January 2012

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Friday, January 13th, 2012 09:22 pm
As I work on writing my dissertation, I've been thinking about how fandom and fan conventions have changed in the relatively short period of time that they've been around. Today, there are hundreds of fan conventions in North America and around the world. It's easy for fans from America and Canada to connect with fans in Japan, South Africa, England, anywhere in the world. We can get manga and anime directly from Japan within an hour of its initial release, communicate with our favorite authors from across continents, and find out the latest news and rumors about our chosen fandoms no matter where we are.

Even in the 20 years that I've been in fandom, there have been significant changes. Though I've always been reading fantasy, playing D&D with friends, and watching sci-fi shows and movies, my first experiences with the larger fandom community occurred when I got into subtitled anime, conveniently around the same time my family got our first computer and with it the internet (October 1996). I still remember helping a friend of mine run a fansub anime distribution in the late 90s, because the only way to get anime in those days were to spend $30-40 on a two episode VHS at a commercial store or mail order tapes from a fansub distributor (usually someone like my friend copying tapes in their home) for about $10 a tape. Quality was sometimes pretty bad, but it was that or nothing. If you're interested in fan sub distributors, Fansub Distributor Database has a collection of links that you can click through, though most of the distribution sites died out around 2001.

But, back to conventions - My first fan convention was Anime North 2002. Back then, it was held in one hotel and was fairly small, with just 3,000 estimated attendees. This year's Anime North will span three hotels and a conventions center and has had to institute an attendance cap at 20,000/per day in order to provide quality content to that many people without overcrowding. So, when I considered that in just ten years it's grown six times the size, it makes me think about how much fandom and conventions have changed since the first early conventions.

And, it seems like I'm not the only one to be looking back. This year marks the 75th anniversary of second of the two conventions that have been called the first science fiction convention. Held on January 3, 1937 in the Leeds' Theosophical Hall, this convention was organized to set up the UK's first national SF organization, the Science Fiction Association. To commemorate this, Rob Hanson, one of the attendees, has written up a description and included photographs of the conference, which you can read/see here. Rob Hanson has also written up a very in-depth history of Britain's science fiction conventions on his site, THEN, as well as an archive of documents.

The other claim to the title of first convention is a meeting on October 22,1936 in which a New York City fan club (NYB-ISA) visited their Philadelphia branch and met at one of the Philadelphia member's houses. Though it consisted of tour of the city and socialization, they did elect a convention chairman and secretary and begin planning the second convention, to be held in 1938. Frederick Pohl has a picture of the meeting on his webpage.

With these anniversaries has come a number of pictures and some videos that give us a look back at early conventions. So, without further ado, here are the links to those images:

Star Trek Convention Footage from 1973

Photos from the 1980 Westercon and the i09 article about them.

A look at Anime Fandom in the 1980s

Footage of a 1985 Cosplay Contest

Footage from WonderCon 1988

World Con Cosplay from the 70s and 80s
Tuesday, June 16th, 2009 11:57 am
Well, hopefully I'll be presenting a paper at the Mid-Atlantic Popular/American Culture Association meeting in Boston in November. It'll also be the beginnings of my dissertation research, laying down the basis for the terms I'll be using and the groups I'll be looking at.

The abstract for the paper:

Caste Among the Outcasts: A Taxonomy of Fandom

Fandom is a collective subculture composed of fans of wide range of media whose shared interests serve as the basis of their communal identity. However, the term can be defined in a number of ways: narrowly to include only fans of a single celebrity, literary work, or television show, such as the Harry Potter fandom; widely to encompass all fans of a genre or hobby, such as Sci-Fi fandom; or broadly as Fandom, to refer to an interconnected social network of smaller fandoms, many of which have overlapping membership. Each fandom has its own jargon, body of common knowledge, and social mores by which it defines membership and excludes non-fans. Within this subculture members continually negotiate their own membership in relation to individual fandoms and Fandom as a whole, leading to a fluidly defined hierarchy of fans and fandoms. But, what makes Trekkies different from Trekkers when both groups identify as fans of the Star Trek franchise? Why is being a video gamer more socially acceptable than being a Live Action Role-Player or LARPer? This paper examines the negotiation of identity within Fandom and attempts to work towards a taxonomy of fans and fandoms.

I'll post the paper and an account of the conference in November and some notes on the research for the paper as I work on it.
Tuesday, June 16th, 2009 07:02 pm
If you've just stumbled upon this journal/community, welcome! My friends may remember when I used the community on LiveJournal while I was studying abroad in Japan. It's been renamed and reinvented to collect my field notes from conventions, reviews of the books I'm reading for my research, papers that I'm working on and notes from those, and general discussion and ideas related to fanthropology, fan culture and the anthropology of popular culture.

At first the content will likely be heavily centered around my dissertation research on conventions and the rise of fan culture, though I envision that the community may include other bits of research depending on what I'm researching at the time. Other topics that may come up include video game studies and theories, digital ethnography, social web media, fan fiction, anthropology and the media, comic books, anime, japanese culture, anthropology of religion, paganism... the list goes on and may open up to other posters and their interest in the (farther away) future.

The community will be mirrored on both LiveJournal and Dreamwidth so feel free to follow either if any of the above sounds interesting to you.