An Interview with an Anonymous Fanfic Author (Doctor Who: Doctor/River)

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Interviews by Fans
Title: An Interview with an Anonymous Fanfic Author (Doctor Who: Doctor/River)
Interviewer: Valya Barboy and Erica Portnoy
Interviewee: an Anonymous Fanfic Author
Date(s): April 2015
Medium: online
External Links: An Interview with an Anonymous Fanfic Author (Doctor Who: Doctor/River), Archived version
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An Interview with an Anonymous Fanfic Author (Doctor Who: Doctor/River) was conducted by Valya Barboy and Erica Portnoy, students in the 2015 class: "Fanfiction: Transformative Works from Shakespeare to Sherlock" taught by Anne Jamison at Princeton University.

"Our interviewee, who would prefer to remain anonymous, is a fanfiction author and a self-proclaimed “Hollywood assistant with delusions of grandeur.” She ships Doctor/River and is a fan of a number of shows, including Sherlock, Doctor Who, Buffy, Gilmore Girls, and others. She writes both on tumblr and AO3."

Some Excerpts

[is being a fan and participating in a fandom as the same thing?]: I just think they’re referring to separate things? Like, I think a fan is in a fandom. Fandom is a community, to me, and a fan of something can choose to be a part of or not to be a part of a fandom. For example, I love BBC Sherlock, and I’d call myself a fan — but I would rather knit a scarf out of my small intestine than participate in the BBC Sherlock fandom. You can definitely be part of a fandom without creating anything, but that’s not to say you’re valued by your ability to contribute to fandom. Fandoms have class systems, especially larger ones (Harry Potter, Doctor Who, etc.) There’s also this sense of building relationships by creating fanworks for other fans, and so that’s much harder if you have nothing to offer. Lots of people are very ra-ra fandom, what a great community, etc. but honestly I think fandom on a whole is a really gross, toxic thing for the most part (which isn’t to say I haven’t had wonderful experiences, and made actual friends, and I have certainly improved as a writer through it) but that’s another story altogether.
I prefer to be named in some sense because I’m trash and I like the attention. Lately I’ve just been using my name, because I’m old and jaded and don’t care, but when I was younger I would just use whatever username/handle I had. I’m constantly posting and deleting things on tumblr, because I do very much use it as a personal blog where I complain or rant about whatever’s happening to me in the moment, but I usually delete these things shortly thereafter. There’s no real delineation for me about what I feel comfortable posting on tumblr vs Ao3, other than length. I don’t post things that are super long directly [to] tumblr because it’s an eyesore, and I don’t tend to x-post very short things I write on tumblr to AO3.
I don’t know how you’d particularly defend ownership of stories at this point — everything’s so spun out and interconnected, it’s really ridiculous to me to think about. To go back to BBC Sherlock (why does this keep happening), how on earth could you condemn BBC Sherlock fanfiction, when the show itself is fanfiction? How can you say that fic doesn’t have the validity of a published novel while 50 Shades of Grey and the Mortal Instruments Series — both hugely successful with movie adaptations — were both originally shared with the world as Twilight and Harry Potter fanfiction, respectively. Everything comes from somewhere. Bless the person who says they truly originated every aspect of their story — they certainly need the extra holiness, since they’re certainly a big fat liar.
there’s something to the fact that fanfiction is an enterprise largely participated in by women, who tend to be marginalized in or simply absent from most media. There’s an article floating around somewhere about how fandom tends to either be transformative or curative, and the divide is very gendered: men tend to hoard facts and protect canon as sacred and immutable, whereas women tend to be the fanfic writers, the fanart creators, the fanvid editors, and of course it’s the latter camp that’s derided. Stories are still mentally filed as survival tools (oh my god MAKE ME STOP TALKING) but like literally, brains think stories are survival tools, like way back in the day Cave Man Jim and Caveman Jane went into a dark cave and a sabre tooth tiger came out and attacked them. Caveman Jane climbed up a tree and lived and Cave Man Jim was eaten. Cave Man Jane returned to their tribe and told everybody that dark caves can have predators in them, sabre tooth tigers look like this and they’re dangerous, and also they can’t climb) and so if women or often POC or people on the LGBTQIA spectrum aren’t getting the tools they feel they need to survive from the media, they create their own. That’s not shameful or silly or embarrassing or pointless, that’s self-preservation.
My only real feeling about the overwhelming majority of fic being slash is general disappointment that there’s so little fic about the female characters. I think that’s a real shame and a real problem, and I think there’s no small amount of internalization of some toxic shit that makes this the predominant trend, but if that’s what some people need, then that’s what they need, and I’m not here to judge that. I don’t have any reason why I wouldn’t write slash, it’s just not very likely, because if I haven’t made it clear, I’m very over male-centric media.