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Where Marvel Meets Middle-Earth: Fanfiction in the library

Discusses fanfiction and fan-centric programs for youth in a library setting. Presented at Ontario Library Association Superconference on January 28, 2015 by Nancy-Anne Davies, Andrea Lau, and Erin Tutte.

Erin Tutte

on 5 February 2015

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Transcript of Where Marvel Meets Middle-Earth: Fanfiction in the library

Where Marvel

Fanfiction in the Library
The history of fanfiction, how it works, why it's important, and some ideas for programs.
Program Models
The History of Fanfiction
What IS it, exactly?
It's not new.
Forming bonds
Community building
1893 Sherlock dies
1901 Sherlock revived
The Rise of the
Sci-Fi Mag
The First Days
of Speculative Fiction
The Internet
and the Explosion of Fanfiction
"There's a time and place for everything, and I believe it's called fanfiction."
Joss Whedon

of Japan
Navigating and Forming Identity
Societal Norms
Female Predominance
Trigger Warning!
From this...
... to this.
From the male gaze...
... to the female
Heteronormativity need not apply
Advocating for
real bodies
Fanfiction authors become published authors
mailing lists
bulletin boards
web rings
author websites
Built-in functions: comments, reviews, kudos

Beta readers: offer critiques and suggestions before the story is posted, not necessarily professional editors or proofreaders but volunteers and test audiences

Rec lists: multiple recommendations, maintainer may be an individual or a community, common starting point for new fans

It comes full circle
Bringing fandom into a library setting
Why do libraries need fanfiction?
The Invisible Customer Base
Welcomes "invisible" customers with social, physical, or mental barriers into a library space--even a virtual one
Allows them to interact with library staff, resources, and other customers in a safe environment they can tailor to their needs
Social interaction, even remotely, is an essential aspect of healthy adolescent development and further establishes the role of libraries as a community hub
Don't Reinvent the Wheel
Guidelines that work
Keep it small - 10-15 people max
How often? How long?
Establish your goals: do you want to be a workshop or a sharing circle?
Borrow ideas from other writing groups
Set limits on story length so no one turns up with 300 pages of Hobbit fanfiction
Some things we've discovered...
Writing is hard. Cultivate a low-pressure environment that thrives on engagement, not productivity.
Sharing is even harder. Foster an inclusive environment that is safe and free of judgement.
Have writing exercises or topics of discussion prepared in case no one has written anything that week.
These can be an excellent way to get creativity flowing if group members complain about being "blocked" or having no ideas.
Don't be afraid to welcome non-writers into the group. Plenty of youth want to get involved and share their enthusiasm for fandom and reading fanfiction
Inclusivity and Sensitivity
Establishing ground rules for a safe space
Always remind group members participation is voluntary, not mandatory. Personal comfort is key.
But I'm just a cheerleader.
Can you run a writing group if you aren't "a writer"?
Outsource! Bring in guest authors
You don't have to be a great writer be a great reader. Share your thoughts and give encouragement!
Provide writing resources
Discuss strategies for providing kind, helpful, thoughtful feedback as a group
Let's talk about s-e-x
It's kind of the elephant in the room.
Fanfiction can be an unabashedly smutty medium. We know it. They know it. Even if we don't want to talk about it.
It's not about sex shaming.
It's about establishing boundaries.
Even if your group members (or you!) read or write sexually explicit fanfiction, remember to respect professional and personal boundaries, including your own.

If your tweens or teens are too young to get into an R-rated movie, they're too young to be sharing or talking about it during a meeting.
Some teens are more confident in their sexuality; others are not. Avoid offending anyone or incurring the wrath of angry parents or library managers: outlaw sexually explicit material altogether.
You cannot and should not be able to control what teens read or write on their own time, but you can control exposure within the group.
a trope or topic that makes the reader deeply uncomfortable or grosses them out. They are subjective, personal and diverse.

a trope or topic the reader associates with past trauma (mental, emotional, or physical) and therefore triggers their negative personal reactions (be it flashbacks, panic attacks, unhealthy behaviours, crying, etc), or may cause anxiety or intense emotional reactions
Age Ranges
New adults
All the cool kids are doing it
New York Public Library: Tweens Fanfiction Writing Workshop
Toronto Public Library: Teen Fanfiction Writers' Coalition
DC Public Library: Anime Club
Johnson County Library, KS: BYOF (Bring Your Own Fandom)
Canton Public Library, CT: Comic and Fandom Fest
Mid-Continent Public Library, MI: Divergent Fanfiction Contest
New Albany-Floyd County Public Library, IN: Fanfiction Fiesta
Mental Illness
Grand Prairie Public Library, AB: Fandom Meetup
Publicity and Outreach
Pro Tip:
Outlawing sexual preferences some might deem "unacceptable" or "deviant" is NOT the same thing as setting firm boundaries about age-appropriate or nonexplicit material.
(feel free to learn from our mistakes)
... just make sure everyone else is cool showing their work with someone who doesn't share writing of their own.
Awkward silences are no one's idea of a good time.
And remember...
Getting teenagers to do "homework" between meetings is a bit like this:
So when everyone shows up empty handed, don't do this:
Just come prepared with stuff to do and everything will be shiny.
A safe space means protecting and respecting the right to talk about and express...
Set ground rules to reduce the chances of someone being offended, triggered, or made uncomfortable by material shared with the group.
It also means protecting group members from material they might find objectionable or distressing, such as violence, gore, abuse themes, etc.
Consider implementing a warning or rating system.
Incorporating Platforms and Social Media
custom privacy settings--can be viewable by approved members only
built-in commenting system
remotely accessible
customizable appearance
all posts are editable
utilizing online platforms and social media such as Tumblr or AO3 are great environmentally friendly alternatives to distributing paper copies of everyone's work
taking your membership online opens the doors to remote participants--that invisible customer base (and things like Skype make it easier than ever to interact online)
Source: The Wicked + The Divine
by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie
gets members more involved and makes sharing their writing their responsibility--less work (ie. photocopying) for staff
If group members already utilize AO3 or FF.net for posting their fanfiction, this is another great way to share their writing with the group.
Even if not, memberships are free and easy to sign up for.
There are tons of other alternatives like Google Docs, Yahoo Groups, or Dropbox, to name a few.
It all comes down to what works best for you and your group.
If none of those options works, there's always the old fashioned way...
Social Media
Hawkeye #19
Utilize online resources such as a library website, blog, or program listing.
If you're internet famous, milk it.*
Don't be afraid to put the word out using your own online presence or using the reach of others'.
Even if you don't link yourself to the program, you can advertise its existence.
Don't have a strong online presence at your library?
Think outside the box!
A librarian from Grand Prairie Public Library advertised her fan programs at movie theatres and comic book stores when she wasn't getting much response from traditional outreach methods.
Advertising to local writing groups works well too.
*or if you know people who are
Better yet, plan your program around your nearest fan convention or expo and advertise there
FanCons.ca lists the date of every fan convention in Ontario.
Just saying.
Know people who are into cosplay or frequently travel around the province to attend conventions?
Call in a favour, save yourself the price of admission, and make them hand out flyers for you.
FanFiction.net launched in 1998
largest fanfiction archive

Organization for Transformative Works founded in 2007
AO3 in open beta since 2009
established in 2013 by Amazon
specific licensed media properties
fanfiction writers can sell their work

personalized blogging platforms
full-text vs external link
communities vs tagging
customizable appearance and adjustable privacy settings
primarily a visual art platform
quizzes! polls! surveys!
original fiction and Real Person Fiction
Canon (source text), headcanon (specific interpretation of canon), fanon (little or no basis in canon)
AU (alternate universe)
Shipping (supporting a relationship that may or may not exist in canon)
OC (original character)
Rule 63
Creators of Source Texts
The Craft of Writing
Educational value in fanfic: improving the technical aspects of writing
Learning the research process
Sense of community
Fandom and academia

Some are vehemently opposed to fanworks based on their material:

"It upsets me terribly to even think about fan fiction with my characters." -Anne Rice

... and some are supportive and even see the benefits.

"As long as nobody’s making money from it that should be an author or creator’s, I don’t mind it. And I think it does a lot of good." -Neil Gaiman

est. 1999
est. 2007
“I’m not sure where the line gets drawn — you could say that any Batman fan writing a Batman comic is writing fan fiction. As long as nobody’s making money from it that should be an author or creator’s, I don’t mind it. And I think it does a lot of good.” - Neil Gaiman
“The thing about reading fanfic (and original slash fic) is that you get used to that particular writing/reading culture after a while. You get used to the frank discussions of sexuality and kink, the close attention to diversity and social justice issues in the text, the unrestrained creativity when it comes to plot. The most amazing, creative, engaging stories I’ve ever read have almost all been fanfiction, and I think part of that is because there’s no limitations placed on the authors. They’re writing purely out of joy and love for the world and its characters, with no concerns about selling the finished product. The only limit is their imagination. Next to that, most mainstream fiction starts tasting like Wonder Bread, you know?”

- Cordelia Kingsbridge (http://ckingsbridge.tumblr.com)
Fosters creativity--can unlock an affinity for storytelling in even the most unmotivated of youth
Validates a range of interests and forms of self-expression
Encourages literacy and technical writing skills
Turns consumers of culture into creators of culture
Demonstrates an awareness of literary trends outside the mainstream
Kickin' it old school
authors created and maintained personal websites to host their fanfiction and artwork
participated in web rings and link exchanges for exposure and to rec other authors
self-taught HTML, coding, and graphic design
fan-funded web hosts
The original fandom librarian:
Karen Nicholas
created Fan Fiction on the Net and Slash Fan Fiction on the Net in 1996
collected links to web rings, mailing lists, fan pages, and fanfiction (for all fandoms) and circulated an online newsletter with monthly updates
also included fan news and information about conventions, etc.
expanded to over 30 pages in 3 years
had over 3 million hits by 1999
Get in touch!
Nancy-Anne Davies
@nanoochka (tumblr, twitter, AO3)

Andrea Lau

Erin Tutte
@cnyttende (tumblr, twitter)
If you enjoy writing, consider sharing your own work with the group so that it evens the playing field.
sexual and gender identities
religious beliefs
ethnic or cultural backgrounds
physical ability
mental illness
(And yes, they've all read 50 Shades.)
"Fans construct their cultural and social identity through borrowing and inflecting mass culture images, articulating concerns which often go unvoiced within the dominant media."
-Henry Jenkins
Full transcript