Friday, July 11, 2014

Fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking Over the World by Anne Jamison

I read this book because I'm interested in fanfiction as a literary trend. I was hoping for a coherent discussion of why fanfiction is so derided while at the same time it is increasing in popularity. I wanted to read about the gender issues surrounding fanfiction – the fact that it is mostly written by and read by women. And I wanted to read about the porous boundaries between fanfiction and mainstream fiction like Longbourn, which is a new original novel that uses characters and settings from Pride and Prejudice (but which no reviewer described as fanfiction, despite its obvious connections).

But I didn’t get any of that in this book. Instead, I got a scholarly history of fanfiction and a snapshot of the current state of the art, especially the role of fanfiction within the larger world of fandom. An English professor at the University of Utah, author Anne Jamison has read and written fanfiction for years, as have most of the book’s other contributors (of which there are several). Her enthusiasm for her topic, however, in some ways prevents her from delivering me the answers I wanted; Jamison and the other authors are too close to the subject to give it an objective analysis and they consider the appeal (and the legitimacy) of fanfiction to be self-evident. Jamison does not address the gender issues, and swiftly dismisses the idea that writing fanfiction is “playing in someone else’s sandbox.” She says that writing is writing. I tend to agree.

But nevertheless, I enjoyed this book, albeit slowly. I’d love to recommend it to other fanfiction readers but unfortunately I can barely find anyone I know who will admit to reading it. Part of me wants to write a spirited defense of fanfiction here, and address those issues that Jamison didn’t. Another part of me thinks it’s not worth my time. Either you are open-minded about it or you aren’t. I have read fanfiction written by anonymous amateurs that moved me to tears, and award winning literary novels that bored me to tears. Remember, there are no reading police. If you think reading new stories about Harry and Ron sounds like it could be fun, well so do hundreds of thousands of other people. Why not join them?

(Book 12, 2014)

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