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Archive for June 21st, 2020

This is a story about stories — and the way technology is changing the scope and structure of the stories we tell.  Right now, in untelevised reality, we are in the middle of an epic, multiseason struggle over the territory of the human imagination, over whose stories matter and why.  For me, it started with fandom.
While many millions of people out there felt that they had been written out of the future, not all of them agreed on who to blame.  Some of us blamed the banks, blamed structural inequality.  But some people don’t pay attention to the structure.  For some people, kicking up takes too much energy, and it’s easier to kick down — to blame women and people of color and queer people and immigrants for the fact that they aren’t leading the rich and meaningful lives they were promised.
But there are different kinds of love, aren’t there?  I used to believe that there was something universal about fandom, that our excitement and love for our most cherished myths could bring us all together.  This wasn’t the silliest thing I believed in my early twenties, but I had, at the time, swallowed a lot of saccharine nonsense about what love means and the work it involves.  I had not yet encountered in my adult life or in my fan life the sort of love which is always, and only, about ownership.
All nerds love their fandoms.  For some of us that means we want to share them and cheer them on as they grow and develop and change.  For others, loving their fandom means they want to own it, to shut down the borders and police their favorite stories for any sign of deviance.
Television and online streaming are driving the evolution of a new, powerful hybrid species of mass culture, one that can be collective without being homogeneous.  As arc-based television explodes, becomes more diverse and more daring, the film industry is lagging awkwardly behind.  Films are still hamstrung by their own format:  They have to tell stories of a certain length that will persuade enough people to leave their houses, find a place to park, and buy a ticket on opening weekend, or else be considered a flop.  This means mainstream cinema still needs to appeal to what the industry considers its broadest possible audience.  So it’s superhero blockbusters, endless remakes and reboots, and sequels to sequels that dominate the box office.  Safe bets.
Episodic narrative television, meanwhile, allows for many stories being possible at once.  Intimate and intricate, it may be the novel form of our age — but to reach its true potential, it took the advent of streaming platforms.  Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, HBO.  Streaming technology changed one simple thing about the way we tell collective stories today:  It made any show theoretically accessible to anyone, at any time.  A TV writer is no longer obliged to appeal to a very large number of people at a specific time every week and hold their attention through ad breaks.  Suddenly, TV became a medium that could find its audience wherever they were in the world, so long as they had broadband and someone’s login details.  Nobody has to write “universal” stories anymore, because every show or series can find its audience — and its audience can engage on fan sites, forums, and various social media behemoths, in breathless real time.
    —    Laurie Penny
An excerpt from her article:  “We Can Be Heroes: How the Nerds Are Reinventing Pop Culture
Appearing in:  Wired Magazine
Issue:  September 2019
The article also appears online at:  https://www.wired.com/story/culture-fan-tastic-planet-fanfic/
[The online version of the article may be behind a paywall.  In which case, you can probably find the hard copy at your local library.    —    KMAB]
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On This Day In:
2019 Sounds Like #LyingDonald
2018 Start Building
2017 Woof! Woof!
2016 Cast Out
2015 Small Pieces
Happy Father’s Day!
2014 Uncertain Work
2013 Unpatriotic And Servile
2012 What Price Freedom?
2011 Particular Importance
Three From Bette…

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