I. React: Maintaining a Fan Community
The collection begins its foray into fandom with a section that interrogates what can be thought of as foundational behaviors of fans: viewing, discussing, and questioning the objects of fandom. Melissa Ames’ “The Inter(Active) Soap Opera Viewer: Fantastic Practices and Mediated Communities” leads off this section, rejecting the notion of all soap viewers as passive observers, and highlighting the ways in which the serial nature of the soap opera reinforce its ability to be consumed but also (re)produced. Ames insists that the internet’s own seemingly infinite capacity serves as a most logical medium for fans of soap opera, a genre that is itself seemingly unending.
Michael Trice’s “Going Deep: What Online Sports Culture Teaches Us About the Rhetorical Future of Social Networks” continues this examination of the benefits of the internet medium, delving in to the social nature of sports fandom. His interviews with two staff writers from SI.com and ESPN.com provide some perspective on how the spaces of fandom are constructed in commercial web sites.
The next essay in this section pushes even more on the interrogation of the roles that commercial interests play in how fans interact with each other and the objects of their fandom. In “Spoiling Heroes, Enhancing Our Viewing Pleasure: NBC’s Heroes and the Re-Shaping of the Televisual Landscape,” Marina Hassapopoulou critiques the ways in which the network NBC manipulated web content and shaped (perhaps even inhibited) fan participation by limiting the paths on its Heroes web site to those which encouraged fans to function more as mere consumers instead of the perhaps more desirable role of contributors.
Karen Hellekson’s “History, the Trace, and Fandom Wank” quickly steers the conversation away from the commercial, however, when she investigates how fanwank functions as trace in the fast-moving, often volatile arguments of fandom (for more on fanwank, see FandomWank’s wiki). The indulgence of fanwank serves also as a means of accountability for fans to one another, and once again the internet’s role in the perpetuation of the texts ensures that even the smallest comment may not ever be fully erased from the memory of the fan collective.
In the final essay in this section, “Writing Wonder Women: How Playful Resistance Leads to Sustained Authorial Participation at Sequential Tart,” Kimberly Devries prepares readers for the next section as she previews what can only be described as a move toward more active authorial presence in fan culture. The essay examines the creation of the zine Sequential Tart as a response to marginalization and misunderstanding in the traditionally male-dominated realm of comic book fandom. Devries’ study of the editorial staff and followers of Sequential Tart hints at the possibilities that are available to fans who upend existing power structures to actively reshape and reinvent the fan culture in a given discourse.
In each of these chapters, the authors begin to unfold the complexities of the realm of fan participation. By offering some insight into more traditional notions of fan behavior (however difficult that may be to qualify), the section opens up the possibilities for further interrogation of fan participation and ethos in the sections that follow.
The profiles in the React section echo the overarching themes of the essays previously discussed. Sean Morey traces his participation in a fan campaign to save the television show FarScape in “What the Frell Happened? Rhetorical Strategies of the Farscape Community.” In “The Realtime Forum Fan,” Thomas B. Cavanagh offers a glimpse into the language and culture of live online discussions of sporting events. Georgiana O. Miller surveys her participation in the fan cultures of a broad swath of reality television programs in her pseudo-confessional “‘As Seen on The Colbert Report’: Or, Why I Love Reality TV.” Each of the writers reflects on his or her own participation in their chosen fan culture(s), and it is this reflection that serves to remind the reader that fandom as a concept must also be considered on a very intimate, personal level, with each fan’s ideas and feelings offering us different insight into the functionality of that discourse.