Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Democratic Genre: Canon, Fanon, and Hornblower

More on Chapter 2, “The Knowledge,” which is basically dealing with the canon—Pugh compares the Republic of Pemberley’s now archive-only Bits of Ivory with Derbyshire Writers Guild (DWG). As most Austen fanfic readers and writers know, DWG spun off from RoP and provided a place where there were far fewer rules associated with sticking to the canon. I loved reading Pugh’s comments on Elspeth’s At the Club, in which all of Austen’s heroes meet to drown their sorrows and gnash their teeth. As Pugh puts it, “…putting characters who never met in the same room is a fanfic speciality and often gives the reader a new light on them; in this case Tilney’s utter refusal to be impressed by Darcy’s loftiness was an insightful observation on both of them.”

Pugh also says that “the Republic’s rigid criteria work against creativity and quality…it is not easy to sound like Austen for page after page…if you are simply writing pastiche, every perceived departure from the idiom will jar your readers ferociously and convince them that they would be better reading the real thing.” Pugh also goes on to discuss Skylar’s An Unlikely Missionary, which is no longer available on DWG where it was first posted as the author is negotiating a contract for its publication.

With regards to canon, I learned a new term—i.e., “fanon,” which is when a writer’s addition to canon seems so natural that it becomes generally accepted and used by other writers as if it were canon. Pugh says that in Austen fandom, the features of the actors who played the leads in the most popular film and TV adaptations are becoming fanon. Although with the recent S&S from the BBC and the new P&P movie, this may not prove altogether true.

I’m finding myself skimming the parts of the book that don’t relate directly to either Austen or Hornblower. Pugh focuses primarily on five fandoms: Austen (Austen’s own works as well as the various adaptations), Hornblower (C.S. Forster’s books and the A&W movies), Blakes 7 (a BBC sci-fi series from 1978-81), The Bill (long-running ITV police series), Terry Pratchett’s Discworld (books only). I’m thinking I may start reading some Hornblower fanfic…is this the best place to start: ?


  1. That's a very interesting perspective and now my interest in reading Pugh's treatise is piqued.

    Thanks for sharing your opinions.

  2. Glad you dropped by--the Pugh book is a fascinating read so far.