Fanfiction vs the Status Quo


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A talk about Fanfiction and its role in a world of traditionally published fiction.

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Fanfiction vs the Status Quo

  1. 1. Fanfiction vs the Status Quo Dr Barbara Bordalejo Department of English University of Saskatchewan
  2. 2. What is fanfiction? • It is a type of writing produced by fans of a work, rather than by the original author. • It is rarely published commercially. • It assumes knowledge of the world or character-set it expands. • It is generally read by other fans. • Fanfiction authors do not write for money.
  3. 3. Origins of fanfiction • It is as old as storytelling… because it is storytelling. • Virgil’s Aeneid is the retelling of the story of Aeneas, who appears in Homer’s Iliad. • Cervantes’ Don Quixote (1605) was followed by a “spurious” continuation in 1614. Only afterwards Cervantes finished the second part of the book that was published in 1615 and is considered the most important novel in Spanish.
  4. 4. Origins of fanfiction • In the 1960s, science fiction fans published fanzines. • Fanzine= fan + magazine
  5. 5. Origins of fanfiction • In the 1960s, science fiction fans published fanzines. • Fanzine= fan + magazine • These publications were either copied by hand or reproduced using a mimeograph. • Their circulation might have reached the hundreds. • They were mostly mailed or distributed at conventions.
  6. 6. Characteristics of fanfiction • It relates to one or more canons (Harry Potter, Twilight, A Song of Ice and Fire). • It explores alternatives to the canon. • Alternate Universe (AU; characters who die in the canonical text are alive in the fanfiction). • Sexuality (Slash, Femslash, Het, Kinks). • Crossovers. • It answers/critiques its canon.
  7. 7. Fanfiction in the Digital Age • Fanfiction distributed via websites can reach a wide audience. • This wide distribution might have an impact on the sales of traditionally published authors. • US copyright law considers fanfiction as derivative works. • I would like you to consider this idea: what is derivative? What isn’t?
  8. 8. J. K. Rowling
  9. 9. J. K. Rowling • Reportedly has sold 450,000,000 (2011) • This did not prevent an attempt at stopping the publication of James Potter and the Hall of Elders Crossing by G. Norman Lippert. • Eventually the lawsuit was dropped by Rowling.
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  11. 11. But what if James couldn’t catch the Snitch, as his father had done? What if he wasn’t as good on the broom? Uncle Ron had said that riding a broom was in the Potter blood as sure as dragons breathed fire, but what if James proved him wrong? What if he was slow, or clumsy, or fell off? What if he didn’t even make the team? For the rest of the first years, that would only be a mild disappointment. Even though the rules had been changed to admit them, very few first years ever made the House teams. For James, however, that would mean he already hadn’t measured up to expectations.
  12. 12. He would already have failed to be as great as the great Harry Potter. And if he couldn’t even measure up to his dad in terms of something as elemental as Quidditch, how could he ever hope to live up to the legend of the boy who defeated the Basilisk, won the Triwizard Cup, united the Deathly Hallows and, oh yeah, put old Moldy Voldy, the darkest and most dangerous wizard who ever lived, in the ground for good? (13-14)
  13. 13. Stephenie Meyer
  14. 14. Stephenie Meyer • Has sold around 250,000,000 (2012) • The novels were marketed to young adults, but found a different kind of public in older women (Twilight moms). • Cultural theorists have described the novels as soft porn. • Twilight also reaches the hundreds of thousands in fanfiction production
  15. 15. E. L. James
  16. 16. E. L. James • She is the top ranking author, earning around $95,000,000 between 2012 and 2013. • She started writing Twilight fanfiction in 2009 as Snowqueen’s Icedragon, with the title Master of the Universe. • MoU featured Bella Swan and Edward Cullen. • In 2011, James pulled her fiction out of the fanfiction sites, renamed the characters Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey and published with The Writer’s Coffee Shop, Fifty Shades of Grey.
  17. 17. E. L. James • Fifty Shades was traditionally published by Vintage in April 2012 and by the summer it had outsold the Harry Potter books. • E. L. James has said that her books have little in common with the series that inspired them. • Vintage has released several statements about the originality of the work and its lack of relation to MoU. • Fifty Shades of Grey can be read as creative criticism of Twilight.
  18. 18. Jasper Fforde
  19. 19. Jasper Fforde • He is the author of The Eyre Affair and other novels (the Thursday Next series) • His novels often feature well known literary characters (Jane Eyre, Mr Rochester, Miss Havishan, Heatcliff, etc.). • He has gone on record stating than he could not understand fanfiction and that he did not approve of anyone using “his” characters or settings.
  20. 20. Theresa Nielson Hayden, quoted by Caroline Ball, (2007): In a purely literary sense, fanfic doesn’t exist. There is only fiction. Fanfic is a legal category created by the modern system of trademarks and copyrights. Putting that label on a work of fiction says nothing about its quality, its creativity, or the intent of the writer who created it. The  Pulitzer Prize for Fiction this year [2006] went to March, a novel by Geraldine Brooks, published by Viking. It's a re-imagining of the life of the father of the four March girls in Louisa May
  21. 21. Can you see a particle of difference between that and a work of declared fanfiction? I can’t. I can only see two differences: first, Louisa May Alcott is out of copyright; and second, Louisa May Alcott, Geraldine Brooks, and Viking are dreadfully respectable. (Ball, 11)
  22. 22. Fanfiction vs the Status Quo Dr Barbara Bordalejo @bordalejo @TextualScholar