I read with great pleasure this book by Anne Jamison, Fic: Why Fanfiction Is Taking Over the World, I enjoyed every inch of it, from Lev Grossman’s foreword (fanfiction is the madwoman in mainstream culture’s attic), all through the fandoms including the lovely Bronies, down to Amber Benson’s claim that she can’t remember Tara’s surname.
It was a story about me.
I was there from the beginning you know. Say pon farr and the first thing that comes to my mind is some Star Trek slash in the old fanzines that came through snail mail. I was on the Gossamer archive during the X-Philes era, claiming my place using a dial-up connection. Back then, the Nineties were not even over and I was calling Henry Jenkins my hero already. At some point I happened to be so into Buffy that I would read the transcripts as soon as they came out because the download of the new episode was too slow and I couldn’t wait, and each transcript felt absolutely amazing. Later I would lurk the Sugarquill for Harry Potter. Well, the only fandom I totally skipped is Twilight, because sparkling vampires, honestly, I’m old school when it comes to vampires. Anne Rice may hate fanfiction but Lestat will always be ours anyway.
I don’t think I need to mention Sherlock, Sherlock has been living on in pastiches for more than one century now, to my delight.
Do you fancy knowing what I like in fanfiction? Favourite trope remains angst, second comes hurt/comfort. No-nos are real person fic (I get the point of it but I still find it kind of creepy) and omegaverse (especially mpreg – urgh).
I’m on AO3 of course.
The reasons why people engage in fandoms and read (or write) fanfiction have been dutifully explored during the past twenty plus years. Academically speaking, postmodernism granted us a huge freedom to dwell in the contemporary and it taught us to fear nothing (well, except real person fic and omegaverse).
Nevertheless, I think every single person has his or more often her own special reason. Mine can be ascribed to a well known quality of slash fiction, that of subverting the social order to focus on the characters. As contributor Bethan Jones puts it:
One reason slash is appealing as a genre is that an equal relationship between a man and a woman is not possible in the patriarchal society in which we live, and slash between men enables writers to examine relationships between characters who are equals
Specifically, I am sick to death of the narrative of marriage.
It was a long afternoon in a dusty attic and a friend of mine showed me a Star Trek fanzine she got from the US. She said, it’s gross, it’s all Kirk and Spock having sex.
And so it began. Because you see, everywhere you turn, in fiction, fictional men and fictional women are getting married. The moment you find two cis hets of opposite binary gender in the same fictional room, and you find this a lot because fiction mostly tells the story of cis hets, immediately there’s the extremely boring thing of when the two are going to get married and how this is going to improve her social status, which muffles all the rest. It tends to be secondary plot in sci-fi because normally there are more pressing issues, like leaving Tatooine, killing the alien creeping in the aircon, finding Samantha Mulder, initiate self-destruction on the Enterprise, or what is Picard’s moral dilemma again, which is basically why I like sci-fi, also for the cognitive estrangement. But in fiction the only way to get rid of the normative marriage narrative, at the moment, is that of having an all-male cast, which in turn is why I like bromances (marriage can still happen but between equals). It’s also no coincidence that my favourite film is Withnail & I and I have watched Another Country countless times since the age of fifteen.
The point is that once the narrative of marriage is set in motion, the markedness of the woman, her social and biological constrains, swallow up all the rest, romanticism especially.
Don’t get me wrong, I like Middlemarch all right. I’m not a Janeite but I like Austen all right. Only I can’t bear to be reading over and over the same tale of how marriage improves the heroine’s social status and grants her family a stable income. I’m sick of it. I’m sick of the undeniable fact that it’s still so relevant today. Call it my one feminist grudge.
Anyway, in slash fiction there is no such thing as a marriage narrative. Sometimes two characters do get married, but this normally happens after a very complicated subversion of any kind of role you can think of, let alone patriarchy in general, and often in a very strange alternate universe indeed, thus allowing a lot of space for pure romanticism (and porn).
Fanart for Welcome to Night Vale episode #31.5 Condos