Today I read Fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking Over the World by Anne Jamison, with a foreword by Lev Grossman.
Fanfiction…the final frontier. These are the voyages of academics, actors, lawyers, editors, authors, online archivists, activists, students, and of course, fanficcers. Coming from all walks of life and all fandoms, professor Anne Jamison has put together a stunning collection of essays about a hobby millions of people have had for decades, but were too often afraid to admit, out of embarrassment or fear of the copyright holders’ reaction. But fanfic has a history since long before the days of ‘zines and has expanded far beyond stories about Kirk and Spock, or Kirk/Spock. From Sherlock Holmes’ pastiches to the influence of Star Trek to RPF, bronies, the success of the Twilight-inspired Fifty Shades of Grey, and the growing understanding of the legality of fic, Fic is the perfect resource for the fan studying fandom, and for anyone else who ever wondered “what if the story happened this way instead?”
I won this book from a Goodreads‘ First Reads contest, and I was thrilled since it was already on my personal to-read list. I was even more thrilled when I actually read it, because it’s terrific. I’ve mentioned before (a few times) my interest in academic fandom, both in studying properties that inspire fandom and in studying fandom itself. I’ve been a fan since grade 3, reading fanfic since I was about 15, and I attended my first convention at 18. In some ways, this book is part of the story of my life. It also introduced me to parts of fandom that I didn’t know about–I’ve said before that I hate Twilight, but Jamison does make some interesting points about the fandom writing fanfic to correct Meyer’s (many) mistakes and problems. To be fair, that’s the entire point of fixit fics, to correct what you thought was wrong with a given episode. Sometimes rage leads to ficwriting as much as love for the original property–I still have an old half-written X-Files fic on my harddrive that managed to combine fixit, RPF, meta, and Mary Sue, and another fic that combined Smallville and House M.D. solely for the purpose of Greg House insulting Lana Lang. I can respect that motivation, even though I maintain that there was nothing redeemable about Twishite. But, whatever floats your boat.
I’ve read a lot of fanfic over the years (a lot) (no, I’m not kidding, a lot) (a lot a lot a lot), and I didn’t like everything, but most of the writers were able to make an interesting point. Some fanfic writers I’ve loved better than ‘traditional’ writers. Some fanfic writers ARE published, traditional writers playing in a sandbox they love just like the rest of us. Some writers that I know started writing in fanfic, polishing their skills, before they became published writers, and still love fanfic. All of which are points that Jamison makes so I guess it’s not just me. That’s the thing about fandom–it’s very personal, if you’re a fan, it’s your culture and your identity and your hobby and your friends. Jamison started as an academic studying fandom, but eventually she became a fan–fandom has a way of sucking you in and inviting you to play too.
And…this has devolved into a discussion of me, not the book hasn’t it? I saw a lot of myself in this book–in a nonfiction cultural study, I guess that means she got it right. The essays she collected are equally well-done, offering different perspectives from different fandoms and fans who have experienced fandom in different times and places.They look at slash, het, g, omegaverse, au, and RPF. They discuss both copyright and the different understandings of the laws regarding copyright. They look at how the internet has vastly changed the face of fandom, and truly helped it turn into a global community. They look at attitudes towards monetizing fanfic and the arguments against it, and how it affects the community that supported its creation. They look at the problems with fanfic, and the areas that it rarely touches. And they look at fanfic as art, and where it belongs in the artistic and literary worlds.
This book is a must for academic fans, for fans who want a wider perspective on fandom than their own experiences, and for fic writers who want to know the history of their hobby.