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May 22, 2007 3:27 PM   Subscribe

FanLib's mission is "to bring fan fiction out of the shadows and into the limelight." But mostly FanLib is just a multi-fandom fanfiction archive seeking to make money off of the fans through ad space. Not all fans are happy about this. Does this matter? Henry Jenkins, Director of the MIT Comparative Media Studies Program thinks so.
posted by FunkyHelix (58 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
This link is to a really good summary of things thus far.
posted by FunkyHelix at 3:28 PM on May 22, 2007


Oh, and a link to wikipedia's explanation of fanfiction.
posted by FunkyHelix at 3:30 PM on May 22, 2007


/me shudders
posted by trondant at 3:33 PM on May 22, 2007


Making Light has a great thread about this. I'm surprised it wasn't linked to in the FPP.

Essentially, FanLib is a non-starter.
posted by Justinian at 3:39 PM on May 22, 2007


Does it have a category for slash? (I'm afraid to look.)
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 4:31 PM on May 22, 2007


...and over here we have the "Mary Sue" wing...
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 4:33 PM on May 22, 2007


Fan fiction belongs in the shadows, likes apes and centipedes and other terrifying things.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:03 PM on May 22, 2007


Whatever your feelings about Fanfic, this issues raises some really interesting questions-- I've just spent the best part of an hour reading through the discussions. As far as I can tell it's a way of getting free content, which they intend to try to make money on by brokering and distributing. The writers get nothing; they aren't even legally protected in case of lawsuit. This is specified in the FanLib TOS, which is nicely taken apart in a number of the LJ posts.

It's a business model that takes the energy and creativity of a (largely female) community and attempts to spin all that goodwill into gold. There isn't, as is pointed out in a number of places, a single woman on their board, let alone anyone with any kind of real history in fandom. Jon Landau? Really? From their business history:

In October 2006, after a successful and well-publicized partnership with Showtime Networks around their hit series The L Word (fans were invited to help script an episode, or Fanisode™)

Fanisode. You heard it here first.... Why pay writers when you can get people who will do it for free? It's kind of like an American Idol model of providing a pool of talent for only potential reward (how much money has AI made? How does it compare to the handful of people who have actually launched careers?).

It all reads as if a bunch of guys-- and these are entertainment industry lawyers, some of them-- have decided to legitimize fan fiction, and profit of it at the same time.
posted by jokeefe at 5:18 PM on May 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


Wow, these guys did pretty much everything wrong. Then again, it's hard to feel sorry for somebody who collected 3 million dollars of start-up capital and the support of major publishers, and then forgot to do even the slightest demographic research before launch.

Ads for fanfiction. Featuring men. *boggles* *boggles again*
posted by vorfeed at 5:19 PM on May 22, 2007


A bit more information here-- a commentary on their marketing plan. How the site's being pitched to industry is the most revealing thing of all:
*See How To: Grow Audience! Enhance Brand! and Increase Revenue!
*[let] a mass audience collaborate democratically in a fun online game that you control. [Emphasis theirs]
* Increase audience -- if they build it, they will come
* Massive Viral Marketing
posted by jokeefe at 5:22 PM on May 22, 2007


Oh man, they even reference American Idol in their marketing brochure(.pdf)! I honestly hadn't read it when I wrote my earlier post.
posted by jokeefe at 5:31 PM on May 22, 2007


Reading further into their marketing plan, I come across this:

"Automatic profanity filter."

Erm, I don't think they are really very clear on the fan fiction concept, here....
posted by jokeefe at 5:33 PM on May 22, 2007


*See How To: Grow Audience! Enhance Brand! and Increase Revenue!
*[let] a mass audience collaborate democratically in a fun online game that you control. [Emphasis theirs]
* Increase audience -- if they build it, they will come
* Massive Viral Marketing


The fact that they left this online where people could find it is really the icing on the "we just don't get it" cake, isn't it? Fanfic is basically modern folk tales -- people getting together and riffing on a certain subject, using metaphor and narrative to fully explore it. And just as with folk tales, the collaborative element is essential, because part of the process is building a community narrative, to the point where there's a degree of shared perspective that emerges. The very idea that fanfic is something companies can "control" is ridiculous, mostly because you can't control an inherently emergent process. That goes double when the attempt at control comes from an outsider who doesn't even realize that each of these fic groups are more-or-less speaking their own language.

To put it a bit more simply:
Fandom: "Darmok! Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra!"
Fanlib: "Jeez, what does that even mean? Why do they keep saying it? Forget it, it's obviously not important. Let's get together and increase brand and revenue, while enhancing our market share with proactive synergy!"
Fandom: "Shaka, when the walls fell."
posted by vorfeed at 5:44 PM on May 22, 2007 [5 favorites]


Tip o' th' iceberg, folks. When the sources of inspiration for these derivative works finally enter public domain, there'll be plenty of hype concerning "Our NEW Western Canon", and how it's turning our kids into sick, genetically-enhanced, androgynous beast-hybrids who sell their body parts off to distant countries. And of course, it'll all be Bill Clinton and FDR's fault.
posted by Smart Dalek at 5:58 PM on May 22, 2007


God, this is hilarious. It should really be a future showcase for businesses who really, really don't understand their target audience: http://pics.livejournal.com/msilverstar/pic/00015f3k

There's also very good post by cupidsbow addressing the issue of gender in all this-- there are some disturbing, but all too predictable, historical resonances here.
posted by jokeefe at 6:09 PM on May 22, 2007


But mostly FanLib is just a multi-fandom fanfiction archive seeking to make money off of the fans through ad space.

I was pretty sure that said: FanLib is just a multi-fandom fanfiction archive to make money jerking off the fans through cyberspace.

I wanted to commend you for such an accurate portrayal of fanfiction!
posted by blacklite at 6:28 PM on May 22, 2007


285,000 Harry Potter stories. Wow.

I wonder if they have Animagus on Animagus slash?
posted by smackfu at 7:10 PM on May 22, 2007


WEll, that was a silly question.

Double Dog Dare
Remus/James/Padfoot
posted by smackfu at 7:13 PM on May 22, 2007


This last point is especially relevant when you consider that the overwhelming percentage of people who write fan fiction are women -- even if there has been some increase of male writers as fandom has gone on line. To give you a sense of scale, there were more than 700 people who attended the Harry Potter fan convention I wrote about yesterday -- most of them readers, many of them writers of fanfic set in J.K. Rowling's world. By my count, there weren't more than 20 men in the group

I've got to start going to fanfic writing cons.
posted by delmoi at 7:13 PM on May 22, 2007


Thanks for the post, FunkyHelix. And may I say that I love how the actual discussion in the wonderful links in this thread concern the commodification of slightly-underground public/folk art, the attempted masculinization of a 96% female audience, the silly infantilization (well, teenagerification) of a mostly adult and middle-aged audience, the long history of the supression of women's writing (Joanna Russ fans unite!), the thorny issues surrounding copyright and the legalities of derivative works, and other such issues...

But then at Metafilter, a few of the usual suspects are all LOLSLASH and OMGBOYSEX. Which was not. being. discussed. in the links at all.

But hey, maybe it's for the best that guys will continue to ignore, marginalize, or otherwise be incabable of appreciating the amazing fanfic community -- both slash and non-slash -- and its readers. Because as we can see from this FanLib debacle, perhaps attracting attention from clueless guys is a bad idea all around. Perhaps the genre -- by which I mean the communal aspects discussing the works, the development of an online space with shared communal rules and values, etc., and not just the actual writing -- is best served by remaining somewhat undercover and certainly not worthy of male attention. It's safer that way.
posted by Asparagirl at 7:18 PM on May 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


People also really love to make crappy watercolor paintings of the cast of "The Office".
posted by smackfu at 7:20 PM on May 22, 2007


Oh, and if you need a specific pictoral representation of why people (adult women) are talking about the teenagerification/masculinization of fanfic as exemplified by FanLib, perhaps looking at their ad will enlighten you.

Who the heck did/do they think their target audience is, anyway? That ad misses the mark on about six different levels...
posted by Asparagirl at 7:27 PM on May 22, 2007


More like a pectoral representation.
posted by smackfu at 7:28 PM on May 22, 2007


I don't think they thought much about that ad at all, but I think it's pretty hilarious that an unthinking ad buy could basically sink their whole project. My impression is that the fan community is extraordinarily tight-knit, and any brand corruption will spread very quickly. It would be pretty funny to see their whole $3 million wad blown so quickly. As with any corp-speaking bobble-head I wish them the worst.
posted by delmoi at 7:39 PM on May 22, 2007


i think roy orbison and his terrapin jetta could sell a volkswagen. or, at the very least, some cling film.
posted by snofoam at 7:54 PM on May 22, 2007


i know a lot of fanfic kids. i'm not sure this will have a lot of impact. based purely on anecdotal info, it seems like most fanfic is written for and read by friends and aquaintances in fairly tight groups. it's already not hard to find if you want to look for it. those who don't need advertising, well, they don't need advertising. they don't need new portals. the infrastructure is already in place and working quite well.

i'm not saying this isn't a dick move and totally against the spirit of the thing, I'm just saying it's not a useful tool and no one will use it anyway.

if i'm wrong, it'll be like myspace. nothing new, just flashy. there's money to be made by opening an area to media and selling ads. oh well. people are dumb.
posted by es_de_bah at 8:13 PM on May 22, 2007


Thanks for the post, FunkyHelix. And may I say that I love how the actual discussion in the wonderful links in this thread concern the commodification of slightly-underground public/folk art, the attempted masculinization of a 96% female audience, the silly infantilization (well, teenagerification) of a mostly adult and middle-aged audience, the long history of the supression of women's writing (Joanna Russ fans unite!), the thorny issues surrounding copyright and the legalities of derivative works, and other such issues...

Seconded. The discussions have been both extremely literate and very well informed on the issues regarding representation, copyright, exactly what it is that's going on in facfic/slash, commodification and the gender politics. Not that this is surprising, of course. These are writers who have put a great deal of thought into what they are doing, and why, not to mention, in many cases, years building up their communities. For FanLib to waltz in and try to co-opt all of this would be laughable if it wasn't so infuriating.

Latest bit of PR magic from FanLib is that Chris Williams, who originally invited dialogue with one LJ member who had taken apart the FAQ, and then blew her off as being "too busy" to respond, has agreed to an interview on Henry Jenkins' site. Smacks a bit too much of "Oh, I'll talk to the guy with academic credentials, but I can't be bothered with those silly women", and I'm not the only one to think so. I'm looking forward to it, if his LJ spams to journals critical of FanLib is any indication of how he handles himself under pressure ("you are just here to shit on it without giving us a chance"). Nice response to a post that was not hostile or rude, but was just was very indepth and asked some uncomfortable questions.
posted by jokeefe at 8:30 PM on May 22, 2007


Asparagirl: Yikes! A bit sensitive, are we?

I feel slighted. Why aren't you also scorning LOLMARYSUE?

More more more more

...and the much less common Marty Stu.

[Actually, I sympathize. Anime is not about tentacles, dammit!]
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 8:39 PM on May 22, 2007


Wow. I don't see how they could have fucked this up more. It's like the Bush administration version of a hype-based VC-funded business. Malcompetency at every step of the way.
posted by blasdelf at 9:11 PM on May 22, 2007


Asparagirl: Yikes! A bit sensitive, are we?

Yes. *pouts*

I feel slighted. Why aren't you also scorning LOLMARYSUE?

Because as stupid as Mary Sue stories are, they're also ours, dammit! They're a terribly crude way of some dumb fifteen year old girl writing herself into a fictional universe -- Star Trek and the LOTR movies being the most common examples -- so that she can save the day and have Kirk and/or Spock fall in love with her, and her violet-eyed raven-haired brilliant Elf hotness.

Now, those stories grate on the fanfic community, mostly cause they suck, but perhaps also because many of the writers once started out writing Mary Sue's themselves and are totally embarrassed about it now. But at the very center of the 'Mary Sue' fic is still something amazing. It's the revolutionary idea that a story that is nominally, legally, and financially "owned" by a big media corporation like Paramount or New Line is really a story that anyone, even gawky geeky plain-in-real-life Mary Sue, can appropriate as her world, her universe. And she can re-imagine it as she sees fit, write that down, and show that new version to friends and strangers on the Internet or through zines. And that story, if it progresses beyond the typical Mary Sue genre, can even obtain the tang of legitimacy, in some circles.

That right there, the structure of that idea, is the revolutionary thing, even if the actual content is asinine. It breaks a few different major laws, it keeps IP lawyers up nights, and it calls into question the idea of what a "legit" story is, and who owns and controls a story, if such a thing is even technically possible. In a modern world that's been so messed up and corporatized that a major company on the NYSE can actually own a centuries-old fairy tale (hi, Disney) and literally trade stock on its perceived value, this is a very grass-roots taking back of the power, a democratization returning stories to their folk roots and to the people who should have the right to tell or re-tell them in the first place.

It's also amazing from a gender standpoint, that an overlooked person of the wrong gender or sexuality or age or who doesn't look like a professional actor can rectify their being excluded from the "real" version of the story. Finally, it mucks about with the idea of a tv show or book or movie being "performed" means. If you're a TV/movie writer (and my husband and about half his family are, just FYI) and the audience for your show is now actively responding to the content of your episode or your movie by rewriting the bits they thought you got wrong, and they're not just consuming it as-is anymore, how does that affect what you do for a living? How does that affect the communal impact of a series, if fan writers can openly do it better than you, and are willing to work on and distribute their versions for free?

That's the kind of stuff that I love reading about in the fanfic world, those kinds of major questions and paradigm-shifters. And it's what is so often horribly, terribly lost when newbies look at fanfic and can't get past "oh my God, someone wrote this yucky story where Harry, Hermione, and Ron grow up and decide that they work best as a trio and have a happy monogamous three-person relationship for the rest of their lives.* Ewwwwwww!"

So...yeah, reading about the FanHub mess, as linked in the post and comments above, pisses me off because they obviously don't get any of this. They took radical anti-commercializers and tried to literally commercialize them. They took women in one of the only almost-all-female online spaces and pretended they were men. They took a tight-knit but very very big social network and managed to alienate it, a crucial network who were both their supposed consumers audience and money machines content providers!

So people on Metafilter or elsewhere not even being able to read about the FanHub thing in the first place, or consider its implications, because they're too distracted by the skeevier aspects of some of the fan texts is just really adding insult to injury.

And that's why I'm sensitive. *pouts some more*

*Like, duh, of course they would! In my world, anyway.
posted by Asparagirl at 9:29 PM on May 22, 2007 [9 favorites]


(and my husband and about half his family are, just FYI)

Just to expand on that: I work as a senior web geek at a TV network, my husband writes for TV and movies, his sister is a film company exec who specifically helps decide which films get greenlighted, his brother is also a writer (who just graduated from college last weekend so his career is about a week old), his father wrote a bunch of iconic movies and TV shows for which I know both slash and gen (non-slash) fanfic exists (most of it bad), his cousin is an executive producer at a long-running network show (don't know if slash exists for that one or not, I suspect not), our kids (I'm currently preggers) may end up third generation Hollywood writers, etc... So this intersection of free media, digital media, and big media is really damn interesting to me, and I think it would be nice if discussion of it weren't so ghettoized.

Also, not to put too high a media-studies gloss on fanfic here, I am also a freak who really enjoys reading slash, and have since I was a young teenager. There, I said it. I blame/thank the X-Files and the X-Men in equal parts.
posted by Asparagirl at 9:43 PM on May 22, 2007


So Aparagirl, apart from wish-fullfilment for ugly people and undermining media companies' hold on the narratives of various sci-fi television series, what intrinsic value does all this fanfic have, exactly? You say that guys can't get "beyond" the porno aspect of it... well, what else is there that we're missing? You don't seem very positive about the actual writing...

In other words, why would these educated college graduates want to read what you're charactarising as the undeveloped cliches of a "dumb fifteen year old", when they've got Project Gutenberg (my favorite website ever)? This isn't meant to be antagonistic - I just don't understand the appeal...
posted by Spacelegoman at 11:40 PM on May 22, 2007


Spacelegoman - what intrinsic value does fanfic have? I'll just refer you to another great thread on "Making Light".

Fanfic: Force of Nature

Here's the beginning of it: Storytelling is basic to our species. It’s one of the ways we parse our experience of the universe. Whatever moves us or matters to us will show up in the stories we tell, whether or not we have a socially approved outlet for those stories. It might surprise you to find out how many writers have works of personal erotica tucked away in their unpublished-or-unpublishable manuscript trunks. There’s no good way to get those published, but they write them anyway, because they’re writers, and eroticism is an important part of our lives.

Good fiction gets under our skin. It can change the way we see the world. But whatever its effect, it’s a significant experience. It would be a bizarre thing—unnatural, even—for writers to not engage with that experience. They always have. I could show you stuff centuries old—heck, some of it’s millennia old—that’s fanfic by any modern definition.


...

Read it.
posted by Justinian at 12:18 AM on May 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


Oh, and I refer you to that as someone who can't read most of the drivel that passes for fanfic. That doesn't mean I don't recognize that there is value out there.
posted by Justinian at 12:18 AM on May 23, 2007


Lastly, since I know most people won't be bothered to click over and read Teresa Nielsen Hayden's post or the thread that ensues, I'll point out (as TNH does) that March by Geraldine Brooks won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction last year.

It's "a re-imagining of the life of the father of the four March girls in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women." In other words, it's fanfic.
posted by Justinian at 12:24 AM on May 23, 2007


Right, I'm not arguing that any work that re-imagines some other author's characters somehow lacks legitimacy. But you say that most of the fanfic under discussion - the stuff on the net based on Star Trek or Harry Potter or whatever the fuck, not on Little Women or the Bible or Homer &c. - is drivel. Asparagirl strongly implies this as well. So why is it so successful among this community of intelligent women?
posted by Spacelegoman at 12:45 AM on May 23, 2007


Asparagirl and jokeefe, thanks for doing your best to redeem the discussion. For those of you need a primer on fan fic and slash, here's an excellent previous thread, especially this particular comment by headspace.

Slash and fan fiction is marginalia (and I do not mean that in any pejorative sense). It's in the shadows, and purposely so. You're not going to find the best of it at a cursory glance, and unless you are very familiar with the particular fiction or show it's devoted to (eg, its canon), you may very well fail to get even the best of it.

But the best of it has undeniable power. I first became aware of it through the writing of Joanna Russ, and her discussion of K/S (Kirk/Spock) -- her fascination with why the women who wrote it were so eager to imagine a romantic narrative between two male characters. Once I began getting deeply immersed in Buffy, my interest was no longer shall we say strictly academic. I won't deny that there was plenty of egregious shit to wade through, as is to be expected in any self-published medium. But once I knew where to look, I found some truly sophisticated writing. One of my favorite shippers recently published a well-received novel. Others have become or are already successful screenwriters. I don't name names because lots of them keep their mainstream writing lives and fan fiction activities separate for what should be fairly obvious reasons.

But even without that patina of respectability fan fiction and its communities are worth scrutiny. As Asparagirl points out, these are largely women writing for other women -- and I too feel protective of even the worst of them, because I appreciate the DIY ethos and even more so, the creative impulse to reform a narrative so it has meaning and relevance and space for yourself. Maybe many of them never get even a bit better at it, but at least they are not passive, unquestioning consumers.

Undeniably, they have collectively transformed televised fantasy. The best of that means more psychologically complex and rich characters, and the worst of it means broad pandering for ready-made wank, but ultimately it's down to their influence. It was only a matter of time before some clueless company like FanLib came in with fistfuls of dollars to try to harness that energy and passion for profit, and it's truly hilarious to see how badly they've underestimated the savvy of these communities. I mean seriously -- these are communities that can expend hundreds of thousands of words in self-scrutiny on, say, the ethics of a single character pairing -- did they really think their every public word and image wouldn't be scrutinized from stem to stern? They are toast, and deservedly so.

Well, this is goddamned wordy. But no sorries here. I am more than a bit tired of simple-minded, wholesale dismissal of a phenomenon that's been so well studied and documented and that has such an undeniable market power. I wish nothing but success to its writers but I truly hope the best of it is always shadowy and hard to find, like any worthwhile secret.
posted by melissa may at 2:03 AM on May 23, 2007 [3 favorites]


The purpose of Fanfiction is so other more clever people can make fun of it Mystery Science Theater 3000 style.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 3:51 AM on May 23, 2007


Uh...yeah, this isn't gonna end well. Fanfic falls into a murky legal area between copyright violation and fair use, and my understanding is that the "fair use" part is contingent on the author not attempting to profit from the work. If the guys running this site are selling advertising, it could be argued -- probably quite persuasively -- that the site owners are making an illegal profit.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 5:52 AM on May 23, 2007


Since the respective ends of both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, I've increasingly turned to fanfic as the publishing companies decide to taper off the franchise when it comes to publishing the tie-in novels. Yes, a lot of fanfic is painfully-composed wish-fulfillment dreck, but, beyond that, the best writers have understandings of their characters even beyond what the television writers would give us. I'm occasionally struck with something so good that I snarl and say, "Why couldn't they have shot an episode like that?" and all of the talk about whatever series not having any legs in it is rendered nonsense.

I do love the comeuppance for the opportunistic, though. I didn't realize that the fanbase was quite so laden with women, but that only makes their misplaced demographics more hilarious.

And, if anyone knows, what the heck is up with Graham showing up in every third Buffy slash, anyway?
posted by adipocere at 6:56 AM on May 23, 2007


So Aparagirl, apart from wish-fullfilment for ugly people and undermining media companies' hold on the narratives of various sci-fi television series, what intrinsic value does all this fanfic have, exactly?

But it's obviously more than wish-fulfillment. It's an attempt to create agency where there is none. For women my age (and a large percentage of fanfic writers are of the middle-ages) it's a way of bending beloved narratives so that there is space for genuine female characters; and it's something we, as a demographic, have had a lot of practice in. I grew up when the popular narratives, outside of soap opera-- another female genre, like slash, that is seen as being "trivial" and worthless-- were full of male characters and lacking female ones (and that's understating the case). Fanfic in part is a way of bringing those tangential female characters into play and making them central, or, in the rewriting of the script, to make those stories productions of women's imagination. It's play; it makes us all storytellers of communal narratives. Slash, with its absent female bodies, is another, complex manifestation of this (I'm happy to look at it further, but it's a bit of a tangent from the post at hand...). Of course, for younger women who have grown up with Buffy and Hermione, there's perhaps less of a sense of rectification and a greater sense of play and deconstructing and rebuilding.

You say that guys can't get "beyond" the porno aspect of it... well, what else is there that we're missing? You don't seem very positive about the actual writing..

I've read some fanfic/slash that has been beautifully written by any measure. It's out there. And I've read pieces that shine with originality-- even if they are working from communally accepted foundational stories.
posted by jokeefe at 7:58 AM on May 23, 2007


Sigh.
I could show you stuff centuries old—heck, some of it’s millennia old—that’s fanfic by any modern definition.
This is a silly anachronism; the same examples are invariably trotted out after such a preface (OMG Shakespeare stole his plots! OMG Milton wrote a version of Bible stories!) without any regard whatsoever to the cultural context in which fanfic works today. It's very, very easy to make the argument that fanfic is something people should be allowed to do, that it's a natural way of reacting to texts, etc. But it's very, very difficult to make the argument that fanfiction is a strong other-directed creative form, which is what such claims as the above are meant to imply (without attempting to prove).

Fanfic is similar to other forms of response-to-narrative, yes, but we learn nothing about this complex culture by half-assedly 'legitimating' it with references to homespun myth-variants and borrowed plot structures. The limitations of fanfic are very much specific to fanfic.
posted by waxbanks at 9:03 AM on May 23, 2007


Right, I'm not arguing that any work that re-imagines some other author's characters somehow lacks legitimacy. But you say that most of the fanfic under discussion - the stuff on the net based on Star Trek or Harry Potter or whatever the fuck, not on Little Women or the Bible or Homer &c. - is drivel. Asparagirl strongly implies this as well. So why is it so successful among this community of intelligent women?

Um, have you seen the NYT bestseller list recently?

It's safe to say that the vast majority of what's marketed by "legitimate" publishers is drivelous dreck, and millions of people are happy to drop $25 on some hardcover beach book that's at least as unoriginal as fanfic. Humans have been appropriating and reimagining the written word since before there was a written word. Some of the fanfic I've read has contained seriously transcendent writing; some has been workmanlike at best, but offers new insights. Some of it is amazing and doesn't even have sex in it! When I read a piece of fanfic that's crap, I think to myself - ok, so that was crap...but the person who wrote actually had the courage to write it, and post it (anonymously, sure, but still) so others can read it: what have you written lately?

Then I return to my my home on writer's block.
posted by rtha at 9:09 AM on May 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


I disagree. It's easy to make public any old crap you right. It's hard to self-censor yourself to the good stuff.
posted by smackfu at 9:18 AM on May 23, 2007


Um...are you interested in substantiating any of that, waxbanks, or is this pretty much a case of you being so obviously right that no further explanation is needed? 'Cause as far as I can tell, all you just said is that it's different because it just is.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:20 AM on May 23, 2007


Waxbanks: Well, if you want to make an “other-directed creative form” distinction that excludes “Shakespeare was a fanficcer” because he borrowed sources, that’s reasonable. Isabel Allende wrote a Zorro novel, Kingsley Amis wrote a James Bond novel, Franklin Delano Roosevelt wrote Sherlock Holmes short-shorts as a hobby, Jorge Luis Borges wrote an H.P. Lovecraft story.

What gets me about fanfiction and internet fandom generally is that the creative, passionate overlooked can make their own community and become localized micro-celebrities and often directly engage with the creators themselves – and how can you not root for that “Holy fuck, Joss Whedon is talking to ME” empowerment?

But it always ends in tears because the passionate fans build their own collaborative communal narrative safe-space fanon whatcha and then expect the show’s creators to follow it or be hated with the fury of a thousand burning nuns. How dare they not pair Veronica with Logan when that blatently contradicts SillyCat’s “LoVers Forever” cycle? And then everyone goes away with a bitter taste in their mouth and Aaron Sorkin writes a sub-plot about how peoples on the internet is crazy.
posted by ormondsacker at 9:59 AM on May 23, 2007


It's easy to make public any old crap you right.

I'd agree...except I'm betting that most of the fanfic writers out there don't think their writing is bad. They probably know that they're not posting the next Great [Whatever] Novel, but I've witnessed the unfortunate occurrences of praise being heaped upon the writer for stories that I find nearly unreadable, so maybe not.

"Real" writers (y'all know what I mean) are often so self-critical and so self-conscious that they may have a hard time just writing shit down, let alone letting other people read it. I'm not saying anyone else has to, but I can't help but have some measure of admiration for people who write and post their work: they are writers because they are writing. Whatever pretentions I may have to literary greatness, I can't say the same, since I haven't written anything substantial in much too long.
posted by rtha at 10:07 AM on May 23, 2007


the same examples are invariably trotted out after such a preface (OMG Shakespeare stole his plots! OMG Milton wrote a version of Bible stories!)

I rather think a better example is the turn-of-the-century Sherlock Holmes stories that weren't written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Or the countless Robin Hood or Knights of the Round Table stories written by various authors. Or the stories that ormondsacker mentioned, for that matter. It's not just about "stole this and that plot", "wrote a Bible story" -- history is full of authors who were continuing somebody else's contemporary story, and by modern standards that's fanfiction.
posted by vorfeed at 10:11 AM on May 23, 2007


the stuff on the net based on Star Trek or Harry Potter or whatever the fuck, not on Little Women or the Bible or Homer &c. - is drivel. Asparagirl strongly implies this as well. So why is it so successful among this community of intelligent women?

The vast majority of content is drivel. I don't see why this would be any diffrent. People enjoy writing this crap, how is it any worse thing sitting away rotting on the couch watching TV as a way to pass the time.
posted by delmoi at 10:28 AM on May 23, 2007


So A[s]paragirl, apart from wish-fullfilment for ugly people and undermining media companies' hold on the narratives of various sci-fi television series, what intrinsic value does all this fanfic have, exactly? You say that guys can't get "beyond" the porno aspect of it... well, what else is there that we're missing? You don't seem very positive about the actual writing...

To be clear, I was specifically addressing SCDB's point about the 'Mary Sue' genre of fanfic, which is shorthand for the lowest of the low, and which I was arguing still has some kernel of value. I wasn't meaning to lump all fanfic in the same pot with that kind of dreck! Obviously, the vast majority of fanfic is far, far better than the awful 'Mary Sue' stereotypes, otherwise no one would read any of it and this thread wouldn't exist in the first place. Besides, the vast majority of fanfic have no original characters in them at all, only original takes on existing characters.

Sure, a lot of fanfic is mediocre or flawed, just like how a lot of the original episodes or books or films they're based on were mediocre or flawed. But some fan-written works are great, I mean really knock-your-socks-off stuff. The best pieces of fanfic writing, in my opinion (your mileage may vary), are stories that both manage to be true to the author/director/actor's voice and also give their own spin on the situation, either by creating a new plot to follow or being an introspective moody piece about the characters' motivations. They leave you nodding your head thinking, 'yes, that's totally the sort of thing that character would say' or 'I like that version of the story much better' or 'that's a great point about the series' themes or character interaction that totally rings true within the original canon and yet was never expressed or explored like this until some semi-anonymous woman wrote it down in her LiveJournal'.

Also, a lot of fanfic has absolutely nothing to do with sexuality or sci-fi, just to be clear. Some of the most inventive and fun stories are G-rated and involve classic films or novels or historical figures.

FYI, the ultimate piece of 'Mary Sue' fanfic is the terrific novel "The Beekeeper's Apprentice" by Laurie R. King, in which a young brilliant fifteen year old American girl becomes best buddies and eventually the wife of Sherlock Holmes (yes, really). King is an Edgar Award winner, which is the annual award given for best mystery novels. In "Beekeeper's" she doesn't just fill the 'Mary Sue' trappings, she exploits them shamelessly, subverts them, rises beyond them. She deftly points out the ways in which her modern female protagonist is no more a wish-fulfillment for women than Holmes himself was an idealized wish-fulfillment for Victorian men. For every allusion in the Conan Doyle canon to Holmes as a Christ-like figure (Reichenbach, his birthday, etc.), King counters with her protagonist's associations with Biblical women (both of the Mary's and Judith, in particular). It's a great, great book, enjoyable on many levels, even if you know nothing about the standard tropes of fandom.

The choice of Holmes as her world to both send-up (and brilliantly re-imagine) was no accident; as others have pointed out up-thread, the Conan Doyle stories have probably inspired more fanfic throughout time than almost any other series or show, and they're definitely not sci-fi. Yet you'll never hear either the book or the film versions of "The Seven Percent Solution" or Steven Spielberg's "Young Sherlock Holmes" or Disney's "The Great Mouse Detective" dismissed as fanfic. That's basically cause they were made by men and distributed by large companies, which gives them legitimacy, legal protection, and cultural power that no woman with a LiveJournal could dare hope for her small creations.

and Aaron Sorkin writes a sub-plot about how peoples on the internet is crazy

Feh, he's jealous. I'd put up any three random "Sports Night" fanfics, slash or non, against any three random "Studio 60" episodes anytime. We all know which ones are going to be far, far more entertaining.
posted by Asparagirl at 11:51 AM on May 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


David Williams, on the FanLib forums, characterizes fans critical of FanLib as potentially "violent" and "dangerous": 'However, engaging our "most strident critics" may be dangerous to our health. I've read some pretty violent posts. How about we go for just "strident critics"?' Amazing. Between this, and his brother's cut and paste rant spammed on LJ, it's obvious that they have no intention of engaging with the very reasoned, logical, and carefully thought out criticisms of their legal position, position on copyright, etc.

And to top it all off, there's that word, the one used when women start speaking up which is employed to negate any obligation to take them seriously: "strident". I'm beginning to feel personally angry with these guys-- they just don't get it, are profoundly ignorant of the communities they are trying to exploit, and fatally dismissive of the gender questions that are implicit in any discussion of fanfic. Argh.
posted by jokeefe at 1:38 PM on May 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


Okay, one more post. This article from the FanLib founders' site from back in 2003 would seem pretty much to sum up their entire philosophy, as well as their intentions for FanLib. The big issue that they are trying to fix? The "missing 18-34 men problem".
One of the more unique concepts being pitched to the TV networks and brand marketers could potentially be a tool to combat the "missing 18-34 men problem" that has flared up this fall season.

Chris Williams and Craig Singer are a filmmaking team that have hatched a promotional idea rooted in fan participation that speaks directly to "young men and women who've fled online and to other media." Mark Stroman, who they've hired to get them meetings, says it's one of the best ideas to come across his desk because it allows brand marketers an opportunity to leverage a promotion that will tell them more about network viewers than what you'd normally glean from the embattled Nielsen.

Will Nets Sign Off On Fan Episodes?
Stroman touts FanLib to Mad Ave

By Hank Kim

Inspired by the American public's obsession with entertainment and the creative process, independent media company My2Centences, is pitching a fan-based promotional program to the TV networks to further leverage their existing programming properties.

Co-founders Chris Williams and Craig Singer have retained Mark Stroman of Entertainment Marketing Partners to grease the skids with broadcasters as well as Madison Avenue for FanLib, their proprietary concept.

"There is this incredible amount of fan energy that is unharnessed by the creators, producers, and distributors of these existing properties," said Williams. "We thought why don't we marry the [online] technology and the audience and create a platform that will harness the energy in a way that can be controlled and moderated by the creators and distributors of that existing property."
posted by jokeefe at 2:26 PM on May 23, 2007


...create a platform that will harness the energy in a way that can be controlled and moderated by the creators and distributors of that existing property."

HAHAHAHAHAHA. *snort* Good luck with that.
posted by Asparagirl at 2:33 PM on May 23, 2007


They seem to think that they will lure young men back to television by...making reading material available.

This is very funny.
posted by rtha at 3:03 PM on May 23, 2007


The big issue that they are trying to fix? The "missing 18-34 men problem".

*boggles a third time*
Too bad they didn't see the snark in this thread, they'd have a better idea of exactly what men 18-34 tend to think of fanfiction! I always find it amusing that slash or whatever gets "tee hee snicker lulz" while visual porn is taken seriously. Methinks there might be something to the gender issues here...
posted by vorfeed at 3:15 PM on May 23, 2007


Check out Fanlib's 6 page PDF b2b brochure.

" —As with a coloring book, players must “stay within the lines
— Restrictive player’s terms-of-service protects your rights and property
— Moderated “scene missions” keep the story under your control
— Full monitoring & management of submissions & players"

Yeah, sounds just like fanfic to me.
posted by Justinian at 3:44 PM on May 23, 2007


Dork Tower on fanfic (4 successive strips)
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 5:32 PM on May 23, 2007


Heh. You should probably never compare things to a coloring book.
posted by smackfu at 8:07 PM on May 23, 2007


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