In today’s Punchcard round up, we’re focused on fan fiction—the good, the bad, and the badly shipped.
Fan fiction, of course, has been around for quite a while now, and some of it is considered high art—as Lev Grossman points out, what would you call Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead if not fan fiction? It’s not as if the impulse to tell your own stories about well-known figures is anything new.
Grossman—whose Magicians trilogy mashes up elements of the Harry Potter series, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Secret History—comes to the defense of fan fiction, but does he write it? Maaaaaaybbeeee…?
And, hell, what about movie sequels no longer under the direction of their original creators? You know, like Star Wars: The Force Awakens? Isn’t that fan fiction as much as, say, fan-created love stories about Kylo and Rey?
Shipping—fan fiction parlance for stories in which two characters are given a romantic relationship that isn’t present in the actual story—has a bad rap in some circles. But, Eric Shulmiller argues, it’s about something considerably more optimistic—the desire of readers and writers alike to root for love.
So should producers listen to fans of Kylo/Rey? That brings us to what may be the question of our pop-culture moment: How much should studios/publishers/producers be listening to their fans? You could make a pretty convincing argument that fandom has become toxically entitled in its expectations.
Or you could point out that, no, what’s toxic is way marginalized voices have been treated, and that it’s about goddamned time people listened.
Sometimes being a fan is what helps get you through the dark times. And having a Hollywood studio budget supporting your fan fiction probably doesn’t hurt.
But money isn’t everything, as one fan fiction author reflects: “This—what I’m feeling now, and have felt for the last couple of days—this, not publishing, not selling, is the holy grail of being a writer. This confidence that the work I’m doing is my proper work, and that I’m doing it well.”