From the CAO’s Desk: FFI- The Stigma against Fan Fiction

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From the CAO’s Desk: FFI- The Stigma against Fan Fiction

This past weekend, I was a presenter at Anime Boston. The previous day, I had attended a panel on “Hunger Games and Battle Royal,” which compared and contrasted the American YA novel and film with the Japanese film and manga. Also at the con, was a panel about Culture Convergence, in which the presenter-who is in an anthropology Doctoral program–spoke about how anime cons are becoming more inclusive of American fandoms. Walking the halls of the convention center, I saw many Queen Elsas and Doctors and Daleks.

Sunday, the final day of the con, I give my “Introduction to Fan Fiction” presentation. I frame it in my own personal narrative, including how Japanese culture strongly played a part in my integration into the fanfiction community: my first experience with fan fic was of the Kingdom Hearts variety, I never understood the appeal of Naturo until I read some fan fic of it.

I then integrate a historical overview of how fanfiction in the US started with Star Trek fanzines. The conversation continues and I also mention that I’m currently working on Sterek (Teen Wolf) and Johnlock (BBC Sherlock) fanfic. These topics stimulate a lot of audience discussion, which is great: for conventions, in which a large part of the experience is community and not necessarily pure, high-brow education, I prefer presentations to include an interactive quality, rather than just being an info dump. Unfortunately, one of the male audience participants decided to heckle “You’re at the wrong con,” when I was reacting to some of the points of US American fandom. I responded with a counter point about the con culture convergence and inclusivity. (It’s kind of nice being the one up on the stage with the mic and therefore having more power over mere attendees.)

The next day I’m on a seven and a half hour Megabus ride returning home to Philadelphia, and I have a moment for some reflection. A few thoughts come to mind: First, would this man have made such a comment if we were discussing Avengers (or another more male dominated) fandom? Secondly, I was glad I responded as constructively and assertively as I did, because, after the presentation concluded, an 11 year old Teen Wolf fan (sporting a hoodie featuring the fictional high school’s insignia) and her mother came up to the stage and greeted me. I’m glad I could indirectly show her my support argue that such a young girl did have a place at the con.

Fan fiction writers encounter push back not only IRL at cons, but also constantly on the internet. We are dismissed by other fans, other writers, members of the press, and sometimes (although less and less frequently) the creators and main players themselves.

In my humble opinion, much of this negativity stems from a discrete form of sexism. Fan fiction originated in the US from Star Trek zines, and most of the stories, then and now, are slash. Slash challenges not only heteronomality, but also the traditional gender paradigm, in that it is fiction written by women for a feminine audience and thus does not appeal to a masculine audience that is used to all literature being written by and for them.

Many would also assert that “Fan fiction is all porn.” Such a statement is categorically untrue, and is as accurate as saying that “All videos on the internet are porn.” Certainly, there are many stories that are pure literotica; however they are far from the norm.

What negativity or positivity have you encountered with fanfiction? These are my observations, but by no means a scientific study. I hope to hear some writer’s opinions!


3 Comments

Leigha

April 2, 2014 at 3:02 am

Thanks for such a great post! I’m in my late twenties and have written fan fiction for nearly a decade. But I have a fear of posting it online because I see all the negativity that other authors face. I basically write for my mates and partner. I also feel that this fear has stifled my ability to grow as a writer because I’m not getting the feedback that helps in manner. Heck, I won’t even go to tje Philly write-ins as I don’t feel talented enough to sit amongst the other writers.

Do you have any suggestions on how to get beyond this fear? How does one deal with the negativity tat fan fiction writers face and still have the desire to continue writing? Thanks again for such a great post!

    Jean Beausoleil

    April 2, 2014 at 9:45 am

    The short version:

    So, how to get over the fear: take the plunge. It’s a risk, but one with great rewards!

    Steps to becoming a proud fanfic writer:
    1) join online community via AO3 or FFnet or other fanfic community publishing sites.
    2) join the in person community at FFI events. Also, anime cons sometimes have fan fiction panels/presentations. It’s a good place to meet other fic writers and celebrate the medium.
    3) Educate yourself. On the 19th, I’ll be giving a talk on how fanfic is gaining significance, clout, and sway in the literary world, as well as the marketing world later this month. Come and listen! ALSO the Organization for Transformative Works (OTW) regularly publishes news stories about the positive steps fanfic and fanart are taking. Academic institutions are increasingly aware of its sway, and many established writers are switching camps from anti-fanfic to pro-fanfic. The best place to find out about those strides is the OTW site.
    4) If you DO get negativity (which, in my very proactive fanfic career has happened less than five times) fight it with knowledge!

    Keep it up! I’m cheering for you!

    _____________________________________________________________________
    The long version:

    Thanks for commenting! So many things to discuss that you brought up.

    First, if you publish on one of the fanfiction sites (fanfiction.net, archiveofourown.org,) you won’t get negative feedback for writing fanfic. You may get (and there is a slim, slim chance of this) negative feedback about a) not writing the same pairing as someone else, if you are writing a fic with a romantic couple, or b) not being “cannon compliant” or changing some of the events presented in the source work. I want to reiterate that it is a very slim chance you will get negative feedback. I’ve had my work up on ffnet for four years now, and have NEVER gotten flamed. (The only time I got flamed was for a constructive criticism comment I left on someone else’s work, and that wasn’t for my fic, that was for a comment.) I DO, however, get regular positive feedback on my stories, usually in the form of “favorites” and “Subscriptions,” but also, occasionally comments about how much someone likes my story(ies) and wishes there was more. (I should also point out that I get the most comments when I ask for them in author’s notes in every chapter.)

    So I cannot endorse the idea of putting some of your work up on these sites enough. (If you are worried about stigma carrying over into your other work, use a different penname. You can always let readers know at a later date that you have work under another alias.)

    Secondly, I should state that many “serious” writers ARE using fanfic to sharpen their literary abilities, and gain readers. If you want concrit (constructive criticism) on your stories, the best way is to READ and COMMENT on other’s stories. If you find a story that is on a similar level to your work and perhaps even similar thematically, give the author a positive review and ask them to do the same for one of your stories. 9 times out of 10 they won’t, but on occasion you will get good feedback.

    I’ll write a blog article about fanfic beta readers and reviewing this week. Thanks for giving me my topic!

    Now, onto IRL interactions.

    Of the 40-50 people I’ve met at (general, non-fanfic themed) write-ins in Philly, less than five of them have been “professional” writers (and only one of those did it for his job.) ALL of the writers there are very laid back, and fit in with the generalization that artists are open-minded and accepting people. The vast majority of people who go to write-ins are lay-writers, people who write just for fun. The only negativity I’ve seen come out of write-ins were during November’s Nanowrimo where everyone is on a deadline and some people’s socializing (about the latest marvel movie, about an interesting YA novel they were reading, about Benedict Cumberbatch) was distracting others from writing.

    As a leader of the write-ins, I’m usually the one who asks the question, “what are you writing?” That’s the most invasive the conversation has been. If you don’t feel comfortable owning to writing fanfic at that moment, don’t. Just say that it’s a romance or an action story. Others may ask what you usually write, answer however you like. Write-ins, in Philadelphia, function as simple gatherings for people to work on their own stories while sitting in a group. Some one may ask for feedback on a paragraph or two, but that is the exception and not the norm. I’ve never asked for feedback, being someone who writes for the heck of it, but I do occasionally ask for “What is that word that means x and y but is more serious…?”

    Shameless plug for write-ins I’m hosting this month: they are all “fan fiction” themed, so no one who hates fan fic will be there. If you want some more info about them, contact me at njbeausoleil@phfwa.org

      Leigha

      April 2, 2014 at 12:21 pm

      Thank you for all the amazing info! I think I’ll do what you said and just take the plunge. It’s actually calming to know that people like you are out there. It helps also knowing there is a community I can connect with locally and have support. Thanks again!

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