Aussie Fans: Uniquely Placed in Global Popular Culture

Aussie Fans: Uniquely Placed in Global Popular Culture

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Overview

Australia holds a unique place in the global scheme of fandom. Much of the media consumed by Australian audiences originates from either the United States or the United Kingdom, yet several Australian productions have also attracted international fans in their own right. This first-ever academic study of Australian fandom explores the national popular culture scene through themes of localization and globalization.

The essays within reveal how Australian audiences often seek authentic imports and eagerly embrace different cultures, examining both Hollywood’s influence on Australian fandom and Australian fan reactions to non-Western content. By shining a spotlight on Australian fandom, this book not only provides an important case study for fan studies scholars, it also helps add nuance to a field whose current literature is predominantly U.S. and U.K. focused.

Contributors: Kate Ames, Ahmet Atay, Jessica Carniel, Toija Cinque, Ian Dixon, Leigh Edmonds, Sharon Elkind, Jacqui Ewart, Lincoln Geraghty, Sarah Keith, Emerald L. King, Renee Middlemost

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781609386573
Publisher: University of Iowa Press
Publication date: 10/01/2019
Series: Fandom & Culture Series
Edition description: 1
Pages: 264
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Celia Lam is assistant professor of media and cultural studies at the University of Nottingham Ningbo China.

Jackie Raphael teaches at the University of Western Australia. They have previously coedited other books together, including Becoming Brands: Celebrity, Activism and Politics and Personas and Places: Negotiating Myths, Stereotypes and National Identities.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Fanac in Isolation

Australian Science Fiction Fandom to Easter 1966

Leigh Edmonds

THIS CHAPTER EXPLORES THE DEVELOPMENT of science fiction fandom in Australia from a historical perspective, an approach I use because it is suited to the study of change over a long time. Three ideas give this chapter its theoretical underpinnings. Perhaps most fundamental is Geoffrey Blainey's (1966) seminal work of Australian economic history, The Tyranny of Distance: How Distance Shaped Australia's History, which argues that Australia's geographical remoteness — the result of the long geographic distances among Australia, its colonial forebears in Europe, and the United States — has been central to shaping the country's history and identity. This suggests that the development of science fiction fandom in Australia suffered from the same kind of isolation that the country more generally experienced and that, as with the development of Australian culture more generally and its economy more particularly, the small size of the nation's population (6.67 million in 1939 and 11.65 million in 1966) and the distance between population centers significantly constrained the development of fandom in Australia.

Second is the history of culture in Australia. Perhaps the most accessible such history is John Rickard's Australia: A Cultural History (2017). Australian culture was a Western culture drawn almost exclusively from the British Isles until the middle of the twentieth century, and it therefore expressed itself in the same fashion as in the home country, with the same cultural and class biases. Innovations in American culture began only to intrude on this culture in the 1930s through the importation of cultural artifacts like movies, music, and literature. The literature of modern science fiction came to Australia in the shape of American pulp magazines, which were imported in relatively small quantities and were generally regarded as an inferior form of literature. The early Australian fans of this literature were therefore small in number, isolated from the dominant Australian culture, and distant from science fiction's sources in the United States.

The third theoretical underpinning is an idea from historical geography known variously as space-adjusting technologies or time-space compression. I do not directly deal with these ideas in this chapter because I study a time period during which geographic time-space compression had changed little from the era of the establishment of the white colonies in Australia; the space-adjusting technologies in use had not yet significantly changed. Interesting work could be done on how the rapid advancement in space-adjusting technologies in the period after the 1970s led to significant changes in the nature of Australian fandom as the speed and quality of transport and communication improved, but that is outside the temporal scope of this chapter. One point to consider in relation to this idea is that the first World Science Fiction Convention to be held in Australia was in 1975, only four years after the high-passenger-capacity Boeing 747 entered service on the transpacific route in September 1971. This began reducing airfares to a level that made intercontinental air travel accessible to most people so that fans in the United States could afford to attend a convention in Australia for the first time, and vice versa.

While the field of fan studies has grown significantly in the past decade or so, the academic (and fandom) experiences of most of its practitioners has limited them to studies of recent or current fandom. I am aware of no significant academic studies of science fiction fandom as it existed before the 1980s (although several fan historians have been active). I've therefore written this chapter as an initial exploration of this historical landscape. Readers should be aware that as a practicing historian, I believe that analysis can only follow description. This chapter is therefore more descriptive then analytic, though the shape to the description has been created by the two theoretical constructions mentioned.

This chapter explores a style of fandom that has now largely been superseded by more modern forms of fandom because of the impact of space-adjusting technologies that include the domination of the consumption of science fiction through the medium of movies and television. The first two television science fiction shows to develop a fan following in Australia were Doctor Who (first aired in Australia in January 1965) and Star Trek (first aired in July 1967). The form of fandom discussed here had little in the way of visual representation of science fiction. Instead, the dominant mode of transmission during this period was print based, which limited the fan experience. Fandom was also limited by the technologies of reproduction in this period; the key mode of fannish communication during this period was the fanzine, a form of fan activity ideally suited to transmit ideas across gulfs in time and space.

In this chapter I use some terms in the sense that they were used during the period under review, rather than their modern meanings, because, as is true of all language, literal translations across geography or time are not possible. Such terminology helps encompass the basic parameters of the experience of science fiction fans in Australia in the period up to the mid-1960s. Therefore, for example, the word fanac is used here not as it might be loosely translated these days, as "fan activity" or "fan work," but rather as an expression of the environment in which fans communicated with each other in their fannish mode. Similarly, the term fannish has no direct modern translation as something that is related to fandom and fan activity, but it might better be understood as a description of a lifestyle — as the fans of this period might have put it, FIAWOL (fandom is a way of life). Fairly accurate interpretations or descriptions of the full conceptualization of these terms in their historic context can be found online in Fancyclopedia 3 (http://fancyclopedia.org/).

The American Basis of Australian Fandom

Science fiction fandom began in the United States in the 1920s. There were groupings that resembled fandom before then, but it is customary among fan historians to date the beginnings of science fiction fandom from April 1926, when Hugo Gernsback published the first issue of the first genre science fiction magazine, Amazing Stories (Warner 1969). This new form of fiction was particularly attractive to the demographic of white, middle-class, and educated men, but because of gender-role stereotyping common in Western society during this period, fandom was almost exclusively male (J. Coulson 1994; R. 1994). This was also the case in Australian fandom, where there was heated debate in the early 1950s over whether women should be admitted to the Futurian Society of Sydney (Nelson 2008).

Gernsback introduced a letter column to Amazing Stories in January 1927. Letters published there often included street addresses. Readers thus not only wrote to the magazine but also began contacting each other directly. As a result, a community comprising boys and men with a common interest began to develop away from the sf magazines, and by about 1930, this community began calling itself fandom (Warner 1969). Other similar groups may have congregated around other genres, but it appears that no other self-identifying, self-naming, and self-perpetuating group formed around those genres at that time as it did around science fiction. The reason for this almost certainly lies in the public attitude to the genre at that time. Unlike other genres that were widely accepted, science fiction was commonly considered unrealistic and subversive, so those who read it regularly faced public ridicule and scorn. For this reason, most science fiction readers did not widely advertise that they read it (J. Coulson 1994).

This public castigation led some sf readers to seek the company of others who shared their enthusiasm. This created a community in which participants could openly express their interests, not only in sf but also in other ideas that the genre stimulated (R. Coulson 1994). External disapproval encouraged fans to turn their interests inward. They created new ways of expressing themselves, and new ways of using existing technologies and social systems to do so (J. Coulson 1994). Local groups or clubs began forming in the late 1920s. The first fanzine, The Comet, was published in the United States by Ray Palmer in 1930, and the first convention was held in Leeds, in the United Kingdom, in 1937 (Moskowitz 1994; Hansen 2016).

Fandom evolved quickly because of the energy and enthusiasm of its young participants. They invented words and phrases to explain and explore their fandom, many of which were passing fads while others took on long-lasting meaning. One of the best known is the word fanzine, which was coined by Russell Chauvenet in October 1940 because it was more euphonious than the word fanmag, then in use. Within a decade, the earlier expression had almost entirely disappeared from use ("Fanzine," Fancyclopedia 3).

Two basic modes of fanac evolved in fandom: sercon and fannish. Sercon was the "serious and constructive" discussion of science fiction, and fannish was a more playful and self-reflective kind of fandom that came into being because it was fun. This included the creation such things as the fannish gods Ghu (the ghod of spirit duplicating) and Foo (the ghod of mimeo duplicating). There were also hoaxes and feuds, some serious but many created as a form of fannish fun, such as the Staple War of 1934 ("Numbered Fandoms," Fancyclopedia 3).

American fandom was still evolving when Australian science fiction enthusiasts discovered it in the mid- to late 1930s, and the energy and enthusiasm of American fandom became the driving force behind the creation of fandom in Australia. However, early fans in Australia faced three major challenges: their fandom's small size, the difficulties of maintaining contact with fandom overseas, and learning how to conduct fanac.

Challenges Facing Early Australian Fandom

Population size

Before World War II, there were no more than a dozen to twenty fans active in Australia, all but three or four in Sydney. The Sydney group was small. Attendance at a Futurian Society meeting was never more than a dozen, and usually smaller. Only eleven fans showed up to conference held in Sydney in April 1941 to decide the future of the group ("Sydney Bunfight Great Success" [1941] 2017).

In the postwar period, Australian fandom remained small. The major fanzine of the 1950s, Etherline, rarely had a print run of more than fifty copies. Membership at Australia's first convention was about sixty (Molesworth [1952] 2017), and attendance at the film show on the final evening of the 1956 convention in Melbourne was 112 (Crozier [1956] 2017). The reason for the large attendance at the film show was because attending was the only way of seeing science fiction on screen, apart from attending major theaters when science fiction films were shown. However, if we consider Australian fandom at this time as a gift culture, most of those attendees were what Turk (2014) calls nonproductive fans, whose only participation in fandom was in reading Etherline and attending conventions.

Isolation

Australian fans could only communicate with fans overseas by using existing postal systems; the only other forms of long-range communication then available were telegraph and telephone — both very expensive and not useful for fanac. An Australian fan made a telephone call to the 1949 American convention, but it was so rare as to be remarkable (Warner 1969). The postal system was slow, so mailing something overseas entailed a long wait for a response. It routinely took about three weeks before an item published in Sydney arrived in the United States on a shipping service that sailed every second or third week. Consequently, an Australian fan could not expect a response to anything they sent to the United States in less than six weeks — and usually two or three months. A response from something sent to the United Kingdom took at least another two weeks because of the greater distance.

By the time fandom began in Australia, there was an air mail service three times a week to the United Kingdom, taking seven days and costing five pence for a half-ounce letter — barely sufficient for two or three pages ("First 5d Air Mail" 1938). An air mail service from Australia to the United States commenced in July 1940 every second week, taking six days to reach New York from Sydney and costing 4/ — (over $16 in current-day values) for a half-ounce letter ("New Pacific Air Service" 1940). This reduced communication times between Australia and the United States to a month or less, but because air mail postage was too expensive for posting fanzines, it still took Australian fans two or three months to receive any response to fanzines they sent overseas.

In the immediate postwar period, speedier air mail services were reestablished around the world, with air service once every two weeks from Sydney to the West Coast of the United States starting in 1946. Frequency had increased by the end of the decade. Air mail services to the United Kingdom were also rapidly reestablished after the war (Edmonds 2017b). The cost of sending letters was markedly reduced by the introduction of the lightweight, single-sheet aerogram, which cost only few pence to post. Fans quickly began using them, but they still had to allow at least two weeks to receive any response to any aerogram they sent, and response times for fanzines sent overseas did not change.

Conducting Fanac

The American prozines published columns of letters, and later fanzine reviews and other fan news, but reading about them was not the same thing as learning how to do them. The first formal fan club in Australia was formed following the advice from fans in New York, and it is not certain that this was successful, given the history of the Futurian Society of Sydney. The youth of the participants, their often fractious personalities, and their isolation from other fan clubs were major factors leading to conflict (Molesworth 1994–95).

Publishing fanzines presented similar challenges, not only in finding access to printing technologies but also in learning how to use them. Spacehounds, which might be called Australia's first fanzine, was a single copy of handwritten paper produced by boys at Randwick Intermediate High School in 1938 and passed from reader to reader (Graham [1972] 2017). Because of cost, the first two issues of Australia's first regular fanzine, Ultra, were reproduced using carbon paper. This was in common use in offices and allowed up to about five readable copies to be made on a typewriter using thin paper. Fifteen copies of the carbon-copied issues of Ultra were published, which required it to be retyped three times. Consequently, these issues were relatively small, and the editors soon found more efficient, though more difficult and costly, ways of publishing their fanzine (Graham [1972] 2017).

There were several methods available to print fanzines, including spirit duplicating, letterpress, and lithography, but the publishing process most commonly used by Australian fans became mimeography, a fairly common form of office printing at this time. It looked deceptively simple, involving no more than typing stencils, putting them on a duplicator, and turning the handle. New Australian fans soon learned otherwise. Cutting good stencils involved buying the right stencils and having a suitable typewriter, while hand drawing on them without ruining them was a delicate skill. Other skills included using correcting fluid (known as corflu) and cutting and gluing stencils to give flexibility in duplicating. Printing good copies from these stencils also depended on many variables, including the type of ink used, the temperature of the room, roller pressure, and paper quality. Without having fans on hand to teach these skills to others, many early Australian fanzines looked terrible, but with time and practice, early Sydney fans learned these skills and shared them with other local fans so that with experience, their fanzines generally improved in appearance over time.

Sydney's prewar fans appear to have passed their duplicating experience on to postwar fans, so their fanzines looked quite presentable. In Melbourne, however, there was not a continuation of prewar knowledge, so the new generation of fans there had to learn the skills again, often through painful experience (Harding [1976] 2017). In Melbourne, several fans formed a collective to publish their fanzines and bought a secondhand Roneo 500 duplicator for $300 (current-day value, $5,111); Mervyn Binns in particular became a master at using it (Harding [1976] 2017). Their Roneo remained in use into the 1970s, and most Melbourne fans before then printed their first fanzines on it. By the early 1970s, there were at least four mimeograph duplicators owned and used by fans in Melbourne, and the craft of using them had become well known.

(Continues…)


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Table of Contents

Introduction: Multicultural and Distant Australia Celia Lam and Jackie Raphael,
PART ONE: Australian Fandom and Distance,
1. Fanac in Isolation Australian Science Fiction Fandom to Easter 1966 Leigh Edmonds,
2. Bridging Distance Hemsworth and Hiddleston Bring NYC to QLD Celia Lam and Jackie Raphael,
PART TWO: Transnational Australian Fandom,
3. K-pop Fandom in Australia Sarah Keith,
4. Part of the Party Eurovision Fans in Australia Jessica Carniel,
5. Soap Opera Fandom in Australia Ahmet Atay,
6. "Everybody Needs Good Neighbours" Transcultural Capital, Fan Pilgrimage, and the Official Neighbours Tour Lincoln Geraghty,
PART THREE: Australian Media and Fandom,
7. The Nina Effect Offspring and the Commodification of Fan Affect Renee Middlemost,
8. Underbelly: Squizzy The Producer/Fan Online Interface in Australian Television — Case Study Ian Dixon,
PART FOUR: Online and Off-line Fandom,
9. "We're Not Just Listening to the Radio" Australian Radio Listeners as Fans Kate Ames and Jacqui Ewart,
10. Postdigital Cultures of Downloading and Streaming in Australia Fandom and Game of Thrones Toija Cinque,
11. Australian and American Cosplayers Two Scenes Separated by a Common Practice Sharon Elkind,
12. A Brief History of Cosplay in Australian Popular Culture Conventions Emerald L. King,
Contributors,
Notes,
Bibliography,
Index,

What People are Saying About This

Bertha Chin

“There is little sustained discussion of media fandom in an Australian context, as much work coming out of the region tends to focus on reception studies. The chapters in this collection are a good starting point for a glimpse into how fandom is perceived and performed in Australia and its neighboring regions.”—Bertha Chin, Swinburne University of Technology, Sarawak

Tama Leaver

“In Aussie Fans, Celia Lam and Jackie Raphael have assembled a wide-reaching collection of perspectives on fans and fandom in their many Australian flavors. From Neighbours, Offspring, and other iconic Australian shows with their own dedicated global followings to Australian fans of K-pop, cosplay, and, of course, Game of Thrones, this book shows the diversity, depth, and dedication of Australian fans. This book speaks to fans, scholars, and everyone else interested in enjoying a national perspective on global fan phenomena!”—Tama Leaver, Curtin University

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