Right, so, ignore the title for a spell. We’ll get there.
Couple of public confessions to dispense with (otherwise known as public self-flagellation, about which I know an immense amount–far more than is rational–due to ye olde dissertation and because I’ve a tendency to engage in it virtually myself): First, I’m in a *bad* place right now–have been for a while (gee, ya think?) and I expect it will last a bit longer, but today’s a good* day. The badness involves myriad pieces of unfortunate incidents and questionable choices on my part (partial read: decided to try the drinking experiment again. Has gone better, well, until October’s attempt to avoid taking Oxycodone. We’ll get to that bit of stupidity sometime I am sure). Second, I owe myself a running update, so I’ll try to post that in the next couple of days, cause, damn, I ran the freaking miles, I should bother to brag about it (also, must show off new Vibrams. Must. Maybe I need to have a shoe blog.) Third, and finally, the confession that titles this post.
I’ve been reading fan fiction. A shit-ton of it, as a matter of fact. And, yes, 90% of it really is that bad. Indeed, I believe my time has made me a veritable connoisseur of the fantastically bizarre world of Internet Fan Fiction. I can spot a quality piece in seconds (thank you 8 years of graduate education. That Ph.D. is well-earned, thank you). I am particularly good at sighting Remarkably Bad Fic–in large measure because that is what I have written myself over the years, when engaging in Fan Fiction (this would be one area of writing in which it is safe to assume that I’ve matured not one iota since my teen years. Thankfully, I’ve sense enough not to publish any of my, er “work”). Now, let us agree that Fan Fic can be very funny (especially the really angsty ones. Good stuff right there). I’m not here to belabor that particular nuance of fandom.
I’m…curious. How–and more to the point–why do we move the fantasies of the mind onto the paper (virtual or otherwise) with the expectation that it will now be read? I had a…let’s be generous here…torrid teenage fantasy life (oh, what the hell, still do). I fall asleep to some misbegotten adventure story populated by whatever or whomever I happen to be obsessing over at the present moment practically every night (a habit I learned early to deal with the insomnia–might as well make a game of it, yes?). So, on the one hand, I get it. I even get the Mary Sueisms. And dragons, though they’ve been rather absent of late.
Here’s the part that has been keeping me awake the last few nights**–at what point does canon slippage occur for a given author? Canon slippage is my own term, I’m certain a term or phrase exists for the phenomenon I’m referring to–the moment at which the canon “reality” is subverted by the fan fic, but I don’t know the coinage. Jossed is close, but not quite what I am referring to. Let me try an example or two. One of the most well-known examples of a fan canon being Jossed is the age-old “Ginny Potter’s full name is Virginia.” This, for the uninitiated, is practically, er, canon, in Potter fan fic (Rowling, however, provides a different full name eventually–either in the series or on her site. The series, I think).
This tendency to create fan canon where there is little or no information is particularly interesting in the notorious and dangerous (see how much I’ve been reading?) realm of Real Person Fiction, most of which I have encountered through various modes of Bandfic (that is, the main characters are loosely based on–use the names of–band members. Def Leppard has a steady following of such, and, apparently, the Beatles did as well, though theirs started well before the advent of the internetz). The basic idea is simple: take the public persona of a figure (including name, and, usually–though not always–situation) of a band member (or other real person) and use that persona as the main character.
For instance, one could (Pete, please forgive me) take the public persona of one Pete Loran*** (no links. If you know who I mean, lovely, if you don’t, it’s not especially important that you know who he is): teen vocalist, nice NJ guy, band is composed of bestest buds who grew up together, and so forth. But, given enough PR and/or fiction on the matter, a piece of Pete’s life (that may or may not be accurate) becomes canon. Now, in his case, it was wholly deliberate–they shaved several years off his age, and he first gave himself away during an interview on…Headbanger’s Ball, I think, when he referenced being of age to go to war and to drink alcohol (according to the band lore, he was not yet 21). THAT is piddly example of being Jossed, incidentally. I recall sitting with friends for more hours than I care to admit to trying to figure out if he was a bit daft or if we were that bad at arithmetic. I’ve never thanked you for that time spent, have I? Yeah, thanks so much, Pete.
What can you do with this handsome type? Well, any damn thing you wish, once he’s your character. Perhaps nice Pete becomes EvilVampire!Pete–who terrorizes Hoboken and, I don’t know, kicks puppies. It is unlikely that this factoid will appear time and again (what with the whole vampire thing), but canon slippage (or whatever we wish to call it) occurs when some factoid from rumor and/or fiction is taken as fact and comes to replace reality–the factoid is seldom anything of consequence (several of these exist, BTW, about our hero Duff). For instance, let’s assume that a story is published about Pete that includes him (I suck at this, sorry, and I’m trying not to come up with anything that will haunt me in my sleep) owning a pet sheep named Dexter. Now, Pete doesn’t own a sheep–nevermind one named Dexter–but, one story makes reference to it and it’s taken as cute or funny (ah, I think I answered my own question) and appears in another and another…and so forth. And the next thing Pete knows, someone is asking him about Dexter (or not–I shudder what people would ask based on some of the stories).
And fanfics develop their own canons–the pairings (esp. in slash–the fiction–not the guitarist), the crossovers, the AUs (Alternate Universes), the character qualities. I hereby giveaway my current reading marathon: Zacky is cute! Always. And has an odd predilection for babytalk. *shudder* Johnny is a prick. And so forth. Draco, by the way, was nearly always either an inveterate wimp or the “real” hero-dark and suave. (Stop laughing–that’s rude) Anyone who shies away from or subverts the accepted character qualities is expected to explain why. Which is itself rather odd, really.
So, I wonder if it is that simple. The story or image is so appealing that it takes on a life of its own. Fantasy becomes more important than reality. Come to think of it…music videos were (are?) one controlling mechanism for this, aren’t they? We take the video characters as elements of the “real person” and operate accordingly (hence the inclusion of significant others in some videos??). Songs, too, naturally–especially those in the first person. I guess it isn’t that distant from rumors that become more real than non-fiction–but why? Is it a control mechanism? Ownership?
Okay, somewhere I got off the track. There was a point to all of this, but it seems to have wandered off to read more fanfic. Perhaps I can persuade it to return later. I guess that means I have to go read more….****
*Qualified. But, I’ll take what I can get.
**Unqualified and utterly, hopelessly true.
***I use him because as far as I know there are no published fanfics about him. Also, because the band had a fairly well-constructed persona for each member. Nevertheless, I’m sure such stories exist somewhere.
****Final Confession: for reasons at present unbeknownst to me (perhaps a desire to avoid buying yet more books), I really do enjoy the sport of fanfic hunting.