Anastasia Salter and Mel Stanfill Launch Visiting Author Event Series


Mickenzie Hannon

UCF professors Anastasia Salter and Mel Stanfill kicked off the Visiting Author event series on Jan. 28.

Mickenzie Hannon, Reporter

Valencia College’s spring Visiting Author events launched Jan. 28 on Zoom, featuring a discussion and presentation from Anastasia Salter and Mel Stanfill, authors of the newly released “A Portrait of the Auteur as Fanboy.”

Salter is the Director of Graduate Programs and Texts and Technology for the College of Arts and Humanities at the University of Central Florida. Mel Stanfill is an assistant professor with a joint appointment in the Texts and Technology Program and the Department of English at UCF.

The event featured a presentation from Salter and Stanfill, which delved into fandom and geek culture, explained numerous franchise auteur case studies and particularly looked at how fandoms are used and reshaped by the media industry.

Already having experience in collaborating on smaller projects together, Salter and Stanfill found themselves repeatedly experiencing the challenges of “affirmational fandom and the ways the elevation of the ‘fanboy’ was playing out across transmedia franchises,” which Salter said led to the creation of
“A Portrait of the Auteur as Fanboy”.

Stanfill began the presentation explaining the importance of fandom: “While fandom is not something that really belongs to digital culture—fandom vastly predates the internet—it is something that the internet has made incredibly visible and incredibly integral to a lot of our lives.”

The presentation explained “fanboy auteurs” as those “whose status as ‘visionaries’ is alternately tempered and bolstered by their self-identification as fans,” a 2013 definition provided by Suzanne Scott.

The event continued, focusing on modern instances of fanboy identities across franchises and introducing the case studies that are further explored in “A Portrait of the Auteur as Fanboy”.

At the end of the event, participants asked the authors questions regarding their research findings, their opinions on fandom culture influence (specifically audience influences on the 2020 “Sonic the Hedgehog” movie) and more.

Professor Kirsten Holt helped coordinate the event along with the Valencia College Creative Writing Team. “It is really nice for our students to be able to see working professional writers within their own community that they might even potentially be able to work with in the future,” Holt said.

Since Salter currently teaches in a UCF graduate program, they “work with students who are often aspiring to academic research and authorship.” They said, “When I bring my work into the classroom, it allows me to break down the process and provide them with insights into how this type of work comes together.” Salter likes to use their experiences to “give students some direct knowledge of the challenges and rewards of this process.”

Salter collaborates with several UCF graduate students towards publication. In fact, both Salter and Stanfill’s recently published article is a collaboration piece with Texts and Technology Ph.D. student, Rachel Winter. “It’s one of my favorite parts of the job,” Salter added.

As this was the first virtual Visiting Author event of the spring semester, the Creative Writing Team is hopeful that future events will continue to be clean, connected, and accommodating.

During the Nov. 19 event, the horror-tinged speculative fiction author, Caitlin Starling, “couldn’t really see the audience she was working with, and for authors that probably isn’t conducive to what they’re used to experiencing,” Holt said. The Jan. 28 event, however, allowed students to freely turn on their webcams and unmute microphones and talk to the authors directly.

Students are encouraged to attend these events from the comfort of their homes. “If you can be in your pajamas at home, drinking your own coffee and listening to something that either will enrich your course or provide you extra credit, then I think that’s going to be much more likely to get students involved… I’m hoping that will be a little bit more accommodating for our students and accommodating for our authors as well,” Holt said.

Another benefit of hosting the events online, Holt added, is having more freedom with using the budget while also supporting struggling writers. “From a practical standpoint, we do have a limited budget… I think that especially with people being more likely to be out of work, we can probably support some authors who might not have a lot of work right now with some of their tours being canceled.”

The next Visiting Author event will feature Gwen Mullins on Feb. 11 at 4 p.m. on Zoom. Interested students and faculty can find the Visiting Author event series lineup and sign up for tickets on Eventbrite or on Valencia Events.