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Fanfiction as an "Emerging" Genre

Herbie's picture

For the second half of the semester, I think it would be really interesting to look at fan fiction as an "emerging" genre.  I use the quotation marks because Professor Taylor once had us read a work for class that was a continuation of Chaucer's notoriously-unfinished Canterbury Tales, and doesn't that count as a work of fan fiction?  There are also additional Sherlock Holmes mysteries, suspiciously not written by Sir Conan Doyle and Pride & Prejudice sequels written by almost everyone except Jane Austen, not to mention the recent Pride & Prejudice & Zombies.  I like to think that the sheer number of links I provided there proves my point.

In addition to these works of published fan fiction, I think it would also be interesting to discuss fiction that is written based on a movie, as opposed to movies based on books.  I'm thinking specifically of the extensive collection of Star Wars books that have been written.

There are also lots of articles on fan communities and fiction available on JSTOR, and that does not include any articles not included in JSTOR's archives.

The published works of fan fiction, whether sequels to older works, based on movies or on a TV series (as one of the linked articles mentions), at one point or another went through a vetting process.  Someone edited them.  Someone read through the entire work and found the typos and the characterization "errors."  But what about when the internet is introduced, and suddenly it's possibly to post things on websites, such as FanFiction.net?  It would also give us another opportunity to discuss copyright laws, but in a much different context.

Another interesting question to discuss would be how fan fiction is received and perceived while the work it's based on is still in progress.  For instance, Harry Potter fan fiction has been written since at least before the 5th book, and possibly even earlier than that.  Other books include Meg Cabot's The Princess Diaries, Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan, Eragon and its sequels by Christopher Paolini, and every book on FanFiction.net's seemingly-unending list the book category.  Personally, I really love that there's Bible fan fic.  There's also fiction written about NBC's The Office, Showtime's Queer as Folk and The L Word, Hercules: the Legendary Journeys, Xena: Warrior Princess, and many other shows.  It's interesting to note the trend in serialization that precludes a really popular category of fan fiction for a given show or book, but having a cult-like following helps as well.  How does that change the response to the works, if there is material being written during the interim? 

Finally, the most interesting aspect of fan fiction, I believe, is the communities that emerge and the interactions that develop.  There's also the incredibly interesting synopses of fandom-wide scandal and how it is handled.  Specifically in the Harry Potter fandom (fan community), there was an incident regarding plagiarism (there are links to a more detailed account at the bottom) by a woman who is now a published author.  There is also a lengthy account of another BNF (big name fan) who turned out to be troll (someone on the internet who comments deliberately to provoke a reaction).

There's so much to discuss!  How long has fan fiction really been around, and when did it develop a stigma?  Which shows, books, or other works are most likely to generate a fandom?  How can it create so much personal investment from people who usually don't know each other IRL (in real life)?  Plus, copyright, plagiarism, quality, and so much more!

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