Cover Image: Fan Sites

Fan Sites

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Member Reviews

I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher (University Of Iowa Press) and NetGalley, and I am *exceedingly happy* about it, and getting happier the more I think about it.

(By the way, this is an academic book; which does mean that, while I feel it's quite accessible compared to some things I've read, it's written in an academic mode, not in a popularizing mode. I don't consider this a drawback.)

I'm a reclusive person, and not much into holidays in crowded places. My interactions with fandom have mostly been digital, with a couple of exceptions when I was dragged along to anime/manga conventions or to East European Comic Con. As such, despite being in fandom for twenty years, I've mostly been into the fanfiction and fanart sides of it, with a few forays into forums, back in the day.

The social side of fandom is something I'm on the sidelines of; my MA dissertation was on fanfiction and innovations outside the strict rules of traditional publishing, with only the slightest glance at cons and such, to explain who the writers are and what the world they come from is like.

"Fan Sites" is a book about my opposites: people who enjoy traveling, seeing things for themselves, touching them, being a part of something larger through physical interaction. Sometimes, they are <i>polar</i> opposites to me: entirely uninterested in online communities, fanfiction and fan art; people with whom I share a passion, but with whom I might never get the occasion to meet.

Waysdorf approaches the topic of film tourism in two different ways, through interviews with fans and thr-...

No, wait. First. Waysdorf approaches the topic of film tourism <i>respectfully</i>. Back in 2012, as I was working on my dissertation, the books on fan studies I had access to were often <i>othering</i>; when they weren't, they enjoyed broad generalizations. Fans were treated almost like unknown tribes ("Enterprising Women") or their/our motivations were explained with a degree of certainty that I felt was unwarranted. Fandom is huge; fans are (different) people. Every broader trend tends to have a number of reasons behind it. 

Waysdorf is aware of this, though; she speaks of this degree of variation, of differences between individuals. There's nothing here that I feel is cookie-cut out of the way for the sake of making a theory pretty.

She approaches film tourism from a fandom perspective and uses two methods: interviews with fans who visited film-related locations on holiday; and reading the marketing materials for a certain set of locations.

Waysdorf identifies three modes of interacting with locations: the hyperdiegetic mode (which I'd describe as: "It really feels like you're <i>there</i>!"); the production mode ("Oooh, how did they do it?!"); and the historical mode ("This is an interesting place to film in; tell me more about it."). She specifically calls them "modes" because they don't refer to fan typologies, since any one person can go through either/all modes.

The four locations she chose for this are:
1. Game of Thrones' castle in Dubrovnik. 
2. The Prisoner's village of Portmeirion.
3.  Harry Potter's "Wizarding World" theme park in Orlando.
4. Friends' reproduction of sets for FriendsFest and the Friends pop-up.

I've only interacted with three of these - I've watched "Game of Thrones" entirely and was aware of the fandom; I used to be <i>very</i> into the Harry Potter fandom; and I watched some of Friends, but not all. Kudos to Waysdorf for making me interested in "The Prisoner", a TV series I've never even heard of before and which first aired in the late '60s, and in the village it was filmed in, Portmeirion.

I love how varied the four are: a new fandom, with historical sites; an old fandom in a quirky and usual site; a large, well-established fandom with what seems to be an extraordinary theme park; and what was until recently a non-fandom, but one that's starting to emerge in a corporation-guided way. They run the whole spectrum from fan-built and lovingly curated over the years to experiences created by companies; from small to large; from creative to re-enacting.

It's exciting to read the impressions of people visiting sites, their reasons for going, and their thoughts on how the spaces relate to them. In every chapter, I looked forward to their stories and words - however, Waysdorf only interviewed people for the first three. For Friends, she chose to focus on the marketing around the sites, the wording used in articles about them, and the suggested activities, in order to better explore how the fans are encouraged to act, and how to interact with texts. (Spoiler: consuming and re-enacting the series as such is encouraged; transformative re-imaginings are omitted.)

While it's not within the scope of her work, precisely, Waysdorf is quite aware of the developments of fandom recently and points out how things change as fandom becomes mainstream, and as companies become more aware of fans and of wanting their investment (and how that clashes with the subcultural past of fandom). It's exciting to see these changes through a tourism lens, and to have them commented on in an optimistic fashion, while not failing to mention potential downsides. 

This is a book I feel I might refer to often in the coming years, when discussing fandom.
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As I started reading the first chapter, the thought popped into my head, "I feel like I'm reading someone's dissertation."   When I flicked back to the acknowledgments, I realized I wasn't far off the mark.   I had been expecting the focus of the book to be more on the actual fan sites--pictures, stories about the filming, possibly commentary about how the uptick in tourism affected the location, etc.      

This is instead more of a study of a particular aspect of fandom.   As an occasional fangirl myself, it's not that I don't find this a legitimate and fascinating topic, but this particular text is pretty heavy and academic for leisure reading.  It would make a great reference text, but I'm not sure I'd sit down and read it for fun.

Many thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review.
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