What Fanworks Mean to Me

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From time to time, the OTW will be hosting guest posts on our OTW News accounts. These guests will be providing an outside perspective on the OTW or aspects of fandom where our projects may have a presence. The posts express each author’s personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of the OTW or constitute OTW policy. We welcome suggestions from fans for future guest posts, which can be left as a comment here or by contacting us directly.

On December 10, OTW’s Communications Committee sent out a call for essays on “What Fanworks Mean to Me” as part of celebrations for International Fanworks Day. A number of you responded, and we’d like to thank everyone who contributed! Today’s post shares some of those submissions.

Kasey, currently in USA

Fanworks. Wow. Where do I start?

The vast majority of my fiction-reading in the past, oh, seven or eight years has been fanfiction.

Through these stories I have gotten some idea what being genderfluid feels like, and felt okay getting medical help managing my depression; I’ve seen my deep love of dancing put into words I’ve never been able to find, and learned about things (winemaking, for example) the authors are knowledgeable about that I wouldn’t have researched on my own. I’ve gotten to read about theatre people like myself, and been ridiculously happy when characters were shown being competent with wrenches (that almost never happens in fiction, have you noticed?).

Plus there’s the wonderful plethora of AUs which make it easy to just ignore the utter tragedy of several canons (HA, TAKE THAT, lit-teachery sensibility!).

Fanart, comics, picsets, gifsets, fancasts, and headcanons bring stories from people who prefer those media or didn’t want to write a full fic, and lots of different ways of seeing characters beyond what’s shown by a book cover or source film or limited narrative point of view.

Fanmixes have introduced me to some new favourite songs.

And fanart and fancasts and headcanons have begun breaking me of the habit of automatically imagining characters as white, for which I am very greatful.

In short, stories get much more interesting when the knowledge and life experiences of hundreds of millions of people are thrown at them.

(Also, International Fanworks Day and Femslash February have turned February from my least favourite month of the year into one I actually look forward to. /Tusen takk/, fellow fans!)

KathNatsumezaka, Portugal

Eu escrevo porque é um escape da minha rotina. Cada vez que alguma coisa boa ou má me acontece, eu tento encaixá-la numa história que estou a escrever juntamente com alguns traços de fantasia. Sendo assim, as fanfics fazem parte da minha vida e são a coisa mais preciosa que tenho. Posso dizer que é uma das poucas coisas a que sou boa a fazer é escrever sobre o que quer que seja.

Durante 6 anos escrevi inteiramente em Português mas agora com 21 anos estou a tentar escrever noutro idoma não só para o meu trabalho chegar a mais pessoas como também para me superar. Gosto sempre ver onde fica o meu limite. Resumindo, a escrita para mim é como a minha vida. Se me tentam tirar isso, é como se uma parte de mim morresse.

Andromakhe, USA

As a fanfic author, I would say that the privilege to write about, to “spend time with,” my favorite characters and to share my dreams and opinions with the world concerning them is something very much bound up in my identity. That is, fanfic writing is fun, and joy, and a way to make my mark somewhere, a way to be heard and known. Because when one writes a story, a part of oneself goes with it into the world.

This can be said for any kind of writing, but with stories, it’s the heart rather than the brain that gets exposed, and I think that’s why stories are so enduring and universal in a way essays can never match. Fan creativity is an outpouring of love and an indication that a story has taken root in people and inspired imagination and new ideas. I think it’s the highest compliment to a creator that people have been captivated by their creations, and that’s what fanworks show.

Writing for my fandoms keeps my passion and my emotion alive. It keeps me in touch with the child inside, and I think that’s a very important function that should never be lost. Fanfiction is where my heart is.

Rós Vailintín, China

International Fanworks Day is coming and I would really like to share my thoughts with you. It’s really great that I’m still on winter vacation when this day falls, so I can do almost whatever I wanna do – and I’ve got a huge lot of unfinished fanworks, novels, arts, songs (yep I write songs), etc., and finishing any one of then can take at least one whole day, so I’ll certainly have something to do for IFD.

Sadly there ain’t any cosplay parties or anything like that at this time in my area, but some of my friends would love to enjoy this day with me, so it’s still not only me. In a way I think that our friendship developed around fandoms and fanworks; it’s what we always chat about, and we inpire each other. Fanworks aren’t just mind palaces of the fans. Of course, for people who don’t get this, say, my teachers, fanworks are just ‘a waste of time’ or ‘incredibly harmful distraction’.

But over these years, fandoms and fanworks have become a big part of my life, and have taken up at least a quarter of my brain I suppose. It’s not a bad thing though. At least when you’re bored, you have something to think about. And making fanworks is a super effective way to use your imagination and express yourself, but many people just don’t realise this.

Say, when I write a crime AU fanfic, I’ve gotta consider every detail of the case, and that stimulates my brain better than 100 math problems. Fanworks can’t help me with exams or schoolwork, but it makes you happy, and that’s enough for me. Maybe it’s because I’m in my terminal year that I need this much something to keep me in a good mood and motivated. When there’s an uncompleted fanwork there, I really finish my shitty homework faster, it’s true. Anyway my point is just that fandoms and fanworks are sort of like ‘lights of my life’, and I can’t realy imagine how I lived without them when I was a little girl. And in the end, thanks for finishing reading this!

SoloShikigami, USA

I’ve been dying to start a major re-haul project of my old fanfiction, and perhaps getting it prepared and releasing it on IFD would be the perfect way to celebrate!

So what does fanwork mean to me? It’s a chance to explore – explore the environments characters live in, their personalities or alternates thereof, it allows me to explore the “what if?” possibilities. I feel that it opens up conversations about characters and in turn, people in real life. It’s like being part of a really fun and awesome sociology project because it helps me to connect and understand people.

Fanwork has allowed me to express myself and open up to others in a way I never knew possible – verbal communication tends to be challenging for me and to have an idea expressed, understood, and even welcomed has helped me in the many facets of my life. It may be difficult for others to understand me sometimes as I go about my everyday life, but knowing that I have a safe, warm, welcoming environment in fanwork to come home to makes life a little easier to take.

Rainbowfootsteps, New Zealand

Fanworks, to me, are a way of connecting with others through art. People are brought together through mutual enjoyment of shows and stories, and together we create something wonderful.

Through my creation of fanwork I’ve made many friends, and gained a deeper understanding of the fandoms I’m in. But it’s not just the social aspect I love. It’s also the ability to create more content about something you love! Your interest doesn’t have to end in canon!

No matter what you want, you can almost certainly find – or create – a fanwork about it. It expands our knowledge of characters and situations in a beautiful way. So what do fanworks mean to me? They mean community, and they mean the creation of beauty.

  1. Janis commented:

    This isn’t filking (well, not really) or vidding, but honest-to-god fanficcing pieces of music by well-known composers I’m talking about. I guess you’d call it fanfiction where the keyboard in question has 88 keys and not 101. To me, it feels like fanfiction, but I imagine I’m the only person on Earth who is doing it — taking themes from 300 year old operas and obsessively reworking them as tangos, Impressionist pieces, jazz pieces, etc. Taking themes by Haendel and reworking them as if Rachmaninoff had written them.

    I don’t have the slightest idea where this sort of thing falls but to me, it feels like a form of fanfiction. AU, crossover, or something. It never occurred to me before that this would be a “transformative work” because it’s so very far afield of any normal concept of “fanwork.” But I suppose it is.

    Again, I hasten to add I’m not talking about writing sexy stories about the characters in “Cosi fan tutte.” I’m talking about rearranging the music from “Cosi fan tutte” as if it were a medieval madrigal or something, and putting it on paper. In the current classical music culture, this whole concept is a mental blank. And since it’s not done on a laptop keyboard, it’s non-existent everywhere else where fanwork means video, story, drawing, or costume.

    But even composers did it themselves. Gounod added a melody line to Bach’s first prelude from the WTC and called it an “Ave Maria.” Brahms did a whole series of variations on a theme of Haydn. Everyone’s riffed Paganini’s Caprice 24.

    What is it called when you write “fanfiction” on an 88-key keyboard? It’s too weird for a large online community, because for too many people when you post sheet music, it just looks like gibberish to them. And to the people who can read it or play it, it’s heretical to alter a composer’s dots beyond very strict set boundaries …