/Tag: fanfic

Ebooks and interstitial reading.

Mike Shatzkin on the rise-and-rise of ereaders and interstitial reading.

“Interstitial reading” is the fancy-pants name for the reading you do on your phone when you’re on the loo or in the line at the supermarket. It’s short paragraphs and short chapters, fast-moving action and dialogue, easy to put down and easier to pick up. It’s a very, very difficult way of writing, in other words, and one that tends to get sneered at by a lot of (paper book) authors.

It’s also the native format of (almost) anyone who comes from writing fanfic.

Fanfic, at least for the last decade, is both natively digital and natively interstitial. It has no need to be formatted for print, no need to worry about things like the commercial viability of page counts, and so it tends to fall into a very specific kind of rhythm.

One like this.

In fact, I can usually tell when an author wrote fanfic before they wrote profic1 because they tend to write in The Style,2 at least for the first few books until it gets beaten out of them by editors or, like in my case, their own conscious effort to try and “write longer”.3

Anyway. The point is that this is something I think about a lot when I see people in fandom complain that they can never get into profic in the way they can with fanfic. Because, yeah, obviously there are issues around character familiarity and whatnot… but with the seemingly massive surge in popularity of ATG-esque AUs,4 I do wonder if there isn’t something else going on. Some kind of mechanical difference between the way fan- and profic tends to be constructed. So, yeah. I kinda think there is, and that Shatzkin has (inadvertently) nailed it.


  1. And, despite Conventional Fandom Wisdom, there are a lot of authors that did, and no, not just the ones you know about. []
  2. There are some other tells, like writing in present tense. Ironically, one of the authors I can think of that most predominantly writes in “fanfic style” is Chuck Wendig. We can have a discussion about the gendered implications of this another time. []
  3. I’m actually currently in the process of trying to unlearn my unlearning of fanfic style, because Reasons, but… that’s another story. Like, literally another story. Keep your eyes out in 2017/2018, in other words! []
  4. Seriously. These were not so popular a decade ago, I swear. []
2017-08-23T09:56:14+10:004th February, 2016|Tags: fanfic, writing|

The things I miss about fanfic.

The big thing I miss [about writing fanfic] is the feedback and interaction with that feedback. Yes when you write pro you get long detailed reviews, which you’re told not to read. There is amazon which you’re not supposed to reply to. It seems like Goodreads blows up at least once a month when an author responds to a review. I know to ignore the haters but there is this idea going around that you shouldn’t respond to the good reviews either.

I’ve realized it’s a matter of space and audience. Reviews are readers talking to other readers, not the author. Goodreads groups are again places for readers to talk to each other. Even if people are saying nice things about my book it feels like I’m listening in on a private conversation.

-Ada Soto on going pro.

One day I’m going to write one of those listicles about The Five Things Writing Fanfic Didn’t Prepare Me For In the Profic World. They’re all going to be things like this.

Because, yeah. This was one of the most jarring transitions I had, too. Back In The Day I was an MNF; not one of the cool kids, but “known’ enough that my fics would be in the first couple of pages of results on AO3. If I posted a new fic or chapter, I could expect comments and kudos to start coming in within the hour. People would make podfic of my stuff, write spin-offs and giftfics, do translations into other languages. All that sort of stuff. It was nice and, notably, it was immediate.

It also, I think, made me a much better–and much more prolific–writer. And the stakes were pretty low; if I tried something on, and it didn’t work… eh. It’s not like people were paying for it.

I had this perception that somehow the profic world would be… like that but moreso? Or something? So it was kind of confronting to realise that actually, no. No, it’s not like that at all. Profic writing–particularly in the midlist–is incredibly lonely. It’s long stretches of nothing punctuated by a week of panic and frenzy come release time, then a month of agonising over pretending not to read reviews. It’s this enforced wall of professional distance between yourself and your audience, no matter how much either side might year to leap that chasm.

It’s also, ironically, much more difficult to “make it” in the profic world–and yes, I’m talking about even after you’ve done the agent/publisher hurdle–than it is writing fanfic.

Quick quiz: How many book sales do you think it takes to make something like the NYT Bestseller list? 10,000? 100,000? 1,000,000?

Well, no. It’s actually closer to 3,000-6,000 sales over a single week’s period. I want you to think about that in the context of how many hits a fic from a popular fandom author can get within the same time period. You want to know why p2p and transitioning BNFs have been The Hot Shit in the professional publishing world in the past? Well, there you go. Similarly, if you want to know why some of those attempts have flunked dramatically, then there you also go; the structure of how profic is produced, marketed, sold, and received is fundamentally different that how things work in fandom. That means the same strategies don’t necessarily work across the two (and, if they do work, it’s usually not more than once, where those “onces” have already been tapped out).

This, incidentally, is also why I killed my fandom identity when I first signed with my agent. I knew I’d have to make a transition from writing-for-fun and writing-for-money, and that was how I chose to do it. Some profic authors can jump between their pro writing on the one hand and their fannish identity on the other. I knew that couldn’t be me. I’m too much of a procrastinator, and fandom was too “fun” compared to profic writing, which is for all it’s a lifelong dream, is still, yanno, work.

(There’s also the whole thing about how “reads like a fanfic” is still used to denigrate the works of, almost exclusively, female authors, including by people within fandom. I have Massive Feels on that subject, which I will reserve for another time.)

Anyway, point being, there are a lot of steep learning cliffs to jump off in the transition from fanfic writing to profic. Pretty much none of them are what people expect…

2015-08-06T08:43:50+10:006th August, 2015|Tags: fandom, fanfic, gonzo author stories, profic, writing, xp|

Corporate fanfic.

The fanfic communities I grew up participating in were always overwhelmingly queer and female, as well as interested (albeit often imperfectly) in intersectionality and social justice. Fanfic then became a way of critiquing mainstream media through that lens, so I’m used to the idea of transformative works being exactly that: transformative. In that they take a source text and interrogate it for tropes and biases, with the produced output often being ways for their authors to work out those issues in their own minds (as well as being a piece of fiction).

So it’s interesting, coming from that background, to surface into modern pop culture, which is saturated with what is essentially “corporate fanfic” in the form of franchises and remakes. I think there are a lot of questions in there about who is (and isn’t) chosen to produce these works, what audiences they’re marketed for and to, and why some “fanfic” is given the stamp of legitimacy while other fanfic is not. Just why can’t Spider-Man be gay or black? And not to put too fine a point on it, there are a few things people like Joss Whedon (Marvel film fanfic), John Scalzi (Star Trek novel fanfic), Steven Moffat (Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Who TV fanfic), and Chuck Wendig (Star Wars novel fanfic) all have in common. I’ll let the reader figure out what they are. So while none of that is the fault of the people mentioned, I think it’s worth having a discussion around why them in particular and not someone else.

Today I’m over at Libromancer’s Apprentice, talking about The Angels, fanfic, and Stormbringer.

2018-06-26T13:22:34+10:004th August, 2015|Tags: fandom, fanfic, interviews, stormbringer, wyrdverse|

Apply a sterile bandage to the burn.

What is significant about unofficial, extra-canonical fan fiction is that it often spins the kind of stories that showrunners wouldn’t think to tell, because fanficcers often come from a different demographic. The discomfort seems to be not that the shows are being reinterpreted by fans, but that they are being reinterpreted by the wrong sorts of fans – women, people of colour, queer kids, horny teenagers, people who are not professional writers, people who actually care about continuity (sorry). The proper way for cultural mythmaking to progress, it is implied, is for privileged men to recreate the works of privileged men from previous generations whilst everyone else listens quietly.

–Laurie Penny on fanfic.

Penny is talking about Moffatian shows like Sherlock and Doctor Who here, which are fanfic in every way we don’t culturally recognise. That is, they’re written by adult white men though formal institutions of power (e.g. the BBC).

2017-09-28T13:45:48+10:009th July, 2015|Tags: fandom, fanfic, pop culture|

A celebration of the written word.

Lest we think that young and no-so-young people don’t read (or write), consider the sheer volume of [fanfiction] that’s been published. There are tens of thousands of authors, using their grasp of language to weave stories featuring their favourite characters in new situations. For some of those authors, fanfic will be a precursor to writing as a pastime throughout their lives. For a few, it’ll become a career. But in every case, it’s a celebration of the written word: tested out in a safe environment, often under pseudonyms, and in front of a responsive and constructive community of hundreds of thousands of readers. That’s a profound thing.

–Matt Gemmell discovers fanfiction.

(It’s always so adorable when someone outside of fandom “discovers” fanfic…)

2017-08-23T09:53:41+10:0011th November, 2014|Tags: fandom, fanfic|

What is Kindle Worlds, exactly? (Hint: not fanfic.)

Scenario time:

A woman writes a law paper about Kindle Worlds and its relationship to issues around fair use versus license models and how they relate to internet-driven remix culture. A man picks this story up and, stripping any nuance from the original argument, turn it into a headline that declares “Kindle Worlds is a bust”. A second man comes along and writes a counterargument.

Now. Question: Whose argument does the second man engage with? The one written by the expert-in-her-field woman? Or the man?

That was rhetorical. You already know the answer.

One day, a man is going to write a decent article about fanfiction. Today is not that day.

2018-02-08T08:08:57+10:0012th October, 2014|Tags: fandom, fanfic, kindle worlds|

“All of this has happened before and all of this will happen again”.

This is a PDF of a paper written by Rebecca Tushnet, whom some of you may remember from her fandom advocacy. It looks dense–it’s a law paper!–but, despite the typesetting, it’s actually quite an easy and interesting read on the current way media companies are attempting to subvert fair use with seemingly-user-friendly licensing. Tushnet looks at three services in particular: Getty Images’ new embed thingie, Google’s Content ID, and Kindle Worlds.

Of these services, Tushnet writes:

The aim is not just to put the genie of frictionless copying back into the bottle, but also to make it start granting copyright owners’ wishes. As a result, certain themes will recur in my discussion: the systems’ abilities to suppress uses deemed unacceptable by copyright owners; their expansive and potentially invasive data collection; and their concentrating effect on markets for expressive works.

The whole paper is a little longer than your average blog post, but it’s definitely worth a read, particularly for anyone either in fandom or with a fandom, and particularly particularly the section on Kindle Worlds versus fanfic. Tushnet is scathing  of Kindle Worlds, quoting an earlier paper by Abigail De Kosnik in describing the service as “the moment when an outsider takes up a subculture’s invention and commodifies it for the mainstream before insiders do”, and taking it to task for using “the language of control and exploitation”.

Fanfic communities in general tend to push back hard against the notion of commercialising the culture, and Tushnet touches on several potential explanations as to why. She also has the Obligatory 50 Shades Reference. It’s worth noting, for outsiders, that the Twilight fandom which spawned that book is notorious in broader fandom communities for being a bit of an island. A lot of Twilight fans are “one fandom” fans, without broader exposure to fandom as a whole, and there’s even an argument as to whether they’re really “Twilight fans” at all or simply a community of romance readers who happen to’ve connected over that one particular series.

Media fandom can be just as exclusionary and insular as any other community, so whether you feel Twilight and 50 Shades and p2p in general represent disruption or usurpation or innovation (or some combination of all three) to The Way We’ve Always Ficced is up to you. But I think it would be hard to deny they’ve had some influence; if it weren’t for Twilight we wouldn’t have 50 Shades, and if it weren’t for 50 Shades we wouldn’t have Kindle Worlds.

There’s gold in them there fandom hills, in other words, and sometimes it seems that everyone wants a piece of it except the ficcers themselves…

2015-05-13T09:11:05+10:007th October, 2014|Tags: fandom, fanfic, kindle worlds|


[My sister] brought me bags full of [romance novels] and I started reading. I thought, because academia had trained me to think so, that they would be dull and suburban and the opposite of hip. In some cases, they were.

But in many others, they were not. They were fresh and exciting, about women in towns all over America, doing all kinds of things, and about men who were engaged in as many pursuits, with as much damage as the women. I studied the writers I most admired, like Rebecca Flanders (who writes now as herself, Donna Ball) and noted when they broke the rules. I took apart the best ones and figured out why I loved them.

Mostly, I recognized was that I could write about plum jam and the pleasure to be found in finding a good partner and in children. Is that a small subject? Not when you’re engaged in it.

–Barbara O’Neal on romance.

While I think O’Neal elides over the obvious–romance is reviled because it is (considered) a “women’s thing for women”–I can’t help nodding along with the article and thinking of fanfic.

Fanfic, which has emerged largely organically, as the cultural product of women, and is very romance-focused. I think most readers looking for fic are looking by ship first, other considerations second.

But within those “other considerations”, there is so much variation. 500-word fluffy “missing scene” character vignettes? Sure, we got those. 10,000 word explicit first time pesudo-PWPs? Here’s a whole rec list. 50,000 word borderline-genfic that may as well be a series episode? Done and done. And 100,000 word epic romance/drama AUs with a complex layered thriller-style plotline ready to make your head explode? Oo-oo-oo-oh yes. (Bonus points: this one here also has MPREG!)

These hypothetical fics are all “romances” in that their drawcard is a romantic/sexual relationship between two primary characters and there is almost always an HEA. But some are “straight” (a-har) romances, while others are political thrillers or space operas or body horror gorefests or high school dramas or just flat-out literary fiction. (These latter ones are often called “coffeeshop AUs”, and tend to be about modern-day 20- or 30-something hipsters with Ordinary Life Problems… who just happen to be named after and based vaguely on, say, the crew of the Enterprise. Somewhat amusingly, coffeeshop AUs–and their related subgenre of “hipster AUs”, which are sort of like “what would The Avengers be like if it was written by John Green?”–are insanely popular in a whole host of SFF fandoms.)

Like I said, fanfic is interesting here in that it really is an unmoderated expression of the zeitgeist of girls and young women. Fics are the stories women and girls write when they’re filtered only by the cultural expectations and gatekeeping of other women and girls. They’re the refashioning of male-packaged capitalist cultural product by the collective unconscious of a nebulous non-commercial female collective.

And what comes out? Tends to lean heavily on not just romance, but expressions of sexuality–including non-mainstream sexuality–in general, even as it leverages the tropes and trappings of every other genre imaginable.

… Just an observation, I guess.

2018-11-26T07:52:25+10:0015th August, 2014|Tags: books, fandom, fanfic, romance|

Hide your fanfics, the lawyers are coming.

That is, the lawyers who aren’t already in fandom, I mean.

I always find attempts to commercialise fanfic fascinating, and not just for the reason they rarely come from inside fandom communities. There are a whole bunch of gender- and class-issues in particular floating around here that I don’t think we’re even close to seeing the last of…

2017-09-28T13:40:15+10:007th July, 2014|Tags: books, fandom, fanfic|