Cassandra Clare Created a Fantasy Realm and Aims to Maintain Her Rule

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News Media Commentary
Title: Cassandra Clare Created a Fantasy Realm and Aims to Maintain Her Rule
Commentator: Penelope Green for "Slate"
Date(s): April 23, 2016
Venue: online
Fandom: Harry Potter
External Links: Cassandra Clare Created a Fantasy Realm and Aims to Maintain Her Rule; Wayback
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Cassandra Clare Created a Fantasy Realm and Aims to Maintain Her Rule is a 2016 article by Penelope Green for "Slate."

Some Topics Discussed

Excerpts

A tour for Ms. Clare has more in common with that of a country music star than an author. She travels on a bus emblazoned with her name, and hundreds, even thousands, of fans may show up at her events.

The 300 fans who didn’t score a seat at the talk waited patiently until Ms. Clare began signing books at 8 p.m. She would remain there until after midnight, when the last book wore her signature and she headed back to her tour bus to ice her hand and sleep while the bus drove all night to Salt Lake City, where the same scene would play out in a high school auditorium at an event sponsored by an independent bookstore.

This is the upside of Ms. Clare’s fandom. But there’s a darker, more complicated byproduct of her success. Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook and all manner of fan sites (as well as antifan sites or hate blogs — yes, that’s a thing) are sometimes fractious communities whose members she may engage with daily, and not always happily.

Fantitlement, as this phenomenon is known, has raised her fortunes while at times it has bedeviled her, as it has so many of her peers. Laura Miller, a books and culture columnist at Slate who has written about fan culture, likened Ms. Clare’s experiences to that of George R. R. Martin, the “Game of Thrones” author whose fans grew so angry at his publishing pace that some created a blog, “Finish the Book, George.”

Ms. Clare’s Internet buffeting is intense and rampant. There are numerous blogs devoted to pillorying her. Some of this emotion has its roots in her own start as a fan fiction author; 16 years ago, she wrote some Harry Potter fan fiction called “The Draco Trilogy.” There were charges she lifted passages from the published, though out of print, work of a fantasy author named Pamela Dean without proper acknowledgment.

Some work, like Ms. Clare’s, is embedded with references, direct quotes and even whole passages drawn from the fantasy canon, like in-jokes for the initiated. Some fans think this is part of the game, but others see it as a violation of the rules.

Nearly a decade and a half later, Ms. Clare wrote her first piece of fan fiction. She was 25 and an assistant editor at The Hollywood Reporter, putting together a special section on “The X-Files” when she discovered the genre and tumbled down its rabbit hole (perhaps unsurprisingly, “The X-Files” have been catnip to fanfic folks).

“I printed it all out, and read it one night at the gym,” she said. “I almost fell off the NordicTrack.” That was when Ms. Clare created her “Draco Trilogy,” which begins with Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy switching identities and unspools toward a battle for Hermione’s affections.

(She was also writing as Cassandra Claire; she dropped the “I” when another fan-fiction author signed up all the “Cassandra Claire” domain names.)

Fan fiction is a boisterous community of online writers, many of them women, who reimagine existing stories and characters, often in the fantasy realm, and often with erotic overtones: Spock paired with Uhura, say, or Spock with Captain Kirk are popular imaginings.

... Elizabeth Minkel, who writes about fan culture for New Statesman, among other publications, and is a fan fiction author herself. “For whatever reason, when some people leave the community, there can be a legacy of negative feelings,” she said. “It gets passed down word of mouth. And once people get mad on the Internet, there’s no going back.”

Ms. Clare would add one more variable: gender.

“Do I think the animosity toward me from fandom is about my thinking of fan fiction as illegal art and mashing up quotes from books and movies and plays into the fan fiction I wrote 16 years ago?” she said. “No. A million people did that and still do. I was nothing different or special except that I went on to be a successful author and public figure. They’ve always been very clear it’s about punishing me for the latter, because it’s seen as being uppity. It’s not an old grudge being held on to. It’s the pattern of how women are treated on the Internet every day.”

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