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The Boy Who Lived Forever - Fanfiction According to Time
July 7, 2011 11:37 AM   Subscribe

Time Magazine's Arts section features a nuanced look at fanfiction this week: Fan fiction is what literature might look like if it were reinvented from scratch after a nuclear apocalypse by a band of brilliant pop-culture junkies trapped in a sealed bunker.

Time's Lev Grossman writes: There's a division here, a geological fault line, that looks small on the surface but runs deep into our culture, and the tectonic plates are only moving farther apart. Is art about making up new things or about transforming the raw material that's out there? Cutting, pasting, sampling, remixing and mashing up have become mainstream modes of cultural expression, and fan fiction is part of that. It challenges just about everything we thought we knew about art and creativity.
posted by grey_sw (75 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
Transforming raw materials IS making up new things.
posted by DU at 11:41 AM on July 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


Do characters belong to the person who created them?

Asking if characters belong to anybody assumes it's possible to own ideas. This is stupid.
posted by LogicalDash at 11:43 AM on July 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


Time's Lev Grossman

I should point out Grossman is the author of The Magicians , a novel that riffs pretty heavily on Harry Potter and fandom in general.
posted by The Whelk at 11:49 AM on July 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Much of classic literature is fanfic.
posted by kmz at 11:50 AM on July 7, 2011 [11 favorites]


Fan fiction is what literature might look like if it were reinvented from scratch after a nuclear apocalypse by a band of brilliant pop-culture junkies trapped in a sealed bunker.

I've always said the bible was the ultimate work of fan fiction. I like to think Harold Bloom would agree with me (although probably not in those terms). The Yahweh story was the best narrative available to a large percentage of the human population for a huge period of time. It makes sense that individuals would fill gaps, answer "and then what happened?" questions, and even proposal new stories whole cloth.

Fan fiction is not a reinvention of literature, it is literature. In fact it's almost certainly older than the written word.
posted by 2bucksplus at 11:52 AM on July 7, 2011 [8 favorites]


I've always said the bible was the ultimate work of fan fiction.

Not only that, guess what.
posted by Wolfdog at 11:55 AM on July 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


(Don't miss the crossovers list.)
posted by Wolfdog at 11:56 AM on July 7, 2011 [6 favorites]


It challenges just about everything we thought we knew about art and creativity.

As long as you're forgetting the complete history of art and creativity. Nothing is created in a void, everyone who makes something was informed by their surroundings.


I think the biggest line is tossed away in the midst of everything else:

They're fans, but they're not silent, couchbound consumers of media.

Fanfiction is the creation of involved fans, extending the universe, filling in gaps in the canonical universe, writing alternative storylines. That's what is so interesting - the world created by the author(s) and sold to the public is not the only version of that world, anyone can have a go at adding to it.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:56 AM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Much of classic literature is fanfic.

I was totally surprised when I found out that like half of Shakespear's plays are fanfic and real person fic.
posted by nooneyouknow at 11:57 AM on July 7, 2011


These [fanfics] were homages. . . but also critiques: 'I love the show, but what if it went further? What happens if I press this big, shiny, red button that says "Do not press"?'
A sign lights up saying, “Please do not press this button again,” of course.

Which is an idea that Douglas Adams totally stole from Ian Fleming's Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

And so the cycle continues. . .
posted by Herodios at 11:59 AM on July 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


anicent epics and mythology only make sense if you imagine the thousand years of extrapolation, ret conning, pruning, gap-filling and fan fiction going on.
posted by The Whelk at 12:01 PM on July 7, 2011




Asking if characters belong to anybody assumes it's possible to own ideas. This is stupid.
posted by LogicalDash at 11:43 AM on July 7 [2 favorites −] [!]

Next thing you know, they'll discover that genre fiction can still have literary merit.
posted by Stagger Lee at 12:01 PM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Other writers consider it a violation of their copyrights, and more, of their emotional claim to their own creations. They feel as if their characters had been kidnapped by strangers.

This is baffling to me. I'm not a fan fiction reader or writer, and obviously not the writer of something somebody gives a shit enough to fan fic, but I really can't imagine being upset that if somebody cared enough about something I wrote to want to write about those characters themselves. It always seems like just about the highest form of flattery.

It almost seems like an insecurity about the original author's attachment to their own characters -- no one can kidnap them from you. If someone presses the button that you did not press -- well, why can't you just see it as amazing that someone wants to press the damn button at all after you created?
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:02 PM on July 7, 2011


And to show you how ignorant I am of this whole situation, I can't believe I never realized where the term "slash" came from. It seems so obvious now that it's been explained that I feel like I must have known it once upon a time and since forgotten it.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:04 PM on July 7, 2011


The mention of Biblefic reminds me: is God/Jesus/Holy Ghost OT3 incestfic or masturbationfic?
posted by kmz at 12:05 PM on July 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


I happen to know at least one person who is getting paid to write what amounts of Bible fiction (not slash cause the sex is canonical)
posted by The Whelk at 12:06 PM on July 7, 2011


You know Anne Rice?
posted by cmyk at 12:08 PM on July 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Spend enough time writing enough fiction and you'll get fantasy confused with reality. It's common for authors (sometimes readers, too) to hear their characters talking to them at inappropriate times. The voice in your head sure sounds like a real person; they have opinions and desires and prejudices. If someone were to telepathically enter your mind and remove that voice, you'd be hurt.

This isn't really relevant in a world without telepathy, where the closest we can get is for your readers to try very hard to imagine the character you wrote about, and hope they're imagining the same person. But nonetheless we suppose that the readers are imagining the same person as the author, because building a shared experience of something that doesn't exist is rather the point of the whole business.

If that were really true, if the character somehow existed on some other plane independent of both reader and author, fanfiction would be really terrible. Thankfully it isn't, but it's sufficiently inspiring to pretend that it is that some authors never stop.
posted by LogicalDash at 12:09 PM on July 7, 2011


>It challenges just about everything we thought we knew about art and creativity.

This line reinforces everything I already believe about journalism and criticism.
posted by darth_tedious at 12:11 PM on July 7, 2011 [15 favorites]


I think another complication of this debate is between individual authors who create "art" vs. the multimedia studios that market a franchise brand and encourage non-commercial derivative works. After you've licensed out the board game, the pencil-and-paper RPG, the CRPG with the modder's toolkit, and the MMORPG, the door is wide open to people writing their own stories in the franchise. I suspect the suits behind Trek realized that Trekkies were a goldmine of word-of-mouth advertising for the multiple reboots and the licensed products.

Rowling is typical in this regard. Give the fanficcers a knowing wink in interviews and book signings while slamming any attempt at non-approved commercial publication with the full weight of copyright law.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:17 PM on July 7, 2011


This line reinforces everything I already believe about journalism and criticism.

Eh, think of the audience. I doubt Time's main readership knew fanfiction existed at all.
posted by The Whelk at 12:20 PM on July 7, 2011


Fan fiction is what literature might look like if editors didn't exist and people read only books based on licensed properties.
posted by mikeh at 12:25 PM on July 7, 2011 [11 favorites]


I was totally surprised when I found out that like half of Shakespear's plays are fanfic and real person fic.

I think I remember reading somewhere that pretty much all of his plays are based on previous works or history. The main exceptions are The Tempest and A Midsummer Night's Dream, but even there the latter is basically AU crossover crackfic.
posted by kmz at 12:27 PM on July 7, 2011


Fan fiction is what literature might look like if editors didn't exist and people read only books based on licensed properties.


Sounds a bit like the late 19th early 20th pulp/genre book market.
posted by The Whelk at 12:29 PM on July 7, 2011


From the article: The culture talks to them, and they talk back to the culture in its own language.

I can think of more than one television show that their writers clearly are aware of the most popular fanfic pairings, and slip in subtle wink/nods to that (pairings that will never happen on the show). It's reached a point with one of the shows that I watch that in every episode I say "mark my words, tomorrow morning there's going to be fanfic based on that line written by someone." *shrugs* To a certain extent I like that the writers, at least with some television, are aware of what the fans are up to.
posted by librarianamy at 12:34 PM on July 7, 2011


Eh, think of the audience. I doubt Time's main readership knew fanfiction existed at all.

Agreed. I think it's pretty much impossible to write an article like this for Time without at least acknowledging the idea that people and/or companies "own" characters and stories, and that "art" and "creativity" only count if you're (supposedly) inventing something from whole cloth. That's a pretty common perception in an age when Mickey Mouse is copyrighted in perpetuity... and, of course, when Time's parent company "owns" thousands of characters and stories.

All in all, I thought this was about the best mainstream article I've seen on the subject.
posted by grey_sw at 12:35 PM on July 7, 2011


So do these writers tend to ape the literary style of the loved ones as well as the characters? Genuine question.

To me, it would be far more interesting to see a really good prose writer take on the universe of a mediocre popular writer, just to see what could be done with it, than to see another mediocre writer extending the further adventures of My Favorite Literary Character.
posted by IndigoJones at 12:40 PM on July 7, 2011


I don't think you can call anything written before modern notions of authorship and copyright fan fiction. This is not to knock fan fiction, but to just point out that modern rewritings take place in a vastly different culture with vastly different ideas of how texts work than anything before the modern era. Calling every single reuse of an idea or character fan fiction seems to occlude the different nature of each style of rewriting.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 12:43 PM on July 7, 2011


Whatever you do, don't write any new stories based on characters and stories that were totally invented by Mr. Walt Disney at his drawing board, like:

Snow White and the Seven Dwarf
Winnie the Pooh
The Jungle Book
Pinocchio
King Arthur
Dumbo
Bambi
Uncle Remus
Cinderella
Treasure Island
Alice in Wonderland
Robin Hood
Peter Pan
Davy Crockett
Johnny Tremain
Old Yeller
Sleeping Beauty
The Shaggy Dog
Darby O'Gill and the Little People
Zorro
Pollyanna
Swiss Family Robinson
The Absent Minded Professor
20,000 Leagues Under The Sea
Undercover Cat
The Ugly Dachshund
The Gnomobile
My Philadelphia Father (The Happiest Millionaire)
Freaky Friday
One Hundred and One Dalmatians
Mary Poppins
The Little Mermaid
Aladdin
Pocahontas
Hercules
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Tarzan
Rapunzel
. . .
posted by Herodios at 12:47 PM on July 7, 2011 [9 favorites]


This was a surprisingly non-judgmental view of fanfic, despite mentioning the dreaded "twincest" and "dubcon" varieties, and a pretty enjoyable read overall. Nice going, Time.

However, pretty much the best thing that I took away from the article was this:
Naomi Novik, whose Temeraire novels are best sellers and have been optioned by Peter Jackson...
Hell. Yes. I really hope this sees the light of day; Peter Jackson might be the one to do it right, if anyone can. Just have to hope he doesn't turn Captain Jane into a simpering idiot in a corset~

On preview:
So do these writers tend to ape the literary style of the loved ones as well as the characters? Genuine question.
Some do, with varied success. You see a lot of it in Sherlock Holmes fic (more so in the novel fandom than the movie or BBC fandoms), since the "old English" flavor of the novels is so strong. You see it the most with source material that has a very distinctive voice.
posted by ashirys at 12:48 PM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Aeneas? Total Marty Stu.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:54 PM on July 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is a weird thing for me.

I'll be honest, right now. I write fanfic. I write a LOT of fanfic. I write primarily for Spy vs Spy, Metalocalypse, and in the past Gundam Wing. I've written for a bunch of other fandoms as well, and over the years probably have written several novel lengths of fic.

Most people, when they encounter fanfic, encounter badfic. Usually the sorts of badfic you find on fanfiction.net (I cringed when I saw someone up thread linking to the pit of voles like that). And they assume all of it is self inserts and marry sue and bad porn and purple prose. However, I honestly think this is like judging most novels by romance novels. There is a lot of good stuff out there, written by many very talented people.

But the real question here, the one I think that so many people forget to ask, is WHY people are doing this. And the real answer isn't so much because its commentary or "kidnaping" but because its a fun way to creatively express how much you love these stories and worlds. I've never set out to write a fic as metacomentary or anything like that. I set out to write fic because I enjoy writing fic, and I enjoy writing these characters. What happens after that, and how people want to read it, that's up to them.
posted by strixus at 1:01 PM on July 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


There is a lot of good stuff out there, written by many very talented people. ..
.
This sort of gets back to the question of Whither Big Publishing. When anyone can post anything, we are in serious need of credible criticism. I've never looked at any fanfiction partly because it tends to be in areas that do not interest me, but also because I'm scared off by the reports of heaping steaming piles of poo. If I wanted to read bad fiction I would have taken a job as a reader at a publishing house.

So is anyone doing the reading so we won't have to?
posted by IndigoJones at 1:19 PM on July 7, 2011


Naomi Novik, whose Temeraire novels are best sellers and have been optioned by Peter Jackson

I read the first book and couldn't take anymore precocious dragon dialog. Novik should join McCaffrey in writing on the blackboard 1000 times: Dragons Are Not Ponies.
posted by Ber at 1:21 PM on July 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Huh, it turns out that Orson Scott Card doesn't understand copyright:

Orson Scott Card, author of the classic Ender's Game books, has written, "I will sue, because if I do NOT act vigorously to protect my copyright, I will lose that copyright ... So fan fiction, while flattering, is also an attack on my means of livelihood."...The legal argument against fan fiction isn't actually very strong. The scenario Card describes, in which an author's rights are diminished because he or she doesn't actively defend them, is associated more with trademark than with copyright.
posted by jcreigh at 1:22 PM on July 7, 2011


I honestly think this is like judging most novels by romance novels.

Oh, come on now. Sure, fanfiction's unfairly stigmatized by its worst elements, but so's romance. (And for a lot of the same reasons, i.e., girl cooties.) Don't contribute to it!
posted by asperity at 1:26 PM on July 7, 2011


IndigoJones - there is an entire sub area of creating fic-rec lists. check out crack_van on livejournal, or numerous delicious lists.
posted by strixus at 1:26 PM on July 7, 2011


Huh, it turns out that Orson Scott Card doesn't understand copyright:

I think it's safe to say there are a lot of things Orson Scott Card doesn't understand.
posted by asperity at 1:27 PM on July 7, 2011 [8 favorites]


Fan fiction is what literature might look like if it were reinvented from scratch after a nuclear apocalypse by a band of brilliant pop-culture junkies trapped in a sealed bunker.

I have a question. Why do they have to be brilliant pop-culture junkies? Why is that adjective appropriate. Fan fiction does not appear to be any more brilliant than regular fiction.

Oh, right, because Time knows the article is going to be read by people who read and write fan fiction, so this is a way for Lev Grossman and TIME to ingratiate themselves with that demographic.
posted by Pastabagel at 1:29 PM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


There was an interesting discussion about this sort of thing on the Escape Artists forums after they ran "The Things," which was nominated for a Hugo and yet was dismissed by several people (sometimes quite vituperatively) as "just fanfic," with a sort of implied (or even explicit) sneer that fanficcers weren't "creative" enough to "just come up with their own characters."

Me, I happily toss my stuff out there. I'd downright encourage people to write fanfic about my stuff, if I had any fans to fic for me.
posted by Scattercat at 1:31 PM on July 7, 2011


I fully expect fan-fiction to lap itself soon
posted by The Whelk at 1:35 PM on July 7, 2011


The Welk - people already write that sort of thing. I know someone who has already had a RPF (real person fic) written about them as a part of writing fic about fandom who write fic.
posted by strixus at 1:42 PM on July 7, 2011


Ah, here is the link I wanted.
posted by strixus at 1:43 PM on July 7, 2011


I was recently introduced to a Sherlock (BBC) AU where Sherlock and John are members of Sherlock Holmes fandom.
posted by kmz at 1:52 PM on July 7, 2011


danke, strixus, you're the woman!
posted by IndigoJones at 2:05 PM on July 7, 2011


Oh, right, because Time knows the article is going to be read by people who read and write fan fiction, so this is a way for Lev Grossman and TIME to ingratiate themselves with that demographic.

It has gotten disgusting how much Big Media and Fortune 500 corporations kowtow to the seemingly all-powerful fanfic demographic. After Citizens United, I am concerned about the ability of the uniformly fabulously wealthy fanfic writers to funnel unlimited streams of cash into the coffers of candidates for office.
posted by Falconetti at 2:09 PM on July 7, 2011 [7 favorites]


I have to say, I was kinda impressed. I'm so used to articles going "omg look at these freeeeaaaaaaaks stealing characters and writing porn with them!" that something that treated it politely and showed both sides of the story...bless.

I read the first book and couldn't take anymore precocious dragon dialog. Novik should join McCaffrey in writing on the blackboard 1000 times: Dragons Are Not Ponies.

Would it help if you saw it as a total Master & Commander Aubrey/Maturin AU where Stephen's a dragon? Because it so is...


(also? yeah. I write it. Been writing it since I was 13 and writing Star Trek: The Next Generation Mary Sue epics...)
posted by Katemonkey at 2:27 PM on July 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think fanfic is going to be terrifically influential in the next decade or so. It's increasingly my theory that the future of the arts is going to be defined by borrowing from the vernacular -- we already see it happen with television and film, which has increasingly borrowed amateur filmmaking techniques in order to make their shows seem somehow more authentic, to the point that it's now become or sort of ill-considered tic, a style I call "YouTube verite." And professional audio productions are increasingly stealing the lo-fi sounds of home recordings to provide a sort of faux authenticity to their work. It used to be that the pros just stole the product to seem authentic, but now that people are managing to distribute their own product, the pros are also lifting the production techniques, or at least imitating them.

The past century, ever since the very first modern collage and readymade, the arts have been, to an increasing extent, in the business of the remix, to the degree that I think it defines contemporary art and popular culture to an extent that we no longer recognize -- and has been a technique readily borrowed by folk art and outsider art, as well as street-level art. This isn't going to go away, but I think that a big impetus for this was that it made making art cheap. It was simple enough for hip hop artistic to go to a club, set up two turnables, and make music out of existing music. It was pretty much free for filmmaker Joseph Cornell to assemble new films out of scraps of old ones he got in warehouses.

But now, a lot of the tools of making new art has become free, are almost free. You can make an entire album using GarageBand on the iPad (I know this is true; I made one.) You can take photos and make movies with cameras that cost under a hundred dollars, and upload the work directly to the web. And you can write stores and find an audience for them online, without having to go through a publishing company.

This has lead to an explosion of new creative work, and, as I said, professional popular culture has started borrowing from it. And fanfic is the best of two worlds -- it's a remix, of sorts, and it's vernacular.

I fully expect that we will start seeing high art and professional art that borrows directly from fanfic. Fuck it, I think I'll start doing that. Better to arrive early at a new trend than late.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:27 PM on July 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


kmz's link was recced by a friend of mine a while ago. It's a great way to while away an hour, but it relies on a solid understanding of livejournal-style media fandom for a lot of the humor.

I thought the article was pretty good, was glad that it was positive and not just "they're ripping off Big Media Companies and authors and writing nasty porn!". I was amused by Grossman being the writer given that his book (which is great) is in its own way a Potter homage.

As a fan, I like fanfic* and I like that people write it, even the crappy stuff, because I like to see people participate actively in generating culture instead of passively consuming it, and because I think fanfic is a part of the modern folk process, which is something I generally believe is good. Even though I'm not personally a fic writer (my fic is in the service of roleplaying), I have a policy of avoiding certain authors who are anti-fanfic because they're anti-fanfic. It's like reaching into the communal well of plots and stories and characters and characteristics and so on and then pulling up the ladder afterwards. Not cool.

* but do not think people should charge money for it.
posted by immlass at 2:32 PM on July 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Fanfic didn't register on my radar at all until Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.

I'm not sure free speech means anything if such writing were made illegal.
posted by effugas at 2:36 PM on July 7, 2011


Astro Zombie: Oh, I think that Dr. Who, Torchwood, and Masterpiece Mystery: Sherlock have been taking hints from fanfic. Blizzard used the fan-created Mida Silvertounge as a Goblin faction boss. And Bioware slipped ads for Blasto the Hanar Spectre into Mass Effect 2 after fans latched onto a writer's joke.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:55 PM on July 7, 2011


Dante's Divine Comedy is the ultimate Mary Sue fic. If your fanfic is that acclaimed, maybe i'll read it. But I avoid fandom and fanfic as a rule.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:18 PM on July 7, 2011


As noted on the recent thread about the TV series Supernatural, the show makes several nods to the fanfic and slash communities.
posted by Ber at 3:41 PM on July 7, 2011


Would it help if you saw it as a total Master & Commander Aubrey/Maturin AU where Stephen's a dragon? Because it so is...

Actually, this isn't just a matter of 'it so is' - the Temeraire books literally started when Novik was writing a Master & Commander AU. If memory serves, it was supposed to be part of a 'Five Things'-type series of AU M&C fics. So you've got your genderswap one, your steampunk one, and then, as she was writing a riff on the time-honoured 'soul-bonded dragon' trope, she realised that she'd gone far enough AU and the characters were different enough from their canon counterparts that she was essentially writing original fiction.

So she went back, took it apart, mucked it around a bit, and... that's how Temeraire happened.

(If, as I did, you've read any of her other M&C fic in close conjunction with reading the first Temeraire book, you may or may not also notice certain, ahem, peculiarly familiar elements in 'Duende'. Now, I should note that I normally can't stand the file-off-the-serial-numbers approach to publishing erstwhile fanfic as original fiction; it shows in the work, it reinforces stereotypes of fanfic writers being 'too lazy' to invent their own characters and universes, and there's something unbelievably grating about authors making a quick buck off of the gift economy of fandom and/or making use of favourite fannish tropes to try and score cheap points with the reader. That said, I don't actually consider Temeraire an example of this; while the similarities are obvious to anyone looking for them, and it has a built-in appeal for any M&C fans, Laurence and Temeraire genuinely are their own, fully-realised characters, and everything else from the supporting cast to the universe backstory are all solidly original.

Well... apart from, you know. The bits that are actual history. ANYWAY.)

tl;dr there's often way less difference between fanfic and 'original' fiction than people think, even when it comes to fandom-affiliated authors.

A warning for any curious MeFites about to go off a-Googling: the fics I reference above are slash, so if the notion of Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin being even gayer than they are in canon does not appeal to you, then... it's probably best you don't. If it does appeal to you, or if you have no particular preference either way, then GO, GOOGLE LIKE THE WIND. Until we devise the technology to bring Patrick O'Brien back from the grave, Novik's M&C fics are (on the whole) about the next best thing to more Aubreyad canon around.
posted by sophistrie at 3:50 PM on July 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


Is art about making up new things or about transforming the raw material that's out there?

Nothing is created from nothing.

Look at Historical Novel X Plus Zombies, etc. mashup pop culture has already won.
posted by mrgrimm at 4:39 PM on July 7, 2011


Nah x + zombies is just an embarassing blip on the radar.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:44 PM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, for those curious about fanfic in general, but rightfully wary of the oft-mentioned steaming piles of poo, do not visit fanfiction.net. It's where all the ickle fanfic writers start out, and while it absolutely has value as a kiddie pool (everyone's gotta post their first Mary Sue/character makeover/Evanescence songfic somewhere!), this also means it is probably the most complete embodiment of Sturgeon's Law on the internet. There are good, even great fics there; trying to find them is not worth it.

As strixus suggested, try crack_van or the aptly-named recs for recommendations (tagged by fandom). Searching delicious for '[canon] fic' or '[canon] rec' is pretty foolproof, or if you don't have a particular work in mind you'd like to read some fic for, some fans maintain extensive multifandom rec lists on delicious for your perusal. Hell, there's even a (very) handy post here reccing some of the best multifandom reccers. If there's one thing you can say about fandom, it's that we're good at niches.

And finally, if it seems like you're seeing the same fandoms or pairings pop up over and over again... well, yes. That's fandom; there are always going to be behemoths. However! If you're looking for stuff that's a) a little more obscure, and b) almost invariably delightful, check out the archives for Yuletide - an annual fic exchange fest for small/rare fandoms (meaning everything from Bob Dylan songs to classic cinema; from medieval French epics to HBO miniseries to the Old Spice commercials and Maru the cat). Last year, Yuletide moved to Archive Of Our Own; the 2010 stories are here, and until such time (???) as they are migrated over as well, all Yuletide fics from 2003-2009 can be browsed here. And yes. Naturally, there are recs.
posted by sophistrie at 5:18 PM on July 7, 2011 [13 favorites]


Oh, I think that Dr. Who, Torchwood, and Masterpiece Mystery: Sherlock have been taking hints from fanfic.

Especially Torchwood.

I love fanfiction; I read it because it's different than regular fiction in a lot of ways, and not just the porn parts (though those are good too). The whole hurt/comfort genre has always been able to hit me where I live when it's done well, possibly because it's something I've been reading since I was around 11-12 when that sort of overemotional drivel really hits me, but partially because it takes out some of the really emotional parts of fiction and makes them stand alone. I'm one of those people who'll go back and reread those chapters in novels; who'll go and rewatch the romance cutscenes on youtube instead of playing the game again.

Back to Torchwood: Torchwood takes all of those impulses and puts them in canon. People say Torchwood feels like fanfiction like it's a bad thing; it's not. It takes bits and pieces, the kind a big fandom makes, and throws them in the show and lets the chips fall where they may. This shows through particularly around Owen, for some reason.

It's possible to do this badly; I think Glee tries to do this but fails most of the time because it's trying to take too many ideas fans would love and there are too many balls in the air to keep track of. Twilight is an example of it done both well and badly: the way it backburners action and tends to only bring out conflict in order to push characters away/together is very fanfictionesque; Bella reads like a self insertion character, etc.
posted by NoraReed at 8:08 PM on July 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Sherlock: I mean, come on here, how can you do a television re-visioning of Holmes and Watson that constantly drops jokes about them dating and not be aware of the fact that it's one of the oldest fanfic traditions?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:25 PM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I read the first book and couldn't take anymore precocious dragon dialog. Novik should join McCaffrey in writing on the blackboard 1000 times: Dragons Are Not Ponies.

Funny, though I've never read Temeraire, I always assumed Novik got her start in McCaffrey fanfic. Lord knows I did!



Nerd clarification: mid-90s McCaffrey fandom was an odd beast, where we were required to write original characters in specific locales in the author's world by decree of the author. She approved RPG clubs personally, and made my favorite Weyr--Starshine--include a disclaimer on every chat/piece of 'fic that she hated our premise. Whatevs, we were the best. I wouldn't be a writer if it weren't for fanfic.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:27 PM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


From the article:

Nobody makes money from fan fiction

I beg to differ.
posted by jscalzi at 9:28 PM on July 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'd like to second the recommendation to check out the Yuletide archives. Whenever introducing people to fanfiction, I like to start them with Yuletide, despite the fact that the fandoms are "rare," if only because the quality is generally so high. Some recommendations from canons that are relatively well-known:

Fire, Measured by What Doesn't Burn (Twelve Dancing Princesses)

Waste Our Lights In Vain (Romeo and Juliet)
(this features a brief, not overly explicit sex scene between Mercutio and Tybalt)

Yule Morning, or Malvolio's Revenge (Twelfth Night)
(20,000+ word continuation of Twelfth Night, complete with iambic pentameter)

this is not a chick flick (Greek Mythology, the myth of Hades and Persephone)

Five stories the Reader never began (If on a winter's night a traveler)
(okay, this is less well known, but if you are even slightly familiar with the conceit of If on a winter's night, this is delightful)

Meta Yuletide Fic (The Fic You Wish Your Fic Smelled Like) (Old Spice Commercial) (Oh yeah, someone wrote it. I dare you not to have Old Spice Man's voice in your head while reading it.)
posted by yasaman at 10:03 PM on July 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


We stand on the shoulders of giants. . .





Guess what the giants are standing on
posted by Herodios at 5:40 AM on July 8, 2011


I should point out Grossman is the author of The Magicians , a novel that riffs pretty heavily on Harry Potter and fandom in general.

Also, he has a sequel, The Magician King, coming out in August.
posted by jcreigh at 6:06 AM on July 8, 2011


Eeh, I kind of view fanfiction the way I view the fiction it's mostly based on: an activity that is good for a child's imagination but a little sad when an adult does it.

Writing ficiton based on history or older fiction is much different, since hundreds of years later there are all these layers of meaning and reference that have snagged on the cultural impetus of the original. It requires some education to write, and often some education (or commitment) to read.

I'm not going to come out against fanfiction in general because yeah, it's clearly a cultural phenomenon, but it's kind of like furries: do whatever you want to do to get yourself off, man, but please don't hurt any actual animals and -- PLEASE -- do not talk to me about it.
posted by Mooseli at 6:23 AM on July 8, 2011


Writing ficiton based on history or older fiction is much different, since hundreds of years later there are all these layers of meaning and reference that have snagged on the cultural impetus of the original. It requires some education to write, and often some education (or commitment) to read.

You realize there is fanfiction for the Bible, right, as mentioned in the article? I'm not making some joke about subsequent theological discourse, but people writing fanfiction about Lucifer and God and labeling it as such. And fanfiction about the Iliad and the Odyssey and the Divine Comedy. I've even seen fanfiction for Beowulf and Gilgamesh. If you want concrete links, yasaman's post just above yours linked to fic for folk tales, Romeo and Juliet, and Greek mythology (and a totally awesome Old Spice one, too.)

Also, suggesting that people who write fanfiction = people without education is hilarious to me because of the huge, huge, huge number of people who write fanfiction while in higher ed or after having gotten their advanced degrees. I mean, it's staggering. The amount of griping and bitterness in Livejournal fanfiction circles about being stuck in PhD programs at prestigious universities? It's positively AskMeFi-esque.
posted by joyceanmachine at 6:57 AM on July 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


My wife is into this stuff to a ridiculous degree so I've been around it for a long time. And it gradually occurred to me that one of the reasons that a lot of women write slash is not just the "ohmygod, Daniel Jackson and Colonel O'Neil are SO doing it" but to write about romance and relationships without having to deal with the sexual politics of man/woman. Or on another level, to comment on the sexual politics of man/woman. Just try a Google search of "gender politics slash fiction".
posted by Ber at 7:13 AM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Scalzi, you smart ass. Just for that I am going to write a story where John Perry and Alan totally go green on green!
posted by Ber at 7:17 AM on July 8, 2011


Have to add here -- a few people have mentioned the influence that Harry Potter had on Grossman's The Magicians, but I think even more importantly, the book really wouldn't exist at all if it weren't for the Narnia books.

As far as fanfiction goes -- I've written Doctor Who fanfiction. And I've had a Doctor Who story professionally published. The idea that only one of these stories is an actual True Quality Approved Work of Fiction™ because the rights-holders blessed it with their magic wand is endlessly fascinating to me.
posted by webmutant at 7:58 AM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well yeah, but he hits the target with Potter and kinda goes broad and misses with Narnia.
posted by The Whelk at 8:06 AM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


The idea that only one of these stories is an actual True Quality Approved Work of Fiction™ because the rights-holders blessed it with their magic wand is endlessly fascinating to me.

Don't worry, there are plenty of people who will tell you that paid fiction-writing in an established universe is inherently beneath a srs bzns writer too. :p

I think of (uncompensated, thanks Scalzi) fanfic as the written equivalent of karaoke or amateur covers of pop music. You don't have to like it, but the sneering generally says more about the sneerers than it does about the people having fun doing it.
posted by immlass at 8:11 AM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Don't worry, there are plenty of people who will tell you that paid fiction-writing in an established universe is inherently beneath a srs bzns writer too. :p

Poor Lee Goldberg. Tsk tsk.
posted by kmz at 8:23 AM on July 8, 2011


I think the only worrying part of fanfiction is when it's done legally and officially. That is, when Hollywood and mainstream entertainment end up making endless remakes, instead of coming up with some new original stories.

The idea that only one of these stories is an actual True Quality Approved Work of Fiction™ because the rights-holders blessed it with their magic wand is endlessly fascinating to me.

Naw, that's the whole point of distinguishing between degrees of canonicity. It's about figuring out which stories sets down generally accepted "rules" for stories. Fanfiction may be Calvinball, where anyone can make up rules on the fly, but in order to cater to a wider audience, it's easier to write your fanfic with shared assumptions about a fictional universe and characters that everyone already accepts.
posted by Apocryphon at 10:17 AM on July 8, 2011


Apocryphon: That is, when Hollywood and mainstream entertainment end up making endless remakes, instead of coming up with some new original stories.

The entertainment industry has always thrived on remakes and adaptations.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:23 AM on July 8, 2011


The entertainment industry has always thrived on remakes and adaptations.



Script
by
William Shakespeare






Additional dialogue
by
Sam Taylor



 

posted by Herodios at 10:05 AM on July 12, 2011


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