Roz Kaveney (rozk) wrote,
Roz Kaveney

If you're waiting for a proper entry...

I had a flu jab yesterday and am feeling like crap. I walked up to Hackney library in order to get some fresh air and the Roger Lewis bio of Anthony Burgess - I'm reviewing the new one - and as a result I feel like crap, only really exhausted. Last night I had indigestion, and it was bad enough that for a little while I worried that it was a return of pancreatitis, though clearly it was not ie I am here and not in intensive care. So the great brain is not working its best.

So, instead, a review.
THE DEMOCRATIC GENRE - Fan Fiction in a literary context
by Sheenagh Pugh (Seren 282 pp. £9.99)

reviewed by Roz Kaveney

There is a whole world out there, in fanzines and on the net, of sequels to Jane Austen, and versions of 'Blake's Seven' in which the massacre of the cast with which the BBC ended the show's run never happened, and of stories in which every possible sexual permutation of the minor characters of 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' is ingeniously worked through. Fan writers have a lot of fun writing this stuff, this is self-evident; Sheenagh Pugh rightly challenges the lazy assumption that the games people play for love in other writers' universes are necessarily without artistic merit.

A necessary declaration of interest here - during my critical work on 'Buffy', I investigated the show's associated fan fiction culture - of which I have a higher opinion than does Pugh - and got involved to the extent of committing a fair amount of it myself. It became a way of understanding the show's snappy dialogue by writing my own, of bulldozing through a long-standing writer's block and of getting to know some interesting and accomplished work. Pugh's determined avoidance of the sociology of fan fiction leads her to ignore one important aspect of the subculture - writers of fanfic have a gift relationship with each other in which you express your regard for stories that you have enjoyed not merely by writing reviews and e-mails of comment, but by writing your own.

Some writers dislike the idea of fan fiction - Anne Rice, for example - and it is perhaps only polite to respect their wishes; others, like Joss Whedon, Buffy's creator, positively encourage it and occasionally make teasing allusions to it in their work. Much of the work is amateurish in the sense of being bad rather than amateur in the sense of being unpaid; a certain saving fragment of it is of a high standard, publishable save for the laws of copyright. As far as she can without contravening those laws, Pugh gives a solid idea of the merits of some writers in the five fandoms she covers and knows.

This is a lively book which details lovingly fanwriters' private language - terms like OTP, the One True Pairing that a writer obsesses about need to have more currency than this subculture. And at least one term - fanon, those shared assumptions by fans that supplement the canon of a show or an author's work - is precisely what is needed to describe, for example, the way that Darcy's swim, as performed by Colin Firth, has become part of 'Pride and Prejudice in our heads.

And it's odd what I didn't discuss - e.g. in particular slash and the slash/gen wars and the slash/ffslash wars. When you have very few words for a very big topic, you find out what's most important to you.
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