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WCU Professor Co-Authors Book on Fandom

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Set for release in October, Fangasm, “Supernatural” Fangirls, is as much a memoir by two University professors of their adventuresome road trip as it is an investigative journey into the subculture of fandom. The book takes readers behind the scenes of the authors’ travels, as they immersed themselves in the world of “Supernatural” fans.

Co-author Lynn Zubernis, a clinical psychologist in WCU’s counselor education department, admits she never missed an episode of the once obscure science fiction fantasy television show, “Supernatural,” which debuted in 2005. “I became such a passionate fan of the show in a way that I never experienced in my life,” recalls Zubernis.

She soon discovered an online world devoted to “Supernatural,” where most of the fans are women who share similar passion and enthusiasm, as expressed through fan communities, fan art, fan fiction, “cosplay” or performance art, and gatherings such as conventions and social events. The show eventually led her to pursue fandom research with her co-author Katherine Larsen, who teaches in the University Writing Program at George Washington University.

The two fully committed academics embarked on a unique five-year journey, conducting qualitative research of thousands of fans throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe. They attended over two dozen conventions, asking specific questions online and surveying existing posts of certain topics.

To acquire a real understanding of fandom, all of its workings and how communities of fans developed, the two self-proclaimed “fangirls” of “Supernatural” focused their research on that particular fandom.

“Some of the most important things we found out based on our passion and emotional investment are that there are some parallels and similarities to addiction. Whenever you are passionate about something you are in danger of losing your perspective,” says Zubernis.

“But, I think that’s the exception and not the rule.”

In most cases the two researchers found that fandom can be a healthy thing, especially for women because of the relationships and communities formed online and elsewhere.

“It can be a therapeutic place where people, especially women, discover their genuine selves,” concluded Zubernis.

Zubernis and Larsen have another book set for release in 2014 called, Fan Phenomena: “Supernatural,” that includes book chapters written by some of the TV series’ cast members. They have also co-authored two academic books in 2012, Fan Culture: Theory/Practice and Fandom at the Crossroads: Celebration, Shame and Fan/Producer Relationships.

In addition to her work in fandom research, Zubernis teaches graduate courses in human development, group dynamics, counseling techniques and theory.