Fanfic considered wonderful

Time's Lev Grossman feature about fan-fiction breaks with the long tradition of portraying fanfic as weird porn written by creepy adults who live with their parents, and instead discusses the good and the bad, and the long tradition (all the way back to Homer) of readers retelling and continuing the stories they love. He also debunks the stupid myth that writers who don't send legal threats over fanfic will lose their copyrights, something oft-repeated by the likes of Orson Scott Card, who should really know better. Grossman does a brilliant job of capturing the fun, improvisational nature of playing with stories and characters that others have created, and especially of doing so together with other fans, building alternate canons and tearing them down again.

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?"

As an aside, could Time's randomly inserted links to earlier stories be any more intrusive and less appropriate?

The Boy Who Lived Forever

(via Making Light)

(Image: portal_dalek.png, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from uriel1998's photostream)