July 17th, 2011
Warning: Unedited liveblog in progress.
Borders (If Any) Between Fan Fiction and “Original Fiction”.
Panelists: Gwynne Garfinkle (GG), Eileen Gunn (EG), Kate Nepveu (KN), Madeleine Robins (MR), Kenneth Schneyer (KS, leader).
Panel description: Maguire’s Wicked books. Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. Chabon’s The Final Solution. Kessel’s “Pride and Prometheus.” Resnick’s “The Bride of Frankenstein.” Reed’s “A Woman’s Best Friend.” Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Heinlein’s The Number of the Beast. All of these stories employ characters, settings, and pre-existing plots from other authors, yet these authors (with the possible exception of Chabon) would probably deny that what they have written is “fan fiction.” Lee Goldberg has spent thousands of words explaining why his dozens of authorized television tie-in novels are not “fan fiction.” Is there an actual, definable difference between fan fiction and original fiction, or this just another instance, like Margaret Atwood’s, of authors rejecting a label or genre in order to remain “respectable” or “marketable”?
Nepveu suggests that the difference between fanfic and OF is whether or not you can fully appreciate the story without prior knowledge of its canon.
MR suggests multiple impulses to write ff—wanting more of canon, and wanting to subvert canon, and they’re very different impulses.
EG: Tried to write a “straight” Star Trek story, and found she couldn’t help but subvert it. When she pitched her steampunk pastiche to Tor, she was writing in donor characters, and then wrote four steampunk vignettes based on four great steampunk stories. The hardest part was doing it without subversion.
KS cites Pub(?), a Theodora Goss story about the characters not onstage in Jane Austen, and he couldn’t tell the difference between that and “offstage”/”minor character” fanfic.
MR: Georgette Heyer was essentially writing fanfiction…not necessarily of Austen, but neaby
KN: Yuletide story with Elizabeth Bennet as a lieutenant in the Naomi Novik universe.
KS: Goldberg has said that the difference is authorization, and that fanfic is uniformly bad.
KN: There’s clearly a line having to do with whether or not you can be paid, but that’s not a useful line for readers or critics. Sturgeon’s Law still applies, across all of it.
KS: Literature refers to other literature. There are pieces of TS Eliot that do nothing but refer to other literature. Which is why you can find the KJV quoted everywhere, and Shakespeare. Cites a story that refers to Bugs Bunny, someone from The Honeymooners, and Ferarri from Casanova
Chabon’s Final Solution story—unnamed beekping character. Emotional resonance for readers of the Holmes canon, from a throwaway line
MR: Wimsey shows up in a Mary Russell Holmes story, unnamed, which delighted her but upset the Sayers estate. Her daughter wrote crossover with Buffy and HP about Faith and Sirius Black, which was heartbreaking.
KN: Read one about the Duke and Duchess (Sayers) and Holmes waiting for a train. Another reader felt that he was missing something—which he was, because he didn’t get the Holmes canonical background. Was surprised that A Study in Emerald won, for that reason.
EG: The pleasure of writing in a universe is to broaden it in some way.
GG: There are all those shortcuts with a shared canon—you don’t have to describe setting or character.
EG: I didn’t find that to be the case. In the steampunk, the trick was to use their vocabulary, but not to rewrite anything they’d written, and NOT depend on the audience having read the canon.
GG: But in fanfic, writers do often shortcut descriptions, which played to her own inclination to slight those elements.
EG: But you SHOULD be doing it in fanfic, too. And finding ways of showing new things about the Buffy universe to people who already know the world well.
KN: Besides the financial/profit line, another difference—is the person writing it self-IDing as part of the fanfic community? Because those people are often engaging with other stories created by that community—playing with fanon, the shared decisions made by fans about the shared world. The ACD offline fandom has worked out their own stuff.
Watched the rise of fanon in Inception—the fan decisions: Eames is not a thug, Arthur doesn’t wear suits, Yusef and Saito exist. These things happened very quickly, and people who were writing other things had this wall of whiteboy slash to write against. People who self-ID as writing fanfic have access of these other qualities within the community.
KS: You’re speaking of community. And outside of fandom, do we have as much crosstalk about what we should and shouldn’t do?
EG: There is within feminist writing, LGBT writing, there was in the 70s—and it’s exploratory. Wow, that’s…wrong. Why is that wrong? Now that the internet’s here, it’s easier, but before that, with Cyberpunk, there was a lot of discussion about what was wrong, and that was carried on in magazines.
KN: Mentions fanon for SGA—the strange welcoming ceremonies that never actually show up in canon, but that have been around so long that newbs thing they must.
EG: Similar to what happens in gaming. Maybe it helps if you’re a gamer, to enjoy the constrained space.
GG: With the community online it all happens at top speed. One of the addictive things, the speed of the feedback. I’d post Friday night and get up at 4am and my British readers would be awake and commenting. Different from the feedback I’d be looking for with OF, which is more about critique and less about begging for more.
KS: The comments I liked best were the long, ponderous ones.
MR: Shakespeare in Love is Shakespeare FF. Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Slayer. Is there RPF?
KS: Well, yes. See Scalzi and Wheaton. Scalzi was an orc and Wheaton was on a pegasus…kitten. And said yes, do write stories, just don’t slash us…with each other. Because that’s icky for us.
MR: Did you see the XKCD about Strunk/White? And then I found ACTUAL STRUNK/WHITE porn.
KN: Introduces the terms RPF and bandom. Bands that have concept albums and videos and have created personas and so on… Some RPF goes off actor’s apparent RL personas and sometimes it’s political and so on.
FQ: Moorcock wrought Hawkwind FF. It was terrible.
FQ: Do we have a name for playing with someone else’s toys that covers FF and…this other stuff?
EG: I call it referential fiction. Howard Walter says you don’t need a special name.
Fan: Slightly different. Something about another person’s universe.
KN: Not really, because pastiche suggests style…
KS: This is a spectrum, running from the referential to the…broader reference like Russ’s “When It Changed” (which references Goerthe) until you get a purely derivtative work and I despair of finding a line where you say This is derivative and this is not. We’re in a global community and sometimes my reponse includes more or less of what you’ve said.
FQ: Function for slash fic as a way for straight women to …something something. As a queer woman, it’s hard to find myself. Similar impulse to The Persian Boy and so on.
KS: Subversive doesn’t quite cover this stuff. There’s a transformative function that some of this derivative work can be.
FQ: Ishmail—authorized Star Trek novel that’s also Here Comes the Bride fanfic. Author works in nearly every Western TV character and many movie characters, all described, from 60s TV.