“Write the story you want to read”: world-queering through slash fanfiction creation

AuthorDiana Floegel
Publication Date04 Apr 2020
Write the story you want to
read: world-queering through
slash fanfiction creation
Diana Floegel
School of Communication and Information,
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA
Purpose This pilot study explores how queer slash fanfiction writers reorient cis/heteronormative
entertainment media (EM) content to create queer information worlds.
Design/methodology/approach Constructivist grounded theory was employed to explore queer
individualsslash fanfiction reading and creation practices. Slash fanfiction refers to fan-written texts that
recast cis/heteronormative content with queer characters, relationships, and themes. Theoretical sampling
drove ten semi-structured interviews with queer slash writers and content analysis of both Captain America
slash and material features found on two online fanfiction platforms, Archive of Our Own and fanfiction.net.
Queerserves as a theoretical lens through which to explore non-cis/heteronormative perspectives on gender
and sexuality.
Findings Participantsinteractions with and creation of slash fanfiction constitute world-queering practices
wherein individuals reorient cis/heteronormative content, design systems, and form community while
developing their identities over time. Findings suggest ways that queer creators respond to, challenge, and
reorient cis/heteronormative narratives perpetuated by EM and other information sources, as well as ways
their practices are constrained by structural power dynamics.
Research limitations/implications This initial data collection only begins to explore the topic with ten
interviews. The participant sample lacks racial diversity while the content sample focuses on one fandom.
However, results suggest future directions for theoretical sampling that will continue to advance constructs
developed from the data.
Originality/value This research contributes to evolving perspectives on information creation and queer
individualsinformation practices. In particular, findings expand theoretical frameworks related to small
worlds and ways in which members of marginalized populations grapple with exclusionary normativity.
Keywords Queer, Information creation, Slash fanfiction, Constructivist grounded theory, Qualitative
methods, Information practices
Paper type Research paper
Fanfiction (or fic) are texts written by oft-pseudonymed authors who transform original, or
canon,storylines and characters by altering narrative perspectives, timelines, romantic
combinations of characters, and other devices (Leavenworth, 2015). Slash fanfiction is a
particular type of writing driven by queer themes (MacDonald, 2006) where cisnormative and
heteronormative (cis/heteronormative) source content is transformed to include queer
characters, relationships, and storylines. This paper describes how queer slash fanfiction
writers reorient cis/heteronormative content to create information worlds that challenge
common discourse and compensate for a dearth of queer topics found among other resources.
Here, queerrefers to both non-normative gender identities and sexual orientations (Jagose,
1997) as well as a theoretical lens through which to critique and reorient normativity (Ahmed,
2006). Results from a pilot constructivist grounded theory study with ten queer slash
fanfiction writers offer the construct information world-queeringdeveloped from interview
through slash
The author would like to thank their participants Dr. Marie L. Radford, and Dr. Kaitlin L. Costello for
peer-debriefing and edits.
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
Received 7 November 2019
Revised 29 February 2020
Accepted 2 March 2020
Journal of Documentation
Vol. 76 No. 4, 2020
pp. 785-805
© Emerald Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/JD-11-2019-0217
data and supported by content analysis of both slash writing and material features of two
online fanfiction platforms, Archive of Our Own (AO3) and fanfiction.net (FFN). Findings
contribute to theoretical development concerning information creation and information
world-building in queer contexts.
Literature review
Library and Information Science (LIS) research focused on queer (or LGBT, LGTBQþ)
individualsinformation behaviors and practices often concentrates on interactions with
information communication technologies (ICTs), especially search engines and social media.
Queer individualsuse of ICTs can be shaped by socio-cultural and individualized
affordances and constraints (Kitzie, 2018) that make interactions highly variable and
nuanced. ICTs can facilitate identity construction, community-building, expanded definitions
of sexual and gender categories, and information seeking activities concerning health,
romance, and identities (e.g. Cooper and Dzara, 2010;Cover, 2018;Fox and Ralston, 2016;
DeHann et al., 2013;Yeh, 2008).
However, these systems also include harmful attributes such as context collapse (Duguay,
2016); unequal access among individuals with different economic, racial, and gendered
backgrounds (Pascoe, 2011); harassment and bullying (Hoffman, 2017;Powell et al., 2018);
and algorithmic inequities (Keyes, 2018). Major social media platforms are embedded with
oppressive discourses (Noble, 2018) that often misalign with queer individualsand
communitiesmore localized needs (Lingel and Golub, 2015). Thus, neoliberal ideals
surrounding ICTs and democratization are often unmet for members of marginalized
populations (Noble, 2018), including queer individuals (Haimson and Hoffman, 2016). Related
to these problems, resources found through ICTs may perpetuate stereotypes and other
inaccurate information regarding the identities they claim to represent (Blanco-Ruiz and
Sanz-de-Baranda, 2018). In addition to ICTs, other information resources studied in LIS,
including classification systems (Adler, 2012;Drabinski, 2013), library collections (Chapman
and Birdi, 2016) and resources found in institutions such as libraries (Mehra and Braquet,
2006) may erase or misrepresent queerness.
These shortcomings may cause queer individuals to engage with less formal information
resources to meet their identity-related information needs and desires. For example, some
queer individuals use entertainment media (EM), which can be broadly defined as fiction and
creative non-fiction content, as resources related to their identity work and validation (Floegel
and Costello, 2019). However, EM interactions can also be highly problematic given that EM
perpetuates symbolic violence through negative, monolithic, and inaccurate representations
of queer people and experiences (e.g. Allen, 2017;Capuzza and Spencer, 2017;Rodriguez,
2019). Symbolic violence describes systems of power that social structures, including media
industries, impose on people who may be complicit or unaware of their participation in these
systems (Bourdieu and Waquant, 1992). While EM can serve as vital resources for queer
people, content still reinforces their marginalization when it perpetuates stigmatized
depictions of queer events, individuals, and contexts (Gross, 1991;Kama, 2002).
However, exclusively focusing on queer peoples problematic information interactions
fuels deficit models that highlight queer individualsmarginalization at the expense of the
agency they may express with alternate practices (Greyson, 2018;Illet, 2019). Individuals may
use artistic creation to address gaps in their information practices (Gorichanaz, 2018) and
form personally meaningful information resources (Hartel, 2010). Research suggests that to
compensate for and reclaim cis/heteronormative narratives, some queer individuals engage
in EM creation based on their own lived experiences (Floegel and Costello, 2019).
To date, information practice literature rarely considers creation. Scholarship examines
practices that surround peoples creative endeavors (e.g. Hill and Pecoskie, 2017;Harlan,

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