In the spirit of the season, I decided to look back on 2009 and reflect on what I saw as the Top 10 fannish news stories, events, and kerfluffles of the past year. These are just my picks–what news stories and events did you think were the biggest? I’d be curious to hear other opinions and reflections from different corners of fandom.
10. The 2009 Warnings Debate. Warning debates seem to rise up every year, but the 2009 one was a real doozy. Taking place after a bandom story was posted without warnings, the debate quickly spread through LiveJournal media fandom as everyone took sides on the issue–and a few BNFs found themselves on the “wrong” side of the debate. Still, the debate brought serious discussion of triggers to the forefront, and I have noticed more people being sensitive to the use of–or warning for their lack of use of–warnings on their fic, as well as on general journal postings since then.
9. Dreamwidth Studios launches. After much discussion and anticipation in some circles for months, Dreamwidth Studios finally opened to the public in May of 2009. Initially there was a huge frenzy of support and excitement, with some members of media fandom abandoning (or having already abandoned after getting beta accounts) their LiveJournals for this new service. There was a fair-sized backlash against DW as well, with others content to stay where they were, annoyed by the fracturing of their reading lists and doubtful that fandom would pack up en masse to move to this new service. Time has proven the doubters, perhaps, to be correct. Recently some DW users have been posting about moving back to LJ as the community on DW had not taken off as they had hoped it would, and their corners of fandom are still largely staying where they were on LJ.
8. SurveyFail. Rarely has a metamob so quickly and so effectively shut a person down than when fandom went after “researcher” (and reality-tv “celebrity”) Ogi Ogas. Fandom doesn’t like to be conned or tricked, especially when it comes to media representations of slash fiction fans and writers. SurveyFail was a prime example of this.
7. The Eli Roth saga of doom. Celebrities are increasingly breaking the fourth wall with their fandoms in this internet age, and services like Twitter make that easier than ever to do. But this isn’t always a good thing, as Eli Roth proved when he started interacting with members of the gossip community ohnotheydidnt. Joking about slash fiction featuring his characters and posting pictures of him eating blueberries morphed one night into women (some potentially underage) sending him topless pictures of themselves and engaging in cybersex via MySpace. The incident sent ONTD into a tailspin of wank and lead many to wonder just how far is too far to go when fandom and celebrities mix on-line.
6. Jon and Kate divorce. The reality series Jon and Kate Plus 8 has been a mainstay of sites such as ONTD and the gossip magazines since the series first aired. Spurring lots of fan sites (as well as anti-fan sites), as the couple’s relationship hit the rocks this year, discussion and interest about them exploded on the internet. Here on FanHistory we saw a peak in traffic to our page about the show in August, as this news was breaking.
5. Russet Noon and LadySybilla. Never before in fandom history–and probably never again–had FanHistory, Fandom_wank, and Lee Goldberg found themselves on the same side of the fence: recording the history of (and mocking) a Twilight fan’s attempt to profit off a fan-written novel based in the Twilight universe. This massive kerfluffle exploded as the author, LadySybilla, targeted her critics in kind.
4. The Philadelphia Eagles sign Michael Vick. Despite having a baseball team make it to the World Series two years in a row, Philadelphia is still a football town, first and foremost. And the announcement that Michael Vick would be added to the team’s roster this season was a news story that rocked the city and outraged many fans. It was an especially difficult pill to swallow after the loss of fan favorite player, Brian Dawkins. The debate ran for months–and still continues today, even as the team heads to the playoffs: Should Vick really have been given a second chance? What are fans to do if they love a team, yet have strong moral objections to a player on it? Some sold their tickets for the season in protest; others came around to accepting Vick later in the year. Others still just wait and hope he will be traded away next season so they can go back to rooting for their team without guilt.
3. Star Trek, Rebooted. The release of the new Star Trek film this year managed to revitalize the fandom in a way that surprised and delighted many. Fans of the original series who were initially skeptical by and large embraced the film. The fandom exploded on LiveJournal, producing a huge array of fanworks in a short span of time. However, there was some wank and shipping wars to develop, largely between Kirk/Spock shippers and Spock/Uhura shippers. How this will continue as the new movie franchise moves on will be interesting to see.
2. Michael Jackson‘s death. It was the news story that nearly took down the internet: Michael Jackson, dead at 50. Many websites and social networking services temporarily crashed or were overloaded as people flocked on-line for news and updates. His passing lead many to reconsider the popstar’s life and works, fueling renewed debates over his behavior and legal troubles. It also lead to the formation of numerous new messageboards, communities, and websites devoted to him, and a blossoming interest in Michael Jackson fan-fiction.
1. Race Fail 2009. Unquestionably, RaceFail was THE fandom story (and debate) of the year. Beginning in January over a book by Elizabeth Bear, the situation exploded and raged heavily through science fiction and media fandom for months. Indeed, it would be easy to say that 2009 was basically a Year of Fail, as I speculated back in July in a previous blog post. Increased awareness of race, gender and ability privilege have been promoted again and again as failings have been pointed out, both in commercial media such as books and films and in our own fannish interactions with each other.
So what does that say for the year ahead? How will 2010 go down in the fannish history books? Guess we’ll have to wait until next December to find out.