Bitch Probe: The Public Opinion of Fanfic

Reblogged from the Fellowsheep of the Peen blog –

Bitch Probe: The Public Opinion of Fanfic.

Fanfiction is what literature might look like if it were reinvented from scratch after a nuclear apocalypse by a band of brilliant pop-culture junkies trapped in a sealed bunker. They don’t do it for money. That’s not what it’s about. The writers write it and put it up online just for the satisfaction. They’re fans, but they’re not silent, couchbound consumers of media. The culture talks to them, and they talk back to the culture in its own language.

—Lev Grossman, TIME, July 18, 2011

Within the fandom, we all have our various degrees of being in the closet. I have some fic buddies who don’t care who knows that they read and write fanfic, whether those people be friends, family, or coworkers. Then, I also know people who wouldn’t dream of exposing their hidden hobby to anyone.

In my life, the only people who know about passion for fanfic are my husband, my brother, and maybe four friends. When my husband first found out I was reading fanfic, there was some definite razzing, but he backed off once I pointed out that it was free.

My brother discovered my secret by having pop up in my browser when he started to type in Facebook. His response was, “What is this? I mean, what is this? What is this? Is this a joke? Do you read this? Oh my god, don’t tell me you write it, too!” Then, he nearly fell off the couch laughing.

It came out to my friends when I’d had a bit too much to drink. There wasn’t blatant laughter, though there was some definite eye rolling and head shaking.

Why is this the response? I know my experience isn’t unique in terms of those who have either come out or been out-ed from the fanfic closet. What is it about fanfiction that warrants such a negative public opinion?

Fanfic isn’t a new phenomenon. I thought it primarily originated with Star Trek and other sci-fi fic, but according to Newsweek, “People have been writing fan fiction for almost as long as we’ve been telling stories. In 1614, when Miguel de Cervantes was slow to produce the second volume of Don Quixote, an anonymous author wrote his or her own continuation of the saga to much acclaim.”


Published fanfiction was actually incredibly popular in the mid-to-late-nineteenth century with several works for Alice in Wonderland and Sherlock Holmes, and King Arthur fanfics have been published for almost 900 years.

In terms of today’s readership, it isn’t much different. Though officially these stories come with the titles “derivative work” or “parallel novel,” look at the success of the literary smash-ups of the classics (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies or Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters) or the Pulitzer Prize-winning March by Geraldine Brooks, which chronicles the Mr. March point-of-view of Little Women. Gregory Maguire, ofWicked fame, has even made his career by writing and publishing Wizard of Oz fanfic. (Check out other examples here.)

What makes these cases different? Is it the fact that the original authors are dead? Does a work being in the public domain gain its derivative more respect? Or, is it just the smut that discredits our fandom?



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