1st Edition

Identity, Community, and Sexuality in Slash Fan Fiction Pocket Publics

By Anne Kustritz Copyright 2024

    This book explores slash fan fiction communities during the pivotal years of the late 1990s and early 2000s as the practice transitioned from print to digital circulation.

    Delving into over ten years of online and in-person ethnography, the book offers an in-depth examination of slash fan fiction – original stories written by and circulated within female-centered communities about same-sex characters borrowed from previously published sources – to document the history of a feminist, queer media subculture whose infrastructure, creativity, and ways of life are often obscured in dominant histories of the internet’s development and by the contemporary focus on industry-friendly but often misogynist digital fan subcultures. Arguing that online slash communities created an alternate public space that provided opportunities for unanticipated encounters with a wide range of complex sexual, relational, and political practices, the book contends that slash thereby added to readers’ tools for experiencing and thinking about pleasure and ways of living by forming a “pocket public,” that is a digital space public enough to be found and protected enough to shield participants from harassment and censorship.

    This insightful and comprehensive study will interest students and scholars working in the areas of media studies, literary studies, anthropology, new media, audience communities, convergence culture, fan studies, women’s studies, and queer studies.

    Introduction of this book is freely available as a downloadable Open Access PDF at http://www.taylorfrancis.com under a Creative Commons [Attribution-Non Commercial (CC-BY- NC)] license. Funded by Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (grant 435-2019-0691).


    Section 1.  Meeting People, Meeting Texts

    Chapter 1.  Mediated Travel and Digital Ethnography in Slash Spaces: Assembling Identity and Community

    Chapter 2.  Parallel Lives: Body Symbolism in a Multiple Narrative Space

    Section 2.  Simulating Multiple Narrative Space: Reading Across Slash Texts

    Chapter 3.  Five Ways Mary Sue Never Had Sex      

    Section 3.  Structures and Skirmishes 

    Chapter 4.  Telling Stories About Owning Stories: Pirate Narratives

    Chapter 5.  So, Is Fan Fiction Legal?: Fair Use, Transformative Works, and Schrödinger’s Courtroom

    Chapter 6.  The Business of Narrating the Law and the Communicative Ethics of Fandom

    Section 4.  Conclusion: Publics, Counterpublics, Pocket Publics

    Chapter 7.  Things I Never Imagined: Unpredictable Encounters in a Pocket Public



    Anne Kustritz is an Assistant Professor in Media and Culture Studies at Utrecht University, Netherlands. Her work deals with creative fan communities, transformative works, digital economies, and representational politics.

    A highly generative work, Identity, Community, and Sexuality in Slash Fan Fiction: Pocket Publics promises to revitalize the study of the fan fiction writing community with a wealth of original contributions, including a focus on ethnographic methodology and the link to insider ethnography as practiced in anthropology, the diversity of different approaches to sexuality in fan fiction, the discussion of how fans understand their work in relation to charges of piracy, the focus on the nature of fandom as a public, and so much more.

    Henry Jenkins, author of Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture

    A timely work of scholarship that addresses the complex ways that slash communities move between being public and invisible, seeking a pocket of creative freedom to imagine a world not yet imagined.

    Ruth Behar, author of The Vulnerable Observer: Anthropology That Breaks Your Heart

    While there has been an explosion of fan studies scholarship in the last two decades, we haven’t had an ethnography of fan fiction communities since the early 1990s. Kustritz’s Pocket Publics rectifies that, documenting the generation of slash fans who built much of fandom’s infrastructure and many of its community spaces, both on and off the internet. This generation has had an outsized impact on contemporary fan cultures, and Kustritz shows how these fans created an alternative and subcultural public sphere: a world of their own. A fascinating and engaging book.

    Francesca Coppa, author of Vidding: A History