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!