Friday, March 30, 2007
Lest anyone think that fandom is limited to the modern, The Times Books Online recently ran a nice article about the ascendence of “Austen mania” in which they point to the activity of online Jane Austen fan communities in fostering her continuing appeal:
Austen inspires devotion like no other author and the internet has allowed her fans a voice that travels far faster and further than the quill-driven letters of the 19th century. If anything, it has intensified their adoration of Austen and their eagerness to defenestrate anyone who offends her.
“The amount of activity on the web is absolutely crazy,” said one Austen expert. “There is a whole cult out there and it’s not something that happens to other authors.”
Antagonise the Janeites, as the most fervent fans are known, and their response is merciless.
Having studied soap opera fans on the net for a long time, I can’t say I’m surprised that Austen fans would be at it as well. The Austen Blog provides a nice looking guide to all the Austen news fit to blog, with links to many news sources. Pemberley offers discussion groups and describes its identity like this:
We, all of us, remember only too well the great relief we felt upon discovering this haven for Jane Austen Addicts. If your eyes did not widen, if you did not gasp in recognition, if you did not experience a frisson of excitement when you discovered a whole campful of soldiers – er – a whole websiteful of fellow Jane Austen Fanatics, then this place may not be for you. We are The Truly Obsessed here and have been known to talk for weeks about Jane Austen’s spelling quirks and Mr. Darcy’s coat (“No, no – the green one.”)
Update: I’ve been assured that there are indeed social worlds worthy of Austen novels to be found in her fandom. If you have insights or perspectives on that fandom to share, please comment. Sam Ford at the MIT Convergence Culture Consortium has also written a follow up post that nicely elaborates my implied Austen-soap opera parallel.
Update Update: Hi Pemberley people (and thanks for pointing out my spelling errors!). I’m still yearning to hear more about life in Austen fandom, so please feel free to offer insights in the comments!