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The Future that Never Was: Reactionary Fan Controversies and Affective Attachments to Speculative Fiction

Dosser, Maxwell Albert (2024) The Future that Never Was: Reactionary Fan Controversies and Affective Attachments to Speculative Fiction. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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In the past decade, speculative fiction media that feature diverse characters or storylines have been increasingly met with reactionary fan backlash in the form of review bombing, boycotts, doxxing, and death threats. This dissertation analyzes the communication of reactionary fans during controversies surrounding popular speculative fiction media to explore the motivating affective economies of contemporary reactionary social movements. Considering the connection between speculative fiction fans and reactionary groups, this dissertation poses the question: What is the relationship between the affective attachments fans have to speculative fiction media and the logics of violence/exclusion? While speculative fiction has been dismissed as escapist and nonpolitical, many of its authors, editors, and fans have long used the genre to advocate for their visions for the future. Through examining representative archival fanzines and professional speculative fiction magazines as well as reactionary fan discourse circulated via social media, this dissertation further theorizes revanchist nostalgia. Revanchist nostalgia not only aims to restore an imagined past but also to punish the ones who made that reclamation necessary. While different in scale and consequence, the affective economy of revanchist nostalgia is key to both fan controversies and broader reactionary incidents such as the 2017 Unite the Right rally and the 2021 insurrection at the US Capitol. Research on social movements often considers how affect is mobilized in support of progressive causes, but with this dissertation, I argue that both speculative fiction and affect are politically ambivalent and capable of being utilized to motivate reactionary and progressive causes. In considering reactionary fandoms in tandem with white supremacists, men’s rights activists, and other more explicitly political groups driven by revanchist nostalgia, this dissertation reads fandom as political and the political as fandom to demonstrate how reactionaries function as anti-fandoms that are motivated by hatred, disgust, and sadism toward others. Through considering extremist groups as (anti-)fandoms, this dissertation exposes the affective networks that bond reactionaries together, empower them to propagate their hateful rhetoric, and mobilize them against the increasing diversification in fan communities and beyond.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Dosser, Maxwell Albertmad382@pitt.edumad3820000-0001-5081-3294
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairMatheson, Calum Listermatheson@pitt.edumatheson0000-0002-1405-5809
Committee MemberMalin, Brenton Jbmalin@pitt.edubmalin0000-0003-3610-3768
Committee MemberBruce, Caitlin Francescaitlinb@pitt.educaitlinb0000-0003-0834-1777
Committee MemberWang, Dandanwang@pitt.edudanwang
Date: 8 May 2024
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 1 March 2024
Approval Date: 8 May 2024
Submission Date: 5 March 2024
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 288
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Communication: Rhetoric and Communication
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Speculative Fiction, Reactionaries, White Supremacy, Social Movements, Fan Studies, Nostalgia, Affect Studies, PuppyGate, Star Wars, The Last of Us, Mass Effect
Date Deposited: 08 May 2024 17:35
Last Modified: 08 May 2024 17:35


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