Responsefic

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Trope · Genre
Synonyms: reaction fic, fix-it story, HEX (in B7), rebuttal
Related: shared universe, Remix, unauthorized sequels, metafic
See Also: fanon
Tropes · Slash Tropes · Tropes by Fandom
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Contents

Responsefic is a fanwork created in part as a method of conversation, or argumentation, sparked from the creation of someone else's fanwork, or an entire trend of fanwork. Sometimes the line is very blurry between casually sharing someone's universe, a trend in fandom where a number of stories seem to share aspects, and a story that is specially responding another another fanwork. The odds that a fanwork would be given the label responsefic seems to be more likely if the response appears to be negative. Sometimes those stories are also called rebuttal. Unlike many other glossary words, a recent conversation about the term responsefic [1] showed that while most fans could think of examples of it, most weren't familiar with the specific term.

Reactions to themes or trends in fandom

ResponseFic has a long history in fandom. In the 70s, as K/S was publicly appearing in Star Trek zines, many people feared that The Premise was tearing Star Trek fandom apart. J. Emily Vance (a pseudonym for Nancy Kippax, April Valentine and Beverly Volker), wrote The Rack to show how completely implausible the premise was. In The Rack, Starfleet Command suspects Kirk and Spock of having an affair, and court-martials them. At the end of the story, Kirk attempts suicide. The authors wrote the story to show what, in their opinion, would "really" happen if Starfleet suspected, even erroneously, that Kirk and Spock were having an affair.

In Highlander, both in fiction and metaconversation, it wasn't uncommon for people to talk about Duncan, the protagonist of the series, as if he were a stuffy moralistic prude. Luminosity created the songvid Not a Virgin Anymore to have an excuse to use three minutes of clips of Duncan drinking, wenching and carousing, to show certain fans that their fanon had completely overwritten the readily available canon.

In OZ fandom, Feochadn and Michelle Christian became annoyed by vids that seemed to reduce a richly complex (and violent) ensemble show to nothing but a twisted romance about two characters. To make a point about how OZ-the-show diverged from OZ-the-romance-about-two-guys, they made a vid to the theme music to The Love Boat, consisting of some of the most violent and bloody moments of the show up to that time.

There was a fair amount of fiction in The Sentinel fandom written in response to the number of Domestic Discipline stories posted.

Reactions to canon

When TPTB make sudden changes to a show or other source, or go in an unsatisfactory direction, fans often feel the need to 'fix' what they feel the show has broken.

Response fic in zines vs online

Some fans feel that the migration of fic online has made rebuttal fic today a lost art. One fan writes that maybe this is, "...an Internet thing, because passing things you don't like is easier AND recommended, and you get so much more to read that one single story rarely steers the passion enough to push anyone in writing an explicit rebuttal?...Interestingly, I think a rebuttal of a story in story form would be seen as impolite today... At least that's my feeling about it and that what I got from discussions with other current authors about stories we disliked/would have liked to rewrite. The usual opinion seems to be that it would be an affront. Today, if you don't like a story, it's expected you skip it - and if you write something as rebuttal, not to mention what you rebut." [2]

Reactions to Responsefic

Some people feel that responsefic is unfair. It can look like the responding author is bullying the original author. However, when the original author and the one responding are established authors with a readership of their own, it's not so much about authors bullying each other as it is about a perceived attack on the readers of the original; they liked it in the first place and are put on the defense by the reactions to the second story. Pitching readers against readers is rarely pleasant and a huge part of the controversy. This can be true when the fic is in response to a trend as well, not just a specific work.

Does Responsefic Require Permission?

Some fans feel that fic that is reacting to or incorporating any elements of another fan writer's work requires permission from the original fan writer even if there is proper credit and attribution. They hold this position even though fanfic is - at its core - a reaction or a response to the TV show or movie or book, and believe that because fandom communities are founded on relationships and fans are peers with equal standing, that we must seek permission before creating.

Others point out that the idea of equating a global, international and online fandom community with one-on-one personal relationships and that this peer relationship requires permission is overreaching, not reality based and controlling. Others point out that the history of responsefic is long and varied and cannot be easily summed up in a series of absolute norms.

See examples from a recent 2013 debate here[3] and here[4] at fail-fandomanon on the topic:

The original question:
"I'm writing a fanfiction based on another fanfiction, and I was just wondering, do I need permission or anything to do this?

I've heard that people get pissed off with remix challenges but this seems really hypocritical to me. I mean, nobody specifically gets permission from the original creators to write fanfic, we just assume that if they haven't specifically banned it it's okay.

I plan to give credit to where the idea came from (it's basically a what-if that comes from a specific scene in the original fanfic) and probably send the author a PM to let them know about the fic, but I really don't like the idea of asking permission.

What do people think about this?

I feel it's fine as long as there is attribution and any arguments people might make AGAINST this kind of stuff is very hypocritical, since one could turn these arguments against fanfic authors of original creations (the very people who argue against remixes of their fanfic)"
In favor of requiring permission:
"I really disagree about it being the same situation as with pro authors too. This is well covered ground, and again not everyone agrees, but it's generally accepted that we are more considerate of the feelings of our peers and fellow fans.
"But it is more logical that people who are more tight-knit (and likely to be consuming your fic) would care more. I mean, yes, it is rather hypocritical, but it is unlikely that J.K. Rowling would read fanfiction of her own stuff. It is very likely that if you share a fandom, the other person would read your stuff. We have different boundaries because our relationships, habits, objectives are different."
"I think of it as people in your community versus people outside of it.

For example, if a celebrity wears an outfit and you copy it the next day, cool. If you do that in your office with a co-worker's exact outfit, that's a little odd/not done. There's kind of an unwritten etiquette rule there.

Or going to a party and telling the joke/anecdote that your friend, who is also there, usually tells to entertain a crowd. Whereas it could be super funny to retell an anecdote you heard a famous comic tell, if no one at the party's heard it already.

It's just using rather obvious social skills among a smaller group versus among the greater world."
"Exactly. It's not that what you're doing is any different, but the proximity means different etiquette."
"That sort of thing [proximity] often does make a difference in what's going on. For instance, many people would consider dating a friend's ex very differently than they'd consider dating a person who had never dated their friend, even if they know they've dated other people. Your proximity to the ex makes a difference beyond just having less chance of running into the ex. You deal with people in the same community differently than you do with people outside the community."
Against requiring permission
"My suggestion: Don't ask permission. Just post it. If you want to tell the person about it or think they'll find it anyway then send them a message telling them about it. If you don't care about telling them or think they might be wanky then don't tell them. If they do end up publicly wanking you afterward (more likely if they're unhappy they'll just wank you in public), my advice would be to ignore them. Engaging wanky people will just result in more wank. Follow the below advice and report it to abuse if you get a large amount of harassment.
"As long as you're not plagiarizing their words, I don't really think you need any kind of permission. I'd drop a line to tell the author about it, but as long as you credit it properly it should be fine. I wouldn't ask for permission because then it comes across as being something that you think you need to have in the first place."
"...[It] just seems like an argument that you should be nice to your own tribe but not to people outside it, which I am not impressed by."
"Oldschool fandom either didn't write book fic or only wrote it when the author was actively encouraging it (like MZB before that debacle), often within whatever rules the book author laid down. I hate that climate and would not like to ever see a return to it, so I am opposed to the idea that we need to ask fic authors for permission. ¡Viva Pern canon character smutfests! TV showrunners and actors are probably not heavily involved in fandom, posting in the same places online that the fanfic is, etc., but that is less and less true as fans are more and more indiscreet on Twitter and more celebrities are showing up on Tumblr. Book authors are often in the same places and social circles as people writing fic, especially if one goes to SF cons ever. I agree that there's a sliding scale of social distance and one's fellow fic writers are on one end of it, but I don't think there is a qualitative difference between "fans" and "pros", whether one is looking at power, fame, moral rights, or anything else. There are fandoms of web comics for christ' sake."
Other fans take a more practical approach to the question:
"It sounds like you want a way to guarantee they'll be okay with it so you know you won't hurt their feelings. But sadly there's no way to do that. It's a possibility. If you really want to post your fic no matter what they say you'll have to accept that.

And others take issue with the underlying theme that writing fanfic can somehow be "wrong":

"I'm bothered by the notion that often comes up in these discussions (including the one in the previous post) that writing fanfic of someone's work is just not something "we" do to "our own." There's nothing wrong with writing fanfic! It's not something you do to someone! Now, there is definitely something wrong with shoving it in the faces of people who may not be comfortable with it, which is why we (well, most of us) don't send our fanfic to the canon creators. I think that's a good reason to ask permission before writing fanfic of fanfic, because the author is right here so it's sort of in their face by definition. And that's mostly what people in the previous post seemed to be getting at. But then there was also this thread of "well, canon creators are in a higher social position than fans so it's OK" and that we should treat our peers better than our "betters," like writing fanfic is somehow treating someone badly. It's really not."

Examples of Response Fics

  • The Beauty & The Beast zine Black Cover so shocked B&TB fandom at the time that a response zine was created, White Cover.
  • Never My Love by Candy Apple has the introduction, "These stories and the accompanying essay were written as a response to the genre of fanfiction known as "Domestic Discipline". The title for the series is inspired by what I would picture being Jim's reply to Blair's question: 'Would you ever hit me in the name of love?'"
  • Leslye Lilker, author of a number of 1970s Star Trek: TOS stories wrote in a personal statement that an author has used a name Lilker made up: "In this zine [-The Sensuous Vulcan-], appears a story... that used 'Valjn'd'jt,' the name of Sarek's home in the Sahaj universe, despite a request not to... I read the story before publication, and for my answer to 'The Way of the Warrior,' please read 'Nivar to a Desert Room' to appear in The Other Side." [8]
  • An example of how a third party, in this case a casual statement by a reviewer, can muddy the waters: "[Name redacted] did a review of Mahko Root in which she mentions Jane Aumerle's story, 'Do Not Go Gentle,' as the end of a 'trilogy of Kirk-with-a-fatal-illness stories started in Contact #3.' I'd like to correct that statement. The 'twin vignettes': 'When Time Comes' and 'Not Yet There.' were NOT written as part of a trilogy. I purposely left the end undefined so that the reader could supply his own, thus the speculation as to whether Kirk died or not was part of the effect. Jane decided that he did and wrote her excellent interpretation and published it in 'Mahko Root.' However, that ending is no more or less valid than anyone else's fantasy. I have no objection to anyone writing or ending or spin off of any of my stories, but I do not want them mistaken as part of the original author's intention." [9]
  • Beside the Wells by UKJess is a response to Star Trek: TOS stories in which Kirk is a slave to Spock in Ancient Vulcan. "The story is a reply to a lot of old-style K/S stories set in some form of unreformed Vulcan in which, after a brief and usually perfunctory resistance, Kirk settle down quite happily to a life of servitude, apparently forgiving the rape that tends to occur en route. I found this scenario superbly unlikely, whatever one thinks of the character he was the most determined individualist and I think you'd have to be a saint to forgive rape - so I wrote this story."[10]

References

  1. Thread in sherrold's LJ asking for a label other than "Reaction fic? Answer fic? Piss-on-you fic?"
  2. CatalenaMara: Fan History and Rebuttal Fic
  3. reference link.
  4. reference link.
  5. http://www.helenish.net/aien.shtml
  6. http://www.helenish.net/kerfuffle2.shtml
  7. http://www.helenish.net/kerfuffle.shtml
  8. from a personal statement by Leslye Lilker in Scuttlebutt #5
  9. from a personal statement by Bev Volker in Scuttlebutt #6
  10. Original Usenet posting
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