The Literary Horizon: Fan Fiction and Fan Communities in the Age of the Internet, In the Peanut Gallery with Mystery Science Theater 3000

I like thoughtful, scholarly discussion on fandom and pop culture, but it’s often hard to get a hold of it in book form. Not because it doesn’t exist—it does—but because they’re put out by small, focused presses, and more obscure academic texts don’t often crop up in public libraries. (You know, to make room for the various duplicates of mysteries! I’m not bitter…) McFarland is one such press, and two of their titles have made their way onto my reading list over the years.

Fan Fiction and Fan Communities in the Age of the Internet edited by Karen Hellekson and Kristina Burke

Fans have been responding to literary works since the days of Homer’s Odyssey and Euripedes’ Medea. More recently, a number of science fiction, fantasy, media, and game works have found devoted fan followings. The advent of the Internet has brought these groups from relatively limited, face-to-face enterprises to easily accessible global communities, within which fan texts proliferate and are widely read and even more widely commented upon. New interactions between readers and writers of fan texts are possible in these new virtual communities.

From Star Trek to Harry Potter, the essays in this volume explore the world of fan fiction–its purposes, how it is created, how the fan experiences it. Grouped by subject matter, essays cover topics such as genre intersection, sexual relationships between characters, character construction through narrative, and the role of the beta reader in online communities. The work also discusses the terminology used by creators of fan artifacts and comments on the effects of technological advancements on fan communities.

via Amazon

Fan fiction as a concept fascinates me—if you’ve read my blog for any period of time, you know that already. It’s the use of it more than anything else; the way fans add to, expand, and correct their favored texts in order to fight injustice and balance the playing field according to their definition of fair.

Of course, because it’s a narrow title from a small press, there are next to no reviews save on Amazon. There, they’re mostly positive; it’s praised for covering ground beyond what fans already know and non-fans need covered. The bad review is pretty amusing—it’s mostly upset at the various authors painting all romance novels as Harlequin-esque and takes a shot at fannish academics.

Fan Fiction and Fan Communities in the Age of the Internet was published on July 5, 2006.

In the Peanut Gallery with Mystery Science Theater 3000 edited by Robert G. Weiner and Shelley E. Barba

The award-winning television series Mystery Science Theater 3000 (1988-1999) has been described as “the smartest, funniest show in America,” and forever changed the way we watch movies. The series featured a human host and a pair of robotic puppets who, while being subjected to some of the worst films ever made, provided ongoing hilarious and insightful commentary in a style popularly known as “riffing.” These essays represent the first full-length scholarly analysis of Mystery Science Theater 3000–MST3K–which blossomed from humble beginnings as a Minnesota public-access television show into a cultural phenomenon on two major cable networks. The book includes interviews with series creator Joel Hodgson and cast members Kevin Murphy and Trace Beaulieu.

via Amazon

Riffing is an interesting practice unto itself—it’s a mix of jokes, references, and expert timing, with a dollop of improv comedy on top. If you’ve never watched Mystery Science Theater 3000 or heard of RiffTrax, you are selling yourself short; it’s some fantastic stuff. An academic view on the program sounds interesting.

Again, because of the nature of the beast, reviews are hard to come by. In fact, there’s only one real review of the book on Amazon; the other simply mentions giving it as a gift with no analysis. But there is an essay about the history of riffing, and I think that’s going to be interesting in and of itself.

In the Peanut Gallery with Mystery Science Theater 3000 was published on March 4, 2011.

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