At the recently concluded Fan Studies Network North America conference, I presented a paper on acafandom as a third culture subjectivity. For those of you unfamiliar with “third culture” as it refers to those of us who grew up outside the countries of our birth, the main takeaway is that, not unlike acafandom (at least as I increasingly experience it), it’s a liminal subjectivity characterized by, in particular, grief - the felt loss of (no longer) being of one or another culture, but somewhere in-between. In the context of acafandom, as much as we like to imagine ourselves as “fans just like you,” we are not. Acafans may love the thing as much as any ‘fan’, but we cannot help but experience it always with one foot in academia and the other in fandom; which is to say, differently.
In online fan spaces, this liminality has for me largely translated as a hard-earned awareness that some fandom conversations are not for me. Meta (or, fan analysis) was the hill on which my uncomplicated fan subjectivity died, skewered by legitimate criticisms of general academic condescension about the ‘right’ ways to do textual analysis in the fan spaces I frequented and resulting in a greater recognition of my fannish difference.
Since then, I’ve thrown myself headlong into Hannibal fandom, somewhat more transparently and circumspectly than in previous fandoms. But as a member of the organizing committee of the second FannibalFest Toronto convention, I discovered a uniquely comfortable place of liminality within the fandom. The implementation side of fan conventions means, as a fellow organizer said recently, that we never quite ‘enjoy’ the con, because we experience it differently than the fans who attend it. As an ‘acafannibal’, being on the committee meant I had a way to merge fan and interlocutor that reflected how I feel in fandom generally. In that space, I was tour guide, Q&A moderator, artist’s alley vendor, merchandise creator - and marketer, using skills I had honed in hybrid practices of vidding/videographic criticism to create something neither fannish nor academic, but both/and.