Fanfic: is it right to write?

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News Media Commentary
Title: Fanfic: is it right to write?
Commentator: Helen Razer
Date(s): 05 January 2004
External Links: Fanfic: is it right to write?; arvhie link
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Fanfic: is it right to write? is a 2004 article about fanfiction by Helen Razer at "The Page," an Australian site.

The article's topic line says: "Fans of successful stories fancy writing, too, but their adaptations are causing angst."

The article introduces the genre to a lay audience and claims that "all of it risks inspiring the fury of Warner Brothers and Harry's other trademark holders."

The article repeats the myth that the majority of fanfic is porn.


Despite a threat of legal notices and continued aloofness by the more upright literary community, this work is flourishing. HP-inspired fiction has even given rise to its own stars, some of whom rival Rowlings's own talent for rococo prose and colossal word count. These exuberant HP writers are the latest heirs to a literary tradition known as fan fiction, or fanfic. The genre is staffed by fans of a specific book, television show or movie. Using established characters and surroundings, writers arm themselves with a healthy sense of creative entitlement and let it rip.

Novel-length fanfics, or shorter fanficlets, take their inspiration from a smorgasbord of artefacts. Jane Austen's heroine, Elizabeth Darcy, nee Bennett, can be heard quarrelling sullenly with her dull new husband. The Wizard of Oz's Tin Man needs a pacemaker for his hurtling heart. TV's protagonists, from A Country Practice to Buffy, each find themselves radically adjusted as per the needs of their most avid, literate, fans.
With the mid-'90s advent of no-cost publishing for internet users, fanfic accelerated. Homages appeared in such volume that some authors and owners of intellectual assets took exception. Anne Rice, creator of The Vampire Chronicles, famously wrote on her website in 2000 that the practice of fanfic "upsets me terribly". Her howl, reportedly backed by a volley of "cease and desist" emails from lawyers to fanfic authors, did not endear her to fans.

The "slash" within K/S is now used to describe any fanfic that describes homoerotic encounters. Slash fiction now arguably forms the bulk of all published fanfic. Slash, it should be noted, is not tatty porn. Much of its coy tone owes more to mid-century bodice-ripper novels than, for example, the Letters page in Penthouse. Further, its more eminent exponents write with precision and confidence. Slash has a canon and a system of mentorship, or "beta reading", that ought to inspire envy in any emerging novelist.

The curious thing about slash is that women write most of it. Tens of thousands of heterosexual female writers give their creative energies to love stories figuring Mulder and Skinner from The X Files; Steve and Oscar from The Six Million Dollar Man, and even Dr Who with heavens knows what sort of male alien.

British academic and slash author Ika Willis is hesitant to pinpoint a single reason for feminine command of the genre. "Slash writing is probably predominantly female for the same reasons that most low-status, amateur creative activities are," Willis says. "There is a tradition of women's creative work, like quilting, being circulated in informal communities rather than entering the art market."

Kiley agrees that the "comparative lack of commercial pressures and professionalising constrictions" enable female authors to "feel empowered to write in more personal ways". How does Willis explain her own passion for erotically pairing male characters Blake and Avon, from BBC schlock sci-fi series Blakes 7? "When writing male erotic fiction, women have a much less defined metaphorical system," she says. "None of us knows what it's like to have a penis, so we have to explain how it feels in its context, what the emotional side to it is. "It's really freeing, both as a female reader, because you're not always being put off by reactions like 'I hate when people touch me there!' and as a writer, because you're much freer to create your own sexual language."

Melbourne slash mentor Nova says material by women writers "is about male relationships, as much as it's about sex . . . One aims to evoke familiar sexual and emotional responses by means of an alien body within a borrowed story".

Whether it's Kirk nibbling on Spock's pointy ear or a more G-rated excursion with Harry Potter, the fanfic just keeps coming.

Countless unauthorised authors of all ages are modifying their favourite cultural objects to suit.