"Get a life," William Shatner told Star Trek fans. Yet, in Textual Poachers, Henry Jenkins makes the case that fans already have a "life," one that gleans from popular culture, then revisions and redrafts its ownership into something akin to new mythology. Further, it is a consumer-driven culture, one outside the control of the corporate universe. I was initially drawn to this book in its exposition, when I read Jenkins' repudiation of fans as cultural dupes, social misfits, mindless TV and movie junkies.
Jenkins, an Assistant Professor of Literature at MIT, makes a well-argued case than fans are active participants in a burgeoning underground of cultural consumerism as "owners." These owners are skillfully producing new genres, i.e., fan fic, as well as being a kind of nomadic poacher, constructing mythology, alternative social communities, and cultural representation.
Having attended fan conventions, corresponded with fans via websites and Listservs, he offers an insider's perspective. Approaching this as an ethnographic study, Jenkins is able to identify major areas of fan interest (Star Trek, Beauty and the Beast, Alien Nation, etc.) Sadly, given the date of publishing, Jenkins did not have access to the blowup in fandom that occurred after the first two seasons of the X-FIles, when it moved from cult favorite to cultural phenomena, to say nothing of the fandoms surrounding today's cult hits, Battlestar Gallactica, Lost, Heroes.
In addition, he describes the fan community as initially white and female. (Although more and more men and people of color do appear to be recently joining the ranks, judging by my own unscientific sampling of blogs and online affinity groups.) Further, according to Jenkins, fan groupings contain more working-class and middle class people than other "art" related constituencies.
He goes on to say some more intriguing things. That the fan community sees itself in opposition to the capitalist control of culture, choosing to create what he terms meta-stories. Meta-stories are the online writing of non-industry people, based on television shows and movies. Through these meta-stories or fan fic, fans clearly express alternative "ownership," and in fact, have begun to impact the original "producers." For example, Jenkins reports that several studios monitor fan websites in order to gauge trends when considering television or movie sequels.