Sunday, June 29, 2008

Democratic Genre: Final Chapter - A Good Reader Also Creates

Here’s a collection of quotes that I noted while finishing up the last chapter and my thoughts on each of them:

“So fan fiction is a genre in which the boundary between readers and writers is shifting and easily crossed. The reader is unusually empowered and may…herself become a co-creator.”

Pugh starts out in this chapter with the idea that readers affect a fanfic story through their comments, encouragement, and understanding of the backstory and canon/fanon in which the author is working. But this idea is but one aspect of the notion that readers become co-creators.

“The feeling that there is no one right version, plus the reluctance to leave a universe they enjoy, both contribute to the fanfic writers’ habit of endlessly trying out alternative scenarios and relaying scenes from different viewpoints.”

I like this notion—that there is no one right version. A version (whether it be play, fiction, poem, or, I suppose, ballet or picture or sculpture) is one particular author’s view and way of telling a story that exists within a shared canon and culture. I’ve always aligned with the concept of archetypal stories that exist from time immemorial and Carl Jung and the idea of a collective unconscious has shaped a lot of how I look at story-telling and fiction and art.

“In a genre which grants the original author no particular primacy, it is perhaps unsurprising that collaboration is so widespread.”

Pugh points out that in profic, it is difficult to sell jointly authored works to agents and publishers, and presumably readers. Perhaps the last is a stretch as I can’t imagine a reader having a problem with a jointly-authored work. I imagine the bias in the publishing world toward singly-authored books has to do with cataloguing and marketing.

Within the fanfic world, authors become friends and not just rivals. While jealousy does exist, most authors recognize that many fanfic readers are insatiable. I’ve often wondered how they have time to read so much—I have never been able to follow more than one or two stories while working in the real world, writing, raising and being part of a family, reading non-fanfic, etc. etc.—but I digress. Authors become friends with fellow authors through the magic of message boards and beta reading and it is a not unusual step to co-author a story, usually a fun, quirky, or challenge-type story.

“The fact is that there are few headier pleasures than being an author, realizing that you can create and manipulate a universe and give life to the characters in it. And a great many people who were once content to be readers have found that out. Many of them did so accidently. It wasn’t, at the time, that they particularly wanted to be writers. It was that they wanted some fictional universe and/or characters not to come to an end, or to develop differently, or to reveal facets that were hidden. And since the original writers would not or could not oblige, they had to do it themselves.”

I didn’t know how much fun it was to create fiction until I tried. Pugh is right—writing is indeed one of the headier pleasures. Exercising creativity is life affirming and energizing. I am not alone among the readers who read a fanfic story and thought—‘hey, I can do that!’


  1. I am not alone among the readers who read a fanfic story and thought—‘hey, I can do that!’

    No kidding. I'm really arrogant. With no experience writing fiction at all, I not only muttered something about being able to do that, I said, "In fact, I can do better than that."

    Wow. Ego.

  2. Yes, Susan, it's been a long time, if ever, that the DWG stories adhered strictly to the mission as cited by Pugh. Certainly the moderators of the board ensure that the follow the guidelines, but the guidelines are fairly loose with regards to sticking to canon.