Episode 10: Transcript
Transcription by Keffy Kehrli
Charlie Jane: [00:00:00] Welcome to Our Opinions Are Correct, a podcast about the meaning of science fiction. I’m Charlie Jane Anders. I’m a science fiction writer who obsesses about science.
Annalee: [00:00:09] And I’m Annalee Newitz. I’m a science journalist who writes science fiction.
Charlie Jane: [00:00:13] Today, we’re gonna talk about fandom. The good, the bad, maybe the ugly. With Comic Con coming up, it’s a great time to talk about like, how fans make everything better and also the dark side of fandom.
Annalee: [00:00:27] And we also talked to a couple of creators about their relationships with their fans, so we’ll have some of that waiting for you in this episode.
[00:00:35] Intro music plays: Guitar riff over snare with bass line, followed by synth.
Charlie Jane: [00:00:48] You know, there’s been this whole thing basically in the last ten years where fandom has kind of gone mainstream, but at the same time, it’s also kind of gone more niche because the internet creates all these little subcultures and communities that are like kind of insular unto themselves. It’s either they’re fans of something that’s less mainstream than like, Star Wars, or, they’re fans of things in a way that’s more creative, and more kind of like they fixate on one tiny aspect of something, and kind of go—
Annalee: [00:01:16] Yeah, they’re fans of one aspect of Star Wars, for example. Or they’re fans only of video games in the Star Wars universe, or only one type of comic book in the Star Wars universe.
Charlie Jane: [00:01:27] Or, they create their own Stormtrooper armor and do all this incredibly amazing crafting around Star Wars that kind of takes them deeper into it than just kind of being like, yeah, I like Star Wars. You have this thing where fandom has both gone more mainstream and also gotten more niche at the same time, and that results in things, like, fans trying to raise money to remake The Last Jedi, which has been a thing, recently. And, you know, fans kind of going after actors like Kelly Marie Tran and Leslie Jones and just a lot of toxic behavior, but also a lot of really amazing creativity and just—
Annalee: [00:02:00] Yeah, they seem to go hand-in-hand where, I mean, one of the early examples in the Star Wars world was The Phantom Edit where Jar Jar was taken out of a Star Wars film, and that was kind—I feel like that was done in fun, and that was a sort of light-hearted version of what we’re seeing now with fans saying, “We hated Rian Johnson’s film, we don’t want to see a Star Wars film that has women and people of color in it,” essentially. I think what you’re talking about here is that even as fandom has gone mainstream, and for example, when you see a poll of religions in the UK, like Jedi is scoring enough that that’s a significant percentage. Or a significant minority percentage of people in the UK are apparently Jedi religion. So, as that’s happening, you’re also getting people partly through the internet, partly through maker culture, getting to be totally invested in the stories, in a way that they couldn’t before. Like, in the ‘70s or ‘80s. You couldn’t just easily make your own edit of a Star Wars film. You also couldn’t reach other fans that had your niche interest as much. We’re seeing a weird division and at the same time, as you say, there’s all these negative elements where conservative fans, it feels like, are focusing on how they don’t like the fact that their stories have changed over time. And when I say conservative, I mean, literally like. They want it to be the old Star Wars, you know.
Charlie Jane: [00:03:32] We’re not saying politically conservative, we’re just saying they want—
Annalee: [00:03:36] Narratively conservative.
Charlie Jane: [00:03:37] Narratively conservative. And you know, meanwhile, much more than it used to be, fandom has become a huge force in saving TV shows. Kind of creating, you know, campaigns around TV shows. I remember 10 years ago, fans were doing a campaign to save Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, that was ultimately unsuccessful, but now you have shows like The Expanse, and Timeless that are being brought back from cancellation by fans on a fairly regular basis. I actually found a clip of one of the actors from Timeless, Malcolm Barrett talking about how the fans saved the show through like social media.
Malcolm Barrett: [00:04:12] Even when we got cancelled, we were trending. We started trending, and hashtagging and all these sorts of things, so. For me, this is definitely my first experience having a fandom that is one, this involved, and this vocal, and having the effects reach to the pitch it reached is just, for me, definitely unparalleled, and apparently it was for NBC as well, because they brought us back three days later.
Charlie Jane: [00:04:34] And that’s where you see the power of fandom. Like, the thing that he was just talking about, is how fandom can do good and also preserve and expand and nurture the things that the fans love. And that’s like, the thing that I love about fandom. The fact that fans kind of, even when something doesn’t have a lot of mainstream support, the fans can create enough support that it remains alive and vital.
Annalee: [00:04:58] Yeah, and I think that’s been kind of the goal of fandom since like the ‘90s. I think the first campaign to save a TV show was for Forever Night, a Canadian show. It sadly did not work. I actually knew someone who had been involved in the fan campaign to save it. Forever Night was a, as I said, it was a Canadian show about a vampire detective. Like I said, it was in the ‘90s. It feels very contemporary now. And of course he used to be a bad guy, but he’s become a good guy and he’s trying to stop other vampires from being bad vampires. Fans just loved it. It had all the things for fandom. Like it had a very complex world. It had characters who had chemistry with each other but never consummated it, so there was lots of opportunity for shipping and fic. And so, the fans launched this huge campaign. It didn’t work, but it provided a template for later groups to actually, in fact, save their shows.
Charlie Jane: [00:05:55] The original Star Trek actually was brought back for a third season, due to a fan campaign, I guess, in the ‘60s. And there was actually a successful campaign to bring back Jericho in like 2009 or something, where fans sent a million packets of nuts to NBC until they saved the show. So, these things have worked in the past, but it’s become much more common now.
[00:06:16] Anyway, one of the people that we talked to for this episode is Delilah Dawson, who we talked to her at Denver Comic Con. She’s somebody who’s been a fan of things for a long time and then recently got to start writing the official tie-in novels and comics and things for Adventure Time and Star Wars and the X-Files, and you know. We talked to her about what it’s like to from just being a fan of something to actually getting to create it, start putting her own stamp on it.
Delilah: [00:06:42] Really loved getting to put a more—non-misogynistic spin on these things. Like, in my X-Files thing, I had it where like Mulder says something kind of skeezy to Scully as a joke, and she’s like, “Don’t do that anymore. That’s really skeezy.”
Charlie Jane: [00:06:57] Oh my God.
Delilah: [00:06:57] And they let it go. So, you know, I like doing those little touches in there.
Charlie Jane: [00:07:01] That’s awesome. So how has it been going from being a fan of these IPs or franchises, or whatever, to being a creator. In terms of like, your relationship with them afterwards.
Delilah: [00:07:09] Oh, dude. I’m like a God. I love it so much. I [inaudible] created canon, where like, I did this thing, it’s real now. It’s been amazing.
Charlie Jane: [00:07:18] You know, the idea that like, you can become a God inside your own fandom, and create your own canon, and be like, yep, this is the official backstory of Phasma because Delilah Dawson did like a Phasma novel, and like, getting to, you know, expand on some of the parts of the series that are not kind of prominent enough to be featured in the movies. Like, Phasma is kind of a cipher in the films, and Delilah Dawson wrote some novels where Phasma gets a lot more exposure, and I think that that’s part of what’s amazing now is that fans are getting to do that officially as well as through fanfiction.
Annalee: [00:07:53] And of course, if you were a good fan, you would just take the novel Phasma and write your own fic about it, so, it’s an endlessly repeating cycle. And I do think it’s true that unlike say, fandom of an earlier era, fandom today really does mean being a creator, and contributing to the stories that you love. And, you know, thinking about The Expanse, which you mentioned earlier, and of course, I was one of the people who was weeping when it was cancelled, and excited when it got picked up again by a different network. I think part of what is so important about preserving narratives is that these are stories that let us talk about our own personal concerns, but at a remove. So I think, for me, fandom has always been a place where I could play around with stories and talk about issues that, for example, The Expanse raises, without having to have a giant political conversation with someone. So, I can talk about say, the OPA, who are the Belter radicals who are challengning the corporate control of the asteroid belt, and it’s nice to just have a narrative out there where that kind of story is being told, and where we’re actually thinking about what it means to challenge corporate control. Like I said, without having to have a giant conversation about actual politics, we can just sort of say, here's a story that represents how I feel about civilization generally. Not naming any particular names, but just talking about having stories like that that offer us hope and offer us a way of thinking through our everyday issues. And I think that’s why fandom is so creative now, is that people are really seeing it as something that activates their own issues and their own identity and their own concerns.
Charlie Jane: [00:09:38] Absolutely. And the other thing is that in the real world, I think people are feeling increasingly disenfranchised, and increasingly not heard.
Annalee: [00:09:48] We’re literally disenfranchised.
Charlie Jane: [00:09:49] Yeah, in the political sphere, it’s like—especially if you live in a state like Texas or California, where basically it’s a huge state and you don’t have that much voice in a lot of the national politics because you’re diluted by the huge size of your state. People feel very disenfranchised right now, and meanwhile fandom has had this trend towards democratization and fans being more equal with creators and fans being more actively involved in shaping the futures of their shows and movies and comics through the dialogue that they have on the internet and through the things that they create. And like, they’ll create fanart that inspires the creators to do something else, and you know, the character of Phasma, Delilah Dawson really kind of gives her a new backstory. Still makes her evil, but turns her into this really powerful kind of badass character who she really doesn’t get to be in the movies. Like, my favorite Phasma moment is one where she gets pwned, and we have a clip of that between her and Finn.
Star Wars Clip: [00:10:48] [Low bass soundtrack with distant thuds.]
Phasma: You were always scum.
Finn: Rebel scum.
[Laser sounds and explosions.]
Charlie Jane: [00:10:58] And you know.
Annalee: [00:10:59] I love that movement. Phasma—
Charlie Jane: [00:11:00] I love that moment. It’s such a great moment.
Annalee: [00:11:00] I mean that’s the thing that’s so great about fandom is that I have some personal feelings about Phasma because she’s just awesome even though she’s evil, and I get to have a whole book about that, and that gives me this rich backstory for that tiny moment where Phasma is just like RARR and then like, Finn is like RARR, and then, anyway, whatever.
[00:11:18] So, it’s funny because we talked a little bit about how there are sort of politics in the world that might be motivating people’s like, intense personal investment in fandom. But, the other thing is that there’s politics within fandom, and you know, the whole idea of fans driving an actor off the internet for playing a character they don’t like in a Star Wars film, that’s one example. But also, pop culture itself, is now aware of that. And so, we’re getting stories about fandom. You know, stories like Galaxy Quest, for example. Supernatural, which of course has its own insane, rich fandom.
Charlie Jane: [00:12:00] I love Supernatural fans.
Annalee: [00:12:01] I do, too. And I love Supernatural, and Supernatural has played with the idea of fandom in a number of episodes, but there’s one famous episode where the Winchester brothers go to a—basically a Supernatural fan convention and meet some of their fans, and it’s kind of delightful, but it’s also kind of disturbing to them, to actually have to confront people who are writing romantic fic about things happening in the Supernatural universe, and they meet this incredibly cute couple of two guys who are like, oh we love you. And it was this moment when Supernatural kind of acknowledged that it had a lot of queer fans, and I know queer fans were super excited about that. So, I wonder like, what do you think about that, that idea that now we’re starting to see politics within fandom, that are not just affecting the trajectory of stories, but actually the fan politics are kind of working their way into science fiction and fantasy itself?
Charlie Jane: [00:12:57] I mean, creators have been highly aware of fandom and fan politics, I think going back to the ‘60s when there was like the first—or the early ‘70s, when there was the first kind of wave of Star Trek zines, and Star Trek fans sort of actively disliked this one producer, Fred Freiberger, but liked Gene Roddenberry, and there was a lot of that kind of stuff. Gene Roddenberry actively encouraged Star Trek fans to kind of swarm around him and to become like an army of activists on behalf of the show. But, especially starting in the ‘90s, when creators like Joe Michael Straczynski, creator of Babylon 5, would spend all his time on the internet on like the GEnie forums, or like Usenet or whatever, talking to his fans, and like answering every single minor question they might have about Babylon 5.
Annalee: [00:13:44] I feel like, didn’t Ron Moore do that, too?
Charlie Jane: [00:13:46] Ron Moore did that for Battlestar Galactica. He was constantly in like these forums and you know, a lot of the Star Trek creators were in like Usenet groups and forums as well. And you know, I think you start to see this awareness on the part of major science fiction and fantasy franchises that they have very, very active fans, who are—For example, there’s a 1980s episode of Doctor Who called “The Greatest Show in the Galaxy” where there’s this one character who is kind of the stand-in for every annoying fan who ever got on the nerves of the show’s creators. And he’s kind of like a parody of the fans. He keeps just like rattling off trivia and spouting off and has lots of annoying opinions, and he’s clearly supposed to be the fans. And then you go to the 2000s, and Doctor Who has that episode where there’s that like group of Doctor Who fans who hang out in a church basement and talk about Doctor Who. And then one of them gets turned into a paving stone who can only have oral sex from now on, and it’s like super weird. And it’s like—
Annalee: [00:14:47] It is super weird, but they also do get to have—it’s a bit Galaxy Quest because they do get to participate in a Doctor Who adventure. But I think, like, the other piece of this, and to come back to the darkness briefly is that, you know, fans take such incredible emotional ownership of these stories. And sometimes literal ownership by creating their own stories that you do get a lot of boundary policing. Patton Oswalt wrote, many years ago in Wired about how it was a bummer that this thing that used to be just for a few nerds is now for everybody. I actually think that he’s probably changed his tune a little bit on that now, but, I think he was expressing something that a lot of people felt. Like, this was my private playground and suddenly everyone can be part of it. And so, we have a clip here from our not-so-favorite show, Big Bang Theory, where Sheldon, who really should be spending all his time doing physics, is actually focused on how he’s gotten this really obscure item from the comic book store.
BB Theory Clip: [00:15:43] A vintage, mint-in-box, 1975 Mego Star Trek transporter, with real transporter action, hot darn!
Where did you get that?
From Stuart, at the comic book store.
You went to the comic book store by yourself?
Charlie Jane: [00:15:58] And like, that clip really illustrates that kind of old school stereotype of nerds and fan culture as being like, very insular and very fetishistic and very kind of boys-club-only and the idea that it’s like, oh, this one object is like super rare and awesome. And like, I collect stuff. I have lots of friends who collect stuff, but still that kind of stereotype of like the fetishistic collector who obsesses about objects, and…
Annalee: [00:16:27] It’s kind of like a hoarder thing. You know, that this is your little pile of gold, and I wanted to pick on the fact that this scene ends with a little moment of sexism because I think that’s—what we see there is that tipping point where a kind of gentle fetishism for something that we love, and something that’s actually kind of trivial and delightful turns into gatekeeping. And turns into saying, like, well that means that only certain kinds of people should have access to this. And it’s true that in the clip, they’re all just kind of like full of wonderment that a woman could go in there. But that really is just the flip side of “What the hell are you doing in the comic book store?” Because, as long as every time a woman walks into the comic book store, everyone acts like it’s a really fucking big deal, that’s what keeps women out of comic book stores. That sense that, oh, everyone’s gonna be looking at me and thinking this is weird, and it’s not funny. And it’s an example of how a very seemingly fantasy-oriented escapist pursuit reflects a lot of issues that we face in the workplace and in politics as women. And I think that’s one of the things that’s really interesting about this cult movie that came out a number of years ago called The Knights of Badassdom, which is about a bunch of LARPers who wind up, of course, summoning an actual supernatural being because they’re reading out of a spell-book. It’s really funny and it’s not particularly sexist, but I think what it points to is this idea that things that we think of as fantasies and things that we do for fun can often have real-life consequences. And in the case of Knights of Badassdom, people are killed by what happens. Of course, it’s in the context of fantasy, but I think that the underlying story that real hurt can come out of fandom debates is completely real, and it’s something that, for example, Kelly Marie Tran had to deal with because so many people ganged up on her on Instagram because they were so pissed off that an Asian-American could be on Star Wars that they made her life so miserable that she basically killed her social media account. Social death.
Charlie Jane: [00:18:43] Yeah, and we talked to Delilah Dawson about that when we were at Denver Comic Con, and here’s a clip of that.
Delilah: [00:18:47] I can’t believe they drove Kelly Marie Tran off the internet and that they’re proud of that and still think that they’re fans, because that—if you… Being a fan, to me, is not about hating something. It’s so weird. It’s like it’s about being in love with the thing. So like, I get to write Rose Tico, and I loved writing her because it’s so rare in Star Wars that you have a character who is not like the scion of a royal line, the chosen one, the magic person, like the handsome scoundrel, but you’re just like, she’s just a girl who is an orphan, who doesn’t think she’s special and is just like, I’m just going to change the oil in your X-Wing and hope for the best. And that that’s like—she’ll die for the Resistance just as well as all these amazing people but it’s so nice to be putting people into Star Wars that should have been there from the start, and maybe weren’t.
Annalee: [00:19:32] Do you think that the anti-Rose stuff is kind of like the last gasp of like an old fandom, or do you think that’s a new thing of people kind of coming out and being like, my identity is that I hate things.
Delilah: [00:19:43] I’ve had a problem with being Fake Geek Girl’d just for years to where like, I’ll be at DragonCon with the Guest badge wearing a Princess Leia shirt, and be in an elevator and a guy’s like, I bet you don’t even know who that is. And you’re just like, yeah, no, I just like do you know how hard it is to get a hotel at DragonCon? Do you think I did this by accident?
Annalee: [00:19:59] I love the fact that Delilah Dawson who is writing best-selling Star Wars novels is still being asked to prove her bona fides at a convention. You know, this is someone who’s a creator and people are like, “You probably don’t even know anything.” And it’s like I’m—she’s literally probably writing the books that these people think of as being canon, and she’s still having her position in that community undermined.
Charlie Jane: [00:20:25] Yeah, and the whole fake geek girl thing was incredibly—I mean, it still is—incredibly shitty and toxic and horrible. And the idea that like all the same energy that can go into saving a TV show, creating amazing fanart, spreading love of something that we love. Like Delilah said, this should be about the things that we love, not about tearing things down. All that energy can also go into boundary policing, and like, the same impulse that causes people to make like their own kind of lo-fi silly remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark also leads to them being like, “Let’s remake The Last Jedi,” and take out all the stuff we didn’t like. It’s just… you know.
Annalee: [00:21:03] Cleanse it of the SJW taint.
Charlie Jane: [00:21:05] Yeah, or whatever. It just. It’s super—
Annalee: [00:21:08] They’re making it out of hate rather than out of love.
Charlie Jane: [00:21:11] Yeah, that’s exactly right. And they’re not like, “I loved The Last Jedi” but what I want to do is just like, tweak it or I just want to focus on this one aspect I loved.
Annalee: [00:21:19] Or make my own fun version.
Charlie Jane: [00:21:22] It’s just that they’re, yeah. They’re reacting out of hate.
Annalee: [00:21:24] They want to create a purged version, basically.
Charlie Jane: [00:21:27] They want to have The Purge, that’s right.
Annalee: [00:21:29] The Purge: Star Wars.
[00:21:31] One of the other people we talked to when we were at Denver Comic Con was Naomi Novik, who is the writer of the incredibly famous Temeraire series, which is an alternate history about fighting the Napoleonic War with dragons, which automatically makes it awesome because everything is better with dragons. But, she’s also known for creating Archive of Our Own, which is a huge digital community devoted to fans writing fic about all of their favorite stories. Like, anything goes. Any story. Anything you want, including high art, literature. The silliest of science fiction and fantasy, and we talked to her for a long time about what it’s been like to go from being a fan to being a pro. What it’s like to participate in your own fandom or not, and she raised a lot of really good points about why fandom has the ability to become politicized.
Charlie Jane: [00:22:32] And you know, we start out by talking to her about the fact that when you’re writing fanfic, it’s all egalitarian and everyone can criticize everybody else’s stuff. But, suddenly when you’re a pro author, you’re in charge of canon and you have this higher place in the kind of food chain or whatever. And we talked about how that feels to her to go from one to the other.
Naomi: [00:22:53] I like being in—that’s kind of why I hang out in fandom more than I do on my pro side. And I think that you know, the thing is, I think it’s almost impossible. Speaking as somebody who values the egalitarian aspect of fandom, who likes being—you know, one of the reasons that I still want to write fanfic, that I still like being in fanfic communities is precisely the nature, the level of which people can argue with you about whether you did the characters right. When you’re somebody who has power over the “canon” and you know, I’m somebody who like—I’m like canon is my plaything. I will throw out nine tenths of it and keep the one tenth that I want to play with. Even so, you can’t help—you can’t help the hierarchy because there’s an actual thing. Right? There’s an actual, concrete, power where the author, the original author, the authority, has the power to say what’s going to go into the canon. What’s gonna get published in the next book. Right? And in a way, you need that. You need that because you do actually need the one thing that everybody in the fandom can have in common. But what I do think it means is that authors should stay out of their own fandoms. You know, so I don’t go—I don’t go hang out in Temeraire fandom and like go to people and say like, ah, you’re writing Temeraire’s voice wrong. I’m not—I don’t belong there. I belong—I can write Game of Thrones fanfiction, and somebody else, who’s not George—George R.R. Martin tries to tell I’m writing a character’s voice wrong, I’m like go away. I don’t care about your opinion. But I’d be willing to argue with another fan who’s like, “You know, you’re getting the character’s voice wrong.” And in fact, I do. It’s like, that accent is wrong. And that’s the beauty of fandom, right?
[00:24:43] I think the two things are I value the egalitarian quality. I like the peer nature of it. I think that contributes hugely to why you get really good beta-reading in fandom. Why you get a lot of really great, interesting stories building on each other and like talking to each other. At the same time, I don’t think that you can do it with the original author in the mix. I think that’s really hard.
Annalee: [00:25:09] So, do you think that not going into Temeraire fandom is like a way—a psychological thing? Like, is it a psychological recommendation, or more like an etiquette thing? Like, don’t go into your own fandom, like… Like Ms. Manners, would be like, “Tsk. Don’t go into your own fandom.” Or is it…
Naomi: [00:25:26] That’s a fandom etiquette. Fandom Ms. Manners. I think that, you know. I don’t say don’t go into your own fandom. I would say, don’t tell people not to do things the way they’re doing them. Because that’s—that’s sort of inimical to the point of fandom. But, at the same time, I feel like it’s—for me. It’s really only for me. I do know other authors who love reading their own fanfic and feeling like participants in their own fandom. And there are people who like being in fandoms where they feel like the people—the canon-creators are involved with them. I don’t know that I would say it’s wrong with like a capital W. I feel like it’s wrong for me. I think that there was a thing in like scifi fandom. I feel like I came in at the very tail-end of it, and I remember going to cons where there was this intense, really like carefully enforced boundary between the Pros and the Fans. And like, a lot of the pros were guys, older guys. Really concerned about their status, and really sort of thinking about—and very jealous of guarding their boundaries. And those who weren’t were very anxious about getting into that status. Like, wanting to get published. Like, having short stories published in science fiction magazines with circulations in like the thousands. You know, and I feel like—I saw in there—and I think it had to do with the ways in which the subculture as a whole was being sort of sneered at. Being sort of made fun of that it in a way, people sort of tried to find—people were anxious to have status. And felt like they needed to protect their status in ways that I think are—fandom, I think in fact, actively is hostile to. Like, the media remix fandom online is hostile to in ways that I think are overall healthy, even if sometimes it leads to bad behavior.
Charlie Jane: [00:27:40] One of the things that fans love to do is kind of fix what they see as problems with the original works. Like, if there’s a pairing that didn’t get together who clearly should have. Like on Warehouse 13 where there was this amazing lesbian relationship, and the show just veered away from it. Or, you know, a million other things. Fans love to kind of take the missed opportunity, if you will, and kind of play with that. If a creator becomes aware that fans are doing that with their work, is that—should they take it as criticism, should they take it as—How should they react to that?
Naomi: [00:28:12] I don’t know. For me, I feel like, you just have to… No matter what, right? No matter how critical of you a work is, nobody could write it if they hadn’t read your work, right? You can’t criticize a thing unless it’s hitting you somewhere where you live. And the thing is that, right, as a creator, the things you make, if you hit somebody—if you hit anybody where they live, you’re going to hit somebody in a tender spot, sometimes. That doesn’t…that’s not an argument to not make work that hits people where they live, because a lot of times it hits people in a good place. And that’s what you come to art for. That’s what I come to art for. I don’t come to art to be like, eh, mildly entertained and put it down. Right? That’s the thing, it’s like fandom is all about being over-invested. You can take an individual piece of fanfic, or for that matter, an individual essay, or like a review, somebody could post a one star review of your work on Amazon, and be like, this was absolute trash. You know, and trash it in ways that make you feel really sad, and that’s criticism, sure. But you have to take it in the context of, you’re going out there. And you’re gonna get people coming back to you. And, if you’re going out there, you want people to come back to you. If you don’t, then you shouldn’t go out there. You should, like, I don’t know. Stick your stuff in a drawer.
Annalee: [00:29:35] I wanted to go back to when we were talking about fandom, you were like, “Well, sometimes it can get—kinda go dark places,” and one of the things we’re seeing now, obviously, is that a lot of political and social issues in the real world are kind of getting worked out in fandom, and I’m wondering why you think that is? Like, why is fandom a place where we’re like talking about sort of politics? It could be diversity politics, or actual party politics?
Naomi: [00:29:59] I think there’s good reasons and there’s bad reasons. I think that the good reasons are that fandom—fandom is a place that people’s minds do get opened, because it’s all about looking at things that are given to you and saying, well, how could I make this better. So I think that if you’re in that place, that lends itself, to like, well, how can I make the world better. I think also fandom’s a place of community. Any time you have a group of people who are in a community, are in a community where they really care about something, and they’re binding themselves together with those bonds, you have a group of people who have ways to call upon each other for collective action. And I think that fandom is such a group. So that’s the good side.
[00:30:49] The bad side is that I think that sometimes people feel that fandom is a small enough pond where their voice can be heard. Where they have power to—and actually this is both good and bad. That fandom is a small enough pond that you can get your voice heard, which is good. But it’s also a place in which people feel that they have the power to hurt other people, if they don’t agree with them.
Annalee: [00:31:16] So, that was great to get a chance to talk to Naomi about a lot of that stuff. And I really love her point that she makes at the end, where she says that fandom is the perfect structure for creating direct action. And we started out by talking about fans saving TV shows. And that’s direct action. You know, it’s writing, it’s calling. It’s organizing around hashtags. It’s all of the same tools that we use for political protests, and for political movements. And so, it’s really, in some sense, not surprising at all that real world politics find their way into fandom, because structurally, they’re so similar. But, there’s also a good side to it as Naomi was pointing out, because it also means that fandom can be an incredibly powerfully supportive place, and can help people find a sense of identity. Find a better way forward, and so we’re really—I feel like at ths point, the more powerful fandom becomes, we’re kind of stuck with both sides of that. Like, there’s never going to be a moment when we’re going to be like, “Okay, fandom is all about love again.”
Charlie Jane: [00:32:29] Yeah, and I mean, to me, what I loved about what Naomi said is the fact that fandom is kind of a set of smaller communities where people can actually nurture each other. And that that can actually turn toxic, but you know, I would love to see that kind of energy and that kind of grass roots enthusiasm and democratization kinda come out of fandom and come back into politics and come back into the real world. I think we’ve seen some of the tools of fandom, like memes, deployed in politics by some of these state actors who were trying to destabilize the election, and I would love to see fandom kind of take that back, more than they already are, and use all of the wonderful community support to help people feel empowered in the real world. And that’s kind of my takeaway.
Annalee: [00:33:11] Yeah, even if it’s just, get involved in democracy. Like, hey, if you like to make fanvids, think how awesome it would be to vote.
Charlie Jane: [00:33:19] Exactly. Or make fanvids about your candidate.
Annalee: [00:33:20] And it’s not even—Yeah, about your candidate or just even you know, helping to create a bigger community of voters in your home town, because I think at this point, part of what’s happened with democracy is that people don’t want to participate anymore. Like, people want to participate in Star Wars fandom, but they don’t really want to participate in democracy, because of all the reasons that we talked about. Feeling disenfranchised, and so, if we could just. Yeah, mix it up a little bit, make democracy more like fandom. I don’t know. Is that bad?
Charlie Jane: [00:33:50] Eeh, well. That could be good in a lot of ways. I don’t know.
Annalee: [00:33:53] Yeah, that could be a problem, as well. But, yeah, I think that ultimately, I think that kinda gets at the root of why fandom is so important now, is that people are using it as a proxy for political identity and for social connectedness.
Charlie Jane: [00:34:09] So, thanks so much for listening to Our Opinions Are Correct. Come back in two weeks for another episode. If you like us, please subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Podcasts, Stitcher, and every place else that podcasts are found.
Annalee: [00:34:21] Yeah, and please do write a review on Apple Podcasts, that helps people find the podcast in the first place. You can tweet about it. You can follow us at @OOACpod on Twitter, and you’ll get all of our latest weird thoughts about everything.
Charlie Jane: [00:34:35] Yeah, and thanks to Veronica Simonetti for audio skills, and thanks to Chris Palmer for providing the music.
Annalee: [00:34:42] And thank you for listening.
Charlie Jane: [00:34:43] And thanks again to Delilah Dawson and Naomi Novik for talking to us.
[00:34:47] Outro music plays. Synth over snare followed by a guitar riff.