Fandom is doomed

By Nomad (Brain the size of a planet and here I am… ) Otto

In the not too distant future (by the end of this week), I’ll be headed out to France to work on the experiment which will make up my thesis. This will mean that I have a month of limited to no internet access, which means that I can throw some firebombs around and BigN will have to clean up the mess. I do this because in addition to studying science, I’m also making a career of evil (as per the Blue Oyster [I wish I knew how to do the umlat in HTML] Cult, though mad science might be a better description); learning to rain on the parade is a vital skill, vital to spotting errors in plans etc. Therefore, let the flaming begin!


Bombs Away!

So, the past two years have marked a shift in my thinking about Fanfiction/Doujin culture, and, by consequence, about the ability of fan-culture to survive. As you may have heard from some of my previous articles, Anglophone anime fan culture is in the process of changing. No-longer do the previous models of viewership-based interaction work, and, so,  something needs to replace the hollow center that’s developing. When I was in charge of the anime Illuminati, I thought that the way out was to switch over to a doujin-y culture, based on manufacturing our own content. Fundamentally, I felt that moving from a culture of passive consumption to active creation was a good step, especially since it fits in with my theory of active vs. consumer cultures. To this end, I not only wrote for the newsletter (newsletta, for you hep cats who still remember my valient cry, “go write something, you lazy sacks of shit”), but I also tried to get a series of Doujin and translation projects started, all of which ended in failure (which is a rather strong strike against the whole idea of “self-created content” as a model for fan interactions).

In fact, the only creative work I’ve seen come out of my old haunt in recent days are a series of pretty miserable fan-fics and a re-dubbing of Utawarerumono done to mock the fact that we couldn’t continue showing it. In the pre-dying mode, however, the club was able to churn out of series of actually fairly ambitious projects, including a hilarious stop-motion animation and an AMV of such horror that it was actually banned from being shown at some con (oh, psysaiz, you’re so crizzazzy). Normally, failure wouldn’t  bother me very much, since it’s more or less a constant function of existence, but I get the feeling that I’m going about things the wrong way, failing in the prime requirement of “do[ing] things that work.”

If this hunch is correct, rather than trying to migrate from a consumption interaction model to a creative interaction model is an organic process which cannot be forced, cajoled, or otherwise manipulated. If this is the case, then we are fore-doomed, utterly without hope for a strong presence in the future. The reason for this is pretty simple, the death of the old center came too soon, as the new center has shown itself to be incapable of existing without source material to draw on, i.e. the culture is cable of responding to stimuli, but is unable to yet form its own thoughts, and, therefore, cannot maintain the momentum required for continued survival.  Q.E.D. sooner or later, we will end up like American Musical theatre, a masturbatory, self-referential wasteland which has almost zero relevance to the course of art (Zing, as they say).

I believe that I’m wrong, but I’m not sure where the counterargument can best be directed. Anyway, later, as I’ve got a fat stack of papers to grade before I leave. Comments, as always, are free.

Oh man, if I could grow something other than a sweetstache, I'd grow Kabapu's
Oh man, if I could grow something other than a sweetstache, I’d grow Kabapu’s

-Nomad Otto

4 Responses to “Fandom is doomed”

  1. 1 Niles February 1, 2009 at 12:38 am

    I don’t think that an effective counterargument can be mounted, although I would call the fanbase lethargic rather than “doomed”. Perhaps the creative energy is going somewhere else like blogs and Youtube skits and into areas that aren’t easily identified or related to anime.

    I’ve seen complaints like this before- there are a number of possible explanations (lack of tradition, too many distractions, stunted development caused by overstroking of egos by peer groups, and resistance to collaboration and criticism.)

    What interests me is not the low volume of skilled works from the American fanbase, it’s the high volume in Japan- I still haven’t come up with an explanation that satisfies myself.

  2. 2 Mike February 3, 2009 at 5:10 am

    Heh, I’ve actually been thinking about this same topic for a while now. After going back to the “old haunt” a few times and still lurking on their forums, it’s a curious and still interesting subject, though as you might expect, I don’t really have much insight to add to yours. Still, I’ll continue pondering about what will happen to the place (and other places) in the relatively near future. I’ll let you know if I have a revelation. (No way.)

  3. 3 Vendredi February 5, 2009 at 1:10 am

    Have to agree that the fandom seems fairly doomed. I think there’s two big points that contribute to this:

    1. Animation is (even today, with the technology available) a very time-intensive and tedious medium. Self-consumption might be easier given other media – anyone can pen fanfic, or hold a camera, with varying levels of quality. Animation by contrast is hard work that requires a very high level of control and a lot of input before you see anything approaching quality.
    Computer animation on the other hand might be a little easier and more doable, but anyone with proficiency in that is more likely to get a career rather than spend their time on fan-work…

    2. As for the high volume of quality production in Japan vs. low volume in America, I would say the answer is simple – Japan has anime, America doesn’t.
    Okay, so it’s a bit more complex than that. But I think there is a bigger difference in terms of exposure – anime is still not exactly a widespread thing in the U.S.A. It’s not necessarily a mainstream thing in Japan either, but the entire popular art aesthetic in Japan is influenced by it. And I think being surrounded and steeped in that sort of aesthetic has some effect.
    Due to the higher rate of exposure, we then have a higher ratio of obsessive types that can be generated. It’s not the casual anime fan in America or Japan that starts the doujin work, it’s the hardcore one. The average fan provides the market. At this point, America – or the West, in general, is just not saturated enough to have enough of those die-hards.

    Note too, that if we consider the whole spectrum of fan-work, not just from anime, then I think there can be some Western examples of fairly well done fan-work. Distinctly European and American franchises such as Warhammer 40 000 and Battletech draw all sorts of fan-made movies and animations, and some of them approach near professional quality with full costumes, props, lighting, CGI animation and application of post-production techniques.
    As with anime, these franchises are the sort that draw in die-hard fans – and those are the ones who start projects.

  4. 4 moritheil September 12, 2009 at 10:25 pm

    Most processes are difficult to force, cajole, or otherwise manipulate.

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