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Fan History Question about Tumblr for All the Smarty-Pants on My Flist

The (Cyber) Bag of Weasels

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"About as much fun as a bag of weasels"...when I first saw this Irish adage, it made me think of the life of a writer: sometimes perilous, sometimes painful, certainly interesting. My paper journal has always been called "The Bag of Weasels." This is the Bag of Weasels' online home.

Fan History Question about Tumblr for All the Smarty-Pants on My Flist

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So I'm doing some preliminary data-crunching to see if I have anything worthwhile to contribute to this on the subject of Tolkien fandom and Tumblr. I'm on Tumblr but am not a heavy user, so I have the numbers but not the years of deep personal investment in the site that a lot of fanpeople have.

Essentially, I'm looking for the time when Tolkien fandom began to really shift to Tumblr. I joined Tumblr in May 2013, and there was already a huge Tolkien fandom presence there (being as this was in the midst of fandom activity for the Hobbit films).

The Tumblr article on Fanlore is surprisingly unhelpful. It does begin collecting quotes from fans in 2012, which is the date around which I've seen consensus for the big fandom shift to Tumblr. There is also this well-known post about Tumblr and fandom and this Slashcast episode, both of which would suggest 2012ish as the big year. But this is for fandom in general (although, given the fan activity surrounding the Hobbit trilogy, I'm feeling like this is a rare occasion when Fandom and Tolkien Fandom actually moved pretty lockstep with each other).

Does this seem right to you all? That 2012 was the year where Tolkien fandom as well began to have a presence on Tumblr? Any suggestions on sources or documentation for that?

This post was originally posted on Dreamwidth and, using my Felagundish Elf magic, crossposted to LiveJournal. You can comment here or there!

  • I wish I could help! I'm not on Tumblr and only barely know what it is.
  • I wish I could be of some assistance to you, but I don't do Tumblr at all.

    - Erulisse (one L)
  • I first joined Tumblr around Fall of 2010, and what drew me in was a LOTR tumblr blog. At the time the fandom there was more LOTR focused (both book and movie), and the general fandom didn't know much of the fandom from LJ/DW. I would say the generation was generally younger, not likely ones to have started their online fannish lives with LJs. (but, again, that's a generalization.) A notable person from that crowd is Myla, who is heavily involved in other Tolkien online communities. Her Tumblr is peregrint, Twitter is mylamalinalda, and she has some other social media you can contact her if you have other questions about Tolkien fandom on Tumblr pre-2012! :D )

    I pretty much just lurked around/occasionally reblogging for a couple years (and at that time, I was among the very few sharing Silmarillion fanart and linking back to the creators on dA to gain interest in that branch.) I wouldn't say there was much of a Tolkien fandom from LJ/DW seeping into Tumblr until around 2012, and especially the later half was when I really began to notice them. But that is just my own personal experience. :) And I would say it kind of agrees with the articles? I know Hobbit fandom blew up the numbers for Tolkien fandom, but there really was an increase in fan activity before the movie was released. Not a whole lot, but it was noticeable. Sort of like a steady climb before a big boom.
    • Thank you--all of this is great information! I have followed Myla on Twitter for a while, so I will drop her a note and get her take as well. Thanks for the tip on this. :)

      It's especially interesting to get a picture of Tolkien Tumblr fandom before the 2012 explosion. I didn't even know what Tumblr was then, so I have a complete blank of that time. (And unlike LJ/DW--where it is tedious but not impossible to look back at entries made years before--this seems almost impossible to do on Tumblr, not to mention that Tumblr seems much more ephemeral than LJ/DW, with the relative ease of changing a blog's name or deleting it entirely. At least, that's my impression.)

      Thanks again!
  • It was earlier perhaps? I am trying to remember when I noticed LJ friends were no longer checking into LJ, but started making casual comments they were oh-so-busy on Tumblr.

    I think it first attracted people interested in the graphic/art side of the fandom, because the re-blog system was easier than the linking system or even worse, they thought LJ encouraged copying and re-posting, which they hated as they tended to lose credit and track of their artwork that way. Re-blogging does not lose the creator if done properly.

    I've noticed that people saying that non-writer, non-artist fandom participants felt it easy to contribute and participate on Tumblr.

    Me! I am always looking for people to talk to and ways to maintain a connection to the dialogue.

    Don't recall in my earliest years of awareness of Tumblr that anyone ever thought it was good for serious writers of fiction or even bloggers (except for roleplay blogs)! People did like it for role-playing together (this is such a foreign concept to me, I barely even can talk about it!). I am not an extemporaneous kind of writer.

    I don't like improv in theater either! I find it really annoying; people talk over one another and in many cases pull the interaction constantly off-topic, so that one cannot follow a train of thought to its conclusion ever. Some people find that fun. I find it causes me a hair-pulling level of anxiety and frustration. Who said what to whom when?

    Which, coming full circle, reminds me a lot of trying to follow a Tumblr thread.
    • In the comment above yours, broadbeam recalls LotR fandom there in 2010. I don't think that Tolkien fandom originated there in 2012, but I'm looking for the turning point where Tumblr became a major force in the Tolkien fandom.

      Of course, that's like trying to find the proverbial needle in the haystack with Tumblr, which lives very much in the moment. I've thought about looking at the most popular/influential Tolkien blogs and when they originated, but who knows what they would have been in 2010 or 2012 or even if those that were popular in 2010 or 2012 are still around, or if they haven't long been renamed and rededicated to Wholockian fandom or Homestuck or whatever?

      For fandom history, Tumblr is a huge pain in the ass!

      I've never been able to get into it precisely because I want that dialogue, and that's hard to achieve on Tumblr, for me anyway. My dash is filled with 95% non-Tolkien, and I haven't found the time to prune back those I follow to remove those who are no longer in Tolkien fandom. (Which is itself a foreign concept to me! Tolkien fandom 4 Life, yo!) And not everyone tags consistently, so even paging through the "silmarillion" or "tolkien" tags is unlikely to turn up the most interesting discussions happening in the moment.
  • What Oshun said! OK, I'm responding lazily, but really, she summarizes my take on the gradual shift to Tumblr fandom as well, i.e., about 2010 to 2012.

    In my experience, Tumblr's great for queuing up images (photography, art, fannish drawings) and other ephemera, but not for fiction or discourse.

    The Fanlore entry on Tumblr was not only unhelpful, but excruciatingly painful to try to read.
    • Thank you for seconding on this! I'm really trying to find a turning point where Tumblr became a Force To Be Reckoned With in the fandom. Which is proving remarkably difficult to do.

      I couldn't even read all the way through the Fanlore article. I generally go there first for information on fan history, and this one was really disappointing: more about etiquette and fan impressions of Tumblr and its up- and downsides when I was hoping for some solid dates and information about when fandom presence really started to coalesce there. Of course, that might not be available for the same reasons I'm finding: Tumblr lives in the moment, and rewinding five years to find what was being posted is well nigh impossible.
  • I can't say anything about the early days, because I'm a late adopter and never fully got into the swing of things over there, either.
    But I did have the strong impression, when I first started looking at Tumblr that, although there were some familiar names, there were other Tolkien or Silm fans there who had been well established there for a while and had never been anywhere but Tumblr, except possibly AO3.
    In other words, Tolkien fandom in general may see this as a "shift" from other venues to Tumblr, but Tumblrites would not necessarily see it that way--and that's not just because people over there skew younger.
    ETA: People seem to have been commenting on migration from LJ to Tumblr on my journal in 2013 (as having been going on for a while), but the search I conducted is not very reliable and at any rate that has more to do with perception.

    Edited at 2017-03-19 05:48 pm (UTC)
    • Me too: relatively late adopter and never really able to get into it, for a variety of reasons.

      My survey data confirms your impressions about people who identify as part of the Tolkien fandom but don't stray beyond Tumblr and AO3. I asked where people post their writing and where they read, and quite a few were exclusive to Tumblr and/or AO3. The AO3 piece isn't terribly surprising; there were a lot of fanfic readers/writers exclusive to fanfiction.net back in the day too. But Tumblr alone is interesting because it seems so antithetical to sharing fiction, imo. (Part of why I feel I don't completely fit there is because I'm waaaay too verbose!)

      I think the Tumblrite's impression of fandom beginning there (because for many of them it did) is in keeping with the rapid evolution of fandom in the Internet era. The tendency seems to be to discount fandom spaces that existed before one's arrival in fandom. Like I arrived after Usenet and the main hullabaloo about Geocities, so when Geocities closed and fandom mourned, I was a little perplexed at first until I realized exactly how much was going to be lost. But Yahoo! Groups and LJ? That's where fandom was at, back when I was first involved. Y!G seems obsolete now, and I can't even remember the last time I had a new follower on LJ.
      • Like I arrived after Usenet and the main hullabaloo about Geocities, so when Geocities closed and fandom mourned, I was a little perplexed at first until I realized exactly how much was going to be lost

        I was that way about Yahoo Groups, when I first discovered Yahoo Groups many of the Tolkien Slash group which brought me there had already gone quiet in 2006/7. I was aware of 3-5 places where people still had active presences, but in many cases, like the SWG, there was a more convenient and accessible location. I abandoned Yahoo after I began to encounter a virus or malware every time I went there! It infuriated me that some websites wanted people to continue to post through Yahoo while that was a serious problem.

        It is very relative in fandom and one's history therein, as to what feels user-friendly at any given point in time. I still post stories mainly using my own HTML coding, because I do not trust those new-fangled auto-formatting from Word methods!

        I have in life in general, always believed in know one's roots and one's history and liked the Santayana quote, "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it." So I found the youth of Tumblr inexcusably annoying for knowing nothing of the Tolkien fandom past. But then I take fanfic waaaaay too seriously. Some of the best things in life do not pay well!!
        • Yahoo has generally struck me as dodgy over the years. Maybe fandom would have moved on anyway, but Yahoo also helped put the nail in that coffin. And put a stake in the heart when they insisted on switching to the "Neo" format despite uproar from actual users of Groups.

          Likewise, when I joined fandom in 2005ish, some Yahoo groups were going dormant. I founded the SWG there right when Silmfics was dying; in fact, the two events were so near that one might think the death of Silmfics inspired the SWG, even though they were unrelated. But Henneth-Annun and a couple others were still going strong, and I joined new groups over the years that followed till the Neo disaster ended it all.

          So I found the youth of Tumblr inexcusably annoying for knowing nothing of the Tolkien fandom past. But then I take fanfic waaaaay too seriously. Some of the best things in life do not pay well!!

          OMG! I know what you mean! I have done my share of eyerolling and teeth-gritting. But I remember Tehta saying something similar to me in my enthusiastic youth: that a lot of what we newcomers (brought in from the films, just like the young Tumblrites were) were excited over were things that the more veteran fans had been talking about (and sometimes figured out) for years. So I can't be too critical; I remember very well that energy of having found something new and wanting to say everything I thought and felt about it. As time wore on, I became much more conscious that I was joining a tradition that was over 50 years old and that I was building on something already there, not making something wholly new.

          Edited at 2017-03-19 06:52 pm (UTC)
    • Thanks for the ETA! My impression seems to be 2012ish for The Big Shift (with fandom activity before that point too of course). The Slashcast podcast is also from 2013, called in the past tense "How Tumblr Has Changed Fandom." I joined in 2013, largely because I got the impression that I was missing large swaths of fandom activity by not being there. (I was in the throes of grad school, so my fandom radar was not particularly keen at that time, and I felt late to the party.)
  • I'd say 2012 was probably the grand shift - started before that, but I remember not being on Tumblr until most of my friends in the Tolkien fandom had blogs, and then I switched right with the rest. Since I've had the same blog since then, and the only difference is private posts versus public posts, I can tell you I started posting in mid October of 2012 (backed up by both Tumblr's archive of my stuff and when I announced it on other sites)

    Looking at those early posts, I now get to feel guilty that I still haven't finished most of the fics I was talking about then. Some of which I don't even remember writing, except that they're clearly mine...whoops.
    • Thank you! I'm gaining in confidence in using 2012 as the year not when Tumblr Tolkien fandom began but when it became a major force in the fandom. I still need to figure out how to prove that ...

      I have so many things I have wanted to write and have talked about writing over the years. (Very few WiPs ... I don't tend to share WiPs. But I've been promising the prequel to Another Man's Cage for more than ten years now. D^:)
      • You're welcome! Yeah, proving it will probably be the difficult part...I'm not sure how to go about that.

        Most of my promised things are things that grew out of conversations, such as talking about what Fëanor would think of Fingon in Valinor, writing smartass dialogue within my comments, and then somebody asking me to write more of that story. There's a lot of those, and then sequels people have asked for, and then the never to be finished grand epic of the House of Elmo....
        • I'm thinking the best approach would be to identify the major Tolkien blogs (individual and shared) and see when they started, which can be done using the archive view. That's going to be a chore. I'll probably see if there's anything interesting in my data with 2012 as the year, then if there is, go about doing that.

          I've never collaborated much on fiction. Probably another reason why Tumblr as a platform doesn't appeal much to me as a writer.
          • And then hope the major ones haven't changed their blog name. Let me know if there's anything I can do to help, like tracking down people that have other blogs to see if they crossposted "Hey, I made a Tumblr" when they've switched blogs...

            I've only collaborated once or twice, and only in the form of series where we all write our own fics but then they're linked. But I tend to put tiny little fics/snippets of dialogue within my comments as examples of what I'm talking about, and a lot of the time they end of spawning future fics. I'm not sure if that falls under collab or inability to stay in real discussion without diverting to writing fic. :P Those little snippets from comments tended to be what ended up on my Tumblr, so I didn't lose them...

            Tumblr doesn't appeal to me much as a platform because I thrive on long conversations about fics and ideas, and it's hard on Tumblr to have a 2,000 word conversation about the differences between Turgon and Orodreth's hidden cities or whatever.
  • I'd agree with everyone else that it's 2012; the Hobbit movies played a huge role. I can't tell you exactly when I joined the site (the vague "one month ago" rather than actual dates annoys the crap out of me), but I do remember that I was there when the first Hobbit movie premiered and having to make several "be nice to movie fans" posts. It felt a little like I was on the ground floor of the fandom at the time and seeing a bunch of newbies entering, not only the general veteran fan thing but specifically on Tumblr.
    • Thank you! I found my date by going to the mass post editor (the archive view works too, although it takes forever to load on my Internet); I thought the date I joined might be somewhere in my settings, but it was not. Why would it be, though? The past doesn't matter to Tumblr! (Part of why fandom history about it is so challenging to compile.)
    • Thanks for letting me know how to do that! I tried once a few months ago and gave it up as an exercise in frustration.
    • My join date was a little later than I expected: Sept. 12, 2012. So right before the movie fan explosion but not entirely as early as the ground floor.
  • probably a new wave did occur on Tumblr because of the Hobbit movies. I know i went on there briefly because there was a lot of hype for the movies and i was among those Tumblrs to repost things and such. I always followed any Thorin and Bilbo related posts.
    • It seems to me that both film trilogies coincided with tech advances in ways that boosted fandom presence in various online communities. When the LotR trilogy came out, Web 2.0 and Internet fandom were really burgeoning; the release of The Hobbit trilogy seems to have coincided with a fandom-wide shift to Tumblr as a major fandom space. In both cases, the arrival of so many new fans in the new formats seems to have created both conflict and shifted the Tolkien fanfic community in particular--a fandom which is positively ancient compared to most others!--in terms of what was being written and the approaches being taken to the text.

      My big question is can I document the latter well enough to make a case? :)

      Thanks for the insights on this!
  • I would actually say that 2012 is it.

    I registered on Tumblr in January 2011, which isn't early for some fandoms -- a lot of the "younger", art-based (e.g. comics) or new media fandoms were already there. But the Tolkien tags were fairly quiet.

    It was still a long while before names I recognise(d) in the Silm fandom of LJ, SWG, etc, started showing up there. I would say the duration of 2012 -- and things then "exploded" with the first Hobbit film (an explosion I largely ignored, I admit).

    Every Tumblr has a publicly-accessible archive through which you can see when the Tumblr was created, and also see the posting trends over the year. It's actually interested for me to go back and look at what I was reblogging in 2011, vs 2012, 2013, etc. It might be an interesting tool to hinge a survey/poll around, too -- when did you start your Tumblr, when did you start blogging or reblogging Tolkien fandom stuff, etc.
  • I would also say 2012 was the year. I was actually part of the online LotR fandom on Tumblr before anywhere else, really, and it's always been there, but most everyone else is right in saying there was a shift with the Hobbit films. Prior, it was a lot of reblogs and reminiscing (from my perspective, anyway - I wasn't the most active participant at the time!).

    I think the release of the Hobbit films in 2012 rejuvenated the fandom as well as inviting a whole new group of people into the fray, and then it really took off, along with Tumblr as a medium for fans and fandom in general. I also concur that it's the very visual element of the website and the ease of reblogging that makes it so appealing. Especially with all the new visual material with the release of those three films, there was lots of room for people to make cool edits and suchlike. Not to mention artists are very fond of it, and some truly fantastic and long-standing artists that draw Tolkien use Tumblr as a primary medium to share their work :-)

    Edited at 2017-03-20 09:31 am (UTC)
  • I would go with about 2012 too. I believe I joined earlier but just didn't use it.
    It did seem to coincide with the Hobbit films, but what I was noticing was a relatively big Silmarillion fandom too - that's really why I stayed, because I was seeing nice Silm art and coming from a time when there was barely anything at all, I loved it.

    What I noticed first was a lot of Sauron/Melkor, a lot of Sauron/Celebrimbor -- a lot of 'Dark Lord/s' in general, (quite a few rp blogs) and Fëanorions. There was also much Thranduil as the films came out but I was more interested that the Silm fandom was quite in evidence on there. Mainly through art, but also general blogs.
  • Have you gotten the help you needed? Wondering if I should post to Tumblr and ask people on that site to contact you.

    I didn't get on Tumblr until 2014-ish, so I'm no help before then. I will say movie-Hobbit fandom seems to dwarf (no pun intended) book or even movie-LOTR fandom, by a landslide. Book fans seem to be fans of books generally - i.e. I'm much more likely to see a fan of the Doyle books, or HP or Neil Gaiman or whatever, who enjoys the occasional Tolkien post, rather than an exclusively or even primarily Tolkien fan over there. So I suspect that intuition at least is on point....
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