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September 1992


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 23 Sep 1992 11:43:27 EDT
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Andrea -- Sorry to hear about your difficulty locating copies of my book,
  I am hearing this from people everywhere. You can, of course, order it from
Routledge, Chapman and Hall, 29 West 35th St., NY, NY 10001-2299. The ISN# is
0 415 90572 and the paperback edition is priced at $14.95. Some of the Screen-L
readers will have received a mailing from Routledge offering exam copies. So
you might try asking for one.
   Now, on to the questions. Andrea asks about the use of computers within
the fan community. So far, the home computer has not had quite the same
impact as the VCR has on fandom. The VCR really revolutionized fandom as I
suggest in the book, making it possible to have access to series which never
played in your area and to watch them more closely, more often, and with greater
 control over the flow of story information. I intended a panel on computing
and fandom at a recent media fan convention. Many fan editors said they were
now using desktop publishing for their zines and I could point you to some
noteworthy examples of this. There is also growing fan interest in Protigy,
which was strongly promoted at this con. My sense is that fannish discussion
on Usenet, etc. does not reflect the same group as the fan culture I describe.
I discuss Alt.rec.arts.twinpeaks in TEXTUAL POACHERS as an example of an
alternative mode of fannish criticism and discourse which reflects the
predominantly masculine composition of the newsnet readership and its
greater ties to major research universities and technical companies. I do more
with this question of computer net discussions in a chapter I just finished
for a book I am writing with John Tulloch which looks cross-culturally at the
audiences for STAR TREK and DOCTOR WHO. The key question is access to
 technology. I have no doubt that fans would use any new technology they can
access to, but that few of them have the institutional affiliations to allow
easy access to USENET, etc. They also don't have access to make the interactive
narratives that are emerging, though I know many writers there would loosely
describe themselves as fans and I have found people at MIT's Media Lab
very interesed in the book for what it says about existing ways that fans
create a kind of interactive narrative from traditional forms of mass culture.
   Andrea also ask about my use of the term, "meta-text" in my BEAUTY AND THE
BEAST essay and whether it could be used to apply to fan's conception of stars/
characters. For those who haven't read my writing, the term, "Metatext" refers
to the mental construct which fans construct surrounding the series text which
includes not only information explicitly offered in the program narratives but
also extratextual information (interviews with stars, producers, etc.;
 novelizations; writer's guides) and inferences by fan critics, etc. I see the
as part of the collective property of fandom with much overlap between fans
in terms of their interpretation of the series, but also open to idiosyncratic
inflection by individual fans so that it generates constant debates about
interpretation. The fan meta-text is vitally concerned with issues of
characterization, since character is a primary focus of their interest in the
series narratives, especially the interplay between characters and the back
 stories of characters. There is no doubt that they also form some common
 understandings of the stars, their personalities, etc. Some fans are more
than others. Most of the fans I write about would say their primary interest
is in the characters not the stars, though they will go to see them on
occassion at cons. There are commercially run cons which primarily function to
bring in stars and fan-run cons which mostly function to sustain the circulation
 of fan generated products. Often, the people who attend one do not go to
the other. A key issue arrises when the stars want to control what is written
about the series, since some fans will side with the stars and producers, others
 with the fan writers. Many a fandom has split over these questions and to some
 degree, the continued dispute in Beauty and the Beast fandom over the third
season reflects different commitments and access to the stars, producers,
writers, etc. This issue enters into disputes about fan art as well since
fan artists claim their works depict the characters not the stars, even
though the characters (as media figures) bear the physical likeness of the
stars. So, a picture showing Kirk and Spock having sex does not depict William
Shatner and Leonard Nimoy having sex even though it would be impossible to
draw a recognizable Spock that did not bear a strong resemblence to Nimoy.
So -- the fans may form interpretations of the stars (which may be more or
less important to individual fans) but those interpretations would be seen
as distinct from their metatext of the fictional universe of the program,
which is how I use the term in the book. I don't know if this answers your
question or makes any sense but the question you pose is a complicated one.
--Henry Jenkins