An Exhaustive Defense of Fanfiction

this video is brought to you by mubi try movie free for 30 days at movie.com sarah's ed that's mubi.com sarah zedd for a whole month of great cinema for free in 1917 artist marcel duchamp shocked the world when he submitted a urinal to a society of independent arts exhibition under the pseudonym r mutt describing it as an art piece titled fountain the society jury was affronted and the jury was fighting up until the last hour when the piece was to be displayed to have it removed it was eventually removed on three bases one the piece was indecent two the piece was a form of plagiarism using an existing plumbing apparatus that duchamp himself did not make and three most importantly the piece was not in fact art in the wake of its removal duchamp felt obligated to resign from the society board nearly a hundred years later fountain would be considered the most influential art piece of the 20th century decided by a poll of 500 art experts the piece would be sold to a collector for nearly two million dollars and declared the beginning of the contemporary art movement indeed in the years following and as the work of artists like duchamp came to influence contemporary art there was a significant critical reappraisal of the artistic merits of something like fountain in particular the idea that the piece was plagiarism was swiftly rebuffed by a number of critics who instead noted that fountain was in fact transformative yes he didn't make the urinal itself but by virtue of signing it titling it submitting it to a gallery the purpose and context of the item have been entirely transformed as an anonymous editorial probably written by beatrice wood put it whether mr mutt with his own hands made the fountain has no importance he chose it he took an ordinary article of life placed it so that its useful significance disappeared under the new title and point of view created a new thought for that object indeed the art world would have to contend with the notion that the source of the original creation is only a small part of what makes something original what makes something art and what about the supposedly vulgar subject matter the lack of beauty and intricacy and aesthetic philosophy as wood puts it there are those who anxiously ask is he serious or is he joking perhaps he is both is it not possible the piece was made with a clear purpose duchamp was on the board and wanted to test whether or not the supposedly pro avant-garde society was serious about its commitment not to reject any submitted works he had something to say he wanted to comment on the artistic norms and values at the time on who got to decide what was considered art hell he clearly did a good job asking these questions seeing as how trad twitter accounts are still losing their [ __ ] over this today how fountain represents the decline of modern society and we all need to go back to a time where we're dying of consumption and a quarter of the population had rights fountain wasn't the first of duchamp's ready maids existing pieces that by placing them in the context of an art gallery and asking viewers to reflect on them became art and with fountain as almost a baseline we would start to see more and more art that asks these questions rather than just simulating reality in a high art context something found on the street that becomes art because of its story pop art that uses pictures of superheroes and branded soup cans and marilyn monroe to challenge existing notions of high art a book with a u.s flag on the floor so viewers would have to step on the flag to read it according to art expert simon wilson the choice of dushan's fountain as the most influential work of modern art ahead of works by picasso and matisse comes as a bit of a shock but it reflects the dynamic nature of art today and the idea that the creative process that goes into a work of art is the most important thing the work itself can be made of anything and can take any form and in 2022 people online are yelling at each other about fanfic the advent of the internet has changed the way that we view consume and create art in a world where the traditional gatekeepers and outlets are no longer the only way for works to reach the masses you're going to see new communities and new forms of art getting attention this is especially true for fan content and especially especially true of fan fiction fan fiction has existed for decades yes going back to at least the 60s with star trek and even earlier depending on your definition of fanfic but it wasn't until the normalization of the internet that fanfic seems to really take off as its own large subculture one easily accessible for those who want to write it and those who want to read it we live in a world where at any point in time you can look up basically any work you like online and be met with dozens if not hundreds of fan-made fiction pieces about it and on the surface that should be the end of the conversation people can share and access fan works now and that's cool but it's not really the full story things have gotten a bit complicated in response to fan fiction's rise in popularity there's been this sort of schism among its readers and the wider world of literature culture this backlash against fan fiction not just as a lesser form of art but something that's not even art at all with some even arguing that its existence has worsened culture our understanding of literature our skills as readers and writers and even our capitalistic society much like the fountain there's an entire group of people arguing over the artistic merits of fan fiction wondering if something made entirely through transformation that may lack the intricacies of traditional lit and traditionally published books deserves to actually be considered art or even worth reading there were an entire series of decades where fan fiction was essentially considered illegal where you could very well expect to be handed a cease and desist for even writing it where authors of this traditional publishing world absolutely hated it so is this true where is this all coming from in this video i want to reflect on the potential literary merits or lack thereof of fan fiction and to contextualize where this video is coming from it's reflecting on a present debate of sorts in terms of how we see fanfic the first is a growing anti-fan fiction and more broadly anti-fandom movement one that can draw its history in those many years of authors and other people hating fan fiction and seeing it as both legally and ethically bad and it postures fan fiction as an inherently lesser medium one that cannot be considered art by any means it's at best something done for fun something that's cute but can never come close to the notion of being real art at worst fan fiction is a symptom of a larger problem of corporate worship of fan cultures based around wish fulfillment and repetitive low-stakes storytelling at the expense of challenging literature so you'll see a lot of posts going around drawing connections between the popularity of repetitive corporate mcu slop and fan fiction culture in general the idea being that years of fan fiction culture have primed young viewers to simply want to see the same characters placed in the same situations over and over again with few stakes challenges to the status quo or significant changes you'll also see critiques of the way the popularity of fan fiction has theoretically impacted the way books are published and marketed as the idea goes you'll see works nowadays be advertised less on the basis of their themes and core concepts but on the basis of tropes in a way that's very reminiscent of tags on 803 the biggest fan fiction website as of late or you'll see a lot of books made and marketed as thing meets other thing by my book it's like if harry potter and artemis fowl were boyfriends in the hunger games universe and had doctor who powers that kind of thing so the idea goes that it's bad because more published literary works these days are starting to look like fan fiction and thus contain a lot of cheap wish fulfillment and a lack of original challenging ideas and so this limits the presence of good interesting literature out there and indeed popular to this belief is a general support for literary classics and a general disdain for any comparisons between those classics and fan fiction published fiction is seen as generally an a priory good and yet something that can be encroached upon by fan fiction in ways that can only be seen as bad published books that used to be fan fiction are bad published books marketed like how you'd market fan fiction are bad and published books in the wake of fan fiction's increasing popularity that people like because it reminds them of reading fan fiction are also bad on the other hand works untarnished by fanfic culture and especially classical literature are often spoken about very positively and as a direct opposite to fanfic you'll see for example endless permutations of the same post with the words changed ever so slightly but the sentiment being basically the same you really think fan fiction is literature you really think pride and prejudice is in any way comparable to your fifty thousand word omega verse high school au supernatural bts crossover fan fiction it's a very compelling point i can't disagree with it the hypothetical straw man omega verse fan fiction is significantly more artistically and culturally important you really can't compare the two there's usually a very stark divide drawn here in general not just between fan fiction and classics but to fan fiction and all books published books as a category are generally seen as being inherently artistically superior to fan fiction and the increase in people viewing fanfic as a valid art form is seen as categorically bad the second piece of cultural context for this is kind of a reverse of that one that can at times steer in a direction that feels almost anti-books and so you have this subset of readers often quite young readers who will not only praise fanfiction as art as holding the potential for artistic significance and great quality but also as particularly significant art this kind of pro fandom pro fan fiction crowd here will often assert that fan fiction is good that transformative art can be very valuable but will sometimes do so in what i see as somewhat misguided ways so for example a tenet that will frequently get brought up is that well you can't say fan fiction isn't artistically valuable when the divine comedy that's all fanfiction this is in all fairness a thing i've kind of said as a joke before but in the case of these discussions the invocation of these works that base themselves on biblical elements is used to position them as equivalent to fan fiction in an incredibly serious way once again cue the you think dante's inferno is anything like your insert long list of horny tropes fan fiction here responses there's also a prevalent sentiment among some aspects of this crowd that fan fiction as a medium is inherently better be it in its artistic merit or its enjoyability to published novels you'll often see the take reiterated that fan fiction is a more diverse medium because of its low barrier to entry and popularity amongst queer fans whereas the book landscape is mostly dominated by straight white dudes or you'll see the take that published literary fiction is boring not fun to read or just more likely to be of worse quality people talking about how fanfiction has spoiled them that their standards are now too high to enjoy reading real books of course the notion of this is horrifying to the anti-fanfic crowd who will highlight this as an example of growing anti-intellectualism exacerbated by platforms like tick-tock as an example of an aging consumer base who don't want to be artistically challenged and just want to be fed poorly written escapist fantasy full of characters they already know and so as a result of these two groups existing and engaging in conversations about what the merits of fanfiction might be this discussion has been largely constructed as fan fiction vs real books to me spoiler alert this does kind of feel like a false dichotomy but i do think the questions opened up in this kind of discussion are worth examining even if i'm dissatisfied with the current state of how they've been talked about with fanfiction as an ever-growing medium many fanfics even having the serial numbers filed off and being published as original fiction the lines between the two mediums are growing blurrier and blurrier and that's incredibly interesting to me what actually makes something fanfiction and do the unique elements that make a fan fiction what it is inherently devalue its potential to be art what are the actual limitations of the medium is the existence of broader fandom and fan fiction culture a space designed around subversion and critique or is it simply another extension of capitalist brand worship given a grassroots veneer in this video i really want to dig into these questions and take a look at the current state of discussion around how we approach fanfic and what it would actually mean for the medium to be seen as an art form in order to do that we first need to ask ourselves two questions the first one is what is art you know how do we judge art how do we decide what is considered artistic and what is just instrumental and secondly and this one may not be as simple as it initially sounds what is fan fiction so let's talk about art for a second fan fiction largely gets talked about as if it's a genre of writing in the same way romance books or mystery short stories are and i can see why fan fiction does have a series of largely established conventions and subgenres that it tends to follow ones that you can't necessarily generalize to the entire medium but that are nevertheless recognizable as fan fiction tropes fanfic didn't invent scenarios like bed sharing it happens in a ton of other works whether it's brokeback mountain or buffy or even othello but it's nonetheless largely recognized as an iconic marker of romantic fanfiction or the italicized oh when someone realizes their feelings for someone else it also tends to have several recognizable literary tells in a way that's not too dissimilar to genre tells bad fanfiction for instance will have several mentions of tongues battling for dominance eyes are more likely to be described as orbs or even just minor tells phrases like he towed out of his shoes are common in fan fiction but for some reason don't really appear in published work that much it's a neutral descriptor but one that seems to just get passed around memetically more among fanfic writers as a result fan fiction tends to get judged and discussed as largely a subgenre of published fiction and thus analyzed on the same merits that you might use to analyze any other book this i think explains a lot of discrepancies with regards to how fan fiction gets judged if fan fiction is fundamentally the same medium as a book or short story elements that are not present in it but present in books are going to be viewed primarily as flaws in fanfiction you'll see for example a common critique that fanfiction is a lesser form of writing that requires less skill and produces worse work on the basis that it is fundamentally reliant on an audience that one already knows and understands the world depicted and two is already emotionally invested in these characters in other words as it goes fan fiction is worse writing because it enables and even requires you to take shortcuts it's cheap you don't need to create characters the audience cares about because they are already coming to your work with a pre-existing emotional connection to the leads and if you see fan fiction as a sub-genre of books or other serial fiction this does kind of make sense right i mean not fully because there are a number of respected published works for which this is also true but that's a point for later but yeah there are things that you do not have to do when you write fan fiction things that could arguably indicate a weaker form of writing beyond just the fact of writing with pre-existing worlds there's the serial nature of it the fact that fan fiction is written to be published serially and updated on an ongoing basis makes it differ from most modern books in a tangible way as the last video said many books we now consider classics like the count of monte cristo were indeed written and published serially but that's typically not the case for published novels anymore and indeed this creates a different type of art than you're going to see in published books in a way that might encourage people to see it as weaker writing i'll talk about this more in depth later but for instance if you get new ideas part way through writing you don't really have the option of editing your fick at least not in a way that guarantees old fans are going to see it it's much easier to run into pacing issues when each chapter goes up one at a time and not as part of a larger more cohesive whole fan response in real time can strengthen or weaken a work and a potential lack thereof could encourage writers to raise the stakes in ways that don't always work or sometimes ways that do and one particular potential pitfall through serial publishing is the risk that a work won't be finished at all many fan fictions go abandoned as a result of numerous reasons burnout loss of interest etc and so it's very common to find great works that ended off at the midpoint and just haven't been updated in years and indeed generally speaking fan fiction demands less world building and typically relies on existing investment in a work it's written with a much lower barrier of entry to its publishing pretty much exclusively requiring an internet connection and an online account to get out there as a result there's no quality selection process with a few exceptions it's often written and published serially and can sometimes go completely unfinished again if you're judging it on the same merits that you would use to judge published literature it's hard to see those things as anything other than bad this is all exacerbated by the fact that nowadays fan fiction is increasingly being turned into books as a generation of fan fiction authors grows older and becomes capable of getting their work formally published a lot of these books the ones that we know and recognize as former fan fiction tend not to be good and i think a lot of people who rail against fan fiction are seeing that and drawing from it the conclusion that fan fiction inherently produces worse writing while a good editor can help make the switch to another medium fairly seamless when that process isn't done thoroughly enough and little more is done but find replace the names around it shows look at fifty shades of grey a work that's fan fiction-ness shines through in many ways the work isn't that invested in getting you to care about the leads because like it's edward and bella you already care about them or you wouldn't be clicking on master of the universe important plot threads just kinda get dropped and phased out of the story clearly because the author realized in real time that her readers didn't really care about those elements that much the same is often true for other works that get the serial numbers filed off and get adapted into fan fiction young adult book after is based on a harry styles wattpad fan fiction and once again the most common critique i've seen leveled against it is that there's no incentive to care about any of the characters that incentive comes pre-baked for its readers this is an increasingly popular genre it's widely believed that fake dating romance novel the love hypothesis was originally reylo fanfiction for instance and it tends to produce mediocre work obviously there's a bit of toupee fallacy in this you know toupee fallacy being oh i can always tell when someone's toupee is bad and obvious well no you're just not noticing the ones that aren't obvious if a book was originally fanfiction and was edited well enough that we couldn't tell and it completely functions as an actual book we can't factor it into our judgment we don't know which ones were originally fanfictions and are just really good at hiding it it makes it hard to say all fanfiction with the serial numbers filed off makes for bad books off the top of my head gideon the ninth while probably not directly homestuck fick takes very clear inspirations from a number of characters and settings from homestuck and was written by a former homestuck fan fiction author but generally speaking if you can tell a book was originally fanfic it usually won't make for a very good book i think people aren't incorrect for noticing this general trend and i certainly can't blame them for seeing these kind of bad formerly fan fiction novels and taking from that the conclusion that fan fiction produces bad writing once again if you are essentially viewing fan fiction as a type of novel the same medium but a different example of it it would sort of make sense it would be like if you were in an art gallery exclusively for paintings and then someone hung up a photograph on the wall well okay that's nice and all but anyone can take a photograph it doesn't require you to learn shading or how to work with a canvas or practice your anatomy this photograph is a [ __ ] painting but we don't judge photographs like that do we we judge them as photos a medium that's capable of being someone's dog [ __ ] blurry snapshot or one that's capable of achieving great artistic merit we acknowledge that not only is the end result different it's in fact a completely different medium this is why i think this method of conceptualizing fan fiction despite how incredibly popular it is is quite flawed because yeah fan fictions on a base level usually wouldn't make very good books but also this is true for eddie switch from one medium to another right books generally don't make good film scripts when a book is getting adapted to a film you often have to make changes to the scripting whether it's consolidating multiple characters into one for tighter writing or changing the locations or even removing aspects from the book that wouldn't work well on camera if you just took every line of dialogue verbatim from a book and turned it into a film that could be a pretty bad movie but it wouldn't mean that books are bad it would just mean that books are a different medium than television shows i think it's sometimes hard for people to conceptualize of fan fiction as an entirely different medium that has to be judged through separate sets of criteria because of a few things the aesthetic similarity to forms of published writing the fact that the comparison between fan fiction and books is made constantly both from anti-fandom types who use the comparison negatively or this weird anti-book pro fan fiction contingent that wants to repeatedly assert that they've never found a book as enjoyable to read as fanfic to the fact that these lines are getting consistently blurred through published works like the love hypothesis or fifty shades so i do get it but just as photographs aren't paintings then you can't judge them for not being painted enough and just as books aren't movies and you can't judge them for not being filmed enough i think you can't assert that fan fiction is an inherently worse form of writing on the basis that it's fundamental traits transformativity serial publishing the common genre tropes tend not to produce quality books i think viewing fan fiction as a medium rather than a specific kind of book itself is really the only conclusion we can draw from looking at it you know is it art i don't know our photographs are our rugs art is graffiti art in all these cases the answer tends to be yeah it can be but it also doesn't have to be photographs aren't a concrete thing you can look at and declare every example of them to be art or not art to have artistic merit or none it's just a type of way you can create and the creation itself is what you have to judge so yes i've seen fan fiction that is absolutely brilliant writing just really incredible stuff that pushes the limits of the medium that i would have zero hesitations about earnestly labeling his art and i've seen plenty of fan fiction that's [ __ ] and as with books as with photographs as with paintings i've seen a lot of middle of the pack stuff books are not a coherent category of work you can universally judge and nor is fan fiction alright so thank you for watching this video uh make sure to check out my patreon okay no at the same time i don't envision this being an intellectually satisfying answer for people neither the ones who see fan fiction as the highest form of writing or those who think some fundamental aspects of the medium's existence render it inherently worse i think we all need to dig deeper than this to ask ourselves the broader question of well how do we then judge a medium on what artistic criteria can we hope to examine the merits of an entire way writing can be done is this even a doable task [Music] medium-based critique of art a form of analysis that became increasingly popular during the 1900s as a way of discussing modern art usually first concerns itself with trying to distill a medium down to its essence or in other words what aspect of a medium is essential to it what makes a sculpture a sculpture what makes a film a film this type of critique has often been used in relation to film and film theory and it's understandable why it's still a very new form of art especially compared to things humans have been doing for as long as we can remember and so with the emergence of film as art came new ways of conceptualizing emergent artistic mediums and one of the things these theorists noted is that new artistic mediums are in their early years going to look like old ones as a way of legitimizing themselves so in order to be seen as legitimate art by critics they emulate existing mediums or in other words as film philosopher noel carroll puts it in studying the emergence of film video and photography as art forms and in studying the polemics attending these emergencies one is struck by certain arresting regularities each of these art forms appears to undergo an initial phase in which each attempts to legitimize itself as art by aping the conventions forms and effects of pre-existing arts film initially imitates theater photography painting and video imitates film and this seems familiar right it's the same process as fan fiction has with books the reason i'm bringing this up is because i think artistic theories of film and television are useful reference points for conceptualizing fan fiction as a new medium i would even argue that writing for television and writing fan fiction may even share more similarities than fan fiction and books do you're more likely to be writing with characters you didn't create or establish doing so in a collaborative environment creating in a serialized manner that can respond to consumer demands and unless you are on board for the pilot you're more likely to be writing in a world where consumers are already invested in your characters but also have existing expectations for what you are supposed to do with them that's not to say writing fanfic and writing for television are the exact same type of writing but rather to say that i think film analysis and theories of film and television as art may be a useful tool here to conceptualize fan fiction as an emergent artistic medium both are relatively new art forms and the grand scheme of things both require similar kinds of writing both have had to begin by asserting themselves as legitimate art through emulation of an older art form and like all artistic mediums both have the potential to range from anywhere from absolutely terrible to mid to genuinely good art so with that in mind what might these artistic theories tell us about how we can judge a whole medium what could that say about fanfiction a lot of modernist critiques of art especially the ones that came from the film world care a lot about the medium to the point where they'll assert that using a given medium as much as possible is the market for what's artistically successful this theory also known as medium specificity basically asserts that each medium does something best and seeking to accomplish what makes each medium unique makes something artistically successful so for example according to this idea of medium specificity an artistically competent painting would be one that deliberately chooses to emphasize the things that are unique to paintings showing off the flatness of the canvas instead of trying to create a well-shaded 3d illusion you can sort of see that this is an idea that arose with the popularity of modern arc where abstract paintings started to be seen as doing interesting things with the medium instead of trying to emulate the 3d nature of something like sculpture or a successful film is going to make good use of space and time both aspects that are essential to what makes a film a film indeed in the 1920s when film was an emergent medium it went through a very similar analytical process as we're doing for fan fiction now trying to figure out what the inherent qualities of film are what makes a film a film so that we can better analyze its work it's like a play but it's not a play and here's all the unique stuff you can do when you're making a movie stuff that makes film good on its own and by this standard of medium specificity judging fan fiction as its separate medium a successful example of a fanfic is not one that tries to emulate books but one that draws on the things that make fanfic fanfic one that is steeped in fan culture one that is deliberately as transformative as possible making the best use of existing properties instead of attempting to be a book that said there are a lot of critiques of the idea of medium specificity and it's understandable why if we attempt to judge fanfic on the sole standards of how well does it perform at being transformative we could make a potential argument for something like my immortal video here being an artistically genius work of fan fiction which it is i'm absolutely not going to dispute that it is but a number of philosophers have attempted to either critique or expand on medium specificity to say okay critiquing the merits of art and of any given medium has to mean more than just distilling a medium down to its base parts and evaluating how well art utilizes its medium so for example one of the ideas that emerged from this critique is that we have to judge art in the cultural context in which it was created as t.s eliot the guy whose fault cats is put it no poet no artist of any art has his complete meaning alone you cannot value him alone you must set him for contrast and comparison among the dead mediums are grounded in their own history in the things that make them mediums and we have to analyze all of that to analyze these works in marxism and literature philosopher william reynolds puts it as every specific art has dissolved into it at every level of its operations not only specific social relationships but also specific material means of production on the mastery of which its production depends so mediums are the material factors that play into how something can be made and displayed but also the social conditions they exist in how that art is perceived by society what social and economic processes go into its creation so for example the medium of fan fiction can only exist in a very specific socio-political and cultural context for one fan fiction exists in a context where fandom exists and fandom wasn't invented in the last few decades i mean how people went to real-life funerals for sherlock holmes when arthur conan doyle killed him off but fandom nonetheless occupies a specific place it can only emerge in a culture where original artistic works are produced and distributed on a wide scale for entertainment purposes which seems like a facile thing to say but like we couldn't have fandom like we have it now three centuries ago and fan fiction 2 exists in a very specific cultural space with regards to say the existence of intellectual property laws and what our culture considers a form of legitimate ownership to a work if neil gaiman writes a sequel to good omens that's not considered fan fiction because it's his story but if i wrote good omens 2 and published it on ao3 then that would be considered fanfic because we have specific cultural ideas about who owns a work of fiction so when we're talking about fan fiction we can't just talk about using someone else's characters or being in fandom we also have to talk about how the conditions that created fanfiction have impacted it because that too plays into our evaluation of fan fiction as an artistic medium so okay what does all of this mean for us and for how we talk about fan fiction i think it boils down to a few things one what is and isn't art is always going to be inherently subjective there are entire philosophical fields devoted solely to answering this question two when we're judging what is and isn't art it's very difficult to make this kind of proclamation about an entire artistic medium can we definitively say all youtube videos are art of course not can we definitively say no youtube videos or art no i don't think so i would not hesitate for a second to declare say something like bill wurtz's history of the entire world i guess as art in most cases the vast majority of most artistic mediums are structured like this some amazing incredible work at the top a massive amount of completely average stuff and a lot of garbage in no cases i can think of does that devalue the potential of the medium but i think it's broadly true across the board most paintings are bad most books are bad most photographs are bad we just mostly get to see the really good ones because those are the ones that get put on museums or on top 10 lists or whatever three when we're looking at the limitations and merits of a given medium we need to define and evaluate the core characteristics that make something belong to that medium or in other words what makes fan fiction fan fiction and what do those characteristics say about it and four finally when we're evaluating art and artistic mediums we need to do so in the historical context of those mediums fan fiction exists now and is considered fan fiction now because of a lot of factors and those factors are relevant to discussing it okay so with all of those in mind what that tells us is that if we are capable of making any kind of artistic evaluation of fan fiction as a medium we probably need to start with boiling the medium down to its most characteristic traits what makes a fan fiction a fan fiction once we do that we can start looking at those traits and asking ourselves questions about them and what implications we have for those things artistic merits so let's get started the term fan fiction is one of those surprisingly deceptive and complex terms on the surface it's seemingly simple fan fiction is fiction based on a pre-made work created by fans of zed work and through this simple definition and viewpoint it's fairly easy to define what is or isn't fan fiction if someone writes a story in which columbo investigates the murder of laura palmer and posts it on a03 that's fan fiction it's taking a character from a piece of fiction and constructing a new piece of writing based on it case closed right well not quite because when you get down to it there's a lot of factors and variables that challenge this conventional definition like even just the idea that fan fiction is a work based on a piece of media seems to fall apart when one remembers the existence of real person fick fanfic written about one direction or k-pop groups or internet personalities aren't based on a work per se but rather just people that exist there's an entire debate over the ethics of rpf but whether or not you like it it's still qualified as fan fiction but this also gets messy because if fiction written about real people is fanfic well what does that mean for fiction that uses historical figures or celebrities is hamilton fanfic is once upon a time in hollywood fanfic is el doctoro's ragtime fanfic generally people would say no these aren't they're just works that use established cultural figures either to create a narrative out of historical events or as the basis for their own narrative with their own original characters but that's still hard to unpack because that sentence can also describe fanfic especially when it comes to alternate universe fix changed pov fix and self-insert original character fix it's very common practice and fandom to write about the non-existent hypothetical children of the main characters and about their adventures these are all essentially original characters which simply use established fiction as a jumping off point alexander hamilton had a torrid affair and this can contribute to the animosity towards books and conventional media by people into fanfics or at least a sense of us versus them because on the surface it appears that the only main difference in what's considered fanfic and historical fiction is the outlet it's released with and the cultural validation that comes with it this sort of messy gray area also affects things like tie-in books or other forms of media that use pre-made characters or worlds there are thousands of star wars books and also a dozen good star wars books none of these are written by star wars creator george lucas and very very few use any ideas that originated from him and a lot of people who go on to write star wars books started out as fans of star wars who are now providing their own original fiction based on the world so is something like the darth bane trilogy fan fiction well no it's not it's a tie-in novel produced by the original company that owns and controls the franchise and then that opens up another question is the distinction between what is or isn't fan fiction simply a matter of work derived from copyrighted material made outside of that copyright well it's not that easy either because there's also fiction made using public domain characters or religious figures things where copyright cannot be applied there are numerous original stories and interpretations of sherlock holmes made outside of the copyright landscape is enola holmes fan fiction is the great ace attorney fan fiction is bbc sherlock fanfiction if i write a story featuring sherlock holmes right now is it fan fiction if i self-publish it as a novel or is it simply an original piece of fiction using a public domain character like i mentioned before people arguing for a pro fanfiction stance will often point to published and acclaimed works using public domain figures or religious content as proof of the literary value of fanfiction you can look at people like neil gaiman or alan moore who have achieved great acclaim using other people's characters and folklore and ask how that's different from what you're doing another one that comes up a lot like a lot a lot is the divine comedy dante's epic poem in which he imagines the different aspects of the afterlife featuring people dante admired or new in real life and true yes dante's inferno is fiction based on pre-established religious concepts but calling it fanfic as anything other than a tongue-in-cheek joke feels wrong and i think the best way to break down why is establishing a difference between the concept of fan fiction and derivative fiction fan fiction will always be derivative fiction but not all derivative fiction is fanfic for something to be derivative fiction all it needs to do is use a concept or imagery or character that came from something beforehand while fan fiction generally exists in an overall context of fandom and fan culture whether you like it or not delivery is an essential piece of how media is seen and consumed you know it's often said that a piece of art like fountain only works and is perceived as a piece of art because it's displayed or removed from a gallery that kind of display is crucial to how we perceive it and the kind of commentary that it's trying to make otherwise it would just be a urinal the same is true for how we perceive derivative fiction a work using jesus published through a traditional book outlet exists in a different context and generally has different goals than a work featuring jesus published through fan fiction sites and explicitly labeled as such so as fun as it is to say things like jesus christ superstar is religious fanfic it's not really true because andrew lloyd webber and tim rice weren't making it to bring more content to the jesus fandom but i mean even neil gaiman calls some of his work fanfic so you know who knows the main point of all this is simply trying to convey just how surprisingly complicated the definition of fan fiction is and that can be an issue because people can be arguing about fan fiction online and have two completely different definitions for what that word actually means is fan fiction any transformative work that contains derivative material no matter how it's published or is fan fiction specifically transformative work made based on copyrighted media published by fans on a fandom-based platform just for the purpose of this video let's use the second definition so that we can have an understanding of how i'm going to be interpreting things of course there's gonna be room for pushback on this if anything because by making any sort of special separation between derivative fiction and fan fiction can come off as elitist or dismissive toward the artistic outlet of fan fiction but with that in mind let's see if we can maybe clear up a distinction between these two and try to figure out how these distinctions change the way we view each medium as i said before simply using established worlds and characters isn't enough to be viewed as fan fiction in the public consciousness lots of fiction uses pre-made concepts but as established in our definitions something that plays a large part in the differentiation between the two art forms is the outlet and context upon which the work is released art will always be judged by the context and the canvas that it comes out on i sort of touched on this in my last video on binge watching on paper a tv show that airs week by week on a cable network is the same as a show that debuts all at once on a streaming service and will be judged the same but we know that's often not the case in execution as the method of delivery will inevitably play a factor in how tv shows are written and paced and how audiences are going to interpret them the same is true for fiction as well books and published fiction are generally written and distributed all at once with additional stuff written later if it ends up being a series because of this they generally feel much more like purposefully constructed holes as by the time their reader even gets their hand on the product the writer will have presumably spent months if not years with the entire story written out and the capability to fine-tune each individual part to make it work better in terms of pacing character development themes and everything else that's not to say fan fiction can't also do this as well there's nothing stopping a writer from bulk writing their fick and then placing it up later either all at once or through specifically timed individual drops but i think it's fair to say that that's not really common most fanfic writers and i say this as someone who has written fanfic tend to write as they go maybe having a backlog of a few chapters or an outline for where they want the story to go next but for the most part largely publishing it while they're still also writing it and the thing is that even if you are an intricate planner distributing your fanfic like this is inevitably going to change how you write it compared to published fiction when you write an active fanfic you tend to view the story on a chapter by chapter basis regardless of a grand master plan if you know that your reader is gonna be consuming this one chapter at a time you're gonna do what you can to make that single chapter feel satisfying and engaging to the reader furthermore you're writing this story in the greater context of fan interaction even if you're not fully engaged with a fandom as a whole when you publish a fix serially you can see what elements click with people what things readers respond to what predictions they have etc at times fanfics can feel like games of call and answer with their readers either through direct acknowledgement in things like author's notes and comments or through subtle influences from the readers in the writing itself really a lot of fanfic feels like it thrives off of this connection and the community that comes with it whether you want to please your readers or shock them your writing is going to be affected and shaped by reader response to some extent this can explain why some fanfic at times can feel sort of reliant on standard tropes and cliches if a reader bought your book you know they're probably going to try and keep reading it because you know they bought the book and they want to get their money's worth but in the world of fan fiction you're trying to distinguish yourself against a million other tom greg fix that are only a click away if you're doing this on a chapter by chapter basis and you need things that can cause an immediate reaction and sense of interest in the reader it helps to use a lot of established simple scenarios and imagery in order to get the ball rolling and to get people to experience whatever they're there to experience whether it's fluff smut aus or fix-it fix plus on a basic level it's fun it's fun to take your little blurbos and put them in cute or potentially heartbreaking scenarios even if it's cliche just because it's cliche in the world of fanfic doesn't mean it's not satisfying to read for a reason especially if it's a trope you wouldn't see in the original work for example bat family fix using a lot of slice-of-life tropes because most stories don't really get a chance to focus on anything but crime fighting and drama all of this explains how the outlet can make a work differ in its construction though there's still the question of how it can alter the arts perception i think part of the thing is that all of these things that make fan fiction stand out can also give it an aura of being entirely creator and fandom-based without any sort of oversight or other concern and yeah there is a case there most fanfic is written by hobbyists who might proofread it once whereas published novels tend to have editors and extensive proofreading before they see the light of day and likewise the barrier to entry for fan fiction is generally lower i don't mean to imply that getting your work professionally published is a perfect quality gate there exists a lot of vanity presses that basically exist to publish pretty much anything and self-publishing is a thing and even a lot of stuff that goes through an established publisher is bad books don't have to be good for a publisher to think they're going to sell that's how you got a million lame knockoffs of twilight in 2008 and a million lame knockoffs of the hunger games in 2012 and how you currently have a million lame royal intrigue magic books with a smirking love interest now but even with all of that in mind there still exists some barriers to entry as far as published books are concerned and many of them do select out for books that are incoherent garbage websites like fanfiction.net and ao3 on the other hand have no such quality control i could write a story about supernatural with my eyes closed and edit every third word in it to say fart and put it up on ao3 and no one would be able to stop me lots of fan fiction is written by kids or people who don't want to proofread or people who are deliberately trolling if you have a platform where anyone can put anything you have to acknowledge the double-edged sword of this is going to become accessible to very talented people who would otherwise not be able to publish and also a lot of this is going to be garbage as a result when you're going on a site like a03 you're going on it with certain expectations and those expectations are always going to color how you perceive what you're reading even established authors like award-winning author and ao3 founder naomi novik have talked about how she writes fan fiction as well as published fiction with her viewing fanfic as more of a community-based activity for fun than a challenging serious career move she likened it to playing simon and garfunkel in the park with your friends even if you're a concert pianist elsewhere it's still fun and still valuable even if it isn't hard work done for profit with this it's easy to take the viewpoint that published works are professional and fan fiction is amateur and by extension that published books are polished and fanfiction is sloppy and this is just how the mediums are by design that's not universally true there's a lot of books that get published that are riddled with typos and errors and are generally not good and there's fan fiction that's painstakingly constructed and managed with a fine-toothed comb again a medium is just a medium nonetheless though this does mean that when someone is looking for fan fiction to read the fact that it is considered fan fiction is always going to affect how people read it so with that in mind what do the inherent characteristics and contexts of fan fiction actually say about its artistic potential well we've already established that one of these fundamental aspects of fanfiction is that it's necessarily transformative that is to say it takes some kind of existing work or boyband and does something to transform it this is often referred to in a kind of derisive way right there's this thread about fan fiction being seen as silly and lesser and using the phrase the avengers going to starbucks but like why it can't be the going to starbucks part lots of established works have people going to get food that in and of itself isn't silly or diminishing right we have scenes of people drinking terrible coffee in discworld or in john dies at the end it's the part about using existing characters they say as much so let's talk about the artistic value or lack thereof about a piece including transformativity if we're going to talk about transformativity i think it's central to first acknowledge the obvious transformativity has existed long before fan fiction has and a number of artistic works that are broadly well regarded like yeah there's always going to be an uphill battle when it comes to people seeing the artistic merit of say licensed tie-in novels but it seems like it would be really weird to like i don't know go up to terry pratchett and neil gaiman and be like you didn't actually do anything all that demanding as a writer when you made good omens because you didn't invent bible lore like it's very clear that you can have a work that seems to exist to transform previous material that's still seen as high quality and i don't know how you could really argue against that without it coming off as incredibly ill-informed and unnecessarily contrarian i think this is why people tend to bring up things like dante's inferno so much in arguments about fan fiction i mentioned this previously and if you've spent enough time in the circles i'm talking about you'll see one argument get played over and over again on loop someone will say fan fiction is bad or incapable of producing meaningful art or something something someone else will say well that's not true dante's inferno is basically bible fan fiction and it's critically acclaimed and then the first person will come and shut them down whether it's through some comment about how stupid they are to think dante's inferno is the same as their high school au omegaverse fan fiction where tony stark is castiel's sex slave and everyone is a cat boy or through a more thoughtful response about how it represents a lack of literary knowledge to describe dante's inferno as fan fiction and i don't disagree with the latter point we've talked about this it's not fan fiction and neither is folklore this is especially true when the people writing works based off of biblical settings don't consider the bible to be fiction at all it's made in such a distinct context from fanfic that that's not really an accurate term to use to describe them but when i see these arguments crop up again and again it seems to me that the dante's inferno is fan fiction crowd is trying to get at a real point they're just making it poorly if we're going to take that point on good faith i think that what they're often trying to say is you're saying fan fiction is lesser art on the sole basis that it's derivative there exists a number of well-respected works that build off of and transform existing worlds characters or concepts and calling these things lesser is incoherent and then they'll bring up dante's inferno or paradise lost or wicked or folklore or how romeo and juliet was a rewrite of an existing story and then people will bring up how that stuff isn't actually fan fiction which it's not but that doesn't actually make those works completely irrelevant to this discussion and the conversation begins yet again basically these people are all talking past each other and they're not getting at the crux of why any of this matters they're saying why is transformativity fine good even in this other piece of media but suddenly seen as a weak point when we talk about fan fiction this is i think a valid question are these works considered good and classics in spite of their transformative nature does this make it better or does it not affect the work at all the answer to this is rather complicated like i said earlier the context in which something is released is going to alter the way one views and interprets the work a painting of jesus displayed in an art gallery is going to be viewed differently by art critics than a painting of jesus posted on twitter even though at the end of the day they're both fan arts of someone's blorbo from their tomes but i think the internal context will also determine how a work is viewed in my general experience a transformative piece of art's mainstream acclaim and recognition can often be directly based on how much context from the original material is needed to understand the work take works based on religion such as the divine comedy the aforementioned good omens or even greek mythology like the percy jackson series or the song of achilles these works can benefit from an understanding of the theologies and cultures they're derived from sure but for the most part they exist as standalone stories providing context and exposition for people who might not be familiar entirely with the original folklore or being so ubiquitous that essentially everybody already knows what's being talked about these works also make sure that the characters and themes in central conflict are all compelling enough for new readers and work as an independent narrative compare this to fan fiction or even tie-in novels you're very rarely going to see someone call i don't know mass effect revelation a must-read book in casual conversation or in an academic setting because unless you're already familiar with mass effect its world its characters the backstory and how this plays into a larger whole you're not really going to care nor get much out of reading it regardless of if mass effect revelation is a good book or not and tie-in books and fan fiction may do the same thing those other derivative works do and tell a compelling story or have exposition there for those who might not be 100 familiar with it but for the most part they rely upon a common ground's understanding that if you're clicking the link for a doctor who fanfic then you have an understanding of who the doctor is what time lords are and why you should care about what's going on not to mention the fact that they're tied to an existing brand that isn't considered high brow is going to disqualify them from any kind of modern academic consideration regardless of their quality now that raises another question if the transformative aspect of a work can act as a detriment against it from a critical perspective then is there any point to using those transformative aspects at all should pratchett and gaiman come up with their own lore and backstory for the afterlife and the dark chosen one and all that rather than rely on using pre-established christian theology should percy jackson have used original elemental-based deities rather than specifically the gods of greek myths is the act of transformation at best a neutral addition to a work and at worst detriment and the answer is well no there's absolutely an artistic benefit to using pre-established work and concepts even if the story makes it so no prior knowledge is needed there's still a value in playing off of these existing concepts would good omens have worked as well if it wasn't a satirical novel published in an era in which the religion it's satirizing was dominant probably not or even something like into the woods which is very clearly basing itself off of several well-known fairy tales using the audience's general knowledge and cultural understanding of these stories to jump off into a narrative about personal responsibility generational trauma emotions and depression loss and grief and doing so in ways that wouldn't really land if rapunzel was just i don't know some woman with kind of normal hair named stacy or whatever that same contextual benefit can be applied to fan fiction as well even if it's a lot harder to make it as prominent when the story is so reliant on understanding an original work with the original stories established and understood by you and your audience it opens up the doors for people to flesh out the original stuff and play with and expand upon it or even deconstruct it in ways that might be difficult if not outright impossible if there wasn't a source material to pull from just off the top of my head there are a lot of queer people who only found a proper outlet to explore things like their sexuality and gender while writing or reading works that utilize the familiar characters and setting of something like rhonma people who might not have felt comfortable taking the plunge and engaging with those in an unfamiliar and entirely new context beyond the fact that transformativity is an established convention even of non-fanfiction art and beyond the things that can be done with it we sometimes see this notion that fan fiction is worse art because it teaches you to write worse or that it doesn't involve the requisite skills to be good at writing indeed it's relatively common to see people online claim that fan fiction isn't as valid or demanding as an original piece of literature because it's transformative as the claim goes the knowledge and context of the original material provides a shortcut that keeps writers from having to create their own original characters or keeps readers from having to explore and unpack a unique world it's an argument i can certainly understand a large part of the creative process involves the foundations of what and who your story is about and that's something you rarely get when doing fan fiction itself though emphasis on rarely because as i already said the existence of fannin and ocs does blur this distinction a bit i think there are two things to be said here for starters there's the obvious fact that it's not as though the only reason you should ever write any type of fiction is for professional serious and dedicated experience and training it's fine if you're not constantly trying to exercise your writing and reading muscles and just want to create and partake in something simple and fun most people view this as just a hobby and it's perfectly fine to treat it as just a hobby but two while the usual lack of world building and original character creation does mean that these are skills writing fan fiction will probably not teach you that's fine once again fan fiction and books are different mediums and while fan fiction has its own limitations in terms of what it can do and what it can teach it also has areas where it greatly shines learning to write with other people's worlds is an excellent tool in terms of learning to deconstruct existing rules and systems to find ways to play with them and use established conventions creatively harry potter bad but there's a lot of great fan fiction that acknowledges the flaws in the existing world building and seeks to ask questions like okay if all of this is true what are the implications of a world where this kind of magic and this kind of society exists this is something fan fiction can do and something that in this case the original work itself the professionally published fiction really didn't do that's how we got [ __ ] whatever fantastic beasts is like hurt by johnny cash is a cover the original is by nine inch nails johnny cash didn't have to write that song and yet the cover is widely considered better than the original you could argue that he had it easy in terms of having a ready-made song to cover but in some ways processing an existing text and changing the tone and meaning with your own talents is just as impressive a feat and in this case arguably produced better work fan fiction is also a great tool in teaching you how to take artistic criticism because you receive it in real time from oftentimes a large number of sources while you're still writing it you often have to hone your skills of adapting to feedback while also figuring out how to filter out which feedback is valuable and which isn't obviously these are skills you can learn from other sources but this is all to say that the medium having limitations in terms of what it can teach you and what skills it requires you to flex isn't a problem particularly when it shines in other regards not to mention even if you don't deviate from the source material that much writing fanfic is a good way to gain experience in how to format writing how to write dialogue how to do character development how to write exposition and action text how to establish a voice and basically gives you experience with the simple act of creative writing something a fair bit of people might not have done a lot of before that's not to say everyone who writes fick is going to be constantly getting substantially better but my co-writer emily and i have both written absurdly stupidly long fanfics in our spare time and i think we can both agree that it's hard to write a hundred thousand plus words of something and not come out of it with a bit of a better understanding of what you're doing and how to do it better even if in emily's case it was a 250 000 word my immortal style star wars and cats 2019 crossover [ __ ] post both are actually fan fictions of trials and trebuchets the d d podcast i'm in where me and my friends play four students at magical university check it out i'll put the links in the description so basically yes transformativity is a valid artistic tool there's nothing inherent about the transformative nature of what makes fan fiction fan fiction that should render it lesser in this way to reject works on the sole basis that they are transformative would be to reject aspects that make storytelling so fun and meaningful that takes away from the human experience of passing and sharing around our own version of myths and folklore over campfires across the years at the same time yes the lack of original character and world building that these works demand can limit them in terms of who it's meant to be read by what skills you're going to develop as an author by solely practicing them and more like i said ages ago one of the most common critiques of works that go from being fan fiction to being published fiction is people going hey why should i care about these characters if you're an author who has primarily written fan fiction you may just not have really worked that muscle of creating original characters and making us care about them and that's not good if you're trying to write original fiction professionally but just as the medium has its weaknesses it has its strengths too you know once again photographs are not paintings if i want to be a professional painter i i'm not going to be able to do that by only practicing photography that doesn't mean photography doesn't teach useful skills though it's its own thing but of course it's not just the fact that fan fiction is transformative that cheapens it in detractor's eyes there's also the fact that it exists in the context of fan culture you'll see a number of arguments as to why this is to its detriment the first is just a general distaste for fandom and fan culture in general and indeed there is a lot to critique about a number of fan spaces i've done that multiple times across this channel and it's always been received amicably and with little attached controversy people might assert for example that fan spaces don't largely value challenging works or stories that make the reader feel anything other than warm fuzzies which in all fairness describes quite a lot of published fiction too but the notion then is that fan fiction can be at best a comforting little snack at the end of the day and at worst basically intellectual opium but never something challenging or something that seeks to do anything but comfort while i don't personally think this is true just on the basis of some of what i've read i do empathize with this position we do exist in a culture where a lot of mainstream art panders to the lowest common denominator doesn't ask any uncomfortable questions or challenge any sort of status quo and nonetheless demands the same kind of critical respect you'd give art that challenges i mean think about the whole culture of people complaining about film bros and then listing off how pretentious and snobbish they can be for wanting to watch things that are foreign or that literally just have deeper meaning this is a defensiveness that i do therefore understand more broadly than that this critique leveled against fan cultures is often expanded to argue that fandom culture right now is basically a cult of corporate worship not to continue referencing my other videos but i talked about this quite extensively in my recent one on geek culture basically the identity of geek one that could be used for things like loving to create enjoying programming or playing ttrpgs or making nerdy music ended up being used as essentially a marketing niche by corporations people are encouraged to spend money to buy heaps of merch to show their geek credentials to root for their favorite film studio making as much money as possible as if they were cheering for some kind of underdog to demonstrate their identity primarily through the lens of consumption there does indeed exist a branch of fandom that views getting immersed in a brand as a form of expression and that immersion is often tied to boosting the capital of the brand the funko popification of fandom if you will the viewing of art based less on the lens of creativity and more through consumption and monetary support and i think there's a real argument to be made here in that in this context fandom cultures are basically another permutation of that i actually wrote an undergraduate paper on fan fiction and identity many years ago and one of the papers i read for it was by this guy drew berkowitz and he basically said yeah fan identity is used as a nexus for consumption fans writing fan fiction sharing their art buying merch are basically brand ambassadors he used that exact phrase he's like yeah market researchers know about these fandoms and they cater to them this is especially true when a lot of media these days is created by a few mega conglomerates and obsessive even defensive fandoms spring up around them very quickly don't get me wrong there exists lots of wonderful art that has nothing to do with the [ __ ] disney corporation or whatever and i would highly encourage people who are like me concerned about the rise of massive corporations dominating the box office landscape to seek that out but nonetheless this is a common worry add on to that the fact that fan fiction wouldn't be considered fan fiction without capitalism existing in its current context with specific ideas around ip laws and ownership and you get this critique of fanfic and fandom where it's essentially seen as a locus for corporate power i think this is a very interesting shift this isn't scripted but i think that the fact that fanfic and fandom culture now can be directly exploited and used by marketing execs is also very interesting in a context where fan fiction was once something that you had to hide from something where you would have no chance of getting published as a professional author if it came out that you used to write fan fiction i did an entire video my first video on jk rowling where i talked a lot about fan fiction history about how professional authors wrote these long manifestos just decrying fan fiction proudly declaring that they will attempt to sue anyone who writes it and who makes it known to them i just think that that shift is incredibly fascinating because for years and years fan fiction was seen as directly hostile to capital and now there's an entire subculture that's sprung up around critiquing it on the basis that it is too friendly to capital i just think that's interesting i do think there is a degree of truth to these critiques and the prevalence of specific fan communities can have a measurable effect on a work success i do think this argument tends to treat fan communities as a little too uncritical of their source material as a buffy fan i would argue that half of the buffy fandom's conversations are just about which parts of the show they hate and how much they hate the creator and a lot of fan works in general involve critically interrogating the source material not to mention unlike buying cheap plastic figurines or licensed t-shirts or whatever other merch companies trying to sell you fan fiction is entirely free and made independently of the original owners if anything fan fiction is one of the least capitalistic ways you can engage with a prominent franchise as it's taking another work into your own hands and shaping it without the original corporation seeing a single cent but nonetheless these works are part of fandoms and sometimes these fandoms do end up bolstering large corporate entities and for people who are prone to be critical of this phenomenon publishing fan fiction online to read for free is basically seen as doing unpaid promotional work for a brand that being said i think there is an extent to which this sometimes gets overstated like look at this post with tens of thousands of notes claiming any principled leftist movement must be anti-fandom which is a hell of an interesting priority to have now of all times if we're going to acknowledge that a bolstering of corporate art is a valid criticism of many fandom spaces which i do indeed believe that it is we do have to acknowledge the scale of it like if every single piece of encanto fanfiction disappeared from the internet tomorrow i don't think this would make even a tenth of a percentage in a dent in that movie's profits something like star wars has been popular for decades back in the era where the only way to get fan fiction was to mail each other's zines the mcu has films that generate two billion dollars and i doubt that you get a number that high based primarily on some gay people on the internet who write and consume fick i think being potentially tied to a larger corporate entity does generate potential problems but i don't think the effects of [ __ ] fan fiction on the popularity of this art are one as cataclysmic as people think or two inherently damaging to the entire medium of fan fiction in terms of its classification as potentially art i mean the existence of the mcu doesn't preclude all films from being artistically valuable even though it does raise questions about the current direction of the film industry so long story short no i don't think being transformative makes something less artistically valuable and being transformative is a useful artistic tool in many cases nor do i think being connected to fandom creates those problems i think more or less any argument you can use to claim fan fiction is inherently worthless as art falls apart when you look at other works of fiction for which those categories apply fanfiction is just a medium like any other medium and it has its strengths and its limitations and it produces a lot of garbage just like any other medium does and it can also produce amazing stuff but all of this being said this isn't how it gets talked about either by people who love fan fiction or by people who hate it the sort of anti-thick anti-fandom crowd treats fan fiction and real books as if they are at odds somehow and many pro fanfiction people do this as well even with all of the above being true we still exist in a culture where fan fiction and books are treated as two mediums that are inherently at odds with each other both by people who want to argue for fan fiction and people who want to argue four books and yes i agree this is a nonsense false dichotomy there's no reason you can't read fan fiction and books and i would argue that this is how most people who like fan fiction see it but this is where we are nonetheless which leads me to two more things to discuss with regards to the theoretical divide between the two the first is that there exists a culture of real worry pertaining to the impact that fan fiction has on book culture itself so for instance you'll have people worrying that fan fiction readers have become such a broad demographic that they're starting to invade book sections and book communities and cause books to be written and marketed more like fan fiction with again actual fan fiction getting published with the serial numbers filed off one of the things people will talk about with regards to this cultural shift is the prevalence of stories being described in terms of tropes instead of in terms of its actual narrative elements time and time again you'll see posts like people keep recommending books on the basis of what tropes they have and that makes no sense because this isn't fan fiction and real books don't have tropes setting aside the very obvious fact that none of these people seem to know what a trope is or where the term came from and seem to think it's a fanfiction thing for some reason i do think there is some truth to the idea that fan fiction can affect the literary world to some degree mainly in terms of young adult fiction like in a world where enemies to lovers ships like reylo and good enemies to lovers ships like zoutara are popular it's natural to see more books marketed specifically to cater to the demographics that want to see a kylo ren archetype in their fiction or probably in the case of the love hypothesis actually just publish reylo fanfic for people who just want to read books and don't want anything to do with fan fiction i can see why this would be concerning publishers respond to trends fan fiction is a trend right now publishers may try to either publish fan fiction or market real books like fan fiction i've even seen folks argue that fan fiction culture itself is directly responsible for [ __ ] like the mcu because people just want to see the same characters do the same [ __ ] over and over again which get real if corporations really made their decisions in order to appeal to the [ __ ] 0.5 percent of their audience who are fan fiction readers stoney and finpo would have been canonized if you hate fiction for personal reasons though i can entirely understand why you might be annoyed by the idea of fan fiction breaking into the literary mainstream you know you don't want to see it you want to see books marketed as books and not read stealth fanfic i get it that being said i don't think this spells the kind of doom for the literary world that many people try to frame it as again i don't think fan fiction is capable of having a worse impact on the publishing industry than the millions of twilight copycats in the mid-2000s publishers especially why a publishers have always sought to capitalize on trends and while that produces a lot of low-quality work this is nothing new nor do i think the focus on fan fiction produces anything uniquely worse than any other kind of trend chasing the idea of published literature taking influence from fandom isn't even new i mean fangirl by rainbow rowell is almost a decade old at this point and its existence didn't signify some great point of doom for modern fiction if publishers are going to be looking at fandom culture as a source of potential sales then it's just another case of them making the most out of an audience already there and it's not as if these are the only types of books and y.a stuff to be published you might have to do some digging to find the good stuff or the books that you like but that's always been true also if you're this kind of person just don't read y a there are over a million books published every year in the states alone like yeah books for teenagers are often gonna follow trends and be less complex than adult ones i get around that problem by not reading books for teenagers that being said i've ragged a lot on this kind of anti-fandom contingent for treating fan fiction like it's a medium that's inherently at odds with books or for trying to create some kind of competition between the two mediums or compare them when they're designed to do different things and while all that is true i do think only focusing on the people who oppose the existence of fan fiction is only getting half the story because when the people who complain about the prevalence of fandom culture do so they're not just reflecting on fan fiction itself but this kind of ugly side of a lot of fan fiction communities and that's this tendency to devalue the importance of published novels altogether especially literary classics this is a place where i have to agree that this tendency among people who read fanfiction is bad and only serves to further the false dichotomy between the two mediums i disagree that fan fiction communities are inherently of lesser artistic value or that they're anti-intellectual but i also can't fully fault people for having that impression when there exists this weird contingent of fan communities that seems to just legitimately hate books and see people who read books as snobs as if we're the villagers and [ __ ] beauty and the beast so i want to talk a bit about that there's this thing that happens when a certain medium or art form is presented in culture as more legitimate for a while now the concept of reading books has been seen as shorthand for smart with the implication via movies shows and english classes being that reading books and novels is a more beneficial and worthwhile use of time when something like this happens and gets normalized it's then easy to view that thing both as work that's not supposed to be enjoyable as well as feel like you've been pushed into an us versus them situation which in turn can lead to a hostile perception of the act itself or viewing it solely as an expression of elitism it's easy to see people telling you that there's more value in engaging with this thing over here without it coming off as someone saying stop having fun guys like i said earlier you can see this with a lot of modern film culture if you tell someone that they should try watching more movies other than mcu stuff or even just comment that you don't find the films themselves all that good or compelling there's a chance that someone will crack back in defense talking about how at least marvel movies are fun and interesting and not like those boring stuffy art house black and white films about insert tire joke about pretentious art films here this happens when it comes to fan fiction too if you've spent time surrounded by people who seem to look down on your preferred interest who view it as a lesser form of literature then you're going to start a war against the literature itself usually manifesting as these weird defenses about how fan fiction is better than published books and actually published books are bad because of well usually social justice buzzwords misused this is another common trend on the internet it's not enough to simply enjoy one medium over another but you have to defend that enjoyment through the lens of a greater social cause to the point where it's not just the more sensible choice but the most morally correct one too a lot of common arguments you see will say things like fandom allows for more diverse stories from more diverse authors than traditional publishing outlets while that's true on the surface the literary world has had a diversity issue for a while like most industries it ignores a lot of factors in play there are a plethora of books by diverse authors regarding diverse subject matter and there is value in actually financially supporting those works so that more diverse authors can get more opportunities and these stories can hopefully reach a more mainstream audience than whoever is browsing the tab on ao3 another argument i've seen pop up is the idea that fanfic is better because books are financially inaccessible which okay like i get it i've been too poor to afford every single book i've wanted to read and have relied on what i could read online instead it happens but beyond the fact that books are honestly one of the cheapest forms of entertainment even without looking at it from an hours of entertainment per dollar perspective this take ignores the existence of libraries and other outlets that exist for the sole purpose of making sure that people have access to books regardless of their fiscal status and frankly i don't think the people saying fan fiction is better than books because books cost money are doing so from a place of intellectual honesty at least not for the most part that's an argument that very much feels to me like someone having a personal preference for fan fiction and using these arguments to score winning discourse points there's also a tendency here to frame published works as not that good at all it's very common to see posts online about how classic literature or even popular literature is stuffy too long pretentious pointless and overall boring the same sort of cliche that gets thrown at foreign and indie films with the same weirdness because like you can't really color an entire medium like that you know much like how it's incredibly wrong and insulting to imply that just because a film is in another language it's going to be boring just being something published in the adult fiction section of the bookshelf doesn't mean it's going to be some sort of slog a lot of these arguments seem like they're based less on their own experience with the subject and more of a generalized backlash against any work that people worry won't give them the same level of immediate gratification as fan fiction this backlash hits classical literature especially hard as it's often the easiest and most uniform punching bag and to be fair there is stuff to be critical of in regards to what we consider classical literature a lot of the classic canon favors white male authors and prioritizes stories about them in some way some of it was written so long ago that it can be difficult to read solely because of differences in terminology and diction some of it is ulysses but the problem is that most of it comes off as a form of anti-intellectualism rather than just saying you didn't like the book or providing legitimate critiques of for example why we mostly tend to focus on books in the european literary canon there's a whole thing where people will talk about how bad some piece of classical literature is before displaying some weird the curtains or blue style argument about how it wasn't actually deep or how it was stupid like there's a whole thing where people will just post about the great gatsby and describe aspects of the book like how unhealthy jay's obsession with daisy is how everyone in the book is rich and morally awful and how the plot could have been avoided if jay had simply learned to enjoy what he had in his friends and in himself rather than devoting so much of his life to chasing something so inaccessible before saying those are reasons why the book is bad like no that's the point it's a whole commentary about the american dream and a reflection of the attitude of the roaring 20s and the idea of wealth as a form of satisfaction and why that's bad the lighthouse is literally meant to represent something forever out of gatsby's reach like and um there's no way to frame this without sounding like an [ __ ] but whenever you see posts like this they always tend to be about stuff like the great gatsby or shakespeare or the catcher in the rye scarlet letter mark twain and it it's hard to see it as more of a serious literary critique rather than people holding some form of resentment for the books they had to read in high school the thing that comes to mind whenever i see people engaging in these sort of arguments and trying to make one side sound like peak lit and the other is awful garbage you should never engage with is that there's no reason why this has to be an all or nothing situation this is true of people criticizing fanfic but equally true of those trying to disregard the entire book industry in favor of fick i'm sorry but it absolutely benefits you to engage with literature outside of fan fiction not from an elitist all of it is better perspective but it's different and it's good to engage with work that's different than what you usually consume it's how you familiarize yourself with new ideas and concepts and perspectives and even if you primarily like to read for fun and don't want to challenge yourself there is still fiction out there that'll fit those qualifications it's like food yeah you can spend your days eating salt and vinegar chips and you'd be valid because salt and vinegar ships [ __ ] but it's also beneficial to you that you try foods outside of salt and vinegar chips not just for some form of experience or homework but also to allow yourself the possibility that you might find and be nourished by other types of food that you enjoy just as much and who knows through this you might even find a dip that makes your salt and vinegar chips taste even better i hope this makes sense and that the metaphor didn't get away from me there i don't know i want salt and vinegar chips now the most important thing here is that this culture of diminishing books is kind of concerning especially when a lot of the arguments used seem to suggest that the people saying this weren't paying attention to the books they read and so i once again feel the need to point out that there's no reason for this fan fiction versus books dichotomy to exist it's nonsense whether you're playing into it to dismiss fan fiction or to claim it's the only thing worth reading just like how you're not expected to only watch movies or only watch tv you can do both and you can get different things from both if you're so inclined fan fictions and the culture that has sprung up around them are an incredibly interesting phenomenon the basic building blocks of fanfiction and transformative works have been around for centuries and centuries and have produced some genuinely amazing literature but fan fiction as we see it today as transformative writing done in a fan community is still a very new thing in the grand scheme of humanity and it's a format that's still finding its footing as we debate over whether it's a medium that can produce good art or if it should be exclusively relegated to a little snack you enjoy for fun and nothing more and the answer of course is it's both you can read fan fiction that uses transformation as a brilliant artistic tool that re-contextualizes the original work or does incredible things with its characters and you can read fan fiction that's a simple little piece of writing made and consumed for fun neither is wrong and this is true for stuff that isn't fan fiction too not every book has to be anna karenina not every film has to be citizen kane but at the same time these mediums are still absolutely capable of producing incredible works and i think it would be wrong to say that this isn't true art is a classification that's always going to be incredibly personal and in the media landscape we currently occupy what you think is and isn't art says as much about you as it does about the works we're surveying art is a conversation it was a conversation when duchamp asked us to reflect on the merits of a urinal and it's a conversation when we open up a03 and we can absolutely talk about the limitations of fan fiction as a medium we can have an honest conversation about how a lot of it is just for fun and a lot of it is kind of rough and that that's not the end of the world either but i don't think this dismissal of the entire medium is the right way to go about that nor do i think creating a false dichotomy between fan fiction and books where you have to pick a side and frame people on the other side as pretentious snobs or anti-intellectual babies makes a single lick of sense all you're doing by reinforcing that dichotomy is limiting yourself creating conflict where it doesn't need to be there personally i love fan cultures as much as i'm willing to be critical of them i love the unabashed creativity you can find in so many of them i love the works that dedicated communities of fans all doing this for free out of a mere love and passion to create can produce i love what the medium of fan fiction can do at its best i love books this is art to me what's art to you this video despite being about fan fiction ended up talking a lot about films about the value of watching movies that are foreign or indie or a little bit different and i can't speak to that highly enough there's some really amazing stuff out there if you know where to look for it and if you do you might just find something you love for example there's the film and then we danced a georgian coming-of-age movie about a young dancer who's a gay man and his rivalry romance with another male dancer there are these absolutely gorgeous dance sequences in it and it's just a very human story about existing in a culture that's homophobic discovering who you are and finding the joy in art and life it's a really great movie and also one that i think would be pretty accessible to people who are just discovering foreign films i can't recommend it enough and luckily right now you can actually watch and then we danced and countless more incredible films on movie movie is a really amazing streaming service that lets you watch tons of movies that are hard to find anywhere else so many wonderful indie movies foreign films older movies basically it's like having a permanent film festival of some of the most creative work people can make at your fingertips all the time which is great for me because i love movies but going to an actual film festival just seems like a lot of work i'd have to put uncomfy shoes on and the best news is that you can actually do all of this for free right now by going to movie.com sarah zedd to get an entire 30 days of amazing hand-picked cinema for free that's mubi.com sarahzed or just click the link in my description [Music] on top of a big thank you to all my patrons i'd like to specially thank my 20 plus patrons here's a special thank you to benson lie 124 mm 10 clayton and claire page evan grip jacob furtado james dugan lachlan newport queen autumn ween rj robert gelhar robert valentine allen roman intenachi simon welsh sophie mclachlan vostok yehuda katz and zach radley thank you so much i also have one patron who would like me to shout out to charity instead of their names so here's a shout out to planned parenthood today they do a lot of important work in the states including fighting for abortion access family planning sti testing and education they could really use some support right now so you may want to give to them sounds [Music] you

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