Web fantasies: Female world of 'fanfic' thrives

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News Media Commentary
Title: Web fantasies: Female world of 'fanfic' thrives
Commentator: Steve Knopper
Date(s): 12 November 2000
Venue: Miami Herald
Fandom: multifandom, The X-Files
External Links:
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Web fantasies: Female world of 'fanfic' thrives is a 2000 article by Steve Knopper that was published in the Miami Herald.

This article was reprinted in its entirety in DIAL #16, a Pros letterzine.


Poor Fox Mulder. His biggest fans want to shoot, rape, psychologically abuse and inject AIDS into him... But there is no need for actor David Duchovny to hire new bodyguards. These obsessive fans aren't stalkers - they're writers. Part of an Internet explosion called "fan fiction," they inhabit a predominantly female world in which amateur scribes, many under the cloak of pseudonyms, take characters from their favorite TV shows, movies, literature, comic books or CDs and make up their own - often NC-17 rated - universes for them. What started out as stained, inky fingers passing out wrinkled photocopies at sci-fi conventions has mushroomed into a mini-industry. While there are no official numbers of those who read and write fan fiction, Fanfiction.net reportedly has collected 13,000 stories and a recent Google Internet search turned up 2,390 pages alone devoted to 'MulderTorture.'
All fan fiction isn't on the shock level of "MulderTorture" or the highly publicized "slash" fiction, "slash" for short. (It picked up the name because early fanfic tales often paired Kirk and Spock in illicit trysts and were called K/S stories). Slash, though still written mosdy by women, evolved into dealing with other male/male relationships, be it Mulder and stern FBI boss Walter Skinner in The X-Files or Mark Greene (Anthony Edwards) and Doug Ross (George Clooney) in ER. Such testosterone-drenched shows as Homicide: Life on the Street and Oz, with their platoons of strong yet brooding and troubled men, have provided fodder for many slash adventures.
Historians - and yes, there are college professors who specialize in the subject - trace fan fiction to Victorian England in the 1880s. Technology, in the form of mimeograph and photocopy machines, gave fanfic renewed life in the '60s. At that time, the original Star Trek series, with its choppy plots and wooden characters, inspired writers to fill in the gaps. The Internet has expanded interest so much that, Henry Jenkins, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor who has studied fan fiction communities for almost three decades, says he has done 30 or 40 media interviews on the topic so far this year.
"I didn't get into slash for a while. I didn't even think I liked it," [a fan named Jennifer Lyon] explains. "But I read a couple stories and discovered that if it was written well that really attracted me. It's that intimacy thing, that sort of breaking all the barriers. A lot of what you see is the intensity of a bond between two characters - that's what interests people. It doesn't matter if it's two men or women or whatever. It's the character, the emotion.
Lyon doesn't know whether David Duchovny himself, or the other professional actors, writers and producers behind The X-Files, are aware of the massive fantasies playing out online. Many fanfic writers say there's an unspoken legal peace between official TV representatives and online writers - the amateurs borrow the copyrighted characters and the professionals may read and borrow from the new stories, so neither sues.