yourlibrarian: Buffy on the phone (BUF-WorkingGirl: eyesthatslay)
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I've never heard of The Escapist before, but they have put out a "Fanfiction issue" whose biggest problem seems to be that they assume everyone understands what that is without ever really examining the topic.

A good example is the article titled Corporate Fanfic, which discussed the case of The Watchmen and how corporations are capitalizing on fans by putting what they want to see on screen, regardless of how it skews the original. This seems like a rather interesting discussion idea, not unlike some posts I saw in the past months on [community profile] metafandom that complained about how all the increasing slashiness in media properties could be as harmful to normalizing the depiction of gays and lesbians as making them invisible. However, not only is the author mixing the issue of serialized storytelling with fan fiction, he can't decide who it’s targeted to. He says, for example, that corporations are including fanfic themes in works to appeal to a general audience:

"an immense Watchmen fan himself, might have been fine with that, but what about the average moviegoer, i.e. the person corporate fanfic is tailored to?"

I find this extremely contradictory since in his second paragraphs he states: "Fanfiction is a work of love/obsession by one fan for no other purpose than to proclaim his or her love/obsession." I'll quibble about the "one fan" part too, but let me highlight how these two ideas are completely contradictory.

I've never read or seen Watchmen, but I was a huge fan of ST:TOS and I saw the film reboot. I was not terribly impressed with it, precisely because it seemed to me that the philosophical heart of the series was completely jettisoned in favor of cool special effects and outright buffoonery. It's not like TOS didn't have humor in it, and episodes that went for the silly (see "I Mudd", for example), and sometimes it was bad in ways that weren't intentionally funny or audience-driven. But I think that it would have been perfectly possible to make a more serious movie that had character-driven humor and depth of characterization without sacrificing the cool "whiz bang" factor. All I can say is, I really appreciated that they made it an official "AU" (which would have been an interesting topic for this writer to explore, but we'll get back to that).

Conversely, while I'd read and enjoyed Sherlock Holmes stories, both Conan Doyle's as well as later books and films, I quite liked the latest reboot. Did the plot make a lot of sense? Well, no, but then many of the original stories strained credulity as well. I could definitely see a fan of classic Holmes reacting to the latest film in much the way I saw the Trek reboot. The difference is that I enjoyed Holmes but was not a fan (and I also love slashinesss which was, whether the general audience realized it or not, at the heart of the film). I would probably have enjoyed a more serious film just as much, or one which tried to be as faithful as possible to Doyle's stories. But I had no problem with Holmes and Watson being used as archetypes instead of characters. (Another interesting point not explored by the author).

I also use these two examples because the author is specifically likening all film adaptations to fanfic and making an argument about medium and creator's rights. In the case of both of the above reboots, both have jumped mediums resulting in important changes.

For example, one major change the author discusses is the issue of length. This is something that suffers in the transition from books, comics, and TV to film (unless it was a very short comic series). One can explore a great deal in all these other mediums, usually deepening characters or adding many secondary characters, or creating complex storylines. This is difficult to do in film, even if it's quite a long movie.

Also in the case of both above reboots, the creators are dead. The author suggests this is the only way to ever do a proper adaptation, though I'm not clear why. In fact, I'm really not sure what his point is, other than to suggest that adaptations should never be done unless they're performed by their original creators. In which case I have three words to say to him: Buffy Season 8.

It seemed to me that this particular article was the clearest in demonstrating the heart of the issue when it comes to fanfic, which is just what tends to prompt knee-jerk reactions to it. And I disagree completely that it's actually the author's original intent or the medium it originally appeared in.

Other articles do a better job of exploring the topic without getting to the heart of things. In "Hooking Up in Hyperspace" a game is described which includes points for the development of relationships:

"And with Second Story, we see exactly that philosophy at work. In a game where anybody could end up with anybody, fanfiction's impulse towards shipping becomes systematized." He goes on to conclude that ship fic is written to bring out subtext in a canon. "Sometimes, then, "shipping" serves to replace a seemingly false ending with a true one, more consistent with character behavior and narrative arc. This approach to storytelling has a primacy within Second Story: Change the "ship," change the story.

Of course, there are limitations to this. "Most notably, and in contrast to a large chunk of fanfiction, it's strictly a hetero affair. No amount of bromantic moments can spur your male characters past the realm of space-buds." Unfortunately, he doesn't spend any time examining what this says about issues of narrative and control. The article concludes:

"Removed from any linear notion of storyline and existing in a space where all relationships are equally viable, this drive towards fanfiction becomes legitimized, existing within, rather than outside of, a core work."

Here the use of the word "legitimized" begs the question "by whom" and "to what end"? The issue of legitimacy was the core of the Corporate Fan Fiction article as well, but went similarly unexamined as a general concept.

Another article titled Interviews With the Fandom made me wonder which fandom they were discussing. Oddly, all the people interviewed were male, even though there was a picture of a woman with the article. But some interesting topics came to light. Beginning with the discussion of community, a notable but rarely expressed point in many articles about fanfic made it into print: "As for those who find fault with fanfiction, it wasn't intended for them in the first place."

Further exploring the touchy issue of "quality", "Dean says relativism in the fanfiction community goes even further. "Some people enjoy [the] 'bad,' and some of that 'bad' means more to some people than simple critical value." This suggests that many readers of fanfiction find value in works which would be viewed as flawed from a technical, critical or narrative point of view."

I really loved this point because it suggested that some of the very things fanfic is criticized for are what draws its audience in the first place, and serves to build community. It's been pointed out numerous times in fanfic discussions that some of the best produced canonical works (through whatever medium) often attract less fanfic than those that are more poorly done. The suggestion has always been that this is because there is more to "fix" or explore in those canons – characters that need depth, larger scale stories, missing scenes, etc. But it also seems to me that the imperfections in a lot of fic, which needn't go through the sort of scrutiny that published work should (yet, if you've read any published work recently, is clearly a thing of the past at all levels), lends itself to a sense of community. The visible imperfections encourage readers to submit their work as well, regardless of its lack of polish or deep topical or technical merit. In short, a sense of "I could do this too" is important if you're going to set up a community of exchange with widespread participation. By comparison, commercial publishing is designed to be exclusionary because if it weren't, why would it be needed?

Also revealing is the issue of hierarchy, particularly given that the interviewees are all male: "Andrew suggests that pieces written by teenage girls are automatically judged to be worse than similar stories written by adults." While it would be easy to bash men for this sentiment, the recent discussion around these parts surrounding the growing denigration of the Mary Sue, demonstrates that women are almost as dismissive of teenage girls as men are.

Speaking of the much bashed Mary Sue, she is brought up on page 1 of the final article From Fanfiction to Just Fiction which, as one might guess from the title, is actually about using fanfic writing experience to transition to the unexamined holy grail of original fiction. This is also the only article written by a woman included in the issue, and it's based on her own experience. Returning to the question of "legitimacy", the entire article automatically assumes fanfic's need to justify itself by means of serving as a precursor to more status worthy endeavors.

Of course, this special issue was clearly not meant to be one that seriously examined outside assumptions about fanfic in any way. Its editorial states "it can be fun - and fruitful - to borrow characters from your favorite movie/TV show/game and make them do your bidding (just so long as you're not making them hump)." Because they never do that in any original stories, ever, even the ones that are romances to begin with. It's enough to make you wonder what men have against reading sex scenes, and how that may connect to the issues of legitimacy which keep being danced around in this publication.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-04-14 08:31 pm (UTC)
princessofgeeks: (Default)
From: [personal profile] princessofgeeks
thank you for posting this; much to chew on here. am looking forward to reading the article.

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Social Informatics and Media Studies

April 2010

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