Book Recommendations: Fan Phenomena: Supernatural
As someone that is known amongst friends as the ‘fandom girl’, I’m often asked about insight into the hows and whys of the fascinating world of fandom. While some of my knowledge comes from practical experience (just being in and around fandom for many, MANY years), most of it is the result of extensive reading. I read a lot about fandom; in fact, I read everything I can find on the subject because fandom is incredibly important to me. Which is why I get so angry that the most visible discussions consistently get it wrong. So when I find something like Fan Phenomena: Supernatural – that not only presents an interesting look at fan practices but also a diverse range of opinions, I tend to get a little over excited.
Editors Lynn Zubernis and Katherine Larsen have already published three books about fandom (including Fangasm: Supernatural Fangirls – also super awesome but more on that later) before Fan Phenomena: Supernatural – which is part of a series from Intellect Press that ”that aims to ‘decode’ cult subjects in terms of their resonance within popular culture”. Zubernis and Larsen’s book, as the title suggests, focuses on the famously vibrant community surrounding the CW’s long running series (TEN SEASONS?!?!?), Supernatural starring Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki.
“Fan Phenomena: Supernatural is the first book of its kind to explore the ongoing fascination and passion for a show that developed a relationship with fans through eight seasons and continues to have an impact on fan culture to the present day. Essays here explore the rich dynamic that has developed between fans and producers, actors, writers, directors, the show creator, and showrunners through online interactions on Twitter and Facebook, face-to-face exchanges at conventions, and representations of fandom within the show’s meta-episodes. Contributors also explore gender and sexuality in the show and in fan art; the visual dynamics, cinematography, and symbolism in the episodes as well as the fan videos they inspire; and the culture of influence, learning, and teaching in the series.”
Right, well that covers what the book is about but here’s why you should read it.
The best way I can describe how much I enjoyed Fan Phenomena: Supernatural is this: when I’m reading a book to review it, I use a highlighter to make note of everything I want to make a particular note of or what I think is quote-worthy. About 85% of my copy of Fan Phenomena: Supernatural has been highlighted. I was so engrossed that I didn’t notice I had highlighted almost the whole book. That’s a good sign because I’m pretty picky with my highlighting.
As with most books that are a collection of works from a bunch of different authors, there were some essays I enjoyed more than others. I particularly enjoyed Jules Wilkinson’s essay on Supernatural and social media because that is an area of particular interest to me. And of course, I was fascinated by what actors Misha Collins (Castiel) and Richard Speight Jr. (The Trickster/Gabriel) had to say because we don’t often get honest insight into the actors’ perceptions of fandom. While Misha Collins is always incredibly eloquent, it was Richard Speight Jr.’s discussion of his role in convention culture that makes it a definite must read for any frequents con visitors.
Obviously this particular book is focus on Supernatural: it’s fandom and some of the more text-focused essays are probably not going to be of much interest to anyone that hasn’t seen the show. But much of the discussion is relevant to fandom beyond the specific Supernatural context so it’s well worth a read if you have any interest in fandom at all. It’s actually a pretty good start point for anyone that it just beginning their foray into fandom, especially because it includes easy to follow references lists for further information.
Truth is; if you really want to understand fandom – whether you are part of the community or not – you can’t just look at it from one point of view. That’s what’s so great about Fan Phenomena: Supernatural, it presents a variety of perspectives from bloggers to academics to actors that have appeared on the show, all of whom are part of the Supernatural fandom in their own way. There is textual analysis along side anecdotal essays and interviews with both creators of the actual show and creators of fan works. This book treats a popular fandom vidder with the same respect as a Supernatural cinematographer and I have to say I learned a hell of a lot from both those interviews.
For all the people asking me for interesting depictions of what this whole fandom thing is all about – this is the book for you. Fan Phenomena: Supernatural is definitely going to the top of my list of recommendations for people that are fascinated by fandom but have no idea where to start looking for information.
Author: Undie Girl
Undie Girl (aka Von) has a BA (Hons) Major in Cultural Studies. The title of her honours thesis was “It’s just gay and porn”: Power, Identity and the Fangirl’s Gaze. She’s currently pursuing a Masters of Media Practice at University of Sydney. Von’s a former contributor The Backlot’s column The Shipping News and a current co-host of The Geekiary’s monthly webcast FEELINGS… with The Geekiary.
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