This spring Ad Astra Con, Ontario’s longest running not-for-profit, volunteer-run, weekend-long, science fiction & fantasy event, made a point of legitimizing fan fiction as an important part of the literary culture by inviting members of the fandom community to attend as guest panelists.
“This year we are really emphasizing our amateur writing and fanfiction programming tracks,” said Sam Burmudzija. Burmudzija, a member of the Ad Astra programming team who also produces the OTP Podcast, spoke enthusiastically on the value of fan fiction and fannish culture in general. “We always have lots of panels on writing and publishing in general – things like NaNoWriMo and how to transition between fanfiction and pro writing – but are also going to have panels on topics like the fannish culture behind fanfiction, fanfiction as erotica, the value of fanfiction and the issues when fanfiction becomes mainstream, as examples.”
Panels included Fanfiction as a Unique Culture, The Rise of Kink in Fanfiction and Fandom, Mental Health in Fandom, The Value of Fan Fiction, and The Influence of Fan Fiction Tropes and Practices on Mainstream Fiction.
Fandom Panelists included A.A. Mankiewicz, J.M. Frey, publisher Elizabeth Hirst, cosplayer Lady Di, and the OTW’s own Sarah Remy.
“It was great fun, but also an educational opportunity,” reports Remy. “In a room with an audience of twenty I could ask: Who here has heard of the Organization for Transformative Works? and maybe two hands would go up. Then: How about AO3? and every hand would go up, plus cheers and whistles. And yet the fair use/fair dealing issue would rear its head in almost every panel I was on. People were concerned and confused when it came to copyright law. There’s an informational disconnect between the OTW and the Archive, but without OTW where is AO3? Opportunities like Ad Astra are important for so many reasons. I hope we see more literary conventions reaching out to the fan fiction community in the future.”
Learn more about the fan-focused panels on Ad Astra’s website, and more about fair use from the OTW Legal committee.