OTW Fannews: Examining fanfiction

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  • One of the clear signs that fanfiction has arrived is the frequency with which new books and articles come out about it. To some, the fact that there is a considerable amount of academic study on the topic comes as a surprise. “By reading fanfiction, one’s interpretation of the original work (i.e. the canon) is expanded to incorporate new ideas, depending on whether you accept or reject the fanfic author’s vision. This is where we get widely accepted theories of fanon from. What this then leads to is a ‘flattening’, so to speak, of the original source. As fanfic culture flourishes, the consumer’s interpretation of an anime becomes much more deeply personal. This effectively breaks down the barriers that generally arise when we go from interpreting a text to actively taking it in as a creative influence.”
  • While quite a few documentaries about fandom have been created, fewer focus on fanworks. Thus Slash is of particular interest. “Fan fiction writers, and especially so the writers of slash fiction, need to be confronted on their own terms. There’s a low-fi quality at work here. Something very cobbled together, and in a strange way, dangerous. Dangerous in that sexy way that something can be when you don’t quite know where it’s coming from or what its intentions are…You will never feel the titillation of the unknown, that tiny tingle of ecstatic fear, when you see a glossy, studio-produced 50 Shades of Gray movie. It will be clean and polished and filled with pretty people who blush appropriately anytime the conversation goes south of the anatomical equator.”
  • Morgan Davies’ post on The Toast is briefer but also attempts to examine the history of slash. “As many other people have pointed out before, slash is much more about women and female sexuality than it is about men or male sexuality, for all that the characters on the page (or, well, screen) are male, and in possession of biologically male genitalia. As my friend Caitlin wrote in a Tumblr post on the subject, ‘any understanding that slash is only meant to or required to depict real world relationships is a false understanding of what slash is.'”
  • The relevance of fanfiction to other parts of people’s lives is also becoming a point of discussion. Ethan McCarthy does so in Patheos, suggesting that non-fans should consider where meaning comes from. “Readers are taking a more active role in determining a work’s meaning through interpretation. This broader cultural context can help us understand why fan fiction has taken off the way that it has. In fan fiction, meaning has less and less to do with the ‘original’ story, and more and more to do with the subjectivity of the fan’s imagination. The original story is left at the mercy of the fan’s own assumptions, interests, and yes, sometimes perversions. While the reader’s role in interpretation is important and shouldn’t be undervalued, the Christian doctrine of creation teaches us that meaning does finally inhere in the creator’s intentions.”

What sort of consideration do you see fanfiction getting? Write about it on Fanlore! Contributions are welcome from all fans.

We want your suggestions! If you know of an essay, video, article, podcast, or link you think we should know about, comment on the most recent OTW Fannews post. Links are welcome in all languages! Submitting a link doesn’t guarantee that it will be included in a roundup post, and inclusion of a link doesn’t mean that it is endorsed by the OTW.