It's probably stupid of me to post this, because god knows I am having a problem lately with the Internets and the taking seriously and the lack of irony and the so on. Apparently, I have lost the ability to wink and nod to people. On the other hand, I am full of thinky, so here is my thinky.
Also, I used to be funny. Or perhaps people laughed because they were scared of me [please see footnote 7].
Okay, so. This is a repost of a post that I posted last night, because I thought it was funny, and it was two AM and I had been poking around on the Internets. Anyway, it got up some people's noses, so I pulled it down before the comment section could lose me any friends. So, yanno, before going any further, [please see footnote 1].
I am now reposting it, because I still think it's funny. I apologize to the three or four people whose comments got lost when I deleted: please feel free to repost.
Also, not so much with the taking myself seriously? Trust me, I am excruciatingly aware that of the something-more-than-six-billion people on Planet Earth, only 25,000 of them actually have or will ever notice I and my life's work exist, and maybe 5,000 of those actually, you know, care
. My opinion is worth exactly
what you pay for it. And in a million years we'll all be dead anyway. And yeah, I get het up about my Work and my Artistic Integrity sometimes, but that's because [see footnote 1].
However, Version 2.0 comes with Actual Discussion About What I Actually Think About Fanfiction. So be warned, David Pegg.
Actual discussion regarding what I think of fanfiction follows:
(But first, allow me to establish my bona fides.) When I talk about fanfiction and fandom, I am not coming to it as a complete outsider. God knows I wrote enough of it between the ages of, oh, 8-16. Although I kind of came to it on my own. There were no Internets in those days, and I had no actual friends. So I didn't actually realize I was writing fanfiction. On the other hand, it means I have a pretty good idea of what the primitive (in the technical artistic sense of primitive) fanfiction writer looks like, what she produces in isolation, and what the motives behind it are. In other words, I did a whole hell of a lot of taking settings that I really liked and adding female characters to them, because in those days there weren't many good women in media. I mean seriously, I liked Scarecrow and Mrs. King
because of the strong female lead. I SHIT YOU NOT.
"Some of my best friends write fanfiction." I've certainly done enough defense-of-fanfiction here in the past, and as a result I've even been accused of being a fanfiction writer in disguise. Well, several fanfiction writers in disguise. Most notably, riba_rambles
. I assume her husband can tell us apart, though.
I've also written a couple of things that qualify as fanfic with the serial numbers filed off enough to get them past the legal department. I qualify them as fanfiction because they rely *very heavily* on the meta conversation to have any value at all. And to be quite frank, the vast majority of my original fiction, at least at novel length, is reactive. I mean, I jokingly say that Carnival
is what you get when you put "When it Changed" and Farnham's Freehold
in a box and make them fight... but it's a hah hah only serious kind of thing. A Companion to Wolves
is certainly reactive to the whole fuzzy animal companion wish-fulfillment fantasy subgenre. And Undertow
is a spiritual descendant of Little Fuzzy
and Downbelow Station
and "The Word for World is Forest," and I won't pretend for an instant it's not.
Fanfiction [see footnote 4] interests me, frankly, because I think its narrative protocols are useful to any genre writer, anyone engaged in a genre conversation. And they're easy to see and pick out, because so much fanfiction is naive or primitive (much like the fanfiction I once wrote) and thus very easy to parse for narrative patterns. Its conventions are often quite naked. (Much like pre New Wave SF, which is also a quite naive literature. It's very easy to see what artists are doing when they are not quite certain themselves.) (On the other hand, there's some very sophisticated fanfiction, too.) (Please note that naive and sophisticated ARE NOT VALUE JUDGEMENTS. They are descriptions of auctorial understanding of and control over their craft, and the influence of outside/critical/editorial/peer protocols.)
What I'm saying here is that I find great value in understanding how
the narrative protocols in fanfiction works, because it doesn't work any differently than any other genre of fiction
. Just more transparently.
Also, I hang out on the edges of several fan communities, and while I never quite have the gumption to become active in anything beyond the occasional conversation, I have been a peripheral member of media and SFF fandom since 1989. So if you are moved to make a condescending remark in comments about how maybe I should read some fanfiction before I try to categorize it, [please see footnote 2]. And remember, not categorizing. Examining the narrative protocols behind it [please see footnote 5].
And now, the list.Things I learned this week:
1. Autocannibalism is even more fun than necrophilia. I mean, to type
develops from three [rough]
[see footnote 3] narrative protocols: porn, subversion, and white-space patching. Of that last grouping, we may say that there is the fanfiction that patches over the unintentional or broken or disregareded holes in the narrative. And then there is the fanfiction that exists because some people have a hard time with any
white space--even when it's the kind of negative space that's more interesting than the narrative. This latter is a form of close reading, and is sometimes interesting on those terms, but does tend to defeat nuance, whereas the first form can create nuance where no nuance was there to be found. (I'm looking at you
, Harry Potter fandom.) [see footnote 6]ETA
: (below, jonquil
point out that there is in indeed a fourth category, which is to say faux-episodes actually intended to mimic the original material. This? Is truth. On the other hand, I do find that a lot of those do a certain amount of white-space patching or subversion themselves. Things like, oh, examining the curious paternalistic moral and ethical gaps in The Man from UNCLE
. *carefully doesn't look at friends list*) /ETA
2a. Also, buttsex. (Which as we all know is still just an anagram for subtext.)
3. Nature adores a vacuum.
4. The universe does not exist to flatter me. Dammit.
5. The only way out is through.
6. You can never go wrong with autocannibalism.
7. Or trebuchets.
8. Especially trebuchets.
9. If you work for twelve hours, and then putter around on the internets for a little while, it gets to be late very quickly.
10. It doesn't get less late if you type top ten lists.
11. The internets take themselves more seriously than I do.
11a. They also take me more seriously than I do.
[footnote 1: Monkey,
[footnote 2: You kids get the hell off my lawn.]
[footnote 3: I see part of my error here. The word "categories" is very ill chosen. Because of course what I'm talking about is an examination of narrative protocols, not the imposition of genre boundaries. I kind of don't care in the slightest about genre boundaries, and have been heard to opine, in SFF, that they're just marketing categories and can we all stop taking it so damned seriously? [see footnote 1]]
[footnote 4: fanfiction doesn't actually exist. Or, more precisely, fanfiction is a modern name for something that never needed a name before the advent of copyright law, because anybody was free to take any story and respond to it, adapt it, switch it around and claim it for their own. However, I think modern fanfiction is particularly interesting because it operates in opposition to and commentary upon a shared body of work--canon and fanon both--in much the same way that SFF operates in opposition to and commentary upon a shared body of work. As does all the Arthuriana, Shakespeariana, Sherlockiana, etc etc etc.]
[footnote 5: I so have no use for categories. I almost always find them unrealistically binary, hard-edged, and divisive. Well, they're meant to be divisive. But the divisiveness is often v. silly. It's easier and more accurate to say, I think, that something contains elements of X and Y and Z than it is to try to decide if it is
X or Y or Z]
[footnote 6: This comment was originally meant to be kind of hah hah only serious, but when I first posted it, people took it Very Seriously. For future reference, I am only Very Serious when talking about human rights abuses and what a foolish pack of monkeys we are to be shitting where we eat. And even then, I'm also aware that the cosmos does not care one bit if we wipe ourselves out, even if we take ourselves awfully seriously, and forget to [see footnote 1].
The rest of the time, I'm perfectly aware that most of what I talk about here is wank. [Well, sometimes I get a little hung up on my artistic integrity, but really, I'm as full of shit as the next monkey [see footnote 1].
Anyway, this is where it all gets interesting, because I think most fiction uses these same protocols. The ever-so-blurry dividing line between fanfiction and original fiction (neither of which exist) is more or less, to me, where one stops needing the meta to get the full effect of a story. In other words, you can read Carnival
without knowing anything about Farnham's Freehold
and still have a book that makes sense and has, I hope, an impact. When the primary
impact of a story is metatextual, when it relies heavily on the reader's knowledge of an ur-text, and it's not written by the same guy who wrote the first story, then it's fanfic.
[footnote 7: NB: I am of Swedish, Celtic, and Ukrainian extraction. If you're not sure if I'm joking, I'm joking. If you're pretty sure nobody would be joking about something that dark and horrible, I'm joking. If you are about to get really het up over something I said that challenges your fundamental assumptions about what's important in the universe... I'm serious. But I still think it's funny, because in a million years we'll all be dead anyway. [see footnote 8]]
[footnote 8: if you were offended, that was a joke. [see footnote 9]]
[footnote 9: if you weren't offended, that was still a joke.]