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genres of gay (male) narrative; and the genre(?) of fanfiction

One Student's picture

In the first chapter ('History') of Neil Bartlett's Who Was That Man? (a bio of Oscar Wilde), Bartlett describes three forms of gay narrative, three genres:

1) The personal coming out story.

2) The history of homosexuality.

3) And one which "combines the historical methods of the second with the individual subject of the first. The hero in this case is a single, usually 'great' homosexual. His fame rests in part on being hidden, on being in need of revelation ..."

Bartlett also describes a completely different medium for narration: what he calls the 'collection' of a gay man, which might be "a record collection, a drawer of photographs, a wall of pictures, a mantelpiece of postcards, a bookshelf, a wardrobe of clothes. If you or he can 'read' this collection of words and images, with all its attendant justifications, juxtapositions and cross references, you will have a gay story, a history."

Also, is fanfiction a genre? 'Fanfic' generally refers to any story which extends or expands or deepdens the canonical narration, the 'original' story. Within fanfic there are a number of categories: romance, angstfic or darkfic, slash, femslash, 'cest, AU, futurefic, mpreg, PWP, etc. So if fanfic the broadest genre? Is the most important feature of fanfiction the fact of its intentional and conscious relationship to the canonical narration? Every work of writing has a debt to everything which its writer(s) has ever read, but only academic writing is required to make explicit the influences and sources (those of which the writer is aware, that is - some things sink in unconsciously, some things are taken for granted). But in the case of fanfiction, this relationship to another work is definitive and trumps even mainstream categorizations such romance and adventure and porn and drama.

A function of capitalism, a question of access, perhaps - some written works you pay for and some you don't, and intellectual ownership is srs bsns these days. Remember, until the Renaissance, very few of what we would call 'artists' and what were then seen more as 'craftsmen' or 'artisans' actually signed their names to their works; Virgil isn't usually said to have been writing fanfic of The Iliad when he wrote The Aeneid, which is based on the classically fannish premise of developing a minor character; books like Wide Sargasso Sea and The Wind Done Gone, which both retell a canonical book (Jane Eyre and Gone With the Wind, respectively) from the perspective of a minor character, and in both cases, that minor character is a woman of color - telling a story from a completely different perspective is also a tactic of fanfiction. But neither work is posted online, neither is available for free, the writers use their real names, etc. Fanfiction is about context, as well as money, it's about the place where it is available.