Back in the May of last year, Diana Gabaldon made a post on her blog decrying the evils of fanfiction, calling it immoral and illegal. (The post has since been removed, but it’s been archived.) While it’s every author’s right to ask their fandom not to write fanfiction, such a violent outcry seemed a bit odd, seeing as her male lead was inspired by a certain Jamie from Doctor Who. The best response to this kerfuffle was Aja Romano’s post, “I’m done explaining to people why fanfic is okay.” If you do nothing else today, read Romano’s post—it’s a brilliant and damning response, which I’ve taken to heart. In fact, I’m willing to take it one step further.
Fanfiction is, at its best, literary criticism.
Literary criticism is one of my favorite ways of interacting with a text; there’s nothing quite so terrifyingly satisfying as digging into something as deceptively fluffy as Twilight and discovering an entire fictional universe where the very concept of personal agency is roundly mocked by the powers that be. But while literary criticism can destroy, praise, deepen, or reveal aspects of a text, it can never add to or correct a particular text, which fanfiction can and does.
Yes, the common perception is that fanfiction is composed almost entirely of porn and wish fulfillment. And you know what? That’s true. That’s what you get with a particular form of writing that has little to no barriers on publishing—which is, incidentally, one of the reasons that it’s impossible to completely root out fanfiction; not even fandom knows where all of it is. Basically, it’s Sturgeon’s Revelation; ninety percent of everything is crud. We see it in full force with fanfiction because there’s no barrier between execution and publication.
But you know what the inverse of Sturgeon’s Revelation is? Ten percent of everything is spectacular. Romano’s list includes works of fiction that, in basing themselves off other works, create something even better. In “The Problem of Susan”, Neil Gaiman’s own work of fanfiction exploring the aftermath of The Last Battle, Gaiman has to subtly work around the fact that he’s writing Susan Pevensie—she uses her married name and one of her brothers is named Ed, but otherwise, it’s not explicit, because it can’t be, as a professional piece of work. Susan!fic, as it’s known, is a genre unto itself in The Chronicles of Narnia fandom; there are fics about Susan discovering a way to reconcile herself with her faith and fics about Susan rejecting her childhood faith. This is where the amateurs reign, able to, in fanfiction, explore and fill in the missing holes—I recall one piece of Star Trek fanfiction that explores race and privilege in the Academy in a simple conversation between two Indian cadets. It’s, quite frankly, a beautiful thing.
My first full week of school, work, and rehearsal has been… busy to say the least. (I really, really need to catch up on sleep today.) I have managed to get through Eragon on audiobook (and start on The Lord of the Rings) and I’m nearing the end of Russian Winter. I’m also getting through Outlander on my computer; it’s alright so far.
Kristen at Fantasy Cafe is giving away a copy of A Discovery of Witches until Tuesday, as is Janicu at Janicu’s Book Blog. Tor/Forge’s Blog is giving away a Halo book and audiobook bundle until February 15th. The Baen Free Library is full of free downloads, including The Shadow of the Lion and On Basilisk Station. Night Shade Books is offering Butcher Bird and Grey as free downloads at the moment. Vertigo Comics is offering free downloads of the first issue of several series, including Fables, The Unwritten, and Y: The Last Man. (And you will go download The Unwritten.) If I’ve missed your giveaway or freebie, drop me a line!
What are your thoughts on fanfiction?