My research topic will attempt to ask if current online fan practices, located in the fan fiction fandom of The X-Files in this case, can divulge any suggestions on where fandom is headed, if current theories are getting too restrictive for fan communities which are expanding from newsgroups and discussion forums to blogs, thereby creating new tensions, expert knowledge and hierarchical structures.
Fan fiction fandom, the cultural product of television fandom, is quite possibly for some fans, their only exposure to fandom. Fan-written fiction, be it slash or general fiction are produced and circulated by fans within the fandom for their own consumption. To academics who have looked at this particular phenomenon, fan fiction writing serves as a sign that fans have ‘empowered’ themselves, not only by making use of technology available to them (VCR for repeated viewings; before the Internet, word processors and photocopy machines for the mass production of fanzines, and nowadays, computers and the Internet for most of their social and cultural activities), but also their beloved texts, and making something out of the texts and characters to further enhance their enjoyment and appreciation of the shows. What started out as oftentimes playful and far-fetched explorations of characters stolen from television and filmic texts have since turned into an organised system of production and distribution - while not a full-fledged ‘industry’ as such since fan fiction authors are not reaping any profits from their stories, quite possibly the only thing saving them from copyright lawsuits. But an ‘industry’ nonetheless, albeit a non-profit one, with its own boundaries, regulations, and hierarchies, policed by fan leaders who are celebrities in their own right within their respective fandoms.
From my own involvements in fan fiction centred communities within The X-Files’ fandom, both as a writer and a reader, I have observed that fan fiction authors go to great lengths to produce their works of fiction, from researching a specific subject matter to interacting with other fans in order to discuss characterisations and plot to editing and finally to promoting and circulating these works to the appropriate places (i.e. fan fiction archives, distributions lists and so forth). These authors are also supported by other fans – some, authors themselves - who lend their expert knowledge of the show and the subject matter the show deals with in general to provide information, not only to writers writing and researching for a story, but also for new fans who have just discovered the show. This system clearly creates a ‘knowledge base’ whereupon fans with the expertise become fan leaders and celebrities revered by other fans, thus creating structures of hierarchy within fan communities; and with the speed with which new media technology evolves, hierarchical structures between the different methods/interfaces fans use to explore and perform their fan identities.
Supervisor: Dr. Matt Hills
Fandom, television, blogging, new media, Chinese cinema.