Writing Identity and Readership in Transformative Works: Fan Creations on GeoCities

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Introduction: In order to best understand the role of identity and consumption within the “neighborhood” of fan culture and creators on GeoCities, I chose to study 14 separate GeoCities sites: “Deenalynn’s Fanfic Corner,” “Star Wars: Rising Tide,” “Joshua Dyal Fan Fiction Page,” “Bill Scully Fanfic Archive,” “Tiffany Park’s Fanfiction,” “Susanne’s Fanfic,” “eXtremis X-files,” “Sheshat’s Online Library,” “Callista Skywalker’s Fanfiction,” “X-Files Fan Fiction by Ravenscion,” “Phantom’s Fanfic Archive,” “Tropique’s FanFic Place,” “The Improved Videogame Fanfiction World Webring,” and “Joe Anderson’s Fan Fiction.” Though I found most of these sites under different subcommunities under the Area 51 category, other fandom, fanart, and fanfic sites were listed under other categories, such as “Joe Anderson’s Fan Fiction” under Television.

The Fanfic Archive & Organization for Readership
When surveying these 14 pages, one common theme is immediately apparent: many fanfic/fandom sites on GeoCities exist solely to serve as an archive of works. Sites such as Bill Scully Fanfic Archive explicitly self-describe as such, with the owner explaining the purpose of the page as providing readers with a collection of fics specifically about the X-Files character Bill Scully Jr. Other pages explain their purpose using similar language: Tiffany Park’s page is the “sum total of [her] fanfic output for [her] whole life… all together in one location”; Sheshat’s Online Library pays homage to the Egyptian Goddess, the official recordkeeper of the Gods and Divine Librarian, to create a “virtual institution” of fanworks within “these cyber-halls”; X-Files Fan Fiction by Ravenscion is, as expected, “an archive of all [their] X-Files fiction”; Phantom’s Fanfic Archive is “the home of [their] wonderful little Transformers fanfics”; and The Improved Videogame Fanfiction World Webring is “the grand station binding videogame fanfiction authors and pages bloating with that commodity.”

Today, sites such as archiveofourown.org (ao3), self-described as a “noncommercial and nonprofit central hosting place for fanworks using open-source archiving software,” are open-source repositories that allow writers and readers to browse and post works alongside a massive collection of other works that span hundreds of fandoms. On a single site, an ao3 user can easily interact with millions of fics. These GeoCities pages seem to express this same desire to digitize and neatly archive fanworks for online readership, albeit on a smaller scale. In fact, some of the 14 sites resemble modern-day personal writing collections; Claire Jordan, an author and programmer, still posts her fanfiction on http://www.whitehound.co.uk/, and many other fan writers prefer to create blogs that link to all of their works across different fanfiction/fanart/fandom sites.

Both personal archives of fanfiction—that is, pages containing works written only by the owner—and public archives appeal to specific readerships. Sites with a particular media/fandom in their title (Star Wars: Rising Tide, Bill Scully Fanfic Archive, eXtremis X-files, Callista Skywalker’s Fanfiction, X-Files Fan Fiction by RaVenscion, and The Improved Videogame Fanfiction World Webring) obviously cater to fans of that media/fandom. Personal archives that include fics for multiple fandoms utilize different systems of organization.

Some sites have close to no organization, such as Deenalynn’s Fanfic Corner, which simply lists each downloadable story with a brief description:

Bill Scully Fanfic Archive takes a similar approach, adding content/maturity warnings to each summary:

Star Wars: Rising Tide, a site dedicated to housing one singular fanwork, divides itself into clickable chapter links:

Other sites, such as Joshua Dyal Fan Fiction Page, include other forms of fan creations, and further organize the fanfic by media/fandom:

Tiffany Park’s Fanfiction, Callista Skywalker’s Fanfiction, and Joe Anderson’s Fan Fiction do the same with sorting by media:

Tropique’s FanFic Place, on the other hand, is first sorted by maturity rating, then author, then fandom:

Site Aesthetics & Writer’s Identity

Most of these 14 pages are void of any identifying details about the creator’s personal identity, besides Joshua Dyal, Tiffany Park, and Joe Anderson’s inclusion of their full names (though it is unclear whether these are real or pseudonyms). One glaring exception is the author of Star Wars: Rising Tide, who includes the following on her page:

The linked page includes several photos of the writer with the humorous description: “Hi. These are photos of me, not blackmail opportunities. Got it? Thanks for understanding. These are pictures of the marvelous costume my wonderful Grammy made.”

Generally, however, most of these writers choose to go anonymous or by a screen name. Ravenscion explains this choice on their FAQ page:

This sentiment is still very present in the modern-day; most fan creators still identify online with a pseudonym or screen name. However, these GeoCities site creators still manage to create an identity and online personality, whether it be through descriptions of their works or site aesthetics.

For instance, upon clicking around the links on Callista Skywalker’s page, a user will hear the opening theme to Star Wars, The X-Files, and Star Trek—the fandoms that Callista Skywalker predominantly writes in. Many sites will also have a banner, a graphic that encapsulates the site’s name and theme:

Interestingly, banners seem to have been a major point of fandom collaboration; Phantom’s, for example, was a gift from another fan creator, whom Phantom links on their page. The eXtremis X-files site has an advertisement for a “Banner Rotation” community, in which users presumably create and exchange banners with each other.

Besides banners, the design and layout of each site is unique. Many writers include graphics either from or inspired by the media/fandom they write for:

Ravenscion’s site, in particular, designs each subpage to match the color scheme of The X-Files, with a graphic from the show to the side:

Other sites simply choose to go with a personal aesthetic, design, and color scheme:

By looking at these 14 GeoCities sites, we may understand this developing relationship between fanfic writers and the internet; these pages allowed writers to take control of how their own works appeared to others, how their writing identity was formed by (or without) the influence of their real-life identity, and how readers could navigate and access fics written in the fanbase. Similar to the fic writers who posted on Usenet around the same time, these creators were able to form and moderate a community of creatives that celebrated their individual interests and creative writing.

Deenalynn’s Fanfic Corner
Star Wars: Rising Tide
Joshua Dyal Fan Fiction Page
Bill Scully Fanfic Archive
Tiffany Park’s Fanfiction
Susanne’s Fanfic
eXtremis X-files
Sheshat’s Online Library
Callista Skywalker’s Fanfiction
X-Files Fan Fiction by Ravenscion
Phantom’s Fanfic Archive
Tropique’s FanFic Place
The Improved Videogame Fanfiction World Webring
Joe Anderson’s Fan Fiction

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