to some fans man interminable, often repetitive discussions of the sex act). He is too uncritical of fanfic generally and slash in particular. His section on filks is very limited, 'the early part of the hook is excellent! [24]

Some researchers are also fans and their publications seem less distanced than other studies. Other academics use a "strange tribe" approach of observing fans at conventions. Fans tend to view these studies as incomplete because of the fandom community that exists outside the formal structure of a convention that is rarely discussed. One such informal gathering may be fans getting together at someone’s house to watch five straight episodes of Blake’s 7 one night a month.

One published fan-academic is Henry Jenkins, author of Textual Poachers: Television Fans & Participatory Culture. Jenkins attended late night viewing marathons, mediazine collating parties, and conventions for over ten years before he published his book. Some of these informal gatherings may have influenced his findings of fandom as a participatory culture; that media fandom is an ACTIVE forum, not just the passivity of watching a television series.

Jenkins sees fans as participating in a large, diverse community and accepting an identity which is belittled or criticized by institutional authorities. He also observed that a significant number of media fans are women, have college degrees and are employed in occupations where they are underpaid and their creative skills are not utilized.

Amen! The above description fits me, as well as friends in my little fan posse: one bookkeeper, one free-lance researcher, three librarians, one nurse, one secretary, and a teacher!

In his book, Jenkins examines the end products of fan interactions: fan fiction, mediazines, fan art, fan music videos, and filk music. Psychological and ethnographic conclusions are kept to a minimum.

Other studies have not been as kind. Some researchers do not network with fans due to the fear that a known act of observation will change that which is being observed. As a result, some reports are incomplete or inaccurate due to the researcher’s attempt to place fans and fandom within established scientific theories. [25]

Are you a textual poacher? Anyone of us who has attempted a Star Trek poem, story or filk song qualifies to be called a textual poacher according to Henry Jenkins. A textual poacher is someone who takes a TEXT, in our case Star Trek, and fashions it to fit his or her image of what the characters and story should be, so we POACH the TEXT from the original. Just where we English/Aussie fans fit into this academic exploration of television fandom is a bit ambiguous as it largely concerns fandom in the United States. Jenkins is careful to distance himself from other academic examinations of fandom; in fact, by being a fan himself he has had to work hard at NOT identifying too closely with any particular fan group or text. However, it is that distance which annoys; a book of this nature will be used as a reference in years to come, but the people who want to read it may not do so because its slant, language and presentation alienates them completely. As a person without a media/communications/academic background I found it hard going but did manage to finish it completely. In fact, this was made easier by the last two chapters being less awkward; Jenkins actually relaxes with the video and filk song sections because his fascination with both mediums takes over and he becomes more fannish than observer. There are few errors; he gets most things right, if in a somewhat dry and structured way. Most of the quotations, songs, story examples and illustrations come from a small group of well established fans, those who are both articulate and comfortable within fandom and its various sub-groupings. It is a pity then to find that he uses that 1989 Saturday Night Live 'Get a Life' sketch for the introductory chapter. Academia may understand but J.Q. Citizen may not; straight away he places understanding of fandom in a tenuous position. However, having seen this particular sketch, in fact all of that programme, I know why it was cited. There are aspects in the sketch that are true and it could be said that fandom can be a millstone around any actor's neck. What I deplore is the fact that Jenkins didn't chose to contrast this particular Saturday Night Live sketch with the earlier one starring Elliot Gould, but then that particular one was about the programme, not its fans and therefore not useful for this study. By its very nature, this book will end up on some sociology/media studies list and I expect it will cause much discussion among those quick enough to grasp its implications and meaning. As much as I am interested in stories, character, discussion, song and video centered around favourite television programmes, this book also leads me to say: "What's the use of having a hobby if all it's going to lead to is dissection, microscopical analysis and dissertations by budding Ph.Ds." No thanks, think I'll join the Space Marines. Despite this gloomy prediction, I did find the book interesting, yet at £35 a copy it's not exactly "must buy' material. Try your library. [26]

I read this after people on the list reccomended it, and found it very interesting. It's a heavy read, but Jenkins makes a lot of good points. I feel it is an accurate view of fandom (he's a fan himself, and loves Blake's 7 among other series) His key theme is that fans don't need to "Get a life", because they are making their own life thank you very much. He sees fandom as a creative process, not just a passive absorbtion of whatever the media produce. Fans interpret and mould their understanding to suit their own purposes. Fandom is a culture in its own right. He also has a very even handed view of slash. "Slash does, however, constitute a significant genre within fan publishing and may be fandom's most original contribution to the field of popular literature."[27]

So, because of his book a few more people think we are weird. Big deal (having accepted my weirdness, this does not deeply disturb me). Maybe, because of his book, a few more people get turned on to the idea of slash. That would be nice. THose of us on the list with a more analytic turn of mind, whether we be academes or no, poke and prod and examine our feelings and thoughts, and those of you all anyhow. We share most of those thoughts and are agreed or disagreed with. Yes, a book does lend an air of validation that is often spurious, but the books have provided interesting controversy in and of themselves. I think the academic slant is just another aspect of fandom as a whole. There seems to be a rising climate of Academophobia. Agreed I wouldn't want an academic on the list who was only there to poke and prod, and had no passion for slash. Personally, I couldn't care less if they want to write about it academically, as long as they get approval for direct quotes. Frankly, I am far more disapproving of those who write A/V, but I don't think my personal distaste should stop them, or prevent their presence on the list.

I think it's neat that slash has buggered academia. [28]


Henry Jenkins examines television fans — people like us — who actively participate in the "text" of a specific show. This book presents the culture of fandom in a refreshingly positive light. Although the narrative is directed at the generality of media fans, one entire chapter is devoted to BEAUTY AND THE BEAST making it a special offering to us.

Mr. Jenkins describes fan experience; he reveals how intimately the characters and storylines of a show become known to the select group of vieuers called fans. Fans absorb everything they can about the show and create their own expectations and desires for the show. He carefully points out that this is not obsession, but rather a keen and multi-faceted interest. Usually fans see broader meanings and significance's within the dialogue, actions and plots of the show; they take the show and use it as a foundation. Much is built upon this basis, intelligence and creativity are fostered.

Several philosophical aspects are discussed in relation to watching television episodes. One involves meaning. Authorial meaning is the intended meaning; the writer purposefully creates a specific reference. Fan-interpreted meaning is gained through the fan's perspective. It often goes far beyond the authorial meaning. It occasionally can diverge drastically from the intended meaning presented originally by the author. A second aspect is the concept of double-viewing. Here, we see the characters as real, we react to then as solid and true and yet we also know that they are constructed entities — speaking lines from the writer's pen, moving according to the whim of a director — and we are capable of seeing them in both realms.

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST fandom was for Mr. Jenkin's vehicle for examining the process of active participation when fan-interpreted meaning differs from authorial meaning. He wanted to present a case study where fans truly did follow there own sense of the show; the core meaning of the story-line in their eyes being obliterated against their will. Hurray here for Classic fandonm. He reveals that in writing the chapter about the third season fiasco, he was approached by some third season fans who felt he was being too negative towards the series. He responded by saying that Classic fans had developed an expectation about the story-line and the characters based upon what had been presented to them. Once this expectation was set and established, they rejected the third season, disowned it because it wasn't their true B&B. He applauds that action as intelligent and creative; it actually symbolizes his entire premise that fans can and do exercise free thinking when they participate in television.

In the BEAUTY AND THE BEAST chapter, Jenkins details some of the more compelling reasons why Vincent and Catherine's romance draws us in so wonderfully. He states that theirs is a relationship that breaks through restrictive gender identities; both individuals have strong as well as gentle sides. They seem so equal, filling the void and supporting each other so naturally, Mutual trust, commitment, nurturing; they complete one another.

A chapter on fan fiction, 'zine writing and publishing, is a nice overview. Fanzines are called into action whenever the television episodes fall short. Sometimes the fans just need more, other times they need to expand or alter the story-lines. In the case of Classic and Resolution B&B, fanzines were mandated to express the "real" Vincent and Catherine—to allow them to continue their dream.

"Slash" fan-fiction is also described. Slash refers to the punctuation mark / which is used in mentioning two characters of the same sex who are presented as romantically or sexually involved* example Kirk/Spock. Jenkins explains that slash isn't written primarily by or for gay fans, but that it is a sub-culture of straight female writers and readers who enjoy the implied level of equality inherent in such same-sex relationships. In many stories, the female character is weaker so a same sex relationship eliminates a weaker partner. That's the theory anyway, according to Jenkins.

In the book, fans and fandom are portrayed as well-rounded, creative and intelligent. The culture of fandom is described as thoughtful and philosophical. In his attempt to bring credibility to us, I agree that the book is wonderful. However there could have been additional points cited in order to broaden that belief. I feel that Jenkins failed to explain how fans reach out into the world at large. Certainly in B&B fandom, charity work is a prime example. He tries to paint fans as healthy, emotionally stable people yet he falls short of detailing the many ways in which participatory can evolve into community involvement.

Another oversight is the lack of mention of fan talent. Within fandom, individuals have gained or rekindled skills like writing, paint, drawing, singing, drama, sewing, etc. random's conventions, newsletters and communication networks were also slighted.

Overall, the book was a delight. It can be ordered from any bookstore or borrowed through inner-library loan. If you'd like some official-looking validation for your "crazy obsession" then this book will give you a boost. [29]

I read both Camille's and Henry's book. [...] Henry seemed to approach his book more *intimately.* As a fan, he probably sat in on a lot of *informal* gatherings that make fandom so special, ie. late night viewing marathons, zine collating parties, etc. As a result, his conclusions seemed more complete than Camille's book. She took the pure academic approach, IMO. Her use of the word "informant" for her un-named sources gave fandom the mystic of a cult or secret society where members who talk to outsiders would be bumped off or something. Henry seemed to want to *present* fandom while Camille wanted to *explain* fandom within psychological and ethnographic theories - must of which were BS in my opinion. Like M.Fae said, it was hard to recognize fandom in Camille's book. I would recommend both books, however, because they're interesting to read. Are the books accurate, somewhat. Are they incomplete, most definitely. [30]


The B7 material in Textual Poachers was what brought me into the fandom, so yeah, I'd say it's pretty good! Lots of stuff on slash as exploration of non-stereotypical power relationships, with generous dollops of classic fanfic, and a Leah Rosenthal cartoon. [31]

... every fan should get a hold of a copy of Textual Poachers. (I love that title!) Every time one of my political friends bugs me about bring into popular culture, and fandom, I trot it out to show them that, unlike most TV viewers, fandom is made up of people who are active critical consumers, who work to improve their favored product. [32]


Textual Poachers was referenced in the meta Fan Fiction Comes Home to Roost.


alixtii wrote Why Femslash Is Different, Part 1,001.


As a teenager, I'd read Star Trek: The New Voyages and had adored my Star Trek Foto novels. But even by 1992, I'd never heard of this thing called fandom. Then the newly-published book, "Textual Poachers," arrived at the university library where I work. I was intrigued by the cover but even more intrigued by the contents. As I paged through it and arrived at the slash section, I felt my face start to burn. Kirk and Spock? Starsky and Hutch? Kissing? And, like, doing other... stuff? I looked up and studied my co-workers. Could they read my mind? Did they know that I was horrified... wait, wait, no... not horrified, rather very, very intrigued by this possibility? It took me another two months to work up the courage to officially check the book out on my library card so I could read it in the privacy of my own home. When I went up to the library stacks to find it, I discovered someone had stolen it. Rats. [33]


When I read Textual Poachers, I was surprised to learn there were fandoms for shows that weren't SF. I'd never heard of The Professionals, but the references to h/c in episodes like DiaG sounded like something I'd get a lot of guilty pleasure from. (I was right.) I asked friends for help in finding episodes to watch, and soon I was welcomed into the great fannish community. I loved it. Both Pros and fandom... I haven't read Textual Poachers since, and I really should. I owe it a lot! [34]


I think this would be a fantastic introduction to fandom for non-fans. While Jenkins himself is a fan, he is writing for an academic audience, and an academic audience that has often underestimated and misestimated the power of fandom. In Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers, Jenkins talks about how critics of video games often assume that children are empty vessels we’re pouring content into, and you can see the beginning of that argument here. Jenkins is mostly arguing against Michel de Certeau and Theodore Adorno, who don’t view fannish activities as creative. But his writing is straightforward, warm, and very accessible; there’s nothing obfuscating about it. For instance, in one chapter about how certain texts attract fandoms over others, Jenkins uses The Velveteen Rabbit to explain how texts become real to their fans. He lets fans speak for themselves when necessary—in the chapter that analyzes Beauty and the Beast fandom, Jenkins is careful to point out that some fans have different views on what happened in the conflict over the third season that divided the fandom. [35]


"My impression of people's reactions to Jenkins' book is that it is more sympathetic to fandom. There have been reports that he quoted without permission. Jenkins flatly denies this. I tend to believe Jenkins. At least one fan I know liked the book (apart from the necessarily dry academic format) but bristled at the title, "Textual Poachers," as if fans were doing something wrong. Fans have internalized the underground data piracy mentality so thoroughly that the notion of copyright inviolacy simply no longer registers (unless someone bootlegs their fanzines, of course). Jenkins' own aesthetic is so populist that he actually approves of the audience appropriating corporate culture and making it their own, so the word "poacher" in context isn't meant as disapproval, but some fans will take offense wherever they can."[36]

"Just finished rereading textual poachers, there are some parts I feel I do not necessarily agree with any more but I am happy this book exists and happy that it bought so much discussion after it. Yay for this book." (a fan writes in 2013).[37]


If you read one book about fandom, this should be the book. Written back in 1992, it was one of the first books to really take fandom (including fan fiction, slash fiction, fanzines, and the like) seriously, to analyze it in a completely respectful way, and to come up with a lot of terminology to talk about how fandom functions. Jenkins talks about how being a fan tends to be looked down upon (and the way that these criticisms are gendered), studies the way that fans combine knowledge gleaned from many episodes put together to create “metatexts” of the show they love, and devotes a chapter to slash, where he very eloquently theorizes the way that women write slash fiction to, in many ways, undermine patriarchal, heterosexual norms of gender, gender roles, and sexuality. Basically, everything you’ve ever heard or suspected about fandom, you can probably find here, said eloquently by Jenkins. [38]


  1. ^ See the original art at: "Media Art". 2007-10-24. Archived from the original on 2013-05-06.
  2. ^ Confessions of an Aca-Fan, Archived version, November 26, 2012
  3. ^ In 2001, Jenkins noted, "Textual Poachers has now been passed from generation to generation of fans, it’s one of the things you read when you want to be integrated into the fan community. They say, ‘you want to be a fan? Read this…’ It’s become a sort of ‘how to’ book." (Intensities interview at Console-ing Passions, University of Bristol, July 7, 2001. pdf, Archived version)
  4. ^ Henry Jenkins III, "Star Trek Rerun, Reread, Rewritten: Fan Writing As Textual Poaching". Critical Studies in Mass Communication 5 (1988), 85-107.
  5. ^ Zine Union and the deconstruction of pop culture: my fanfiction and Idylls of the Wizard and An Apocrypha of Muses and The Library: GreenWoman's Fanfiction and Iolausian Library are some of the MANY, MANY examples.
  6. ^ from Virgule-L, quoted with permission (June 21, 1994)
  7. ^ Henry Jenkins, from a transcript of a panel at Escapade #3 (1993): panel members were Jenkins, Constance Penley, Meg Garrett, Shoshanna, and others
  8. ^ from Confessions of an Aca-Fan, Archived version, posted November 26, 2012
  9. ^ from MPH's notes, quoting a fan on December 18, 1992
  10. ^ comments by Sandy Hereld on Virgule-L, quoted with permission (Devember 8, 1992)
  11. ^ from a fan in Short Circuit #1 (December 1992)
  12. ^ from a fan in Short Circuit #1 (December 1992)
  13. ^ from Comlink #53
  14. ^ from The Trekzine Times v.2 n.2/3
  15. ^ comment by Tim Blaes, who said he picked up a flyer for it at MediaWest, in Southern Enclave #33
  16. ^ from a fan in The Neutral Arbiter #7 (January 1993)
  17. ^ from Southern Enclave #37
  18. ^ comments by Maggie Nowakowska in Southern Enclave #37
  19. ^ from The LOC Connection #52
  20. ^ from The LOC Connection #53
  21. ^ a fan on Virgule-L, quoted anonymously (February 18, 1993)
  22. ^ from Virgule-L, quoted anonymously (February 5, 1993)
  23. ^ from Virgule-L, quoted anonymously (April 28, 1993)
  24. ^ from Rallying Call #11
  25. ^ Karen Ann Yost, June/July 1994 Strange New Worlds #14
  26. ^ from Star Trek Action Group #115
  27. ^ Subject: B7 RPG etc post to Lysator by Judith P. dated May 9, 1994.
  28. ^ June 16, 1994, quoted anonymously from Virgule-L
  29. ^ by Joyce Fuller Kleikamp from Soulmates - A Neverending Dream #4
  30. ^ quoted anonymously from Virgule-L (09 May 94)
  31. ^ from Rallying Call #16
  32. ^ from Multi-Species Medicine #26 (April 1996)
  33. ^ personal memory of Mrs. Potato Head 13:23, 24 September 2010 (UTC)
  34. ^ 2011 comments at How did you get into Pros fandom?
  35. ^ an excerpt from The Literary Omnivore, posted March 12, 2012
  36. ^ Subject: Re: Indoctrination and other baggage... post to Lysator by Micky D. dated May 10, 1994.
  37. ^ Just Finished Reading Textual Poachers tumblr post by charlottekath dated Dec 2013; reference link.
  38. ^ Fandom History Resources by comtessedebussy, August 11, 2015
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