It’s impossible to overstate what an important year 2012 has been to fandom. We’ve seen the previously unheard-of phenomenon of published fanfics climbing up the bestseller lists. We’ve cheered on Community spinoff Inspector Spacetime as it became a real, fan-generated project. And we retracted everything we thought we knew about the fourth wall as Sony commissioned One Direction fanfiction on Wattpad and MTV deliberately catered to slash fans in its marketing for Teen Wolf.
From Fifty Shades of Grey to bronies to Homestuck to One Direction, fandom has been a major revelation to both the mainstream media and the entertainment and publishing industries throughout the year. The fandom blog as_others_see_us, which has been quietly compiling a weekly list of mentions of fanfiction in the mainstream media since 2009, saw those lists explode in 2012; several times it had to leave out listings because each new week brought so many.
The Daily Dot has compiled a series of top 10 fandom-related lists, because just one couldn’t possibly encompass all the milestones fandom experienced over the last 12 months. We hope the series will provide a small glimpse into why this was a watershed year for fandoms off- and online.
To kick things off, we counted down the top 10 people who changed fandom irrevocably in 2012—for better and for worse.
1) Stephenie MeyerWhy is author Stephenie Meyer topping our list? Purely and solely for her monumental decision not to sue E.L. James, author of Twilight fanfic-turned-bestselling phenomenon Fifty Shades of Grey. Had she wished to, Meyer could have sent all precedents for dealing with online fanfiction spiraling backwards 20 years, to the days when authors lived in fear of having their copyright claims stolen by mercenary fans or even being sued by fans for plagiarizing fan stories.
Perhaps Meyer discussed it with her lawyers. Perhaps they came to the conclusion that trying to claim copyright against a work of fanfiction that’s clearly an Alternate Universe scenario was a losing battle. We’ll never know. But one thing is certain: Even an attempt at litigation would have significantly damaged fandom’s ongoing attempts to promote fanfiction as a transformative use of copyrighted material. Instead, her tacit acquiescence to the phenomenon that is Fifty Shades of Grey opened the floodgates on “pulled to publish” fanfiction and has indelibly changed the publishing industry and its relationship to fanfiction.
2) Anita Sarkeesian
When masters student Anita Sarkeesian wrote her thesis on “Strong Women in Science Fiction and Fantasy Television,” she had no idea that one day she would be widely touted—and demonized—as one of those strong women herself. But the creator of Feminist Frequency, a website and YouTube channel devoted to critiquing pop culture, found out from personal experience that her mantra was all too true: The way we portray fictional characters can and does have a huge impact on the world around us.
When Sarkeesian turned her incisive commentary and critical eye toward video games, misogynists and video game fans descended, pelting her with vicious online harassment, defacing her Wikipedia entry, and leaving threatening phone calls. Sarkeesian handled the whole thing calmly, reposting many of the worst insults and documenting the phenomenon as it was happening. Meanwhile, the Kickstarter for her critical series on “Tropes vs Women in Video Games” became internationally famous as fans poured funds into the project, boosting her from her original $6,000 goal to nearly $160,000.
What happened to Sarkeesian was the climax of a tumultuous year for women in the comics and gaming industries, as a long list of incidents accrued wherein women were harassed or shamed for speaking out against the culture of sexism. But after the world watched what happened to Anita Sarkeesian, it was no longer possible for the gaming industry to pretend sexism wasn’t a serious problem. Sarkeesian emboldened countless female fans and creators to speak of their own experiences, exacerbated a willingness within the industry to self-reflect and change, and remained generally badass through the latter half of 2012.
“I hope that by telling my story in the media it will spark wider awareness of this critical issue and ultimately be a small part of moving in the direction of systemic change in the community and in the industry,” she wrote on her website. In the process, she’s not only given voice to silenced female gamers, but given all fans a stellar example for how to critique and challenge the things we love to be better.
3) Larry Stylinson
Inception tried to tell us about the power of a single little idea, but we still were not prepared for Larry. Larry Stylinson is not a person, but he might as well be: In 2012, he inspired literal millions of Twitter trends, Tumblr tags, and heartbreakingly, even self-mutilation in some rare instances—all in his name. What is Larry Stylinson? It’s the belief countless numbers of One Direction fans share that band members Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson are in love.Larry is an idyllic myth that has grown far larger than the two real-life people behind it. The term, a hybridization of Styles' and Tomlinson’s names, well and truly took on its own life in 2012, against all odds, or maybe even because of all the odds. Ultimately, whether Harry and Louis really are in love matters less than the powerhouse of devotion that Directioners have built around Larry. It’s paved the way for a totally new kind of celebrity worship—and a totally new way of doing fandom.
Rest of list without comment:
4. Amandla Stenberg
5. Hank Green
6. Jeff Davies
7. Andrew Hussie
8. Amanda Palmer
9. Azealia Banks
10. Kelly Sue Deconnick
What was your favourite thing in fandom during 2012? What fandoms, if any, do you participate in?