The Dark Side of Fandom

Last fall the call went out from the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (aka C2E2) for proposed panels for the 2016 convention. I had just been part of a very successful discussion at an academic conference that considered the problems, tensions, fractures that fans have been facing, online and offline, for years. But that was a panel of academics — albeit fan-scholar academics — talking to their own kind. We all agreed that if we wanted to be a part of the solution, then we needed to go talk to an audience that was not just academics, but fans of all kinds.

So I got together a group of friends, all academics of different types and vintages, and we proposed the panel “The Dark Side of Fandom: Shaming, Infighting and Harassment in Fan Spaces” — and wonderfully it was accepted.

But then I worried, would anyone come? We were one of the last scheduled panels for the entire con, and we were a bunch of academics that fans might perceive as being elitist and talking down to them. Would anyone come?

They did — and they were a wonderfully attentive, engaged, and passionate group to whom I wish we could have talked more and shared more stories and ideas for what to do about these fractured fandoms we are all living with.

We did, luckily, have a very skilled audio technician in Joe — the husband of one of the panelists — there to record the entire discussion. And we decided to put out the audio recording as part of The Pop Culture Lens podcast that Christopher Olson and I run. So while we ran out of time to fully discuss the issue with the C2E2 con-goers, hopefully through this podcast episode we can continue the conversation — and that means any and all feedback, comments, questions, rants are welcome here…as long as you are respectful of each other’s perspective.

And big shout out to Katie Vincent Booth for her photo capturing all us panelists hoping to be a part of the solution.

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