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Comment #2216653 by Fly

Fly Mar 11th 2014, 3:33 PM #

“Truly, 300,000 words is a monumental amount of time and effort, and sadly most of it is wasted as the vast majority of FanFic authors will not go on to write in any professional sense.”

By this rationale, it is a waste of time and effort to join your local pub football team and knock a ball around with your mates every weekend, because you’re never going to be headhunted for the Premier League; a waste of time and effort to experiment with delicious new recipes and feed them to your friends and family, because you’re never going to open a restaurant; a waste of time and effort to flirt with a pretty girl if you know you’re probably never going to see her again; a waste of time and effort to run a marathon if you’re not going to win any prize money; a waste of time and effort to take pictures of your child’s first faltering steps if you’re never planning to become a professional photographer; a waste of time and effort to join a choir or play the guitar on the beach if you’re never going to record a number one album; a waste of time and effort to learn how to thoroughly blow somebody’s mind in bed if you don’t plan to become a sex worker.

The point of such pursuits sir, is that, in and of themselves, THEY GIVE YOU JOY. They enrich your life. If you genuinely find value only in those things which can be leveraged into making money – well, that’s truly tragic.

Fanfic is the 21st century iteration of that oldest of human impulses: a group of friends sitting in the dark, taking turns to retell stories around a fire. Before Pacific Rim coffeeshop AUs, Pride And Prejudice And Zombies or The BBC’s Modern day Sherlock AU, we had Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead, The Wide Sargasso Sea, West Side Story, Ivanhoe, basically everything Shakespeare ever wrote, Gawain And The Green Knight, The Aeneid…thousands of years of transformative works in poetry, drama and prose. The narrative tradition of every culture is a palimpsest of myths, legends, fairytales, anecdotes, jokes and daydreams endlessly rewritten, reshaped, rebuilt atop one another. Fanfic. This is what we do, and what we’ve always done. Fanfic communities are united by their love of storytelling, and by their fascination with source texts; instead of passively consuming media, we actively engage with it – questioning, critiquing, disassembling, poking it with a stick, flipping gender or sexual orientation or ethnicity, swapping the setting or the goal. We recognise tropes, archetypes, flaws, virtues. We embrace our quirks and our bullet-proof kinks. We use story as a lens and a window and a mirror. WE HAVE FUN. (A fair number of us also write original stuff, and DO move into getting published – but that is not the point of fanfic, any more than becoming a pro ballet dancer is the point of going out clubbing with your mates on a Friday night. Fanfic is an end in its own right, not the means to an end.)

That aside: colour me curious as to where the devil you found evidence that fanfic is created and consumed by men and women in equal numbers. In 15 years I’ve encountered fewer than half a dozen men (including transmen) writing fanfic; by contrast, I’ve encountered hundreds upon hundreds – if not thousands – of women.

Another pro tip: for all that the geekboys in gaming try to insist gamer culture is some pitiful No Gurls Allowed clubhouse, 47% of gamers are actually female. Girl geeks are definitely a thing.

ANOTHER pro tip: this girls=erotic paranormal fantasy, boys=scifi/fantasy notion? That might reflect the way publishing houses are marketing their books, but it’s got sod all to do with the creation and consumption of fanfic. Women write filthy hardcore porn, cheesy romance, swashbuckling action adventures, thrilling whodunnits and any other genre you might care to think of, and they do it for every kind of text. Police procedurals & hard SF are particularly popular, but pretty much you name it, and my people are out there somewhere writing fanfic about it.

On another note:

“There are no controls as to who can read this material and also no controls as to who can write it; children are learning age-inappropriate terminology from reading each other’s work and the work of older, largely anonymous, authors.”

Oh, Stephen. As soon as kids board the puberty train, they’re going to go looking for porn. Technology facilitates this, sure – but step into a bookshop and you’ll be SHOCKED to discover that children can buy a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey over the counter without anyone leaping forth to protect their sensibilities. A million years ago, when i was a wee thing, we were stuck with the oldskool approach of reading our Mums’ Jackie Collins books, or nicking our older brothers’ skin mags. Kids today have instant access to a plethora of porn videos and images online at myriad free sites. In comparison to the gonzo misogynistic gangbang DP jizzfests available at the touch of a button, or memes like goatse and two girls one cup, I really don’t think kids are going to be psychologically scarred by reading or writing 200k of Thorin/Bilbo tentacleporn, or whatever. (it is notable that when Reading or writing about intimacy, the participants are subjects, not objects; reading is an act of empathy and sympathy, not an act of objectification.)

As to age-inappropriate: prepubescent kids have no interest in sex, and if you’re worrying about them being exposed to confusing and distressing materials, it’s images and videos you should be fretting about them stumbling across, not NC17 Harry Potter slashfic. Sure, teens are reading, writing and posting explicit fanfic; a couple of generations back, Stephen, kids that age were STILL writing explicit fanfic (and original fic); they were just keeping it in their notebooks in their bedrooms where you couldn’t see them, and feeling ashamed and worried that they were sluts and freaks. (Except for the ones who stumbled across fellow fen and set up Kirk/Spock fanzines and Blakes 7 Slash Conventions and the like.) Now they’ve got one another’s backs, and as they grapple with the everyday horror of transforming into women in a world saturated with rape culture, they can explore concepts of desire, and power, and consent, and agency, and gender, all within safe and supportive fanfic communities. This is AWESOME, Stephen.

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Read the article where this comment appeared:

Column: What is Fan Fiction – and why is it making people nervous?

Column: What is Fan Fiction – and why is it making people nervous?

It has become an internet sensation over the last decade, but not all is as it seems in the world of Fan Fiction, writes Stephen Downes.


    Favourite Danielle Wells
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    Apr 4th 2014, 2:58 AM

    Bless you and bless this comment. Clearly they should have hired you to write the article about fanfiction because you’re a thousand times more articulate and well-researched than the author of this article.

    Favourite Sarah Warren
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    Apr 5th 2014, 12:13 PM

    This comment is incomparably better and more worthy of publication than the article on which it is commenting. I salute you!

    (35, writer of fanfic for NCIS, NCIS LA, H50, Harry Potter, West Wing, Numb3rs, and anything else that takes my fancy.)

    Favourite Luna Lovegood
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    Apr 12th 2014, 1:08 PM

    Thank you for this comment. Thank you.