Paratextual Negotiations: Fan Forums as Digital Epitexts of Popular Superhero Comic Books and Science Fiction Pulp Novel Series (2023)
This article examines the reception of popular serial narratives. Starting from the assumption that this reception presents both a challenge (how to study the vast and heterogeneous readerly engagement with these texts?) and a chance (readers of such texts tend to comment profusely about the reception process), we identify the paratext as a privileged space of readerly communication on, and serial engagement with, popular storytelling. We develop the concept of “paratextual negotiation” as a means of understanding letter columns and fan forums as (now mostly) digital epitexts that shape the evolution of particularly popular—widely noticed, commercially successful, long-running—narratives, with a focus on the German science fiction pulp novel series Perry Rhodan (1961–) and additional thoughts on the US American comic book superhero Captain America (1941–). Taking the quantitative-empirical metrics of attention measurement and their public display seriously by identifying and close-reading the most popular forum threads and the most broadly recognized commentary about these narratives, we argue that the participatory element of popular culture can be reconstructed in the interplay between series text and serial paratext and can be described as a force in serial evolution that thrives on a combination of variation and redundancy and of selection and adaptation.
Niels Werber and Daniel Stein (2023): "Paratextual Negotiations: Fan Forums as Digital Epitexts of Popular Superhero Comic Books and Science Fiction Pulp Novel Series", in: Arts 12: 77, doi.org/10.3390/arts12020077.