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Re: [mythsoc] Digest Number 1940--Fanfic

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  • Edith.Crowe@sjsu.edu
    Wow, what a topic, and one close to my heart--given that I m both a reader and writer of fan fiction. As such I have such mixed feelings on this issue! Reading
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 30, 2005
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      Wow, what a topic, and one close to my heart--given that I'm both a reader
      and writer of fan fiction. As such I have such mixed feelings on this
      issue! Reading it, and moreso writing it, has been one of the most
      interesting, educational and rewarding experiences of my life. There are a
      significant number of us out there whose creative skills are not good
      enough to make a living at it (or we aren't sufficiently risk-taking to
      try). However, our skills are good enough that failing to use them creates
      a constant mental and emotional itch. There are certain "places" that are
      very hospital to people caught between this particular rock and hard
      place. The Mythopoeic Society is one--I can't tell you how important it
      was to me as an amateur artist to have Society publications and Mythcon
      art shows as an encoragement to continue making art. Let's face it, all
      that amateur Tolkien art is as morally and legally dubious as fanfic.

      Fanfic, on the other hand, taught me I could actually write
      fiction--something I had at some point convinced myself I otherwise
      couldn't do. That knowledge meant a great deal to me, and still does. I've
      read fanfic that is dazzling in its level of skill and understanding of
      the characters (and plenty that was total crap--although I abandon that
      quickly). That's something unique about fanfic, and is perhaps why it
      appeals to my academic soul--the fact that you are writing fiction about
      someone else's characters. It's not necessarily just derivation, it can be
      a form of interpretation--which leads to endless arguments (very academic)
      about whose interpretation is better supported by the "evidence" that the
      original author produced. I enjoy legitimate pastiche (such as the large
      corpus starring Sherlock Holmes) for the same reason. If it's good, you're
      able to read a new story about a character/universe you like. At the very
      least you can enjoy watching somebody conduct a literary though

      That said, I've only written, and mostly read, fanfic that involves
      translating one medium (mostly TV) into another (prose fiction). Re Hobbs'
      argument that if the author wanted it to be/not be there it would be: in
      TV there is much less authorial control, and things are often there or not
      there due to all sorts of constraints that don't apply (or apply to a
      lesser extent) to published fiction. "You can't say that on TV" is a
      cliche--and you can do even less than you can say. The bottom line is
      selling products, after all, not artistic creativity. TV also deals with
      time constraints, censorship, sponsor pressure, the need to attract a mass
      audience, legitimate concern for dealing with "adult themes" inappropriate
      for certain age levels, etc. Having pretty much witnessed the birth of
      Star Trek fanfic, I can tell you that one of the precipitating factors was
      simple frustration with the limitations of commercial television. It still
      operates with fanfic based on TV shows.

      I also believe that if you do something you should do it as well as you
      can. Good fanfic should respect the source. A lot of really bad and/or
      "out there" fanfic is bad because the author isn't making any attempt to
      interpret and expand the characters, but simply using them for his/her own
      purpose. Sometimes it lack of skill, sometimes it's lack of caring. Maybe
      living with a psychologist for all these years has made me sensitive to
      this, but a lot of bad fanfic has told me way more about the writer's
      psychopathology than I wanted to know. If you're aware of the concept of a
      "projective test" in psychology, you know what I mean.

      Less an argument from reason, I admit, than one from feeling. I can't
      imagine fanfic going away. Back in the pre-Internet days it was a "secret
      vice" and would become so again. As to the legality and morality of it
      all--sometimes it's a form of commentary and interpretation, which is
      perfectly legitimate academic enterprise in my personal book at least.
      Sometimes it's drawing a moustache on the _Mona Lisa_. (Although that's
      not a good analogy, since advertisers have been altering that particular
      image for decades, in a way that would probably give Leonardo apoplexy.)
      Maybe giving _Wuthering Heights_ a happy ending would be a better one. For
      any particular piece of fanfic, deciding where it fit would have as many
      verdicts as it had judges.

      Edith L. Crowe
      Corresponding Secretary of the Mythopoeic Society

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