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Transcript of Fan Fiction
Going boldly where no fan had gone before, Star Trek fans created fan fiction as we know it today. It was popularized through Star Trek fanzines in the 1960’s and has since spread to countless fandoms.
Fandoms are subculture communities, often devoted to pop culture, filled with people who bond over their love and/or obsession with a common television show, book, or film. Fandom communities are built upon the camaraderie of those that are fans of a specific work. The dedication of fans who memorize passages of Harry Potter or write 10 page long letters to Steven Moffat are the types of the bonding activities that bring people together into a fandom.
“is what literature might look like if it were reinvented from scratch after a nuclear apocalypse by a band of brilliant pop-culture junkies trapped in a sealed bunker” (Grossman 1).
This video gives a pretty good overview of the culture of fandom. The video looks at fandom and fan fiction as a more positive, tranformative outlet. However, this opinion is not shared by all. This phenomenon has also been criticized as being destructive and illegal.
The video briefly oulined an activity of fandom, Fan Fiction. This is an polarizing issue for authors and fans alike. Fan Fiction blurs lines between copyright infringement and fair use. It raises questions about which should be most valued, intellectual ownership or transformative creative communities.
The television show, Supernatural, embraces the fact that there are many slash fans watching the show. The two leads, Sam and Dean, who battle the supernatural, realize that someone has been making a comic book of their lives, in a meta plot twist to the show. In this clip, they reference the show's fans and pay homage to the "Wincest" fans (those who ship the brothers, Sam and Dean, as a couple).
Slash fiction is a genre of fan fiction that portrays romantic and sexual relationships between fictional characters of the same sex. Often the characters in question are not involved in a relationship in the fictional universe they were taken from, and often they do not identify as a homosexual in the original work. Slash fiction can be any fan written story containing a pairing between same-sex characters. Sometime stories feature two women will be called femslash. The slash used to separate the two names in a pairing is where slash fiction gets its name. It often depicts and/ or glorifies deviant and socially unacceptable couplings, such as relationships between teachers and students and incest.
The Supernatural fandom is an extremely active community, that produces a lot of Slash and Fan Fiction, as well as Fan Video narratives. They take clips from the show and reedit them to create their own storyline. Much of the Fan Video created based on Supernatural is about slash couples, but not all.
The Fan videos based on Supernatural can be anything from romantic, fluffy videos with a Disney sountrack to softcore erotica involving pie. They can range anywhere from...
Fan Art is another way fans interact with original texts.
Copyright and Intellectual Property
"I love it. I absolutely love it. I wish I had grown up in the era of fanfiction, because I was living those shows and those movies that I loved." --Joss Whedon
“As long as people aren't commercially exploiting characters I've created, and are doing it for each other, I don't see that there's any harm in it, and given how much people enjoy it, it's obviously doing some good. It doesn't bother me.” --Neil Gaiman
“Those of us—who prefer not to allow fan fictioners to use our worlds and characters are not doing it just to be mean. We are doing it to protect ourselves and our creations. Once you open that door, you can't control who might come in.” --George R. R. Martin
“It is lovely to "share worlds" if your imagination works that way, but mine doesn't; to me, it's not sharing but an invasion, literally — strangers coming in and taking over the country I live in, my heartland.” --Ursula LeGuin
“I do not allow fan-fiction. The characters are copyrighted. It upsets me terribly to even think about fan-fiction with my characters. I advise my readers to write your own original stories with your own characters. It is absolutely essential that you respect my wishes.” --Anne Rice
Fan fiction differs across the board from theme and genre to maturity of content. Outside of those differences, there are two very distinct groups of fan fiction, AU (Alternate Universe) Fics and Canon Fics.
"fill[s] the need of a mostly female audience for fictional narratives that expand the boundary of the official source products offered on the television and movie screen" (Bacon-Smith 112–113) .
"n. fiction, usually fantasy or science fiction, written by a fan rather than a professional author, esp. that based on already-existing characters from a television series, book, film, etc.; (also) a piece of such writing" (OED).
Was Shakespeare a Fanfic Writer?
He stole from other authors before him, coopting their characters, but telling new stories with them. The story of "Romeo and Juliet" was borrowed from Arthur Brooke's 1562 narrative poem The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet. There were no protections on intellectual property at the time. Today he would be sued for taking that kind of material, yet he did create classic plays that shaped literature and drama with it.
Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard wrote the film, "Shakespeare in Love" which is real life fan fiction that takes Shakespeare (a real person) and Mary Sues (original characters) and creates an original storyline. It won seven Oscars, including one for original screenplay. This is legal, because Shakespeare is in the public domain, which brings us to the crux of the issue.
Fan Fiction as a Political Act
Canon Fics are faithful to the world and events that were created by the author. They usually fill in the blanks left by the work or view the events from a different character’s perspective. This is an important distinction when it comes to questions of copyright infringement and intellectual property.
AU fics explore the question, “What-if”? What if Legolas was a woman? What if everyone in The Lord of the Rings series wasn’t white? AU fics are essentially a free for all, popularizing what is known as the Xover. Xovers, also known as crossovers, involve characters from other works popping up in a fan fiction about a different work. For example, Doctor Who showing up in a threesome with Batman and Robin.
AU fics often bear very little resemblance to the work they are based on, other than the most basic of character traits and names, which makes any alleged intellectual theft much less clear cut. Canon works, however, pride themselves on being an extension or reaction to the book, but within the original boundaries of the work, which means they borrow much more from the original work.
Those who write and enjoy fan fiction have built their own community. They have even created their own language, ‘Fanspeak’, filled with specific slang that one must know to be part of the community. For example, the meaning of words like Slash, OTP, RL, Genfic, Femslash, Drabble, Xover, Crack, WAFF, or UST are known by few outside of the community. They have social norms and rules that those within the community are expected to follow.
Like all communities, fan fiction is inherently social, based on the sharing of works. This social sharing is what creates the legal and ethical problems. A person who decides to write a scenario where Harry and Hermione get together is not going to face any legal action, nor will they cause any problems for the author who originally wrote those characters.
As Ursula LeGuin wrote on her website, “It's all right with me — it's really none of my business — if people want to write stories for themselves & their friends using names and places from my work, but these days, thanks to the Web, "stuff for friends" gets sent out all over the place and put where it doesn't belong and mistaken for the genuine article, and can cause both confusion and real, legal trouble.”
There is a fundamental difference in sharing a story with a friend in real life, and sharing it on the web for millions of users to see. This issue of legality was one mostly created by the advent of the internet. Fan Fiction has been around before the web, but is treated very differently now that it is a mostly online community.
This shows the awareness of many celebrities about fan fiction involving their characters. Some embrace it, some accept it, and some detest it.
This video brings us to another type of Fan fiction, and it is the most prevalent type.
Some writers do not care about fan fiction and allow it as long as it is not commercialized. George R. R. Martin explained, “Consent, for me, is the heart of this issue. If a writer wants to allow or even encourage others to use their worlds and characters, that's fine. Their call. If a writer would prefer not to allow that... well, I think their wishes should be respected.” The authors have a right to their property; for as long as they hold a copyright on their work, the characters are their property. However, if the process is made transparent, the fans can also know who is blocking their fan fiction and respond accordingly, either through letters to the author or buycotts of their work. The majority of authors would recognize it is not commercially viable for them to anger that large of a group in their fan base.
The ideas of intellectual property and characters as something belonging to a writer are relatively new. In Shakespeare’s time no such concept existed. It is a relatively modern idea that writers have ownership over plots and characters. Many fan fiction writers argue that their adaptations fall into the "Fair Use" clause of the copyright law, which allows for reproductions of works, if they are used for educational purposes, criticism, or parody.
There are many arguments that fan fiction allows some groups to find themselves in media, where traditionally they have been neglected. For example, women dominated fan fiction authoring; they started most of the trend towards fan fiction in fandoms. For example, 83% of Star Trek fan fiction authors were female by 1970, and 90% by 1973 (Coppa 42). They saw depictions that did not accurately describe themselves or that relegated them to minor roles. Fan fiction is far more diverse than most other media. This leads people to argue that fan fiction is a political act, one which can turn media around.
However, without any commercial impact, there is very limited influence fan fictions can have. It is shared by others in the same community, which assumedly share a problematic relationship with mainstream media. The movement itself, as an anti-commercial venture, one that is based on gifting, has little political impact, comparatively. There are only a few fan fictioners that have channeled it into any commercial mediums, and those that have were plagued with questions of intellectual theft and had relatively abysmal depictions of minorities and unseen groups in the media.
There is also the problem that these works can be seen as an advertisement for the original works that have inspired them. Orson Scott Card stopped threatening fan fictioners of his work after realizing that they were essentially providing him with free advertising. If fan fiction is trying to dispel assumptions and question works in existence, why would they want to add to the commercial value of the original work? Instead they should allow for their own work to make a statement for the necessity of different viewpoints based on the commercial reaction. Creating a market for fan fiction, that would require getting authors permission, but allows for making money, gives much more political power to those that are currently left out of the media conversation.