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Forum Home > Original Writings > In Defense of What We Do Here

Crimson DESTR0YA
Administrator
Posts: 1888

Tell me, what is your reaction to the word "fanfiction?" I'll admit, even as I write in defense of the art, a large part of my inner self cringes at the mention of the word. It evokes memories of Full Life Consequences, bad cosplay, and the horrors of isolated teenage years. But perhaps the word, gentlemen, is a perfect representative of a whole nation of such words, at first dragged through the mud by the worst of its own kind, then used as a comfortable wall of ignorance we use as a defense mechanism against said worst bits. Our society relies on these words as a system so as to avoid analysis; a system of laziness as much as it is of comfort. Just as every gay is obnoxiously flamboyant, every blonde is stupid, every Socialist is Stalin, every fanfiction is bad.

The reason for this perception is likely that everyone has encountered bad fanfiction. It's simply too easy to write and publish for there not to be bad fanfiction, when the subject matter has largely been created for you, and the Internet serves as your non-judgmental publisher; not only will it publish your submission regardless, even ignorant, of its contents, it will spread it to an audience infinitely greater than publishers of old could ever do! Why, how such publishers still exist is a marvel (actually, it's a classic byproduct of the system of American Capitalism promoting antiquated, "good ol' boy" structures to the detriment of true inventive progress… But more on that another time, perhaps). This lack of discerning eye over all that goes into print (which I must stress, is a good thing to be rid of) naturally results in a freedom that promotes stupidity as much as brilliance, in theory. In practice, of course, the stupidity drowns out the brilliance like a swarm of ants on a fallen butterfly, but the brilliance is there for those with the will to seek it.

But that's just the point, the saving grace of it all, the brilliance is there! Rather, it is possible for it to be there because fanfiction is a legitimate literary genre! If this shocks you, gentlemen, how will you react when I tell you it isn't even a modern art? For it is not! Authors, great authors, have been borrowing from each other, legitimately, artistically, with vigor and innovation, since long before each ever realized he was doing so! But for a striking, decisive example of this point, I direct you to a work which has captivated me recently, and serves as the crux of this argument; the great Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. For those unfamiliar, Faust is a retelling (I'm sure you already understand where this is going, but do bear just a little more explanation) of the legend of the real-life Dr. Faustus, retold countless times throughout the Renaissance and Enlightenment as the tale of a man stricken with ennui and cynicism who seeks the aid of the Devil himself to find pleasure in life. As you've no doubt reasoned in the time it took to read half of the previous sentence, the point I'm trying to make is that these retellings of Dr. Faustus' (greatly mystified and exaggerated, of course) life are all just the same as modern fanfiction; yet Goethe's Faust takes this one, no, countless steps further in the second part of his play. If Part I is guilty of being fanfiction, Part II is no less than a love letter to the genre! Part II is absolutely drenched in references to Greek mythology, in addition to the traditional Romantic Christian ideals of the struggle between God and Satan in the first half, carried on in the second.

Examining Goethe's Faust and its origins reveals that very little of this great work truly belonged to its author. His setting, protagonist, antagonist, and supporting cast are all members of pre-established canon. Yes, one can only conclude that this masterpiece of screenplay, considered by many including myself to be the single greatest piece of German literature and of the Romantic period, is irrefutably a work of fanfiction! What makes it great, then, if none of this is original, if this is all a fantasy, a lie to some, forcing pre-established characters into places and situations they were never meant to belong? In Goethe's case, it was his reinvention of the characters (a power available to, and used often by, good writers of modern fanfiction) and his implementation of his own themes and ideas that made the work his own, even if nothing else could he claim for himself. And so I ask you, gentlemen, what is the difference between a piece of Pokemon fanfiction and the great Faust? "Hah! Why, the relevance of that which is being alluded, of course," you may boast, "Goethe took on legends; Mephistopheles, Helen of Troy, the great Greek gods, the Christian God Himself! Such figures can hardly compare to Misty, Blaine, Lt. Surge!"

But can they? For what is "relevance" in the first place? One may (and all do, in the fast-paced, borderline-schizophrenic, media-driven social climate that pounds at the doors of our psyches with iron rams on a daily, no, hourly basis!) mistakenly define "relevance" in a manner such as that to which a great number of the current society may relate. But such a definition, as widely and commonly conceived as it is, is wrong. What relevance truly is (at the very least, what it should be, what the word yearns to represent) is that which may relate to those who will enjoy the work! "That's too simplistic, and far too idealistic, to exist in the real world!" you again charge with a hint of laughter in your voice. But you forget the audience I am writing for; an audience which in turn writes for an audience consisting potentially of the entire world! For it all comes around to the point I first made: The Internet changed everything. Our works are open to everyone, and yet simultaneously open to no one save those who will derive relevance from them! In such a universe, from a literary standpoint, Pikachu is on equal footing with God Himself!

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The destructor has gone

October 3, 2012 at 1:08 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Xelakian
Member
Posts: 486

This was a fantastic read. I've not had the opportunity to read Faust, but after reading this article I might give it a look. The thing that kept occuring to me while reading this was that the majority of all fiction, to some degree or another, could be considered fanfiction. The best example I can think of off hand is D&D in general. The majority of it is based on Tolkien's Middle Earth, and while it eventually evolved into its own thing, it still would not have been what it was without Tolkien. One of the things I worked on for a while was to create a fantasy world that was completely seperate from Tolkien. It was difficult. And, at the end of it, I could still see the influences. As you so eloquently stated, the subject matter has largely been created for you. I follow Homestuck, and it is the first series that I've actually looked at some of the fanfiction for, and was thoroughly impressed. I eventually found that each author had their own interpretations of the characters, allowing them to fill whatever role was necessitated by the story. The more I read, the more I started to see these characters as archetypes. The same could be said about other characters in other works.

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Friend Code: 1006-1639-8826

October 3, 2012 at 10:10 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Crimson DESTR0YA
Administrator
Posts: 1888

Thank you, I'm glad you were able to take so much from this. Your response gave me pause, as well, and expands on my point nicely; I doubt if I could find any author truly free of any influence. If such an author did exist, I doubt he'd be much good. What influences us does so for a reason; that influence has, however greatly or slightly, changed who we are, what ideas we want to express, how we see things. It's much like how every human personality is formed, by countless influences. Maybe that parallel is the true beauty in a good piece of writing.


I must admit, this came about not because of something someone said, but because of my own prejudices. In my struggle to produce another story for this site, I was getting discouraged as I realized all that held my interest to write was fanfiction; I couldn't, and still can't, come up with anything truly unique. I then examined if this was so wrong after all, and then put my thoughts into words thinking they may encourage others who produce similar content here, such as yourself. The end result is that I have decided to stop caring that all I can write is fanfiction, with the above as my justification.

One of the rare times I've been able to philosophically ration my way out of any such negative viewpoint. At least, in a matter of days, rather than months or years.

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The destructor has gone

October 4, 2012 at 1:56 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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