OTW Fannews: In defense of fanfiction

Banner by James of a classical painting of Napoleon and Tsar Alexander I on horseback among soldiers

  • At Game Informer one member recently wrote a post in defense of fanfiction. “Ultimately, fanfiction gets much more of a bad rap because it more-often-than-not involves altering the way a series works, and how the characters of that series are portrayed. As a person who loves story, lore, and characters, it is a bit surprising that I’m open to (and enjoy) series-altering stories. However, I like how they explore ideas I wouldn’t see otherwise, so I’m not just re-experiencing the game again in novel form. If I want that, I can (hopefully) get one at the bookstore.”
  • Two writers profiled by Swarthmore College’s Daily Gazette did the same with fewer caveats. “After taking the course ‘Fan Culture’ with Professor Bob Rehak, [Ginzberg] developed his current view on ‘shipping’ in fan fiction. ‘I don’t really care what you ship. I’ll ship everything. It’s a nice challenge to be able to see if I can put these two characters together, even though the show wouldn’t necessarily support it. But it’s also nice if you support the stuff in the show, because then you can expand on it in a way the show never did.'”
  • As an increasing number of people not only read fanfiction but create it, there’s more focus on exploration rather than defense. For example, Marie Maginity wrote a “Fanfiction for Dummies” post that defined terms and recounted history. “Fast forward a few hundred years to the young Bronte sisters, writing ‘real person’ fanfiction about Sir Arthur Wellesley and his sons, Arthur and Charles, one of whom becomes the Duke of Zamorna, a superhero of sorts. And if you thought the first slash fiction dates to Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock, you are mistaken. Paintings and descriptions of romantic encounters surrounded Napoleon Bonaparte and Tsar Alexander I. They even appeared together in a thinly disguised passage in Tolstoy’s War and Peace.”
  • Sequential Tart gathered the GeekGirl Con panelists of the Romance Is a Feminist Genre discussion, to share their thoughts on its intersection with fanfiction. “One thing that romance and fanfiction have in common is that for a long time, they’ve been seen as ‘less than’ — that is, ‘not as good as’ other kinds of fiction, even genre fiction. Both still continue to have that ‘mark’ against them, and despite the popularity of both genres, they are considered at the ‘fringe’ of literary society, so to speak. However, what most people don’t understand about art is that the most innovation and exploration happens at the fringes of any society. Look at hip-hop and rap, for instance. All of these genres have a definitely structure to them that art’s higher society tends to deplore. But all art must have structure, a springboard from which to jump into innovation, and these things exist at the fringes of the words of romance, fanfiction, and rap.”

What fanfiction debates have you seen? Write about them 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.

News of Note
  1. AlisonAPD commented:

    I absolutely agree. Fanfiction is the re-imagining of an existing story, and it’s hardly new: Shakespeare based Romeo and Juliet on a poem by Arthur Brooke called The Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Iuliet, written in 1562.

    Just one example of how fanfics are well-established. We shouldn’t have to defend it – it’s already part of literary history.

    Thanks so much for this wonderful column!