It's a Fanmade World: From One Direction to Soderbergh

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News Media Commentary
Title: It’s a Fanmade World: From One Direction to Soderbergh
Commentator: various
Date(s): March 9, 2015 (print), March 11, 2015 (online)
Venue: print, online
Fandom: multifandom with emphasis on One Direction and western media fandom
External Links: It’s a Fanmade World: From One Direction to Soderbergh, Archived version
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

It’s a Fanmade World: From One Direction to Soderbergh is a 2015 collection of nine essays and posts published by Vulture.com, the Entertainment News website of New York Magazine, and published in the March 9, 2015 issue of New York.

The main essay, "You Belong to Me", and "A Fanfiction Syllabus" generated the most fan comments. The article was also praised for its attention to fanworks other than fanfiction, with its sections on fan film trailers, fan translations of video games, and Grateful Dead envelope fanart. Fan comments also faulted the article for being too focused on dudeslash, on slash in general, and lots of fans had opinions on what fandoms should have counted as "classic examples."

The article cited consultation help from Cyndy Aleo, Emily Asher-Perrin, Charlotte Geater, Anne Jamison, Aja Romano, and Gavia Baker-Whitelaw.

Contents

Parts

  • You Belong to Me: The fanfiction boom is reshaping the power dynamic between creators and consumers by Laura Miller
  • Harry Styles Rules the World: Fanfiction by the numbers by David Marchese
  • “There’s a Big Difference Between After and Jane Austen”: How Anna Todd turned herself into a fanfiction star by David Marchese
  • A Fanfiction Syllabus: Ten classics that cover the history, breadth, and depth of the form, with original custom-designed covers by Abraham Riesman
  • Steven Soderbergh, Auteur of Other People’s Films: Making new art out of old movies by Jeremy Smith
  • Making Hollywood at Home: Two Fresno film geeks are ingeniously replicating their favorite blockbuster trailers by Alex Yablon
  • This Indie-Comics Hit Is a Blatant DC Rip-off. It’s Also Better: The parallel universe of Copra by Bryan Hood
  • Bootlegging Nintendo, the American Way (no author mentioned)
  • Getting the Dead’s Attention by David Marchese

You Belong to Me

...Once exiled to obscure corners of the internet, fanfiction — amateur fiction based on characters from preexisting works or real-life celebrities — has lately become a force driving popular culture. As Proulx realized, fans these days aren’t satisfied to just sit back and consume. They want to participate. They want to create. And they don’t want to wait for anyone else’s permission to do it. Millions of fanfiction stories have been uploaded onto vast online archives where other fans read, rate, and comment on them. Romances, often torrid, between ostensibly straight male characters like Harry Potter and his onetime nemesis Draco Malfoy are especially popular, and there’s an entire category of fanfiction, called mpreg, in which beloved male characters and celebrities (e.g., One Direction singer Harry Styles) are able, bizarrely, to get pregnant. Fandom’s untrammeled imagination is also colonizing the wider world. E L James’s Fifty Shades of Grey started as Twilight fic. And what are J. J. Abrams’s Star Trek and Star Wars reboots — which take the original source materials (called “canon” in fic circles) and shape them to new ends — if not examples of the fanfiction spirit when enabled by hundreds of millions of dollars?

Harry Styles Rules the World

Fanfiction’s great allure is its lack of boundaries. If you can think it, you can share it. But this stuff doesn’t bubble up out of nowhere, and what’s popular on the screens of fanfiction readers is a pretty accurate mirror of what’s popular in real life, too. Here, with data supplied by online fic clearinghouse Wattpad, is what fans are reading and writing about.

There’s a Big Difference Between After and Jane Austen

Fanfiction (just one word, or you betray yourself as a noob) is the real Cinderella in this story, raised from the scullery by a fairy godmother named E L James. James’s erotica, originally titled “Master of the Universe,” reimagined Twilight’s Bella Swan and her vampire boyfriend, Edward Cullen, as, respectively, a gawky ingénue and the handsome, bondage-loving billionaire who seduces her. Such stories, in which the characters are essentially the same despite significant changes in their circumstances, are called AU, or “alternate universe” scenarios. James isn’t the only fic writer to make the leap from fan to pro: Others include the historical-fantasy author Naomi Novik and YA star Cassandra Clare, creator of the Mortal Instruments series. But James proved that fic could become an entertainment juggernaut to rival the original properties that inspired it. The movie version of James’s fic raked in more than $400 million internationally in less than two weeks, so literary agents and movie producers are looking for more of the same. Last April, a military wife named Anna Todd signed a lucrative contract with a Simon & Schuster imprint to publish, in multiple volumes, an epic erotic romance about a demure college freshman’s relationship with a tattooed bad boy named Hardin Scott. When Todd’s After was first posted in installments on the online reading-and-writing community Wattpad in 2013, however, the hero’s name was Harry Styles. In the author’s original AU, the puckish singer is just another foreign student at Washington State University, albeit a fetchingly dimpled and brooding one. After, although clearly patterned on Twilight, is an example of “real-person fiction” (RPF), in which celebrities are cast as characters in concocted scenarios. Todd’s work garnered more than a billion views on Wattpad, and Paramount Pictures recently bought the screen rights.

The "Fanfiction Syllabus"

Described as: "Ten classics that cover the history, breadth, and depth of the form, with original custom-designed covers." The section was written by Abraham Riesman, with "consultation help" from Cyndy Aleo, Emily Asher-Perrin, Charlotte Geater, Anne Jamison, Aja Romano, and Gavia Backer-Whitelaw.

The Syllabus:

Fan Comments

From Fail-Fandomanon

Below are comments from fans at fail-fandomanon; The Vulture's article on fan fiction, March 11, 2015.

That syllabus is really something. It reads like a list someone who talked to Aja and maybe two other people would put together, which, let's be honest, is probably what happened here.
I like how the fake book cover for Written by the Victors says "by Esperanza."
The Kraith Collection? If I were limited to one TOS zine from that era, I probably would have gone for Spockanalia.
I guess, hypothetically, a person closely affiliated with Fanlore, then, with that one Starsky & Hutch rec.
Yeah, that was kind of out of left field. I don't remember that being nearly so big a fandom as Quantum Leap or Highlander.
I liked having the Starsky & Hutch rec in there to sort of represent the various big fandoms of the 80s, 90s and very early 00s (Sentinel, Due South, Highlander, probably some others I'm forgetting). Other than that and the Star Trek rec, it feels very heavily loaded to recent stories for what's supposedly a list of Classics.
I will say that regardless of the quality of the syllabus that I appreciate that they put examples up there that really did something interesting with format or structure, which I guess was Aja's agenda. One can debate the quality and innovation of the prose of the fic themselves until we're all seething in our respective corners, but the creators of Flesh Mechanic, The Shoebox Project, Written by the Victors, The Very Secret Diaries and American Captain have the most outwardly obvious transformative aspect from the original work. I can't believe Flesh Mechanic was posted more than 10 years ago now. Wow. I remember reading it for the first time and reading about the shockwaves it sent throughout my popslash circles, because that fic swung for the fences. Like or dislike it, for that time, it was like nothing else I had seen.
That's actually a pretty good article on fanfiction, even if they're using Wattpad for their stats.
I'm thrilled this article highlights a variety of fan creativity and not just fic. It would've been cool to have some more focus on fanart and maybe a short look at 8tracks, but still, I really appreciate they didn't just focus on one aspect of fandom. Also I learned that Wattpad fic features covers, that's cool. Also while I don't go there myself I think the focus on Wattpad is completely justified, it's just really huge.
Well, that's a very dudeslash syllabus.
I can just SMELL another "slash is sexist!" wank brewing, and it smells TERRIBLE.
A lot of the time when someone says "dudeslash" like that it means they're going to go into a rant about how slash is so sexist and slash fans are the worst. Other anon jumped the gun a bit (at least wait for you/whoever to do something else) but I can understand their reaction.
It is. And I'm not here to start misogyny wank, I just get frustrated at the attempt to paint fanfic and fandom as slash-dominated. I really love slash and it's primarily what I read now, but I entered fandom through het fanfic and that shit is huge. I don't know why it would be ignored, except for the "lol girls who write about guys kissing so weird!!!" lede.
I don't use dudeslash in a snarky manner. I just kind of feel like if femslash gets a qualifying prefix, then why not m/m slash? I've actually started using m/m slash instead though, because I realize that it's hard to realize that it's not meant as snark on my part.
IIRC, "dudeslash" was originally coined to distinguish it from "femslash" and "slash", which in theory stands for both but in practise is often a male default with a female prefix modifier. Its intent was and is (most of the time) as a clarifying word, not a snarky one.
Yeah, my reaction wasn't about misogyny, more about 'wow, my experience as a femslash fan was completely omitted.' Which, I get it, we're a small subset of fandom and not what the article was focused on. And tbh, it didn't even bother me until I came across this quote -

At the risk of stating the obvious, what most fic testifies to is that its authors are really, really interested in men.

Because while that's definitely true for a lot of people, in my corner, not so much. Those of us who occasionally do write about dudes hear about it, believe me. It would've been kinda nice for a throwaway line about a smaller femslash side, but I'm not pounding out an angry letter to the editor about it, just venting here a bit.
I totally agree that there's definitely a lot of het fans who are into their ships because of their love of the female character. My entry to fandom was through BtVS het, and while there were definitely the fans who didn't seem to like Buffy much while they simultaneously fought viciously over what dude she should hook up with, there were plenty more who loved the character and enjoyed writing/reading about her being awesome and happy, which is the side I fell in with. Until I decided rather than fight over which dude, I'd just ship her with all the chicks instead, heh. And yeah, I don't know if 'they're just normal heterosexual girls!' was the intent or not, but if it were, it'd be pretty far off the mark, given the sheer number of m/m slash fans who are bi, pan, or lesbian.
It's even more annoying in an article that claims to cover the entire history of fandom and includes older fandoms like Holmes and Star Trek and Starsky & Hutch. Xena fandom was enormous in its day, and produced tons of femslash. If nothing else, the whole "uber fic" phenomenon deserved a mention.
And just now noticing the lack on non-Western fandoms.
Yeah, Xena fandom is one of those foundational fandoms for femslash that even those of us who were never actually in it, know a lot about. And mentioning uber fic would've made sense both in the context of them talking about the Twilight AUs that spawned 50 Shades of Grey as well as how many of those uber fics wound up becoming published lesbian romance novels. Which reminds me of something else that someone pointed out about the syllabus - that the caption for the VSD stated that Cassie Claire was one of the few fanfic authors to get a pro publishing deal out of it. Meanwhile, there were at least two or three other authors on the syllabus itself that had pro deals - they just didn't choose to use a variant of their fannish pseud when going pro, so it's harder to know if you don't have inside details. Which, to be fair, the text of the article acknowledges at one point.
The mainstream media - forever trying to make cash out of fandom and failing.
I looked at Wattpad out of curiosity and suddenly I feel old, out of touch, and weirded out.

From Tumblr

One thing that really struck me (amongst several things with NYMag’s feature, I actually want to write a detailed response to the coverage) is the fact that they used Wattpad as a metric here, and that in this context, I think it’s a wise choice. I remember there was an article (in…the Guardian?) a few months ago talking about how the next big battle in fan writing was between Wattpad and Kindle Worlds and I scoffed and said “stupid journalists” and then said…they’re possibly right. We in AO3 land can get such a skewed perspective on the broader fanfic landscape, and there’s no denying that Wattpad’s numbers are massive in comparison—or that the community dynamics are different, many of the users are coming from very different perspectives, etc. It’s easy to get myopic with fandom because even just your little corner can feel all-consuming.[1]
Some of this info seems wrong to me (how is it possible for the divergant series to have more fanfiction than Marvel as a whole) and I am SO sick of fanfiction being all about gay characters. It’s not. [2]
Those of us contributing to this discussion were pretty much in agreement about a lot of these fics, including Shoebox, Victors, American Captain, the Paradox Series, and the VSD. I also voted for After, The Sandwich Story, Flesh Mechanic, and Scales of Justice! I think the other two stories I went to bat for were The Scene is Dead by synchronik (FAVE) as well as Katie Forsythe’s earlier Sherlock Holmes pastiche fics <3 ETA: Oh, and Irresistible Poison, because OBVIOUSLY. <3333 [3]
American Captain and Written by the Victors both just made it into a mainstream discussion of fanworks and transformative works. I actually just got a little light headed. [4]
I am unhappy that after is here, it is just as bad as 50 shades at displaying an abusive relationship and romanticising it. No. [5]
On one hand, good to know that “respected” mainstream magazines or newspapers are taking fanfiction seriously. On the other, my instinctive knee-jerk reaction, like, please leave us alone! [6]
So in the wake of TheoryofFandomgate (ugh), someone really has to ask: did the fic authors give permission for their work to be publicised in the mainstream media? [7]
There’s at least one other example of ficcers who got a book deal in this very post! Also, love how ‘the history, breadth, and depth of the form’ doesn’t include a single female character - oh no, wait, one unnamed OC. [8]
Look, the history, breadth and depth of the form is 99% white dudes, 1% OCs. Everyone knows femslash is marginalised, so it’s totally representative to ignore it completely. Het? With canon female characters? ALSO DOESN’T EXIST, is not a major part of fic, what are you talking about, we can’t hear you over the sound of these white guys. [9]
After should /not/ be on this list, after shouldn’t be fucking anywhere at all because it promotes abuse and makes the one direction fandom seem like psychos who write their idols as disgusting douchebags and then publish it. It has ruined Harry’s reputation with the media even more (especially because they already consider him a womanizer) and Anna Todd has no respect for the one direction fandom after publishing that disgusting abusive book. So I (like many other one direction fans) don’t appreciate even more publicity going into this horrible book. [10]
Serously, how the hell does one compile a “fanfic syllabus” and not include Xena fandom, with its vast amount of novel-length Xena/Gabrielle fics? Or X-files fandom, with all the Mulder/Scully fic which, IIRC, gave us the term “shipper”? Or BtVS? Or Dr. Who?[11]
oh my fucking god, this is me! That’s me! This is such a weird trip. I wrote the sandwich story when I was 15 or 16 in about twenty minutes for Yuletide and then I never participated again as far as I can remember. I think it got like 200 comments, which I was super proud of, and then I forgot about it. I didn’t even remember what I’d called it. And now it’s in a class syllabus and a Vulture story next to The Shoebox Project. Whoever made the cover — thank you! It’s so beautiful! And hellotailor and bookshop, thank you for your work on the story. Wow, this is so cool. [12]
Ugh, Kraith. I tried Kraith, in the days of paper zines. And it tried me. I couldn’t get past the “Vulcan Uber Alles” attitude in it - nor the misogyny expressed by these “logical” beings. Also the two characters designated as Russian - Chekhov and one other fellow with a Russian surname - are portrayed as utter pigs to women. The one thing I did like was its portrayal of Christine Chapel, at a time when she was the most hated person in fanfic. But it is an important part of fanfic history. [13]
Ho ho, no mention of the massive plagerism wank about Cassie Claire’s fic or however her name is spelled nowadays. Also, Shoebox Project people got some sort of a deal. I remember a Sunday papers article about it when I was just getting into fandom. [14]
Okay. So. This is a good list, because Shoebox! Victors! Paradox! These are paragons of fic in my book. But notice that this is an article about fandom and fanfiction written by a dude and featuring art created by at least 8 dudes out of 10 artworks. Yeah. [15]
These are great. I’m trying not to be annoyed that Ces’s name is wrong on the Victors cover. But otherwise it’s a neat thing. :D [16]
sorry, still feeling pissy about this conclusion at the end of that vulture article. how can you write a whole section about how erotic fanfic really explores female desire/sexuality and then end here…? and ALSO since WHEN are men’s inner lives hard to find on display in pop culture?! bull-fucking-shit, they are. what the hell did i spend high school and college lit classes reading then???? etc etc etc ETA: Once more, less angry. I do not believe that erotic fanfiction is a testimony to how much women love men or want to know and explore about the inner emotional lives of men. I think it’s a testimony to the fact that women (and others with marginalized sexualities) have the power and drive to create a safe space where they can explore these sexualities (which include more than just desire for the physical act of sex). Part of what makes that space safe is that they’re in control of the ‘straight’ cis men. Even when these men behave like Harry in After, the writer (a woman- thus someone with a marginalized sexuality) had the control of him in the writing. I’m not condoning that portrayal, per se, only noting that it still is part of this ‘safe space’ of sexual exploration.[17]
uh, when did Wattpad become a measure of what was going on in fic circles? I haven’t ventured in there a lot, because the few times I did, it was distinctly subpar, quality wise? Or have things changed a lot in the past year or so? [18]
Oh, yeah, my question wasn’t, “How could you know that fic authors were published?” I witnessed the Twific P2P epidemic up close and personally. Ugh. I was trying to say, how do the authors know it’s *rare* for a fic author to score a book deal? Just because a writer isn’t opening up her LJ and using her fandom moniker as her professional nom de plume doesn’t mean she doesn’t have them in her past, yk? (Or, for that matter, just because she’s not totally ripping off her fic for her OF doesn’t mean that she never wrote fic.) I just think the list of traditionally published authors who have fanfiction in their past is probably longer than that description of Clare implies. [19]
There’s been several publicly known fic authors who got book deals—two I’ve shared fandoms with and know directly through fandom. Then there’s the fans whose fic were purchased for publishing like E. L. James (I saw saw a list last year with a dozen on it, tho no one I knew or shared fandoms with.) I listened to a panel at SDCC last year where a rep from Wattpad went into great detail about the amount of fic on their site. I was impressed witb his knowledge, particularly about bandom and younger massive fandoms. I made an account for them but I’m not much into their site design or posting capabilities. [20]
…except Aja/ bookshop is a dishonest, selfish brat who’d do anything for attention, including write an article about fandom-famous abuser Andy Blake that throws a bunch of his former victims under the bus. And there’s at least one of the recommended authors I wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole either. Granted, Cassandra Clare/Claire doesn’t seem to have plagiarized everything she wrote when it came to the VSD, but the rest of her fandom career has been rip-offs and backstabs galore. [21]
On the one hand, I had the kneejerk reaction of, “Hey, this is kinda cool.”

On the other hand, I also had the reaction of I don’t need self-important magazines telling me that fic is worthy of my time and attention. Seriously, some of us get into fic because we want to get away from ostentatious, bloviated literary hipness and boring-ass prize-winning satirical novels that get worshipped in these sorts of publications. The last thing we want is praise from Jonathan Franzens who wouldn’t know a good story if it smacked them in the face.

I also couldn’t help but notice how unfandom-like the above piece is. Who wrote it? A man. Who did most of the illustrations? Men. Ooh look, here’s a group composed mostly of men, and it’s saying that fanfiction is important. Therefore, fanfiction must be important. Spare me. [22]
So this is sort of…. alarming and overwhelming?!?? But also very cool????? I’m old enough to be like “AHHH TURN OFF THE LIGHT” when the “reals” talk about fandom. But at the same time this is a respectful and, from what I can tell, mostly legitimate representation of the things that truly make fanfic great! The three on here I know are: Shoebox Project (unequivocally one of my favorite stories OF ALL TIME, and is actually more important in my heart than the actual books); Written By the Victors (I’m SO GLAD that one of SGA’s all stars got on this list because fuck yes. It’s weird that they don’t mention the fandom in the blurb though); and American Captain, which is simply wonderful.

What I want to take issue with though is 1) Cassandra Clare’s inclusion, ugh, and 2) the comment that she’s “one of the rare fic authors to get a book deal”. You know who who else is one of those rare authors? LADY JAIDA. She has published several awesome books in her awesome series Havemercy about MECHANICAL DRAGONS. It’s so disrespectful to ignore that but mention CLARE’S books. Ughhhhh. Why is it always the shittiest parts of fandom that see the light? (See also: 50 shades, ughhhhh)

In any case. This is a thing that happened????!???? [23]
I am actually pissed. Apart from the Diaries, I have never heard about any of these and most are *my* fandoms! The search starts now… [24]
Yup. This sort of thing just increases the invisibility of femslash, and even women in general. I wouldn’t go so far as to say het fic is marginalised (ahahahahahaha NO), but like fic about canon female characters, it doesn’t exist for Aja et al. It also erases my own fannish history — I got into fandom via shipping sites, and it was three years before I even encountered m/m slash. I knew it existed, because I had read articles about fandom (just like this one, in fact) that suggested m/m slash was all there was. But I never saw it. And I still rarely read it. [25]
Look, the history, breadth and depth of the form is 99% white dudes, 1% OCs. Everyone knows femslash is marginalised, so it’s totally representative to ignore it completely. Het? With canon female characters? ALSO DOESN’T EXIST, is not a major part of fic, what are you talking about, we can’t hear you over the sound of these white guys. [26]
Wow, where’s that “you didn’t even try” star. It’s like these self styled “face of fandom types” just get more and more famous and less and less interested in pretending an parts of fandom outside of Western Media slash even exist. Including the MASSIVELY POPULAR tradition of het fanfic 50 Shades grew from. And afaict Aja used to even be in anime fandom, so I know she knows that exists, but I guess popslash is deeper or something. And of course the more mainstream the AO3 gets, the more it supports it’s own narrative through articles like this. Look at the numbers, Western Media slash (and slashy gen about dudes) is all that fandom cares about. [27]
Well, who fills their Instagram with boring ol’ vegetables when they could have French silk pie there instead, amirite?

…oh geez, wait, it gets even better. Let us enjoy this quote from the article itself: "Aja Romano, who writes on the topic for the Daily Dot, argues that “fandom is subversive. If a canonical worldview is entirely straight-white-male, then fans will actively resist it.”

Yes, fans will “actively resist” the “entirely straight-white-male” worldview by…writing a lot of stuff about white men. Excellent showing rather than telling there, Ms. Romano, so glad to have you speaking for us. [28]
Good on hellotailor and bookshop for contributing to this rare non-embarrassment (did NYmag design the covers? I suddenly feel like I have read more Real Books(tm) than my previous count XD). [29]
This has nothing to do with AO3? This is about the Daily Dot enabling Aja to say shit that is wildly inaccurate. AO3 is not a curated archive; what’s there is what people put there. Does that mean it covers every kind of fanfic ever, or represents every fan? Unfortunately, no, but that’s not because AO3 is trying to turn people or fanfics away. Ironically I was just thinking about what kind of “History of Fan Fiction” syllabus I would try to write, and I gave it up as impossible. Good thing Aja isn’t limited by any sense of the form’s breadth and diversity. [30]
I fell down a “history of people in fandom being terrible” rabbit hole tonight thanks to you & this post. So…uh…thanks [31]
what it does is a bad idea, and I wish the media would stop. [32]
So Vulture wrote up a “Guide to Fanfiction” that isn’t muchof a guide at alland I read through it and got all righteously indignant at it. Like, I am so sick of these articles that are like, “Look at this weird thing people do on the Internet! Why would anyone write fanfiction? What’s up with that????”

So look. Another Manifesto By EGT...

.....The point of fanfiction is it’s not meant to stand alone; it wouldn’t work as well as a standalone. It’s meant to be part of a context. And maybe some pieces of fanfiction transcend that context but they’re best within the context, they’re best as part of the larger community. This is why you seldom just read one fic in a fandom. Yes, there’s comfort in the same characters over and over, but really why you’re reading is because the more you read, the more you know the shared vocabulary and history of that fandom, the more you feel part of them, the more you belong, the more everything coalesces into crystalline brilliance. I have read really fantastic pieces of fanfiction but I am more inclined to say things like, “God, what the Sherlock fandom did with Mystrade was amazing.” It wasn’t any individual person, even if it was a particular fic that might stand out when I think back. It was that everybody together made this thing, and it was amazing, and for all that fanfiction is just like all fiction, it is also fundamentally different. Just not in the way people seem to talk about. It’s not different because it’s written by women, or because it’s pornographic, or because it’s got a lot of slash; it’s different because it overtly recommends that you buy into a larger identity, a culture of belonging, of finding a place. We need that sometimes. It’s literally as simple and straightforward as that: We all like to find the places where we belong. [33]
I suddenly feel the urge to really get back to writing my Star Trek story I tried to do for NaNoWriMo 2009 but my computer died about 10m days in. [34]
Yeah, I wouldn’t call it marginalisation [of femmeslash and women], just massively obnoxious, not to mention ridiculous given how huge het is. And the homophobic anti slash arguments that are partly responsible for slashers being so defensive are marginalisation (I certainly find them pretty upsetting when I encounter them myself), so I have a little sympathy. But it’s still obnoxious. [35]
Oh man, now I need to go back and reread Written by the Victors. It will be like I’m 27 and have bangs instead of being 34 and having back pain. [36]
I have SUCH FEELS on this–in part because I participated and the conditions under which I felt fine about it didn’t end up happening. I expressed my concerns about New York Magazine and its track record right up front. I told the journalist that I use NY Mag articles in my course as examples of “really problematic.” I asked, first thing, about who they were talking to, who would be writing features, and was given a name of a journalist with strong and active fandom and fic ties, as part of a whole series of articles that was part of the magazine trying to take a different approach and do better. While I like work that Laura Miller has done and generally think she does take fanfic/fan culture seriously, there is a tone of condescension there, and that was not the name they gave me.

Things change in publication all the time, I think the journalist told me what he believed to be true at the time. I am very frustrated. I am busy. I say no to interviews and journalist requests all the time. I know from experience that as a source, you have absolutely no control over the direction of the final product, and how a 45 minute interview can result in a clip of your saying “like sex” or just use the info and never mention you spoke. Them’s the breaks. But I am frustrated because I took a lot of time and energy to support what was presented to me as a very different approach, one that I approved of. Also so I could say things like this:

This would probably go over better with a reminder/recommendation that fanfiction works best for those who have some familiarity with the source material.
And not everyone wants to be recced. [37]
From If You Want to Talk About Something Weird, Let's Talk About Geoducks, Not Fanfiction:
Speaking of condescending: That’s the problem with the entire tone of that Vulture article and of most discussions about fanfiction. They are just so incredibly condescending. “Look at these cute little people creating things!” these articles seem to say. “People outside of the traditional establishment have *thoughts* in their *heads* and create things! Can you believe it?” [38]

From MetaFilter

This article keeps talking about how open, creative, and without boundaries fanfiction is, but it's always seemed exactly the opposite: it's all about playing in premade, set boxes, boxes usually made by giant companies. The numbers the Vulture article gives seem to underscore this: endless iterations of established properties and media personalities. Fanfiction seems like the corporate colonization of the last frontier, imagination. Channeling talent and energy away from actual originality and creativity and into free marketing material. [39]
Twilight, Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Holmes stories, Hobbit/LoTR, Arthurian mythology -- these are big in fanfiction and made by individual writers. But even if we use, for example, Disney films (which are of course fanfiction themselves, mostly), you get Disney characters in other universes, other people in Disney universes, characters meeting each other who never did -- these aren't particularly limited boxes. And I don't think it's fair to call reusing old stories and/or characters necessarily limited in originality or creativity (though of course much fanfiction is -- but then so is much fiction). It's a well-worn example, but Shakespeare wasn't exactly known for his entirely new plots. [40]
Twilight, Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Holmes stories, Hobbit/LoTR, Arthurian mythology -- these are big in fanfiction and made by individual writers.

Actually those were precisely the corporate properties I was thinking of. They're big in fanfiction due to being media juggernauts. Fanfiction swirls around the big movie or book du jour, and the numbers the Vulture gives proves it.

Disney films (which are of course fanfiction themselves, mostly), you get Disney characters in other universes, other people in Disney universes, characters meeting each other who never did -- these aren't particularly limited boxes.

Of course they are. They're just corporate properties meeting other corporate properties. Mickey meets Harry Potter is playing in the same old sandboxes.

It just seems so limited and constrained and kind of sad. It seems like in the past people took in their influences and were inspired to make something new that's cool like that, but fanfiction is just wanting to make the same thing again. [41]
They're big in fanfiction due to being media juggernauts. Fanfiction swirls around the big movie or book du jour I've only done a little poking around on fanfic boards, and only recently, so my impression may be off...but it certainly seems like the movie versions of superheroes, for instance, get a hell of a lot more attention than the much longer-standing original comic book versions. There's less lore/canon to absorb that way, and that almost certainly increases their appeal for the fanfic writer, but still...that difference has been pretty jarring for me. [42]
If anything it's about breaking out of those boxes. See the poor showing of Amazon's attempt to monetize fanfics due in part to the original authors being allowed to set constraints, or the freedom Michel Fiffe found he had with his alternate Suicide Squad not having to follow DC's conventions. [43]
the movie versions of superheroes, for instance, get a hell of a lot more attention than the much longer-standing original comic book versions a lot of that can be explained by network dynamic in combination with the fact that the movies are more accessible, partly because they're new, and insofar of its own textual canon, a lot more manageable (with the option to tie it to the extant canon existing in the other mediums such as the comics). So, a movie comes out, and to write about it requires not as much research than having to write a fic based on the older, longer, more convoluted comic/book series*. But of course, to see if the movie gets a critical mass of fics depends on the network dynamic I mentioned earlier, which is basically a fancier way of saying word of mouth, and some mouths are more influential than others... [44]
Sangermain - You seem to be saying a lot about the quality and derivation of fanfic, in a way that appears intended to devalue the enterprise entirely.

What value does this opinion provide you? Does it improve your understanding of the world? Does it foster better relationships between yourself and other people? Does it add to your income?

I've generally found a lot of fanfic to be terribly written. And I don't really enjoy much of the playing around with characters and settings. But it's quite clear that it's a valuable writing exercise for a lot of people, and as a method of self-expression that is empowering to the authors. So, overall, even though I personally don't appreciate the result of this, it's hard for me to say that there's anything bad about it. [45]
the other thing that bears mentioning, is that fandom exists as its own culture (capital F fandom?), while at the same time different fandoms have different social behaviours, but on the whole, fans engage just as much with the idea and community of fandom itself as with the respective pieces of canon they've staked an emotional claim on. So quite a lot of the fanfic itself isn't just in response to canon, but also to fandom, which makes trying to parse it on one axis without the other would probably result in a handicapped analysis. So that to me, is one major reason why fanficcers continue to happily produce fanworks - I don't agree they're in a constrained sandbox, and aside from tht assessment, that sandbox is just another arena where the community continues to engage with itself. [46]
Fanfiction seems like the corporate colonization of the last frontier, imagination... it's all about playing in premade, set boxes...

I'm going to go out on a limb and say I rather think it's the opposite; it's the imagination colonizing the world of corporate media. People aren't so much being channeled into these corporate boxes as they are saying "I'm going to play with these toyboxes however I want, whether or not the media giants allow it." Many of the authors of fanfic are people who may not feel comfortable making their own boxes yet, or who may simply want to feel the joy of writing without (for the time being) necessarily needing to create their own (going to drop the box metaphor now) settings and characters... not every time, at least. And some (such as Naomi Novik) will go on to quite successfully create their own original works.

Don't write the stuff myself, but I see it as a net plus for writers, and I try to be "fanfic positive" with my students when the subject comes up. [47]
Sangermaine, I understand why you'd see fanfic that way, because that's how I used to think about it. After a while, I guess my interest was piqued by all the intelligent people I knew who liked fanfic, so I tried to immerse myself in it, followed their recommendations, and tried to see what they liked about it. (I'm not saying you have to do this. It's obviously totally fine to not like or get fanfic.)

I found that there are a lot of reasons for reading and writing fic -- as well as the more obvious ones, it can be a very useful technical exercise for a writer; a way of working through psychological issues, political ideas or really anything else, within a defined framework; even (yes, really!) a way of subverting the big corporate properties you're worried about. Robin Kenealy's American Captain, which is highlighted in the Vulture fanfic "syllabus" and has been on MeFi previously, is arguably an example of all of those motivations.

I've seen fanfiction described in several places as a continuation of age-old collaborative storytelling traditions: people passing around tales of the mythic figures of their culture, putting their own spin on them, combining plots and inventing things over time. The folk tales and legends of a society are common property; anyone can tell them. Nowadays lots of the stories we all know are "owned" and copyrighted by media companies, but fanfiction (and other forms of fanart) resist that ownership, basically saying that the stories belong to anyone for whom they're meaningful. [48]
I'm no expert on fanfic, but to me it's more like mythology than corporate colonization, wherein you have a widely familiar set of established characters and conditions, and then all sorts of people (not just authorized "speakers," scholars, translators, historians, priests, etc.) create and share all sorts of stories about them for all sorts of purposes ‐ political, emotional, moralistic, analytical, subversive, erotic, iconoclastic, comedic, provocative, and simply entertaining... and of course many of these tales are instantly forgettable, while some are folded into the canon or consciousness, and some resonate particularly well for their time and place (Joyce's "Ulysses" for a modernish example?). [49]
To me, fandom and fanfiction is really about the community as much as the content, in the same way that I come to metafilter not just for the posts but also for the people. One of the things I like most about being able to post stories is interacting with the people who read my stories and who share my love for the characters and the canon.

I love writing, and I started writing my own original fiction years before I ever started dabbling in fanfiction, and I don't think my involvement in fandom has diminished any of my other literary pursuits. In fact, I stopped writing for awhile, and fanfiction was what really brought me back into that groove.

In a lot of ways, writing and reading fanfiction seems analogous to plenty of other hobbies. I think most people wouldn't dismiss someone who enjoys playing basketball for fun without any intention of going beyond backyard pick up games.

I know that this doesn't address the whole concern about it being derivative, but as long as the original authors are okay with fanworks, and considering how much joy it brings people, I guess I have to wonder why it would matter even if it doesn't reach some arbitrary measure of being "creative" enough. (Although I also take issue with that underlying assumption, but I think a lot has been said on that topic already.) [50]
I find the opinion that passively consuming media is somehow better for creativity than reworking and expanding it with your own writing to be very confusing.

Unless you're advocating avoiding corporate media altogether, those stories are already there, and people are already imagining alternative scenarios involving the characters or settings, whether they write them down or not. Our imaginations have already been "colonized" by corporations because our narrative culture has been.

And it's simply not the case that the choice is "write fanfiction" or "write original fiction." Many people aren't interested in writing original fiction, for various reasons, and simply wouldn't be writing at all. Many people begin writing with fanfiction, and then move on to original fiction. Many people write both.

(Another thing I find confusing: The way that fanfiction is so stigmatized, when it gets so many kids into writing for fun. Like, seriously -- there are thousands of teenagers out there who are writing, editing, and reviewing fiction they or their peers wrote. Of course a lot of it will be shit, because they're kids, but does that matter? They're writing!) [51]
I want to write an enormous comment about how the Tumblr-ization of fandom has lead to a shift away from (fanfic)creator-lead communities to consumer-lead communities, and the various arguments about whether or not the invention of "I like this" buttons have contributed to the death of comment culture, and how the move away from Livejournal has destroyed the old feelings of fandom existing in a finite space where you generally knew who your audience was..... Except that would all just boil down to "I'm old and I'm sad that I no longer feel welcome in fannish spaces" and that's....not actually all that interesting. [52]
The only difference between modern-day fanfic and classical literature is endurance.

If I wrote a thing where I wanted to be a writer and a magic thing happened where I get to hang out with my favorite writer, and they're my guide through a whole magical landscape where we have adventures and meet all kinds of cool historical and semimythical figures and amazing people together, your first reaction might well be person's "oh come on now" from a few comments ago.

Except: that's Dante's Inferno in a nutshell, right there. [53]
I'm always surprised to see "corporate colonization" of creativity and variations thereof leveled as a criticism against fanfiction, because fanfiction as an act of reading against the "corporate" approved narrative, or of criticizing it, is fairly engrained in fandom. Whether that reading against is by queering an otherwise straight narrative with a same-sex pairing, or by expressing a more fundamental criticism of the source material, there's plenty of fanfiction that would make the corporate overlords in charge of the source IP blanch. Take a look at Written by the Victors, from Vulture's fanfiction syllabus. When the show itself took just about every opportunity to remove the dramatic stakes of a cut-off-from-Earth premise, and never substantively engaged with the inherent themes of colonialism and imperialism, Written by the Victors goes all in with them, and that's a direction the creators and producers of Stargate Atlantis would never have taken the show, even aside from the slash pairing. That whole fandom was an exercise in "Okay, this is an interesting premise which you have entirely squandered. We're gonna fix that." [54]

From Twitter

I hope people know there is more than just gay fan fiction. Article felt #skewed [55]
Wait, but why wasn't there a course on fanfiction when I was an undergrad?[56]
Why is this vulture article on fanfiction relying so hard on Wattpad? [57]
Cool section on fanfic from @vulture — Made me fondly remember all the early-to-mid '00s Buffy fanfic I used to read.[58]
Poorly researched & misrepresented "It’s a Fanmade World: Your Guide to the Fanfiction Explosion [59]
just a glorious patchwork of an article on many things fanfic.[60]
what most fic testifies to is that its authors are really, really interested in men." Yeah. Totally the point. -___- [61]
@vulture making it painfully obvious you've never read good fan fiction.... ao3 is where it's at.[62]
Even if it didn't include the incredible Copra, this fanfic infodump would be pretty amazing.[63]
This "Very Secret Diaries" cover is GENIUS.[64]
One of my first jobs in Hollywood was to read Harry Potter/Twilight fanfiction looking for the next E.L. James[65]
As I was reading this article about fanfiction culture, i thot, "huh, US mainstream is getting hip to doujinshi"[66]
Inside the everflowing remixed world of fanfiction. “Fill the void, if ‘the real thing’ isn’t doing it for you.” [67]
Where I got my start...and still participate! It’s a Fanmade World: Your Guide to the Fanfiction Explosion[68]
I find this article about fanfic problematic, but I can't put my finger on why. Non-white non-male casting absence? [69]

On Consultants

The article cited consultation help from Cyndy Aleo, Emily Asher-Perrin, Charlotte Geater, Anne Jamison, Aja Romano, and Gavia Baker-Whitelaw.

Many fans criticized the list for being overwhelmingly white, male, and slash-focused.

Much of this commentary focused on Aja Romano. While it was acknowledged that Aja was not the author of the article and did not bear full responsibility for the lack of diversity, Romano's presence as a consultant on the article and as a prominent member of fandom (and reporter thereof) meant that she received a lot of attention following the publication of the article and was a focal point of the discussion that ensued. For example, Aja received the following Ask on her Tumblr on 12 March 2015:

Anonymous: Er, the syllabus/covers. The art's gorgeous, obviously, but since i'm not familiar with all of the fandoms, can you clarify how many of the stories center on characters who aren't white dudes? I'm a little put off by how the "classics that cover the history, breadth, and depth of the form" seem to, well, contradict what you say about how "if a canonical worldview is entirely straight-white-male, then fans will actively resist it." straight, maybe, but the other two... [70]

Aja's response stated that she had protested the list being described as comprehensive and objected to the non-diverse nature of it before it was posted. She noted that she didn't have final say on the selections and acknowledged some of the shortcomings of the list, but also emphasized the subversive nature of the works in general. Her response generated further discussion around the Two White Guys fandom trope. However, aside from this general issue, Romano's specific comments drew criticism. Tumblr user allofthefeelings reblogged the above post and added:

I have to say I’m pretty put off by this explanation.

First of all, the whiteness of these choices is problematic for more reasons than just being all Western media sources, and it’s ridiculous to not acknowledge that. [...]

Secondly, and more broadly, is a problem that isn’t exclusive to this particular list of best fanfic, but it’s something that’s been bothering me for a while. When people say they want to include the best stories with women, or the best stories featuring characters of color, what’s not explicitly stated but is certainly heavily implied is that the best stories, full stop, are the stories about white men, and particularly white men fucking each other. The stories about anyone else are good with an asterisk: they’re good for what they are, which is stories lacking the most important element. They’re the vegetables you have to eat and at least SAY you enjoy if you want to enjoy the delicious main course and dessert without feeling guilty. [...]

When all the people choosing the ‘best’ stories for a list default to stories about white men, there’s either a problem with the selection of who gets to make Representative Fandom Decisions, or there’s a problem with fandom overall.

The thing that gets me most about this post, though, is the implication that to have amazingly subversive texts your story still needs to feature white men. [71]

Tumblr user sidewaystime added:

Putting together this syllabus and calling them “classics that cover the history, breadth, and depth of the form” and excluding works about women and not featuring characters of color is a CHOICE that was made. To then justify those choices by calling these texts subversive when this whole thing just looks like yet another entry in the long history of giving fandom a pass when it comes to valorizing works featuring white men and ignoring works that do not is just adding insult to that injury. [72]

(Concatenated post of the above discussion here).

On 14 March 2015, there was another ask on Aja's Tumblr which said in part, "If you're not an expert them [sic] why didn't you try to get the author of the article access to more diverse input?" Aja responded:

There were a number of ways I personally tried to broach the subject of making the list more diverse, but I also self-censored because even though a number of the most seminal works of fanfiction for me personally are from femslash or anime fandoms, I thought to myself, ‘oh, but they won’t go for those because they’re not as old, or as popular, or as wide-reaching culturally as some of these other things.’ [73]

This was seen by some commentators as her blaming other people's expectations. (for example). In another post later the same day, Aja wrote:

To everyone reblogging my comment on the NY Mag list with comments like “fuck aja” as though a) I had personal responsibility for the makeup of the list and b) as though it was MY PERSONAL FAULT that the list turned out the way it did, I just want to reiterate that a) femslash was recced during the discussion and still didn’t make it into the final list, and b) I literally said during the discussion that I didn’t think the list was diverse enough. As i said in the last post on this subject, I could have recced more diverse works, and the main reason i didn’t was because the request was for “classic” fics and i was thinking in terms of fics with enormous hit counts from huge fandoms. I am really, really sorry that i didn’t and I take full responsibility for not just reccing more diverse works anyway despite my fear that they weren’t “big” enough. [74]

While the syllabus highlighted a general issue/trend in fandom, many fans considered Aja's responses to be overly deflecting/disingenuous. Impertinence (stopthatimp on Tumblr) reblogged the last post and added:

The meta I saw and reblogged/added commentary to pointed out that the criticism wasn’t only about you, but this one is. Because you, Aja, are the person who is even now implying there is no fic with large hit counts or that’s older that is femslash, about POC, or anything other than white dude fic. You. On this post. You may not be doing it on purpose, but that’s still what you’re doing. And that is what people, myself included, are reacting to. Your words. That you typed, and chose to post to the internet. Your opinions. Your actions. YOU. [75]

Nonnies on F_FA rolled their eyes. A sample comment:

And I love how her [Aja's] first move is to defect blame. "It wasn't my list! I wasn't the only one contributing!" She's so eager to put her name forward when there's good attention, good press, but the moment there's pushback she uses anyone in reach like a human shield. [76]

Tumblr user musicforswimming reblogged and added that she had sent the Ask herself, but had done so anonymously because Aja had blocked her, possibly due to criticism of the article on Andy Blake. [77]

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