Diana, I love you, bruh, you are the bestest. Laura, you have no idea how much respect I have for you. C., I understand, I see it, I know what you mean, but I still have to disagree, because you should have a book on your name as well, you are that good. To all my fandom friends, and just all the people who fandom: I love you, keep at it, you are important, you are amazing.
The sources of all my shit are at the end, this is MLA format (or the closest I could get). Also, I have all the rights to this paper (they give them to me when I submit it to the school), so just so you know. Stealing is bad. If you're going to use anything from here, please do refer to this paper. It's in the system. Everyone will know. Just don't do it. Be awesome.
The Struggles of Being a Fanwarrior
Seven years ago or so I started writing. As it happens with professionals in other matters, writing does not seem to be something of a respected career and I was often asked what I planned to do with if I decided to dedicate my life to writing. To be completely fair, I was not planning to do anything with my life at that moment, I just wanted to write, and so I decided to pursue a major on Literature. The most common question everyone in my class was asked was "what are you going to eat?" It was funny for us because most of the people in the class did not actually know the answer to that question but neither did we care much to find out at the moment. We even had ongoing jokes.
During the third semester I was there, one of my teachers decided to talk to us about this guy whose name was Juan Rulfo. Juan Rulfo is one of the most important figures in Hispanic Literature, but this is not what the teacher decided to talk about; she decided she wanted to talk about the time when he was a drunk, laughed at by the other writers who considered his work to be trash because it did not apply to the norms of the time. His writing was not professional enough. As far as they were concerned, he was not a writer. I believe the teacher said Rulfo died shortly before his work was recognized by an American figure as ‘the most amazing writing style he had ever seen’. Juan Rulfo became one of the main figures of something we know these days as Magical Realism (in Spanish "Realismo Mágico").
Whether this particular story about Rulfo is truth or not, I do not know nor did I care to find out if it was; what it was is one of those things that stuck to me and I will never be able to forget, because this has happened to geniuses all through history: they get shut down because their work does not meet the standards of the time and no one recognizes them until after they die.
This is essentially what happens with fanfiction.
Fanfiction is defined as a work of fiction written by fans for other fans, taking a source text or a famous person as a point of departure. Fanfiction can be a sequel or prequel of the source text, explore narrative gaps, or not have anything to do with the original plot. It can consist of multiple chapters, drabbles, or one-shots (Jenkins 371).
For people who write, the most important goal in life is for their writing to be considered literature. Because literature has such a broad approach it is hard to determinate whether something is worth the tittle or not. For people who write fanfiction, however, there has never been a chance.
It is important in this sense to highlight that fanfiction is a written work of fiction, but its relevance is often dismissed. For most, fanfiction does not feature as literature.
The Oxford dictionary defines Literature as "The result or product of literary activity; written works considered collectively; a body of literary works produced in a particular country or period, or of a particular genre. Also: such a body of works as a subject of study or examination (freq. with modifying word specifying the language, period, etc., of literature studied)."
Literature is broad and hard to define. If only using the definition of the Oxford dictionary, many things should be considered as such, but there are certain standards that are expected of written works to fit in the definition.
As Eagleaton says, "Perhaps literature is definable [...] because it uses language in peculiar ways. On this theory, it represents an 'organized violence committed on ordinary speech'. Literature transforms and intensifies ordinary language, deviates systematically from everyday speech."
On a similar note, Melgar on his Introduction to Literary Studies defines literature as 'the art of words', where he defines art itself as “the usual procedure, sustained in a set of organized rules, to do something, that indicates too the ability, mastery or neatness in the execution”; it also applies to manual jobs, but for cultural purposes it is seemed as “the spiritual activity through which men create works with beauty as a goal.” Everyone, no matter their position, intelligence, or emotional state, experiments the need to create with beauty being the only goal.
Anything that aims to be beautiful has the opportunity to be considered art, and therefore, anyone whose intentions were to create something beautiful can be considered an artist. There is a difference, however, between what can technically be considered art and what will be relevant as art, "[...] any man, when he tries, with his words, express in a more attractive way, he is practicing art [...]. But while the more clumsy or vulgar works lack of our interest, the ones of true value for their distinguished, splendid beauty, perpetuate in a long-lasting way."
To be considered Literature, or art for the matter, will depend on who is looking at it, and often on the time this work was created. "Literary work is the artistic creation expressed in words, even if it is not written, but propagated word of mouth. Literature also means "set of literary works of a country, age or gender" (Melgar).
Jorge has been studying literature for the last five years, and for him, Literature is the art of using words to express something; where different things expressed belong to different categories within the same definition (Medina).
Diana has been writing for the past seven years, Claudia has been writing since 2005, and Laura started writing 27 years ago, but what they do is not considered Literature.
I asked Laura about her experience with fanfiction and the people who do not consider what she does as something worth of being called Literature. One of the arguments she has encounter is that fanfiction is not taken to the public by publishing houses. For a written work, being published by a publishing house seems to be fundamental: if it is not published in the form of a book it cannot be considered literature. For many people, in a sense, literature equals books and vice versa. If it is not published this way, it cannot be trusted. But can we trust every work that has been published to be literature? Or more important yet, can we trust every publishing house to only publish what has more possibility of being consider good literature? It does not really matter if it is good or not (a criteria that will depend on whoever is criticizing), it can still be consider as literature as long as it meets certain standards, and being published by certain company is often one of those standards. For Laura, “this argument of importance should only be applied to scientific or academic literature. That is, for a book of this category to be credible, what the author diffuses must have recognition and be verified.” This is not the case with fiction, where what the author writes does not necessarily need verification.
Fanfiction, however, cannot be published by a publishing house because of copyright issues. Copyright laws are not fan-friendly.
Fanworks–fanfiction, fan art, fan films–are derivatives of an original work. They “transform” the original work by taking major pieces from it (characters, plot, etc.) and placing those original components in new scenarios with new depictions. Without permission from the original copyright holder to build upon, transmit, copy, and transform a preexisting work, derivatives are illegal. (Butke)
Fanfiction, according to Brave New Words antedates 1939, but the earliest modern use of the word is in Star Trek Lives! in 1975 (“Fanfiction”). If fanfiction is illegal, why has it existed for so long with no major consequences? Because media has found it to be useful; they feed on each other. Fanfiction gives the opportunity to fans to stay invested on something even when there is no more material left. If fans keep writing about a show that is long gone, then the show never really left.
Fanfiction is also separated from any kind of financial reward, therefore it is not seem as very ‘harmful’ by many copyright: “Fans create works that are openly recognized to be non-canon to the story and are not replacements for the original” (Bailey). It is seen by some of the original creators as an activity that keeps fans entertained between official releases. “In short, since fan creations don’t take away sales of the original work, they are often seen as free promotion and a way to grow the brand without cost or effort.”
Damascus argues the distortion of the original purpose of the copyright laws when it comes to fanfiction and must be reformed in order not to lose part of what makes us who we are as a ‘collective people’ because his work as a fan has not ‘diminished anything from the ability of mankind to learn’, which was the original purpose of copyright, first introduced by President George Washington in 1790 "the Encouragement of Learning, by securing the copies of Maps, Charts and Books, to the Authors and Proprietors of such Copies, during the Times therein mentioned” (Damascus).
Even though it is not unheard of, fans do not encourage financial exchange when it comes to fanfiction; mostly, it is highly criticized. Diana, after writing fanfiction for a long time, still does not think selling fanfiction is right:
We recognize that our work doesn't harm anyone, and in a way is a form of praise to the original work. I personally wouldn't [sell] it. It would feel really weird to make money out of something that isn't mine 100% and probably my gain on the matter wouldn't affect the gains of the original author, but I kind of feel like selling fanfiction is crossing a line. I know people that do it have their reasons, but I feel like part of the contract of writing fic is that the only thing you get out of it is your own satisfaction. I feel like selling fic is disrespectful to the original author, whether it affects them or not.
When I started writing fanfiction there were certain unspoken rules that everyone followed, and those who did not were punished in a way. Every fanfic must have a disclaimer, stating that the material we are working with does not belong to us and we do not write with the intention of appropriate it but for mere entertainment. This does not necessarily protect fanwork, but it may be a statement of why copyright laws need to start adapting to new works.
According to the copyright laws, works will belong to the public after certain amount of years from the authors death, and this are the cases where it is no longer illegal to use them. Sherlock Holmes is a clear example of this, with its latest adaptation to TV Sherlock from the BBC. Works that are “inspired by” or “retellings” could be considered fanfiction, but it mostly depends on how the author and the work itself decide to identify.
Fanfiction writers also deal with plagiarism. "People get so worked up about plagiarism because they work so hard on their fic and put so much love into it that having someone claiming that work and love as their own is just really terrible." Diana says. It is not uncommon for fanfiction writers to have to report other authors who take their text and use it as their own, either changing the characters for others, tittles, making minor changes, or sometimes no changes at all.
But how can fanfiction writers claim that their work is being plagiarized when it does not belong to them 100%? Butke explains, even if the fanfic itself, the transformation of the original work violates the copyright, “The transformation itself (the new work) is protected under copyright law.” Which only proves further that copyright laws need to be updated.
Then if any published work has the possibility of being considered Literature, does this mean anyone can create literature? Claudia says no. “Everyone can write, not everyone can create literature.” And this applies for both fan and non-fan work.
Literature is art, and in this approach exists good and bad art, and good and bad literature. There are good and bad paintings, good and bad poetry, and there is good and bad fanfiction. Under this statement it would be fair to say that some fanfic can be considered literature and some cannot, just like any other writing.
It is easy for many people, including fanfiction writers, to look at fanfiction like something that does not require real effort. As Clin Lai says on "3 warnings to keep in mind if you start reading fanfiction" only about 10% of all the fanfiction posted is 'fit' for human consumption. "90% of fanfiction is poorly written in terms of plot, character development, originality, grammar, syntax, flow, sentence structure, or just general coherency. In some cases, all of the above may apply."
But this is not to say that all fanfiction is bad. The quality of fanfiction, just as the quality of books, depends on a lot of factors; from time to time, it can get better or worse, and it also varies from fandom to fandom (which is the community of fans who engage in discussions and/or the creation of creative works, as defined by Fanlore). A variety of fandoms seem to disappear when the original work is over, such as Pacific Rim, and though the fanwork already made does not get eliminated, there is no further production. Some other fandoms are so big and significant that never really go away even if the original source stops; good examples are Star Trek, Sherlock, Lord of the Rings, and many anime fandoms such as Dragon Ball, Saint Seiya, Sakura Card Captor, etc. The biggest the impact of the original work, the more likely the fandom is to not disintegrate completely, and in some cases they come across the opportunity to live the remakes, like it occurred with the new Star Trek movies on 2009, seven years after Star Trek Nemesis; or The Lord Of The Rings the trilogy that started on 2001 and ended on 2003, and the fandom that waited until 2012 to have The Hobbit.
Archive Of Our Own (AO3), a fanfiction website that forms part of the Organization for Transformative Works is home to eleven different classifications of fandoms: Anime & Manga, Books & Literature, Cartoons & Comics & Graphic Novels, Celebrities & Real People, Movies, Music & Bands, Other Media, Theater, TV Shows, Video Games, and Uncategorized Fandoms. Each category organized by alphabetic order is host to more than a thousand works. There are hundreds of people from all over the world writing on AO3.
The Organization for Transformative Works (OTW) is a nonprofit organization, created by fans in 2007, to “serve the interests of fans by providing access to and preserving the history of fanworks and fan culture in its myriad forms. We believe that fanworks are transformative and that transformative works are legitimate” (“About the OTW”). The OTW supports itself on donations from fans, who sometimes happen to be famous people like Orlando Jones, actor and producer of the TV show Sleepy Hollow, who declared himself a ‘nerd’ on an interview for TVRage.com: “I’ve been a part of the fandom world ever since I was playing with ‘Star Wars’ dolls when I was six. I feel like I’ve been involved in fan fiction for a long time. […] I see the fandom as not just people, but also artists” (Schremph). For Jones, fanwork is art.
There are fanfiction on sixty-six different languages accessible on AO3, and the people writing it goes from eleven-years-old school girls to thirty-years-old doctors. The variety of people writing fanfiction includes graphic designers, engineers, teachers, actors, surgeons, psychologists, architects, and so on. Some of them are professional writers or have studied literature, but it is clear that literature does not necessarily have to be written by professional writers, as Laura mentions,
Not all authors of non-scientific literature were NOT professionals in x or y area. Terry Pratchett, published his first student novel at age 13, and after several years, was reissued for commercial publications. At the age of 13, I hardly think he is a professional. I could cite you many other examples, of how perhaps authors of other works were not even writing within their area of knowledge, but they did it by the attraction that this or that subject influenced on them. A doctor writing a suspense Thriller, an elementary student who began writing his horror stories based on legends and comics (Stephen King), and many others. Ah, a nurse, Agatha Christie, suspense writer and dark novel as well as plays.
Fanfiction has also served many writers who, today, are considered professional writers. Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell is published in 2013, and it would become one of the first books to directly address fans and the work they do in a literary piece. Fangirl is a book about the fandom life and writing fanfiction, and Rowell takes the time to thank fanfiction writers at the end of her book: “I decided to write this book after reading a lot (I mean, a lot) of fanfiction. Reading fic was a transformative experience for me—it changed the way I think about writing and storytelling, and helped me more deeply understand my own intense relationships with fictional worlds and characters. So thank you for writing it” (Rowell 437).
When I started writing fanfiction, seven years ago, this was unheard of. Nobody dared to declare themselves as fanfiction writers. Fanfiction was the Fight Club of all fandoms: Everyone knows it exists but we do not talk about it.
“Even in 2015, when fan fiction is more prominently known than ever, I can see people getting genuinely uncomfortable with me mentioning it. "I write fan fiction" for some reason garners roughly the same reaction of someone waltzing in and announcing they ate their twin in the womb” (Lord). Most people have many misconceptions about fanfiction, and just as Rulfo was in his time, it gets highly rejected. But just like for Rowell, fanfiction has served as a way for many people to publish their own books.
Fanfiction is not easy. Yes, it is true that anyone can publish it, and it is true that not all of it belongs to the person writing it, but the lack of original characters does not mean a complete lack of originality. The main focus of fanfiction is to take those characters that fans like into different adventures, not because they are unable to create their own characters, but because it is these characters that we already have, the ones that we want to see in different circumstances. As Lord says, “We totally can, and absolutely do, write non-fanfic stuff.” Fanfiction is an opportunity to play with something we love; a show that we really liked, a book that we cannot let go, a movie that had a way-too-amazing plot for being only two hours long.
Is fanfiction easy? Does it not aspire to be beautiful as any other writing does? It is not easy.
It's hard to write [fanfiction] in the same way writing original work is hard, like you have to think the plot, overcome writer's block, etc.; but there are other hardships of fanfiction that are very specific, like when you want to write a fic and you make conscious effort to get the characters right. I mean, being a fan of something doesn't grant you magical understanding of the characters or their motivations, so you have to analyze them in a deeper level to get them right. And not just the characters, but the world. This is when writing canon compliant [not set in an alternative universe]; and when writing AU [alternative universe] is also interesting how you need to analyze a character and understand their core so you can put it in a different world, with different experiences and still have them be them. (Diana)
And though it is true that most fanfiction lacks quality, the end goal of all fanfiction writers is to have a piece worth enough for other people to leave comments and recommend to others. "[There are] many flaws in style, grammar, coherence in actions and ideas, but I have very present this popular saying "practice makes perfect", and although I have time writing, studying grammar and orthographic rules, I always feel that is not enough" (Laura).
Diana has spent hours researching about cactus because she needed to get the facts right for a particular fanfiction for the One Punch Man fandom. Writing fanfiction takes enough commitment to not be consider ‘lazy writing’.
When I read fanfiction, it follows me around for weeks on end after I have finished it; it changes my point of view on things that are happening in society. Fanfiction writers worry about their readers and ask them to take care of themselves by warning them about triggering subjects that may be discussed in the fiction. I have read fanfiction that are sixty chapters long, which is more than what The Picture of Dorian Gray has, and they were grammatically correct and well researched. I have read fanfiction that talked about PTSD in a more understandable and vivid way than any psychologist that I have ever met could have explained it. I have cried reading it, and I have read it again and again because I could not make myself let go. And I have spent nights and days thinking about what plot twist would be better for the fanfic I’m writing.
We had to wait until Rulfo was dead to accept the fact that he was as fantastic as he was, just like we did with many others because we could not make ourselves look beyond the standards we have set, however narrow and unfitting they were. Here is fanfiction, fighting not to look like the drunk, crazy, untalented guy a teacher is going to talk about to her class many years after his death, so it may be a good idea to think if we are making the same mistake yet again.
"About the OTW." Archive of Our Own. http://archiveofourown.org/about
Bailey, Jonathan. "The Messy World of Fan Art and Copyright." Plagiarism Today, 13 May 2010. https://www.plagiarismtoday.com/2010/05/
Butke, Kristina. "Yes, fanworks are illegal: harsh truths about copyright & Fair Use." In Your Write Mind, 17 July 2015 http://inyourwritemind.setonhill.edu/
Claudia. Personal Interview. 23 Nov. 2016.
Clin Lai. "3 warnings to keep in mind if you start reading fanfiction." The Liberal Arts in Singapore, 03, Jan. 2013. https://yalenusblog.wordpress.com/2013/
Contrera, Jessica. "From ‘Fifty Shades’ to ‘After’: Why publishers want fan fiction to go mainstream." The Washington Post, The Washington Post, 24 Oct. 2014 https://www.washingtonpost.com/
Damascus, Leo. "Do You Realize Fanfiction is Illegal?" FictionPress, 10 Jun. 2009 https://www.fictionpress.com/s/2683514/
Diana. Personal Interview. 23 Nov. 2016.
Eagleton, Terry. Literary Theory: An Introduction. Second, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1983.
“Fandom.” Fanlore, 4 Oct. 2016, https://fanlore.org/wiki/Fandom.
“Fanfiction.” Fanlore, 16 Nov. 2016, fanlore.org/wiki/Fanfiction.
"literature, n." OED Online. Oxford University Press, Sept. 2016. Web. 23 Nov. 2016.
Laura. Personal Interview. 24 Nov. 2016.
Lord, Emma. "13 Things Fan Fiction Writers Are Very Tired Of Explaining." Bustle, 23 Mar. 2015. https://www.bustle.com/articles/71438-
Medina, Jorge. Personal Interview. 25 Nov, 2016.
Melgar Lapesa, Rafael. "El arte y la literatura." Introducción a los estudios literarios. Ediciones Cátedra, Grupo Anaya, Translated by the author, 2008, pp. 9-11.
Rowell, Rainbow. Fangirl. New York, N.Y.: St. Martin's Press, 2013.
Schremph, Kelly. "TVRage.com Exclusive: Orlando Jones Talks FOX's 'Sleepy Hollow'" prweb. VocusPRW Holdings, LLC, 07 Dec. 2016. http://www.prweb.com/releases/2013/12/
Essay 4: The Big Kahuna.
Dec. 08, 2016