“Fan fiction” added to Merriam-Webster

[no-glossary]Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary recently released its new additions for 2009 (you can see them here), and for those of us who work on OTW’s academic journal, Transformative Works and Cultures, one new term stands out: fan fiction. You could hear our whoops of joy across town. Language geek that I am, I immediately tweeted and e-mailed all my friends in a frenzy of happiness. Not only had MW finally added the term to their lexicon, thereby acknowledging its importance to popular culture, but the styling I preferred was confirmed!

It’s taken awhile (the term has been around since 1944, MW informs us), but at long last, fan fiction has been defined by an authoritative source—and for those employed in the U.S. publishing industry, it is the authoritative source; no other dictionary will do. MW defines the term as “stories involving popular fictional characters that are written by fans and often posted on the Internet.” The entry concludes with the note that it is “called also fan fic,” which is intriguing because this term is also styled as two words, although it does not have its own entry.

When I wrote the first style sheet for TWC, I struggled with the styling of this common term. I really, really agonized about it. Ought it be fan fiction or fanfiction, the latter a styling that certainly got plenty of usage? In the end, I styled fan fiction as two words, precisely because it was not in MW. (If a potentially compound word is not in the dictionary, then it is styled as two words rather than solid.) I saw the term as two words in print but as one word on the Internet—but online, it seemed to always end up referring specifically to fanfiction.net rather than just being a generic version of the term.

In addition to fan fiction, TWC (against OTW’s house style, you may have noticed) styles most fan words as two words rather than one: fan art, fan artwork, fan vid, fan film. Mostly this is a result of the two-words rule, as none of these other potentially compound words is in the dictionary. But mostly TWC decided to treat fan terms as two words because fan is not a prefix. Turning the two words into one elides the active work of the fan by making the entire word about the artwork: it’s fan fiction, a piece of fiction actively created by a fan. Styling fan fiction as two words foregrounds the active process of creation and keeps us—writers, artists, vidders, fans—in the linguistic picture.[/no-glossary]

Concerning Fanfiction

Mercedes Lackey has announced the following on her blog:

News: Concerning Fanfiction:

As you folks already know, my agent, Russel Galen, has in the past been opposed to fanfiction. However, he is also Cory Doctorow’s agent now, and Cory is a persuasive little gnome.

As a result of this, I am happy to announce that we are officially permitting fanfiction to be licensed as derivative fiction under the Creative Commons umbrella…

Thanks, Cory, for helping Mercedes and her agent recognize that fans’ reaction to works can (and already do!) legitimately include creative responses. We don’t think we need her permission, but we’re always happy to have her blessing–and as fans of hers, we’re happy that she’s happy! 🙂

Writercon 2009 – A Q & A with TWC’s Kristina Busse

Kristina Busse, co-editor of Fan Fiction and Fan Cultures in the Age of the Internet and one of the editors of Transformative Works and Cultures, was interviewed in a Q & A for the upcoming Writercon 2009, a con dedicated to fannish and original writing. Kristina is going to be one of three special guests at the con, which takes place July 31 through August 2, 2009 in Minneapolis. For more information about Writercon 2009, check out their website or their LiveJournal community. Writercon describes itself as a con “about the writing and the shared love, not shipper politics or the plots of the shows, except as related to the fic. It’s about how fan fiction is literature, and it’s about showing that it’s as worthy as any other genre of writing.”