Yesterday, I drove down to Dekalb, Illinois, to attend a lecture at Northern Illinois University by Dr. Paul Booth, a professor of new media and technology at DePaul University, entitled "Fan I Am: Hyperreal Fandom and Parody." He was speaking on a subject peculiarly near and dear to my heart: Inspector Spacetime fandom.
For those of you who aren't familiar with Inspector Spacetime, it is a TV show within the universe of the NBC sitcom Community. It was introduced in the first episode of the third season as a British science fiction show that premiered in 1962. The main characters are a mysterious man called the Inspector, who wears a bowler hat and a trench coat, and a man named Constable Reggie, who dresses as a police officer. They travel through space and time in something that resembles a red telephone booth, and fight mechanical creatures called Blorgons, which shoot laser beams out of guns attached to their bodies and shout, "eradicate!" (In other words, it's a Doctor Who knock-off.) And until the tenth episode of the season, that was literally everything that was known about Inspector Spacetime.
Despite that, a TV Tropes entry about Inspector Spacetime was created two days after the episode aired, and fans started inventing a history for the show: which actors had played previous incarnations of the Inspector—not to mention that there had been previous incarnations—names of previous Constables, other enemies, and so on. A message board followed quickly. Then an "Inspector Spacetime Confessions" site was created on Tumblr, and people started writing fan fiction and making fan art, and doing all the other sorts of things fans do. But they were doing it in support of a property that, in large part, they themselves had invented. Because of this unusual overlap of producers and fans. Dr. Booth believes Inspector Spacetime fandom to be "a key text in fan studies and social media."
As a big fan of Community, I was naturally interested in the topic. But I was also a little worried about what Dr. Booth might say, because the promotional materials issued by NIU didn't mention Community, just Doctor Who. Now, I'm a fan of Doctor Who, and have been for 31 years, but it distressed me to think that Community might go unmentioned, so it seemed important that an actual Community fan be present just in case someone was needed to speak up on behalf of the show. (Being a fan makes you do weird things. Which is sort of the point of the lecture, come to think of it.) And since my grandmother happens to live in Dekalb, I had another (arguably better) reason to make the two-hour drive.
I plan to do a more thorough write-up of the presentation and post it over at Community 101 later today or tomorrow, but for the time being (and so I can find them quickly, Twitter being fairly miserable when it comes to making old Tweets easily available), here are the Tweets I made during the lecture:
And if that wasn't enough for you, here's a recording of the whole lecture by randomthunk!