I'm interested in fanfiction on a lot of levels. One is that, as an artform that is frequently primitive (I mean that in the technical sense: naive, uncalculated, very honest and without artifice) it's a fascinating glimpse into how people process narrative. As opposed to how critics process narrative: when one becomes a critic, one loses the ability to interact with a narrative the way most people do, as a framework upon which one hangs one's own emotional response.
Another is that frankly, most of what anyone writes is on some level fanfic. You are responding. A Slight Trick Of The Mind, The Seven Percent Solution, "The Final Solution"--all Sherlock Holmes fanfic. I've written a little Irene Adler fanfic of my own, come to think of it.
Okay, yeah, a lot of fanfic is bad. Popular art forms are the cutting edge of literature: they're where the seethe is, and where the seethe is is where the art is. And it's also what's despised.
Twenty years on, they become quantified and rigidized, and it's not where the spark is anymore.
Right now, that's TV, fanfiction, genre literature (although SFF, much as I love it, it no longer at what cupidsbow refers to as the coal face of literature--we're singing to our own choir these days, and I think that needs to stop)--the ongoing thing is that High Art is forgotten, down the years, as is much of the real crap... but the work that manages to successfully combine story with art and hit the reader in the kinks--those naive assumptions about story/art that the artist can use to his advantage to make the artee* feel/think/react/act--that stuff sticks around forever.
Not because it's preseved in libraries.
But because Gramma and Granpa read it to you, and you read it to your kids, because you love it. Dracula and Hamlet and Pride & Prejudice and "The Speckled Band" and Lysistrata are with us still because they speak to something to something in people, not because they are Worthy.
No matter how intellectually fair you try to be, the art you protect is the art you love, not the art you think you should love. and that is only right. Because despite our tendency to overcomplicate, that's successful art.****
Unfortunately, this may mean future generations are going to judge us by Garfield. And The Da Vinci Code.
Well, except--I got Pogo from my parents. And if I had kids, I suspect I would be giving them Calvin & Hobbes.
I'd feel worse about that if we didn't have Doonesbury, too. On the other hand, that stuff is going to be like Ben Jonson plays--nearly incomprehensible in its topical humor and satire.
And also, I've read Varney the Vampire.
Some things endure in deserved obscurity.
The moral of the story?
Chop wood, carry water.
The goal of art is not winning awards. The goal of art is reaching people, and helping them make sense.***
Even if what they are making sense of is the fact that most things make no sense.
And on that note, I'm going to take a shower and make coffee and either read Black Powder War or try to figure out what the ghost says to Jackie now.
*reader/viewer/watcher/less-active participant in the artistic experience**
**less-active does not mean dominated. Hang out on a Tw/oP forum if you want an idea of how much an artee brings to the art.
***My cat would also like to put in that the other goal of art is not starving.
****Fanfiction is also interesting because it is in its purest form self-indulgent art. It is all about the writer's narrative kinks*****, and the narrative kinks of an audience that's presumed to share them. There are ratings systems in place to assist the reader in finding the stuff that hits her kinks.
This is not all that different from SFF, frankly, or mystery, or romance, except we're often more calculated about writing to the kinks of our audience rather than servicing our own. Although I'll be honest: I totally service my own narrative kinks, and I can line them up and explain them for you anytime you want.
*****narrative kinks are not the same thing as sexual kinks.