Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Democratic Genre: What Else and What If – notes on ch3

Right off the bat, Pugh presents what is to me a novel idea—i.e., there’s more fanfic about P&P than any of the other Austen novels because “…despite Austen’s assurances at the end that all is well, it is easier to see something going wrong for Elizabeth and Darcy than for most of Austen’s married couples.” She points out that they are the most mismatched in terms of wealth and status, he has friends and relatives who dislike her, and he will probably never be comfortable around her family, especially her mother. If you’re interested in reading the story that Pugh cites as a good example of this type of story, here’s the link to Lou’s Cure for the Common Marriage.

There’s no question that there is more fanfic about P&P by acres, in fact, and this could very well be one of the reasons, but not the only. P&P has the richest set of supporting characters, all of whom need to have their place in the sun via fanfic. For example, Pugh comments on the surprisingly high number of stories that explore the character of Anne deBourgh as well as those that pair her with Colonel Fitzwilliam, which to Pugh, strikes her as “…hard luck on the Colonel.”

Another interesting difference between Austen fandom and ongoing-TV fandom is how the later can suddenly change with the departure of a character or a revelation of backstory hitherto unknown. An example of this is when the Hornblower character, Archie Kennedy, who is but a mention in the books but a main character in the A&E movies, dies. This effectively ends the Archie portion of the Hornblower world and requires writers dealing with Archie in a way different from what they could before he died. Austen fandom is closed in that no more is coming from Austen herself, although the adaptations provide new aspects that can morph into fanon. But, Austen fanfic writers have a solid canon from which to draw, not an evolving one.

Pugh points out that Austen prequels are far less common than sequels—her main characters get married young (except for those Ancients, Colonel Brandon and Mr. Knightley) and so don’t have much of a backstory themselves. Pugh does mention Dee Dee’s story, Poor Miss Taylor, as a good, moving example of an Emma prequel.

In her section on crossovers (i.e., stories that “…involve characters from one fictional universe crossing into another”), she cites Green Eggs and Hamlet…Googling on this revealed that there are several offerings with this title. This movie looks like the best: Green Eggs and Hamlet.

Finally it’s always amusing to read about reactions to Emma Tennant sequels, and Pugh doesn’t disappoint: “Some of the most vituperative reviews you will ever read are those written by Austen fans about the various Emma Tennant Austen sequels, and the reason for the animosity is that fans do not feel they are true to the characters.” She goes on to say that the “…canon is for bending and shaping according to the fanfic writer’s preference, but the ‘love’—i.e., the basic respect for it—is important.” She closes with the notion that “if too many readers feel ‘that’s not them’; then the story will have failed as fanfic, however else it may succeed.”

Which gets back to the definition of fanfic—to me, it’s anything that is derivative, regardless of whether it is in print or on the web or in a fanzine or passed around amongst friends. Tennant’s books are fanfic, and they fail because too many readers say “that’s not them!”

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