In which Elizabeth Minkel is Bob Ross
As you can see by the date on my last post, my life has been insanely busy.
Per usual, however, I manage to carve out some time to take a peek at what the world is saying about fan fiction -- in this case, Elizabeth Minkel's view of fan fiction in the wake of mega-deals for popular fanfics.
As I posted on Twitter, I both agree and disagree with Minkel's points. Where I mostly disagree is that fic can still be viewed in the same manner as it could before That Book.
Simpy, it can't.
Sure, there were fic authors who'd reworked -- or wholesale published -- their fic and received traditional publishing contracts, but they were viewed as outliers. Traitors. Money-grubbers.
To imply that it hasn't changed is both myopic and rose-tinted. Of course it's changed. How can anyone think it hasn't?
For starters, the curiosity about fan fiction reached the general populace, something that really hadn't happened before That Book. There was an "in the know" crowd as well as the Muggle-types: those who had no idea what the term meant, much less where to go looking for it or why they should be interested.
When my mother asks me about fanfic? I know something's different.
As I noted in my essay in Anne Jamison's book, five years ago, the fact that I wrote fan fiction was noted in my divorce proceedings -- and had to be explained to both my attorney and the judge. Does anyone really think that would be the case today? Of course not. It's hit the public consciousness, which is why articles like Minkel's get hits. It's not just fans reading these posts.
There's a definite before and after. Do you read a WIP (work in progress) or do you wait to make sure the author isn't going to pull it mid-plot for a book deal? What side of the P2P debate do you align yourself on? Those of us who predate that book have almost certainly lost one or more online friends due to the chasm that created itself in the midst of the ethical debate around publishing fan fiction.
Every new fic author goes into this with at least the knowledge of what happened with That Book, and others. When I created my self-insert Mary Sue Trixie Belden fan fic that I only ever shared snippets of with my pen pal from the Trixie Belden fan club, that wasn't imaginable. It wasn't even imaginable when I began posting my first Twilight fan fiction on FanFiction.net.
So of course it's changed. Between the internalized knowledge of fandom readers and authors and the spotlight on the fandom communities, everyone is looking for the next big thing. Or hoping like hell that the last big thing will really be the last one, and we can go back to sharing stories in the privacy of our own communities.
There are no "happy little accidents" here. You can paint a tree or a cloud over what happened, but there's no hiding it. That Book happened. Countless others have happened. Fan fiction is a household term. And we can all see it hovering there in the background of the painting.