Monday, December 13, 2010

Fan or Fiction

I went to art school. All the way up to graduate school. For those of you who went to a regular school, one that didn't smell like turpentine or teach arc welding sculpting, that meant no papers, no dissertation. None. I can't even remember writing a paper in Art History class - pretty sure there was a multiple choice exam with an essay. The only other word based assignment I remember having was about James Joyce. Instead of writing a paper, I illustrated and hand bound a picture book. I did get an A in that class, but I think the teacher, who must have daily beat his head into the blackboard dealing with us, just wanted me to shut up.

So I often think about what it would have been like to go to normal school. I admit, I've fantasized about writing a dissertation (though I don't know exactly what that means). And one of the topics I'd tackle is Fan Fiction. Wikipedia defines fan fiction as follows:

"Fan fiction (alternately referred to as fanfictionfanficFF, or fic) is a broadly-defined term for fan labor regarding stories about characters (or simply fictional characters) or settings written by fans of the original work, rather than by the original creator."

I love fanfic. I don't read a lot of it, but I love that it exists.  I love that there's terrible, badly written fan fiction, fan fiction that is better than the original work and erotic fan fiction that makes beloved characters do nasty things to each other. It's so democratic, I love it.

But does fan fiction have to be written by an amateur to be fan fiction? It seems like that's the logical definition, but what do terms like 'pro' and 'amateur' mean in these cases? Tons of pros have tried their hands at extending the worlds of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet (usually with some hot sex thrown in amongst the curtsies). Lots of the pros have done awful jobs.

Laurie R. King, a writer who I admire very much, writes a series of novels about Sherlock Holmes but her Holmes is almost (to me) unrecognizable to the original, in that he's much more developed, three dimensional and interesting- is that fan fiction? What about  Dracula: The Undead - written by Bram Stokers great-grand nephew? Not sure if he's a 'pro' but he's got name cred. Okay, what about the bible? Lots of folks say that parts of it were written 'in the style of' years after an original author - does that count? Not to mention (okay, I'm mentioning) comic books/graphic novels etc?

Fan fiction is irresistible because it allows us to go on with characters we love. My fan fiction catnip revolves around Lord Peter Wimsey. I've read all of Jill Paton Walsh's books, even the one I didn't like, just to spend more time with Harriet. I hunted down a fragment that Stephen King wrote, a depressing couple of paragraphs where Peter and Bunter are old, Peter's lost Harriet and everything is shit. God I wish he'd finished it. And I just found out JP Walsh has written another LPW book called the Attenbury Emeralds. You know I've already ordered it, in hardback, which is contrary to my thriftiness. I'm addicted.

So, questions: What fanfiction are you addicted to? And would you ever write fanfiction yourself? If so, what about?


  1. I haven't felt the need to seek out any of the new fangled fan fiction; after reading the attempts at continuing Hercule Poirot and Nero Wolfe after their creator's deaths, I sort of lost my taste for it. Those books were very well done, and yet, something was missing...

    I hate getting involved with characters and then turning the last page of the book and closing the door on the remainder of their lives, so I could foresee writing fan fiction as a way to satisfy my own inability to move on. It'd also be interesting to try and continue an 'uncontinuable' story, such as writing a sequel to "On The Beach", but that seems like a task for a stouter heart than mine.


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