What Price Fandom?

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Title: What Price Fandom?
Creator: Arduinna
Date(s): May 2000
Medium: online
Fandom: multi
Topic: feedback, Fandom and Profit, Gift Culture
External Links: online here, Archived version
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What Price Fandom? is an essay by Arduinna.

The essay was posted to Essays: Rants and Rambles.

"Profiteering and fandom are not words that should go together."


A woman has recently been advertising gen "e-zines" in her fandom. She's charging $5 to $20 for these collections of stories, depending on which one you order. You send her a check, she e-mails you the stories in either .txt or .doc, depending on which you specify. That's it -- e-mail files. No hardcopy, no covers, no binding, not even a disk. Just e-mail, like you could get for free on any of hundreds of fic lists. The idea of anyone being paid for electronic stories in a fandom context bothers me tremendously.

I don't equate fandom with a capitalist society. Sure, some people charge for what they do--in order to cover their costs of materials. When you pay money for a paper zine you're paying for the costs of making printouts for editing, printouts of the final master copy, long-distance phone calls to authors to talk out editing passes, shipping manuscripts back and forth (not everyone has email, after all), copies of the master, binding and covers for the copies, etc. Electronic fic has no materials cost associated with it.

The underlying concept of fandom is sharing. Want to borrow some of my zines? Cool. Need floor space to crash on? I've got some. Need good vibes for something? I'm there. Are we at a con and you don't have enough money to go out to lunch? Don't worry, I'll cover it.

Ask con organizers how much money they make for all their incredibly hard work of organizing a con. Then wait ten minutes until they've finally run out of breath from laughing and help pick them up off the floor.

Ask zine eds and zine pubs how much profit they make off their efforts; ditto. (Any reputable zine pub will take any profit and plow it back into the next zine, which maybe won't sell as many copies and will need the boost to keep the pubber from going under.)

Ask people who organize local get-togethers how much money they get to cover wear and tear on their houses and tvs and vcrs.

Fanfic, while not the driving force behind fandom (that would be the shows--and lord knows we all seem to find plenty to talk about besides fic), is nevertheless a major part of fandom. The feeling that I've always gotten about it is that it should be as accessible to as many fans as possible, not the property of a favored few who happen to have lots of disposable income. It's a staple, not a luxury. Staples should be affordable for everyone.

Is it ethical for a writer to ask for payment for her work? In the mundane world, absolutely. In fandom, no. After all, if she deserves to be paid for the simple fact of devoting time to her fandom in her own particular way, then everyone who devotes time to the fandom should be paid.