01 January 2014

Fic (Anne Jamison)

My forays into different genres have lately led me to dabble in the least respected one of all: fanfiction. And by "dabble," I mean that I've written 27,000 words since August--and read many, many more--that center on the pairing of Dean and Castiel from Supernatural, because they are madly in love, dammit, and no amount of furious backpedaling from the writers this season will convince me differently.

Uhm. Excuse me while I wrestle myself back to the point . . . or, rather, use my obvious emotional investment in a subtextual relationship between fictional characters as the perfect segue into the marvelous project that is Anne Jamison's book Fic.

Part anthology, part literary criticism, part sociology, Fic faces the concept and community of fanfiction (as the title implies, people who write/read it don't call it fanfiction) head-on, warts and all, through the lens of history, technology, and a few exemplary fandoms--Sherlock Holmes, Star Trek, The X-Files, Harry Potter, Twilight, and yes, my dearly beloved Supernatural. Jamison includes essays by fan writers galore; interviews conceptual writers excited by fic's alterations in the relationship between text and author, media and consumer; and delves deeply into the Fifty Shades of Grey controversy, which it turns out is far more complicated and illustrative of the collaborative nature of fic than I'd imagined.

As a guide, Jamison herself is first-rate, her writing conversational, but a conversation with a snarky smartypants (like pretty much all the acquaintances I've made at Archive of Our Own, a huge fic archive whose founders speak in these pages as well). She understands the urge to expand upon and correct primary texts, having written some Buffy the Vampire Slayer fic in her day, and is able to draw parallels between modern fanfiction and old concepts of authorship without simplistically equating them:
Reworking an existing story, telling tales of heroes already known to be heroic, was the model of authorship until very recently. This book is organized to highlight both this kind of continuity with the past, and also what I see fanfiction doing that I believe to be new. . . . Paradoxically, fanfiction, the cultural enterprise apparently dedicated to revisiting familiar ground, ends up leading us to new models of publishing, authorship, genre, gender . . . and to voyeuristic aliens who resemble lava lamps, vampire peaches, sex pollen, and an entire universe based on the structure of the canine penis.
Reading this book has erased the last vestige of shame I felt about writing fic rather than wholly original work (though I still think it's prudent to post my slash under a pseudonym), has in fact made me proud to be part of both a history of reader engagement that spills over into creation--didja know that William Thackeray was so pissed off by the end of Walter Scott's Ivanhoe that he wrote his own ending instead, where Ivanhoe married the right woman?--and nebulous new worlds that blur the line between (as Lev Grossman says in his introduction) "genders and genres and races and canons and bodies and species and past and future and conscious and unconscious and fiction and reality."

Also, I'll have you know I write world-class smut.

(FTC disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Smart Pop, in exchange for an honest review.)

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