Fandom Vs. E-Lit: How Communities Organize

Abstract (in English): 

“E-literature”, as defined by the ELO, is a fairly sweeping term. Any sort of “born digital” text can potentially be claimed as “e-lit”: video games, works of interactive fiction, fan fiction, et cetera. As a scholar, it is tempting to dragoon a favorite text, to bring it into an e-lit context. But to do this is to ignore the differences in the communities that supported these texts’ creation. Similarly, it is tempting to declare the “end of e-lit,” since so much e-lit can also be framed as fan fiction, video art, games, etc., but to do this is to ignore the impact of the e-lit community and its structure.

This paper explores how online fandom is a global community that supports the creation of “born-digital” texts just as the e-lit community does, but has very different strengths and weaknesses. Three texts focalize this exploration. The first two are Machine Libertine’s Whoever You Are and Imaginary Circus’s Please Let Me Get What I Want. Each could be considered either as works of e-literature or as fanvid, but they were created in very different contexts. The third is The Care and Feeding of Stiles Stilinski (or how Stiles goes on four accidental dates and still gets no make-outs), by Lunarwolfik. This work of fan fiction initially seems like a simple e-book presentation of a short story, potentially not classifiable as “e-literature”, but deeper examination of the context of its creation shows that it takes great advantage of the affordances of networked computing – not in its format, but with regard to the community and tools that helped shape it.

The contexts of these three works are not limited to the aesthetic concerns of their intended audiences. The fandom community excels at lobbying for expansion of legal protections around fair use and at creating informal discussion spaces; the e-literature community provides excellent education resources and databases of works of various types. Both communities hold large and regular meet-ups, though in fandom the focus is on celebratory conventions (sometimes featuring an academic track), whereas the e-literature community focuses on academic conferences (often featuring festivals or shows). This paper will offer recommendations about what each community can learn from the other.

(Source: ELO 2015 Conference Catalog)

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Hannah Ackermans