I wonder what it’s like having happy ships.
Like. What do you write fic about when there’s no death, despair, ~mysterious separations, time paradoxes, irreconcilable differences or magical curses.
This is what matters.
Here’s your quick little sketch.
tywinning asked you:
As a professor, may I ask you what you think about fanfiction?
I think fanfiction is literature and literature, for the most part, is fanfiction, and that anyone that dismisses it simply on the grounds that it’s derivative knows fuck-all about…
- Zadie Smith, On Beauty (E.M. Forster fanfiction)
- Jean Rhys, The Wide Sargasso Sea (Charlotte Brontë fanfiction)
- John Gardner, Grendel (Beowulf fanfiction)
- Robin McKinley, Beauty (Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont/Jean Cocteau fanfiction)
- James Joyce, Ulysses (Homer fanfiction)
- The films Clueless and Bridget Jones’s Diary (Jane Austen fanfiction)
The list goes on.
Part of the trouble is that many of the sources on which we base our fiction are not in themselves of high culture or literary quality. But neither are a good number of literary sources on which are founded half the western canon: mythology and folk tales, for instance. And much of the touted work of serial novelists is highly overrated (Dickens, for instance), while brilliant novels by women have gone ignored for centuries.
Which brings me to my next point. Fanfiction is overwhelmingly written by women - and young women at that. Is it any coincidence that, like women’s scorned and scoffed-at “sentimental” novels of the nineteenth century, it should also be ignored and underestimated?
Yes, yes, yes, to all of this! To go on a bit of a tangent, notice that no one owns the copyright to any of the source material mentioned. This is one of the biggest changes to cultural production, and, I would argue, one of the driving forces toward fetishizing “originality”—which, the original poster notes, is an entirely contemporary idea. I know I’ve said this before, but we grew up in a circumstance wholly unique in the history of art—for the most part, corporations own the content of cultural production, and the primary means of consumption is passive. The internet is changing that by giving us access to both the tools of creation and the tools of distribution. To me then, what we do here, in this space, with fanfiction, fan art, etc. isn’t just a callback to the way art and community have always functioned, but important and revolutionary work, both artistically and politically. We are a community of amateurs creating art for art’s sake. We are a part of a larger struggle to democratize the machinery of cultural production. How awesome is that?
Do you want to know why Joyce could write Homer fanfic, but *no one* could write Joyce fanfic? It’s because his estate was a giant asshat that sued every writer, scholar, and musician who dared use any piece of Joyce’s work or history to which they might be able to claim copyright. Margaret Mitchell’s estate sued Alice Randall, the author of ‘The Wind Done Gone’, because she wrote ‘Gone with the Wind’ fanfic. But you know what? Mitchell’s estate lost. We’re on a trajectory toward reclaiming a way to interact with content that has, for the most part, been unavailable to us for the past hundred to hundred and fifty years, and fanfiction writers are the boots on the ground.