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Julia Elena Goldmann, "Fan Fiction Genres: Gender, Sexuality, Relationships and Family in the Fandoms ‘Star Trek’ and ‘Supernatural’" (Bielefeld: transcript, 2022), 353 pp.:


Julia Elena Goldmann, Fan Fiction Genres: Gender, Sexuality, Relationships and Family in the Fandoms “Star Trek” and “Supernatural” (Bielefeld: transcript, 2022), 353 pp.

In her book Fan Fiction Genres: Gender, Sexuality, Relationships and Family in the Fandoms “Star Trek” and “Supernatural,” Julia Elena Goldmann presents an impressive study on generic structures and formulas within fan fiction, that is, fiction written by fans that uses characters and/or plotlines or settings of a certain source text and continues, rewrites, or even writes against this source text. In particular, Goldmann focuses on “slash” stories—a type of fan fiction texts presenting a usually non-canonical homosexual couple—and analyzes this type of text before the background of gender roles, especially masculinity, sexuality, and family structures within two very active but inherently diverse fandoms. The aim of this book is to identify and analyze structural characteristics in slash fan fictions of Star Trek and Supernatural (128); compare these characteristics to “het” (stories of heterosexual couples) and “gen” (stories not focusing on relationships) stories in both fandoms (129); and find out if there are differences between the two fandoms in the generic construction of the stories (129). Within this framework, Goldmann works with additional research questions and fan fiction subgenres, such as “hurt/comfort” or the infamous “PWP” stories—stories focusing only on sexual encounters without actual plot—and thus compartmentalizes her comparison of slash fiction in the Star Trek and Supernatural fandoms. Despite her bulk of research questions, Goldmann manages to signpost her book very clearly and consistently adheres to her methodology and structure from beginning to end.

The origin of Goldmann’s book as a PhD thesis is visible in the structure of the book, which works with many short subchapters and which prefixes an exhaustive theory part to her actual study on fan fiction genres in her two chosen fandoms. After a brief yet densely packed introduction that elucidates the aims of the study, the following chapters introduce the theoretical concept of genre (ch. 2) and provide an overview of fan-related productions and fan culture (ch. 3). Chapter 4 then focuses on slash and traces its development alongside the other two main fan fiction genres, het and gen. Goldmann’s research questions and methodology (ch. 5 and 6) are only addressed nearly halfway through the book and might have come a bit earlier for readers, even though Goldmann does introduce the aim of her study in the introduction. Chapter 7 summarizes results on slash in both fandoms with spotlights on the four thematic aspects Goldmann’s study overall focuses on, namely romance, gender roles, sexuality, and family. Chapters 8 to 12 then provide comparative analyses of the aforementioned specific subgenres within slash fan fiction in both fandoms. Chapter 13 summarizes Goldmann’s results on generic structures in fan fiction, and a short conclusion (ch. 14) eventually rounds off the book and points the way forward.

Besides the fourteen chapters, Goldmann’s rather long book consists of a glossary of relevant terms, and a six-part appendix of tables and plot summaries, as well as forty tables and five pictures. The appendix provides tables showing the use of language in both fandoms (appendix 1), the form used for noting generic markers in the sample stories (appendix 2), a codebook explaining certain terms relevant for the survey conducted (appendix 3), a summary and explanation of the case study used to exemplify the Supernatural fandom (appendix 4), and summaries of the Star Trek fan fictions (appendix 5) and the Supernatural fan fictions (appendix 6) used throughout the book.

In her introduction, Goldmann herself admits to a rather “ambitious” (19) aim, as her book is intended “to enrich, revise, and actualize the existing academic studies on fan fiction, and also to close some of the gaps that exist in this research” (19). However, she does achieve this aim and delivers a very encompassing, methodologically complex, and convincing study on fan fiction genres, as the title promised. Goldmann’s attention to (terminological) detail throughout the book is impressive and her repeated return to the aims of the study—often followed by short summaries of what she has discussed so far and how this relates to her approach—renders the book accessible and coherent.

Goldmann’s results, discussed in detail in chapter 13 and commented on in chapter 14, are manifold and the following can thus only give glimpses into her most salient points. Most importantly, she shows that within the subgenre of slash she examined, the stories “all have formulaic patterns” (272)—a task she set out to prove in her study. Returning to the core aspects of her study—gender, sexuality, relationships, and family—Goldmann notes that her study “has proven that critique of traditionalist views on gender is present in fan-written texts” and that there is “hegemonic masculinity” in “almost every fan fiction” under scrutiny (273). Still, the protagonists in these stories do not conform to hegemonic structures but either “consciously choose to defy traditional stereotypes or they do not conform to them on a bodily level” (273). Within relationships, the focus of slash stories “lies […] on gender relations,” concentrating “on the transformation of the hegemonic ‘lad’ and the confrontation of his (problematic) past in equal measure” (274-75). Overall, when comparing the fandoms, it is evident that slash stories dominate over het and gen stories, which Goldmann interprets as an influence of the characteristics of the source text on the structure of the fan texts.

If something had to be held against this book, it would be its density as Goldmann works with a multitude of formulas, categories, and other structural devices, which makes her book very complex. While she explains all of her steps minutely and states clearly, why an analysis of all of these structural devices is useful (and partly necessary), the book might be more accessible had it not taken on quite so many individual elements. Still, because of the idiosyncrasies of the medium Goldmann studies, her decision to provide a detailed analysis of her sample texts with the help of these generic markers makes sense and her research remains high quality throughout. Her results are thus very reliable and do indeed contribute a hitherto understudied angle to fan fiction studies in providing scholars with a set of generic tools for studying fan texts. Despite the outstanding content of the book, the editing has major drawbacks as the text includes quite a few typos, punctuation errors, and occasional grammatical errors that could easily have been avoided with proper attention to detail in the editing process.

Regardless, none of this detracts from Goldmann’s impressive scholarship and the usefulness and quality of her book. With fan fiction studies already in its third generation, Goldmann’s approach from the perspective of literary studies diminishes a research gap in fan fiction studies that had existed for a long time. With her coherent and sophisticated approach, Goldmann makes a critical addition to established fan fiction studies while she also provides chapters for “newbies,” that is, scholars new to the topic who might need the terminology that precedes the analyses of her sample texts. In short, this book will prove a valuable addition to fan studies and Goldmann’s results—exhaustive as they are—will have paved the way for more literary-based analyses of fan texts.

Kerstin-Anja Münderlein (Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg)

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