OTW Fannews: The Mirror Writers

Banner by Alice of a fountain tip pen dragging away from a mirror

  • A number of media articles have recently mentioned fanfiction in relation with the pro side of writing. One was in TIME where Rhys Griffiths discusses the continuation novel. Describing various works not written by the original authors, Rhys calls them an attempt “to obscure the act of literary ventriloquism that is occurring. The continuation novel differs from fan fiction (also enjoying a purple patch, which is unlikely to be a coincidence) chiefly in its ‘official’ nature. The books are commissioned by the deceased author’s estate, written with its approval, and marketed using both author’s brand associations.”
  • A more direct example of ‘literary ventriloquism’ appeared in Flavorwire, which posted about fiction ghostwriting. “In this respect, both the YouTube megastar and the self-effacing ghostwriter are weirdly analogous to the writer of fanfiction and the self-published author, both of whom publishing has gone to great lengths to exploit in recent years. The now competing self-publishing models of Apple and Amazon point to an automated future…of a ‘consumer’ driven model that relies on upvoting.” The article concludes that “The fact that the reader gets to choose ‘precisely what she wants to read before any work goes to press,’ neutralizes the dream of fiction…to alter what we think is possible. It becomes nothing but a magic mirror that reaffirms our prejudices.”
  • It is writers’ prejudices that concern Jordan West, who gives advice on diversifying characters in fanfiction. “As much diversity as there is in fan communities, it shouldn’t be difficult for people to find reflections of themselves in fic. Fan works aren’t restrained by the same conventions as mainstream media, so we can’t blame editors or producers for telling us what we’re allowed to write. The go-to feeling for reading a fic should be based on whether you like it, not gratitude that it even exists.”
  • Games Radar profiled tie-in novelist Karen Traviss, who discussed both the freedoms and restrictions of being paid to write for a gaming franchise. “One guy told me he’d proudly showed the first novel to his family to demonstrate that the game that had kept him working almost 24/7 for the last couple of years was something that had an existence beyond gameplay, and that a novelist, an ‘independent’ arbiter of its worth in a way, had seen the same magic in it that he had. I thought that was very touching, and I don’t use the word touching about the industry very often.”

Where are the lines you see between fanworks and their pro counterparts? Write about them in 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 Fannews post, and inclusion of a link doesn’t mean that it is endorsed by the OTW.