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August 14, 2012

Mangling the history of fanfic
Posted by Patrick at 05:56 PM * 320 comments

There’s a lot that’s sensible about Ewan Morrison’s much-linked-to Guardian piece about the history of fanfic. It’s nice to see people being reminded that fanfic isn’t some dark perversion that began with the Internet—that activities recognizable as “fanfic” have been happening since the eighteenth century, if not before. (Yes oh yes even before that, Grail folklore, Shakespeare/Holinshead, etc etc yes yes.) But the section on fanfic in early SF fandom is full of nonsense, so much so as to call the rest of the article into question. Morrison’s assertion that “from the 1930s to 50s fanfic existed almost exclusively within the sci-fi communities, in clubs such as the Futurians (1937-1945)” is entirely indefensible: what, the Sherlockians and other non-SF hobby groups simply stopped committing fanfic from 1930 to 1960? Even more to the point, most of what got called “fanfic” in early SF fanzines was simply straightforward amateur SF, not amateur fiction written with-or-in some professionally-published author’s characters or universe. Morrison also says that “many fans from such groups, such as Isaac Asimov, went on to become published authors, blurring the distinction between amateur fan and professional writer,” which makes as much sense as claiming that when a carpenter learns to play the violin, it blurs the distinction between carpenters and violinists. Then we have this:

In 1952, the world’s first book of fanfic about fans appeared. The Enchanted Duplicator by Walt Willis and Bob Shaw was a metafiction based on Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, but which described a world populated with sci-fi fans. It chronicles the adventures of hero Jophan in “the land of Mundane”. All of the characters in the book are renamed versions of real fans from the London SF circle of the 50s and the book was created entirely for their pleasure.
Where Morrison got this last bit I certainly don’t know, but it’s nonsense. Some of the characters in The Enchanted Duplicator are clearly based on real people—Willis said on more than one occasion, including to me, that “Profan” was substantially based on Eric Frank Russell—but they aren’t limited to members of the London Circle. In fact Willis and Shaw both lived in Belfast and, while they’d visited London fandom, they had as many (or more) connections with fandom in the US as with fans in Britain. There is no basis at all for claiming that “all of the characters in the book are renamed versions of real fans,” and the work was certainly not created “entirely for [the] pleasure” of London Circle fans. Finally, as about five seconds with the Google could have informed Morrison, Willis and Shaw disclaimed the connection to Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, which neither of them had read at the time; Willis wrote in 1965 that it “arose out of a conversation…about a radio play by Louis MacNeice based on the quotation ‘Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came.’” This kind of complete garbling of well-documented history—at a rate of roughly one error per sentence—suggests that the rest of Morrison’s article should be taken, at the very least, with a big grain of salt.
Comments on Mangling the history of fanfic:
#1 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2012, 06:19 PM:

One more error: Sometime Making Light commenter Nancy Lebovitz has pointed out, in a comment to Arthur Hlavaty's LJ, that in fact that journey in TED takes place almost entirely outside of, rather than "in", the Land of Mundane.

Really, it's like the guy wrote that whole section from some notes written on a napkin while drunk.

#2 ::: Ken Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2012, 06:41 PM:

Why is it that discussions of fandom seem to be one of the primary roads to "there are not more errors than words in that sentence, but it's close" Syndrome?

Or is it just that the spectacular gaffes are SO spectacular?

#3 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2012, 06:58 PM:

The article also got the original "Mary Sue: a Trekkie's Tale" completely wrong; but then, the writer probably was too lazy to track down the original text.

#4 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2012, 07:06 PM:

Ken Houghton, #2: "Why is it that discussions of fandom seem to be one of the primary roads to "there are not more errors than words in that sentence, but it's close" Syndrome?"

Because the subject is inherently infra dig. Also, because it occurs to nearly nobody in a positon like Ewan Morrison's that there might actually be well-sourced, documented, and researched historical knowledge of the subject, and people with expert mastery of that knowledge. But mostly because the subject is inherently infra dig.

Okay, here's another reason: because a lot of the principles of early SF fanhistory were as prone to exaggerate or lie in the telling of anecdotes as any other kind of human being, and we're still living through the period when those falsehoods tend to get re-transmitted unquestioningly. A great deal of my understanding of the fact that establishing true history is hard dates from being on a panel with Forrest J Ackerman at Norwescon in 1979, and listening helplessly as he lied nonstop for an entire hour. And he didn't even need to! This is a guy whose achievements in laying the foundation stones of fandom is equalled by almost nobody else--but he still couldn't restrain himself from taking credit for things I knew damn well he hadn't done.

#5 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2012, 07:22 PM:

It's also kind of weird to call TED a book. It's perhaps book length (a very short book at 25 A4 typewritten pages in the first edition), but it's more of a fanzine -- and it's certainly not the earliest appearance of fans in fanfic, as merely a moment's thought about the Lovecraft circle and their tendency to put each other into horror stories (some of which sold professionally, but others didn't). Reminiscent of the academic who asked if Bester was an author he should have heard of, in SF.

Oh, and he's got the date wrong. The colophon on the first edition clearly (well, as clearly as its type can!) states "February 1954". Why, yes, I do have a copy in front of me as I write this -- came from the shelf over there.

#6 ::: Jeff R. ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2012, 07:44 PM:

Way, way, way older than that. The Aeneid wasn't even itself the first Homeric epic fanfic even if it was the most successful. The "50 shades of grey" of it's time.

#7 ::: DBratman ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2012, 07:48 PM:

Shakespeare adapting Holinshead isn't fanfic by any definition - adaptation into another medium is a mode of its own, one not particularly characteristic of actual fanfic, and Shakespeare wasn't a fan but a pro - and to his credit Morrison doesn't say that it is.

The term "fanfic" has been used to designate a number of different things over the years, but your words "amateur fiction written with-or-in some professionally-published author’s characters or universe" accurately define the kind of fanfic that's been causing a certain amount of fuss recently. And that too has a history, but not nearly so long nor so distinguished as the quite different activities that defenders of That Sort of Fanfic have been trying to annex as a more distinguished pedigree to lend respectability to their intellectual squatting activities, in much the same way and for a similar reason that SF boosters used to try to annex Lucian of Samosata to their pedigree.

#8 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2012, 07:51 PM:

It occurs to me, fanfic would not be fanfic if it did not have a source text more canonical than itself.

If it weren't obviously derived from something, it would just be a story.

So there could be no fanfic in a pre-literate time. It would become actual just plain fic if it survived at all and the thing it was based on was untraceable.

#9 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2012, 07:56 PM:

Jeff R @6: And the Iliad is an epic crossover.

DBratman @7:

"... the quite different activities that defenders of That Sort of Fanfic have been trying to annex as a more distinguished pedigree to lend respectability to their intellectual squatting activities ..."
Like this?

#10 ::: DBratman ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2012, 08:09 PM:

TNH 9: Not so much that, though the facts that Little Women is out of copyright and its author long dead are major differences from "fan fic as we're talking about it" and not insignificant technical quibbles.

I did not keep links, but I have a post on my own blog of 5/11/2010, during a previous flurry of interest in this subject, referring to claims that:

1) anything openly inspired by a previous work;
2) any reworking of ideas from a previous work into an original work;
3) any adaptation of an existing work into a new medium, even if it's authorized by the original author;

is either fanfic or indistinguishable from it.

Being inspired by Dr. Who to write your own original story with no references to the Doctor in it is not fanfic. Selling your film rights to HBO is not fanfic.

But there are people who are ready to tell you that it is, and that if that is OK, then writing unauthorized stories using current authors' characters and worlds is OK too.

That's "the quite different activities that defenders of That Sort of Fanfic have been trying to annex as a more distinguished pedigree to lend respectability to their intellectual squatting," as I put it.

#11 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2012, 08:46 PM:

David Bratman, #10: "That's 'the quite different activities that defenders of That Sort of Fanfic have been trying to annex as a more distinguished pedigree to lend respectability to their intellectual squatting,' as I put it."

I see that you have a strongly-felt view on the subject. I see also that respectability and pedigrees are a big deal for you.

My own feeling is that the impulse that powers fanfic is an impulse very similar to that which has powered a lot of other fiction which, for one reason or another, has a much higher status among people who care about respectability and pedigrees. This is not the same thing as "trying to annex" anyone's pedigree in order to obtain respectability, because you know something, I categorically reject pedigrees and respectability as things grown-ups ought to give very much of a shit about. And you know something else, I think that was pretty much what Teresa was saying as well.

Let it be understood that you feel strongly about this -- but I don't really think it's centrally relevant to the actual subject here.


#12 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2012, 08:51 PM:

Profan is based on Eric Frank Russell?

I'm delighted to know that.

#13 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2012, 08:53 PM:

Erik Nelson @8:

So there could be no fanfic in a pre-literate time. It would become actual just plain fic if it survived at all and the thing it was based on was untraceable.

I don't entirely agree. From our vantage point several millennia down the line we may not be able to disentangle things, but the impulse to answer "and then what happened" doesn't require anything to be written down. I think what you may be suggesting is that because orally transmitted stories don't have a fixed form, so instead of having a clear separation between original and "fanfic" it all gets mixed together as part of the folk process, but I'm not sure that's true either (and I suspect it was even less true when oral transmission was a more important part of culture.) We might not know what was original and what was a particular reteller's embellishment, but they knew, and I think that's equally important.

#14 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2012, 09:09 PM:

You know, though, I always thought Profan was John Brunner. Because he was. And nobody in a parable is any one person, they're archetypes. I'm delighted that Eric Frank Russell was an archetypal Profan. Lots of people are.

I would have unhesitatingly assumed it was based on _Pilgrim's Progress_ too.

Reading it now -- you *linked* to it -- makes me want to do a fanzine. On paper. And hand it out to people at Worldcon.

And I totally could. (Would you write something for it if I did)

#15 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2012, 09:13 PM:

Fanfic is one of those odd defined-by-exclusion categories. It's like speeding, which wouldn't exist without a law establishing speed limits.

#16 ::: DBratman ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2012, 09:19 PM:

PNH 11: Well, we'll have to disagree. Pedigree and respectability aren't a big thing for me. What I'm doing is pointing out that they seem to be a big thing for the people who are trying to give them to fan fic, even as they were a big thing for the people who were trying to give them to SF back when that was first trying to claw its way into respectability. Claiming that Shakespeare or Virgil wrote fan fic certainly contains the component of annexing a highly respectable pedigree, and the itch is not in the person who points that fact out.

I take your point that the impulse is the same, but I don't think that's always true. The impulse to adapt (say, to write a screenplay of a work), and the impulse to be inspired by existing fiction to write original fiction of your own may be related to, but are distinctly different from, the impulse to write "that sort of fanfic." I've seen testimony from fanfic writers who've gone on to write original fiction that the fanfic gave them practice, but that it was a different thing. And my friends who write adaptive screenplays of others' novels have no interest whatever in writing new stories using those novels' characters.

Also, it seems to me that the big complaint of authors who dislike fanfic of their own work is that it's being flaunted in their faces. Of course you don't have to read it, but that's a disingenuous defense of it: it's going to be conspicuously out there and affect the reading of your work and your interaction with your readers regardless of whether you read it or not. I think authors would mind less if it were written in private and not published or put on the web. And that's why it makes a big difference if the author is long dead. The monopoly of fictive worlds, like spoiler warnings and copyright, ought to have an expiration date. But before that date expires - and I think it should be approximately congruent with copyright, at least before the recent extensions - it ought to be honored.

#17 ::: mjfgates ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2012, 09:39 PM:

DBratman@16:

The monopoly of fictive worlds, like spoiler warnings and copyright, ought to have an expiration date. But before that date expires - and I think it should be approximately congruent with copyright, at least before the recent extensions - it ought to be honored.

Did you just consign Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality to the outer darkness? That would make my entire family sad...

More importantly, what would that notion do to the three-quarters of all fantasy novels that are basically microwaved Tolkien leftovers?

#18 ::: Em ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2012, 09:42 PM:

I once argued (tongue-in-cheek, and for the sake of argument), that the New Testament was essentially Old Testament fanfic, and Mary Sue fanfic at that; the protagonist was the offspring of the protagonist for the first book, with a rough life growing up, has no real flaws, fills the role of the original protagonist when he comes into his own, is universally beloved except by The Bad Guys, and has a tragic death in which he sacrifices himself for the Greater Good.

Bestseller, though!

#19 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2012, 09:46 PM:

Jo, the first time I finished reading The Enchanted Duplicator I burst into tears, which was kind of embarrassing, because I was sitting in a pizza joint on University Avenue in Seattle. It speaks to higher truths.

And on the other hand ...

David @16, do you actually know any of these people, or is it all get-the-impression seem-to-be?

(Word to the wise: you've known some of them for decades.)

Also, where were you when we were actually discussing subjects that came within hailing distance of your comments? Because that's surely not where we are right now.

#20 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2012, 09:51 PM:

I knew it existed, but I'd never actually read The Enchanted Duplicator before. I'm surprised at how very specific the humor is; I'm only just barely getting all the references about pre-photocopier duplication methods.

I just got to chapter 11, and the fact that there's a character named "Dedwood" is raising in me expectations that I'm sure will be disappointed.

#21 ::: LMM ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2012, 10:21 PM:

At this point in history, it's incredibly hard to look back at a work that we see as foundational and see it as an inferior version of what was at the time seen as a better tale. ("Well, the Aenid is clearly working from the Illiad and Odyssey, but....")

My ex from grad school (then a grad student in Scandinavian Studies) stated that, taken in context of the other written works around it, the Saga of Thedrik of Bern is fanfic of the derogatory kind -- basically, a derivative work with a mismash of heroes from other sagas, combined less for value than for entertainment. (A few sources online suggest that there is a bit more coherency than this, but I'm going to differ to him at the moment.) And, given the structure of copyright and publishing today, I think that that kind of fanfiction -- derivative stuff -- is mostly what we associate with the genre, partially due to Sturgeon's Law and partially the really promising cases have to be wallpapered over to become publishable. (That being said, as someone who has been reading fanfiction for roughly a decade now, there's a lot of fanfiction out there that is *very* much superior to the originals.)

On a related note ... TNH: you said a half-decade ago that you were going to describe why Russ and you concluded that _Left Hand of Darkness_ was derived from Kirk / Spock slash. Details?

#22 ::: DBratman ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2012, 10:24 PM:

mjf 17: Tolclones (as we rather efficiently call them where I come from) may be written with the impulse of fan fic, but they're not actually "that sort of fan fic", and that does make a difference.

tnh 19: As I wrote earlier, I was in my own blog.

I don't remember who said the stuff I reported. It could be people I know; I'm not immune to disagreeing with people I know. As I said, I didn't keep links. It wasn't here, because I checked the archives for those dates. But I'm pretty sure they said exactly that.

#23 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2012, 10:36 PM:

LMM @21, I'm not privy to Teresa's and Russ's conversation, but the last time I re-read Left Hand, it became obvious to me that it was structurally a romance novel, with Genly Ai and Estraven as the couple who start out irrationally disliking each other, only to grow closer as they suffer through difficulties together. The telepathy scene near the end reads sort of like an old-fashioned sex scene, complete with Estraven doing the telepathic equivalent of shouting an old lover's name at climax.

Now that you've brought up Teresa's old comment, the Kirk/Spock elements becomes clearer: Genly Ai is a telepath, like Spock. The way the Ecumen sends only a single contact specialist to each world is reminiscent of all those episodes where the Enterprise sends just one (or two, or three) flag officers down to the planet. The Gethenians go into heat like Vulcans do, though on a different time cycle.

This leaves some of Spock's attributes (telepathy, sexual cycle) split between the two protagonists, but that's the sort of thing that sometimes happens in the creative process.

#24 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2012, 11:46 PM:

Anyone have information about the age and amount of filling in the gaps in biblical stories in the Midrash?

Oursin and friends address various historical inaccuracies and intellectual confusions.

Two overarching flaws in Morrison's article: He doesn't seem to understand that a lot of fanfic is parody, and he's never heard of Sturgeon's Law.

I'd vaguely thought that the Guardian was a respectable newspaper. Is it merely better than the Daily Mail?

#25 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2012, 11:56 PM:

Two good things from the comments to Morrison's article: a mention of Fanlore, which looks quite promising, and someone who said that they had no idea how much fanfic there was-- and the amount of current fanfic is something that Morrison at least starts to get right.

#26 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2012, 12:12 AM:

Avram @ 23... the last time I re-read Left Hand, it became obvious to me that it was structurally a romance novel

So was John Huston's "The African Queen".

#27 ::: Linda Deneroff ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2012, 12:13 AM:

IIRC, the first "K/S" novel was Alternate Universe by Gerry Downes, which appeared in the late '70s, and it caused quite a stir.

#28 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2012, 01:13 AM:

The article asserts that "fanfic as a reworking of another author's characters" only started in the 18th century. What about Amadis of Gaul? That was published in 1508, and (from what I've read) inspired a whole host of works about Amadis himself, and then his family and friends...most of which are obscure today, except for a satirical novel about an old man who was driven insane by them.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden @9: None of the characters in the Iliad were previously established, so far as I know, so it's not something that brought them all for a grand adventure together. Unlike, say, the story of Jason and the Argo....

#29 ::: Geri Sullivan ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2012, 01:23 AM:

Jo @ #14: Oh, do. Please, please do!

Want some fillos and/or other fanart for it? I have a fair bit readily at hand. From real fanartists and everything.

#30 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2012, 02:33 AM:

Having looked a bit more at that article: he so misses the extent of Sherlockian "fanfic" of the late 19th/early 20th century. "Professional fanfic" would include John Kendrick Bangs' A Houseboat on the Styx and its sequels including The Enchanted Typewriter (his Sherlockian fanfic series wasn't collected until the 70s, though R. Holmes and Company was published in 1906 combining Raffles and Holmes. But I digress...). And Bangs is only one of many.

And the picture that he claims was the "original cover" of TED bears no resemblance at all to the original, which was a sheet of blue paper with 4 letterpress lines in red.

Yes, once one gives up on caring whether it's accurate or not, it's a moderately interesting piece. It's difficult for me to give that up, though.

You know, Jo, you could do a fanzine entirely of articles pointing out the errors in that Guardian piece. Talk about metafictions!

#31 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2012, 03:55 AM:

David Goldfarb @28, or, as I'm pretty sure someone has mentioned upthread, what about much of the fiction written throughout most of human history? What's special about Amadis of Gaul?

#32 ::: Rob Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2012, 03:57 AM:

Twenty some years ago, in one of my two forays into fannish fiction, I wrote an unauthorised sequel to 'The Enchanted Duplicator' (it was later published in Ted White & Dan Steffan's BLAT! with Steffan illos). Which by some of the definitions being bandied about above constitutes fanfic about fanfic, I suppose:

http://www.fiawol.demon.co.uk/rob/reaff.html

#33 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2012, 04:02 AM:

So, DBratman, when you say

I think authors would mind less if it were written in private and not published or put on the web. And that's why it makes a big difference if the author is long dead. The monopoly of fictive worlds, like spoiler warnings and copyright, ought to have an expiration date. But before that date expires - and I think it should be approximately congruent with copyright, at least before the recent extensions - it ought to be honored.

does it make a difference if my Horatio Hornblower fanfic is inspired more directly by the original Forester novels, as Forester is dead, or by the innovations introduced in the ITV adaptation, whose screenwriters are, to the best of my knowledge, alive?

And how do either of those differ from the fanfic I wrote for Law & Order: UK, which, at the time, was a still-running TV show?

Because the impulse in my case was entirely the same: I write the fanfic subgenre Death Fixes. The original kills off a character I love, and my writing impulse says, "oh no you didn't," and combs the original for little details on which to hang a version where the character lived. In my case, the versions include explanations for why the character isn't appearing in installments after their "death," too, because the main point for me is to be able to keep going with the source material unhampered by excessive mourning. My fellow fans seem to derive similar comfort -- the comments I get, when I get them, are usually along the lines of "of course it happened this way. The original got it wrong."

Admittedly, the thing this resembles most are Garrick's widely-reviled revisions of Shakespeare -- but again, *where* is the difference? Garrick did it to a centuries-dead author's text, but those texts were in fairly constant performance -- does that make it more like offering an alternative ending to a current television show, or less? And while Garrick's alterations are mocked now, they would seem to have appealed to audiences of the day.

Which, by the way, is not unlike a thing that happened between the Hornblower novels and their TV adaptation. The scriptwriters noticed that Horatio, in the stories focusing on his early life (pre-Hotspur), which were the ones they were using, had a distinct lack of Best Friend, and introducing a Best Friend character prior to Lt. Bush would be helpful to the way they wanted to write the stories. So they invented Archie Kennedy. And TV audiences fell in love. Both with Archie, and with the more likeable Horatio this let them show. And then the Forester estate said "you've changed Horatio too much, you've got to write Archie out." And they did, and, well, that's where I stepped in.

There's a DISTINCT divide in fannish opinion between those who prefer the original, gloomy, self-loathing Forester version of Horatio (okay, my opinions are showing), and those who prefer the softened TV version. But the TV version was an authorized, paid-for, different-media adaptation. Does that make it more legitimate than an unpaid fanwork that tries to faithfully reproduce the style and characterization of the novels?

Your categories don't seem to map entirely to the spectrum of fictional works as I perceive them.

#34 ::: Nenya ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2012, 05:29 AM:

This is just to say (as someone who is, right this minute, involved in both Plot Fixit and fannish erotica writing) that it's lovely to be over here reading about fanfic and the history thereof from them that knows. The last discussion I got into on the subject ended up being twenty pages of arguing over "whether fanfiction was or should be legal, or not," interspersed with "but it changes how people see the original! bad! bad thing!"

And I thought--you're missing the point. Anyway, thanks for existing, fans-who-know-more-than-me.

#35 ::: Sica ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2012, 05:43 AM:

Also what's up with "That Sort of Fanfic" - every time I read that I end up visualising someone hyperventilating over That Sort of Woman daring to show her ankles.

I don't get it.

Speaking of fanfic though or fan-opera.

Ok so in 1773 Pierre Beaumarchais wrote an opera called The Barber of Seville, however he couldn't get it performed, rewrote it into a play and it finally got shown in 1775.

Then 1782 years later Giovanni Paisiello wrote it into an opera (again) directly using some of the songs and dialoge from the original

The original Beaumarchais had however written a trilogy so in 1786 Mozart jumps on the bandwagon with his version of the sequel. Marriage of Figaro.

Then in 1816 Rossini did his remake-reboot of the Barber of Seville opera and that's the one that became a big hit as a version of the original opera turned play turned opera again!

#36 ::: Rob Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2012, 05:55 AM:

Looking at this fanhistorically, it seems that three separate things are getting conflated, all of which have been referred to as fan fiction at various points. They are:

1. Original amateur fiction
2. Fiction about fans and fandom
3. Amateur fiction based on professional works by others.

In the very earliest days of SF fandom you would only find type 1 in fanzines. Look through some of the 1930s and 40s fanzines reproduced on my website for examples - all of them pretty bad, I'm afraid.

The second type came along later, but still fairly early in fandom's history, and was often distinguished from type 1 by being termed 'faan fiction'. THE ENCHANTED DUPLICATOR is the most famous of these, but not the first.

And of course type three is what everyone means these days when referring to fan fiction. So far as I'm aware the beginnings of this in SF fandom was indeed among Star Trek fans. If anyone knows otherwise please let me know.

#37 ::: Rob Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2012, 05:57 AM:

Multiple posting caused by glitch here. Sorry 'bout that.

#38 ::: Nenya ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2012, 06:09 AM:

@Rob Hansen #36-39: Seems the gnomes care deeply about disambiguation of the term! :D

#39 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2012, 06:36 AM:

Today's XKCD is relevant to this discussion. (How does Randall do that?)

#40 ::: Andrew M ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2012, 07:15 AM:

I would agree with those who think the Aeneid isn't quite the same thing as fanfic as we know it: it uses already existing characters and settings, but they are drawn from a tradition rather than a particular source text (so there isn't the same kind of relation between fanfic and canon that exists now). We tend to think of it as Iliad fanfic because the Iliad is the longest-lasting and most memorable expression of that tradition, but it certainly wasn't the only one.

Nevertheless fanfic for particular texts goes back a long way. The earliest example I know* is Robert Henryson's The Testament of Cresseid (15th century) which begins with an author's note, er, a prologue which explicitly links it with Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde. And in the 18th and 19th centuries people were certainly writing fanfic for the works of living authors (Joseph Andrews, Rowena and Rebecca).

*Except bible fanfic. But that's a different thing again because the authors presumably believed the characters really existed.

#41 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2012, 07:41 AM:

Rikibeth @33: Is there a sub-subgenre of fanfic that is RPS (Real Person Slash) Death Fixes? (Gotta be, yah?) Because if so, that's where Bruce Sterling's "Dori Bangs" belongs.

“Dori Seda never met Lester Bangs. Two simple real-life acts of human caring, at the proper moment, might have saved them both; but when those moments came, they had no one, not even each other. And so they went down into darkness, like skaters, breaking through the hard bright shiny surface of our true-facts world. Today I made this white paper dream to cover the holes they left.”
--Bruce Sterling, “Dori Bangs” in Globalhead

"A white paper dream to cover the holes they left" is a beautiful phrase for it.

I know there are people who don't approve of RPS, but "Dori Bangs" was brought to my attention in 1992 by Bob Feldman, who ran Red House Records, and who cared about both Dori Seda and Lester Bangs. He felt that the story did indeed cover some of the holes they left, but more than that, it made art from the materials of grief, and did it in a way that ... eh. All my phrasing is going soppy, so just suffice it to say that Bob thought it was a useful and brilliant kind of art for both the mind and the heart.

Is all alternative history fiction RPF (and some RPS) then? We write stuff and try to make it come out different, for any of a thousand reasons.

Anyhow, I'm glad personally that Bruce Sterling wrote "Dori Bangs" because it gave some comfort to Bob, whom I miss a bunch. (Yeah, if I ever wrote RPF, it'd be about a really good party in the afterlife. And it would start with David Stemple and Mike Ford on a train, as Jo Walton once described them here, I think it was.)

#42 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2012, 07:44 AM:

Wait, I'm wrong on the date: Feldman pointed it out earlier than that. Sometime in 1991, probably. But still.

#43 ::: Ina Macallan ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2012, 08:35 AM:

Rob (What I say Three Times is True) Hansen – Thank you! I, too, remember when 'fanfiction' was a dirty word among SF fans, and was beginning to doubt my memory.

There have been similar discussions (and newspaper articles) about the origin of the term fanzine – variously claimed by football, music and SF fandom at different times.

#44 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2012, 10:05 AM:

Rob -- nice separation of the various forms. And there's a fourth form which is hard to distinguish in there: professional unauthorized fiction based on other people's work, either as pastiche or parody. Bangs was a prolific creator of such; it's a common trope of humorists. And I'm quite sure that there was a great deal of it floating around in much more obscure places: the Holmes pastiches are the tip of the iceberg, and there are literally hundreds of those many of which were originally published in non-paying markets but got reprinted in both amateur and professional books, starting while Doyle was still producing Holmes stories. People were less concerned about character ownership in those days, I believe (the parodies/pastiches are usually very transparent, often changing the name slightly).

And there's certainly a lot of Lovecraftian fan-fiction (and was, again, while Lovecraft was still producing his stories) that's never made it into the professional world -- but some did. That's a serious gray area.

#45 ::: Rob Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2012, 10:13 AM:

Ina@42: We actually know the origin of 'fanzine'. It was coined by US fan Louis Russell Chauvenet in 1940/41. The OED would like an exact attribution but no one has been able to narrow it down to a first usage, so far as I'm aware. Prior to that coinage they were known as 'fanmags'.

#46 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2012, 10:28 AM:

Rob Hansen @36:

Some of us were writing fanfic for The Man From U.N.C.L.E, which aired in the Fall of 1964 -- so two years before the first episode of Star Trek.

For that matter, I've always had the habit of making up stories about characters that caught my fancy, some from books, others from movies and TV shows (The Black Stallion for example). Usually, a "what happened after" the end of the book tale.

#47 ::: Rob Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2012, 10:34 AM:

Something else worth mentioning about that Guardian piece is the artwork they (wrongly, of course) claim was on the cover of the first edition of THE ENCHANTED DUPLICATOR. It was clearly taken, without attribution, from here:


http://efanzines.com/TED/index.htm

which also gives the story behind the illo.

#48 ::: Bill Burns ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2012, 11:13 AM:

Rob@46 And that artwork should, of course, have been credited by the Guardian to Dan Steffan.

#49 ::: Mags ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2012, 11:25 AM:

Rikibeth @33: does it make a difference if my Horatio Hornblower fanfic is inspired more directly by the original Forester novels, as Forester is dead, or by the innovations introduced in the ITV adaptation, whose screenwriters are, to the best of my knowledge, alive?

One of whom (meaning the screenwriters) is married to E.L. James. The circle, it is full.

#50 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2012, 12:01 PM:

@Andrew M. #40: I think you've got it! Fanfic begins where it's possible to refer the audience, not to a group of stories that have been passed down orally with modification by each reteller, but to a particular text. The expectation that the reader will have the text humming in the back of his/her mind informs the telling of the new story.

Fanfic as an outgrowth of increasingly widespread literacy: can anybody kick holes in this? My first thought is, What about very strict oral traditions that require exact repetition of long passages? Wouldn't that also enable the fanfic writer's trick of picking out a particular scene or line or bit of background information as a jumping-off point?

#51 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2012, 12:31 PM:

Jenny Islander@50: I know that present-day singing, storytelling, etc., makes use of all kinds of mnemonics and props like note cards with some key chords - enough to keep things flowing along. I've always suspected that before the spread of anything like full-blown literacy, such props were probably also in use, mostly not surviving to the present day and the remainder not being obvious as anything beyond pure ornamentation.

So I suspect that, yeah, there was more than enough firm "text" to make fanfic-like riffs possible.

#52 ::: James Moar ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2012, 01:02 PM:

mjfgates@17:
fantasy novels that are basically microwaved Tolkien leftovers?

Putting metals in the microwave is a bad idea in general, but the One Ring?

#53 ::: LMM ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2012, 01:12 PM:

@46: That (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) is, IIRC, where the Time article published a year-ish ago started from (a much better article than the Guardian one, btw). I think one issue with fanfiction is that *communities* require a strong self-identified fan base (esp. pre-Internet, I suspect) and a broad-ish universe -- something that a lot of sf/f-ish TV shows can readily provide but a lot of one-shot books can't.

(Hm. Was there *comic book* fanfiction written back in the day?)

@40, 50: Yeah, fanfiction really requires cannon -- which was hard to come by pre-widespread literacy. And the printing press, really -- Mark Rosenfeld of Zompist mentioned, after reading Ehrman's _Misquoting Jesus_, that the difficulty of accurately transmitting a text may have been one of the reasons why science as we know it didn't develop in the ancient world.

That being said, I think one *can* make arguments on the basis of *tropes* from fanfiction in cases when these tropes are *not* seen in previous, 'cannonical' works. (For example, clearly nonsensical -- or ridiculously numerous -- crossovers.) But even in those cases, it's hard to point to that work as being the sort of fanfiction known today. (This also limits you in terms of quality: working from the tropes found in lower-quality fanfiction ensures that your examples of prior works are going to be lower-quality themselves.)

No one has pointed out what is, IMHO, the worst part of the entire Guardian article: the final part where the journalist concludes that the author of _Fifty Shades_ isn't "really" an author as we know it and that a world of pure fanfiction is a world of cultural decay. _Fifty Shades_ may be a pretty bad story, and it may be working (somewhat) from known character tropes, but there's no good way of justifying this claim without claiming that every single cannonical tie-in novel is *also* not 'written' as we know. (Also not 'real' creative works: every single episode of a long-running TV series that isn't written by the producer and all comic book superhero stories written after the original team has left.)

And, I mean, tie-in novels may not usually be high art, but it's hard to argue that they haven't been 'written' as we know it.

(For that matter, how does one distinguish between fanfiction stories and other kinds of formulaic novels? Cheap historical romance novels, (*) so far as I've seen, have only a handful of plots tropes, and the list of acceptable character traits in the hero and heroine is so short that it's hard *not* to wind up with cases of interchangeable characters. Is stealing characters somehow different than stealing plots? (For that matter, are AU fanfictions suddenly 'real' works? What about fanfiction written in a setting but lacking any of the cannonical characters? What happens when I change the names but don't tell anyone?)

(*) I'm not proud of it, but they're like crack.

#54 ::: Pfusand ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2012, 01:15 PM:

Jo@14

And you can distribute it from the NESFA Press table in the Dealers' Room! (You are going to come by to autograph your books, aren't you?)

Ancient fanfic: I just watched two programs on the National Geographic channel, one about the Book of Judas, and one mentioning the Book of Mary Magdalene.

Did you know there are extant copies of over a hundred extra-Biblical gospels?

#55 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2012, 01:18 PM:

DBratman, #22: This is all starting to look very No True Scotsman to me. Every time someone provides a refutation of your argument, you twiddle the definitions in such a way as to exclude it while still being able to look down your nose at That Sort Of Fanfic(tm). SO not impressed. Also, one word: Wicked.

#56 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2012, 01:42 PM:

LMM @53: Yes, there was a lot of comic book fan fiction (some of it illustrated), at least in the late 60s and 70s. It's arguable that Superman started as comic book fanfic; certainly Siegal and Shuster published stories that featured a similar character in fanzines before the comic actually sold.

David McDaniel's one SF novel, The Arsenal Out of Time, was originally intended to be a Man from UNCLE novel, but the stfnal elements got away from him.

There's an argument that, now that it's gotten out into the professionally-published world (in that it's made the author serious money!), Fifty Shades of Gray no longer counts as fanfic. Which opens a whole other can of worms, doesn't it.

#57 ::: Russell Letson ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2012, 01:44 PM:

To (perhaps needlessly) extend Rob Hansen @ 36, Andrew M @ 40, Tom Whitmore @ 44:

I would think that the "fan" part of "fanfic" is the crucial one--and that the relationship(s) indicated by that label would be crucial in distinguishing between the material that most reasonably experienced and thoughtful observers would label as fanfic as distinct from entities such as professionally-produced sequels-not-by-the-long-dead originators; authorized continuations/extensions (viz. the Man-Kzin Wars "playground"); professionally-produced (and, where appropriate, authorized) homage volumes (Tales of the Dying Earth); recastings or retoolings of mythic/folkloric/traditional materials; use of pre-existing structural, subject-matter, or character-relation templates; adaptations to another format (film, opera, TV series, comic book); and others I'm too dull-witted to think of right now.

As I compiled that list of not-really-fanfic, the distinguishing quality I found myself looking for most often was professional/amateur--the "fan" part--on both the "by" and "for" ends of the transaction. The sociology of this category of production fits pretty comfortably into descriptions of folk and/or primitive and/or outsider art: it is strongly connected to the enjoyment of the maker and a like-minded audience; it depends heavily on received materials, on which it may work strange or surprising transformations (or merely copy them); and it is generally less polished or technically accomplished than those materials. The folk-process model is only a partial fit--writing The Further Adventures of Hero X in the Land We All Love to Revisit isn't quite the same as coming up with a new version of the Casey Jones or Frankie and Johnny or even working a pre-existing body of related tales into a single framework (Iliad, Le Morte Darthur).

A stray thought crosses my neurons: What exactly do we call those Universal Wolfman-Dracula-Frankenstein movies? They would seem to be the ancestor of the merging/crossing-over of comic-book superheroes (which goes back how far?) as well as Predator vs.Alien. Clearly legal ownership of constituent materials affects how fictional components are merged--but then there's what Phil Farmer spent a big chunk of his career doing, inspired by John Kendrick Bangs and the Baker Street Irregulars movements, among other things. (Side note: One of the first books I ever bought with my own money, c. 1956, was the John Dickson Carr/Adrian Conan Doyle Exploits of Sherlock Holmes.)

What's not available to an etymological or sociology-of-production approach is the non-literary sociology and history of what we might call modern fanfic, which I understand to go back to Star Trek slash fiction, which has a whole other set of motives in addition to those of simple extension of the experience of Fictional World X, and since I have no experience with that end of things beyond reading *about* it, I should probably stop right there. But if descriptions I've read are accurate, there are things going on there that explain the success of Fifty Shades of Grey.

#58 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2012, 01:51 PM:

Russell Letson @57: you're assuming that there's a clear distinction between fan and professional. In the SF world (and in comics, horror and other places!) that's not a safe assumption. In general, the professional writers want to write in other people's worlds primarily because they're fans of the work in the first place. Several people went from writing ST fanfic to writing official tie-in novels; is their earlier stuff then not fanfic, because now they're professionals? And they're still writing for the fans, just with an intermediary (the publisher) who's willing to pay to put the (much larger group of) paying fans together with the writer.

#59 ::: Russell Letson ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2012, 02:03 PM:

Tom @ 58--I understand that there's not a bright line, but despite the existence of, say, the pro-am constitution of the Lovecraft circle or various Sherlockian organizations or the farm-team nature of chunks of fannish writing culture, the fan-pro distinction has some broad usefulness, particularly in environments in which producers who are not operating as "professionals" can find an audience via, say, fanzines or websites or APAs or whatever.

Recently on a writers-workshop site my wife belongs to, one of the members insisted that "writer" only applies to those who make a living from their writing. All others, no matter how often or where published, are hobbyists who are supported by day jobs or spouses (or, I suppose, trust funds). I have to respect the fact that he was willing to apply this test to poets, which left a very, very short list of non-hobby-versifying practitioners, but he was still insisting on an unrealistic binary distinction.

#60 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2012, 02:17 PM:

Avram @31: Amadis of Gaul is an example of a specific character newly invented by a known author who was then appropriated by other people, well before the article's 18th-century dividing line. "Much of the fiction written throughout most of human history" fails the test of "newly invented by a known author".

#61 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2012, 02:34 PM:

Russell @59 -- there are quite a few professional writers out there, then -- and only a few professional writers of (acknowledged) fiction. My partner Karen says there is an inverse relation between how much one wants to write something and how much one gets paid for it. Writing speeches for CEOs: big money, little fun. Writing fiction: the reverse.

#62 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2012, 02:44 PM:

James Moar @ #52, not in MY microwave. (Also said about peeps jousting...)

#63 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2012, 03:40 PM:

Russell--Do you have any idea why your acquaintance wants to define "writer" so as to exclude almost everyone whose material is read for pleasure?

I could see if he was drawing a line around "professional," perhaps to encourage people to seek day jobs that bring in enough for them to live on, but this seems to be almost the opposite. If he convinces someone that his favorite novelist isn't a "writer" but the perosn who wrote the manual for his cell phone is, what does he gain?

#64 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2012, 03:46 PM:

Following up to myself (gnomes, I have fresh cherries):

I wonder how far your acquaintance would take that. There are commercial pilots flying commuter jets who collect food stamps; do those planes not have pilots?

I suspect he's making an exception for things that aren't generally accepted as "occupations" for filling out forms or answering questions from customs/immigration personnel, or most people never had a father, and the only lovers are sex workers.

#65 ::: Keith Edwards ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2012, 04:42 PM:

This is the same Ewan Morrison who claimed that self-publishing was a bubble, just like the 90s tech boom and housing bubble of the 00s, because of twitter. David Gaughran took this argument apart pretty handily. It appears Mr. Morrison and Reality divorced some time ago, and he has not quite gotten over loosing custody of the Facts.

#66 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2012, 05:44 PM:

Given my own peculiar academic biases, I naturally conceive of the term "fanfiction" as a cluster model, where it's inevitable that each person will draw the boundaries of the category differently, given that they prioritize and evaluate each of the clustering sub-models differently.

But while I concede that the feature "references a canonical work that has a specific, nameable author" plays a major part in the overall shape of the category, I'll still promote my favorite piece of proto-fanfic: the medieval Welsh "Dream of Rhonabwy". While the Arthurian material that it uses as canon doesn't follow the model of "specific, nameable author", I note the following characteristics of Rhonabwy:

* It is clearly self-consciously referencing the canonical material (indeed, in a tongue-in-cheek way).
* It includes real-person insertion (with a framing story that references actual historic figures contemporary with its composition).
* It is explicitly not part of an amorphous continuity of pre-literate storytelling, given that the closing boldly claims that it's not possible to know the story "without a book" due to the intricacy of the descriptions.
* It was composed by a specific, individual author. That we can't actually name the author is an accident of history, unfortunately.

And yet, in the end, I'd definitely classify it as "proto-" rather than "core" fanfic, because I do prioritize the characteristic that the original canon should "belong" to a specific author in some fashion for a story to be a good member of the category.

#67 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2012, 06:48 PM:

Mags @40: I am stonkered. Mostly on the "did she not let him READ the thing, then? Shouldn't he have told her that she needed to improve her dialogue?" Because, whatever anyone might have to say about the derivative nature of the work, the writing quality is the PITS.

Russell @57 and following: what about the Darkover anthologies, then? You could almost see those as author-supported fanzines that a publisher was willing to bet would sell. (And they did, and I still treasure a few.) MZB said in some of the introductory material that she considered some of the stories in there to be part of her canon, once she read them, because they felt right.

This process happens in close-knit fan communities, too, except we call it stuff like "fanon" or "headcanon accepted." Some of it's just about tropes, but sometimes it's as specific as "Archie Kennedy owns a silver-handled razor" or "That thing that happened in donnaimmaculata's story, set five years before mine? That happened, exactly the way she described it, and you can see some of its effects here."

Which reminds me of a thing that Steven Brust had in the liner notes to his album "A Rose for Iconoclastes." It was along the lines of "These are some of the verses we know. If you know others, send them in. If we like 'em, we'll start singing them, and we probably won't credit you. This is known as the folk process."

#68 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2012, 06:56 PM:

66
Or Culhwch and Olwen, with that long, long list of characters with their own stories implied by their descriptions.

#69 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2012, 07:05 PM:

Russell@59: My feeling is that when a standards lead one to say that Wallace Stevens, Gene Wolfe (when writing the Book of the New Sun), James Tiptree Jr. (when writing her first few published stories), and Cordwainer Smith (for most of his career) shouldn't be called "writers", then something's clearly gone awry.

#70 ::: chris ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2012, 07:51 PM:

I naturally conceive of the term "fanfiction" as a cluster model, where it's inevitable that each person will draw the boundaries of the category differently

Isn't that normal for categories? There are a few (usually abstract) whose definition is very well agreed on, like "odd number", but edge cases and disagreement about definitions are the norm.

#71 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2012, 09:30 PM:

Patrick has repeatedly pointed out that when we start arguing about the edge cases we lose out on talking about the core of the category. This is fine if we're doing science and nailing down the definition IS the goal of the conversation, but for me...that's not as often as all that.

#72 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2012, 09:54 PM:

It's a slight tangent (OK, maybe not a slight one) but I ran across some interesting thoughts on Why Mary Sue Happens here, and I thought I'd throw the link out here.

Then again, Dr. Doyle brought up the ur-text way up there in #3, so that Name of Power has already been invoked.

#73 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2012, 10:28 PM:

P J Evans @ #68

Exactly. The whole interconnected universe of the Mabinogion, with walk-on parts and allusions to Arthur, but not really about Arthur, is awfully close to Arthurian fanfic. And would we then regard Lloyd Alexander as writing second-hand fanfic? "munchings and crunchings". And would that make the pre-Raphaelites fan artists? The notion is a bit thin, in my mind.

Astounding published one piece of E.E. Smith fanfic that I recall, fwiw.

#74 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2012, 12:28 AM:

I had the evil corporate thought that My Show® and My Characters® would be Intellectual Property, so that not only could you not 'legally' write fanfic, but describing the characters and plots would also be illegal. No wikipedia descriptions allowed; you have to go to My Website® to read such background as we wish to provide. Licenses available to selected critics only.

#75 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2012, 12:53 AM:

Rob, you've been listening to the IOC.

#76 ::: Josh Berkus ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2012, 01:08 AM:

Just to throw one more category-muddler in there:

From the 17th through early 19th centuries, there was no such thing as international copyright. So anyone could swipe a published book in another country, translate it, publish it in their home country, and even file copyright on it (blocking the original author from publishing it in that country). This sort of thing went on all the time.

So, here's the muddle: if such a translated-without-permission book was printed without compensation, did that make it fanfic? What if the republisher modified and/or extended the work, maybe extensively? Ref. Baron Munchausen, the many unauthorized works about whom could be considered 18th-century fanfic, depending on your definition.

I will invoke The Platypus Law: any definition of "fanfic" anyone comes up with (on this thread or elsewhere) will inevitably fail to classify one or more works as fanfic or non-fanfic.

#77 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2012, 02:07 AM:

Josh Berkus @76 -- so fanfic definitions have Godelian incompleteness, and are either incomplete or self contradictory? And I didn't think they were complex enough to have a systemic equivalent of arithmetic!

#78 ::: Josh Berkus ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2012, 02:24 AM:

Tom @77:

Precisely!

And who says fanfic isn't complex?

#79 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2012, 07:37 AM:

Russell Letson @ #57: the John Dickson Carr/Adrian Conan Doyle Exploits of Sherlock Holmes

In the moment it took me to parse that correctly, it occurred to me that, in the circumstances, "exploit" may not have been the most felicitous word for them to have used.

#80 ::: Chris W. ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2012, 09:36 AM:

Josh Berkus @76:

I think that your platypus law is right with one amendment: any possible definition of "fanfic" will either inevitably fail to classify one or more works as fanfic or non-fanfic, or will clearly misclassify one or more works, or both.

So, for example I could say "any work of fiction which contains an appearance by a character created in a previously published work by another author is fan fiction." This would be unambiguous in classifying every work as either fan fiction or not fan fiction, at least if we could agree on unambiguous definitions of it's constituent parts like "appearance," "previously published," etc.

But it would also be unambiguously wrong in a significant number of cases. Just because a steampunk novel contains a one page cameo by Sherlock Holmes in an otherwise original story, doesn't make the whole thing a fanfic. And it's perfectly possible to write a Star Trek fanfic without Kirk, Spock or any other previously created character showing up.

So I think the real mathematical analog is the insolubility of the halting problem. Just like algorithms to determine whether a given program halts, it's possible create a definition that is always correct, but simply fails to give any clear answer for a certain subset of work, and it's possible to create a definition that always gives a clear answer, but sometimes that answer is wrong, but it's not possible to create a definition that always gives a clear answer and that answer is always right.

#81 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2012, 11:51 AM:

@ Chris W To give a concrete example, does Cyrano count as fanfic?

"A MUSKETEER:
[advancing to CYRANO with outstretched hand] Sir, permit me to say that you are a fine swordsman—and I am a good judge of such things. I stamped my feet to show my admiration!

[He goes away.]

CYRANO:
[to CUIGY] Who is that gentleman?

CUIGY:
Why, that's D'Artagnan!"

http://www.enotes.com/cyrano-de-text/act-i-scene-iv

#82 ::: Russell Letson ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2012, 01:19 PM:

The squirming thoughts exceed the squamous mind,
If one may say so.

#83 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2012, 01:25 PM:

In re the Platypus Principle, the only real differences between Fifty Shades of Grey and Bujold's Shards of Honor is that there is a huge craze for the source material FSoG was ficced from (before serial numbers were buffed out, characters renamed, etc) ... and that, in my opinion, Bujold's is better written and more entertaining. But Shards of Honor is openly admitted by Bujold to have been initially written as a Kirk/Spock work, before she later decided she had her own planets and storylines she wanted to use (the initial prompting that set her down that road was, "Wait, what if my Kirk was a woman?").

So if FSoG is an --insert-noun--, so is Shards.

It remains to be seen whether FSoG's author's world and ideas are deep and broad enough to lead to sequels, fandoms of its own, and/or fanac in its 'verse.

#84 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2012, 01:27 PM:

However, to me, the interesting question in this thread is not "What is/isn't/sort of is fanfic?" but "So what?"

What does it mean that some fiction is generated by letting an author's mind play in a different author's mud puddle? Sturgeon's Law aside, of course, as that applies to both original works and derivative ones.

#85 ::: Chris W. ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2012, 02:25 PM:

Re: FSoG vs. Shards of Honor

I think one of the things that makes this tricky is the fact that fictional characters don't only exist on the page or in their author's minds. The author depicts the character a certain way with certain words or images or sounds, but the final yard of converting those words or images or sounds into a living idea of a character happens in the audience member's head and is mediated by their experiences and knowledge. If I write "the great detective, Sherlock Holmes, walked into the room," you, as the reader, get a very different mental image than if I write "the great detective, John Doe, walked into the room." I all probability the first sentence is much more evocative, because I'm trading off of over a century of people portraying Sherlock Holmes.

So people talk about fanfic writers who convert their stories into non-fan fiction as "buffing off the serial numbers" as if this were a trivial thing. And from the writer's point of view, it is a relatively trivial thing to do a find and replace for "Capt. Kirk" to "Capt. Naismith." (Not that I'm meaning to imply that Bujold's conversion of Shards of Honor was as crude as that.) But in terms of the effect on the reader the difference is huge. Huge enough that I'm actually pretty comfortable with saying that if you take a fanfic and do nothing but change all the names that were lifted from the original what you now have may be derivative, but it has ceased to be fanfic in some important way.

#86 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2012, 02:26 PM:

chris @ 70

Well I certainly think it's a normal way to view categories, but (as vaguely referenced in my post) I come out of the Berkeleyan Cognitive Linguistics tradition. I'm used to there being people around me who insist that everything can be defined by necessary and sufficient conditions and that if two people's categorizations are different, then at least one of them is simply wrong.

P J @ 68, Henry @ 73

Culhwch & Olwen wouldn't fit in my definition of "Arthurian proto-fanfic" because ... well, it isn't commenting on the Matter of Britain, it's swimming in it. The list of offhand references to other stories is a not uncommon trope in early Celtic literature (there are a lot of offhand references to onomastic origin stories scattered throughout the corpus). C&O is simply a rather extreme example of a story incorporating a shorthand index of other stories that the audience either was expected to know or might be interested in asking for.

Neither C&O or the Mabinogi clearly fall in the category of "authored texts" (although the impression is skewed by the very narrow and connected set of surviving variants), which is another feature I consider important for fanfic. And like C&O, the Mabinogi's Arthurian references don't have the feel of a later appropriation of existing characters and motifs. In fact, there are good arguments that the Arthurian parts of the Mabinogi are later insertions into pre-Arthurian tales. (Certainly they're pre-Galfridian. Beyond that much depends on whether one buys into a "pre-Arthurian Arthur". But I digress.)

It keeps getting back to what the characteristics of "core" and "extended" fanfic definitions are. (Which would be a rather enjoyable exercise to develop.) While re-use of existing characters (or at least settings) is certainly essential, I think you have to get into issues of self-conscious appropriation and concepts of authorship when you start differentiating fanfic from ordinary genre writing.

#87 ::: Andreia Blue ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2012, 02:42 PM:

My preference would be for a definition of fanfic that centered on what was unique about the experience of reading it. I'd say its distinguishing quality is an attitude of fannish enthusiasm towards the source material; the story was written because the source material is meaningful, or at least fun, to its writer. I'd call David A Kyle's Lensmen stories fanfic even though formally they were authorized spinoffs, published professionally.

And then there's the case of the Cthulhu Mythos. I don't know the details, but I'm sure Cthulhu stories that were fanfic by any definition (unauthorized, fan-published) appeared very early. That's where I'd look for the first fanfic in the SF world.

#88 ::: Andrew M ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2012, 02:52 PM:

Elliott Mason@83: Strictly speaking, I think what Bujold says is that she first conceived SoH as Star Trek fanfic, not that she wrote it as such - she had already moved it to her own world by the time she started writing it down.

Chris W@85: I think what effect the blanking out of names has is going to depend on what else is changed. FSoG started out as Alternate Universe fanfic, which had already changed the settings, so that the only thing it had to link it with the original is the characters' names (and hopefully their characterisations) - and hence, once the names were changed, it had no link to the source except vaguely 'inspired by'. If the male lead were a sparkly vampire who attends high school in the northwestern US, I think it still would be fanfic, even if he were called Grey and not Cullen. I think Psychohistorical Crisis and Dennis Mckiernan's whatchemacallit series probably should be counted as fanfic, because their relation to the originals is obvious, even though they have no names in common. Bujold probably had to do quite a lot to break the link with Star Trek, because it has such a distinctive world. (It's easier, of course, to file the numbers off if the story is set in a more generic world, as perhaps that of some cop shows, or whatever.)

#89 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2012, 03:17 PM:

I come out of the Berkeleyan Cognitive Linguistics tradition. I'm used to there being people around me who insist that everything can be defined by necessary and sufficient conditions and that if two people's categorizations are different, then at least one of them is simply wrong.

There are linguists who believe that? I'm stunned. So which language has the "correct" categories of colors, for example? In their view, I mean.

#90 ::: LMM ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2012, 03:19 PM:

@87: My preference would be for a definition of fanfic that centered on what was unique about the experience of reading it. I'd say its distinguishing quality is an attitude of fannish enthusiasm towards the source material; the story was written because the source material is meaningful, or at least fun, to its writer

I'm still not comfortable with that, either -- I've written an "everyone's stupid and everyone dies" 'anti'-fanfic (FWIW, Wheel of Time, between WH and KoD; it was a present for a friend). More marginally, Fred Clark's read-through of the _Left Behind_ series has prompted a series of fics and drabbles, both in the LB universe and in variants thereof, though none of the writers have much respect for the setting. Hell, my sister and I composed a _Speed_ drabble one night, even though neither of us had anything more than a passing interest in the movie. I think the commonality of all of these is just that the cannon is *there*.

And -- are *rewrites* fanfiction, then? _Mists of Avalon_ and _Once and Future King_ don't appeal to source texts, I suppose. But recasting -- and rewriting -- Shakespeare with the cast (and lines) from more recent works of fiction or vice versa seems to be a playwriting staple. I'm hesitant to call them fanfiction -- they seem to be their own thing, even if they could technically be seen as crossovers -- but they come close.

"Fanfiction" does carry with it the implication of a hierarchical relationship, which may be one limiting factor here. If we went with "Inspired Works" we might draw from a broader collection.

#91 ::: LizardBreath ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2012, 03:59 PM:

Huge enough that I'm actually pretty comfortable with saying that if you take a fanfic and do nothing but change all the names that were lifted from the original what you now have may be derivative, but it has ceased to be fanfic in some important way.

Depends. My first encounter with fanfic was a story a friend wrote (back in the early 90s) and showed me, about an immortal and mischieviously benevolent time/space traveller. After reading it I asked if it had originally been written about Dr. Who, and it had been -- changing the names and repainting the TARDIS weren't enough to make it not about Dr. Who. But you're right that if it's altered enough that the reader doesn't bring the source fiction with them into the story, that makes it very different from fanfic, whatever the writer was thinking.

#92 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2012, 04:07 PM:

LizardBreath @91: I could name five or six series of published fantasy novels that grew out of characters, situations, plots, etc, that arose in a roleplaying game and the author's player-characters in said game, which feels similar to me.

In order to publish, proper nouns must be changed and some game mechanics (as it were -- rulesets on how powers work, etc) either must be or are desired to be changed (because the author's new 'verse can work differently in a way that fixes something the author didn't like or doesn't want to use). But a lot of them, I can still tell, reading the novel with no pre-knowledge of the author's past, which RPG they were playing when they started telling this story.

#93 ::: LMM ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2012, 04:28 PM:

@92: Or, on a larger scale, there's the White Wolf lawsuit over the _Underworld_ film.

#94 ::: Russell Letson ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2012, 04:38 PM:

I'm not familiar with the Bujold/Trek example, but I would say that if she started with a Trek slash idea but decided to implement it in her own fictional environment, the final product is not fanfic, any more than Hamlet is Saxo Grammaticus or Seneca fanfic. At that level, what is being operated is the machinery of genre, and working in it requires moving up an abstraction level from particular examples to their governing templates/formulas.

Another way of seeing some of this is as working in a tradition--which in pre-modern times could mean not just writing within a form (sonnet, chivalric romance, Menippean satire) but reworking a body of material--of content. The notions of ownership of artistic content/creations has changed some of the ways we see these activities, particularly when the particulars are characters or imaginary settings. And with the modern notion of intellectual property, we distinguish among and between all kinds of re-uses of narrative/characterological particulars: authorized continuations, adaptations, franchises, and the rest of the flora of the walled garden.

One problem with defining "fanfic" is that it is not a term that arises from or has been retrofitted to operate in a technical critical or rhetorical vocabulary. Instead it arose to describe the products of a particular kind of audience-participation activity, and just about all the "isn't X really fanfic" comments I've ever seen are rooted in attempts to make "fanfic" as solid a term of art as "sonnet" or "anadiplosis," generally by applying some aspect of it to historical situations that are quite unlike the one that generated the modern term. Discussions of fanfic that extend beyond the term's first use need to tread lightly, because there are things we have words for that we don't have things for.

Yrs in Aristotelian equipose,
R.

#95 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2012, 04:50 PM:

Elliott Mason @83: Shards of Honor is openly admitted by Bujold to have been initially written as a Kirk/Spock work

Do you have a cite? I think I've seen Bujold specifically disclaim this assertion, with some vehemence. But, of course, I can't find the reference....

#96 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2012, 06:03 PM:

I too have heard that Shards of Honor started life as Trek fanfic. I don't think it can have been K/S, though: to me, Trekverse!Aral Vorkosigan is obviously a Klingon.

#97 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2012, 06:07 PM:

Cordelia and Aral aren't really all that much like Kirk and Spock. The Vor certainly aren't Vulcans.

#98 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2012, 06:22 PM:

You can see how the Betan attitude toward Barrayaran Vor resembles the Federation (TOS) attitude toward Klingons, though.

#99 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2012, 06:58 PM:

Xopher @ 89

I worded that rather confusingly. _Because_ I come out of the Berkeley Cog Ling tradition, I don't believe in the primacy of "classical categories".** But because that academic background is still considered a bit "fringe", I'm used to interacting with people who _do_ believe in the primacy of classical categories.

**Actually, this is a false statement of cause & effect. In the context of Cog Ling, I discovered that I'd already independently invented many of the concepts of the field and embraced it as a long-awaited lover.

#100 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2012, 07:35 PM:

Jacque @95, David Goldfarb @96: Published in Dreamweaver's Dilemma in the essay "Through Darkest Adolescence with Lois McMaster Bujold or Thank You, But I Already Have a Life" by Lillian Stewart Carr --

----

"One evening, as my infant son— who was born on a Friday the thirteenth— crawled over our feet, Lois told me of a story she’d been toying with: a Klingon officer and a red-headed Federation scientist (the latest in a long line of red-headed heroines) are stranded together on a planet resembling the African plains which Lois had recently toured…

The years passed. Lois, too, gave birth to a son on a Friday the thirteenth. Then, one summer, soon after I’d made my first professional sale— proving that it was, amazingly, possible— she arrived at my house with the manuscript of her first novel. We sat until the wee hours of the morning crossing its ts and dotting its is. Like a medieval alchemist she’d taken her germ of an idea, mixed in Ignatius Loyola, Winston Churchill, and Dumas’s musketeer Athos (as portrayed by Oliver Reed in the 1972 movie) decanted Aral Vorkosigan.

He and Cordelia Naismith trudged off across that alien plain and never looked back."

------

Hardly definitive, but at least according to the recollections of one of Bujold's childhood (adolescent-hood?) friends, and as published in a Bujold anthology, Shards had as its creative spark a piece of Trek fanfic.

Cassy

#101 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2012, 07:37 PM:

Heather: That's very reassuring. Thank you for clarifying; I was unpleasantly confused by what I thought you meant.

#102 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2012, 08:42 PM:

Elliott at # 92: I could name five or six series of published fantasy novels that grew out of characters, situations, plots, etc, that arose in a roleplaying game and the author's player-characters in said game

Dork Tower from June 18 onward applies this idea to a much earlier fantasy series.

#103 ::: DBratman ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2012, 10:46 PM:

Rikibeth @33: The reason my post doesn't parse onto your perception is because we're talking about two different distinctions. You're discussing aesthetic distinctions within what's generally known as fanfic, while I'm discussing definitional differences between that fanfic and a) other different things also known as fanfic (see Rob Hansen @36) b) things that are not fanfic at all, but are often conflated with it (see me @7).

Sika 35: Sorry if the phrase "that sort of fanfic" gives you the vapors. I'm just trying to use it as a shorthand for not repeating the definition from PNH's original post that I quoted @7, because the word "fanfic" can be used in many different and distinctive ways.

Lee @55: Oh, that's really unfair. I'm not modifying a definition, only expounding on it. I gave my definition in @7, quoting PNH's original post, long before the comments came up, and I'm sticking with it. It was, "amateur fiction written with-or-in some professionally-published author’s characters or universe." Tolclones don't actually use Tolkien's characters or universe, so by that definition they aren't fanfic. See me @10.

Wicked? That's as close to fanfic as the Gone With the Wind sequel that TNH offered @9, and I responded to that @10.

#104 ::: Tony ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2012, 10:58 PM:

@LNM #53: "Was there *comic book* fanfiction written back in the day?"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tijuana_bibles

#105 ::: Doug Burbidge ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2012, 11:00 PM:

@102: and for the reverse of that concept: DM of the Rings.


#106 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2012, 02:06 AM:

Hm. So, as I parse your argument, "out of copyright" and "author long dead" are your distinguishing criteria for when it's permissible to use another author's characters in your own work, in examples like the Gone With the Wind sequel, Wicked, and perhaps Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea.

You also say you feel that the "copyright protection" standard shouldn't necessarily be applied in the current highly-extended form developed at the behest of those profiting from a certain cartoon mouse.

How long a standard do you want? Because under some iterations of copyright law, the Hornblower books written by Forester would be public domain by now.

And if that were the case, would it be sensible to draw a distinction between unauthorized stories written using only the book version of the Hornblower saga and the same sorts of stories incorporating details from the still-under-copyright television adaptation?

Because that distinction seems awfully arbitrary to me.

#107 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2012, 02:17 AM:

#105 ::: Doug Burbidge :

Thanks. That's hilarious.

#108 ::: Josh Berkus ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2012, 02:35 AM:

Russell @94:

just about all the "isn't X really fanfic" comments I've ever seen are rooted in attempts to make "fanfic" as solid a term of art as "sonnet" or "anadiplosis," generally by applying some aspect of it to historical situations that are quite unlike the one that generated the modern term.

Part of this discussion arose out of the question (inspired by the referenced poorly-researched article) as to what the first fanfic was. In order to determine "first", you need to go back in time to the point where you can definitively that nothing before that point qualified as fanfic, and that requires a definition of fanfic vs. non-fanfic which is historically applicable. This is clearly quite impossible, but it's fun to try.

For example, there's the question of whether there's a distinction between works which arose out of a literary or cultural tradition, and works which are fanfic. e.g. can we define the Aenid as non-fanfic and "Another Scandal in Bohemia" as fanfic?

The distinction between "fanfic" and "tradition" is quite indistinct in corner cases and possibly completely invisible, however. For example, imagine that I had never read Arthur Conan Doyle. However, I had seen the Sherlock movies and the new BBC show, and I had read various post-Doyle Sherlock stories by other authors. Now imagine that I write a story featuring Sherlock. In what way is my creative activity different from anyone writing King Arthur stories in the High Middle Ages, or writing about the Olympians in the Roman Empire?

It seems to me that the only difference between "fanfic" and "drawing on a tradition" is that in the first case the original author is known, but in the second case he or she is not. Discuss.

P.S. Howdy Heather!

#109 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2012, 03:40 AM:

Nancy@107: If you like that, try Darths & Droids.

#110 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2012, 03:55 AM:

Copyright is a red herring here. A lot of published material is worthless after a decade.

A better question may be whether the original work is still active. Are people reading it, or watching it. Is it still a live part of the milieu?

In the modern world, that means it is likely to still be copyright-protected. But it also suggests that something such as Pride and Prejudice With Zombies or Death Comes to Pemberley can be considered as fan-fiction. Are such books of that sort?

Nevertheless, without that active life of the original, fan-fiction would not come into existence. There wouldn't be the people to read it, and there wouldn't be the people engaged enough with the original to play with it.

Yes, play with it, perhaps in a more technical sense than we realise. Fan-fiction is not unlike the child playing with a toy kitchen or set of carpenters tools. It's an exploration of a world, less constrained by pragmatic realities. We know how the network constrained the original Star Trek writers, as the hot stoves and sharp knives of a kitchen constrain a cook. But the concept, and the atmosphere of the time, left us with the feel that there was a whole universe to explore. Star Trek was always about going to look over the next hill, rather then staying at the Ponderosa and dealing with what came to you.

Am I making Star Trek sound too much like the sole trigger for all this? Perhaps so, but it is such a good example. And another key point: Star Trek did not need research in the way that many other possible inspirations did. What you say on the TV Screen was everything. Fan-fic M*A*S*H and you have to go learn something about the Korean War. Today people fan-fic TV about the Vietnam War, and there are historical-summary sites on the web for them.

Star Trek was something that was there, which was built around exploring new worlds, just as the cosy certainties of mass entertainment were showing cracks. Kirk kisses Uhura and society doesn't collapse. What else might Kirk do?

All it seems, has been revealed.

#111 ::: DBratman ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2012, 04:38 AM:

Rikibeth @106: Your first two paragraphs do read me correctly.

I'm not as concerned with exactly what the limit should be than that there should be one. Dave Bell @110 makes an argument for a limit defined on a totally different basis than copyright, and maybe that would be better. I don't know.

Your concern over arbitrariness is a legitimate one, but I don't see how to avoid it. Distinctions between fan fiction and "fan fiction with the serial numbers filed off," i.e. changing the names and a few details - there have been plenty of Star Trek novels of that kind, and at least one infamous Lord of the Rings clone - are ultimately arbitrary too. Copyright itself is arbitrary. One day a work is under copyright, the next day it expires.

The first Hornblower novel was published 75 years ago, and the author has been dead for some 45 years. By the pre-Mouse international copyright standards (the old US ones, which allowed I think for 47 years from publication, were too short), Hornblower ought to be entering public domain around now, and that feels appropriate to me.

As for basing on the book vs. tv series, again I see no way around it. Using a tv adaptation in place of fan fiction, and two editions of the book in place of your example of a book/tv series distinction: The Rankin-Bass Return of the King tv movie, which they had no legal authorization to make, they claimed was based on the first edition of the book, rather than the more common second edition, and the first edition was claimed to be out of copyright. (A court decision later declared that was not so, but the question was still open at the time.) There's no way to tell which edition Rankin-Bass actually used, but they got away with it.

#112 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2012, 08:01 AM:

DBratman @111:

I think, given your elaboration and clarification, that we fundamentally disagree where to draw the line on adaptation vs. fanfic. Because, in a practical sense, the only difference I can see between the TV Hornblower movies' invention of Archie Kennedy and their expanded characterization of Major Edrington, and fanfiction that then goes on to invent family backstory for those two characters, giving them named cousins and siblings and describing their childhood homes, is that the TV scriptwriters got paid for it.

#113 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2012, 08:58 AM:

DBratman @111 & Rikibeth @112--one distinction to be drawn between such beasts as the TV adaptations of the Hornblower books and not-for-profit excursions is that we know, in the latter case, that these are done out of a fascinated enthusiasm for the material, and that may or may not be the case in the former instance. It's likely that someone on the project feels some love for the material, which is why they've chosen it over any of the other possibilities out there, but there's no guarantee that everyone working on it will have that as a greater motivation than getting paid for turning in a workmanlike product.

I think the place to look for your distinction lies in that fascinated enthusiasm.

#114 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2012, 09:05 AM:

Also, I love you all a great deal and I feel badly for mentioning this, and I don't know if it comes up often enough here for it to be addded to the spelling reference, but "cannon" is a military term and "canon" is a literary one. I realize that if you have difficulty keeping spellings straight this isn't going to help and I'm being an annoying twerp, but I had to scratch that itch. I'm sorry.

#115 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2012, 09:10 AM:

When Cory Doctorow's upcoming book PIRATE CINEMA comes out, there will be a whole bunch of relevant passages to quote here. Basically, he's doing with fanvids (and the culture around them) what he did in LITTLE BROTHER with surveillance (and the politics around it).

#116 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2012, 09:24 AM:

fidelio @#114: I don't honestly remember if I came up with this on my own or if I read it somewhere, but here:

One N canon, that's official;
Two N cannon fires a missile;
But I've never seen, nor do I plan on
Seeing any Three N cannnon.
(With apologies...)

#117 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2012, 09:29 AM:

Carrie S @116: I am reduced to this:

#118 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2012, 09:35 AM:

fidelio @113: I suspect that the presence or absence of that fascinated love for the source material has a lot to do with whether a paid adaptation succeeds or flops. For all that one can argue about the changes and artistic decisions that Peter Jackson made in the LotR movies - that love is in every frame, and it's undeniable. And fans responded to that.

It might be pretentious of me to say I can detect that difference in Austen-film-adaptations-I-love vs. those I hate. That may be more a case of whether my own tastes mesh with those of a specific creative team. But, from where I'm sitting, some versions feel like the work of people who love Austen and want to bring out the best qualities of her novels, and some feel like the product of people who've realized that Costume Drama Sells.

I'm probably going out on a limb with the Austen stuff, but mostly what I'm saying is, I like your idea!

#119 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2012, 10:02 AM:

Gamol-leac.

Actually, I'm not sure whether this is technically fanfic or not, but I'm including it because its funny.

#120 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2012, 10:42 AM:

Nancy: I don't care what it's called, that's freaking hilarious and I wish I'd written it.

#121 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2012, 10:43 AM:

Gamol-leac is great fun. So is Carrie's poem in 116.

*resists falling back into the delightful time-eating cave system that is Archive Of Our Own*

*fails saving throw*

Mmm. Transformative fanworks.

#122 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2012, 10:46 AM:

The way Moffatt and Gatiss talk about making Sherlock, you can see that for them, what they're doing is fanfic. They're playing with characters and concepts they love beyond reason. I think that may be part of why it resonates so strongly with the fan community and has such an amazing/insane fandom.

(and may be why it's spawned a heck of a lot of fanfic and fanart of its own)

#123 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2012, 10:55 AM:

I'm impressed by the search system in fanfic-- if you know what you want, there are efficient ways of finding it.

Has fanfic (as a culture) done anything to crack the problem of "show me something wonderful that I didn't know I wanted"?

#124 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2012, 11:21 AM:

Nancy @ #123, recs pages?

I often browse the favorites of people who have favorited my stuff, as a 'similar tastes' filter. Ditto the favorites of authors I like.

#125 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2012, 11:36 AM:

Nancy @123: My daughter (who is on AO3; I am not) will sometimes post in her tumblr something like, "I need fanfic about ________," where the blank is a particular character or a relationship or a particular feeling that she is looking for.

Seems to work, especially when she is nibbling around the edges of a new obsession/fandom.

#126 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2012, 01:03 PM:

@Nancy no. 123: You might also stumble across something you didn't know you wanted by browsing a kinkmeme, a journal where people can anonymously request fanfic with a particular theme, plot, character interaction, etc. As the name suggests, kinkmemes were originally a way to generate erotica that readers couldn't find and were embarrassed to request under their own names, but the meme mod will generally accept gen requests as well. Browsing a kinkmeme can be as much surprising fun as browsing the New Releases section at the library. It can also be a bit of a shock. (I did not know people did that. I seriously did not know people did that.) To find one, search on the name of the character or fandom and either kinkmeme or fic requests depending on who may be looking over your shoulder.

#127 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2012, 01:05 PM:

Rikibeth @118--I'm glad it works for you. It's been said before in various ways, by our hostess among others, that fanfic is an effort to scratch an itch. I think that if you don't care about the material to the point where you are obsessed by the desire for more--action, answers, what have you--you aren't feeling that itch.

It's just that some people have a license for their fics and others don't.

#128 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2012, 01:08 PM:

Jenny Islander @126: it's also interesting to browse kinkmemes as a writer, and find yourself going "huh. I hadn't thought of that, but I could TOTALLY write it." It's a pleasant feeling, to be able to give someone the story they wanted.

#129 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2012, 03:06 PM:

fidelio, I avoided succumbing to that very temptation more through laziness than strength of will.

#130 ::: Howard Bannister ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2012, 03:41 PM:

Fanfiction... my first love. *sigh*

Melissa Singer@122: Yes, that. They touch on old favorites and play with them in that very fan-fictiony 'what-if' way. (that and they make them so very good most the time) (PS: Benedict Cumberbatch--which explains everything) (PPS: Martin Freeman--which explains everything else)

#132 ::: DBratman ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2012, 06:33 PM:

Rikibeth: I can think of a few more differences. One is that it's a script adaptation of an existing story, whatever differences were made to it. That's something fanfic rarely, though not never, does. I think we have to draw a distinction between "does some of the same things X does" and "indistinguishable from X".

Another difference is that it is (I presume) authorized. This is not strictly a definitional difference over whether it's fanfic or not, because some authors give their blessing to fanfic based on their work (MZB was one), but it is relevant to the definitional question in this way: that whenever authors who strongly disapprove of fanfic of their work announce their disapproval, fanfic gets defended on the grounds of its distinguished pedigree, and that pedigree includes lots of things that aren't fanfic at all, for instance Shakespeare's adaptations of Holinshead, which are closer to plagiarism and which are about people who were not, in the end, Holinshead's original characters.

But I sympathize with your point on an aesthetic level, and here's where I have to interject that your opinion that Peter Jackson's love for The Lord of the Rings shines through is not universally shared, and in fact is categorically denied by most of the Tolkien scholars I know (and I know all the top names in the field). A minority of them hold that he managed to make a good and respectful movie on balance anyway, or that at least its bringing readers to the book excuses its lapses; but most won't even grant that much. They're not the only people who love Tolkien, but perhaps they can be said to understand Tolkien's own work a little better than J. Random Reader.

The objection is not to the extent of the changes so much as their character, and the reasons for making them. Jackson seems to relish orcs but merely tolerate elves, whereas for Tolkien it was entirely the other way around (Tolkien's elvish scenes shimmer with beauty, while his orcs are little better than caricatures, while Jackson's elves are rather lame). That's a huge aesthetic difference there. The other is various character changes, particularly but not only in Aragorn and Faramir, which Jackson and his co-authors made - and they say this very clearly in the commentary - because they did not understand why Tolkien's characters behaved as they did. To consider with understanding and then change is one thing, but to change because the book baffled you is quite another. (These are just summary: I'm sparing much detail and examples.)

Jackson may think he loves LOTR, but his love is like that of a man who keeps giving the woman he loves presents that she hates, because he thinks they're what she ought to want. If he misunderstands her so badly, can he be said to love her at all, and not just a false image of her in his head?

Getting to the point about fanfic, though, I felt an additional frustration at scenes like Pippin and Merry being scamps at Bilbo's party. In one sense it's a reasonable addition; it's likely they did do things like that at that age, and such a speculative addition is, as a concept, worthy of the best fanfic. The problem is that the actual scene is written like rather bad fanfic. If it actually were fanfic, in some xeroxed zine or buried in some giant web archive, it would amuse inoffensively and then be forgotten. But enshrined in the definitive movie adaptation, backed by millions in production and promotion, it grates rather more, do you see?

#133 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2012, 07:26 PM:

I'm not agreeing with everything DBratman has been saying here, but

Jackson may think he loves LOTR, but his love is like that of a man who keeps giving the woman he loves presents that she hates, because he thinks they're what she ought to want. If he misunderstands her so badly, can he be said to love her at all, and not just a false image of her in his head?
So, so this.

#134 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2012, 08:09 PM:

elise@41:
Thanks for mentioning "Dori Bangs".

It may not be directly relevant to the topic, but I am not ashamed to say that story always brings me to tears, though I knew neither of them. I think it's shaped how I feel when I reread Dori's work, too.

#135 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2012, 09:21 PM:

Avram at 131 etc.:

The one-n canon, that's an ordinance
The two-n cannon, that's an ordnance

#136 ::: LMM ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2012, 09:38 PM:

Hm. I was going to reply to DBratman, but I think I might propose a generalized approach here.

Defining fanfiction in such a way as to *not* eliminate things which are clearly fanfiction seems to be difficult.

I would propose an alternative approach, which is attempting to define things that are *not* fanfiction.

Clearly not fanfiction: Original works. Original settings, original characters. Put these aside.

Non-fanfiction works that *don't* deal with completely original settings and characters are, I would argue, those that draw from a continuity of tradition.

This clearly rules out the Aenid, which is (in part) a recording of some of the legends that had *already* been in existence at the time. Much of the Arthur mythos (etc.) seems to also be ruled out or placed in the fuzzy category of proto-fanfiction. (One can begin to point to fanfiction-like tropes, perhaps -- e.g. clear crossovers between separate hero legends, *clearly* less well-written works drawing from characters in pre-existing, better written texts -- but they cannot be pointed to as fanfiction.)

Also not fanfiction: Works *clearly* written under the supervision or under the very clear guidance of the original author. (The final three WoT novels? Not fanfiction.)

From the above: Works *clearly* written by a continuous lineage of writers descended from the original team. (Modern comic book series are also safe, as are soap operas.)

Also from the above: Works written *explicitly* from a prior story which was not fanfiction. (_The Dark Knight Rises_ is not fanfiction.)

But here's where we start getting fuzzy:

Star Trek fan videos: fanfiction, by all definitions. Star Trek: Phase II: fanfiction, despite containing (apparently) a variety of people from assorted points in the official series. (But assorted.)

Wasteland II: Decades later, different studio, same creative team. Not fanfiction.

Cases where the company fires everyone and hires an entirely new crowd to make a sequel that's completely different than the original (come on, someone, give me an example): Not fanfiction?

The Sherlock Holmes series? When working from a source text, probably not fanfiction. (Non-continuous tradition, adaptation of canon.) If the episode *isn't* based upon a story from canon, then ... fanfiction? If working from a source text but with interpolated scenes clearly implied by the text, not fanfiction (?). When introducing a new subplot into a script which is *primarily* canon? Fuzzy.

Still not sure this gets at the edge cases well, but I think it may be the only justifiable distinction between fanfiction and non-fanfiction.

#137 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2012, 09:39 PM:

Avram: Ah, thank you! That bit of poetry has been floating around in my head for a couple of years now, and it had gotten to the point that I couldn't tell where I'd gotten it. It's a bit witty for my usual run of creativity. :) Now I can attribute it properly.

#138 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2012, 10:02 PM:

Elise at 121:
the tag clouds on that site are phenomenal.
You see things like alternate universe angst and criminals crossdressing.

#139 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2012, 10:45 PM:

Erik Nelson @135, yeah, but:

A three-n cannnon, I'll say in advance,
You'll not find in any concordinance.

#140 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2012, 12:03 AM:

Does the proportion of repurposed material matter? The Name of the Rose seems like a marginal case, while Anno Dracula doesn't.

#141 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2012, 04:18 AM:

DBratman @132

There are distortions in Jackson's Fellowship of the Ring which I can understand, such as the removal of Glorfindel. Putting Arwen on that horse does change her character, and in the following two movies makes you wonder why she is so passive. You can argue that she seems too passive in the books, grand-daughter of Galadriel and all, but Tolkien doesn't show us very much of what might be called the Elven politics.

The thing is, Glorfindel is a use-once character in the books. What was he doing in the War of the Ring. It's Arwen who ties Rivendell to the ending.

Anyway, as film that sequence works. It evokes the numerous daring young ladies on horses that pervaded fiction from children up until the early Sixties, at least.

That film holds together. It is, after all, a linear plot with a clear dramatic climax. The later films, things start to unravel. There are any number of great filmic scenes, but some of them come across as lifted from some lesser fantasy epic.

Too often, you expect to see Yul Brynner walk on and say something about courage before leaping onto a horse and heading for the nearest chasm.


#142 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2012, 11:23 AM:

I've been pondering for a while now why it is that I find myself so put off by D.Bratman's comments in #132, specifically these: But I sympathize with your point on an aesthetic level, and here's where I have to interject that your opinion that Peter Jackson's love for The Lord of the Rings shines through is not universally shared, and in fact is categorically denied by most of the Tolkien scholars I know (and I know all the top names in the field). A minority of them hold that he managed to make a good and respectful movie on balance anyway, or that at least its bringing readers to the book excuses its lapses; but most won't even grant that much. They're not the only people who love Tolkien, but perhaps they can be said to understand Tolkien's own work a little better than J. Random Reader.

Upon reflection, I've concluded that my hackles rise upon contemplation of that statement because it transforms literature into a variety of religion, and makes the scholars and critics into its priests, and that is not what either literature or scholarship is for.

I'm also offended by the idea that any person or group of people can tell another person or group of people how they should interact with a work of art. Speaking as a writer, I'll take the genuine, unmediated response of a naive reader over any dozen scholarly interpretations; I'm writing for the people who will read my work, not the (at this point purely hypothetical, granted) scholars who will make their reputations studying it.

Shorter version: I'm quite willing to believe, on the evidence of the movies themselves, that Peter Jackson loves LOTR. That he doesn't love it the way that the Tolkien scholars think he ought to is their tough luck and not his.

#143 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2012, 12:01 PM:

#142 ::: Debra Doyle :

There's also the problem of deducing an author's mental states from their work. It's very tempting, but not particularly reliable.

I value naive reading a lot myself, not that I'm exactly capable of it any more. Still, the first emotional pass through a book counts for something, even if there's apt to be theories running through my mind.

#144 ::: DBratman ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2012, 12:17 PM:

I took the greatest pains at my disposal to avoid phrasing the third paragraph of @132 as an Argument from Authority, but apparently it didn't work. Doyle @142 is quite correct, it is our tough luck. But we retain the right to dislike that, and to say so out loud. It raises my hackles to have to point out that scholars are readers too, and they study Tolkien because they love his work, and their love is worth just as much as that of any "naive reader". (Spurn not the nobly-born with love affected ...) And if Doyle doesn't like that, she should talk with Jo Walton, who is not a Tolkien scholar in the formal sense but who has expressed bitterness at Tolkien's fate more openly than any of the Tolkien scholars I'm thinking of, who have mostly retained their counsel privately.

On one matter, though, the leading scholars may speak with authority, and that is the rising tendency of students, popular writers, and even a few scholars to confuse or conflate Jackson's events, characters, and motivations with Tolkien's, attributing the former's to the latter. I approve, therefore, the counter-tendency of better-informed scholars to write articles comparing and contrasting the two, pointing out their differences - without praising one or denigrating the other, since that's not what comparative scholarship is for.

#145 ::: chris ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2012, 12:19 PM:

Still, the first emotional pass through a book counts for something, even if there's apt to be theories running through my mind.

There's always something running through my mind, but as a general rule, IMO, if I'm reading something new-to-me and thinking something Doylist, it's probably not very good; if I'm thinking something Watsonian, it probably is. And if I have difficulty resetting my brain to this universe even after I put the book down, it's the kind of book that should come with a warning label.

#146 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2012, 12:26 PM:

DBratman@144: I would never presume to deny either Jo Walton or the assembled community of Tolkien scholars the validity of their opinions on the Jackson films. I'm just not inclined to privilege those opinions over anyone else's.

There are many ways to interact with a text. Scholarship is only one of them.

#147 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2012, 12:29 PM:

Before a cloud of confusion descends over the topic, it's probably best to clarify that the "Doylist" reaction mentioned in #145 refers to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the Sherlock Holmes canon, and not to any person actively participating in this thread.

#148 ::: DBratman ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2012, 12:56 PM:

I hesitate to reply to Dave Bell @141, as I've already been chided once in this thread for going off-topic, not something I would have considered a sin on Making Light, but it's a fascinating post.

It seems to me that a defense of a specific change in a movie from its source should take one of two tacks: either show how the difference in format made this change imperative (regrettably, most defenses of Jackson on this ground just declare "because it's a movie," without saying why being a movie impelled this change), or argue that the book would have been superior if it had been more like the movie in this respect.

Dave Bell's discussion of Glorfindel takes the second tack, but it seems to me that the change (one which, in itself, has not raised any particular objections that I know of) is better defended by the first.

Glorfindel exists as a minor character in the book as part of one of Tolkien's most successful techniques: to make the reader feel that Middle-earth has scope and depth, that there is more going on than you see, that there are characters with their own stories (and you can find part of Glorfindel's in The Silmarillion) who just pop in briefly when their stories cross the book's story. References like Gandalf's to "Far, far below the deepest delving of the Dwarves, the world is gnawed by nameless things" help counteract the impression, something I get strongly from many other fantasy authors, that characters like the Balrog and the Watcher in the Water have been sitting there motionless for millennia, waiting for their cameos in this story.

In a movie, though, time is tight, opportunity for the theater viewer to stop and re-watch more carefully is limited, so it's tough to introduce minor characters who won't be seen again. And scope and depth can be conveyed visually, which a book can't do, and doing that well is one of Jackson's strengths. Accordingly it makes sense to merge Glorfindel with another character. The Bakshi film merged him with Legolas, which makes even more sense, because it prevents having to introduce Legolas, Gimli, and Boromir all in one quick heap, which might confuse the uninformed viewer.

The problem with Arwen as warrior princess is two-fold, one of which Dave Bell mentions, that Jackson didn't have the courage of his convictions, and in the sequels cut off the rising character arc he'd been building for her. Philippa Boyens, his co-screenwriter, told me that they'd decided to keep Arwen out of Helm's Deep to propitiate the book fans, but what they did instead was just as much a violent change from the book and made less sense in terms of the movie. Here it would have been better if Jackson had made his story and not tried half-heartedly to gesture towards Tolkien's.

The other problem was that, to use the current terminology, the scene denied Frodo agency. In the book, Glorfindel puts Frodo on the horse and then Frodo rides it and faces down the Nazgul himself. In the movie, Arwen slings Frodo over like a sack of potatoes and gets all the good lines herself. That would be fine in another story, but Frodo is supposed to be the hero of this one. I reserve the right, Debra Doyle nonwithstanding, to consider that regrettable.

#149 ::: DBratman ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2012, 01:07 PM:

Doyle @146: And, as I said in 144, I'm not trying to privilege them. I'm just trying to avoid anti-privileging them. I am disputing the undeniability of what Rikibeth said in 118 is undeniable. When the scholars react negatively to Jackson, they are not reacting in the form of scholarship, but personally as lovers of the book. Their scholarship is not part of the equation; it is merely relevant to saying that they cannot be brushed aside as ignorant or insignificant.

I do not dispute that Jackson loves LOTR. But I do say that he loves it in the manner of the analogy that forms the penultimate paragraph of my 132.

#150 ::: Russell Letson ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2012, 01:15 PM:

At the risk of adding yet another vector to the thread's drift/course:

As soon as I saw Debra's remark @ 142 about the naive reader, I flashed back to the decades I spent teaching undergrad literature and the gratitude I felt toward I. A. Richards for Practical Criticism and its account of the myriad ways even supposedly well-prepared readers (Cambridge undergrads in the 1920s) can get the wrong end of the interpretive stick. I've been out of the classroom for a quarter century and suppose Richards is thoroughly out of fashion, but my wife's experience with undergrads tells me that not much has changed.

#151 ::: Andrew M ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2012, 01:31 PM:

Russell Letson@150: Oh gosh, yes. The one I remember most clearly was where the poet described the shade of a tree as 'a cool green house', and one of the students said 'people do not normally build green houses under trees'.

#152 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2012, 01:42 PM:

This is why people need to learn to spell and punctuate and space correctly...for themselves, not by means of some piece of half-assed software (and all spill-chucking software so far is half-assed or less; in fact, tenth-assed might be more like it). There is a difference between a green house and a greenhouse. There are compounds you can separate without changing the meaning (uh...can't think of one right off), but that's not one of them.

#153 ::: Andrew M ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2012, 05:53 PM:

Well, this was in the 1930's, so I doubt it was software that misled this particular student. And while they undoubtedly did mean 'greenhouse', in fairness it should be said that people don't usually build green houses under trees.

#154 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2012, 07:53 PM:

I would agree that it's a bit of a red herring to go defining any sort of literary term based on the author's state of mind while writing that literature. Really, it's one of the things my lit professors (who I almost uniformly adored) warned us about: speculating as to what the author thought is a distraction from useful analysis, because ultimately you can't know what the author was thinking. Lack of telepathy being what it is.

And quite often the author can't even know what the author was thinking, if one compares what they said near the time of writing with what they said about that same process at a later point. Or in the case of one particular author I admire greatly, who talked about just making shit up in interviews when asked about his writing process, because it made the interviewers happy to have something interesting to quote...

In any case, while I think the majority of fanfic is written because of passionate love for the material, between hatefic and "Well, this is popular, so I'll write this" and fanfic written about properties one hasn't actually experienced, it's hardly definitive.

And now I'm reminded of a discussion I've had a few times with friends, as to whether or not historical fiction can be called fanfic. After all, one's using a pre-existing setting, and often pre-existing characters... And I've seen people label and categorize their fiction about historical figures the exact same way they did fiction about book or movie characters. Given the existence of RPS/RPF, it's certainly one of those interesting fuzzy lines.

#155 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2012, 10:12 PM:

DBratman@149:

I offer that *any* fan's love of a work is, somehow, bound to what that fan brings to the work. Text is flat; the work is what happens in your head when you read it.

I don't mean to reductio your point to absolute generality. Of course we can argue about *how much* a person understands, based on that person's interpretation, discussion, or criticism. But this is an argument of interpretation and criticism -- that is to say, it is scholarship! That's how I would describe your arguments re Arwen's plot arc and Frodo's agency; you're using the form of scholarship.

(Quite possibly you know that, but your comments 148 and 149 are in different thread-forks and I'm not sure whether they're in sync.)

All that said, I am *not* the sort of arguer who considers the author's state of mind out-of-bounds for argument. When I'm discussing (or reviewing) books (or games, or anything) I talk about the author's intent all the time. I may be *wrong*, but it's not off-topic.

I suspect that the "exclude the author's intent" stance in literary scholarship is a prejudice from fields where most of the authors are dead, perhaps centuries dead. If you're talking about, say, the works of an author who has published two books of a trilogy and is banging his way through the third -- *that's you, Rothfuss*(*) -- then discussing the author's intent is entirely natural! It would be weird not to! Because further evidence is *coming*, right?

And when you're discussing the works in a field where *you're* banging away on an upcoming work, you *have* to think about the intent of other authors. How can you succeed at *your* intent if you don't analyze whether other authors are succeding or failing at theirs? But it's still scholarship; it's just a sort that's gone out of style in what-they-call-literary studies.

(* Rothfuss may be named GRRMartin or Scott Lynch, depending on the trilogy in question. Number of books in a trilogy may vary due to handling.)

#156 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2012, 10:40 PM:

Well, why would they, when there's already one there, formed by the tree's shade?

#157 ::: Mishalak ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2012, 11:19 PM:

My working definition of fanfic vs. fiction is a sliding scale of how much it stands on its own. The more a work depends upon the reader having seen or read a separate work of fiction the more I am going to see it as fanfic. A person who has never seen the works fanfic is based upon will be lost when trying to read it because things like characters, settings, and objects are described in a shorthand that is fairly impenetrable to a non-fan.

If D'Artagnan is a major(ish) character in the story and very little is done to establish what he looks like, acts like, his history, etc. because the author expects his or her reader to have read The Three Musketeers or Twenty Years After, then it is mostly fanfic. On the other hand if the story can stand on its own it is not as much like fanfic.

This does mean that some works written by fans in a setting like Trek or Star Wars and published on the internet are not fanfic by my lights, but they are fairly rare. And the definition goes pear shaped when encountering real person fanfic and slash. No idea how to handle those. Degree of dependance on a knowledge of popular culture? And what does that say about historical novels?

#158 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2012, 12:52 AM:

Mishalak, as a potentially interesting "no definition fits everything" point, the vast majority of my fanfic reading in college was for fiction based on television shows I'd never seen. I had favorite characters in two separate shows that I never watched, which I'd track down fiction for, and more than once found crossovers with. To the point that when I finally got to watch those shows, it was rather odd to find out what was canon, and what was actually fanon and I'd just assumed to be canon by how often it showed up in the fiction.

But I don't think that's a very common approach to fanfic.

#159 ::: Mishalak ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2012, 01:38 AM:

Fade Manley@158

I might not classify everything you read as fanfic since you were able to get into much of it without knowing the cannon. But how did you come to be a fan of these two characters without knowing the original cannon works?

Also I will repeat that I think that it is a sliding scale with the theoretical fiction that stands purely on its own without reference to any other fiction at one end and a fanfic that is incomprehensible without knowledge of another work at the other and most works falling somewhere along the continuum rather than being one or the other.

For my part I generally have found fanfic crossovers where I knew the cannon for half the crossover to be, often, impenetrable. I am sure that my own Buffy & Waiting For God humor piece would be quite unreadable by people who did not know both shows. Though my Keeping Up Appearances & Cthulhu Mythos might be readable by people who do not mind funny in their Lovecraftian short fiction. Though I dread going back to read them since I wrote them about a decade ago, the stupid Suck Fairy has probably rewritten them in the intervening years.

#160 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2012, 02:20 AM:

Fade Manley @158: That brings to mind my childhood tendency to know most popular movies and TV shows of the time only through their Mad Magazine parodies.

Mishalak @159: Keeping Up Appearances/Cthulhu? WANT! Does Hyacinth put the nameless evil in it's place, or does she unintentionally ally with it?

That brings up the question of where the boundary lies between pastiche (stylistic borrowing, often including settings, plot outlines, types of characters) and fanfic? Mishalak's KUA/Cthulhu crossover reminded me of Stross's Laundry stories, which are crossovers between Cthulhu mythos and various authors' spy novels. I'd put Stross' stories on the pastiche side, because while recognizing the style of the original adds to the enjoyment, they don't depend on detailed knowledge of the originals to understand them. This is orthogonal to the fact that Stross's stories are professionally published.

Hmm, now I'm thinking about Keeping Up Appearances crossed with some sort of spy story. Perhaps Richard only says he works for the local council, as a cover story?

#161 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2012, 08:48 AM:

I was introduced to Highlander via being intrigued by the character Methos in a HL/Phantom Menace slash crossover. (Story lost to posterity in a hard drive crash that wiped out all my bookmarks.)

Fortunately for me, the author of the fic wrote a good Methos, so I wasn't disappointed when I met the canon one.

#162 ::: Lila got gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2012, 08:49 AM:

Huh. Dunno why. Here, have some Trader Joe's ridged sweet potato chips.

#163 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2012, 09:15 AM:

DBratman, 149: When the scholars react negatively to Jackson, they are not reacting in the form of scholarship, but personally as lovers of the book. Their scholarship is not part of the equation; it is merely relevant to saying that they cannot be brushed aside as ignorant or insignificant.

I wish to say, as a scholar, that you are absolutely wrong. My scholarship is part of me. I cannot turn it on and off. I became a scholar because I love books. I know a great many scholars, and for almost all of us*, there is no difference between "scholarship" and "love of books."

*The sole exception was a former professor of mine who specialized in a particular French Nazi writer. He told my class that he hated this writer more and more, but that studying him was necessary to avoid a repetition. I submit that this is another case of scholarship and human feeling being inseparable.

#164 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2012, 09:50 AM:

Jeremy @160: One of Stross' Laundry novels has Mike Ford in it, too, so there's a RPF component -- or would that be real world crossover component?

(Also, this thread is reminding me that I owe PNH and Deadwood/Torchwood crossover fic.)

#165 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2012, 09:51 AM:

Jeremy @160: One of Stross' Laundry novels has Mike Ford in it, too, so there's a RPF component -- or would that be real world crossover component?

(Also, this thread is reminding me that I owe PNH a Deadwood/Torchwood crossover fic.)

#166 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2012, 10:44 AM:

163
I think Mike walked through this place the other day. It's the first time I've seen a poetry slam there.

#167 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2012, 11:20 AM:

PJ, that link had me giggling helplessly. Yeah, something happened to them.

JMF, Patron Saint of Sudden Poetry Outbreaks?

#168 ::: DBratman ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2012, 11:40 AM:

TexAnne @162: I'm a scholar, too, you know, and yes, you're right, scholarship is inseparable from love of the books, at least scholarship that's any good. Which is why I mentioned at the beginning that the people who had this interpretation of Tolkien were scholars. That made them knowledgeable and keen observers.

Bt thn gt blndsdd by Dyl @142's rflxv dsdn fr schlrshp. She wrote, "I'm writing for the people who will read my work, not the ... scholars who will make their reputations studying it."

Y s? Sh sprtd schlrs frm rdrs, s f thy'r dffrnt ppl. Schlrs dn't rd fctn, rdrs dn't stdy t. nd "rdrs" r smhw bttr nd mr gnn thn "schlrs". S th rgmnt sms t g.

So I wrote @149, which said, "the scholars react negatively to Jackson, they are not reacting in the form of scholarship, but personally as lovers of the book." You see? The scholars' reactions can't be caricatured as boring, rote papers whose authors don't care what they say as long as it gets them tenure. It's their genuine, loving reaction to the book, because, as you say, scholarship and love of the work are inseparable.

(And I should add that, though I've read enough rote, boring scholarly papers which do read as if they were written for tenure and no other purpose, very few of them are in Tolkien studies. If your aim is to get ahead in academia, you don't study Tolkien. Even the profs with wrongheaded interpretations clearly study Tolkien because they love his work.)

And then I get blindsided by you. Honestly.

Because really, the same scholars who say their scholarship is part of them will also say that not everything they do or say is scholarship. It proceeds from the same impulse, yes; it's informed by the same knowledge, yes. But there is a difference between a paper I write with footnotes and every reference checked, on the one hand, and bloviating away on blogs on the other; a difference between expressing the evidence-based conclusions I've reached through careful study, on the one hand, and my immediate aesthetic reactions, on the other. They're all part of me, all informed by my knowledge, but the latter examples are not "in the form of scholarship" (ref. @149, emphasis added), and any good scholar knows the difference.

Honestly.

(APlotkin @155: I believe I follow everything you're saying, but I can't figure out what your point is, so I have no response.)

#169 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2012, 12:05 PM:

Mishalak @159: Huh. That is interesting. I mean, that you wouldn't classify it as fanfic. I was certainly missing on a lot of nuance because of not knowing the original series, but I was also doing the sf&f reader thing of picking up on details by how they were treated in the stories as if everyone already knew. (And crossovers are often written with the assumption that readers might only know one of the two fandoms, so tend to include a little more explanation.) But this was all stuff that was written for fans, about someone else's characters, in someone else's setting, and presented as fanfic in fanfic archives and accepted by everyone in the community of fanfic writers and readers as such.

Which, I guess, means that I disagree with your definition. If something that firmly in the realm of Everyone Agrees It's Fanfic doesn't fit the definition, then I don't think it's a very useful one. But it's an interesting one to use as a test case for things.

And I do wonder if it makes more or less of a difference when I was reading some of that fanfic mostly for the sex scenes. After all, fanfic is one of the easiest ways to find clearly labeled erotica for free online, with easy feedback mechanisms and the like. For a certain portion of the audience, the bit where it's based on pre-existing characters and settings isn't all that relevant.

#170 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2012, 12:17 PM:

166
I'll go for that.

#171 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2012, 12:27 PM:

I have studied Tolkien from a scholarly point of view only for one college course (IIRC, "Tolkien and the Romance/Epic Tradition"). My objections to Jackson have nothing to do with anything of the kind.

I'm offended by his stupid dwarf-tossing jokes, stupid Star Wars and Indiana Jones references, Legolas orc-surfing, and Denethor's grand dive. I'm annoyed by his cutting important parts of the book in favor of lengthening things that are IMO unimportant (and treated relatively summarily in the books).

I'm only mildly annoyed by little things he simply got wrong (everyone bows down to the Frodo and Sam, because they're the Ringbearers, not to all the Hobbits because...why?).

When I say I don't think he understood TLOTR, I mean I don't think he's a fan. I don't think he loves the books like I do.

I don't think any of this comes out of a scholarly sensibility. I think I do know what that feels like, and this feels different.

#172 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2012, 12:47 PM:

#170 ::: Xopher HalfTongue:

Any thoughts about being offended because something is gotten wrong versus a scholarly sensibility?

Tentatively, since I look at scholarship from the outside, but I think of scholarship at its best as not just an impulse to get things right, but also an impulse to pin down all the corners in an effort to make sure it's right.

This may mean that it's impossible to tell the difference between a scholarly sensibility and a geekish(?) sensibility in regards to small, easily verifiable facts.

For the record, I hated the first LOTR movie so much that I didn't see the second, but I have no opinion about whether Jackson loved LOTR.

#173 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2012, 12:51 PM:

It strikes me as being, at the very least, presumptuous for one fan to pass judgement upon the quality of another person's fannishness.

There are many ways of interacting with a text. Scholarship is one of them. Fanfic is another. And -- I will continue to maintain -- making immense sprawling three-part movies is an equally valid third.

(Yes, the movies are flawed. So are the books, but they're in good company; it was, I believe, Randall Jarrell who define a novel as "a prose narrative of some length that has something wrong with it.")

#174 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2012, 01:08 PM:

Nancy, you may be right about the annoyance about things he got wrong. But that's very minor for me, as I said, and I'm frex not at all annoyed by his putting Arwen at the forge, because conflating characters is part of what you have to do to adapt a book into a movie.

I guess you could make an argument that not liking the pop-culture references might be scholarly in pop-culture terms. I dunno, I don't think it is.

#175 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2012, 01:10 PM:

DBratman: "Honestly." That makes me want to poke you with a stick, so instead I'll just leave you alone with your righteous outrage.

#176 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2012, 01:19 PM:

Xopher, I'm not sure what you're disagreeing with.

I suppose there are many ways of getting things wrong, and I'm not sure where being angry that a character is misrepresented falls in the scholarly/geekish/fannish/other classification.

I was angry that the movie Aragorn kept angsting that he'd be like Isildur, which seemed unlike his sense of responsibility in the books. Everyone well-informed was aware that the Ring was very dangerous, but that's not the same as worrying about carrying ancestral weakness.

#177 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2012, 02:08 PM:

dbratman

I think you are vastly underestimating your peers here.

I also think you're giving Tolkien scholars in general a bad rap. I've never heard any Tolkien scholars dismiss Jackson/Boyens/Walsh with the level of petulant disdain you seem to bear them. Nor has writing about Tolkien and fannish approaches hurt the careers of Nokes, Drout, Cohen, Chance, Shippey or Flieger—all of whom approach Tolkien wearing both their fannish and scholar hats.

There's a reason that so many of the people who publish secondary work about Tolkien are medievalists. So very much of the Western canon of medieval literature is absolutely fanfic. Personally I would include not only the derivative works like the grail and merlin cycles, but Malory, and the Canterbury Tales continuations, and even later works like the various continuations of Sidney's Arcadia.

I certainly feel I am as much a fan of medieval literature as a scholar.

I should like to note for those who might be curious that dbratman does not speak for me, nor for any of the Tolkien scholars I know, nor, frankly for most of the scholars I know of any stripe, at all.


#178 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2012, 02:52 PM:

It seems to me that trying to scry into hearts and figure out who really loves a work and who's just faking it is a fool's errand at best.

Did I really love Tolkien's work when I was five, and put myself to sleep with my Mary Sue stories of Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli rescuing me from orcs? Did my six year old daughter, spinning the adventures of Galadriel and Bilbo among the wolves as we cycled home from dance lessons?

I defy anyone to deny it.

But that doesn't mean that our fanfic constituted either academically sound analysis or satisfying retelling. And those are actually useful grounds for criticism of the stories. They allow us to sort good from bad*, study, learn and improve. They make us smarter.

The whole thing about whether someone loves someone or something? For me at least, it's unhelpful, unprovable, and pretty damn personal. In scholarly analysis, it partakes too much of the academic feud; in fannish discussion, too much of the high school playground.

In either case, I find that it reflects more on the person so judging than on the person judged.

-----
* ours were the latter

#179 ::: John C. Bunnell ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2012, 03:39 PM:

Bouncing far backward in the comment-stream:

Rob@36: I'd submit that fans of Baum's Wizard of Oz series belong in this continuity somewhere -- at least contemporary to the Baker Street Irregulars and their practice of Sherlockian pastiche. I am not deeply versed in Ozian fannish history, but I do know that there was (and is) a fair amount of amateur and micro-press work out there in addition to what's been professionally published in recent years.

#180 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2012, 04:41 PM:

abi @178, I just realized: People who argue over which group's love of the text is the One True Love? They're shipping!

#181 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2012, 05:28 PM:

Avram, 180: OMG you're right! OTP: Me/Words. (Wait, no, I don't like RPS, what am I doing...)

#182 ::: Sisuile ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2012, 05:57 PM:

Lisa @ 177 - I'm late for a birthday party, so this is short: yes. I, like many here, am a scholar, a medievalist by training and inclination. And I feel like someone has been speaking for me without my permission.

#183 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2012, 06:00 PM:

OK, but there's one thing that you absolutely have to remember about Story when you write her into a ship with your favorite author (or yourself, you Mary Sue, you!).

Story is poly.

Just because she loves you through and through, from your head to your toes, doesn't mean she doesn't have other equally intimate and powerful relationships with other storytellers going at the same time. Each one is different, and each one is real.

This is rock-solid irrefutable canon. Forget it at your peril.

#184 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2012, 07:10 PM:

I didn't know Story Musgrave had transitioned...

#185 ::: Aquila1nz ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2012, 07:14 PM:

@abi #183

And now I'm vaguely remembering a fic that was about the personification of story elements, I think story was sleeping with both het and slash in it? Or maybe it was bout fandoms?

Anyone recognise it?

#186 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2012, 10:29 PM:

Today we have tossing of dwarfs. Yesterday
We had boogey boarding on steps. And tomorrow morning,
We shall have what to do with dead Uruk-hai. But today,
Today we have tossing of dwarfs. The sun’s rising
Gleams like a cymbal (or symbol) (have it your own way)
And today we have tossing of dwarfs.

These are the Pelennor fields. And this
Is the Rohirrim vanguard, whose use you will see
If the buggers ever charge. And these are the paths of the dead,
Which in your case you are not, yet. And Treebeard
Holds hobbits and counsels that are endless, or entless,
Which in your case you are not, yet.

And this is an Oliphaunt. The purpose of this
Is to teach them not to ban turbans on the buses. We can stomp
Rapidly backwards and forwards. We call this
Flattening things out. And rapidly backwards and forwards
The dialogue equivocates “man”, and which King of Angmar -
We call it flattening things out.

We call it flattening things. It is perfectly easy
If you have any Oliphaunts: like the dead,
And the orcs, and the Uruk-hai, and the Easterlings,
Which in our case we are not, yet,
Silent we’ll hear that it will not be this day, and we will weep,
But today we have tossing of dwarfs.

#187 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2012, 10:41 PM:

Dave Luckett@186: Have an internet. Heck, have two internets, if you want them.

#188 ::: romsfuulynn ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2012, 11:48 PM:

@Pfusand - you said "Did you know there are extant copies of over a hundred extra-Biblical gospels?" Charlesworth's collection is now available in softcover here:
http://www.amazon.com/The-Old-Testament-Pseudepigrapha-Volume/dp/1598564897/

#189 ::: DBratman ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2012, 01:19 AM:

Lisa Spangenberg 177: You're telling me that I don't know what I'm talking about. I do. I know these top Tolkien scholars, personally. I've had long conversations with them. You mention Verlyn Flieger. Here's what Verlyn Flieger had to say about the Jackson movie. "I didn't like it. ... Jackson has turned an extremely sophisticated, complex and subtle -- and very long -- story into an action movie that I think satisfies the audience for whom he made it. ... I felt some parts were disastrously miscast ... And the script gave the character no chance to develop. ... Cate Blanchett is a fine actor, she must have been directed to perform in that wooden, zombie-like manner. ... As for un-Tolkienian lines like Gimli's "Nobody tosses a dwarf," and Strider's "Let's hunt some orc," they are beyond comment."

Interspersed with some grudging admiration for things which it did well for its intended audience, which, as she says, is not her.

And that's what she says in public, being polite about it. I've discussed it with her in private.

I cite Flieger specifically, because that interview was easily located. But there's plenty, plenty more, going up to the dean and master of all Tolkien scholars, Christopher Tolkien himself, who is on record as completely appalled by the film.

And he, like Flieger, is a medievalist.

At the large Tolkien Society conference in Birmingham in 2005, which was kind of amalgam of Tolkien fans and Jackson fans, it was the common complaint of the Jackson fans that the Tolkien side of the conference was unceasing movie-bashing. I didn't think it was; I thought we were being quite restrained, but it didn't seem that way to those who love the movies.

Tom Shippey is one of the rare exceptions, but his article defending Jackson, in Zimbardo & Isaacs' Understanding The Lord of the Rings, essentially amounts to saying that the lapses are forgivable because they bring people to the book.

These Tolkienian medievalists are quite aware that medieval literature consists of a long series of retellings and transformations. However, that does not make them necessarily any good, and many of them are not. (Shippey has some great commentary on the decline of the Nordic saga tradition in later retellings.)

They're not objecting to retellings as a concept, which is what you seem to have gotten mistakenly hung up on. They say that this particular work is a) bad, in terms of their personal tastes and what they value about Tolkien's work, and b) an inaccurate reflection of the spirit and tenor of the book, where it could have been better and claims to be better. That's all.

#190 ::: DBratman ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2012, 01:27 AM:

Lisa S: Oh, and you said "Nor has writing about Tolkien and fannish approaches hurt the careers of Nokes, Drout, Cohen, Chance, Shippey or Flieger." I realize that must be a response to me @168: "If your aim is to get ahead in academia, you don't study Tolkien."

That's not the same thing as saying that studying Tolkien will put your back. (Although on occasion it has been known to do so ... and it's still striking how very few Tolkienists of any kind are at top universities. Most, and most of the best, are at small colleges or are independent scholars without literature professorships at all.)

All it means is that literary careerists, the kind who don't really love literature and are just cranking out obligatory papers to get tenure, won't pick Tolkien as an avenue.

#191 ::: DBratman ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2012, 01:50 AM:

One more thing (sorry): I'm not claiming to speak for all Tolkien scholars. I haven't taken a survey. I wrote @132 of "most of the Tolkien scholars I know (and I know all the top names in the field)" and @144 of "the Tolkien scholars I'm thinking of." So I think it's unjust for Lisa @177 to say "I also think you're giving Tolkien scholars in general a bad rap" and even more for Sisuile @182 to say "I feel like someone has been speaking for me without my permission." I made clear that I'm speaking of my experience.

But they are, nevertheless, a large and prominent group. If, as Lisa says, she's "never heard any Tolkien scholars dismiss Jackson/Boyens/Walsh with the level of petulant disdain," then she hasn't been listening very hard. I'm just louder and more public about it than most.

#192 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2012, 02:31 AM:

I've never fully recovered from that night, long ago in Seattle, when Tatiana Keller bitterly observed that some people who were reading LOTR were enjoying it for the wrong reasons.

I don't think I said anything in reply. I just went on being quietly thunderstruck.

===

David Bratman @188:

Lisa Spangenberg 177: You're telling me that I don't know what I'm talking about.
Indeed she is. Good catch.

By the way, I did notice that you started out complaining about fanfic's use of the author's text, and have now shifted ground to defend scholarship's superior claim to ownership of the text and the reading experience. Do you see? Because I sure did.

You've lost some vowels, by the way. See if you can figure out why referring to Dr. Doyle's "reflexive disdain for scholarship" produced that effect.

More tomorrow. It's late, and I'm tired.

#193 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2012, 02:57 AM:

DBratman @168: "...though I've read enough rote, boring scholarly papers which do read as if they were written for tenure and no other purpose, very few of them are in Tolkien studies" has been nagging at me, and I finally realized why. It's saying "when I read papers in the subject area that moves me the most, they're not rote or boring, like some papers I've read in other areas that I'm less interested in".

Also, as someone far from scholarly literary circles, @189 "literary careerists, the kind who don't really love literature and are just cranking out obligatory papers to get tenure" sounds to me like some sort of mythical creature. Seriously, literary careerists? They're just in it for the big bucks, I assume? Or is this another instance of judging the validity of others' love of literature?

#194 ::: DBratman ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2012, 02:57 AM:

TNH @191: Well, this is very tiresome, because not only have I not been saying anything about "scholarship's superior claim to ownership of the text and the reading experience," but I've already spent more space explaining that's not what I meant than I spent on the original statement that was misunderstood, even though I tried to make it clear there too.

Yes, though, my subject has changed. It changed because I decided to reply to @118, which brought up a different subject. Is that kind of thing deprecated here?

I did notice, and I was going to wait a few hours and then ask, if nothing happened, whether the charge of "petulant disdain" in @177 was going to be treated the same way as the charge of "reflexive disdain" in @168. But since you bring it up so publicly ...

#195 ::: DBratman ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2012, 03:08 AM:

Jeremy @192: No, it's not a factor of my interest in the subject. I have noticed, to my distress, that I find much of the Le Guin critical literature dull and tedious, in a way I don't find of the Tolkien literature, even that I seriously disagree with. I don't know why that is. But my love for Le Guin's work pretty much matches my love for Tolkien's.

You may be right, that the literary careerists of that statement is a mythical creature. (Although C.S. Lewis certainly believed they existed in quantity among his Oxford colleagues, and he was very annoyed about it. And I've seen it in recent times, here and there, being cited by other scholars out in the field who would know.) It just seemed to me that that his creature was being invoked by the person I was originally replying to, and I accepted the trope for purposes of discussion.

#196 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2012, 03:24 AM:

Three movies out of The Hobbit scares me.

I can see how some things can be derived from the huge body of work that was published after Tolkien's death. There were fragments in both the BBC radio version and the Jackson film which came from Unfinished Tales. They were Tolkien, superfluous to the book, and just giving that authentic gap filling that the different medium needed. Films have viewpoints, but they rarely have narration. Books: the scenery description is narration, of a sort. You can't really avoid it.

But three films out of one smaller volume, that already feels bloated.

Oh, there will be worse things to do in December, but I'm not sure I shall feel eager.

#197 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2012, 03:25 AM:

DBratman,

The wisest thing you could do right about now, both for your reputation within this community and the views you're attempting to champion, would be to step away from the keyboard for a little while. I mean this quite seriously, both as a reader and as a moderator.

A literary critic and textual scholar who can't tell the difference between Lisa's use of "petulant disdain" and yours of "reflexive disdain" is one who has lost his way in this discussion. And a community member who is blaming others' comments for his own behavior (118), treating other commenters with disdain ("Honestly"), and arguing with Teresa about a disemvowelment is, as Patrick once said of someone else, putting on the Captain Lemming costume and heading for the roof.

Don't. Stop. Have a cup of tea and a biscuit, and go do something else for a wee while. Later, if you understand where you went wrong, come back, apologize, and give the thread something interesting, positive and productive to play with. Or, if this is a topic that gets too far under your skin, don't comment on it further.

Because the way you're dealing with this discussion right now is not effective.

#198 ::: John C. Bunnell ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2012, 03:46 AM:

it's still striking how very few Tolkienists of any kind are at top universities. Most, and most of the best, are at small colleges or are independent scholars without literature professorships at all.)

Actually, that doesn't surprise me at all. Given the number of modern authors with small but technically interesting bodies of work available for study, only a few such bodies of work will generate more than a handful of specialist scholars at all. And given the nature of English departments at smaller vs. larger academic institutions, I'd think that it's almost inevitable that such specialist scholars would initially be concentrated in smaller, less bureaucracy-ridden institutions. Only after the body of work in question has acquired a sizeable canon of scholarly material will the larger universities start recruiting or hiring specialists in that body of work.

In the interests of full disclosure, my B.A. is from a small liberal arts college (Whitman, in Walla Walla, WA). And yes, I was an English major. While I have occasionally wielded some of the tools and vocabulary of literary criticism and scholarship, I am neither a professional scholar nor do I play one on the Internet.

#199 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2012, 04:15 AM:

Mishalak, #157: A person who has never seen the works fanfic is based upon will be lost when trying to read it because things like characters, settings, and objects are described in a shorthand that is fairly impenetrable to a non-fan.

A good point, but not definitive IMO. As someone who has a lot of friends who either like and recommend or write (or both) fanfic from a lot of sources I haven't seen, I can say with assurance that it is perfectly possible to write fanfic that's not impenetrable to someone unfamiliar with the source material. A well-written fanfic should be able to stand on its own IMO; the in-references to the source should be like in-jokes in regular literature -- nice lagniappe for those who will get it, but not critical to the story line.

This is not to say that I never like fanfic which doesn't meet that criterion; one of my all-time favorite stories is a short epilogue to C.S. Friedman's This Alien Shore which will make absolutely no sense to someone who hasn't read the book! But I have found a number of enjoyable fanfic tales based on material I don't follow, but which make sense as stand-alone stories.

Unrelatedly, I have a huge weakness for well-done crossover fic between sources I do follow. Does anyone know of any NUMB3RS/Eureka crossovers?

#200 ::: LMM ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2012, 08:10 AM:

@199: A well-written fanfic should be able to stand on its own IMO; the in-references to the source should be like in-jokes in regular literature -- nice lagniappe for those who will get it, but not critical to the story line.

I think that highly depends upon the type of fanfic one is dealing with. Long fanfics, probably. Drabbles, definitely not.

re: scholarship vs. enjoyment: I can say conclusively that I *can't* turn the academic part of my brain off completely when reading books. It's not *terrible* for me (most novelists take chemistry for granted, and I can usually survive if I'm *not* handed highly implausible technobabble), but it's definitely made books (nearly) hit the wall over issues a layperson never would have noticed, let alone cared about. [1]

Scholarship gives you many things, but it also often means that it's impossible to enjoy some things that others can. So I could *easily* see Tolkien scholars disliking even a *very* successful adaptation of the LotR saga. [2] It *is* possible, after all, to get scenery right, to get typography right, to get costuming and accents right. It's very much *less* possible to completely adapt a text to a different format, and that may be the standard that scholars would require.

[1] I had a rant here that I have given to *everyone* about the metal-based magic in Mistborn and, specifically, the presence of aluminum in an apparently pre-industrial society, but I'll spare you. Sufficient to say, it shouldn't be there, and, in trying to give Sanderson (and his editor) the benefit of the doubt, I decided it was a subtle hint that we were really dealing with a post-apocalyptic late industrial society or that, more realistically, there were power plants hidden in the volcanos.

[2] Which, IMHO, FotR was but the other two weren't.

#201 ::: LMM ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2012, 08:45 AM:

* some Tolkien scholars

#202 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2012, 10:12 AM:

I'm one of those heathens who couldn't plow through the Tolkien books (despite repeated, desperate attempts, as my parents clearly enjoyed them and I wanted to do the same) until after seeing the movies. I also majored in English lit! So I sit back in mild bemusement regarding some arguments that combine these things, having nothing useful to add just now.

But! Circling back around to a subtopic that I'm really quite interested in... Where do people classify fiction written about real historical people? Because there's this whole fuzzy continuum between "meticulously researched from primary sources" and "based on that one episode I saw of The Tudors" with a lot of ground in-between, and given how many historical personages we mostly know about due to someone else writing about them somewhat narratively, I'm not sure where to draw the line. The fuzzy, broad line.

I wrote fanfic about Roman poets, once. I classify it as fanfic partly because it's semi-AU, and partly because I have no idea how else to classify short fiction written about long-dead real people. But it's not exactly that I'm a fan of texts where they were written about, but a fan of their actual material, and now I'm circling back around to the odd subgenre of RPS and so forth.

#203 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2012, 10:39 AM:

#201 ::: Fade Manley

Why did seeing the movies make it possible for you to read LOTR?

I'd actually been wondering what the books were like for some who'd watched the movies first, so I'd be interested if you'd care to write about it.

#204 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2012, 11:22 AM:

Teresa 191: I've never fully recovered from that night, long ago in Seattle, when Tatiana Keller bitterly observed that some people who were reading LOTR were enjoying it for the wrong reasons.

Wow. Do you recall what the "wrong reasons" were? I'm trying to imagine it. The only thing I can think of is that there's a fair amount of racism in Tolkien, which most of us kind of wince at and try to ignore; maybe if people were enjoying it because it supports the superiority of the "white race," that would be a wrong reason.

But from your description of your reaction, I bet that wasn't what she was saying.

#205 ::: Emily H. ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2012, 11:50 AM:

A well-written fanfic should be able to stand on its own IMO; the in-references to the source should be like in-jokes in regular literature -- nice lagniappe for those who will get it, but not critical to the story line.

I think, conversely, that a lot of the best fanfic is heavily dependent on the space between canon and what isn't canon; the fanfic may be a good story about some guys doing some things, but knowing the context is what gives it depth and resonance -- and the benefit of fanfic is that you don't have to restate the context that everyone already knows.

Take Goodnight Room, a Goodnight Moon fanfic -- without the context, it's just kind of weird. But the way it juxtaposes postapocalyptic science fiction against the comfort of Goodnight Moon, the way it provides new explanations for all the mundane things, is brilliant. And the quiet-and-comfort of "good night" against the courage and newness of "good morning" is brilliant. And none of those would exist if it were merely a story about a rabbit on a spaceship.

#206 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2012, 12:20 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @202:

It was mostly a matter of tracking characters, and tracking plotlines. When I tried to read LotR as a child, I was frequently confused by all the names, especially since I diligently tried to track all the names of everyone referenced in dialogue, narration, or even songs and poems. (After all, they wouldn't be brought up if they weren't important to the story, would they?) I distinctly remember the one time I slogged far enough through to get to the second book, and found Boromir dead while Aragon was standing there--

--and I went, wait a minute! I thought those were two names for the same guy! Aragon had so many different names that at that point I'd conflated the two humans running around in the party (After all, while you need more than one?) entirely. I once got as far as book three, and found that Frodo was being hauled off by some spider and I couldn't figure out why, or where everyone else had gone...

And then I watched the movies. And suddenly I had a nice streamlined version of the plot for each book, and all of the important characters had fairly singular names, and faces, and clear interactions with each other, and I could go back and read the books again--and whenever I found some unknown name or character, I could safely assume that I didn't have to track them, because if they hadn't been in the movie, they probably weren't central to the story.

This probably says more about my reading comprehension and bad skimming habits as a child than anything else.

#207 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2012, 12:41 PM:

The last temptation is the greatest treason:
To do the right deed for the wrong reason.

-- T.S. Eliot, Murder in the Cathedral

#208 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2012, 01:02 PM:

LMM @199 -- small amounts of aluminum are to be found in pre-industrial societies -- it was considered quite a precious metal. I haven't read Mistborn, so I can't comment on how much of it there is there.

#209 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2012, 01:28 PM:

I've had an interesting reaction to some musical fan-fiction ** (i.e., original songs written to elaborate or comment on fictional works). I've heard some truly outstanding songs that I recognized as referring back to some other work -- even if I'd never read or even heard of the original. It wasn't just a matter of the song being hard to contextualize, because good songs are often lightly contextualized in that way. Rather it was being able to "see" the threads that connected it to some other world in a way that made me want to tug on those threads and follow them back for more. It's like a snapshot that makes you want to find out more about the people in the picture.

Mind you, there are also fan-fic songs that strike me as "clearly this is referring to some work of fiction and it stirs no interest in me whatsoever". Also ones that manage to re-hash a wonderful story in an unattractive way. But I'm not talking about those songs.

The curious thing is that I've sometimes run across these want-to-know-more fan-fic songs that turned out to have no original referent. And yet they still had a quality about them that struck me differently from an independent original song that was meant to stand on its own. As if they were a fan-fic in search of a canon. (Occasionally it's turned out that the song's author was pulling from unpublished or even unwritten works of their own, which may provide part of the answer.)

** I'm inventing a term here in order to avoid the confounding effects of introducing the word "filk" into this discussion.

#210 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2012, 05:24 PM:

Fade Manley at # 206: It was mostly a matter of tracking characters, and tracking plotlines.

Now that you mention it, it does seem complicated.

#211 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2012, 05:48 PM:

In re aluminum: the capstone of the Washington Monument is made of aluminum, precisely because at the time it was a precious metal. (I've read that before being put in place, it was exhibited in the Smithsonian, as the largest chunk of aluminum in the world at the time.)

In the original Mistborn trilogy, aluminum is indeed rare and precious. In The Alloy of Law it's more available, but expensive. The society of the latter book has electricity, and I find myself wondering whether the Hall-Héroult process has been discovered but suppressed by noble families with Allomancy.

#212 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2012, 06:17 PM:

Heather Rose Jones @209: Then you get musical fanfics like Ben Newman's books about the various Vernor Vinge books (A Deepness in the Sky, A Fire Upon the Deep, et al.) ... I love those songs, adore them deeply, but have bounced off the books with great force more than once.

#213 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2012, 06:19 PM:

Allomancy ought to be either a) a relative term, stating that two systems of divination are different forms of the same thing ("Hydromancy is an allomancy of crystal gazing") or b) the magickal art of making something look like something closely related ("by my allomancy I can make a Huskie appear to be a Samoyed!"). Neither term seems likely to be useful, and the art named by the second one seems rather...limited...as well.

(I did look it up and know how Sanderson uses it, but it was more fun to analyze the word and build up its "ought to be" from parts.)

#214 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2012, 06:22 PM:

Xopher @204:
The only thing I can think of is that there's a fair amount of racism in Tolkien, which most of us kind of wince at and try to ignore; maybe if people were enjoying it because it supports the superiority of the "white race," that would be a wrong reason.

I suspect, given context clues, that it's more people who, they suspect, love the books the way that Éowyn loved Aragorn: for the surface appeal rather than out of an appreciation of the deeper meanings of the story. People who love the Elves but don't take the time to learn to pronounce Elvish or understand how the languages in the books work; those who skip over the poetry and conversations to get to the next battle; the ones who confuse Sauraman and Sauron or Pippin and Merry.

People who love the stories but don't care if the Balrog has wings. Or, perhaps, people who love them and do care.

#215 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2012, 06:44 PM:

Sounds likely, abi. Could that, in your view, be summarized by saying "they like them in an insufficiently geeky way"?

#216 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2012, 06:47 PM:

Merry and Pippin are Saruman and Sauron, Abi? That'd explain quite a few things.

#217 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2012, 07:07 PM:

I think in many ways, over many re-readings, I made LOTR into a much cozier, less violent story in my head than it really was on the page. Whether such a reading is in any sense a wrong thing is a difficult moral question. (Incidentally, one effect of the movies, which by their nature I couldn't skim bits of, was to bring back the real darkness of LOTR, which I have read differently since.)

#219 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2012, 09:16 PM:

Liking LOTR for the wrong reasons: I think I would limit that judgment to people who like LOTR for things that aren't actually in the book and/or the movie. Like, the fanfics in which the Elves of Rivendell, Mirkwood, and Lothlorien are always taking trouble-free rides between their "kingdoms" in order to hold masked balls, play bed bingo, dress up, have badly written sex, worry about who will sit on the throne after they have died of old age, etc. Or the ones in which plucky girl Arwen, with the help of her prankster brothers who constantly finish each other's sentences, runs away from her kindly but naive grandma Galadriel in order to finally see what life in the big bad world is all about, because Grandma Galadriel has lived such a sheltered life that she just doesn't understand the younger generation. Or Boromir is a scenery-chewing bloodthirsty rapist who nevertheless can be taken down within five minutes by a teenage girl with improbably colored hair and eyes who popped up out of nowhere and was instantly accepted by the Fellowship. Or the true savior of Middle-Earth is a man from another world who has sex with all of the beautiful female characters and kicks the asses of all the male characters and rides a telepathic dragon . . . but you get the picture.

#220 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2012, 09:20 PM:

"Where there's a whip, there's a way!"

I suddenly find myself wanting to watch Rankin-Bass's "LoTR".
Not.

#221 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2012, 09:42 PM:

Abi, #197: "As Patrick once said of someone else, putting on the Captain Lemming costume and heading for the roof"

Just to be clear, that was totally TNH's phrase.

#222 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2012, 09:52 PM:

Abi @197: Just so. "Petulant disdain" is a judgmental description of a perceptible external event which the speaker witnessed. "Reflexive disdain" assigns a motive he's in no position to perceive, and characterizes Doyle's reaction as mere mindless reflex. The distinction is elementary.

(Because this is the thread it is, I want to be able to send a text saying "wrong" to David Bratman and have the word briefly appear in the air just above his phone; but one can't have everything.)

At #132 he dragged his initial argument back in. (Words "oh for pete's sake" appear above phone.)

I was more unhappy that he went on about how the unnamed Tolkien scholars in his pocket were top-drawer eighteen-karat specimens -- not just lurkers, but heavily privileged lurkers -- while ignoring or failing to engage with the scholarly medievalists and Tolkien fans present in the thread. Who've been saying interesting things. Not to mention all the non-credentialed participants who've also been saying interesting things which he's ignored.

Rikibeth @118 is on to something. That one deserves more attention.

Avram won the internet for #180. Then you took his insight and went straight for the heart at #183:

...there's one thing that you absolutely have to remember about Story when you write her into a ship with your favorite author (or yourself, you Mary Sue, you!).

Story is poly.

Just because she loves you through and through, from your head to your toes, doesn't mean she doesn't have other equally intimate and powerful relationships with other storytellers going at the same time. Each one is different, and each one is real.

This is rock-solid irrefutable canon. Forget it at your peril.

Yes. There's the cusp of the matter. David loves Tolkien's story. So do I, so do you, so does almost everyone here, and so (quite obviously) does Peter Jackson. But David's sense of propriety about it -- that sense that loving a story somehow makes it yours -- is something he shares with every fanfic writer out there. They also love stories, and in loving them feel like they own them.

(This may explain why we feel let down when an obscure book we've loved like mad suddenly becomes popular. We could overlook our book's occasional infidelities, but when there are so many, it becomes impossible to ignore.)

I further believe that this is a primordial reaction that owes nothing to current copyright law or literary theory, and that it's why well-beloved fiction will always jump over the fence and escape into the wild. Storytellers write about whatever catches hold of their imagination.

Look at Joseph Smith, a half-educated kid from the sticks who was raised on the KJV. He got hold of Ethan Smith's View of the Hebrews plus various other books (including IMO some publication about Origen he didn't understand as well as he thought he did), and it set plot bunnies loose in his mind. He got rid of them the only way possible -- in his case, by writing a book-length crossover. His Kinderhook Plates scenario, the Book of Abraham, and the "King Follet Discourse" were other manifestations of that same impulse.

A century and a half later, in Eritrea, Embaye Melekin had his mind blown by the Book of Mormon, but decided the canon needed fixing in a few places.

Our approval or disapproval are in a fundamental sense irrelevant. We can't stop fanfic. It's something people do.

#223 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2012, 09:54 PM:

Serge @216: Don't forget, Tom Bombadil is secretly the Witch-King of Angmar.

#224 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2012, 10:06 PM:

Xopher @204: She didn't go into a lot of detail. Perhaps I had the wrong expression on my face for that. I know I was momentarily incapable of asking coherent questions. My fuzzy impression/recollection of her subsequent remarks is that the people thus deprecated were reading LOTR as mere entertainment.

Tatiana's pronouncements had that effect on me more than once. It was like a strange superpower of hers. The other two I can remember right off the top of my head are "You are a wimp if you can't imagine getting into a fistfight over a literary argument," and "The sudden onset of a new ice age would be a good thing, as it would force us to return to a simpler way of life."

#225 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2012, 10:58 PM:

Story is

☑ Single

☑ In a Relationship

☑ It's Complicated

#226 ::: forgot the name ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2012, 11:20 PM:

I'm a little confused about the division between the books and the movies, and the perception of 'likes one, dislikes the other' that I'm reading from DBratman in particular. In a way I see them as complementary works that inform each other, and I often read fanfic and their sources the same way.

I grew up in Harry Potter fandom/fanfic, while it was a very much ongoing series, and one of the ideas there was the concept of alternate universe fanfics of what the next book could be. So they had the idea 'okay, there's more books, what if that book was like this?' and they wrote it. Same characters, often quite similar plausibility and IMO sometimes very much better than the later books [5-7] turned out to be, and I was capable of reading them and reading the books and liking both for different reasons. Sometimes the book interpretations of a character made more sense, and sometimes the fanfic interpretation of a character worked better.

Though 'capable' doesn't quite cover it. I'm not sure I would have liked, or finished, books 5-7 without those fanfic interpretations in mind. It was the possibility of those alternate interpretations, the creativity and the love there, that made the characters in those books much more plausible to me, and much more enjoyable. They could have behaved like that -- but they behaved like this instead, and it was that depth granted to them from fanfic that made it work for me.

If I don't like something, or there's a part that really, really nags at me even though I enjoy the rest, I seek fanfic of it, because often as not fanfic answers why, and sometimes it tries to explain. It was like that with Supernatural with me -- I watched it, and watched it, and I was more and more uncomfortable with the treatment of women on the screen. Fanfic gave me women behind the scenes talking to each other, relying on each other, being strong, written in the interstitials so it wasn't yet another screen narrative of 'the only good TV mother/girlfriend is a dead one', but they talked, too, to each other, and had lives, and existed beyond the screen. And holding the written possibility of that in my mind made it so much easier to watch the parts I did like.

The movies worked much the same way for me when I read the LotR books. They weren't the same, they were developed differently, presented differently, and that was the point. It was the possibilities, fleshed-out and changed and cut up from the source, that made the books so much better. For me fanfic and the-film-of-the-book and TV shows 'based on the novel X__ by X__ F__' of the kind that are rampant in UK murder mystery productions work that way for me, too.

Sure, not everyone goes back to read the source. Not everyone is familiar with the source they write for, either -- I've written a lot for shows and books and movies that I've never and will never experience myself but that someone gave me a summary of their character, with the points that made them most memorable to them, that amounted to 'I love them, make them a real person', or like in kinkmemes, 'I want this interpretation, please write it'. Most often I write the dead mothers on the ceiling, the ones who don't exist in the source other than to be dead mothers on the ceiling. Very often it's 'this person is supposed to be this person's best friend, but they never talked to them on screen. What happened?' or 'What made X action happen from Y's point of view?' where Y is often a background character backgrounded for reasons of Dead Mother on the Ceiling, or Obligatory Girlfriend. Those are situations where unfamilarity with the source can sometimes help, because there really is nothing more than that to be gleaned from it. Familiarity with other fanfic of the source helps a lot more in presenting depth because more often than not a mother or girlfriend or best friend will have more presence (and I'm not saying it's *always* a matter of being reduced to tropes -- just that it often is.)

But I think a lot of people do come back to the source or sources, and I think, like Fade Manley said up there, it absolutely can and does help the source, not dilute or harm it, to have alternate interpretations and ways of treating the source flourish and multiply. Accuracy is often beside the point, I think.

What do I gain from faithfulness to the source if I want to write Radagast the Brown, for example, into a character and person of his own? Very little. I have a handful of characteristics and nothing more, and yet, why does Gandalf talk to him in particular? There must be more to it than that. That's where fanfic comes in, and reading/writing fanfic of him makes that scene with him and Gandalf come alive so much more than it would otherwise.

It's because of the movies that I can like the books.

#227 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2012, 11:41 PM:

I am heroically resisting the temptation to posit that Tolkien's The Hobbit is Beowulf Scribe II Fanfic.

It's terribly hard though.

#228 ::: Teresa Niielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2012, 11:53 PM:

Caedmon just needed to find the right fandom.

#229 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2012, 12:13 AM:

Teresa, I remember Tatiana Keller from ALPS. Don Keller got into a disagreement with another member, who was too sarcastic for Tatiana's taste, so Tatiana joined and started a flamewar, which I (being young and foolish at the time, and never having seen a flamewar) tried to mediate, since the other person was my friend, and I had never had unpleasant words with either Don or Tatiana. I got them both (separately) to agree to drop it after a particular issue, and the other person did...but Tatiana put in one last page of zingers.

She said the other person had said some things she just couldn't let stand. Like the agreement, peace in the APA, her promises to me meant absolutely nothing. And of course she didn't tell me she was going to do this in advance; it was her chance to get the last word.

Needless to say, she is not one of my favorite people.

#230 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2012, 12:19 AM:

Serge at #220 wrote:

I suddenly find myself wanting to watch Rankin-Bass's "LoTR".
Not.

You're safe. That production is a myth, like those prequels to Star Wars that people joke about.

(But seriously . . . even though the teenage Me knew that they were deeply mediocre, those Rankin-Bass productions gave a tremendous sense of, well, validation.)

#231 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2012, 12:29 AM:

Xopher, the continent of North America is very wide. I'm content with that.

#232 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2012, 12:34 AM:

Oh, I forgot all about that until I saw her name again.

I will try not to hope that a new Ice Age will start NOW. But this has been a cruel, cruel summer.

#233 ::: DBratman ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2012, 04:00 AM:

As TNH @222 is kind enough to expound at length on where I went wrong, it's time perhaps to check that my blood pressure has gone down and respond.

Rikibeth's @118 is indeed extremely interesting. And as I said in @132 in response, "I sympathize with your point on an aesthetic level."

All I meant by the rest of the post was that there is a quite contrary view out there to what Rikibeth said was undeniable about the appeal of the film.

And I cited the Tolkien scholars not to say that their view must prevail, but merely to avoid having it dismissed as insignificant. I did say in 132, "They're not the only people who love Tolkien," specifically to avoid unduly privileging them. And then I said they do know something about the subject, to say that their views should command, at the least, respect. You can disagree with them, but you can't dismiss them.

But I'm deeply upset by being told that I think the scholars own the text or that I was "heavily privileging" them. I specifically tried to avoid saying that. ("They're not the only people who love Tolkien" @132, "I took the greatest pains at my disposal to avoid phrasing the third paragraph of @132 as an Argument from Authority" @144, "I'm not trying to privilege them" @149, "I'm speaking of my experience" @191.)

This connects to amateur fanfic writing only insofar as what I said earlier was that works should have a copyright grace period before being subject to published amateur unauthorized fanfic. What people think in private is up to them. As TNH says, we can't stop fanfic. And I did say to Rikibeth @111 that, imo, Hornblower has around now passed his protective date. (And The Hobbit is the same age as the first Hornblower book.)

I was aware of the danger of using unnamed lurkers as my citation for views on Jackson, though I was handicapped by the fact that many of them do not wish to discuss the matter in public, to avoid getting in arguments like this one. I don't feel authorized to say in public what they tell me they think. So I gave some specific examples that I could give, and a link, in 189. It's upsetting that I should only be accused of holding up unnamed lurkers after I wrote that.

I regret the perception that I was ignoring the views of others. I was ignoring them, and I would have liked to gone on to a quiet discussion of how fanfic fits in to readers' responses to a work, because it's a fascinating topic. People respond to LOTR, or any other work, in a variety of ways, and some of these ways I do personally find very strange or alien to the book. But they're entitled to them, even as the fan who once infamously reviewed an Orson Scott Card novel by describing cutting it up with a chainsaw is entitled to his. (By the way, I've seen SF readers outside of fandom who not only love Card, but believe his work is universally loved by SF readers. I often shock them by saying that, inside fandom, that is not so, even as, inside Tolkien scholarship, Jackson is not universally loved.) My beef with Jackson is not that he loves Tolkien the way he does (even if I, personally, consider it warped), but that he's imposed that view on the world in a way no amateur fanfic writer could manage. And that's just a beef. He did it, it's there, I just don't have to like it, and I can take the opportunity to show that there are other views of the book.

Anyway, I would have liked to have a discussion. But first I felt I had to fight off what felt like the gnat-like attacks of people who responded to the citation of what scholars think by saying they write for readers and not scholars - as if, it seemed, scholars were not also readers and did not also love the work (terribly ironic coming from a scholar herself, as I well knew, but maybe she was exaggerating to make a rhetorical point) - or deny that they've ever encountered any scholars who held these views - as if my characterization was entirely mistaken. Lisa is entitled to say that she doesn't share those views, and obviously many people do not, but ... well, I said the rest in 189 and 191, and if they can be read shorn of the upset of feeling treated like an ignoramus in my field of professional expertise, I hope they will be. I apologize for feeling upset about that, but I am human.

And I don't want to go into the semantics of the start of TNH's post. I'll just say that I entirely disagree with her distinction, and leave it at that. I'll go into the substantive discussion in another post, and I hope we can just drop the rest, though I realize I can't demand the last word on it.

#234 ::: DBratman ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2012, 04:31 AM:

OK, substantive. A lot of folks at once:

Abi @178 &183: I entirely agree. I didn't take these not as taking issue with me, because I didn't say anything they should take issue with (the man in my analogy @132 is not "just faking it"), but as responding to Xopher's 171, which speaks more strongly than I would. In my guts, I share Xopher's feelings, but your point is that others have the right to feel differently. So be it. I respect the right of Jackson fans to be Jackson fans (and hope they feel reciprocally about Tolkien fans), and while I've read little LOTR fanfic myself, I've read some fascinating articles about it, as its study is now wending its way into the scholarly literature.

John C. Bunnell @198: Oh, sure, but by "Tolkienists" I don't mean just specialists, but anybody who writes seriously about Tolkien, whatever else they do. Very few, even in small colleges, can focus primarily on him the way some can be Shakespeare specialists.

Xopher @204: Racist positive readings of Tolkien do exist. I'm told that, in Italy, liking Tolkien is associated with neo-fascism, but I do not know how true this may be.

Fade Manley @206: I love this post, I absolutely love it. For one thing, it shows a genuine usefulness of the movie for approaching the book. I've had the same experience myself on occasion. Lots of TV adaptations of 19th century literature have given me roads into that often hard-to-grasp work, including Austen's. (On the other hand, when a movie sends me to a book I haven't tried to read already, I often find the book disappointing, because it's not the movie. I've had that experience with Dickens, and with Mary Poppins.)

Also: You're not entirely alone in being confused. Somewhere in my first reading of LOTR, at age eleven, I picked up the impression that Gandalf said that the Balrog wasn't really a Balrog, but I've never been able to figure out since what I'd misread. As for keeping track of the Fellowship, somewhere around Moria I figured out this group was important (duh: I should have read the title of the volume), and went back to chapter 3 and made a list of them.

Forgot @226: I feel that way about some other books. But not about Tolkien. Maybe the reason relates to your use of fanfic to explain what's left out of the story. I don't feel the presence of loose plot ends of the "why did they do that?" kind in Tolkien. The deliberately offstage stuff is tantalizing!, but fanfic can't scratch my itch of wanting to know what's really there, because I know it's just some fan's guess. To me, Middle-earth isn't just the setting of a story, it's a full-fledged secondary world, and the true word comes from Tolkien, nobody else. (A mental attitude which makes it disillusioning to read his fumbling drafts.)

Abi @214: I don't think "geekery", as Xopher calls it @215, is quite it. Knowing the person in question well (and still being her friend today), I think that her particular love for the book was a combination of feeling spiritual resonance in the story, and knowing the text the way that people who get their spiritual resonance from the Bible know that text. Things like making analogies using it, or using its phrasings as references in conversation: just integrating it into your life. Fiddling over technical details of the subcreation did not interest her.

#235 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2012, 06:12 AM:

DBratman @233 & 234:
I respect the right of Jackson fans to be Jackson fans (and hope they feel reciprocally about Tolkien fans)

And still you miss the point that Jackson fans are Tolkien fans.

If you're wondering why people seem to trip so hard over your misstatements, it's because those comments ring truer than your carefully composed retractions. Responses to those readings are not "gnat-like", and the self-image that phrase reveals isn't doing you any favors either. You're not a great man and a wise scholar plagued by the quibbles of others. You're a human being in conversation with other human beings, and you're doing remarkably badly at it.

Want to do better, and therefore have a chance of actually convincing anyone of your views? Want to have a quiet discussion of how fanfic fits in to readers' responses to a work?

Then stop pretending that you're addressing an audience less intelligent, less well-read, and less skilled at reading than you are. Climb off the damn mountain. Talk to the community as equals, and understand that they read your subtext as well as your text.

If it's too much for you to do to understand why you have come off badly in your dealings with Drs Doyle and Spangenberg (let alone actually apologizing to them), then at least stop digging in that hole. If you can't talk about Tolkien without lapsing into a religious fervor, talk about another author instead.

(Also? Never, never admit again in the presence of any moderator that you were waiting to see if your opponent in an argument was going to get disemvoweled because you had been. It shows entirely the wrong attitude for someone who wants to remain in the community.)

#236 ::: forgot the name ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2012, 06:25 AM:

DBratman @231:

I feel that way about some other books. But not about Tolkien. Maybe the reason relates to your use of fanfic to explain what's left out of the story. I don't feel the presence of loose plot ends of the "why did they do that?" kind in Tolkien. The deliberately offstage stuff is tantalizing!, but fanfic can't scratch my itch of wanting to know what's really there, because I know it's just some fan's guess.

I think I'm reading this as coming back to the idea of a perfect story that can't be elaborated on, and whether there is one at all. And I think everyone's perfect story, the one that has a binding and they point to and they go 'THIS.', with no buts, no exceptions, no equivalences, is very different, and some people like me don't have a perfect story at all. There is no 'THIS.', because for me there is nothing that can't be expanded somehow. Not improved, in the sense of made better, but expanded in the sense of adding to it. I've read some delightful essays on questions like 'how does the potions system in Harry Potter really work?' and group brainstorming on 'what was Saruman doing in Isengard Tower for the time he was imprisoned there?' and they don't necessarily improve the story in themselves, but I think they can add complexity to it, and they're right to.

For me 'just some fan' is everyone, and I tend to think of writers as 'just some fan' of their own worlds, too, because that's been my experience with what I write (in its limited purview). Particularly in collaborative worldbuilding, where we write in it and add details and share our fannishness for this universe and these characters and the possibilities, and though it's original universes (as original as universes can get), it really does seem to work like fanfic in that there's nothing solitary about the stories themselves, and the fact that there is that room is why and how the original stories can work at all. (I think that intangible is part of what happens when a decently/badly written book gains a huge fandom and a lot of writing about it and a lot of enthusiasm. JKR is a decent wordsmith, but not incredible. What she does have is a universe that struck that chord with a lot of people.)

To me, Middle-earth isn't just the setting of a story, it's a full-fledged secondary world, and the true word comes from Tolkien, nobody else. (A mental attitude which makes it disillusioning to read his fumbling drafts.)

We are absolutely coming at this from very different directions! For me the distinction between 'full-fledged secondary world' and 'setting of a story' is nonexistent. A full-fledged secondary world can hold all the stories set in it without damage to the original, I think. It doesn't make it any less complete to have more or less story in that universe. It just means there can be writing about it and in it, and it'll still be complete and imperfect all at once.

I think real-world examples would be the Stark Trek universe, or the Stars Wars universe, or the various iterations of Stargate, or Mercedes Lackey's sets of novels in the one universe, jumping back and forth and around with different characters and times to build on that universe. Even Tolkien himself, with the Simillarion, The Hobbit and LotR. Different times, different places, different people, same universe, and they all added to it even though they're all imperfect and complete in and of themselves. I can read just The Hobbit and feel no need to read the other two, or I could read LotR and The Hobbit and never touch Simillarion, and it would still all work out. That's the nature of what I consider to be a fully-fleshed universe.

So with fanfic, I don't presume to say what's really there. I don't think I can know that, because I'm not the author. I do presume to say what could be, though, and that's when the fanfic gears get going. (Again, this is me -- I'm sure other fanficcers have a completely different approach, because that's just how fandom works.)

#237 ::: forgot the name is gnomed and forgetting ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2012, 06:27 AM:

Gnomed! I don't have any baking to offer today, but I do have a cup of coffee and doublestuff Oreos if you would like some.

#238 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2012, 06:27 AM:

Onward, as Patrick would say*.

forgot the name @226:
Fanfic gave me women behind the scenes talking to each other, relying on each other, being strong, written in the interstitials so it wasn't yet another screen narrative of 'the only good TV mother/girlfriend is a dead one', but they talked, too, to each other, and had lives, and existed beyond the screen. And holding the written possibility of that in my mind made it so much easier to watch the parts I did like.

I like this! Fanfic as a Bechdel patch!
-----
* Yes, joke. Unlike the Captain Lemming one, for which I do apologize.

#239 ::: Antonia T. Tiger ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2012, 08:06 AM:

I can't call my writing fan-fic, because I haven't lifted the characters from somebody else's work. OK, it's a shared world, which was influenced by Disney's TaleSpin, so you can see some elements that resemble fan-fic.

But some of the odd things about it include:

My main character is a woman, who flies aeroplanes, and cheerfully talks to other women who fly aeroplanes. About aeroplanes.

“Nice,” said Catriona, reaching for the magneto switches. “I think I want his children.”

“Join the queue,” said Helen. “Fuel taps to off. You're the one who knows the checklist, not me.”

If you want say that exchange failed the test, OK. Anyway, point is, so much of the mainstream doesn't even try. The characters don't have anything else to talk about. OK, maybe we're told enough to know what they could be talking about, but it's not plot-significant. Maybe there's a pressure to not waste words and time.

But the end result is as if Nurse Christine Chapel never says a word to Dr. McCoy about a medical issue on the Enterprise. And that's where the fans start exploring.

#240 ::: Sica ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2012, 09:02 AM:

DBratman @231: "but fanfic can't scratch my itch of wanting to know what's really there, because I know it's just some fan's guess."

I think there's a key difference in approach to fanfic there and in what I've observed in most fans I know and in myself.

The impulse I have for fanfic isn't to uncover or find out "what's really there", it's to have fun with "what could be there". I think that's my favourite thing about fanfic. It's like this ever expanding fractal flower with multiple versions of the same stories, characters and tropes. I love reading about all the different people these characters could be, how they might end up romantically linked in one of a million ways, what their hobbies, sorrows and actions might be if only this had happened, or that other thing or or or

Some will be more or less believable when it comes to my own mental model of the particular characters but that's sort of beside the point. If the story is well written enough I'll quite happily go along with a different version than my head canon one for the duration of the story and I often discover something new and fun or a different perspective along the way.

and if I really don't like the story I just stop reading and go find another one instead because there are multitudes and that's the beautiful thing about fic. It's not a zero-sum game. You don't loose because someone else wrote a story.

I also started out reading fic in a fandom I hadn't seen at all (and mine was Highlander as well being pulled in by Methos, and I also wasn't disappointed when I finally saw the show several months later) and I still read in some fandoms I've never seen a single episode of the source material or read any of the books and enjoy the fic greatly.

..also to circle back to LOTR, I devoured the books as a 12-13 year old, annoyed all my friends when I wouldn't stop talking about how amazing they were. I enjoyed the movies and in particular loved Arwen the warrior horse princess. See I was a horse mad little girl way back when and am a horse mad adult now and I couldn't help but vicariously live through that chase and think that Arwen was awesome and be very very happy she got to do that.

another thing as well, I didn't speak english at 12-13 and read LOTR in the very excellent Icelandic translation. To this day I much prefer the Icelandic translation and can't force myself to read through Tolkiens prose. He er.. borrowed quite heavily from both the Icelandic language and the old viking culture that's kept more alive back home than here in the UK so most of the names and resonances are richer and much more fitting for me in the Icelandic translations. So much so that I experience the English as a translation of the Icelandic that misses out on some nuances despite knowing intellectually that that's obviously not the case.

An example: Eomer and Eowyn are called Jómar and Jóvin in the Icelandic. (Icelandic J is pronounced more like english Y than J). And Jór is a somewhat archaic name for a horse in Icelandic while -mar and -vin are both relatively common and normal second half of a composite name bit (this combining of two parts to generate the name is how a lot of Icelandic names are put together) anyway Éo does mean horse in old english but the jór (which is basically the same word just spelled differently) is a word modern speakers of Icelandic know and will get the root meaning of the names immediately vs. it being something a casual reader of the English version probably won't pick up on. And it is really neat that Eomer and Eowyn are both named after horses. Aaanyway got massively off on a tangent here, basically different experiences will be different and we can love different parts of any source text in different ways and it's all really neat.

#241 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2012, 09:12 AM:

On the subject of movies ruining books: I am reminded of something PNH(?) said about the Master & Commander adaptation, about which people were dubious. He pointed out that movies can't ruin books, because the books are right there, on the shelf.

#242 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2012, 09:58 AM:

Huh. Interesting. I'm sure it's not the same person, as Tatiana was her SCA rather than her mundane name, but a Laurel by that name once got in an extremely vehement argument with another Laurel at a party over whether a bliaut was one piece or two. Mid-1980s, IIRC, here in Georgia. I seriously thought there was about to be a fistfight. (No, I don't remember which was on which side.)

#243 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2012, 10:46 AM:

I'm not sure we can ever know "what's really there" when it comes to fiction unless we are in the head of the writer when she/he is writing it, and maybe not even then, because there are times I've said to a writer, "isn't this about _this_?" and the writer has gasped and said, "dear god so it is, I never saw that before" and then gone off and written whatever it was.

I think that trying to figure out "what's really there" is one of those impossible quests, even when there's a wealth of world-building and ancillary material to be looked at. Sometimes a writer does all that work but none of it makes it into the finished work(s) for a variety of reasons. I've worked with writers who have written encyclopedias of backstory for their characters and worlds, generations of histories, family trees, etc. So that the writer felt comfortable telling the story. That material isn't always (maybe even isn't often) intended to be read by anyone else. Sometimes it's done almost as a thought-exercise, to work out an idea, and never actually used, even as deep background.

To me, trying to discover "what's really there" is like trying to find the bottom turtle in the stack that's holding up the world.

And that whole question doesn't seem, to me, to apply to fanfic in the first place. Fanfic isn't about "what's really there;" it's about "what might be there." (using a wide definition of the word "about" here, sorry)

#244 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2012, 11:21 AM:

He pointed out that movies can't ruin books, because the books are right there, on the shelf.

The way I heard it, it was James M. Cain who, on being asked what he thought of what Hollywood had done to his books, replied that Hollywood hadn't done anything to his books; they were right there....

#245 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2012, 11:57 AM:

Jim, 244: I probably missed the part where PNH(?) was quoting somebody else. All I remember for sure is that I read it on Making Light in a discussion of that movie.

#246 ::: Carmen Sandiego ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2012, 12:53 PM:

And still you miss the point that Jackson fans are Tolkien fans.

I'm really not getting the point you are making here. Some people can be fans of both, but some people aren't. How are you defining fan? Because I know of lots of situations where people are a fan of one property in one media, but not in other. Or people who like the world and characters but for various reasons can't stand the author/creators.

I first got involved in fandom when Xena came out and have been involved in tons of different fandoms since and have seen:

1) Fandoms where a significant minority (or a signficant majority) of fans liked the world but absolutely couldn't stand the author. See various blowups in Harry Potter fandom about - the epilogue, Harry/Hermione vs Ron/Hermione, Dumbledore, etc, etc. Also, see Orson Scott Card and Supernatural.

2) I personally was really into Xena until around the time jump and Jesus showing up. And I hated the series finale. I still like the characters but at that time had absolutely nothing but loathing for Renaissance. I did not start liking them again until Legend of the Seeker.

3) I love superheros. I will watch almost any show about them, 70's Wonder Woman, Adam West's Batman, the Green Hornet tv show, Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, and Spider-Man (1994 cartoon series), X-Men: The Animated Series, the DCAU stuff: Batman: The Animated Series, Justice League, Teen Titans. Tried Batman Beyond, The Batman and Batman: The Brave and Bold but they didn't work for me.

I have seen all the Batman movies since Michael Keaton. Saw Toby's first two Spiderman movies and watched the first two X-Men. Skipped the third Xmen movie, the third Spiderman movie, First Class, the Green Lantern movie, and the Wolverine movies because they all sounded like crap. Did see Captain America, the Avengers and Thor, which I liked. And I am looking forward to Avengers 2 and Thor 2. If they ever do a Black Widow movie, I will be all over that, but I'm not picking up any Black Widow comic books.

I am not a fan of comic books. Way too much skeezy crap goes on there. I gave up on DC when they took away Wonder Woman's pants. I have no interest in reading comics about any of the above characters. I know I'm not the only person who will see the movies, but has no interest in the comics. Am I a Stan Lee fan because I liked Toby's first two movies, Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, and Spider-Man (1994 cartoon series)?

4) I used to read Harry Potter fanfic. Never read the books. I saw the first two movies, but found them boring. Not at all a fan of JK Rowling, but I liked what other people have done with the world she created.

5) I loved Buffy and Angel, but the season eight comic was quite bad. Looking at his entire oeuvre, there are some things about Whedon I like, and some I can't stand, so I'm not sure if I would qualify as a fan or not. Although when Buffy and Angel were out, I was a Whedon fan, but not anymore. Even though I liked the Avengers.

6) I know people who loved the Jackson movies, and will probably see the Hobbit, but have absolutely no interest in reading the books.

7) I liked the Minority Report, Total Recall (Arnold version), and Blade Runner movies but haven't read the books and do not consider myself to be a Philip K. Dick fan.

8) Japanese fandoms - where people can like the manga version of one thing but can't stand the anime version of it or vice versa. Are people who who like the anime, but not the managa (which are usually created by a different teams), fans of the manga's creator just because they like the anime?

#247 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2012, 01:30 PM:

#206 ::: Fade Manley

Thanks. I think it took three or more readings of LOTR before I got Gondor and Rohan sorted out, and I still don't have Merry and Pippin as distinct characters.

You know, I did have Aragorn and Boromir sorted out, but I think it was a little surprising that there were two humans rather than one. On the other hand, there were four hobbits.

At this point, people may be wondering what I was noticing.... Frodo, Sam, Treebeard, nazgul, the trek to Mount Doom, the darkness lifting when the Ring was destroyed (something that wasn't feasible for the movie, I suppose, and one of the best moments in the books).

Was it surprising to find whole episodes in the books that weren't in the movies and vice versa? Did they seem to add or detract?

Or just plain differences-- Aragorn killed the Mouth of Sauron in the movie, but just sent him away in a very high-handed fashion in the book.

#243, from Melissa Singer:

I've heard that the fogginess about "what's really there" comes out when authors collaborate with translators. The translator will want to find out exactly what the author meant at some point, and the author will have to figure something out.

#246, from Carmen Sandiego,

In re liking the world but hating the author: I bet that some of the time, that's an exact description of some fans' emotions, but I'm hoping that other times, it's liking the world, but hating some of the author's choices.

#248 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2012, 01:49 PM:

Carmen Sandiego @246:

Fair enough; I should have said "many Jackson fans". What I was trying to do was to get away from the idea that DBratman seems to have that one can either like the books or like the films: that one must be one kind of fan or t'other. And, furthermore, that the two groups are naturally antagonistic unless a truce can be declared.

Reading your comment, I think you're using "Tolkien fans" in a slightly different sense than I was. I'm using it (and DBratman was as well, I think) as an elision of "fans of Tolkien's version of LOTR". The feeling I get is that you're as much talking about "fans of Tolkien as an author" (in other words, quite likely to enjoy Farmer Giles of Ham because it's part of his oeuvre) and, to a certain extent, "fans of Tolkien as a human being". Both of which are interesting and recognizable states of being, but not what I was on about.

This is a whole fascinating world of shades of fandom, and I think we can have great fun discussing it. I simply want to make clear that my comment at 235 was not attempting to do so, and shouldn't be taken as a position statement on the matter.

#249 ::: Carmen Sandiego ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2012, 02:22 PM:

Reading your comment, I think you're using "Tolkien fans" in a slightly different sense than I was. I'm using it (and DBratman was as well, I think) as an elision of "fans of Tolkien's version of LOTR". The feeling I get is that you're as much talking about "fans of Tolkien as an author" (in other words, quite likely to enjoy Farmer Giles of Ham because it's part of his oeuvre) and, to a certain extent, "fans of Tolkien as a human being". Both of which are interesting and recognizable states of being, but not what I was on about.

Thanks. Yes, I was using it as both of those. I figured you were using "Tolkien Fans" and "Jackson fans" as a shorthand but I could not figure out what the full concept was.

#250 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2012, 02:34 PM:

fidelio @114: "cannon" vs. "canon" I realize that if you have difficulty keeping spellings straight this isn't going to help and I'm being an annoying twerp, but I had to scratch that itch. I'm sorry.

We'll forgive you if you give us a nifty-cool mnemonic to remember it by. :)

#251 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2012, 03:34 PM:

DBratman @233: I think, getting back to understanding your opinion on Fanfic, Acceptable Manifestations Thereof:

This connects to amateur fanfic writing only insofar as what I said earlier was that works should have a copyright grace period before being subject to published amateur unauthorized fanfic. What people think in private is up to them. As TNH says, we can't stop fanfic. And I did say to Rikibeth @111 that, imo, Hornblower has around now passed his protective date. (And The Hobbit is the same age as the first Hornblower book.)

So, when you say "published" and "amateur" at once, you're defining that as... posted on the web for anyone to read? Shared on a special-interest mailing list? Distributed in a paper fanzine? Written in a spiral notebook by a sixth-grader and passed around to all her friends who enjoy the source material and want more stories?

If you believe that it's all unacceptable down to the spiral notebook level, I feel that you're arguing for suppressing a natural human response to Story. If you think there's a line somewhere in the middle of that spectrum... well, it reminds me of that old joke whose punchline is "We've already settled that, my dear lady. Now we're just haggling over price."

#252 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2012, 04:15 PM:

Jenny, #219: Whether or not you were using fanfic examples that you have personally seen in this post, I am quite sure that every single thing you mentioned does in fact exist.

Teresa, #222: (This may explain why we feel let down when an obscure book we've loved like mad suddenly becomes popular. We could overlook our book's occasional infidelities, but when there are so many, it becomes impossible to ignore.)

I'm sure there are people who get that kind of reaction, but I find it incomprehensible. When I love a relatively obscure book or series, the thing I want most is for it to become stunningly popular so that everybody will have the chance to share my delight in it! Particularly when I see it being eclipsed by a similarly-themed work which is IMO inferior. *cough* Young Wizards vs. Harry Potter *cough*

Erik, #225: *snerk*

forgot, #226: Somebody somewhere (and it might very well have been here) said that they thought of the books as "the story as told by Hobbits" and the movies as "the story as told by Men". That makes a lot of sense to me.

Something I learned from the TV series Bones was the ability to think of the books and the show as AU versions, and enjoy each on its own terms. Because otherwise I'd have spent all my time ranting at the show about Getting Everything Wrong.

Sica, #240: It's like this ever expanding fractal flower with multiple versions of the same stories, characters and tropes.

WRT Star Trek, that holds true even in the Paramount-blessed professional fic. I have at least 2 different versions of the back-story of Sarek and Amanda's courtship in different books. I like one of them better than the other, but that doesn't ruin the second book for me.

I also love fanfic that explores back-story, secondary characters, and aftermaths -- the sort of things that aren't relevant enough to the main story to be covered in the source work. Speaking of which, does anyone have links to good HellSpark fic? I had always hoped that Kagan would write more in that universe, but...

#253 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2012, 05:24 PM:

forgot the name @236, it's possible that I've been misusing the term, but I always thought a secondary world was one with a history distinct from our own. Star Trek wouldn't count as one, for example, because it's supposedly our own world several centuries from now. Star Wars, on the other hand, shows no link to our own world.

Didn't Tolkien complain to CS Lewis that, by having kids from our world journey into Narnia (what we nowadays call a "portal fantasy"), Lewis had compromised his subcreation? I seem to recall reading that somewhere, but I can't recall where.

#254 ::: John C. Bunnell ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2012, 06:40 PM:

DBratman @234: "...fanfic can't scratch my itch of wanting to know what's really there, because I know it's just some fan's guess."

But isn't all scholarship of this kind essentially guesswork, given that the only available material from which to extrapolate is the source text (or, to use the fanwriters' term, "canon")? However much one might wish otherwise, it's not possible to go to Middle-Earth (or Narnia, or Oz) and conduct independent research. Sherlock Holmes fans/scholars have it a touch easier, since Holmes' adventures are set in a world for which independent research materials are, in fact, available. The variable comes down to the perceived quality of the guesswork and the form in which it appears -- but the validity of the guesses themselves isn't (or ought not be) dependent on that form.

Which is how we come to have, among other things, at least half a dozen mutually exclusive, professionally published accounts of Holmes' encounter with the Giant Rat of Sumatra. It would be, I'd think, an interesting academic exercise for a literary scholar to take some of the most prominent of these and attempt to discern which is most likely to be an actual Watsonian manuscript based purely on features internal to the text. But that wouldn't stop some readers from liking one of the others better than the one the scholar found most authoritative. (And this is in many ways comparable to textual analyses of Shakespeare, wherein scholars argue over passages they believe Shakespeare didn't write -- but those passages remain in the published and performed texts.)

The obvious temptation is to argue that scholars are better equipped to speculate on matters of textual authenticity than "mere" readers or fan writers. But where Story is concerned, it seems to me that the emotional connection a reader/fanwriter has with a given story is at least as valid a baseline for extrapolation as the intellectual relationship a scholar has with a given source text.

#255 ::: John C. Bunnell ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2012, 06:50 PM:

Lee @252: I can't help you with Hellspark (I am morally certain it's a fandom that's come up for nomination more than once during the Yuletide exchange, but neither the old or new archives seem to include any fic).

OTOH, I can point you at an item I've long found amusing WRT the Young Wizards/Harry Potter comparison. (Which may, viewed from a certain angle, offer a useful spin on some of the issues that have been discussed upstream.)

#256 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2012, 07:02 PM:

David Bratman: LOTR is a work of fiction. It has a lot of good bits and a few notably ungainly ones. The single most important thing that makes it work is its story, which changes direction a few times but never stops running: the original road that goes ever on. Without that, Tolkien's worldbuilding, however brilliant, would have been unreadable.

Tolkien didn't create a complete world, any more than modern realistic painters create literal picture-boxes of infinite depth. What he created was the appearance of a world. I'll grant that his notes on worldbuilding and continuity were more elaborate than most, but as anyone who reads novel-length genre slush can tell you, building masses of detail into the backstory isn't enough to produce that effect. The other great factor in LOTR's success is that Tolkien's expository technique was very, very good. It allowed him to refer to -- anchor his story in -- that huge continuity he'd created, without unduly burdening the story as it moved along.

(Tom Shippey is right to be awed by "The Council of Elrond." It took an extraordinary amount of skill to make such an epic talking-heads infodump work at all.)

The effect of this continual accumulation of details, artfully laid in so that the reader painlessly assimilates them as part of the process of finding out what happens next, is that they trip and overload the registers in our minds that are responsible for counting up details and deciding which unseen entities lurking just over the horizon are as real as anything we've seen with our own eyes.*

It's an illusion. Tolkien contributes only a small fraction of the data, and the reader fills in the rest. All narrative fiction works this way. If it didn't, the movie in our heads would run slower and slower until it ground to a halt, waiting out the download time of each successive frame, when the things should be clipping past at thirty frames per second.

If it had been given you to see into Tolkien's head, you wouldn't have found the infinitely detailed working model of Middle Earth that you imagine, any more than you'd find little people and stage sets if you opened up a television. What you'd have found in his mind was the engine which created and transmitted a stripped-down coded version of that world, which subsequently recompiled itself, using local databases and materials, inside your own head.

Along the way, you'd have discovered which parts of that creation were rock-solid, and which were arbitrary, or the remains of abandoned experiments, or were compromises dictated by his changing intentions as he wrote, or were invented on the fly and barely remembered afterward. As a secondary realization, you'd have learned that when you're sitting in the audience out front, you can't tell which passages were which.

If you'd gotten to look inside Tolkien's head twice, at widely separated intervals, you'd have discovered that his relationship with his finished works changed over time. All authors do that. Their take on their own books alters over time just like the reader's does.

But let's go back to that recompiled world which prose fiction generates in the reader's mind. It has some interesting properties, if it's handled properly. One is that you-the-reader don't recognize how much of it is your own work. Another is that is has the illusion of completeness. You can't see many features in the areas where the story doesn't go, but they're fuzzy in a reassuring way, like a medium-res thumbnail of a larger photograph. The writing gives you faith that that though there are details you can't see, they do exist, they're consistent with the known details, and if explored they would be interesting.

That's an excellent state of affairs. The readers are busy following the story. They don't have time to assimilate unnecessary explanations. It's enough that they be reassured that the explanations exist. For obvious reasons, readable fiction leans on this effect a lot. And in case you're wondering, Tolkien did it too. The additional material we have on Middle Earth and its history is impressive, but even Tolkien doesn't use his own dirt.

So do please stop sneering about how fanfic is just something written by a fan, as opposed to "what's really there." A significant chunk of everything you've ever experienced while reading Tolkien is by your standards "not really there." It's just something a fan came up with.

...

Y'know, one of these days Making Light should have an in-depth discussion like this of The Enchanted Duplicator.

________________________________

*I theorize that this process also accounts for modern celebrity journalism. If people read or hear enough databits about some celebrity, it trips their "this thing is real" meter, thereafter making the subject unnaturally interesting to them.

#257 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2012, 08:48 PM:

LMM #199: Besides the point that aluminum was available before it got cheap, the Mistborn world is post apocalyptic, but very "post-" -- a thousand years.

#258 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2012, 09:24 PM:

Teresa at 256:
That's like what Marshall MacLuhan said about hot and cool media.

#259 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2012, 09:31 PM:

John, #255: Ooh, thank you! That's a nice little vignette. I really do need to acquire and read The Dark is Rising.

Teresa, #256: [I]t has the illusion of completeness. You can't see many features in the areas where the story doesn't go, but they're fuzzy in a reassuring way, like a medium-res thumbnail of a larger photograph. The writing gives you faith that that though there are details you can't see, they do exist, they're consistent with the known details, and if explored they would be interesting.

This. And fanfic which explores into those fuzzy areas is exactly the kind of fanfic I tend to like best. I'm not much about the whole "shipping" thing (though I certainly have no objection to well-written porn), but back-story and side-issues and secondary characters and things briefly alluded to... oh, yeah.

#260 ::: Lee has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2012, 09:33 PM:

I've got some nice smoked ribs here, falling-off-the-bone tender with an apple-based sauce...

#261 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2012, 11:13 PM:

Elliott Mason @83: But Shards of Honor is openly admitted by Bujold to have been initially written as a Kirk/Spock work, before she later decided she had her own planets and storylines she wanted to use (the initial prompting that set her down that road was, "Wait, what if my Kirk was a woman?").

It was never a Kirk/Spock work. I asked Lois tonight, and she said so.

Andrew M @88: Strictly speaking, I think what Bujold says is that she first conceived SoH as Star Trek fanfic, not that she wrote it as such - she had already moved it to her own world by the time she started writing it down.

That's much closer, according to what Lois said. She was looking at the world of Star Trek, and also wondering how the Klingons got to be Klingons, what made their culture what it is. She wasn't using particular Star Trek characters in Shards of Honor, and definitely not Kirk/Spock. She said tonight when I asked her specifically about this, that Star Trek was involved in her dreaming up Shards of Honor, but a lot less so than most people think. She said, "But most people just hear that Star Trek was involved, and they don't hear anything else and jump to the conclusion that it was fanfic. I want to say, 'Star Trek was involved, but not as much as you think and not in the way you think.'"

Jacque @95: Do you have a cite? I think I've seen Bujold specifically disclaim this assertion, with some vehemence. But, of course, I can't find the reference....

You're correct; she has done so. (Well, not vehemence in the sense of being appalled at the idea; just vehemence of the "that's not how it happened" sort.)

David Goldfarb @96: I too have heard that Shards of Honor started life as Trek fanfic. I don't think it can have been K/S, though: to me, Trekverse!Aral Vorkosigan is obviously a Klingon.

Good eye. She did say that thinking about what went into making Klingons Klingons is how she invented Barrayarrans.

Cassy B @100: Hardly definitive, but at least according to the recollections of one of Bujold's childhood (adolescent-hood?) friends, and as published in a Bujold anthology, Shards had as its creative spark a piece of Trek fanfic.

Useful quote! Yes, one of its sparks, definitely. Yet as Lois said, not in the way most people think, given that most people seem to think it was from a K/S story, or even from a fleshed-out Trek fanfic.

(Sorry, this all sounds very pedantic. I plead exhaustion and the fact that my head is full of words; there was just a several-hour salon in my living room involving Lois Bujold, Peg Kerr, Emma Bull, Pamela Dean, a very nice researcher and me. Whee! But I did remember to ask Lois about this at the end of it, and now I have reported back, so there ya go. Lioness goes and falls over now. Thud.)

#262 ::: elise has posted Bujold stuff and the gnomes have it ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2012, 11:14 PM:

There are some scones and stuff left over from the salon if the gnomes would like some.

#263 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2012, 12:44 AM:

Sica at # 240: I didn't speak english at 12-13 and read LOTR in the very excellent Icelandic translation. To this day I much prefer the Icelandic translation and can't force myself to read through Tolkiens prose. He er.. borrowed quite heavily from both the Icelandic language and the old viking culture that's kept more alive back home than here in the UK so most of the names and resonances are richer and much more fitting for me in the Icelandic translations. So much so that I experience the English as a translation of the Icelandic that misses out on some nuances despite knowing intellectually that that's obviously not the case.

I bet Tolkien would have been pleased to hear of your reaction.

#264 ::: Doctor Science ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2012, 01:59 AM:

Late to the party again, but I'm here.

Sica @ #240:

The impulse I have for fanfic isn't to uncover or find out "what's really there", it's to have fun with "what could be there". I think that's my favourite thing about fanfic. It's like this ever expanding fractal flower with multiple versions of the same stories, characters and tropes.

My experience exactly. In fact, I'd say that a workable definition of fanfic would come from turning what you said inside-out:

"Fanfiction is fiction that explores the multiple possibilities arising out of a pre-existing source story. The source may be another fiction, or it may be the reported actions of real people, living or dead."

Important points:

1) Fanfic is speculative fiction where the speculation is centered on a story or person thought of as a character. SF is speculative fiction where the center is the nature of the world.

2) An important part of the "feel" of fanficdom is that fanfic is multifarious: there is no single right answer, nothing that is, as DBratman says, "really there". Much of its pleasure comes from its multiplicity, intertextuality, and joyful cross-reference. Fanfic writing certainly *can* be a solitary, individual pursuit, but it doesn't *have* to be.

3) The more a story-telling culture involves a community playing together with a set of characters, plots, or tropes, the more it will "feel" like fanficdom. Conversely, if fanfic is produced in isolation, without reference to other stories and storytellers, it will "feel" less like fanfic even if it fulfills the simple definition of being a transformative work.

4) I think it's important to recognize that, right now, in western culture and AFAIK in Japan, the majority (possibly the vast majority, 80% or more) of fanfic writers are female. IMO this is something that needs explaining, because the story-telling impulse is part of the common heritage of humanity.

Meanwhile, the fact that fanfic is currently more-practiced by females gives it a feminine "feel" or association, it colors what we think of when we think of fanfic. I don't think it changes the *definition*, but it definitely gives a certain tint to the word.

5) Fanfic certainly existed before copyright law -- Arthurian legend, for instance, is fanfic all the way down. However, fanfic as she is experienced today is in tension with copyright and with the money economy, which also gives it a certain "color". I've known fanfic writers to feel that it's only *real* fanfic if it's transgressive, coloring outside the lines.

#265 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2012, 02:18 AM:

elise @261: Fun! I would love to have been the proverbial "fly on the wall" at such a salon.

#266 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2012, 02:22 AM:

Lee @259: I think you would like The Dark is Rising a lot.

When I was in middle school, we did in-class book reading. The teacher took input from the pupils, and someone suggested that one, so we did it. We were just old enough to be turning 11 at the time, which added some resonance. I remember going out and buying the rest of the series, and having to get the last one in hardcover because it was too new for a paperback -- at the time of course I had no idea how these things worked.

#267 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2012, 02:28 AM:

Tolkien had strong opinions on some translations. IIRC the Swedish translation was what prompted him to write an essay on the subject, making clear the ancient meanings of the names used, and some obscure English words. For instance, a ropewalk is not a sort of bridge.

The Icelandic translation sounds good.

#268 ::: DBratman ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2012, 02:56 AM:

Perhaps I could have saved several people a lot of grief and trouble if, in my paragraph @234 responding to Forgot @226, I had said that by "what's really there" and "the true word" I meant what is usually called canon, the internal objective "facts" of the sub-creation (e.g. what happened to the other two wizards, that sort of thing) as presented by the original author, and if I had put in boldface with flashing lights what I did say, which is that this is my personal feelings and that they apply to my reaction to Tolkien and not to other authors. As Forgot keenly observed @236, some people have a "perfect story", and some don't, and it'll be different for each who have one. Tolkien's is mine.

In particular, it might have saved TNH the trouble of writing 256. Do you think I don't already know that the reality of the created world is a thin illusion? Do you think I've haven't read every page of the posthumously published material? Did I not actually write that my "mental attitude ... makes it disillusioning to read his fumbling drafts"? How uninformed and inexperienced on Tolkien do you think I am?

I'm not drawn to Tolkien fanfic because what I want - and that's what I want, not what anybody else has to want - is canon. I also have a practical concern, which occurred to me after I spent time in the back of Tolkien scholar John D. Rateliff's car leafing through a set of game cards that contained their creators' elaborations on Middle-earth history. This stuff was so good, so extensive and so well-integrated with Tolkien's imagined history and so much in his spirit, that I immediately put it down and never looked at it again.

Why? Because I was afraid that if I absorbed this stuff, I wouldn't be able to remember offhand what came from Tolkien and what didn't. And for my brand of Tolkien scholarship, it's essential not to attribute to Tolkien additions made by somebody else. I already have enough brainspace dedicated to the various conflicting drafts, and, perforce, to the movies.

Scholars with other needs and interests, especially those actually working on fanfic, or whose memories work differently than mine, do not have this problem. But part of my job is to review submitted papers on Tolkien for journals, and one of the things I have to watch for is statements and material that come not from Tolkien as the writer says, but from the movies or some other source. (This happens regrettably often.) And I can only do that if I keep a sharp division in my mind.

Other authors, I don't care. Bring on the Sherlock Holmes fanfic! A lot of it is better than the original, anyway, and it does scratch the itch of wanting to get other people's ideas of what happened outside the canonical stories, which in this case is an itch I do have. And a big part of the difference, for me, is that ACD, unlike JRRT, didn't really care about keeping his subcreational facts straight. So why not.

#269 ::: DBratman ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2012, 03:56 AM:

Abi @235: Sure, individual people can be both Jackson fans and Tolkien fans, and many are. But many others are not, and my experience is that most who are both are more one than they are the other. And they operate in different capacities, the way that with your parents you are their child and with your children you are their parent, and if you're with both at the same time you have to balance and trade off those capacities.

I have this reputation as a great Jackson-basher, but actually I rather enjoyed the movies. (Something which the Silent Lurker scholars I alluded to earlier did not.) I have attended public social events designed for the movie fans. And when I am there, I am in my capacity as one. I do not mutter about the movies' longeurs. I do not hold forth about the things Jackson got wrong. That would be inappropriate in that forum, like an atheist attending a church service to tell people that God does not exist. At least for that day, I am there to appreciate the movies for what the movies do. That is what I meant by "I respect the right of Jackson fans to be Jackson fans," and I expect any primarily-Jackson fans who come to, say, Mythcon, which is about the books, not the movies, to come in their capacity as Tolkien fans and pay similar respect.

(As far as the rest of your post is concerned, that's a two-way street.)

Sica @240: That's a fascinating personal story, and I'm particularly intrigued by your feeling that, since you read the Icelandic translation first, you still prefer that, and perhaps you also feel that it's the "real" story even though you know that the author's original is in English.

I suspect such feelings come up whenever multiple versions of a story are concerned, though rarely acknowledged as clearly. This comic, published several months before Jackson's first movie came out, urging young readers to read the book before the movie's images can pre-empt it, is prescient. And that is why I don't consider "the book is still on the shelf" an adequate answer to a complaint of "the movie ruined it." It doesn't matter where the book is, if the movie is in the head.

Rikibeth @251: Yes, hosting a story on the open web is equivalent to publishing it in a book. No, handwriting it and passing it around to your friends is not. Copyright protocols appertain here. Yes, I believe that fans of authors who decry fan fiction of their work, if those fans have any respect for the author, ought to refrain from publishing their fanfic of that author for a decent interval, which I don't presume to dictate the length of but which would be measured in decades from the original's publication and include the author's death. No, I don't think this restriction can be entirely enforced, as most laws cannot. Yes, the line is in the middle, but the same is true of copyright. You can legally photocopy someone else's published story for your own use, without permission. You can't make multiple photocopies and distribute them to all your friends (without permission). The difference is where it becomes publishing, and that's why the open web counts, because legally it's publishing, or so I understand.

Avram @253: I don't recall Tolkien making that complaint, though he did think Narnia a mishmosh of incompatible mythologies. However, in his The Notion Club Papers there's an interesting discussion among the characters of the "machinery" for getting heroes to the imaginary world. The characters expressing the author's viewpoint dislike spaceships (as in Lewis' Out of the Silent Planet) because their mechanical nature clashes with the aesthetics of the worlds in the specific example being discussed. Other suggestions offered are dreams (quite effectively used in NCP itself) and what one character points out is the only way anybody has ever gotten to a world: incarnation, by being born there.

John C. Bunnell @254: That's fine if that's what you want for that particular author. (And I'm pleased to have provoked you to write so thoughtfully about it.) It's just not what I want for this particular author; see my previous post.

Oz is an interesting example, because Thompson's Oz feels quite different from Baum's. As does the MGM movie's. And then of course there are others, but they're less prominent. The Oz that the serious Oz fans are fans of - and I've been a ghost at some actual Oz conventions, no fooling - is an amalgam. It strikes me as being about 45% Thompson, 30% Baum, 25% MGM, at a guess. Doesn't bother me, for Oz. I would hate with a passion a fate like that for Tolkien.

#270 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2012, 06:43 AM:

dbratman @ various

All that any of us can do is read what you wrote, and respond to it. Yes, people can mis-read you but none of us can read your mind.

Since some pretty smart people have called you out over what you wrote, I don't think a mis-reading is the way to bet.

#271 ::: Sica ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2012, 08:30 AM:

#269 DBratman - I'm fully aware of and think of the original English as the canonical original version. I however think that the Icelandic version is the better one and Ive reread the Icelandic translation several times while I haven't managed to read all the way through the English version yet.

I've lived in Scotland for close to 10 years now and am very fluent in English, I know it's not a fluency problem at all, just a style and a deeper resonance thing with the names and all that for me. I even prefer the name for Lord of the Rings in Icelandic, it's called Hringadróttinssaga. Hringur = ring, dróttinn = old english dryhten aka lord, king or warlord and then saga = story

We have a rich history of the old Icelandic sagas and they're usually named a bit similarly to that so it just seems really fitting and resonant. I have no idea if Tolkien himself approved of the Icelandic translation or not but I don't really care about that. For me once a piece of fiction has been published it's out of the author's hands and I get to engage with it however I want (and if part of my engagement is writing some stories to share on a website for free with my friends and fellow fans, that's my business as well and has nothing to do with Tolkien or his estate per se)

Anyway Tolkien also lifted a bunch of names directly from old Icelandic/old Norse sources (like practically all the dwarves in the Hobbit are taken staight from a section in Völuspá. So they actually did get translated into English to be used in his writing and have their original form in Old Norse/Old Icelandic which is close enough to modern Icelandic that they don't need to be translated.

#272 ::: forgot the name ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2012, 08:33 AM:

DBratman, 268/269:

I think where I'm hostile to your posts comes down to the connection I'm drawing between your declaration that Tolkein is your perfect story and the repeated implication of True Fans versus Those Fans Just Be Imitating. 'Intellectual squatting', 'serious fans', etc.

Why is an amalgam like It strikes me as being about 45% Thompson, 30% Baum, 25% MGM, at a guess. Doesn't bother me, for Oz. I would hate with a passion a fate like that for Tolkien. a 'fate like that' for your favourite author but not for theirs? Do you think there aren't Oz fans who feel the way you do about Frank Baum or MGM the way you feel about your version of Tolkein versus/in-concordance-with Jackson's? Of course there are. It's in comics fandom, animanga fandoms, music fandoms -- some of the most embittered flamewars I've seen have been about covers and remixes, for example. It's true in fashion, and it's true for stories and pretty much every kind of creative or involved endeavour up to and including the pyramids. It's true for management systems and Linux and fountain pens and bananas. (Oh, the passion devoted to mourning the unfortunate Cavendish banana.) Anything with fans that has interpretations, continuations, transliterations, species, subdivisions or versions or any of the above is going to come right up against different people being fans in different ways of different characteristics.

And while you acknowledge that, on the other hand you say 'serious fans', 'real fans', 'intellectual squatting', 'honouring the author', that sort of thing, which rubs of 'it's okay for THEM, but for this I am a True Fan'. Perhaps that's not what you mean to say, but to use your atheist-in-a-church example, it feels like that's what you're doing. It feels like you're talking to Those Ignorant Fools (who write that sort of fanfic), who don't appreciate it quite like you do, who don't have your reverence for the material, and if we did, we wouldn't taint it with our measly scribbling because doing so is dishonouring the author's efforts. Is all of that necessarily explicit in what you said? No. Is that how it feels like? Yes.

It's not that I think you're uniformed on the subject of Tolkein, and you don't have to prove that you've read everything to be counted as a fan or a scholar or both. It's that to me it reads like you think you have to prove some sort of divide between True Fan and Just Imitating and your firm place on True Fan Island to be taken seriously, and the flipside of it comes across like you think we are proving our unseriousness, our unfanishness, maybe even our lack of respect, by having the discussion of what place fanfic and adaptation has in the idea of what counts and what doesn't in Tolkein's oeuvre.

This is where I'm coming from on this: I write fanfic. I write That Sort of Fanfic. Sometimes I do it because I'm angry at a source. Sometimes it's tossed off the cuff with no emotional connection to the canon because someone wished for it and I thought 'hey, I can I do that'. Maybe that's fannishness, maybe it's not. There's no gatekeeper. So I disagree from the outset with the idea that there's any kind of bar to fannishness or fanfic or what counts as fandom. If you say you're a fan? If you say it's because of this or part of this? I believe you.

But also: I started on Tolkein from comic books. Specifically a comicbook of The Hobbit. Why not the books? I wasn't literate enough to have any idea they existed. Did it make me love the story any less? No. Was I still mistrustful of Gollum and admiring of Bilbo and adoring Gandalf and tickled by Smaug smug and fearsome atop his hoard? Was I biting my nails for Bilbo, hoping the trolls wouldn't get him, wondering what would happen? Yes. Did I like the dwarves, and the Men, and the hobbity feet and the idyllic strange of it? Yes.

Focusing on the purity and completion of the works authored by Tolkein himself in his writing matters to you, deeply, and that's okay. It's your perfect story. Though I don't understand it myself I can see how a story can work that way for someone, and I respect that, I do. But it feels like you would take my fanfic and my deep preference for the comicbook over the novel as a sign that I don't care enough to be a fan of Tolkien's story, and that is what bothers me.

#273 ::: forgot the name is gnomed once more ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2012, 08:35 AM:

But now I have tart. Delicious, delicious berry tart. There may even be puff pastry, if it would please.

#274 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2012, 09:42 AM:

Teresa, Texanne: We're never in our lifetimes going to be able to have a conversation about Faramir without somebody saying "In the movie..." The book is may be safely on the shelf, but the discourse is permanently contaminated. In Kate's chapter by chapter re-reading of LOTR on Tor.com I read each thread until somebody mentioned the movies. It was usually within ten comments.

And the thing with the stages and changes and illusion of reality -- yes, it's true, but also nobody except the writer knows what got left out, unless it's all published as Christopher Tolkien has done. And even then nobody except the writer knows what's important. Sometimes I know things that don't get into the text that nevertheless are informing everything about it.

#275 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2012, 10:57 AM:

John C. Bunnell @255:

It made me cry -- thank you, The Dark is Rising is one of my favorite series.

#276 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2012, 12:27 PM:

Jo@274: and the discourse is permanently contaminated.

Some people might say "broadened", rather than "contaminated" in that context.

Is Shakespeare's Othello contaminated because Verdi wrote an opera based on the play, and possibly some of the contemporary Italian audience experienced the opera first? Is Iago's Credo in un Dio crudel less of a stunning piece of music and less illuminating of Iago's character because it occurs in an adaptation into another medium?

(And nobody gets to say, "But opera is art and movies aren't", because that dog won't hunt.)

#277 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2012, 12:27 PM:

I am a big fan of THE DARK IS RISING, the book (re-read it many years around the winter solstice) -- but I don't re-read the series, despite all the good stuff in the other books, because the end of the last book is just Wrong. I don't often want to throw really good books across the room because of a bad ending, but that one....

#278 ::: cofax ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2012, 12:32 PM:

dbratman@269:
The difference is where it becomes publishing, and that's why the open web counts, because legally it's publishing, or so I understand.

Erm. I would strongly suggest that you familiarize yourself with the legal issues surrounding fanfiction before making such statements.

In the US, copyright attaches at the moment something is set down: it need not be published.

In the US (and in the general common law tradition, I believe), publishing does not mean "Published on the web or via a printing press"; it most certainly includes photocopying to share with a friend, for one's own use. Any repetition or reproduction is publishing.

If I write a story about Boromir and Aragorn bumping uglies in the snows of Caradhras, and email it to three friends, I have, in fact, published it. That you do not see it and cannot see it unless someone forwards it to you means nothing. And any copyrightable interest I have in the story (and I will have one, although it will be greater the more distant it is from Tolkein's original work) attaches to it at the moment I have finished typing.

I propose a new law (to be named Tushnet's Law): In any online discussion of fanfiction, there will be as many people pronouncing wrongly on copyright law as there are people who get it right.

At the risk of being gnomed, I offer some references:
Law professor Rebecca Tushnet's article on fanfiction and copyright; Stanford Library's reference on copyright and fair use; and the Fanlore page listing a number of legal analyses of fanfiction and legal issues.

Apologies for my brusqueness, but I've seen these sorts of sweeping statements about the legality of fanfiction being made far too often, and in reality, well, it's always more complicated than that.

#279 ::: cofax ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2012, 12:45 PM:

Tom Whitmore @277:

You might find this story to your liking, then, as it addresses that one major flaw that so many people hated.

One of the advantages of the yearly Yuletide exchange is the opportunity for stories like that, which both respect and challenge a source text that a lot of people have read over the years but that has no active fandom.

#280 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2012, 01:08 PM:

I am horrified by the way the Book of Lost Tales and The History of The Hobbit have permanently warped my understanding of the One True Hobbit and the real LOTR.

This is even worse than the revisionist alterations Tolkien made to The Hobbit, permanently changing the story.

It's all been ruined now.

We have recensions, never mind completely different versions.

How ever shall we possibly cope with the various versions instead of true narrative purity with the various recensions and the publication of LOTR remscéla?

#281 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2012, 01:46 PM:

You can say "broadened" and I can say "contaminated", but neither of these is the same as "right there on the shelf".

Movies really do change the space of possible discourse around a book.

#282 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2012, 01:51 PM:

#278 ::: cofax:

I would expand Tushnet's Law to include any discussion of law by the general public.

Is "folk law" a useful term for what people believe about the law?

#283 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2012, 02:04 PM:

DBratman, #268: But part of my job is to review submitted papers on Tolkien for journals, and one of the things I have to watch for is statements and material that come not from Tolkien as the writer says, but from the movies or some other source.

This greatly clarifies a lot of what you've been saying about Tolkien for me; I wish you'd mentioned it earlier. When your job depends on your not having head-canon, it makes sense that you want to avoid other people's interpretations of the original. It doesn't do much to mitigate your original disdainful sniff at That Sort Of Fanfic, though.

Jo, #274: I don't understand your use of "contaminated" in this context. Comparing-and-contrasting the book and movie versions is one of the things which can lead to a deeper understanding of both.

As a side note, my partner and I have a never-to-be-resolved disagreement over movie!Faramir's decision to drag Frodo and Sam back to Osgiliath. He says this was something the book got wrong, and that Faramir as a military commander in the field would never have so casually allowed the Ring (well, the Ringbearer, as he still made no attempt to take it for his own) to leave his custody, until it was forcibly brought home to him that he could not guarantee keeping it out of Sauron's hands. I think the whole sequence seriously blurs the distinction between Faramir and Boromir that Tolkien meant for us to see.

#284 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2012, 02:52 PM:

I may be an outlier, but I have seen the Jackson movies (more than once) and I have re-read the original books since the movies appeared (more than once), and my internal "movie" of the books is pretty much what it was before.

Nonetheless I wouldn't think of denying that other people's experience is different. I've always, for instance, done my best to respect Jo's desire to not have to deal with a lot of gabble about the Jackson movies which she loathes. It's not like there's some shortage of other things in the world to have delightful conversations with Jo Walton about.

#285 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2012, 05:59 PM:

Sica @240: I got into the Highlander series because this one really interesting character, Methos, kept showing up in pairings with my favorite character from another show entirely (which I also hadn't watched) in the fanfic I liked best. It's weirdly thrilling to know that character has done that to other people too.

Texanne @241: And it turns out that the O'Brian books are another great series that I got into after reading the fanf--er, after watching the movie. I'm not sure I would've kept going through the first book, for all that I love it now, if I hadn't already been convinced by that movie that those two characters, with all their faults, were people I wanted to spend a lot of time with.

Nancy Lebovitz @247: Was it surprising to find whole episodes in the books that weren't in the movies and vice versa? Did they seem to add or detract?

Not really. I spent a great deal of my childhood being offended, shocked, and outraged!!! when a movie based on some book was different in any way from the original. (Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH still sets my teeth on edge for that reason.) And then around the time I got to college, and started to learn a lot more about literary analysis--and learned about the wonderful world of fanfic!--I relaxed a lot more about them being different takes on the same base story, where "same" can be very fuzzy. So I fully expected there'd be changes between the two, and can't remember any that particularly bothered me. If anything, I was a little surprised by how close the two stuck with each other.

I also tend to read a lot of books rather strongly for What The Protagonist Does, and when I was trying to read those books as a child, well, Frodo was the protagonist, so I was a great deal less concerned with what everyone else was up to. (Also, rather annoyed if it spent too much time on Other People, however much I liked them, instead of The Protagonist. It felt like cheating. I only sort of grew out of that.) So people who weren't Frodo being significantly changed in their actions or behavior just...didn't bug me that much. I probably would've felt differently if it were a matter of women being reduced in roles so that they'd be more dependent on Strong Action Men, as so often happens in adaptations, but...that didn't happen. They gave Arwen more action. I liked that. So the changes didn't bug me.

(Heresy point: I totally did not miss Tom Bombadil. Never liked him in the books, was glad he wasn't in the movie.)

--

Anyway, I keep writing and rewriting and deleting paragraphs about how this differs--or doesn't--from historical fiction, which makes me think that's a thought for a different thread. But I still think there are some really interesting overlap points between the two categories.

#286 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2012, 07:42 PM:

cofax @279 -- yes, that does help. A lot. I left a thank-you for the author at the site, and I'm leaving one for you here. That's an amazing example of a fanfic that really does help me enjoy the original story more, and the author did an excellent job of catching the authorial feel of the original (and including some bits that I'm sure the author wouldn't have, but they feel right in the same way the original bits felt wrong.

Thank you.

#287 ::: Andy Brazil ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2012, 07:51 PM:

re LOTR: While some of the changes to the films can be explained as necessary to accommodate the requirements of the medium (Glofindel/Arwen for example), there are others, such as the replacement of Aragorn by some bloke who happens to have the same name, that I find fascinating precisely because they don't appear necessary. A film in which Aragorn seeks to gain the kingship through many years of struggle, driven by a sense of destiny and the desire to wed Arwen; who never waivers from that purpose and who wins his goal through strategy and divine right, would I think, have worked as well as the film we actually got; in which a bloke who didn't want to be king inadvertently ends up as one, and finally decides to marry his first girlfriend rather than the blond one. The change is not cinematic but cultural. It is, dare I say it, one designed to make the film more American and less European, more democratic and less aristocratic.in short, more contemporary.

And this leads me to conclude that the problem with the film is that modern copyright, and film economics, means that it is likely to be the only version we will ever see. With Sherlock Holmes there have been so many films, and TV series and non-canon texts, that the ur-Sherlock emerges from the conflicting waves complete and entire. We don't fret about the odd version that has Watson as the clever one and Sherlock as the actor, because they're just one voice in a chorus. And in the end, we discover that even the discordant voices have only served to illuminate the larger theme.

#288 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2012, 08:18 PM:

Andy Brazil @287 -- there have been a lot of remakes of successful films. With ones this successful, it's not likely to happen for a decade or so; but it's not unlikely that there will be more. And remember -- the Jackson films can count as remakes (of the Rankin-Bass and Bakshi animated versions).

#289 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2012, 08:23 PM:

DBratman #269: It [Oz mindshare] strikes me as being about 45% Thompson, 30% Baum, 25% MGM, at a guess.

And where does Gregory Maguire fit in? Or Philip Jose Farmer's older entry?

#290 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2012, 08:27 PM:

Jo Walton, @ 281, 274, Readers also change the space of possible discourse around a book.

You said "And even then nobody except the writer knows what's important." to which I would respond, "nobody except the writer knows what's important to the writer." The second an author lets a book out into the world of the reader they release any hope of having complete control of how it will be read or what people will see as important about the work.

If I've learned nothing else as a writer it's that readers will read the story how they want to read it, which may or may not be congruent with the way I would like people to read it. I love it when a reader finds the things that I thought were important about a story important as well, but I understand that some will find things that I thought were peripheral to be the heart of the thing and vice-versa.

Certainly, it's not change on the same scale as the production of a related or interpretive work like a movie, but it's still a change in focus and emphasis from the writer's vision, and it would seem to me an inevitable consequence of the act of storytelling. And, at least from where I'm sitting, that investment in and transformation of the story is a feature rather than a bug.

#291 ::: Doctor Science ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2012, 09:27 PM:

Sica @ #240:

I think Tolkien would be extremely pleased to hear that you prefer the Icelandic version of LOTR, because he considered Icelandic the language best suited for the story.

From a Watsonian perspective, the English-language LOTR is itself a translation from the Westron. Tolkien himself might have said that putting it into Icelandic made it closer to the "original", the "Northern Thing" that he loved so much.

Tolkien also hoped that his works would inspire fanfiction. He said that his intention was to

draw some of the great tales in fullness, and leave many only placed in the scheme, and sketched. The cycles should be linked to a majestic whole, and yet leave scope for other minds and hands, wielding paint and music and drama.

#292 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2012, 12:22 AM:

Fade, #285: I get much less exercised about things from the book being left out of the movie (because I do understand that text is a much denser medium) than I do about things being put into the movie that aren't in the book*, and even that isn't always so bad if I can feel that it might have happened, or see why it was done from a dramatic standpoint.**

What bugs me far more than either, though, is casting that makes no effort to follow detailed character descriptions. When Brother Cadfael casts a tall blond actor to play Hugh Beringar***, or The Black Stallion casts a 6-year-old kid to play TEENAGE Alec Ramsay... it doesn't always knock me completely out of the story, but I'll grumble about it for decades.


* In the BBC Brother Cadfael series episode of "The Sanctuary Sparrow", there's an entire subplot that comes out of nowhere and adds absolutely nothing to the story. Drove me batshit.

** LOTR example: the arrival of the Elven army at Helm's Deep, which has a sort of "Lafayette, we are here!" feel to me. I was more bugged by all the women and children from Edoras being hauled to Helm's Deep rather then sent off to Dunharrow, but I could see how having them in the hold added to the dramatic tension of the battle.

*** Repeatedly described in the book as both very short (scarcely taller than his wife, who is not a tall woman) and "black-avised", which I take to mean that he might have some Mediterranean ancestry -- in any case, olive-skinned and dark-haired.

#293 ::: John C. Bunnell ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2012, 01:19 AM:

David Harmon @289: The shape and breadth of Ozian apocrypha is at least as messy (if not more so) as the Holmesian landscape Andy Brazil describes in 287, and Farmer's A Barnstormer in Oz is far from the weirdest entry in it. Among other things, there's a series of Russian novels that constitute a sort of parallel-universe Oz (depending on who you talk to)....

OTOH, don't get me started on Maguire; Wicked is one of two books I have deliberately and carefully thrown across a room specifically so I could say I'd done so later. (I then sold the book back to Powell's and resolved never to buy a Maguire novel again.) My private theory is that Wicked is anti-fanfic -- it reads to me as if Maguire filed Ozian serial numbers onto an otherwise unrelated manuscript after failing to sell it in its un-Ozian form.

#294 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2012, 03:55 AM:

John C. Bunnell @293: role inversion is not that uncommon a transformation: we've had mention of Bujold's "how did Klingon society get that way", and there are literary examples like Gardner's "Grendel".

When I looked the latter up on Wikipedia to make sure I had the right author, it was described as a "parallel novel", and that phrase redirected to a list of fictional works using settings created by other artists which I found very interesting.

#295 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2012, 06:22 AM:

John C. Bunnell #293: I thought it was a sophisticated mirroring, essentially starting with the premise "Ye gods, that was twee. In fact it reads not just as tale for children, but awfully like propaganda. Hmm...." I was especially struck by how Maguire's Elpheba acts like someone lurking behind the scenery and (plentiful) backdrops of her society.

If you didn't like Wicked, I suspect you'd really hate Mirror, Mirror. The Borgia family is heavily involved, and the dwarves aren't even remotely human.

#296 ::: John C. Bunnell ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2012, 07:49 AM:

294 & 295: I warned you not to get me started....

It's not the "role inversion" I object to with respect to Wicked, it's the execution. Mirroring a setting well is one thing; mirroring it badly is another, and my strong sense at the time was that to the extent that Maguire was trying to invoke the Baum works, he was doing it badly. (It's been far too long since I read Wicked for me to cite specifics, I'm afraid.)

#297 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2012, 08:04 AM:

John, 296: Yes, that's how I feel! When it's done right, you can see the original and the reflection--like that "R2D2 is actually running the Rebellion" thing. _Wicked_ started out promisingly, but Maguire went so far off the rails I couldn't finish it.

#298 ::: Howard Bannister ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2012, 09:04 AM:

@Andy Brazil, 287

"We don't fret about the odd version that has Watson as the clever one and Sherlock as the actor, because they're just one voice in a chorus."

Also, because that one was Bloody Brilliant. Sir Michael and Sir Ben are pure magic.

But that one is strictly AU.

#299 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2012, 05:05 PM:

Lee, the Brother Cadfael atrocity that pissed me off the most was when they changed a genuine miraculous healing into a con run by a scumbag.

#300 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2012, 05:56 PM:

The Jackson movie change to tthe Tolien books that really bothered me was the change in the relationship between Sauron and Saruman--from enemies with a common goal to allies. It made a neat simple story out of a typical-of-the-world messy one.

#301 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2012, 06:45 PM:

#300: When I did a reread of LOTR last year, in large part to re-establish the books as "the real thing" after having watched the movies 3 times since my last reread, I "discovered" that the relationship between Sauron and Saruman was even messier than merely being enemies.

Saruman likely had ambitions of his own of his own all along, but I got the impression that Sauron (naively?) counted him as a vassal through much of The Two Towers. Sauron sent a Nazgul to Isengard to lay the law down when he thought that Saruman had gotten his hands on some hobbits. I forget the exact wording, but the Palantir chatter was something like "Hey, I told you those things are mine! Wait RIGHT THERE."

The story in the books is SO much more complicated, and rich.

(Aside: I was a gamer before I gave LOTR a proper reading; wargame adaptations and ripoffs of the trilogy often used Saruman as a Third Force with no relationship to Sauron. So both Jackson's depiction of Saruman as a tool, and the book's depiction of him as a dodgy ally, both surprised me.)

#302 ::: cofax ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2012, 06:49 PM:

Tom Whitmore @286:

My pleasure. I'm always happy to spread the word about particularly good stories.

#303 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2012, 11:42 PM:

Cofax @ 279 & 302:

Just a "me too" for the thanks. I've read a couple other fanfics that tried to "fix" that ending, and they never quite rang true the way this one did.

#304 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2012, 12:59 AM:

Late to the convo, and if I've overlooked someone else making the point, or I'm being blindingly obvious, I apologize.

But AIUI, Tolkien was trying to create an English Mythology. To have really accomplished that goal, I don't see how you can get away from retellings and reinterpretations. They're a huge part of the myth-legend-fairytale cycle.

My favorite versions of Robin Hood and Beowulf are pretty modern. I detest most recent Arthurian reinterpretations, though I love the base legends. My favorite versions of a lot of fairy tales are the ones that have mooshed themselves together in my head over a lifetime of hearing them, and they vary a little each time I tell them from memory. I completely expect that everyone else will have an equally individual set of preferences, based on their own internal story-style.

I think fanfic, like movies and other derivative works, is part of the same folk myth-legend-fairytale cycle, but with material that is recent enough to be copywritten and attached to a known and sometimes-even-living author.

I don't want to keep things pure and pristine and authentic - if that were important, I'd just re-read the original again and not bother retelling it. I want to get in there and grub around and make things relevant to me and the people I'm telling the story to for the point in time when I'm telling it. No single author can do that perfectly for everyone at all times, but a lot of authors working off the same basis can get pretty close after a while.

#305 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2012, 05:45 PM:

Jeremy Leader @160: Hmm, now I'm thinking about Keeping Up Appearances crossed with some sort of spy story. Perhaps Richard only says he works for the local council, as a cover story?

... Keeping Up Appearances / Burn Notice ?


OW OW OW MAKE IT STOP !!!

#306 ::: Jacque, gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2012, 05:45 PM:

Chili, anyone?

#307 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2012, 07:06 PM:

KayTei #304: But AIUI, Tolkien was trying to create an English Mythology. To have really accomplished that goal, I don't see how you can get away from retellings and reinterpretations. They're a huge part of the myth-legend-fairytale cycle.

Indeed... AFAIK, the latest person to create a mythology that took was Neil Gaiman, and his Sandman epic ropes in everything but the kitchen sink.

#308 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2012, 07:23 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @203 ct: Fade Manley @201: Why did seeing the movies make it possible for you to read LOTR? I'd actually been wondering what the books were like for some who'd watched the movies first, so I'd be interested if you'd care to write about it.

I wonder if this is kinda like my being absolutely unable to read the original Sherlock Holmes until after I'd seen the PBS productions with Jeremy Brett. I had to see those before I could "get the voices in my ear," if you see what I mean. Likewise Wimsey.

#309 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2012, 07:44 PM:

forgot the name @226: If I don't like something, or there's a part that really, really nags at me even though I enjoy the rest, I seek fanfic of it, because often as not fanfic answers why, and sometimes it tries to explain.

One ponders the possibility of fanfic developing into a formal literary field/specialty—and what label the department would have on their door?

#310 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2012, 07:48 PM:

Jacque @305: Now you've got me trying to imagine Hyacinth on vacation, and what kind of plot would lead her to bump into Madeline, and the interactions that would lead to!

#311 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2012, 08:00 PM:

Jacque, 309: It is in fact starting to be a thing, with academic conferences and everything! I Internet-know somebody doing a dissertation that includes fanfic. It's extremely interdisciplinary, as you might expect, and I have a vague impression that the main conference is something with "cultural studies" in the name.

#312 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2012, 09:31 PM:

Dave Harmon: And it's English all right...even the bits set in America are English fantasies about what America is like. Much as I love Gaiman (and I do), there were some howlers in there. The worst one was "it's out in Kansas where you expect hurricanes, not New York." Whaaaaaat?!?!?!

Wonderful work, but every once in a while...

#313 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2012, 09:59 PM:

Xopher HalfTongue #312: even the bits set in America are English fantasiesmyths about what America is like

FTFY. ;-)

#314 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2012, 10:29 PM:

Oh, so now mistakes are myths? Then we should have a myth that the UK changes government when the Queen gets tired of the ruling party and beheads the PM—personally. And that Guy Fox* Day celebrates the dawn of British Democracy, commemorating King John's first Prime Minister (who was just this guy, you know, named Fox) after signing the Magna Carta.

Oh, and here's a great myth: if one party can't form a government by itself, they have to confer in Tyne and Wear, because you have to carry coalitions to Newcastle.

And Shakespeare's plays were written by Charles Dickens. Actually. And Charles Dickens' novels were written by Guy de Maupassant all in one drunken weekend. Great myth, huh?

My favorite: the Thames is in Scotland, and named after Macbeth, who was Thame of Glamis and Thame of Cawdor.

*Yes, I know.

#315 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2012, 12:05 AM:

Clearing out a box I just discovered: half a dozen Hyphens, a Slant (#7), three Innuendos and my copy of Ah, Sweet Idiocy! Plus a few other similar zines.

One of the Hyphens was Bloch's; one was Earl Kemp's. And the Innuendos contain the Carl Brandon version of On the Road -- realistic fan-fiction about fans....

Now there's some interesting history!

#316 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2012, 12:45 AM:

#309 ::: Jacque:

I have no doubt that fanfic will become a formalized thing, because that's what people do.

I wonder what will be beyond the fringe at that point.

#317 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2012, 06:41 PM:

Doctor Science @264: fanficdom is that fanfic is multifarious

Proving that not only is Story poly, but s/he is also promiscuous.

#318 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2012, 05:16 PM:

Hey, Hollywood. Quit remaking good movies. Remake bad ones, and get them right this time.

Some Shakespeare fanfic here:
http://www20.us.archive.org/stream/falstaffswedding00kenr#page/10/mode/2up

Other reading modes are available, but the facsimiles are the only good choice. Some bleedthrough, and many esses that look like effs. I could have told them how to avoid the bleeding. The esses don't bother me much, except where they're talking about foul souls.

#319 ::: Kip W, gnomed again ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2012, 05:18 PM:

Oh well.

Sarah just made some cookies, so I'm going upstairs. I've tested the link, and it works.

#320 ::: Johnny Pez ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2013, 11:58 PM:

TNH @ 256:

but even Tolkien doesn't use his own dirt.

Though it must be said that he dug a lot deeper for his dirt than most of us.

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