I love all of the writers I follow but the two who are always amazing are @bairnsidhe and @infinisei
I got an email from a reader earlier. The sender was a lovely young woman who had just re-read my first published fic and wanted to tell me how much she enjoyed it—how it made her feel, how it made her smile, how it made her cry, how it made her excited to get home each night and curl up in bed with it, how it helped ease the pain of a difficult patch in her life, and how much she misses it now that it’s over. It was a beautiful letter, and my reaction to it must have been visible enough to make my saner half take notice from across the room. He shot me a questioning look, and I turned the laptop around and gestured to the screen.
I followed his eyes as they scanned each line, saw his lips tip up in a smile that grew broader as he read, then braced myself for the good natured snark I’ve come to expect when my little literary hobby comes up in conversation.
“Wow.” He said. “That was kind of amazing. How does it feel to be someone’s favorite author?”
“Don’t be a dick,” I said, slapping him on the shoulder.
“I’m serious,” he replied, gesturing to the screen. "That’s what she said—right there: You’re my favorite author.”
“I think she means favorite fic author. Not real author.”
“Is there a difference?” He asked.
“Yes,” I said, rolling my eyes. ”Of course there is.”
“Because, as someone in this room who isn’t ME is fond of pointing out, self published gay mystery romance novels aren’t exactly eligible for the pulitzer.” I said, turning the computer back around.
“So what?” he shrugged, “Something you wrote inspired a stranger to sit down write what it meant to them and send it to you. A lot of total strangers, as a matter of fact. You write, people read it and react. That makes you an author.”
“Huh.” I said, very eloquently, then got up and went into the kitchen to start dinner.
Hours later, sitting down to reply to the letter in question I find myself writing this post instead. Because here’s the thing: That wonderfully crazy man who lives in my house is right. (But please don’t tell him I said that)
From the moment I realized that letters made up words and words made up sentences and sentences made up worlds that were mine to explore any time I wanted to I’ve been a reader. I have fallen in love with perfect phrases and epic stories and countless characters pressed between the pages of the thousands of books I’ve read in my life so far—and sitting down to string together those same 26 letters into tens of thousands of words of stories I felt needed telling? That makes me an author.
I have adored the work of countless authors in numerous genres, and the world of fan fic is no exception. I have admired and cherished and savored the words of talented writers whose work is no less legitimate for the fact that their names include random keyboard characters and their words don’t live on bound paper on a shelf.
It’s not JUST fan fic. It’s literature. It’s published. It’s read. It’s loved.
Thanks to all of my favorite authors for every word on every page on every screen that I’ve ever loved.
Reblog for the sweet anon who asked me if I thought fanfic was as important as “real” fiction. Hope this answers your question. :)
Thanks for reading my work, so happy you’re enjoying In The Library!
Read this. Take it to heart. REMEMBER IT.
Comments are the best
They really are. Anything that manages to touch another person, make their life – their day, a particular minute – better is invaluable.
“Let us not desert one another; we are an injured body. Although our productions have afforded more extensive and unaffected pleasure than any other literary corporation in this world, no species of composition has been so much decried. … There seems almost a general wish of decrying the capacity and under-valuing the labour of the novelist, and of slighting the performances which have only genius, wit, and taste to recommend them.“
–Jane Austen, defending that most reviled of genres: the novel.
As Joanna Russ says in How to Suppress Women’s Writing, “Jane Austen … worked (as some critics tend to forget) in a genre that had been dominated by women for a century and one that was looked down upon as trash, a position that may have given her considerable artistic freedom.”
This is us, now. This is fanfic.
Russ also writes that “women always write in the vernacular. Not strictly true, and yet it explains a lot. It certainly explains letters and diaries. … It explains why so many wrote ghost stories in the nineteenth century and still write them.”
As I’ve said before, what is more vernacular in the 21st century than ephemeral, fannish internet porn? This is us. We are part of the long tradition of women writing and being told their writing is not real and does not matter, that the things we love and value are worthless and foolish, for so long that we even begin to believe it.
Our work is real work. Our writing is real writing. Our stories matter. Our community matters. We are here, together, doing this thing. This is real life. This counts. If you write something on the internet, you write it in real life.
Fanfic matters. Fanfic is literature. Fanfic is literature that breaks the bounds printing technology and capitalism once imposed on the wide distribution of the written word. Copyright law, royalties, the logistics of producing and selling paperback books, none of those can touch the heart of what a story is. None of those make your story any less a real story that can really touch another person.
If anyone tries to tell you different, you can tell them Jane Austen begs to differ.
Fanfic is never just fic.
I’ve had someone tell me I literally saved her life, by giving her something to look forward to, to keep reading. I’ve read stories that’ve made me get teary and smile and stay up until 3am.
Fanfic works on an emotional, connective, affective, aesthetics-of-pleasure level. This is a different function from most ‘mainstream’ literature, as the professors over at fangasmspn have pointed out in their academic book on fandom. It serves a different purpose–one that’s closer to romance novels or other ‘pulp fictions’. This is not to denigrate either function–we need to know how to read Shakespeare or Chaucer, how to think objectively and analytically about lives lived in other places and times, how to read factual scientific pieces for data, how to engage with the literature of ideas–by which I mean idea-driven rather than character-driven (and most literature blends the two; it’s not a hard-and-fast boundary).
Fanfic serves a different and equally valid purpose: community, social engagement, empathy, emotional catharsis, subversion of traditional conceptions re desire and sexuality, exercise of pleasure and reclaiming of the importance of pleasure, aesthetic appreciation, creativity plus appreciation for others’ creativity, and as Larsen and Zubernis point out in Fandom at the Crossroads, a form of healing that’s potentially both individual and collective, involving a space for exploration of identity and identification.
#i’m thinking of bourdieu’s ideas on cultural capital #highbrow versus lowbrow #the first being the *legitimate culture* #it’s kind of where it always comes back #the idea that there’s a legitimate culture #a superior one #linked to class ofc #it’s so useful to reframe the discussion #it erases the gender politics part of the equation #and instead of thinking in terms of different functions #you think in terms of different audiences and of *quality* (via @and-then-bam-cassiopeia)
Thank you Cass for bringing Bourdieu in your tags! It’s such a crucial part of the discussion about fanfiction, and why it is always judged as the opposite of “true” (read “noble”) literature. Yes, there is a gender aspect to it, but we should never forget that when we talk about “culture”, we necessarily talk about class.
as someone who spent a lot of time this week arguing for the basic legitimacy as fan fiction as a fucking form (and i’m not even a big fic reader), this resonates. this is so good.
It’s so strange when this shows up on my dash from time to time…like a weird little gift from the past. But for the record, I still believe every word.
When you freely pump out multiple 100K+ word fics, it’ll never be ‘just fanfiction’. When you sit there researching the type of insults used in 1980s Japan for a fic, it’ll never be ‘just fanfiction’. When you memorized the parliament and government history about a small island nation off the coast of the African Continent, all so it can be briefly mentioned in your fic for like 5 paragraphs, it’ll never be ‘just fanfiction’. When you are crying because you don’t want to disappoint your readers, especially those who bother to let you know their thoughts, it’ll never be ‘just fanfiction’.
‘Just fanfiction’ is a fucking insult if I ever saw one.
Thank you my dear.
Also, I agree with all of this. When you drag yourself from your sick bed to slam out a few hundred more words of heartbreak before dosing yourself with cold medicine, it’s not ‘just’ anything. When you carefully collect trivia like “what candy was available for what costs in 1935?” and “How did you say ‘gay’ in 1870?” and “What sorts of PTSD treatments were available in Norse villages?” and “What city in 1997 had a big enough crisis to merit a special forces team?” to write stories with, it’s not ‘just’ anything.
When you know for a fact your readers have used your fics to survive the worst of all possible things, that they have stayed alive through trial and pain because they needed to know what happened next, when they’ve fucking told you that you gave them hope and comfort in their darkest hours…
It’s a lot of things, but “just fanfiction” isn’t one of them.
It amazes me how every time this post has a little renaissance the first thing I think about is my atrocious punctuation…
In my defense, I composed it on my phone in a dentist office waiting room and I never dreamed anyone would actually read it.
I still believe every damn word.