OTW Fannews: Fanfiction and Publishing

  • An article in Publishing Perspectives looked at what fanfiction could teach the publishing industry. “The way the best fanfiction relates to its source content, its questioning, at times analytical, and often philosophical and political interrogation of the certainties and assertions of the original Text could be seen as analogous to the rewriting of the settled narrative of publishing by tech startups. Those startups come not from publishing but often from engineering, computer science, and mathematical backgrounds, shaking up the staid world of the publishing industry, adding 50 shades of sexiness (or nerdiness) to the old print-bound linear processes and outputs. A few years ago, the publishing industry was certain of its borders, convinced of its rights, sure of its power, definite about who the main characters were in their narrative, and what their respective roles were. The gaps that it didn’t see — the enormous possibilities of agile processes, digital bits and bytes, content as data, the high speed distribution over connections that the print world couldn’t even begin to imagine — were explored by the tech startups on the fringes. They put everything into question.”
  • Certainly one way publishers are trying to utilize fanfiction comes from contests, encouraging not just writing but recording as in this recent item at Bookseller.com: “AudioGO has challenged five fan fiction authors from the Twilight Fandom (www.fanfiction.net), the original source of Fifty Shades of Grey, to write an original young adult story exclusively for audio” where winners would be chosen by a public vote. The citation of Fanfiction.net as a type of publisher, however, indicates a confusion over fandom, its practices, and its posting sites, that gets expressed in various ways. In a piece on Fifty Shades of Grey (which also quoted OTW Legal Committee chair Rebecca Tushnet’s work), the New York Review of Books copied a banner without permission or attribution to the banner’s creator, instead crediting the publication from which the New York Review copied it.
  • An increasing number of outlets are beginning to write more thoughtfully about fanfiction, particularly as one writer after another begins to land large book deals. The Guardian discusses how “fan fiction is an inventive antidote to a PR-obsessed entertainment industry” and a genuine expression of real life experiences. “Fan fiction is making teenagers better writers and better satirists, and allowing them to explore sexuality in a way decided by them rather than dictated by the entertainment industry. A purity ring doesn’t carry much meaning when Ron Weasley is pulling it off with his teeth.”
  • Of course, the eagerness of publishers to find the next big hit is often a world away from fanfiction archives making it on their own. In an interview with the owner and head moderator of AdultFanFiction.net, OTW staffer Aja Romano shines a light on its history and inner workings. “AFF which turned 10 years old this month, is one of the largest fanfiction collections on the Internet. Over 140,000 registered users have generated nearly nine gigabytes of fan-generated stories, written by and for adults, and much of it X-rated.” The archive is moderated and run with a very small staff and was hit by a flood of new users from Fanfiction.net, as were other fanfiction archives. “We had 10,000 alone in June, and we check each new registration.”

If you’re a fanfiction writer, or have your own publishing experiences to share, why not do it in Fanlore? Contributions are welcome from all fans.

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