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01 March 2004 @ 04:24 pm
And the Band Plays On - Fandom and Continuity  
Yeah, just what the world needs. Another bundle of loosely connected thoughts on the nature of fandom and the eternal question of what separates the self-proclaimed media fan from the non-fan. Let the wacky theorist begin... *g*

Intro: The Missing Chord

Regardless of their respective emphases, many theories about the key elements of fandom as a cultural community evolve around three basic roots: 1) a deep, heartfelt love for the source material, 2) the wish to exchange toughts and opinions with other like-minded people, 3) active or passive delight in creative expression.

Although I agree that these are indeed the central aspects of fannish life, two recent coincidences have made me ponder whether there might still be another essential element, running beneath the surface and holding the whole thing together as a warm, vibrant keynote; namely [insert overly pompous brass fanfare here *g*] the fan's subconcious wish for certain kind of continuity.




Key Stroke No 1: Taking Fictions Seriously. Ad Infinitum...

A couple of days ago, hmpf in her reply to cathexys' entry on fandom and fannish identity, came to the following conclusion:

"A large part of being a fan, for me, is to take fictions seriously, and appropriate them, and make something new of them. I have always 'lived' very much 'in' the books I read, and I have always, in my mind, expanded the stories, written fanfic, if you will. Fandom is a whole culture of people doing the same; people who *communicate* that way. People who speak my language. A whole culture of people to whom imagination is a crucial quality to cope with life."

In my opinion, this constitues a perfectly fitting and well-phrased general description of the fannish experience. However, I'd like point out that the interesting aspect here is not the love of the source material, but the wish to expand and exhaust the source via creative effort or discussion.

While for "non-fans" (meaning: people who might love the source as much as the next fan but would never think of participating in any kind of fannish activity)the fun usually ends exactly where the source ends (at the end of a tv show's final episode, a closing curtain, the last pages of Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings"), the fans continue. Muse, discuss, write, paint, photoshop. Long after the show has been cancelled. Until the end of time, so to speak.

Therefore it seems as if fannish activity is not only a complex and entertaining form of communication, but also a means of freeing the source from the boundaries of time; to eternalize it via the creative effort. As long as the fan fic is online, the posting board working and the zines circulating, the objects of our fannish adoration stay alive and with us; and, to a certain degree also continue to shape our perception of the world.



Key Stroke No 2: A Non-Fannish Piece of Fan Art

(Basically just a footnote to the leitmotif of my little song, but I think, it's a good one, because it not only gave me the idea for this essay but also illustrates my point quite nicely.)

My friend cavendish who, despite enjoying many a sci-fi series, still conciders himself to be merely an interested and critical observer from the fringes, has posted the most interesting piece of fan art.

"Ghosts of a Winter's Night". A simple but stunningly evocative black and white montage, inspired by the cancellation of Angel. Pale, transparent faces, almost completely dissolving into the real life background (a picture taken in Cavendish's hometown).

Not knowing what to do with the piece at first, I asked Cavendish for an explanation. Here is what he said: "Well, the show has been cancelled and soon the characters will be nothing but a memory, vague shadows at best, while life goes on without them."

I knew, I wouldn't agree with his answer ;-)

 
 
Current Mood: pensivepensive
Current Music: Primal Fear Soundtrack, Cancao Do Mar
 
 
 
Hmpfhmpf on March 1st, 2004 08:23 am (UTC)
Errr... actually that was me quoting myself, not cathexys.
Will comment on rest later. ;-)
Bimo: DRD_bewarebimo on March 1st, 2004 08:34 am (UTC)
Ups, sorry....
I guess mistakes like these just happen when you read your friendslist early in the morning before having consumed your first cup of coffee *g*

Now, off to fix the bug...
Cavendishcavendish on March 1st, 2004 11:21 am (UTC)
fandom - celebrating itself: again ...
or why I am no fan ;-).

A Dogmatic statement ;-)

Why don't I like an article that a) advertises quite nicely a picture of mine, and b) makes an interesting point about fans and fan culture as such?

Basically because I do not like the singing of hymns, not matter when or where. And the article, from the very wording to the contents, sounds like one.

For example: Therefore it seems as if fannish activity is not only a complex and entertaining form of communication, but also a means of freeing the source from the boundaries of time; to eternalize it via the creative effort.

And as for the non fan? Is his conversation less complex? And why does he fail to see why any drooling on, say, Methos in Highlander, is more complex than what he thinks?
Why does he fail to see the necessity for freeing him from the boundaries of time and instead enjoys a well written fan fiction story without the high fetched argument?

or else: a deep, heartfelt love for the source material
Sentences like this turn even the otherwise un-dogmatic non-fan (that is not me ;-) ) into a person saying that he would prefer a distanced and critical view on the source material and a deep heartfelt love for the nice and talented fan fiction writer next door ...

Really folks: I do not desire anything (with few exceptions) to be holding the whole thing together as a warm, vibrant keynote : I am more on the Schönberg side. Good art will survive the dissonance. Good friendships will, too. Maybe groups will not: Why worry?

Fandom can be restrictive, it can offer group pressure, it can be to much time consuming, it can make you write stupid comments on lj entries: You knew all that even without telling me so? Then why does so litte in fan writing read like this?

Do not get me wrong: I like fandom and fans. Some. Others I do not like, as with any other group. (I happen to like the author of this lj ;-) )

But in writing and in the reception of art I value basically two things: Passion and a critical distance. Yes, they can coexist.

F.
Hmpf: Cop pornhmpf on March 1st, 2004 12:25 pm (UTC)
No; fandom thinking about itself again. Not quite the same thing.
>Basically because I do not like the singing of hymns, not matter when or where. And the article, from the very wording to the contents, sounds like one.

What is wrong with enjoying and celebrating a cultural community one participates in? As you say in your closing sentence: passion and a critical distance can coexist. I often sing the praises of fandom because I really think it is an amazing thing (and has made my life much better), but I also post stuff like this: http://www.livejournal.com/users/hmpf/48737.html

>And as for the non fan? Is his conversation less complex? And why does he fail to see why any drooling on, say, Methos in Highlander, is more complex than what he thinks?
Why does he fail to see the necessity for freeing him from the boundaries of time and instead enjoys a well written fan fiction story without the high fetched argument?

I don't think bimo was trying to imply that non-fen have less complex cultural experiences per se. Just different ones. As for the high fetched arguments... well, mundanes have academics, too, haven't they? A certain proportion of the population always likes to think about the whys and hows of things in highly abstract ways. Do you have a general problem with academics or just with fen who go meta? And if the latter, why?

>or else: a deep, heartfelt love for the source material
Sentences like this turn even the otherwise un-dogmatic non-fan (that is not me ;-) ) into a person saying that he would prefer a distanced and critical view on the source material and a deep heartfelt love for the nice and talented fan fiction writer next door ...

Well, so what? I don't mean to sound antagonistic, but... it's really their loss. I enjoy my 'deep, heartfelt love for the source material', it makes me feel good, and I enjoy having a community of people who feel the same. And, as you said, passion does not preclude a critical distance. Case in point: I dearly love Farscape - I'm one of the thousands of people who did all kinds of silly things to save the show. Yet I also see that parts of the show, especially in the early half of season four, leave much to be desired. I'm even more critical of Highlander, although I am a big Methos fan - but that passion does not make me blind to the incapable main actor, the clichéd plots, or the heavy-handed morality underlying it all. I could also list hundreds of things that are wrong with The Lord of the Rings (book *and* movies)... etc.

>Really folks: I do not desire anything (with few exceptions) to be holding the whole thing together as a warm, vibrant keynote : I am more on the Schönberg side. Good art will survive the dissonance. Good friendships will, too. Maybe groups will not: Why worry?

Err... what exactly does that have to do with what bimo was discussing? I agree about art and dissonance and the not worrying part... I just don't see the connection.

>Fandom can be restrictive, it can offer group pressure,

Of course. We are only human. I don't think anyone doubts or forgets that. (Well, okay, maybe some people do. See the above linked post and related reactions... *g*)

>But in writing and in the reception of art I value basically two things: Passion and a critical distance. Yes, they can coexist.

And they don't in fandom?

Well... gotta get back to doing the dishes now. (Urgh.) Interesting points... nice to see a different view. As you see, I don't agree, but I do enjoy the discussion. ;-)
Cavendishcavendish on March 1st, 2004 01:20 pm (UTC)
First of all thanks for your reply. I deeply enjoy the discussion :-)

Of course my post was polemic. But it was an reaction to an (imho) much to high fetched and in parts unjustified praise. And I do stick to waht I was saying, although I could have stated it in a less polemic way ;-)

What is wrong with enjoying and celebrating a cultural community one participates in? . "Enjoying" is one thing, "celebrating" is another. Most groups I have been in so far, I found enjoyable, but not worth of celebration. I can celebrate the appearance of a good story / artwork / ect., but a community, any community, does simply not deserve it. Is has too many faults attached to it. Any group has.

but I also post stuff like this:
I know that article, I do think I even advertised it in my lj. Thoughts like this should be, imho, the _basis_ which any from of praise needs.

mundanes have academics, too, haven't they?
;-)).
But really: I do hope Universities are the realm of critical discourse, not high fetched arguments ;-)

I don't mean to sound antagonistic, but... it's really their loss.

I do not concider it a loss not to feel a heartfelt love for TV shows. I would concider it a loss not to feel a heartfelt love for people though (especially for a certain fanfiction writer ;-), but I do think, most fans would agree with me on this point ;-)

As I said, I was being polemic. But again: Bimo's article was, to my mind, also on an inappropriate level and the extend of praise expressed in it not really justified.

Err... what exactly does that have to do with what bimo was discussing?

Bimo's (and some fan comments on stories, and some fan comments on films etc.) read like fandom would not survive if it had disharmonies ...

And they don't in fandom?

Yes, they do co-exist in fandom. At times. And in many intances the don't. Do not tell me loss af critical distance would not be quite common ion parts of the
fandom. (do I need to give examples ;-)

To cut a long story short: A littel critical distance would for me make Bimo's article a much more intersting read. Personal attitude, not more.

You can (and shall) measure my next article by this standards ;-)


Bimo: DRD_bewarebimo on March 2nd, 2004 03:18 am (UTC)
The "Veteran Mentality" and Pompous Arguments as a Fun Sport
(Though this is posted as a direct reply to Cavendish, it is also a comment on the whole thread. I just wanted to keep stuff tight and in correct chronological order *g*)


While I disagree with his more polemical arguments, I believe Cavendish is right about one thing, namely keeping me on my toes whenever my perception of fandom appears too one-sided or, for that matter, downright lazy.

Fact is, I wrote a group-affirmative hymn when I could have used my brain cells to come up with something scientifically objective or even critical. After all, I've been in fandom for ages, had my own fair share of rants and frustrations, witnessed the rise and decay of numerous factions and trends, outlasted dozens of flame wars.

It was me that, in a discussion about the latest installment of Angel, answered Cavendish's suggestion of writing a critical commentary on that episode with the words: "Nah, I'm not going to do that, since most folks out there seem to love this ep."

So, I can see where the group pressure argument is coming from. And the longer I ponder about it, the more I believe that while I'm surely no direct succumber to group pressure (I'm not a"herd animal" but rather an individualist, never afraid of sticking to my own controverse opinions), I may indeed be an indirect one.

From the veteran's point of view, the nature of fandom is utterly cyclic. Just when one generation has finally declared a certain issue as "discussed to the death", a younger generation of fans (or the fandom next door) will glady jump into a fierce debate about the very same issue (or at least a slighty different incarnation of it).

It's really a frustrating and downwearing phenomenon. The fans who do not whish to draw the "radical conclusion" (i.e. leaving), because they still want to enjoy the good sides of fandom, have a strong tendency towards different kinds of coping strategies.

Regardless, whether several years in fandom have turned you into an elitist bitch-monster or a patient, good-natured dinosaur,if there is one thing you've got truly internalized, it is the insight that in the end, most public crusades are futile, a waste of time and energy you could have used to do something you rather enjoy.

As a veteran, I have learned to choose my battles carefully. Even if I don't agree with a certain opinion, as long as I don't really care about the issue, I' ll gladly leave the space on the soapbox to those who are still passionate.

Maybe, this attitude of resignation is questionable. Maybe it is wrong to wrap myself in cozy meta essays, when I could use my experience to come up with critical analysis.

However, please note that every group-affirmative hymn on fandom is also an automated "Pawlow style" counter-reaction to world in which stereotype prejudices and misconceptions like:

"And as for the non fan? Is his conversation less complex? And why does he fail to see why any drooling on, say, Methos in Highlander, is more complex than what he thinks?"

or

"Sentences like this turn even the otherwise un-dogmatic non-fan (that is not me ;-) ) into a person saying that he would prefer a distanced and critical view on the source material and a deep heartfelt love for the nice and talented fan fiction writer next door ... "

tend to be the rule ;-)
Cavendishcavendish on March 2nd, 2004 03:57 am (UTC)
Re: The "Veteran Mentality" and Pompous Arguments as a Fun Sport
Hi there!

Perfectly agreed (and having lunch break at the moment) that battles like this are futile. Had I not known how analytical and critical you can be, I would not even have begun it. Had we not discussed this before I would have not done it this aggressively.

However: My position may have been oversimplified(as was yours) and only true to a certain extend but I do not think (as I expressed in my answer to hmpf aready) that I perpetuate stereotype prejudices and misconceptions .

Perhaps it is only my personal experience, but still: Let me give you a few examples of what I mean: Instead of this discussion I could have worked. (and should have.) Instead of watichng LotR because everybody has seen it, I could have seen things really worth the while. Plus: I fear that one may discover, having taken the fandom to seriously, that one ends up alone in the end despite of having quite a lot of freinds in the fandom. Maybe one will not even mind this anylonger.

Take this as a personal statement of fear, directed only at persons of my personality and tendencies. But I do not want to put forward prejudices.

I do think it it this fears that makes me, also as a Pawlow reflex, be overcritical to people praising the fandom

F.
Hmpf: Jaegerhmpf on March 1st, 2004 11:56 am (UTC)
Okay, I have to be short, as RL demands my attention,
but I said I would comment, and this is very interesting, so...

>Therefore it seems as if fannish activity is not only a complex and entertaining form of communication, but also a means of freeing the source from the boundaries of time; to eternalize it via the creative effort.

Maybe. Although for me it is not so much time that is the factor but 'reality'. In my first fannish piece of writing, the essay "Mann mit Mantel" that was archived in your archive :-) I wrote something about the urge to make the object of our obsession more real by talking about it, writing about it, using it as the basis for our creative endeavours. Sharing a fictional world or character with others makes it feel more real. So, to me, we are not eternalizing but 'realizing' our source material. We may not be able to live in Middle-earth or on Moya or in Anvard, but by talking to others about it, we can get just a little bit closer to that dream, somehow. I know this doesn't make much sense intellectually, but that is what it feels like to me. The degree varies, though. Remus and Sirius, for example, certainly became real only through fanfic for me - they were little more than types in the books; on Farscape, on the other hand, the characters felt perfectly real to me on the screen. (Enter another variant of the 'canon/fanon' debate...)
Vashtan: kissvashtan on March 11th, 2004 12:46 pm (UTC)
Unconnected
I'm afraid I won't be able to come to your birthday, as I have nightshift both Saturday and Sunday. I tried to shift one of them, but the guy said something mildly menacing like whether I was sure I wanted to work there. It's too short term in this case, and I need the money. Next weekend would have been fine.

Anyway, have a nice birthday+greet everybody. ;)
Vashtanvashtan on March 14th, 2004 12:29 pm (UTC)
Happy Birthday
Hi there!

I hope you're having a nice birthday. I was/am just so down and out and have to rush off again in 10 minutes. ;-( May everything go smoothly and well for you, have fun, success and everything you consider worth having... ;-)