OTW Fannews: What’s in a Name?

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  • The New Statesman weighed in on an important discussion as fanworks become more well known: what actually counts as one? “It comes down, as it often does, to money. Because money, and a lack of it, is at the heart of long-held tensions about fanworks. Fanfiction is overwhelmingly the product of unpaid labour, millions and millions of words given freely, whether for legal reasons or community norms. Because it isn’t compensated – and because it is so often done by women it is devalued, as an art form and as a way to spend one’s time. When money is added to the mix, whether in giant pull-to-publish book deals or, increasingly, fanfiction contests and authors sponsored by television networks and Hollywood studios, the place that fanworks occupy in the vast sphere of adaptation and reworking begins to shift. And not always for the better.”
  • The confusion about what counts is understandable given the visibility of commercial works that either tell the stories of fans, that do similar work, or even co-opt the terms to market a product from commercial authors. What’s promising is the increasing focus on available fanwork, especially when it provides a way to show audience response to a current event or topic of interest.
  • The visibility of fanworks means that its features and practices have been inspiring commercial creators and industries, whether it’s to blend fanwork with their own work; to take popular genres more seriously; to respond to users’ wishes about how they want to interact with stories; or to create works about them.
  • The transformative nature of fanworks is an important element in its legal protection but this is often overlooked or misunderstood by the media, even while examples of its commentary on commercial entertainment are easily found. One recent example is a fan edit focusing on Pulp Fiction and Breaking Bad. The need to educate others about what fanworks makes the effort of fans to do so all the more important.

Do you think it’s important for fans to explain their own practices and communities? That’s what Fanlore is all about. Contributions are welcome from all fans so create an account there and share your knowledge.

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.