Fandom and Space: An Introduction [Editorial] – Djoymi Baker

Fan practices can forge new narrative spaces within and between the originating texts. In the contemporary era, conglomerate cross-media merchandising may attempt to cover all narrative and media fields. Fandom tests the boundaries of the text in often unsanctioned – even illegal – forms. Beyond the spatial conditions of initial reception, fandom extends textual engagement into new physical and virtual spaces. This issue of Refractory brings together papers that explore fandom in terms of its spatial dynamics, conceived broadly to encompass works addressing issues of internet culture, globalization, travel, private/public sphere, nationality, and commercial spaces.

Different spaces may produce quite different forms and levels of fan interaction, as Michael G. Robinson discovers in the case of the comic book store. Conversely, scholarly distinctions between spaces and media can sometimes obscure continuity between fans, as Helen Merrick explores through 1950s fandom. Dale Hudson finds that images in public spaces can be used to promote divergent ideologies, comparing Pepsi celebrity billboards with Chinese Communist Party posters. Despite reaching many countries, internet culture can nonetheless be the site of national identity, either one’s own, or that of another. Rhiannon Bury and Dale Hudson examine this issue in quite different contexts; Bury through American fans of the Canadian program Due South, and Hudson through vampire subcultures. Finally, Rachel Shave questions the need for physical proximity in her exploration of internet slash culture as a carnival space.

Each of these works suggests the need to consider fandom in its spatial, media, and historical contexts, considering both the distinct and continuous aspects between different forms of fandom. The overt and implied formation of fan communities links each of the works. We need to consider how the different spaces of fandom facilitate different forms of engagement between fans, and between fans and texts. How is identity formation through fandom affected by fan spaces? How do these different spaces impact on ethnographic observation of, and interaction with, fans? Spaces are not neutral, nor should they be seen as completely prescriptive.

In this issue of Refractory we invite you to journey to, from, and within different fan spaces, and to consider on your journey the way that space becomes fan place. Many of the articles are linked to fan sites on the web, so that you can weave your way between fandom and scholarly debates about fandom. Readers may also wish to look through previous and forthcoming editions of Refractory, for fandom papers in other contexts.

Author Biography

Djoymi Baker is currently completing her doctorate – entitled Broadcast Space: TV Culture, Myth and Star Trek – in the Cinema Studies Program at the University of Melbourne. Her dissertation examines representations and theories of myth in cross-media contexts (using the Star Trek franchise as a case study), including a consideration of fan pilgrimage to virtual and physical sites. Djoymi teaches cinema and television studies at the University of Melbourne, and her work has been published in Popular Culture Review and Refractory. She can be contacted on djoymib@unimelb.edu.au