January 5, 2006
The Paratext of Fan Fiction

The fan communities that generate fan fiction are quite serious about their work.

For those who dismiss the work as either either the writing of fringe "geeks" with no real talent or education or else just the shoddy stories of bored teens or unemployed young adults...Well, that probably does apply to some of the population, but, by and large, the fan community is full of talented and aspiring writers who are serious about the fan fiction they create and the larger community of fan fiction writers that they are a part of.

Case in point--see this recent post by OneStone32 on the fanficrants community site on LiveJournal.

OneStone32 and those who respond to him are discussing the importance of labelling techniques in archiving fan fiction stories. The art of archiving shows the importance this fan community sees in their work as an extension to "official" content in a fictional series or else as a body of work all in its own, an official canon of work in a particular film series.

This type of information--the labels for what a story or group of stories is--is the paratext, and labeling what a story is and what it means to the stories that surrounds it is an important part of not only "legitimate" published writing but fan fiction as well.

Be sure to view this metacommentary on the art and rules of fan fiction, especially for anyone not well associated with the online world of fan fiction writing.



Totally agree with the first part of you comment but having read the thread, which didn't seem to involve that much discussion except about icons, I think the poster misses a few important points. Speaking as an archivist (or at least a maintainer of a number of automatic archives which is what tends to get used most these days), there are two things which immediately spring to mind which OneStone32 does not mention, firstly that it is often the authors categorising their works not the archivists and secondly we are constrained by what the archiving system software allows.
Yes, the software is getting much better over the year and now does allow both multi-chapter stories and multi-story serieses but this has not always been the case and even when the software can do it the authors don't always understand *how* to do it. On even a medium size archive you have a couple of thousand stories and archivist just don't have time to go through and check that the author has got everything right - if they did they would be checking that the rating and content classifications were correct first off.

Having looked at converting the E-Prints archiving software into a fan archive, chapters and series were one of the more complicated issues to address.

I totally agree that labelling techniques in the fan fiction community are an interesting area. I have argued previously that the labelling system has a lot to teach us when it comes to 'web 2.0 tagging'. However having sat in on the discussion about mapping between the CIDOC CRM and the FRBR ontologies and hearing the experts on this type of thing debate on the realtionship between different types of documents one might think that there is almost more legitimacy in not totally agreeing on the rules ;-)


Faith, a lot of interesting comments here that I think supplement the discussion OneStone32 starts. I saw that original commentary as just the starting point for a continued discussion about fan fiction and also to demonstrate those who do not participate in the world of fan. fic. to see what a nuanced world it is, where ethics and rules and the like are discussed.

That being said, I think you are completely right that our society has a propensity for overdebating rules. I was in an antrhopology class yesterday in which a European student said that the concept of deciding on a centralized set of ethics for the discipline was a novel and quite strange idea and somewhat foreign to his understanding of how ethics worked, which would be a particularly individual act. The same thing seems to be happening here...we often want to create a centralized and rules-based society or forum, often when there is no need for quite such centralization.

Thanks for your fascinating addition to OneStone32's comments!