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Trek Literature "...Good words. That's where ideas begin."

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Old July 11 2011, 06:41 PM   #1
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OT? Time Magazine: Harry Potter fan fic connection to Star Trek

The newest issue of Time Magazine features an article on how fans of Harry Potter are expanding on the series through fan fiction. The article also looks at the issues of copyright and character ownership.

Good read, good read…

A section of the article takes a quick look at the history of early fan fic and how it still shapes modern forms by using some examples from Star Trek fan fic and even includes the bona fide origin of Star Trek Slash.

Good times, good times…

Thursday, Jul. 07, 2011

The Boy Who Lived Forever

By Lev Grossman
J.K. Rowling probably isn't going to write any more Harry Potter books. That doesn't mean there won't be any more. It just means they won't be written by J.K. Rowling. Instead they'll be written by people like Racheline Maltese.

Maltese is 38. She's an actor and a professional writer — journalism, cultural criticism, fiction, poetry. She describes herself as queer. She lives in New York City. She's a fan of Harry Potter. Sometimes she writes stories about Harry and the other characters from the Potterverse and posts them online for free. "For me, it's sort of like an acting or improvisation exercise," Maltese says. "You have known characters. You apply a set of given circumstances to them. Then you wait and see what happens."

Maltese is a writer of fan fiction: stories and novels that make use of the characters and settings from other people's professional creative work. Fan fiction is what literature might look like if it were reinvented from scratch after a nuclear apocalypse by a band of brilliant pop-culture junkies trapped in a sealed bunker. They don't do it for money. That's not what it's about. The writers write it and put it up online just for the satisfaction. They're fans, but they're not silent, couchbound consumers of media. The culture talks to them, and they talk back to the culture in its own language.

Right now fan fiction is still the cultural equivalent of dark matter: it's largely invisible to the mainstream, but at the same time, it's unbelievably massive. Fan fiction predates the Internet, but the Web has made it exponentially easier to talk and be heard, and it holds hundreds of millions of words of fan fiction. There's fan fiction based on books, movies, TV shows, video games, plays, musicals, rock bands and board games. There's fan fiction based on the Bible. In most cases, the quantity of fan fiction generated by a given work is volumetrically larger than the work itself; in some cases, the quality is higher than that of the original too., the largest archive on the Web (though only one of many), hosts over 2 million pieces of fan fiction, ranging in length from short-short stories to full-length novels. The Harry Potter section alone contained, at press time, 526,085 entries.

Nobody makes money from fan fiction, but whether anybody loses money on fan fiction is a separate question. The people who create the works that fan fiction borrows from are sharply divided on it. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer have given Harry Potter and Twilight fan fiction their blessing; if anything, fan fiction has acted as a viral marketing agent for their work. Other writers consider it a violation of their copyrights, and more, of their emotional claim to their own creations. They feel as if their characters had been kidnapped by strangers.

You can see both sides of the issue. Do characters belong to the person who created them? Or to the fans who love them so passionately that they spend their nights and weekends laboring to extend those characters' lives, for free? There's a division here, a geological fault line, that looks small on the surface but runs deep into our culture, and the tectonic plates are only moving farther apart. Is art about making up new things or about transforming the raw material that's out there? Cutting, pasting, sampling, remixing and mashing up have become mainstream modes of cultural expression, and fan fiction is part of that. It challenges just about everything we thought we knew about art and creativity.

A Weird Planet

You could begin a history of fan fiction in any number of places, but one of them is The Man from U.N.C.L.E., a TV show about the agents of an international espionage organization called the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement. It ran for four seasons, 1964 to '68, and although it was never a runaway hit — it peaked at No. 13 in 1965 — it had another, less easily definable quality. It attracted not just viewers but fans: people for whom the world in which The Man from U.N.C.L.E. took place felt so real that it seemed to have a life beyond the show, as if you could turn the camera around and see not a TV studio but an entire planet populated by men, women and children from U.N.C.L.E. The fans published mimeographed and xeroxed fanzines about it, and a few of the zines ran original stories that were set there.

The generic term for the fan culture organized around any given media franchise is a fandom. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (it's sometimes abbreviated to Muncle) fandom provided a template for what was to come. Star Trek went on the air in 1966, and the first Star Trek fanzine appeared in 1967. It bore the instantly definitive title Spockanalia.

Even back then it was apparent that fan fiction was not just an homage to the glory of the original but also a reaction to it. It was about finding the boundaries that the original couldn't or wouldn't break, and breaking them. Issue No. 3 of Spockanalia included a story called "Visit to a Weird Planet," in which Kirk, Spock and Bones are transported to the set where Star Trek is being filmed and get confused with the actors who play them (Bones: "I'm a doctor, not an actor!"). Spockanalia No. 4 ran a story in which Spock has an affair with a fellow Federation officer. These were homages to Star Trek, but at the same time they were critiques: I love the show, but what if it went further? What happens if I press this big, shiny, red button that says "Do not press"?

It was a way to bring to light hidden subtexts that the show couldn't address. For example, what if the tense, rivalrous friendship between Kirk and Spock included an undercurrent of sexual attraction? That's not an idea Hollywood could touch, but in 1974 an adults-only Star Trek zine called Grup published a story called "A Fragment Out of Time," which featured Kirk and Spock in a gay love scene. (The characters are unnamed but recognizable, and anyway the illustrations give them away.)

The premise of "A Fragment Out of Time" became so popular that it acquired a shorthand label: Kirk/Spock, or just K/S, or eventually just slash. Slash has since become a generic term for any fan fiction that pairs two same-sex characters, be they Holmes/Watson or Cagney/Lacey or Snape/Harry. It can be a verb, something you can do: if you have written a story in which Edward and Jacob from Twilight get together, you have slashed them.

Joyful Play

There are a lot of misconceptions floating around about people who write fan fiction and why they write it, so let's knock off a few of them right up front. Fan-fiction writers are not pornographers. (This perception is so pervasive that in order to avoid confusing their friends and colleagues, many of the people interviewed for this article declined to be identified by their real names.) There's plenty of sex in fan fiction, but it's only a small part of the picture. Fan-fiction writers aren't plagiarists who can't come up with their own ideas, and they're not all amateurs. Naomi Novik, whose Temeraire novels are best sellers and have been optioned by Peter Jackson, who directed the Lord of the Rings movies, writes fan fiction. "Fanfic writing isn't work, it's joyful play," she says. "The problem is that for most people, any kind of writing looks like work to them, so they get confused why anyone would want to write fanfic instead of original professional material, even though they don't have any problem understanding why someone would want to mess around on a guitar playing Simon and Garfunkel."

Fan-fiction writers aren't guys who live in their parents' basements. They aren't even all guys. If anything, anecdotal evidence suggests that most fan fiction is written by women. (They're also not all writers. They draw and paint and make videos and stage musicals. Darren Criss, currently a regular on Glee, made his mark in the fan production A Very Potter Musical, which is findable, and quite watchable, on YouTube.) It's also an intensely social, communal activity. Like punk rock, fan fiction is inherently inclusive, and people spend as much time hanging out talking to one another about it as they do reading and writing it. "I've been in fandom since early 2005, when I was getting ready to turn 12," says Kelli Joyce. "For me, starting so young, fanfic became my English teacher, my sex-ed class, my favorite hobby and the source of some of my dearest friends. It also provided me with a crash course in social justice and how to respect and celebrate diversity, both of characters and fic writers."

Diversity: the fan-fiction scene is hyperdiverse. You'll find every race, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, age and sexual orientation represented there, both as writers and as characters. For people who don't recognize themselves in the media they watch, it's a way of taking those media into their own hands and correcting the picture. "For me, fanfic is partially a political act," says "XT." "MGM is too cowardly to put a gay man in one of their multimillion-dollar blockbusters? And somehow want me to be content with the occasional subtext crumb from the table? Why should I?"

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Olengta' Suto'vo'qor-Daq je' ghaH...
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Last edited by Starlock; July 11 2011 at 08:51 PM. Reason: Clarity, Brevity and Stupid, Stupid Rat Creatures
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Old July 13 2011, 09:23 PM   #2
milo bloom
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Re: OT? Time Magazine: Harry Potter fan fic connection to Star Trek

I think that makes a great point that it can fill in the nooks and crannies of a universe that the main product can't or won't touch.

And I can understand some authors feeling odd about others playing in your sandbox, but then again it's also a massive compliment that they want to play in your sandbox.
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Old July 13 2011, 11:17 PM   #3
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Re: OT? Time Magazine: Harry Potter fan fic connection to Star Trek

There's fan fiction based on the Bible.
Finally, a fandom where the term "canon" actually applies literally!

But wouldn't the term for Bible fanfic be apocrypha?
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Old July 13 2011, 11:58 PM   #4
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Re: OT? Time Magazine: Harry Potter fan fic connection to Star Trek

Christopher wrote: View Post
There's fan fiction based on the Bible.
Finally, a fandom where the term "canon" actually applies literally!
"Pirates of the Caribbean" fanfic has to conform to cannon.
Thiptho lapth! Ian (Entire post is personal opinion)
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