The Magnus Archives

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Fandom
Name: The Magnus Archives
Abbreviation(s): TMA, MAG, MagnusPod
Creator: Rusty Quill Ltd.
Date(s): March 23, 2016 - March 25th, 2021
Medium: podcast
Country of Origin: England
External Links: Official Site
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The Magnus Archives is an audio drama horror podcast centered on Jonathan Sims, Head Archivist of the Magnus Archives, recording the testimonials of people's encounters with the potentially supernaturally strange after the previous Archivist, Gertrude Robinson, disappeared. The podcast loosely follows an anthology format, with the over-arching meta-plot gradually gaining significance over the seasons. It has five seasons, each 40 episodes long, as well as additional content such as Q&As, non-canon fan-submitted statements and one-off episodes that tie in with Rusty Quill's other podcasts. As of March 25th, 2021, the podcast is complete, but bonus content is still being released.

Canon

Characters:

Fandom

TMA has a fairly significant Tumblr fandom for an audio drama. In 2019, TMA was the 9th most popular "Web Series" according to Tumblr Fandometrics' Year in Review 2019. The shows popularity spiked as the fourth season came to a close, around November of 2019.

Early fandom seems to have been mostly on reddit and the now defunct Rusty Quill forums. As it grew in popularity, it became popular on Tumblr and AO3. It is the second most popular podcast fandom on AO3, with the first being Critical Role. The fandom also has a large presence on Discord, largely due to the company hosting an official server as a replacement for the old forums.

Much of the fan activity involves fan theories and discussion, as well as fan art, as is common for podcasts. Designs for the main characters tend to be similar-looking, such as Jon as short, skinny and South Asian, Martin as white and fat, Basira as a dark-skinned hijabi, and Elias as having one or two earrings with eye-symbols. Some of these trends can be tracked back to popular fanartists. A fanart trend around the post-S4 hiatus was to re-draw Leyendecker paintings as TMA characters. This started as a TMA trend and then spread to other audio dramas. See Fan Art section for an example.

The fandom has, or at least thinks itself to have, a much higher proportion of asexuals than general fandom, especially amongst older fans. This is due to Jon being Word Of God confirmed asexual, and many asexuals relate to him. New fans tend to be younger and fans of podcasts in general, and often LGBTQ+ attracted by the highly publicized canon queer relationships from later in the show which make up much of the fan content, rather than horror fans, coming from fandoms such as The Adventure Zone or WTNV. This led to jokes along the lines of "that mutual who turns into a tma blog overnight".

The podcast creators, particularly Alexander J Newall (director and voice of Martin), are active on Twitter and in the patron channels of the Rusty Quill Official Discord, interacting with fans.[1] As the fandom grew, the creators scaled back their engagement. Ben Meredith (voice of Elias) and Alasdair Stuart (voice of Peter Lukas) have something of a reputation on Twitter, having collaborated during quarantine to produce the infamous lonelyeyes "big boy man" audio clip, and subsequently the lonelyeyes fan-script, performed by Alasdair and written by his partner.

The Mechs

Podcast creator, writer, and voice of the lead, Jonathan Sims, was previously the lead vocalist in a London-based band, The Mechanisms, whose dark tones, queer representation, and mythic story-telling appeal as well to the audience of the Magnus Archives, or vice versa. A popular headcanon says that the Mechs was protagonist Jon Sims' college band (despite backlash from The Mechs fandom). The Mechanisms fandom has also increased a lot in popularity due to TMA, often experiencing rushes of new members during TMA hiatuses.

Despite The Mechs and The Magnus Archives being sister fandoms however, Mechs fans have a tendency to want nothing to do with the TMA fandom, despite most having listened to and enjoyed the podcast. Mechs fans express discomfort with the popular college band aus, viewing them as rpf, and TMA fans' comfort with using Mechs tags for only tangentially Mechs content (such as using lyrics from The Bifrost Incident in a TMA art piece). Another common crossover AU is the Lyf is Jon AU, which is commonly made by TMA fans with a deeper knowledge of The Mechs than most, but Mechs fans who are more into the band still dislike any crossover of the two. The TMA fandom is frequently viewed as toxic by surrounding fandoms but the Mechs fandom are the most vocal about it.

A common source of contention between the two (on top of missuse of Mechs tags) is that TMA fans are allegedly under the impression that The Mechs are Jonny Sims' band, undermining the contributions of Jessica Law, Kofi Young, Tim Ledsam, Frank Voss, Morgan Wilkinson, Ben Below, R L Hughes and Nastya's anonymous performer.

The Admiral

The Admiral, the cat of Jon's ex-girlfriend Georgie, is another popular figure in fandom, despite having not appeared in two seasons. Many people realized that Jon's season 3 ability with interpreting languages might extend to animals, and create fanworks of Jon communicating with the Admiral.[2] After a comment from the creators that they would not kill pets in the podcast, people joked that the Admiral was immortal, or would lead the characters into trouble due to his plot armour that other characters lack.

Tropes and Headcanons

  • The Scottish Safehouse: Jon and Martin ended S4 in a remote Scottish village, and given that they spent a few weeks there, "off-screen", a lot of the S4 hiatus content was fluffy jonmartin content, exploring their Scottish honeymoon. This also led to Canon-Divergent AUs in which they lived there happily forever, which tied into the Teacher!Jon AU. At first this was about normalcy and happiness for Jon and being able to build a new life, but fandom became amused by the idea of Jon having to explain his oddness to his pupils.[3] It is also a popular setting for post-canon fix-it fics.
  • Archivist!Sasha
  • Kayaking: Due to a comment in a post-S3 Q&A from the creators that Tim's favourite holiday would have been kayaking, fans quickly started to use "kayaking" as a slang for "dead". Fans relayed stories, which may or may not have been true, of them convincing their friends who had been spoiled of Tim's death that he was not dead, just on a kayaking holiday. Due to the close interactions between the fans and creators, the "kayaking" joke cropped up again in the S4 blooper episode, where the cast joked that all the dead characters were kayaking in heaven, which led to a resurgence of often fluffy or crack-y fanworks depicting the vast assortment of dead characters on a kayaking holiday together.
  • Web!Martin

Fan Theories

TMA has an active red-string community, mostly on reddit but sometimes on Tumblr as well. Fan speculation often revolves around the involvement of the Web, as (as-of season 4), the Web has been highly foreshadowed and yet hasn't seemed to make any major moves. During season 4, fans often wondered whether Martin would become an avatar of the Web. During season 5, a popular theory is that the series will end with either Jon or the Institute being set alight, as Jon was gifted a lighter with a spiderweb design. Speculation also occurs around the house on Hilltop Road and the unsolved mystery around it, and whether the "alternate universe" that exists in TMA canon will come into play. Before later seasons, fans were gratified to find that their theory that Jonah Magnus was Elias Bouchard was correct.

The Underwood Collection

TUC is a non-canonical TMA fan-podcast that follows the Usher Foundation, the USA version of the Magnus Institute based in Washington, DC. The team that runs TUC is known as Pitch Library and can be found on Tumblr @pitchlibrary. In September 2020, TUC was nominated for an Audioverse Award for New Audio Play Production [4]

Events

This is a non-exhaustive list of TMA fan events.

  • February 2018: the Magnus Archives Pairing Week 2018, a ship-focused event for the then-very small TMA fandom on AO3 [5]
  • December 2018: Piles Of Nonsense Holiday Cheer, a holiday event for TMA and Rusty Quill Gaming [6]
  • January 2019: Jailbreak January, an Elias-focused event [7]
  • July 2019: TMA Femslash week 2019 [8]
  • November-December 2019: Rusty Quill Secret Santa 2019 [9]
  • December 2019: Cowards Holiday Exchange 2019, an exchange for the 'Rusty Quill Official but for cowards' discord server [10]
  • December 2019: Forever Worms, a dark/wormy fic exchange that started as the Artefact Storage Winter Worms Fest 2019 [11]
  • December 2019-January 2020: The Magnus Archives Femslash Week 2019.5 [12]
  • February 2020: the Gerrymichael Big Bang [13], an event for the small but dedicated Gerry Keay/Michael fandom
  • May 2020: Tim Stoker Appreciation Week [14]
  • May-August 2020: Rusty Quill Big Bang [15]
  • June 2020: Jonah Magnus Week 2020 [16]
  • July 2020: The Magnus Archives Flash Fanwork Challenge, active during the S5 hiatus [17]
  • August 2020: TMA girls week [18]
  • August 2020: JonElias week [19]
  • August 2020: The Magnus Archives Hurt/Comfort week [20]
  • October 2020: TMA spooky gift exchange, a Halloween exchange [21]
  • December 2020: MartinElias week 2020 [22]
  • January 2021: Bi Jon Month
  • January 2021: T4TMA, an event focusing on relationships between trans people [23]
  • January 2021: Aspec Archives Week [24]
  • January-February 2021: TMA Mspec week, for fics focussing on bi/pan characters [25]
  • February 2021: TMA Gerry week [26]
  • March 2021: TMA Fantasy week, for TMA fics relating to the fantasy genre [27]
  • March 2021: JonTim week [28]
  • April 2021: JonMartin week [29]

Shipping

The most popular pairing is Jonathan Sims/Martin Blackwood (Jonmartin), followed by Elias Bouchard/Jonathan Sims (Jonelias). Also notable are Daisy Tonner/Basira Hussain (Daisira), Elias Bouchard/Peter Lukas (Lonely Eyes), and Georgie Barker/Melanie King (What the Girlfriends or WTGFs). There is also interest in exploring relationships with various more supernatural characters, which often involve Xeno. Jonmartin is by far the most popular pairing. Like most fandoms, the majority of ship content for TMA is M/M.

At the end of season 4, Jonmartin and WTGFs was became canon. There is a fairly common misconception that Daisira is canon, due to their close relationship.

A common lonelyeyes trope is the "multiple divorces", which proposes that pre-canon and during canon, Peter and Elias have been married and divorced many times. This has led to most fans regarding lonelyeyes as a crack ship.

Criticism

From the start of S5, as the fandom grew, criticism around the podcast became more popular.

Criticism of the podcast commonly includes: the Haan family in MAG 70 being a racist stereotype of Chinese immigrants as cannibals; the characters who were confirmed to be POC being largely antagonists; Basira, one of few women of colour, being a policewoman and covering up police brutality; S5 being too close to real-life issues and including comments that could be interpreted as transphobia or homophobia, when previously the podcast had not included those things; Nikola Orsinov being a transmisogynistic stereotype of a man becoming a 'fake' woman that steals people's skin; the use of real-life historical figures as antagonists, or antagonists based upon real-life historical figures, particularly those which were involved in colonialism.

Criticism of the fandom commonly includes: fans focusing on minor men who were either canonically white or portrayed as white in fanart over women or characters of colour who featured more significantly; fans focusing on non-canon MLM relationships over canon WLW relationships, such as jonelias being more popular than WTGFs; fans not being sensitive in their depiction of characters of colour, or depiction of white or 'aracial' characters as people of colour; fans erasing Jon's asexuality by writing fanfic in which he has sex; fans fetishising trans people by writing fanfic in which trans characters has sex, particularly trans MLM having PIV sex. On the flip-side, fans also complain that people, especially those who are not trans or not asexual, are attacking trans and asexual authors for exploring their own sexuality or Jon's sexuality using fanfic.

A vocal part of the fandom objects to darkfic, even when properly tagged, despite the source material frequently exploring incredibly dark topics. Some fans noted a rise in Purity Culture within the fandom, especially on Tumblr, as the fandom grew larger after the S4 finale and through S5. For example, fans vilified the Jon and Daisy kidnapping AU, in which a newly-sectioned Daisy gets all of her memories from the series back pre-canon, and then kidnaps 15-year old Jon, as the OP of the AU joked about it and seemed to view it as fluffy.

Another AU that was criticised was the Desolation!Tim Stoker AU, which some complained had racist implications due to some fanart for it portraying Tim Stoker as Asian. As Tim Stoker was 'aracial' within the podcast, his only descriptor being that he was 'hot', there were varied interpretations of his race within the fandom, and portraying him as East or South-East Asian was fairly widespread within the fandom as a whole.

Controversy around RQO

Around May 2020, controversy emerged around the official discord's handling of people who wanted to discuss BLM and express anti-police sentiment. The moderators who were active at that time, all of whom were white and untrained fan volunteers, seemed to discourage or actively shut down discussion about police violence and statements like "ACAB". Some people, including fans and cast members of colour, expressed a desire to be able to have a space without being reminded of violence. Others stated that, given TMA itself discusses police brutality, it was unfair to shut down discussions about these topics. A callout document on Tumblr was made in August mentioning this, as well as other complaints of varying severity or validity (one complaint was a mods nickname making fun of addicts which was revealed to be incorrect in the assumed reference) and caused chaos on the server for a few days. The callout was posted in the middle of the night for Britain, so most of the team whose responsibility it would be to make an official response were asleep or about to go to bed. A paid USA-based community moderator who had been brought on-board due to start the next day made a statement that the Rusty Quill staff would be having an emergency meeting the next day over the callout post and the content within it to make an official statement, asking that people stop asking for a response until then and stop reposting the link within the server or they will be banned. A few people were banned for reposting the link. In late August, the server was re-vamped and went offline for 24 hours. This was stated to have been a planned event before the callout, due to other anonymous complaints that had been made, but the callout document made the issues more public. In September, the company released an official statement acknowledging various issues in TMA and their other podcasts, such as their racism in portraying the Haan family.

In January 2021, multiple people were banned from the official discord following a discussion about headcanoning Mary Keay as Jewish, a headcanon that had already caused drama on tumblr. Unfortunately messages were deleted from banned members so some of it is now lost. This re-awakened many of the popular criticisms of the server and its modding, with the callout document briefly re-surfacing. Some people, including Jewish server members, argued that it was anti-Semitic to hold the headcanon as Mary fulfilled anti-Semitic stereotypes, such as blood-libel. Others, including Jewish server members, argued that it was not. Mods tried and failed to stop the discussion. As is often the case with RQO, the original topic of conversation was often lost beneath people wanting to air their criticisms about the server in general. Helen, the RQ Sensitivity Reader, invited people to email her if they had concerns about anti-Semitism in TMA rather than talk about it on RQO. At the same time, a conversation in which members joked about misandry and hating cishets resulted in mods threatening to ban people if they didn't remove it as it was against server rules, some other server members also complained they were uncomfortable with the content. The arguments following included some of the members who had originally made the jokes demanding to know the sexuality, gender or age of some of those complaining. Some of the people involved in this were later revealed to have joined with the intent to troll and be banned.

In February 2021, some members requested that the 'pluralkit' bot be added to the server. This request was denied, with mods saying it would be difficult to moderate and could be taken advantage of during 'raids' like those that had happened previously. Some people repeatedly pushed for it to be added, saying that the server was being hypocritical and ableist against members with DID. They also requested that roles be added to distinguish 'minors' and 'adults', which they said would protect under-18s on the server. This request was denied, with mods saying it would in fact put under-18s at more risk to be publicly identified, and could give a false sense of security. Mods pointed out that TMA was aimed at adults, and suggested that if minor or adult members were unable to interact in a comfortable or responsible way, the server was probably not suitable for them and they should leave. The Community Assistant (Autumn) made an announcement to remind people that gatekeeping, fandom purity, and harassment was against the server rules, and some more members were banned.

As of March 2021 the callout document had been taken down by the original posters. They had long since left RQO, and no longer wished to be associated with it or the fandom, especially as there was some backlash against them as it was discovered that some of the behaviour complained about in the callout was perpetrated by those who created it or were taken out of context. Though copies of it do exist as some saved it.

This activity is evidence of how within some areas of the fandom, the RQO discord server rules and moderation was viewed negatively, especially the rule that all headcanons were allowed, provided they didn't violate other server rules and were presented respectfully, with related rules against gatekeeping or fandom purity, which usually was the background to many discourses within the server. One smaller fan server offered a special role for people who had been banned from RQO; more often, being banned was informally viewed as a badge of pride. Many of the controversies or drama within the server at this point were being noted to be occurring within the TMA channels or coming from fans of TMA, which was the largest fandom present within the RQO server by a significant amount as well as becoming a large fandom presence on other social media such as Twitter, Tumblr, and Tiktok. During this time the server had approximately 11k members, the show was also very close to its end during this time period.

Twitter

In April 2021 on Twitter, a vocal group aimed criticisms at the author of the show, Jonny Sims, after a Twitter user posted a thread of criticisms of the (completed) show over some problematic or perceived 'problematic' elements of the show. This included an Asian villain character who the group viewed as a portrayal of an 'evil butch lesbian' trope. The complaints were directed at the Twitter account of Jonny Sims tagging him in many of the posts with some calling him 'racist' or a 'lesbophobe'. In response to this as well as more general things, Jonny Sims posted a Twitter Thread explaining that he doesn't respond to '@'s about the show due to how, in his words, 'volatile' the fandom could be, saying that the times he had responded to '@'s before from fans, the fans been harassed by other members of the fandom. As well as this he considers the show complete so anything he says now about the content would not affect or carry any canon implications on what exists in the completed text. He then explained that in response to criticisms of themes and the writing of some characters in the show, that he had already apologised for many of them, including the portrayal of a Chinese immigrant family, and the other criticisms he had noted for future writing. He then went on to say had no interest in 'performative remorse' or making 'individual apologies' to new listeners to the show discovering that elements of it had been problematic or messy and felt the need to engage him over it on Twitter. The majority of the fandom (including fans of the minority identities it had been suggested the show portrayed problematically) supported the thread posted by Jonny Sims. Citing that many of the complaints of portrayals in the fans original thread had either; already been addressed and officially apologised for (not occurring in the show after the apology), had been plot points designed to not be viewed positively (such as a character defending police brutality meant to show the character was complicit in it), were complaints about Fanon not actual complaints of the show, or were 'reaches' or made to seem more deliberate or serious than the instances actually were. In response to the more general things mentioned in the Twitter thread, it was viewed s an example of people expecting engagement from a content creator who wasn't required to engage.

Example Fanworks

Examples Wanted: Editors are encouraged to add more examples or a wider variety of examples.

Animatics

Fan Art

Fanfiction

Meta

Zines

  • VISITOR'S PASS - "A fanzine dedicated to the inner workings of The Magnus Institute."
  • Avatar of Fear - "A collaborative project to highlight fanworks depicting both artist’s and writer’s own avatar OCs and sonas from The Magnus Archives".

Links & Resources

References

  1. ^ Alexander J Newall's twitter
  2. ^ "i know Jon doesn't get the whole 'understand all languages' power until after The Thing but can you imagine" by everchased
  3. ^ finally the teacher!jon comic i've been hyping for like a week by foxguardian
  4. ^ Audioverse awards list of nominees
  5. ^ TMA Pairing Week AO3 collection
  6. ^ PoN Holiday Cheer AO3 collection
  7. ^ Jailbreak January AO3 collection
  8. ^ TMA femslash week AO3 collection
  9. ^ Rusty Quill Secret Santa 2019 AO3 collection
  10. ^ Cowards Holiday Exchange 2019 AO3 collection
  11. ^ Forever Worms AO3 collection
  12. ^ TMA femslash week 2019.5 AO3 collection
  13. ^ Gerrymichael Big Bang AO3 collection
  14. ^ Tim Stoker Appreciation Week Tumblr page
  15. ^ RQ Big Bang tumblr page
  16. ^ Jonah Week 2020 AO3 collection
  17. ^ TMA Flash Fanwork Challenge AO3 collection
  18. ^ TMA girls week Tumblr page
  19. ^ Jonelias week Tumblr page
  20. ^ TMA hurt/comfort week Tumblr page
  21. ^ TMA spooky gift exchange AO3 collection
  22. ^ MartinElias Week 2020 AO3 collection
  23. ^ T4TMA Tumblr page
  24. ^ Aspec Archives Week Tumblr page
  25. ^ TMA Mspec week Tumblr page
  26. ^ TMA Gerry Week Tumblr page
  27. ^ TMA Fantasy week Tumblr page
  28. ^ JonTim week Tumblr page
  29. ^ JonMartin week Tumblr page