Who Gets to Write Fandom History?

I was pretty excited to learn of the Fan History wiki. It’s a fantastic idea, since cultural studies scholars have made it their business to document and study fan communities, it seems only natural that fans themselves have a stake in the process of documenting the history particular fandoms, not only for new fans but also just to create a kind of communal historiography that’s independent from the academic community.

And with fandom being so collaborative in nature, wikis are an ideal platform for recording this history. I found out about fanhistory.com on a Gundam Wing Live Journal community, where members of the community were imploring other participants to contribute to the wiki and complete their own page in the GW Fan History Wiki. After checking out the Gundam Wing fan history page in question, I understood why.

The documentation of much of the show’s fandom history begins with 2000, understandable, since that’s when the show first aired on Cartoon Network in the US, but the some of the most intriguing nuggets of the fandom’s history – activity of US fans who had seen the show via fansubs and participated in fandom before the show was legally available in the states, isn’t there. Not to mention huge chunks of fan activity outside of the US, outside of the internet, even outside of LiveJournal is missing as well. No mention of the myriad dojinshi circles in Japan (and the US fans that collected/archived them?) No mention of the early GW e-mail lists? No mention of the Golden Tripe Bad Fanfiction contest.

This is no criticism of the fandom, or those who have contributed to the wiki, I’m not saying that they are being intentionally exclusionary. I understand the most obvious reason for these huge gaps is that many of these early fans have moved on for various reasons, into other fandoms, out of fandom completely. Checking out the site just got me thinking: as with most historiography, fandom history will always lean towards being a reflection of the primary author. If early fans, pre-internet fans don’t contribute to their page in history, they will be forgotten.

I guess one could argue this doesn’t really matter in the long run, it’s just fandom, after all, it’s a hobby. No one’s job or life is on the line. I venture to guess many creators of fanworks pre-internet were not doing it for posterity in the first place, and may be glad to have disappeared into the ether.

But many of us with fannish affinities or a shared cultural practice, even a derivative one, like to know where we came from. It seems a natural practice to want to know the origins some particular fandom tropes and lore. Especially now when more than ever, fan communities have greater access to communication directly to the entertainment industry and have a demonstrated influence on the design, development and promotion of mass media. If certain segments of fan communities are left out of the annals of fandom history, are the feedback and creative labor of certain audiences equally marginalized?

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One thought on “Who Gets to Write Fandom History?

  1. Pingback: Response to Who Gets to Write Fandom History? « The Learned Fangirl

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