“Secondhand fandoms”

On LiveJournal, there’s a really interesting discussion about Secondhand fandoms, the premise being that sometimes people get really into the fan fiction (aka fanfic for those who are into it) surrounding a tv show without ever having seen the tv show itself. The writers in the thread have a lot of personal examples of how they got into reading fanfic around shows they missed entirely or only saw on rare occassion. One person talks about The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Now THERE was a tv show I loved. I have most of the books and most of the episodes on scratchy old VHS tapes.

The closest I’ve ever come to reading fanfic was some of the alternative storyline suggestions fans came up with in rec.arts.tv.soaps back in the day, which is a LONG way from the kinds of fanfic these folks are talking about, though it was often better than what the soap writers were writing. Maybe some of this blog’s readers could recommend some good starting points for other readers who may be curious about fanfic who don’t really know much if anything about it? I’ll start with a plug for Rhiannon Bury’s recent book Cyberspaces of Their Own: Female Fandoms Online, which I read recently and really enjoyed. Also getting a lot of buzz is Fan Fiction and Fan Communities in the Age Of The Internet, edited by Karen Hellekson and Kristina Busse, which I haven’t yet read.

What shows are inspiring the best fanfic these days? Any good examples to point people toward?

Comments (6) to ““Secondhand fandoms””

  1. It’s generally not done to promote specific fanfiction outside of the fanfiction community, but it’s easy to find – look for “recs” or check del.icio.us for things tagged with “fanfic” that have a lot of people saving them to cut the signal/noise problem.

    Almost all of my 20+ fandoms began as “secondhand” fandoms – I love the fanfiction genre and community, and that’s how I learn about and get into new shows/books/other source. The books you recommend are good reading, but the best way to learn about fanfiction fandom is to find a good guide who knows their way around. Email me if you’re interested.

  2. It really depends what sort of thing you want to read (het, gen or slash, level of adult content etc) and which fandoms you are interested in (the fandom tends to influence the type of fic and what kinks, if any, predominate and what the main flaws you tend to see time and time again are).

    As the previous commentator mentioned, a good way is often to search for rec pages (when you start seeing the same stories and authors repeating themselves they are good ones to try) – that is what I do when I often do when am trying out a new fandom. Another way is looking for the archives. I wouldn’t recommend fanfiction.net to start with as that has a bit of a bad reputation these days but there are other multifandom archives and most fandoms have one or more archives which authors post to after they post to their vaious lists/journals. An archive will give you a good idea of the range of stories being written and allow you to find those that appeal to you. Many archives also have some form of rating system to help find the more popular works (popular not always equalling good but an easier metric to measure).

    Second-hand fandoms are fairly common, especially for those shows which aren’t showing or out on DVD yet and aren’t popular enough to be available through less legal means. It is generally seen as a bad thing when someone writes a story without having seen the show. It is possible to get the details and characterisation right without watching the original material but is much harder and fanon is no subsitute for canon (except in the case of Mag7: ATF which only exists as a fanon shared universe). For reading, however, not having seen the show won’t stop you if it is an author you like and seeing which shows other people like is a great way of finding other stuff you might like. It doesn’t always work out of course but I think we do frequently travel in small packs :-)

    The two books you mentioned in your post are good although I preferred the second. While ‘Cyberspace of their Own’ was very interesting I felt it over-analysed a few things.

    As to what shows are inspiring fan fiction? Studio 60, House, Heros, Dr Who, Stargate: Atlantis, BSG, Supernatural… Torchwood is going to take off big time (but then it is practically fanfic in its tone, plots and characters, and I say this as a good thing – finally a show aimed at people like me). Harry Potter is still going strong (at least until it goes nova with the last book). Old shows like UNCLE, Trek, Starsky and Hutch and The Professionals are still going as are traditional favs like Due South, Highlander, Stargate, Buffy/Angel, Star Wars etc As a rule of thumb sci-fi, action-adventure and detective shows tend to have strong fan fiction followings. This is especially true when the show contains a string ensemble cast or close buddy relationship. A few writers will also follow certain actor/actresses (not all the time, there are just a few actors who inspire and tend to be in the right type of shows). Lit-fic tends to be quieter until the TV/Movie adaption is made (Lord of the Rings is a great example of this), noone is entirely sure why but the last debate I was at on the subject the prevailing opinion seemed to be that the bar was higher in most written works and there tended to be less errors and plot holes to explain and inspire.

    If I can be of any further help let me know (or check my website).

  3. Thanks to both of you for the insights. I find it really intruiging that there’s a norm against making recommendations to outsiders. Any speculation on why that is?

    Is there a canon (or are there canons) of old fanfic that’s considered exemplary classics and still widely read today?

  4. Fanfiction exists in a legal grey area, so touting it to the world is probably unwise. I, myself, would be happy to lead someone gently into the wide world of fanfiction, but I’d want to know what you like first, a little more about what canons you’re familiar with, etc. Plunging right in could be…disturbing, if you immediately lit on, say, terribly-written NC-17 kinkfic.

    Still widely read…well. A lot of older fandoms seem to have a different aesthetic than post-1995 fandoms, and I’ve rarely been able to get into too many of the “classic” fandoms. Are you looking for a good place to start reading? It’s really personal preference as much as anything – there are good stories in most fandoms if you know where to look. Do you want to read erotic/romantic fanfiction, or not? If you do, do you want to read m/f, m/m, f/f, or do you care? Do you have particular characters or scenarios you’re interested in?

  5. Makesmewannadie — Thanks again. I’m just trying to get a little bit of a feel for the land. Fanfic is an area I know very little about. I suspect it’s not my cup of tea — I watch/read so little fiction of any sort these days. But I’m really interested from a removed perspective — what are the norms? how does this subculture work? how does it navigate its relationship to the original texts/producers/authors? what are the issues that unite and divide fanfic writers and readers? what is going on that the academic analyses don’t tell? That’s what motivates my own questioning, plus I figure there may be readers of this blog who are interested in exploring fanfic and don’t have a way in.

    Why the break around 1995? Did something happen then?

    Everything you and Faith say makes me curious about more :)

    (BTW, in regard to your nick, do you know the Swedish popband The Wannadies?)

  6. Ahahaha. I see. Sadly, the answers to any broad questions about fandom are as varied as fandom itself. I could answer you from my perspective, but there are loads of fans who think totally differently than I do. The norms in older fandoms are different from the norms in newer ones. The subculture in slash is different from the rest of the fanfiction subculture, and has subcultures within itself. And Real Person fanfiction issues are quite different from those in fiction-based fanfiction.

    I could tell you how *I* navigate those things in my particular fandoms/fannish community, or even how a given subset of fandom *tends* to navigate them, but fanfiction fandom as a whole, oy, no. It’s maybe like trying to look at teenies who swarm boy band concerts and deadheads and indie rock enthusiasts who obsess over incredibly obscure musicians and ravers and asking, “what’s music fandom like, then?”

    There’s a lot going on in fanfiction fandom that academic analyses don’t tell, but it’s probably because it’s not what academic analyses are particularly interested in, and it doesn’t make a coherent statement or happens on the fringes. Right now the big news in my corner of fandom is a huge “rare fandoms” fic exchange, which goes live on Christmas Day each year and gives people the opportunity to write gift fiction for others in fandoms so small that they may be “fandoms of one” – it’s very exciting! But it’s rare, so of course it’s not the kind of thing one can study as an example of What Fandom Does, except perhaps as potlatch or something.

    1995 is my random guess – Francesca Coppa’s prologue essay in the Busse/Hellekson book gives better timeline breakdowns, but internet usage seems to have proliferated in the mid-nineties and brought some larger changes with it. I’m not an academic, so I don’t have to be research-based about such things. :)

    There is, now that I think of it, a rather thriving part of fandom that writes (mostly slash, that I know of) fanfiction about band members of quite a few bands. That’s like your fandom and mine getting drunk and sleeping together at a party, I guess! :)

    As for my nick, I’m not familiar with the Wannadies (though now I’m curious to check them out), but it is musically based – it’s from Tricky’s song “She Makes Me Wanna Die” off the Pre-Millennium Tension album. I’m not particularly fannish about music, myself, but I had it stuck in my head the day I started my LiveJournal, and now it’s got all sorts of personal/social capital accrued and I can’t ditch it.