We’re Not Just Teenagers: Tolkien Fandom Participant Age

This week, we wrap up the series on Tolkien fan fiction community demographics. (Although if there is a demographic-related question I did not answer, just ask in the comments!) So where shall we go next? I’d love to know what data my readers and followers would most like to see. Please take a minute to take this brief survey on which topic I should explore next! These are not the only topics left in the works–just those that I’ve thought about doing–and if there’s something you’re dying to know more about, I have provided a space to share your ideas.

Now onto this week’s topic: age in the Tolkien fanfic community!


 

In the popular imagination, fan fiction writers are teenagers penning awkward homages to their fictional crushes. It is hard for the mainstream media to write about fan fiction without using the term teen somewhere in the article. And while there is nothing wrong with young adults writing fan fiction (no matter the sneering, patronizing tone of most of those mainstream articles), in the Tolkien fandom, imagining most fanfic authors as teenagers is far from accurate.

This week, as I continue to present and analyze the data from my Tolkien fan fiction survey, I want to look at the age of participants in our fandom. I asked simply, “What is your age?” and participants could fill in their response. The number of participants to respond was 1039. Thirteen people chose not to respond to the question. One data point had to be dropped because the response was “8.” While not impossible, it is doubtful that an eight-year-old participated in the survey, so I suspect this was a typo and is therefore unusable. Three people, for some reasons, entered valid ages but as negative numbers. I am also assuming these were errors and corrected them to positives. Therefore, the for this question was 1,038.

Never Trust Anyone over 30? (There Goes the Neighborhood …)

As of this writing, I am 34 years old, and most of my fandom friends are older than me. The Tolkien fan fiction community is not universally young (especially compared to fandom in general, as you will see below). Defining “teenager” as anyone between the ages of 13 and 19, inclusive, only 25.6% of readers and writers of Tolkien-based fan fiction are teenagers, making teenagers a minority within the fandom. To offer a point of comparison, 28.5% of Tolkien fan fiction readers and writers are 30 or older, according to my survey. (I’m eagerly awaiting acknowledgement of this from the popular press, but I suspect I will be waiting a long time.)

The graph below shows the age distribution of participants in my survey (n = 1038).

Age Frequency in the Tolkien Fan Fiction Community

The graph shows that participation in the Tolkien fan fiction community spike in the late teens through mid-20s. Participation decreases dramatically into the mid-30s. But then something happens that isn’t true of the fandom community as a whole: Participation more or less plateaus, only showing another slight drop-off once participants reach their early 60s.

The Fan Fiction Community vs. the Tolkien Fan Fiction Community

Using Lulu’s AO3 Census as a point of comparison, the Tolkien fan fiction community is older than the fan fiction community as a whole and shows greater diversity with respect to age. The AO3 Census shows that most respondents fell into a rather narrow age range: late teens into their twenties. More than three-quarters (77.2%) of respondents to her census fell between the ages of 16 and 29. In comparison, only about two-thirds (67.1%) of respondents to my survey fell in the same age range. The table below compares Lulu’s data and mine using her age categories.

Age Frequency Comparison between the Tolkien and AO3 Fan Fiction Communities

What is interesting to me is that the data march almost perfectly lockstep with each other except in a few key areas. In young adulthood, AO3 had greater participation than the Tolkien fan fiction community. However, in the 40-and-older categories, we see much greater participation in the Tolkien fanfic community than on AO3. It is illustrative in and of itself that Lulu lumped everyone over 50 into a single category whereas I would have broken this into three decade-sized grouping for the Tolkien community. This group, after all, contains almost one in ten Tolkien fan fiction participants.

Not surprisingly, averages for the Tolkien fanfic community are larger as well. The mean age is 27.93 years (standard deviation of 12.39 years) compared to a mean age of 25.1 years (standard deviation of 8.2 years) for the AO3 data. The median average (the more statistically accurate for the Tolkien fanfic survey data) was 24 years; for the AO3 data, Lulu gives the range of 22 to 24 years.

Both show that there is a “sweet spot” for fan fiction participation that begins in the late teens and extends through the twenties. This isn’t particularly surprising. This is an age of exploration for many people and a time when young people are breaking free from constant adult supervision to have more freedom online. This is also the age where fewer people have demanding career and family obligations. The Tolkien fan fiction community, however, retains participants into adulthood and far beyond the point where fan fiction writers in general have stopped participating.

Other Factoids Related to Age and Tolkien-Based Fan Fiction

  • Not surprisingly, there is a moderate positive correlation between a participant’s age and the number of years they had been writing (n = 614). The correlation coefficient r between participant age and years writing Tolkien fan fiction is 0.48. For the nonstatistical types out there, this means that older participants are more likely to have more years experience with writing Tolkien fan fiction. However, this is still a moderate correlation, which means that it is not just young people who begin to write fan fiction, and entry into the fan fiction community can occur at any age (even though it is more likely when the participant is young). A future post will look at initiation into the fan fiction community and will explore this further.
  • Age is a major determining factor in whether the participant wrote for fandoms other than Tolkien. I divided the data into three age groupings at the two points where participation experiences a major drop-off: age 25 and under, ages 26 through 36, and age 37 and older. The older participants were far less likely than the younger participants to write for fandoms other than Tolkien. The data below shows the percentage in each age group that answered YES to the question, “Do you write fan fiction for other fandoms?” (n = 634).
    25 and under: 80.2%
    26-36: 77.8%
    37 and older: 66.4%
  • The assumption tends to be that people become more conservative as they grow older. In the Tolkien fan fiction community, it is more complicated than that. As an indicator of conservative beliefs, I looked at responses to the statement, “It is important to keep my stories consistent with Tolkien’s moral beliefs,” within the three age groups described above (n = 632). The oldest group (37 and older) was the most conservative, agreeing or strongly agreeing 28.7% of the time. However, the youngest age group (25 and younger) was slightly more conservative than the middle group (ages 26 through 36): 20.4% of the younger group agreed or strongly agreed with the statement compared to 16.1% of the middle group. Also interesting was that the youngest group chose No Opinion/Not Sure at about twice the rate as the two older groups: 21.3% for the youngest group compared to 10.6% and 11.9% for the middle and oldest groups, respectively.
  • Responses to the statement “Writing fan fiction helps me to correct problems with race, gender, and sexuality that I see in Tolkien’s books” showed that progressive views of fan fiction as a revisionist genre tend to belong to younger fans. Between the two younger groups, the differences in the numbers who agreed or strongly agreed with the statement were relatively small: 70.8% for the 25-and-under group and 66.4% for the 26-to-36 group. However, the younger fans were much more likely to strongly agree with the statement: 40.3% strongly agreed compared to 30.4% for the middle group. The oldest group of fans was much less likely to approach fan fiction with a revisionist purpose in mind, and only 37.7% agreed or strongly agreed with the statement.

Analysis

The diversity in age of the Tolkien fan fiction community compared to fan fiction writers in general is a major difference between the two communities. While Tolkien fan fiction writers are most likely to be in their twenties, just like fanfic writers in general, participants remain involved in Tolkien fan fiction much later in life than do writers and readers of fan fiction in general. While most participation on AO3 had dropped off after participants reached their 40s, Tolkien fanfic readers and writers remained involved, often into their 60s and 70s.

The diversity of ages of participants in the Tolkien fan fiction community is, I believe, inextricably entangled with another aspect of this community that makes it unique compared to fan fiction communities in general: the tendency of Tolkien fan fiction participants to be monofandom. In Lulu’s AO3 Census, only 13% of participants were monofandom (personal correspondence). While I will have a future post focusing on multi- and monofandom tendencies in the Tolkien fanfic community, the numbers shown above show that significantly more Tolkien fan fiction participants are monofandom.

What I suspect is happening in our fandom, therefore, is two-fold. Tolkien fan-writing is almost sixty years old, and many participants in our community pre-date the current popular fandom platforms (like AO3 and Tumblr), and some pre-date Internet fandom, meaning that their experience of fandom was sometimes in place long before current fandom trends emerged. Secondly, many of these fans came to fan fiction because of a love of Tolkien, not because of a general interest in fan fiction or fandom. This creates a sort of isolation where many Tolkien fanfic participants remain completely unaware of trends, discussions, and genres that are popular in the broader fan fiction community. I believe that the interaction of these two factors explains, at least in part, some of the observations I’ve made over the years of how the Tolkien fanfic community differs from the fanfic community in general:

  • Tolkien fan fiction tends to be more critically focused within the legendarium rather than viewing the legendarium as a comment on our world (or our fan fiction as the opportunity to use the legendarium as a means to comment on our world). The relatively late interest in using Tolkien fanfic to discuss social justice issues is an example of this.
  • Likewise, Tolkien fan fiction is more often source-oriented than genre-oriented. I remember once reading a comment on Metafandom about how fan fiction was “all about the porn” and feeling irritated by that statement because it didn’t represent my experience at all. Or hearing of people who will read in a fandom they know nothing about because they like the genre or kinks in the story. While the Tolkien fanfic community has its share of adult-rated stories, they are nowhere near prevalent enough that one could interpret the community as being “all about the porn,” and I doubt many adult-oriented writers would even make that statement. Likewise, the concept of kinks in fan fiction was slow gaining traction in the Tolkien fanfic community (and remains far from universal).
  • The Tolkien fanfic community tends to resist new technology and social media platforms. We can see that even today: Our fandom is still centered largely on Tolkien-specific archives (or archives, like the Open Scrolls Archive and Of Elves and Men, that began as Tolkien-specific) and continues to have a high level of activity on platforms like LiveJournal and even Yahoo! Groups that were hubs of multifandom activity years ago.
  • Tolkien fan fiction and the communities built around it take approaches that are uncommon in other fandoms. For example, a good many Tolkien fans read his work in a religious context and explicitly build their fanworks around a Christian morality. This is possibly a result of religiously oriented criticism that pre-dated the rise of Internet fandom and fan fiction.
  • The Tolkien fan fiction community is heavily invested in resource creation as a way to help newcomers catch up with fans who have been discussing the legendarium for years or even decades. And, as with the first item, those resources are very often inward-looking (e.g., debating the merits of Tolkien’s various theories over the origins of Orcs) versus outward-looking (e.g., discussing how the Orcs represent racist ideas), although the latter certainly exist as well.

The age diversity of the Tolkien fanfic community can create conflict as well. The Tolkien fandom has always experienced tension between veteran fans and newcomers who were often brought in by greater accessibility of the texts (e.g., via the pirated Ace books or the Peter Jackson films). In his book Tolkien’s Triumph: The Strange History of ‘The Lord of the Rings’, John Lennard notes that even early on, Tolkien fan societies were formed as a bastion against new fans who were viewing The Lord of the Rings through a countercultural lens (Part 4). Likewise, the Tolkien fan fiction community has a long history of gatekeeping against genres and interests that tend to mark a writer as a newcomer.

Part of that is simply the fact that Tolkien-based writing is more than sixty years old. This creates a different situation than a recently released movie or television show that generates a sudden burst of fannish energy and where all fans are entering the fandom at more or less than same time. In the Tolkien community, you may have an author who joined a Tolkien society thirty years ago after reading the books in college and an author who only became interested in the fandom a year ago because of the Hobbit film trilogy. One could argue that this has more to do with time in the fandom than age, but since they are moderately correlated, then they really can’t exist independently of each other.

Furthermore, responses to the question about morality and the question about revisionist writing to “correct problems with race, gender, and sexuality” show that there are differences in how various age groups view these issues. This isn’t surprising. Given the breadth of ages in the Tolkien fanfic community, reading and writing Tolkien fanfic is like sitting down to a holiday dinner with one’s extended family and the different experiences and viewpoints that can arise even independent of political and religious affiliation. The concerns of a twenty-two-year-old and a fifty-two-year-old aren’t necessarily the same. Certainly their life experiences aren’t. This can cause, at best, private eyerolling over the cluelessness of the other and, at worst, overt conflict over the “correct” way to write Tolkien fanfic.

This week’s discussion has drawn a lot on my own experiences and perceptions of the Tolkien fan fiction community. However, I am familiar with only part of the fandom and have only been involved for around ten years, so if your experiences differ, please do share in the comments!

 


Creative Commons License
“Tolkien Fan Fiction Survey” by Dawn Walls-Thumma is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

You may use, share, repost, or reprint the statistics and information in this post in any nonprofit project. If you do so, you MUST credit me with my name (Dawn Walls-Thumma in academic/professional contexts or Dawn Felagund in fannish contexts) and link to the Tolkien Fan Fiction Survey category on my blog: http://themidhavens.net/heretic_loremaster/category/tolkien-fan-fiction-survey/

For permissions not covered by this license or any questions, email me at DawnFelagund@gmail.com.

See the Tolkien Fan Fiction Survey masterpost for more information on this project, permissions, et cetera, et cetera.

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35 Responses to “We’re Not Just Teenagers: Tolkien Fandom Participant Age”

  1. Independence1776 says:

    My first thought is that Lulu’s data may very well be flawed due to the main platform used to advertise the AO3 census: Tumblr. In my experience, the site skews young. Of those I follow and know to be older, all but one are people I know from LJ and the last is a published author who just turned 64 (and is, btw, happily reading fic in Sherlock fandom). The rest of the site does seem largely populated by teens and early to mid 20s, as the data suggests. (There have been occasional “everyone older than 30 get off the site/fandom belongs to young people/people need to leave fandom once they become adults” posts.) And due to how Tumblr works, it would be very easy for the survey to have slipped by peoples’ notice, no matter their ages. So given that and if there had been other sites the survey was advertised on– and I don’t know of any, though I also haven’t looked into it– the results could have changed.

    I had a whole thing about my weird monofandom/bifandom thing, but I think I’ll save it for the future post.

    This creates a sort of isolation where many Tolkien fanfic participants remain completely unaware of trends, discussions, and genres that are popular in the broader fan fiction community.

    That’s absolutely true. Tropes that are commonplace on AO3 don’t show up on SWG.

    Furthermore, responses to the question about morality and the question about revisionist writing to “correct problems with race, gender, and sexuality” show that there  are  differences in how various age groups view these issues. […] This can cause, at best, private eyerolling over the cluelessness of the other and, at worst, overt conflict over the “correct” way to write Tolkien fanfic.

    I think this is a large part of why I bounced so hard off Tumblr’s Silmarillion fandom. I’m not a revisionist writer; it’s not why I’m in fandom. (I’m far more of a source-oriented/inward-looking storyteller, to use your terminology.) And the attitude that the only good way to do fandom is through a revisionist/Social Justice lens aggravates me to no end. (The caps are deliberate. There are plenty of good fics and people that deal with social justice themes without having the holier-than-thou attitude.)

    It’s just… I think there’s room for everyone and for all sorts of ways to participate in fandom. No way is better or worse than the others. Sadly, I think it’s an attitude that’s been lost (though it never really had a ton of traction in places).

    I also have to wonder why younger fans don’t use Tolkien-specific archives. But that’s probably an unanswerable question.

    I do really like the holiday dinner party analogy; it made the whole differences-between-platforms stuff click in a way it hadn’t before.

    (And on a random note, I keep having to remind myself that I’m likely in one data set and not another given when I remember taking the survey.)

    • Dawn says:

      I totally agree with you re: Lulu’s data and Tumblr. She brings that up as well in (I think?) her intro post to the census. Using AO3 as a stand-in for Fandom as a Whole is a problem in and of itself, and the Tumblr element makes it even more of a problem for comparison, but it’s also what I’ve got! :)

      My survey was publicized more widely but definitely got the most publicity (as far as I’m aware) on Tumblr. So we do share the bias, to an extent.

      There’s also the Fanfiction.net crowd, who wouldn’t have been captured in Lulu’s data at all (unless they also happen to post to AO3) and who, I suspect, skew very young compared to Fandom as a Whole. I was unable to reach out to them specifically in my survey too, but skimming the data on archives used, it seems I nonetheless ended up with quite a few exclusive ff.net users.

      It’s just… I think there’s room for everyone and for all sorts of ways to participate in fandom. No way is better or worse than the others. Sadly, I think it’s an attitude that’s been lost (though it never really had a ton of traction in places).

      You know that’s my feeling too, and I’ve put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into trying to make the Tolkien fanfic community a civil place, so it makes me sad that it is backsliding in some places.

      I was reading an interview with an artist the other week (I don’t even remember who!), and this person said something along the lines of, “Diversity is representative of the world, so if you’re not trying to foster diversity in your work, then you’re not making art.” I detest those kinds of attitudes (and I personally prefer to write and read work with diverse characters!) I don’t think I get to make those kinds of calls for other people, about what they should like to write or read. Also, claiming that someone’s art “isn’t art” is an incendiary statement, the kind that people don’t hear and that doesn’t persuade. If I was writing exclusively white, straight guys in my fiction, it’s not like I would have read her interview and said, “Oh! Bigshot Artist says I need more diversity to really make art!” I never get what people are trying to accomplish when they say things like that, aside from making people pointlessly angry.

      I also have to wonder why younger fans don’t use Tolkien-specific archives. But that’s probably an unanswerable question.

      I wonder sometimes if it is because they don’t recall a pre-OTW world, where large fandom institutions were inherently unreliable. LiveJournal and Fanfiction.net in particular ran afoul of fandom on more than one occasion with boneheaded policies and decisions. Having joined fandom at that time, I am inherently distrustful of institutions that try to consolidate all fandom activity under one umbrella. I use AO3, but it would be a cold day in hell before I used AO3 exclusively. The “piped tags” kerfuffle illustrates how outsiders to a particular fandom (even if members of Fandom in General themselves!) can make decisions on the basis of criteria that just aren’t important to the fandom they’re governing and also show how much easier it is for a large bureaucracy to ignore feedback from its community than it is to ignore that feedback when the leaders are also members of the community. I feel like many of us had ample experience with sites like LJ and ff.net to know that being able to share our work in spaces that we control is ultimately a benefit to our community (even if there is certainly a place for groups like AO3).

      The fact that older fans are much more likely to be monofandom also makes the convenience of having all one’s multifandom work in one place a non-issue. (None of this has yet been borne out by the data, although all are questions I will look into, so these are just pure hypotheses at this point. :) )

      • Independence1776 says:

        Sad thing is, I see so many people using Lulu’s data to show that fandom is [insert thing here] without acknowledging the biases! (Though I just saw a post on Tumblr this morning that asked for “Class of XX” high school graduation. The reblogs were mostly from the past three years– and the other large chunk was 1999-2003ish!)

        I think ff.net skews both young and conservative, given the amount of profiles I’ve read that say things like being against slash for religious reasons. But that’s also a biased sample given that it’s just the profiles of people who follow me or favorite my fics.

        I detest those kinds of attitudes (and I personally prefer to write and read work with diverse characters!) I don’t think I get to make those kinds of calls for other people, about what they should like to write or read.

        Exactly. And what people focus on in fandom doesn’t mean that’s the entirety of their fictional tastes– reading, watching, or writing. It’s disingenuous to pretend otherwise or ignore it. Yet people do.

        I never get what people are trying to accomplish when they say things like that, aside from making people pointlessly angry.

        [cynic]Because then they can say, “Only bigots get angry. You just don’t want to admit you’re a bigot.”[/cynic] I think it’s also a way to push back at those who think that fiction that contains XYZ aren’t worth reading (like the Hugo awards mess, though in reverse politically of that situation). I also think some or many of those people don’t realize that angry people generally won’t listen.

        I wonder sometimes if it is because they don’t recall a pre-OTW world, where large fandom institutions were inherently unreliable.

        That could quite possibly be it. I remember when ff.net had a purge of a few hundred M-rated fics (that were actually Explicit-rated) that AO3 had a waiting time of months for an invite; I think that was back in 2012. That was probably the tipping point for AO3’s popularity. And that point, I’m not sure that people outside of the Tolkien and Harry Potter fandoms realized that single-fandom archives were still around.

        Honestly, I’m waiting for Tumblr to finally make a huge change that drives fandom away. Not just changes that inconvenience people, but an actual hurts-fandom thing. It’s only a matter of time (especially because of how shaky Yahoo’s financials are). I’m fairly sure that most people aren’t prepared for that possibility beyond a vague “fandom will end up somewhere.”

        The fact that older fans are much more likely to be monofandom also makes the convenience of having all one’s multifandom work in one place a non-issue.

        Huh. I wonder if the data will bear that out. (It irks me to not have a single smaller archive for all my fiction; The Last Ship archive shut down right when I was considering using it. Because I can’t post my LotR-centric fic on SWG and I can’t put all of my Silmfic on MPTT and my non-Tolkien fic is still stuck on AO3 where its only backup is my Dreamwidth. There isn’t a solution for me apart from ff.net, which I refuse to start using again.)

        • Dawn says:

          Sad thing is, I see so many people using Lulu’s data to show that fandom is [insert thing here] without acknowledging the biases!

          Many (most?) people don’t really understand how to interpret data. (And Lulu acknowledges the shortcomings of her data, so it’s not like anyone has to even reason this out for themselves, but many/most people have a problem with reading on the Internet too.) Statistics seem to exist as Infallible Truth in many people’s minds when a whole host of factors can influence why that data looks the way that it does. If my recruitment post hadn’t been picked up by a few influential tumblrs, then the data would probably look very different than it does. Likewise if I’d been able to reach exclusive users or ff.net, belonged to the SoA mailing list, etc.

          (This is part of why I’m passionate about teaching information and media literacy …)

          Like I told Oshun, my hope is that other researchers will look into similar questions as mine using different methods and either confirm or confound my findings. Until then, this is only a very small part of the whole picture.

          I think ff.net skews both young and conservative, given the amount of profiles I’ve read that say things like being against slash for religious reasons.

          That is my experience as well.

          Honestly, I’m waiting for Tumblr to finally make a huge change that drives fandom away.

          I think it’s very likely. Yahoo! being the company at the helm isn’t comforting either, not only because of their financial struggles but also because they destroyed Yahoo! Groups when they decided to force-feed the Neo format despite widespread protests from users (asking at least for the option to switch between formats) because the change literally broke some groups. That does not bode well imo …

          It’s not helped by the fact that Tumblr is not replicable. LJ, at least, had open-source code, so they’d piss off fandom and fandom would flock to an LJ clone. There are no Tumblr clones, to the best of my knowledge anyway.

          Huh. I wonder if the data will bear that out.

          I haven’t run the numbers on the final data set. But when I ran some preliminary numbers for my presentation at Mythmoot III, I found that users of Tolkien-specific archives tended to be older, had been writing longer, and were more likely to be monofandom than users who did not user Tolkien-specific archives. This was even more the case when they posted only to Tolkien-specific archives (except that they were just about as likely to be monofandom as people who posted to Tolkien-specific archives and other sites).

          It will be interesting to see if the final data set shows the same thing.

          It irks me to not have a single smaller archive for all my fiction; The Last Ship archive shut down right when I was considering using it.

          I have considered sometimes opening a section of the SWG for veteran members to post non-Silmfic for just this reason … (I’ve never reached the point of even bringing it up to the other mods because it would mean some pretty big adjustments on the archive, and I have a lot of other things I need to do first.)

          • Independence1776 says:

            What really gets me is that, according to her data while Lulu’s survey reached only 10,000 people while AO3’s was about 210,000 accounts– and she calls 5% a significant portion. And that’s just not a number I can agree with as being that.

            But you are right that most people just don’t know how to interpret data or see the biases inherent in whatever statistic they’re looking at.

            Ooh, I forgot about how Yahoo ruined the Groups.

            There are no Tumblr clones, to the best of my knowledge anyway.

            There have been attempts, actually. I see posts cross my dash once and then vanish into the ether because they either never get off the ground or they never reach critical mass. And it’s only been three or so posts total in the handful of years I’ve been on Tumblr.

            Definitely interested in those final results!

            I have considered sometimes opening a section of the SWG for veteran members to post non-Silmfic for just this reason

            The part of me who wants all my fics in one place is happy to hear that. But the other, larger part of me wants SWG to remain a Silmfic-only archive. That’s one of the draws of the site, in my opinion: a built-in, dedicated archive for a niche part of the larger Tolkien fandom. I’m afraid opening it up would dilute that focus.

          • Dawn says:

            I’m less concerned about the sample size–I’d be pretty happy myself with 5% for a self-selected survey–than whether it is representative. If it is representative, then the sample size doesn’t matter given the number of respondents she had. She acknowledges the shortcoming of the overlap with Tumblr, so she’s done her due diligence as a researcher, but people using the data may not realize the extent to which the data is skewed by Tumblr users being overrepresented and non-users being underrepresented.

          • Independence1776 says:

            True. I just tend not to trust small sample sizes because I doubt they’re representative. I don’t know how accurate that belief is.

            I honestly don’t think people realize. I read an article in the news about fanfic this morning and the writer linked to a blog post talking about Lulu’s survey. There was nothing in the article about where the participants came from, though the blog post did.

          • Dawn says:

            I read that article too! And just went back and commented with a link to the actual AO3 Census. I’m not sure why this wasn’t linked in the first place, but this is exactly how information gets lost and watered down, the online equivalent of playing telephone …

    • Kira says:

      I also have to wonder why younger fans don’t use Tolkien-specific archives. But that’s probably an unanswerable question.

      Just going by my own experience as someone who joined the Tolkien fandom not young, but fairly recently, the reason is twofold, though both reasons are closely connected to each other by what can be summed up as “the treshold for entering the fandom/active parts of the fandom is lower”.

      My own first encounter with the Tolkien-only-site parts of fandom was a friend’s comment that I could publish my fanfic on such a platform, quote, “since it is high quality and doesn’t contain slash which they don’t tolerate”. Be this as it may, I have observed a substantial feeling that there is a “higher level” of fannishness that you need to “earn entry into” such venues, partly by being knowledgeable (and of high quality), partly by conforming to certain conservative rules and formal requirements – a bit like joining academia, a competitive dancing group or any formalized system of interest.

      Secondly, the simple technical reason: It is easier to publish a Tolkien fanfic on a site that one is already registered at (be it a general fanfic archive or a site not dedicated to fanfic but being partially used to spread it anyway) than to specifically seek out a new one. It might also feel like since on such site there is a greater theoretical number of people who could see and read the work, there might be more who in reality do so and perhaps even engage (tumblr’s like/reblog and AO3’s kudos come to mind, and of course comments).

      So it perhaps boils down to: “If the place where one already is for other reasons works for publishing one’s works and feels comfortable and one knows that there are people who like that work and think alike enough to have fun, and if the other place is inflicted with gatekeeping mechanisms (no matter how real they are on the place’s side, such mechanisms can be just as strong in outsiders’ heads), why would one move?” (I’m not sure if the experience of the fallibility of multifandom/multipurpose platforms makes much of a difference. Neither LJ’s issues nor AO3’s tag weirdness made me consider monofandom sites, but then that might also be what maybe could be a tacked on reason three to the treshold points: You need to hear of them first, and it feels like the younger parts of fandom can be fairly disconnected form the monofandom parts, though I do not know why.)

      • Dawn says:

        Tolkien fandom is perceived as unfriendly by a larger group of participants than I (as the owner of a Tolkien-specific archive) would like: about 30% agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, “There are sites or archives where I don’t post my stories because I don’t feel welcome there.”

        Ouch.

        I have to admit that as an owner of a Tolkien archive, this is frustrating to me because archives with gatekeeping in place are now a minority of archives. Stories of Arda is anti-slash. Open Scrolls doesn’t allow slash on the grounds of being a het archive, claiming not to object to it. Library of Moria is only slash. Silmarillion Writers’ Guild, Many Paths to Tread, Of Elves and Men, Faerie, Tolkien Fan Fiction, and LotRFanfiction are all open to all genres. (Only SoA requires authors to be approved by the admins before posting.)

        At the same time, I was a baby in the fandom when gatekeeping was more prevalent than it is now, and I know firsthand that the Tolkien fanfic community has some ugly history where these issues are concerned. So I understand where those views come from, I’m just at a loss for how to combat them. And I want those views to change because I want new authors in the Tolkien community to post their work on SWG and MPTT (the two archives where I am a mod). But it’s hard to know how to make people feel that they’d truly be welcome.

        • Kira says:

          The only step towards a “solution” that I can think of is something akin to the DWRP guide for tumblr RPers which attempts to guide people from tumblr into a somewhat more old-school world of the same hobby by trying to explain differences, lingo and culture and point to other sources, and encourages newer fans to make the move. So, for Tolkien, perhaps a guide to which pages have what culture, what which place might be good for and notes on the differences in culture between tumblr/AO3 and the sites in question and so on might be an idea – essentially, low-treshold information aimed at people already involved with fanfic on the new platforms that they can reach before having made the switch. The trickiest part might be to present such a guide in a place where it will be seen and from which it will spread to those who do not already have this information (that was, from what I observed, the main issue with the dwrp guide).

          • Dawn says:

            That’s an interesting idea–I’ll check it out! I agree that getting the word out about a resource is often the hardest part of the process.

        • Brooke says:

          More responses later to the original post and other comments, but this stuck out to me.

          I think the relevant thing may be that those sites lack gatekeeping via rules, but there can still be perceived gatekeeping via the culture of the site, perceived cliques, etc. I’ll admit, there’s times that I shy away from posting on sites because I feel like the level of knowledge required is higher than what I have (and not just Tolkien knowledge, but things like science – or even interest in certain aspects). And I have a higher level of education and a lot more experience faking my way past that kind of thing than a lot of other people I know in fandom, just due to my age and the things I got myself into.

          But that’s going to be a lot harder to get past than just gatekeeping based on rules, because the perceived type is going to be slightly different according to everyone.

          • Dawn says:

            Honestly, that’s hard for me to grasp. (I’m not saying it’s not a legitimate PoV or that people are wrong for feeling that way. It’s just hard for me to grasp.)

            For example, I hear often about the SWG that it is “intimidating” to post there. This seems to boil down to the fact that some very talented writers post there. However, the policies of the site are intentionally designed to welcome as many writers as want to post with us. The story must be Silmfic (and we’re extremely liberal on this and had only a handful of instances across our decade of existence where we’ve had to ask an author to take a story down because of this rule, always because they didn’t read the rules in the first place and mistook us for a general Tolkien or multifandom archive) and must be spellchecked. On the latter, we’ve never dinged anyone. We’ve intentionally crafted our review policies to allow for constructive feedback but to disallow flames and other mean-spirited comments. We’ve never had to address an instance of abuse of our rules on feedback. Our members are friendly, and most reviews are encouraging or point out what is strong about a story.

            Yet I see people flock to post their stories to ff.net or Tumblr–the equivalent of the Wild West where feedback is concerned, where I’ve seen young writers told to kill themselves over a badly written story (ff.net) or excoriated for a canon error (Tumblr)–and call these places friendly and comfortable to newcomers. It’s just hard for me to understand that thinking.

          • Brooke says:

            Hopefully this reply shows up in the right place!

            For me, as one of the sometimes intimidated, it has nothing to do with respective skills in writing. I do wonder if my writing would fit in because there are things that I think are deeply important to a lot of writers on there, which to me are irrelevant because of the perspective I write from. But because it’s not that important to me, I constantly have to second guess terms and stuff I use offhand, because I don’t want to get involved in yet another discussion or whatever about it. I’ve been involved in those types of discussions, and some of the time they’ve involved people I know post on smaller fanfic sites. (If you want them because this comment is probably confusing, I’ll email you actual examples, I’m leaving them out of the comment because I don’t think people are necessarily wrong to care that deeply).

            And that’s not something that’s going to be controlled by review policies or anything. People care about what they care about, and sometimes those things become such an established part of a fandom or site culture that not caring about them gets taken as not caring about fandom history/culture or not fitting in with it. I’m sure that’s not the only reason people avoid smaller sites (they could have also come from another fandom where smaller sites were to be distrusted like they were cursed and contained pieces of the dark lord’s soul, like the HP fandom, or just not want to commit, or a hundred other reasons), but my experience personally and talking to some other writers says that it is sometimes a reason.

            I don’t think FFN or Ao3 or anywhere like that is welcoming to new writers, nor do I entirely trust them. But they’re large enough people don’t feel like they’re trying to break into a friend group or something and people on them don’t feel like they need to read a decade’s worth of older fic and discussions, agree with what was said regarding Elven biology* or dwarf culture or whatever else, and consider it important before being allowed to write.

            *Except for the Hobbit fandom almost everywhere, where we apparently still need to debate genetics for hair colors and whether Tauriel is a Mary-Sue for having Maedhros/twins/Mahtan’s hair color. I’m not sure how anyone writes Tauriel fic without losing their temper, I wrote one story with her and was ready to kick the wall at the debate.

          • Dawn says:

            I don’t think there is a right or a wrong reason to prefer one archive over another. I appreciate how writers might feel more comfortable being on a site where they feel like they can get “lost in the sauce,” so to speak. That isn’t personally comfortable for me–but I am the person who felt that her two-stoplight small town wasn’t small enough and so moved to northern Vermont! :) But I can understand how others might feel differently.

            The idea that one has to reach a certain level of knowledge of canon or fandom history is a perception that I don’t think is a fair one, speaking for SWG and MPTT. Because I’m not sure how this is being expressed? Some of us leave pretty lengthy, deep comments, but this largely occurs between people who are already holding these kinds of discussions with one another off the site. Even then, most of these comments tend to be positive, not to try to change a writer’s view on a particular idea. I don’t read every comment, but I do spot-check comments periodically. I’ve certainly never seen anyone badger a writer about her interpretation at all, much less in a way that might make her seem she doesn’t have adequate knowledge or experience to post on the site. If these comments are occuring on SWG or MPTT then, yes, I want to know about them because this is against the values and rules of both sites.

  2. Himring says:

    I think more than 37% revisionists even in the oldest group is still quite a lot, given how Tolkien fans tend to be perceived by outsiders. (Although possibly revisionists are slightly more likely to take part in surveys, so possibly the silent ones might be less revisionist..)

    • Dawn says:

      It’s possibly also that the survey had a heavy Tumblr element, where social justice topics are a major part of fandom for many people. To the best of my knowledge, the recruitment post on Tumblr was the most shared of all the places I posted it.

      I’m going to do a lot with sites and archives, so I will be looking into this further in the weeks to come. :)

  3. […] We’re Not Just Teenagers: Tolkien Fandom Participant Age […]

  4. Oshun says:

    Older participants tend to be more conservative, but that is a big simplification. The oldest group of participants was most likely to value Tolkien’s moral beliefs when writing their own stories.

    OMG! I am going to start lying about my age! That puts me in the church-lady camp.

    Actually, the numbers lie. The handful of the least conservative/most open people I know in the fandom are older. And some of most right-wing Tolkien fandom participants I only recently encountered (in the last year or two on Tumblr) ranting about one niche area of so-called social justice or another, while being blind to world history and social issues on a more sweeping/universal level. So your numbers tell a story but not the whole story.

    • Dawn says:

      Of course they’re only part of the picture! My experiences are the same as yours (not surprisingly, since we keep company with most of the same people). However, our experience is clearly far from the universal (which I knew, since there are fandom groups largely populated with older, experienced fans that I steer clear of for reasons of differences of opinion on these sorts of matters). You’ve read my “Attainable Vistas” paper where I found clear differences between various archives on some of these questions; not surprisingly, the most liberal archives are where I spend most of my time.

      It’s also impossible to know from a ticky-box survey the extent to which people’s behavior truly reflects their responses, i.e., “I see a ton on my dash about including characters of color and queer characters in my fanfic, so I’m socially influenced to believe this is important so I’m going to check Strongly Agree!” There are limitations to any kind of research, and these numbers should be taken with a large grain of salt. Ideally, I hope my research will inspire other people to look into these questions using other methods so we can get a bigger, better picture … 😉

    • Dawn says:

      I also want to add what I wrote to Spiced Wine on Tumblr (which expands the data out a bit more than I did here) before it gets subsumed forever by the Force That Is Tumblr:

      Among the oldest group (37 and older), 59.5% chose Disagree or Strongly Disagree to the statement, “It is important to keep my stories consistent with Tolkien’s moral beliefs.” That’s still a majority. Only 28.7% chose Agree or Strongly Agree.

      So while there may be more “church ladies” in that group than in the other two, they are still a minority. So you don’t get to be an outlier yet! :) Given some of the conservative tendencies of pre-Internet and early Internet Tolkien fandom, I don’t find it surprising that the oldest group agreed most often with this statement. Much of the youngest group was too young to remember the flame wars over the permissibility of same-sex relationships in Tolkien fanfic, for example. Incidentally, the reason those flame wars don’t still occur is because of people in early fandom–now in the oldest and middle groups–who stood their ground on issues of diversity and representation before these issues were cool and when taking those stances risked being shut out of parts of the fandom.

  5. I’m 25, but I’ve been “in” this fandom off and on since I was 10 and Fellowship came out in theaters. I remember being about 11 years old and fumbling around various fansites (probably not the greatest thing to do at 11 without supervision, but water under the bridge) and encountering this really gross aura of resentment for the people who were just now showing interest in the fandom now that there were movies coming out. So I think I kind of internalized that and I’m still really wary of non-Tumblr, non-AO3 Tolkien fandom spaces (I do have a SWG account for crossposting fic, but I’ve remained pretty shy otherwise). Which makes it harder to both make friends and navigate The Canon, honestly.

    Not that this doesn’t also exist on Tumblr and AO3, but generally I get the feeling that those communities are “my people” and won’t look down on me for enjoying the Hobbit movies, only having read a few portions of HoME, or headcanoning whoever as black/gay/whatever. Or just that these communities have a more “big tent” ideology wrt who gets to be part of the club and that really appeals to me. I’m also less interested in what the fandom was talking about before I was born and more interested about what’s going on now–the Fanlore timeline is great for giving context but trying to get involved in “old fandom” communities is also less appealing when it feels like you have to go through a reading list of Required Meta before you can participate in the way you want to. I’m not less of a fan just because I was born later.

    Anyway, I decided a few years back that because I have been gatekept, that I would never gatekeep. And I told my friends to poke me with a stick if I ever get like that.

    (Also I’ve been vaguely aware of this survey existing but I haven’t participated or commented yet. Maybe this is my sign that I need to Say More Things)

    • Dawn says:

      I hope you feel welcome to Say Things here or on the SWG whenever you want. :)

      encountering this really gross aura of resentment for the people who were just now showing interest in the fandom now that there were movies coming out.

      As one of those vile films-first fans, I know exactly what you mean. :) My theory (which my data has supported so far) is that a lot of the gatekeeping measures put in place by Tolkien archives in the early aughts were an attempt to hold the film fans at bay until they lost interest and went away. (Unfortunately for people who may have attempted to do this, even today, you can tell years when films were released by spikes in fandom entry. I will eventually have a post about this …) It is sad to me that many fans had the opportunity to welcome newcomers and encourage them to read the books and learn more about the legendarium and instead chose to hold them at arm’s length. (I was neck-deep in grad school when the Hobbit films came out, but fandom friends have told me that the same nose-holding toward fans brought in by the films happened then too, which makes me even more sad.)

      Or just that these communities have a more “big tent” ideology wrt who gets to be part of the club and that really appeals to me.

      It’s interesting the difference in perspective. Personally speaking, I view those sites as more intimidating because they are big tents: The people I encounter are less likely to be part of my particular corner of fandom and are less likely to know me and extend me the benefit of the doubt they’d give one of their own. I’ve just seen some horrible viciousness on Tumblr (not so much on AO3, but I am not a heavy user of that site) that makes me very cautious. (Similarly, writers would often say they felt most comfortable on Fanfiction.net, and that is the only site where I ever get flamed! :) ) I guess I’m a small-town girl in real life and fannishly: I like knowing everyone and feeling like I won’t be exiled if I hit a wrong note in a post or a story.

      trying to get involved in “old fandom” communities is also less appealing when it feels like you have to go through a reading list of Required Meta before you can participate in the way you want to.

      I found this interesting because this is something I’ve never encountered, even though it seems we entered the fandom around the same time (even though I’m almost ten years older than you!)

      Anyway, I decided a few years back that because I have been gatekept, that I would never gatekeep.

      That was a huge part of my founding the SWG too. I saw everything that I didn’t like about the Tolkien fandom and promised I’d try to shape the group so we wouldn’t be that way. We wouldn’t require authors to be approved, we would accept all Silmfic, and we would define Silmfic as liberally as we could. I truly believe that the fandom is only improved when more people have the chance to participate, whether they’re published scholars or newcomers who’ve just worked through the book for the first time. Without much left to encourage the entry of new fans, too, I think this is also in our self-interest if we want this fandom to remain alive for another 60 years and onward.

      • Thank you! I’ve been trying to participate more.

        It is sad to me that many fans had the opportunity to welcome newcomers and encourage them to read the books and learn more about the legendarium and instead chose to hold them at arm’s length.

        I NEVER UNDERSTOOD THIS. Suffering over the Feanorians is way more fun with company.

        I guess I’m a small-town girl in real life and fannishly: I like knowing everyone and feeling like I won’t be exiled if I hit a wrong note in a post or a story.

        This is what I really miss about mass fandom participation on LJ, since you could actually have a conversation more easily than you can on Tumblr and it feels more like friends being friends and less like people all trying to vy for the attention of people they want to be friends with. Not to say that people aren’t still participating on LJ, but. The mass exodus happened.

        • Dawn says:

          Suffering over the Feanorians is way more fun with company.

          Lol omg yes SO TRUE!

          you could actually have a conversation more easily than you can on Tumblr and it feels more like friends being friends and less like people all trying to vy for the attention of people they want to be friends with.

          It is very different. I love the ability to reach new people on Tumblr (even if it scares the hell out of me some days!) but I feel like I’m writing to an audience. On LJ, I’m having a conversation with friends who know the names of my husband and dogs and what is going on in my life, and I likewise know what is going on in theirs. While I sometimes still post fannish stuff on my LJ, I’ve mostly shifted away from that because it is hard for me to keep those two different tones in the same space. (If that makes any sense at all!)

      • Dreamflower says:

        Some fascinating data wrt to age in the fandom.

        Secondly, many of these fans came to fan fiction because of a love of Tolkien, not because of a general interest in fan fiction or fandom.

        This was exactly what happened with me. For several years I had no interest at all in writing or reading fic in other fandoms. I gradually began reading other fandoms over time, and have written a tiny handful of one-shot stories in a few other fandoms and crossovers w/ LotR. But my main love is and will always remain Tolkien’s world and his characters.

        I’m in my mid-sixties (64 my next birthday), and have been a fan of Tolkien since 1967. While I did not begin reading or writing fanfic until the last LOTR film came out, I consider all my years of reading and re-reading JRRT’s works to count as a part of my fannishness, even though I was previously unaware of the fandom in general until I began participating in the usenet forums in the late 90s.

        I have grown less conservative with age, not more, and I credit much of my more tolerant views partially on my participation in fandom, and coming into contact with people who showed me that authorial intent is not everything. But I still understand those who hold views I used to share with them although I no longer do. However, my own writing still reflects much of my earlier motivations of playing in JRRT’s sandbox in order to explore it and in some ways honor him. But I find I can still appreciate some of the efforts to explore themes with which he did not deal or which we may suspect he might not approve of, and often read stories I would not be comfortable writing myself.

        The gatekeeping thing in the Tolkien-only archives truly did used to be a lot more prevalent, but I do think that some archives felt like a safer place to new authors because they knew that most of those posting there would share their own interests and possibly their own views as well. Slash-only, het-only or gen-only archives helped some of us find our feet in the shallow end of the pool, and we feel a sense of loyalty to those places even after many years because it’s where we began. In addition, I have noticed that fb was often much heavier in those archives.

        Though I began in monofandom archives, it’s only in the last few years that I have gravitated to multi-fandom archives like Ao3 and ffn. The Tolkien only archives still feel more comfortable to me, probably because I know more of those people.

        The Tolkien fan fiction community is heavily invested in resource creation as a way to help newcomers catch up with fans who have been discussing the legendarium for years or even decades.

        This has always been an important part of fandom to me. When I began posting my earliest stories, I received nothing but help and encouragement from my fellow fan writers. I feel that it’s my duty to pass that help and encouragement forward to other new writers. After all, I love reading good new fanfiction, and if I don’t encourage newcomers, that is going to dry up.

        OTOH, I have to confess that the newer platforms such as Tumblr intimidate me. (Good heavens, I’m still intimidated by Facebook. It’s not nearly as user-friendly as LJ!) I have occasionally gotten totally lost trying to follow a conversation there. One of these days, I might try to figure it out, and by the time I do, everyone will be off to somewhere else.

        My hope is that in forty years the Tolkien fandom will still be chugging along, and that someone somewhere will be using the information you’ve gathered to compare with their own time! And that many of those who are twenty-somethings now will still be turning out Tolkien fanfic and remembering with nostalgia those long gone writers like me, whose stories they read in their youth.

        • Dawn says:

          Like you, I expanded my horizons as I was in fandom longer. I was never conservative in my views, but I will admit that I didn’t understand the popularity of slash when I was new in the fandom. I just didn’t get the appeal. I slowly began reading slash stories and then started writing them as well. In recent years, I’ve become more open to same-sex pairings in my Felakverse stories (whereas my slash stories used to be separate from my regular verse).

          Some of this is due to fandom; some of it is due to my own personal/family circumstances; same-sex relationships went from being something that was relevant to other people to being something very relevant in my own family.

          I totally get single-interest archives–obviously, right, since I founded one! :) There is definitely an ease that comes with knowing that you’re “speaking the same language” as the other members. There is also a sense of establishing a space for minority interests that might get drowned out on a fandom-wide or multi-fandom archive. That was the main reason I started the SWG: Silmfic was a small minority of what was being done during the years of PJ’s LotR films, and I wanted a place where all Silm writers could gather to share and talk about their stories.

          I post to AO3 and support the idea of a fan-run multi-fandom archive. What dismays me, if we’re being perfectly honest, is that Tolkien fanfic writers are passing up archives run by people in their own communities to exclusively frequent a multi-fandom archive that truly couldn’t care less about them or our fandom. It reminds me of the fandom equivalent of buying something for five cents less at Walmart instead of the local store that has been owned by a local family for years and years. Then the local store goes out of business, and everyone wonders how they got left a behemoth that cares very little for their community. At the end of the day, an archive the size and scale of AO3 will not necessarily have our community’s interests foremost in mind; the drama surrounding the “piped tags” in the Silmarillion category is an example of that. Nothing like that would have gone down on the SWG or MPTT. We listen to our members and always have. People claim to be intimidated by us, but you and I and most of our comods have dedicated our fandom careers to helping newcomers and helping people to feel welcome. I know I’m taking personally what I probably shouldn’t. But it does upset me and make me wonder where I’ve gone wrong that people feel so unwelcome in the space I’ve built in part as a direct effort against the gatekeeping and silencing that Tolkien fandom was known for.

          You’re not alone on Tumblr. It is not a platform for conversations (although I’m trying my hardest to make it otherwise!), and even on my own posts, I will discover reblogs and discussions going on that never came through on my Activity feed and to which I am oblivious, which is frustrating.

          I also hope the fandom is around in forty years. I think it will be. Tolkien fan-writing is more than sixty years old. It weathered a drought between the publication of LotR and the publication of the Silm and the slow release of the posthumous texts. (I hope to still be writing Tolkien fanfic in forty years, even if no one else is still interested. 😉 )

  6. Nolondil says:

    >I also have to wonder why younger fans don’t use Tolkien-specific archives. But that’s probably an unanswerable question.

    It’s harder for me to speak about the Tolkien fanfic community, but we’ve seen a similar phenomenon in other parts of the Tolkien fandom, especially with regards to message boards (which is where most of my experience lies). There was a much smaller increase in people posting on forums when The Hobbit movies came out then there was during the LOTR Trilogy (actually, most of the Tolkien forums out there started because of those movies). This is undoubtedly in part because The Hobbit movies did not become a cultural phenomenon in the same was as LOTR did, but I think it’s also because the way a lot of people use the Internet has changed. Forums have lost ground to social media and Reddit, since many people are already on those sites and can get their discussion fix without having to venture out further. My understanding of the fanfic situation is that there are more prominent multifandom archives available now then there was in 2001-03 or the first few years after that. There was always LiveJournal of course but the mainstreaming of fandom over the past 10-15 years has led to greater concentration of fans in a handful of major (often corporate) sites, I think.

    • Independence1776 says:

      I think it’s also because the way a lot of people use the Internet has changed.

      That’s definitely part of it. I meant it was an unanswerable question because there are so many answers and every person will have a different one. There’s huge overlaps in why people behave how they do but looking at trends will never give a complete answer.

      I used to belong to a Star Wars forum right after the last of the Prequel trilogy came out. I stopped using it because it started not working with my browser for some reason I’ve never figured out. But when I checked on the forum a couple of years ago, I learned that they’d moved platforms– and somehow in the move, it truncated all posts longer than 2000 characters. While new posts don’t have that limit, it wasn’t worth trying to remember my password because everything I’d wanted to read (hundreds of fanfic that were never crossposted) was. Out of curiosity, I checked back about a month after the newest SW movie– and the forums were practically silent. It startled me because it was one of the Star Wars sites a decade ago and now it feels more like a relic.

      My understanding of the fanfic situation is that there are more prominent multifandom archives available now then there was in 2001-03 or the first few years after that.

      Hmm… I’m not sure how many prominent multifandom archives exist. AO3 and ff.net are the ones I hear about. But yeah, that fandom seems to be gathering in a handful of major corperate places is true in my experience, too.

    • Dawn says:

      That’s an interesting observation about the forums. This makes me think, too, that forums, like archives, were something relatively easy to set up on a domain name using open-source software. So they were controlled by the community (or someone(s) within the community) that they served. They were pretty basic in terms of functionality and aesthetics; I am a good web designer (though self-taught!) but know almost nothing about development/PHP, and I can run an eFiction archive with ease. But social media has delivered up an ever-increasing number of whistles and bells, and suddenly, eFiction or PHPBB look old and clunky.

      The issue, from my admittedly biased perspective as the owner of a Tolkien-specific archive, is that those whistles and bells require relinquishing community control and often cost resources that shift the focus from serving the membership base. We saw this happen with LJ when it went from a basic blogging platform run by one guy to corporate-owned (and with corporate priorities as far as profits and image). Corporate concerns, in my experience, rarely match the interests of fandom, which is inherently outside of capitalism. A site like Tumblr or LiveJournal or even AO3 cannot be run by a self-taught designer like me wielding open-source software! :)

      With the exception of adding AO3, I don’t know that there are more big multifandom archives than there were ten years ago, but the Tolkien fandom has hemorrhaged fandom-specific archives, largely due to lack of interest, lack of volunteer support, and an inability to keep up with the tech. The big blow, to me, was when the Henneth-Annun Story Archive shut down last year. They were a giant when I was a fandom newbie, and I admired the owner Ang’s professional grasp of web development (in light of my own DIY by-the-seat-of-my-pants approach! :D)

  7. […] tendencies of some corners of the Tolkien fanfic community continue to be felt today–the discussion of last week’s post on age touched on that–and I do not want to brush over this ugly aspect of our history, but it also […]

  8. Himring says:

    A possible angle to the different attitudes to archives and other places to post in different age groups–there might be tendency for younger writers to be less concerned about archiving things (as distinct from posting them to obtain an immediate response). I’ve observed people have quite different attitudes with regard to that anyway. But it seems to stand to reason that the longer a writer stays in a fandom, the more concerned they might be with the fate of their stories in the longer term–which would make them more concerned about aspects such as the reliability of the archive, etc., compared to the likely number of comments right after posting.

  9. Amy Fortuna says:

    For me, I think the usability of the various Tolkien-specific archives, combined with the lack of feedback, are somewhat negative factors for me to add my stories to archives other than Ao3.

    I do a great deal of my fannish interaction on my phone and tablet. At Ao3’s site I can add a draft fic to be tweaked and posted later – I’ve even typed up first drafts in my phone’s Notes app and then posted to Ao3 without any issues whatsoever, all on my phone. I don’t think that would be easy – it might be possible – but not as straightforward, on eFiction style archives. I’m not terribly impressed with them for just reading on my phone – Ao3 is much more flexible and user-friendly, as it’s written in Ruby On Rails.

    In principle, I absolutely agree with putting my stories in as many places as possible. I want my fic read and preserved, and I’m definitely working on adding as much as qualifies to SWG, at very least, and probably Faerie and Library of Moria at some point as well, along with any stories that qualify to Many Paths to Tread and fanfiction.net. But the vast majority of the feedback I both give and get is via Ao3 – the kudos button really is a great way to tell someone you enjoyed their fic without having to awkwardly come up with a one-line comment!

    I should be better with this, but it’s part laziness and part lack of time and part social awkwardness – I have over 130 Silmarillion stories, how should I post them to SWG, certainly not all at once, but it’s difficult to remember to go and post them in dribs and drabs. Then you have the issue where if you want to fix something or notice a problem you have to go to five different sites to fix them all!

    I think as well, there’s a problem – which has frankly been present ever since the decline of mailing lists – where there’s no community hubs or forums – everything’s scattered everywhere and if you want fannish discussion, you have to know the right places to go or the right people. Tumblr is AWFUL for discussion, LJ and mailing lists are dead, and frankly the best discussions I’ve had in the last eighteen months have been on fail-fandomanon, which has its own issues and isn’t always up for talking Tolkien when I want to. We’re working with broken or bad tools here (not to blame the toolmakers AT ALL – they have their own difficulties and pressures) in terms of community, and it’s a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy/downward spiral – people complain about not getting feedback in this fandom or not being able to have good discussion, but the complaining doesn’t change anything except it makes the negative perceptions worse.

    There needs to be a place where people can not just share fic, but also talk. And then those people also – here’s the tricky part – need to be willing to discuss with open minds and not just retreat back to their little corners. One thing I did notice very strongly when I came back 18 months ago was that most people seem very entrenched – they don’t want to come out of their fannish little bubbles – with, of course, some lovely, lovely people who are exceptions. It makes Silmarillion fandom feel like about ten different fandoms cobbled together.

    I don’t know if this is what you’re seeing in the survey results as well, but I write all over the spectrum and have noticed that wildly disparate audiences react to different fics. If I write some sweet gen about Elrond, I’ll get one set of people kudosing my work, but if I write Beleg/Turin smut, a completely different set of people will kudos, and if I write Nargothrond drama, a third set of people will kudos. And of course if I write femslash, about five people will kudos. *sadface* (There are of course some people who kindly kudos most things I write, which is lovely.)

    And a lot of people will say, “oh, I don’t care for Turin, so I don’t read anything about him,” or “I’m not a fan of Galadriel, so I’m not going to read anything about her,” and this attitude is so strange to me. Like, I’m a fan of Tolkien’s universe…so whether I personally ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ a character has nothing to do with it? I give everything a chance, and never avoid reading about characters because of my personal opinions about them, and I’ve read fic by authors who got me to love even the characters I thought I never could. (There’s been some excellent Sauron fic which I’m happy to have read, same with Eol – just because I dislike them as characters doesn’t mean I’m going to avoid reading fic for them, even fic that paints them in a positive light. In fact I would say that kind of fic is the MOST important for me to read.)

    So, I have basically rambled all over the place here (AGAIN!), and essentially I do want to reiterate that I feel that the work Tolkien-specific archives do is very important and definitely deserving of support, particularly, IMO, the SWG. :-)

  10. […] couple weeks ago, on my post We’re Not Just Teenagers: Tolkien Fandom Participant Age, I noted that the oldest group of participants tended to respond most conservatively to the […]

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