WriterCon Q&A: Kristina Busse
|Interviews by Fans|
|Title:||WriterCon Q&A: Kristina Busse|
|Date(s):||May 29, 2009|
|External Links:||interview is here (Wayback link)|
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I was an avid Buffy watcher starting late in the second season and began looking for the episodes I’d missed (that was in 1999, the stone ages of dial up access :). One site had all the transcripts up, but that summer during hiatus I got curious and stumbled onto the Fan Fiction link on that site. And I was lost. Like most fans who weren’t initiated by an experienced fan, I started with a lot of fairly bad fic. I read fanfiction.net and anything I could found on Sonja Marie’s link site at the time. And then I soon found various mailing lists, both for my ship pairing (I was a pretty rabid shipper there for a while) and the UnConventional Shipper List (UCSL), which, if I recall correctly at that point still had things like Buffy/Spike, because it wasn’t canon yet, and also was my first introduction to slash.
I got involved through the initial post on LiveJournal in response to FanLib. Personally, I’d just written my critique of fan studies and gender, “The Women Men Don’t See,” which was an angry response to what I felt was a systemic gender imbalance in fan studies and the way it had played out at various conferences. A female fannish call for autonomy was exactly what I wanted and needed at that moment. We’d spoken before of writing our own history (which became the wiki FanLore, of owning our own servers (the goal of the Archive of Our Own, and of creating our own journal, but it was the right time for these things to take shape. Enough people both had the energy and the know-how, were willing to donate the time and the intelligence to make this project happen.
I find the OTW important because at a time where user-generated content has become a commonplace trope and media convergence tries to monetize (and control) fan-like behavior, it is important to create a public presence and awareness about fandom and fan works. While there are clearly dangers to presented “one” face to fandom, I think it’s important to have a face rather than be completely ignored in favor of much younger (often male) fannish engagements or to be represented randomly by whatever story a journalist might come across. Fanlore and the archive will hopefully allow outsiders to get a more comprehensive sense of fandom and the journal contextualizes and explains in order to make fannish activities and creations more accessible to nonfans.Moreover, the OTW is a nonprofit organization for and by fans, which means that fans are writing the source code for the fan fiction archive (often learning to code) and fans are donating their time to build and run the wiki as well as to contribute to it. Likewise, the journal is completely run by volunteers, from the editors and reviewers to the production staff. The journal, in fact, exemplifies the ethos central to the OTW and its members: as I describe above, Open Access, Creative Commons copyright, and a fair use interpretation that allows actual engagement with media texts and scholarship on fan works are as central to our journal as they are to the OTW in general.
I’m not sure fandom needs to fit into academia or academia into fandom. In fact, Matt Hills in Fan Cultures (2002) intelligently warns against acafans’ propensity to try to read fandom through an academic lens by making the two alike. I think of them as valid and valuable discourses that exist side by side and can inform one another. Moreover, as our collection has shown (and as I’m reminded when I look at my friendslist every day), many of us are already both.In terms of fan studies as one (or many) disciplines, I think that audience studies is an important field in television and media studies and, in fact, deserves more attention in my home discipline of literary studies. Fans are often regarded as exemplary audiences and while I quibble with that definition at times, I do find it useful for certain purposes. Fans are particularly vocal and engaged audiences, but recent fan studies has expanded by looking at other audience segments such as anti-fans, which is an interesting and fertile direction. For me, personally, there’s no need to justify fan studies by making it useful to media studies or to the media industry—I think we’re worthy of studying ourselves just because!