Immersed in another universe

Oct. 2, 2003, midnight | By Anna Benfield | 16 years, 2 months ago

Fan fiction readers, writers and artists are absorbed by fandom communities worldwide

Die-hard sports fans paint their stomachs blue.  Groupies scream their lungs out and flash the camera at rock concerts.  On the other hand, fan fiction enthusiasts, another brand of obsessed fanatics, slip past unnoticed by the public eye.

Instead of memorizing the statistics of every linebacker on the home team, a handful of Blair students and thousands of devotees around the world spend hours online every day reading and writing fan fiction, popularly called fan fic, an ever-growing genre of literature that uses the characters and worlds from popular books, comics, movies and television shows as a basis for new plotlines and unexplored relationships.

The trophy case gang

Clustered in a tight knot by the main office side of Blair Boulevard, seniors Seana Miller, Kat Clark and Kerry O'Connor congregate during 5A lunch to absorb themselves in conversation about the hobby that dominates their social existence.   At the very mention of fan fiction, they all raise their hands over their heads with joyful cries of "yay!"

Senior Lowell Kapp-Meroney, the group's unofficial ringleader, was introduced to the world of fan fiction by his friends, who all started reading, writing, drawing and beta reading (editing) fan fiction when they were 12 years old.

Miller and O'Connor recount a middle school sleepover, where they sat silently for three hours on two computers in the same room, posting on the message board of the same fan fiction website.

Six years later, this group of friends admits they often opt to stay up all through the night, reading novel-length fan fiction narratives online.

Once upon a parody

Expressing hardcore devotion to a work of fiction through second generation creative writing is not a completely new idea.

As far back as the early 1900s, Lewis Carroll and Jane Austen fans were rewriting and parodying the authors' great works of fiction. However, the genre didn't really get started until the late 1960s, when Star Trek fans began to publish and distribute fan fiction at conventions in magazines like Spockanalia.

Since then, the Internet has allowed fan fiction to explode in popularity by establishing an instant connection between writers and their audience., a popular archive, houses fan fiction based on almost every popular book series, comic, game, song and movie. In recent years, the Harry Potter books have become overwhelmingly popular sources of fan fiction around the world, second only to Japanese anime cartoons.

Off the Boulevard

Kapp-Meroney, the most well known Blazer in the fan fiction world, currently works for an online Harry Potter fan fiction web site called Fiction Alley, writing reviews and beta reading. He also travels to New York City, Florida and even England to visit his online compatriots.

Kapp-Meroney says that his experience with the subculture of fan fiction has become much more about the community of people connected through online fandoms and live journals (blogs) than about the writing itself.

O'Connor, who used to be heavily involved in fan fiction mailings, agrees.  "It's an entire worldwide community," she says.

Dark side of fan fiction

Factions of this community aren't always on friendly terms, however, says Kapp-Meroney. Most arguments in the fan fiction world rise up between "relationshippers" who adamantly believe certain relationship pairings (outside the original text) are superior to others.

Fan fiction controversy also stems from copyright issues with the original author.  In a heading at the top of each fan fic, the fic's author gives a title, rating (G through X) and disclaimer that credits the original author for his or her characters and content.

Even so, authors such as Harry Potter's J.K. Rowling have spoken out against the use of their characters in sexually explicit fiction, while Orson Scott Card and Anne Rice have requested that fans abstain from writing fan fiction of their work altogether.   Kapp-Meroney says that most fans respect the authors' wishes.

Down and dirty

A major subcategory of fan fiction is "slash," which focuses on a romantic or sexual relationship between two male or female characters that was not developed inside the original text. Some fans categorize only homosexual relationships as slash and simply term heterosexual pairings "het."

Some fans shy away from going into much detail about this sub-genre, but junior Amy Corbello wasn't bashful in saying that she frequently writes homosexual slash between male characters like Sirius and Remus from Harry Potter or Lestat and Louis from Anne Rice's Interview with a Vampire.   "I'll take my two favorite characters, research, look for actual hints for homoerotic relationship [in the text] and build a fan fiction off that," she explains.

Corbello says that she mostly writes fan fiction and slash based on Digimon, Pokémon, Japanese rock stars and Gundam Wing, an anime series.

Slash fans, Corbello explains, see fan fiction as a way to explore the established characters in more interesting situations.  When writing, Corbello says she tries to stay as true to the original characters as possible but admits that giving a slant towards what she thinks they should do is an integral part of the process.

The trophy case gang says the original characters sometimes completely change directions.  In some fan fiction, for example, J.K. Rowling's villain, the hated Draco Malfoy, is redeemed and even becomes a sexual idol.

Despite the wide array of subjects, fan fiction hasn't yet found a place in the mainstream.

According to an informal Silver Chips survey of 100 students conducted on Sept 5, 95 percent of Blazers don't even know what fan fiction is.

While the majority of the Blair population may not be aware of the existence of this obscure genre, Miller estimates over 100 Blazers are probably involved with fan fiction, though they aren't always easy to identify.
Kapp-Meroney explains that fan fiction is too obscure to casually bring up in conversation.  "It's not private," he says.  "It's just not something you talk about."

O'Connor agrees.  "You mention [fan fiction] in class, and everybody looks at you like you're in another galaxy."

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Anna Benfield. Anna Benfield is a CAP swimmer, field hockey and lacrosse goalie and diversity workshop leader. She loves biking, sailing, collages, the zoo and her little brother. More »

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