The Rules of Combat: Violence in Fanfic

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Title: The Rules of Combat: Violence in Fanfic
Creator: V. Watts
Date(s): June 1999, then July 14, 1999
Medium: online
Topic: fiction writing
External Links: Wordsmiths - on line publishing: List of Essays, Archived version; The Rules of Combat -- Violence in fan fiction, Archived version
Violence in Fanfic; WebCite
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The Rules of Combat: Violence in Fanfic is an essay by V. Watts.

It was posted in June 1999 at a blog. A month later, it was posted as part of the Fanfic Symposium series.

"For the purpose of this essay, I am primarily taking the stance of the writer. I believe that the reasons why we like to write violence in fanfic and why we read it are not the same, but neither are they mutually exclusive."

A response to this essay is Violence in Fan Fiction by MacGeorge.


Meredith Lynne said; "I think we like violence in our fanfic and in all our entertainment because it gives us the opportunity to confront our deepest fears in a safe environment." I think we like violence in our fanfic and in all our entertainment because it gives us the illusion we are confronting our deepest fears in a safe environment. If you lock your doors and windows at night, are you safe in your home, or are you simply succumbing to the *illusion* that you are safe in your home? When you write violence into a story are you exploring it in a safe environment, or does the environment simply allow you to perceive the act as an object?
Violence and fanfic seem to go hand in hand. It may be the nature of the source medium, it may be the mechanism writers most use in exploring dark themes far outside the realm of their normal, everyday existence. I do not pretend to speak for everyone. I don't presume to understand even a fraction of why I use it, why I read it, why I argue with myself both for and against its use in my writing -- an argument I am sure to lose, whatever the outcome, because it is a beguiling force, a tantalizing look at something that most people are trained from early on to avoid in all its permutations.
I could argue that written violence is like a booster shot for the visual violence we see on the tube every night. I could argue that the exploration of violence in the written word is a safe way to explore our darker sides, to expurgate the tendencies that might overtake us in the day -- that do overtake some of us. However, what I am arguing is that there is no such thing as safe violence. It's an oxymoron. I am not saying that the use of violence in fanfic is good or bad, only that its appeal is in its lack of safety, its lack of control, its lack of cognizant or rational structure. The rules of combat apply not to make combat safer, but to make it acceptable. In writing violence into our characters, into the situations, we seek not a safe outlet for our own violence but an acceptable outlet. It is also an easy way to evoke a response -- any response -- in a reader.