Book review: Fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking Over the World – Anne Jamison (non-fiction, ***)

When I was about 8 years old, my friends and I all loved The Borrowers book series. We loved them so much that we decided we would write and exchange our own Borrowers books, to give us more(moremore) to read. Of course, very little came of this endeavour (8-year-olds don’t make very committed novelists, I guess), but this memory always reminds me that although sometimes fanfiction may seem like an odd, modern invention (and one that’s inextricably linked to the internet), actually it’s as old as time and as natural as imagination.

To paraphrase one of the contributors to Fic: Why Fanfiction Is Taking Over the World: if you’ve ever daydreamed about what happened to the characters of a book following the final page, you have (in essence) written fanfiction. Indeed, one of Fic’s most charming chapters humorously charts the historical context of fic. I would like to staple it to the face of anyone who says that fic is WEIRD or WRONG. Tell that to Shakespeare, dude.

Despite my excitement at being able to pick up an academic (or pseudo-academic) work about fanfiction, I began reading Fic with a fair amount of trepidation. The fan in me wondered: Do I need someone in an Ivory Tower telling me things I already know? Can someone outside of fandom really get fandom? The critic in me wondered: Could this book be accessible to the non-fan? And, indeed, who is this book really targeting?

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The “it came to me in a dream” writing meme

I’m always a bit wary when a writer says “it came to me in a dream!”

Stephenie Meyer is the obvious example of an author who credits her subconscious with the premise of her most famous work, Twilight. (Bella and Edward came to her in a dreeeeam!) However, Meyer is far from the only author to use her dreams as the basis for her fiction.

Indeed, it’s tempting, upon awaking from a particularly atmospheric dream, not to view it as an amazing story idea. After all, it feels like the hard work has been done for you: a vivid otherworld has been conjured by your dream; energising or moving or scary in a way that the best fiction can be. Why not accept this gift from your subconscious? Don’t invent; just transcribe. Simply embroider around the edges of your dream and voila! Great fiction!

Unfortunately, it’s taken me a terribly long time to realise that: atmospheric =/= good fiction.

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