Fan Fiction and the Creative Urge

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Long have humans revealed in the worlds created by others, from Homer’s The Odyssey to folklores told by travelling bards. These stories enriched societies and in some cases became so tied with culture that variations of the stories still exist today, some that have barely retained their original roots. With the rise of globalization and all that it entails, story telling has entered into a new form, becoming a way to bring more than a single culture together as in the case of The Odyssey and Greece. The abundance of creative worlds and the easy access to them have sparked an ever-growing community of devotees that have taken their own interpretations of the works and made them readily available online to the masses. These works range from the ever-popular Star Trek, Supernatural, Dr. Who and Harry Potter fandoms to the smaller book fandoms that exist for single novels. Just as the travelling bards of the past added and subtracted events from the stories they told, writers of fan fiction take creative worlds and modify them, pairing characters together in sexual/romantic relationships that may not be ‘canon’ (in the original), creating entirely new alternate universes for existing characters, and even simply delving into the mind of a character for a short drabble on that character’s feelings towards a certain new event in the original story. The wide range of what can be done with a creative world is mindboggling, and trying to detail every aspect of this creative outlet is near impossible, as writers vary from one to another. The only universal agreement seems to be that Mary Sue characters are very much so undesirable and must be burned via feedback to the author, something that occurs in every fandom that is exposed enough to attract a fair-sized community.

“Friction over Fan Fiction,” an interesting article (link below) that provides a background on fan fiction as a creative outlet that has emerged with the rise of globalization and, in particular, the internet, concerns itself with issues of copyright. After all, is fan fiction even legal? Could someone get in trouble with the law in Canada or the US for writing something based off a piece of work that has been carefully copyrighted, even if they ‘disclaim’ owning it? The truth is that there is no clear legislation for this soaring global trend, and that authors of the original works do in fact, on occasion, take action to protect their works, if only to write to the ever-popular fanfiction.com to have them ban posting stories revolving around their work. Currently, the list of authors include big names like Anne Rice and Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb, and worlds like the Archie comics, that have imposed any sort of crack down on their fans’ attempts to celebrate their works.

This is particularly interesting from a cultural perspective. Never before the modern era have stories been written down in textual format and preserved, unchanging over time. In the article Henry Jenkins, in a nod to this cultural, almost evolutionary need for social humans to continue to develop stories beyond their textual bounds, says, “the works on which fan fiction is based serve for fan communities the same purpose as myths and folklore served in earlier times, as a source of shared references having instant recognition in that community and a source of raw material for fans’ own creative works.” In this way the need for a balance between respecting the rights of original authors and the desires of the fans of these authors is quite a necessary thing. After all, on occasion, as was the case with E.L. James’ 50 Shades of Grey series, it was originally a fan fiction under the Twilight fandom. Yet of course it is so far removed from the plot of Twilight that Stephanie Meyer cannot possibly come after James waving her sparkly vampires and oversexed werewolves around on a copyright flag. And that perhaps worries some authors, whereas others like J.K. Rowling, embrace fan fiction as a way to stimulate readers.

Basically, what I find to be the most intriguing part of fan fiction is the sheer vastness of topics explored by these writers, topics that are perhaps still largely taboo like kink, BDSM and all manners of sexuality that deviate from that heterosexual norm we are all very familiar with. In this way I like to think that the existence of this widespread phenomena is in fact helping to promote ‘the other’ as acceptable and not something to be gawked at when seen in the ‘real world’.

I’d like to know if there is agreement that this form of creative expression is a cultural necessity, perhaps one that stemmed from out past fondness for oral stories, and just hear some thoughts on the subject. Are you guys involved in any fandoms out there you’d like to share?

Article link: http://reviewcanada.ca/essays/2008/07/01/friction-over-fan-fiction/

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5 Responses to Fan Fiction and the Creative Urge

  1. chairmanmeeeow says:

    You chose a very interesting topic of discussion this month Frisky Whiskers! Personally, I do not engage in any fandoms and don’t think I ever would (although I shouldn’t dismiss the idea!). Individuals who are part of fandoms tend hold very strong opinions toward the subject at hand, and I have yet to find something like this that I am truly passionate about.

    I also think that while fan fiction can promote taboo topics as acceptable to an extent, it can also backfire, and people not involved in the fandom could see the behaviour as extreme, bizarre, and a strange obsession. This can further perpetuate the idea of the behaviour as being against the norm, and could even continue to marginalize those engaging in the behaviour from mainstream society. Do you agree that it could go both ways?

    Just as a side note- to respond to your comment about the legalities surrounding fan fiction, Canada does have a fair dealing policy within our Copyright Act in which fans are allowed to research, criticize, review, or news report media, as long as they mention the author or source. Additionally, Canada doesn’t exempt the act of parody in fair dealing, meaning that the author/source also has to be mentioned when making fun of something (which isn’t the case in the US).

  2. pinkpanther2287 says:

    Though I do not participate in any fandom’s, I find the whole idea of it very fascinating. The fact that there is such support behind a particular book, movie, or “brand” for that matter, would be the ultimate compliment. As the creator, to know that you have inspired communities of people to bring your ideas to life is unimaginable. Fandom’s give people an outlet to express their interpretations of a subject matter: from something as trivial as Team Edward or Team Jacob, to One Directioners to name a few.
    Although fandom’s can be a positive way to share one’s opinions about a particular subject, some can be taken out of context and create social distress. Justin Bieber’s fandom, known as “Beliebers,” is one group that is recently known for taking their love for the pop star to a new level. “Cuts for Bieber” began when it was discovered that Justin smoked weed. This started a trend of young fans cutting themselves to get Justin to stop.
    For the most part, I find fandom’s to be an interesting way for fans to engage with a subject. In fact, it can be healthy for both the fans to interact with each other, while at the same time benefiting the brand and feeding consumerism. However, when fans take FANATIC to dangerous levels, the reverse effect holds true.

  3. snicklefritz66 says:

    I do not participate in fandoms although I too find the concept of it very intriguing. I’ve never personally had a passion (good or bad) for a work of art that I have felt strongly enough about, it is clear that for many of these people, fandoms are a priority and even a way of life for some people. I do agree that although interesting, many fandoms that I’ve heard about involve extreme cases of fans which have had extreme results, such as the “Cuts for Bieber”. Along with being incredibly passionate about a certain piece of media, many of these people also get incredibly defensive about their fanning because often times, their fan fiction is personal and holds many characteristics of themselves although using a different world to create it in. I do believe that this can be healthy for fans, however without being very knowledgeable about the world of fan fiction, I would think that there is an equal amount of love and hate that comes about from the actions of this. Thoughts?

  4. crazyforcats9 says:

    As a response to snicklefritz66 last comment in regards to an equal amout of love and hate that comes from the actions of fandom, I feel it would be impossible to ignore the truth in this; there are both positive and negative aspects as a result of fandom. However, the fact that authors look down upon fandom as a sort of stealing or ripping-off of their material I personally feel can be considered almost petty or unrealistic on their part. In the long run, fans and groups of people are discussing, exploring, and creating new stories all around the original work, ultimately creating a unique world of advertisement that never existed before. The fair-dealing policy explained by chairmanmeeeow is just an example of how Canadians have the freedom to research, criticize, review, and comment upon anything in the media. While personally I do not participate in fandoms, peers have exposed me to their own and I found it simply intriguing. Groups of people join together to express their creativity in a healthy way all inspired by a common cause, wether it be Harry Potter, Justin Beiber, or One Directioners. Of course, like any community, there can be members who take a turn for the extreme or abnormal and could promote a negative stigma. I would much rather see websites poking fun or making parodies of movies and novels then racism, sexism, or disability issues. I feel that the positive aspects of fandom outweigh the negative, and authors should look to J.K Rowling’s acceptance of such as a guideline for their opinions as well.

  5. TA-Andria says:

    What if fan fiction – most notably sexualized fan fiction – was embraced and become canon within the fictional worlds it is written about? What if J.K. Rowling embraced fan fiction and made Harry and Ron a couple? What if the 11th Doctor had a sexual relationship with Amy Pond? How would the addition of the sexuality or nonheteronormative pairings alter the appeal of media and affect their respective fan bases?

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