Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Women of Fan Fiction

So, I came across this article on the legality of fan fiction on aldaily today.  The legal issues themselves are nothing fascinating (although, I do think it's a travesty if copyright law stands in the way of fan fiction, whatever of you think of it - once an author's characters are out in the public domain, seems to me it's her problem if her fans can do more with them than she can).  But what I found interesting about the article is its assertion that women are responsible for most fan fiction.  Since fan fiction seems to arise mostly around sci-fi and fantasy creations, generally considered male genres, I find this curious.  Am I guilty of stereotyping if I suggest that perhaps women are equally compelled by the worlds created by sci-fi and fantasy writers, but want writing about these worlds that is more driven by relationships and more interested in character development - and, not finding this in most genre writing, take on the task themselves?  Does anyone know if women really are behind most fan fiction?  And if so, why aren't they just writing their own character-driven sci-fi and fantasy novels in the first place?  


Joyce Cheng said...

Hi Laura!

You know that Flaubert's masterpiece *Madame Bovary* is precisely about the dangerous attraction of romantic fictions for WOMEN of the 19th century! Although this "novel about the danger of novel" ends rather moralistically by letting us witness the poor, bored wife of a country doctor commit suicide after her romantic fantasies ran up her debts, Flaubert had the grace to utter that famous line, "Madame Bovary, c'est moi," reminding us that the attraction for virtual realities has no gender, but is the universal illness of individuals living under industrial capitalism.

I believe that the male psychic gender of Sci-Fi and fantasy and the female psychic gender of romantic novels or fan fiction (what is it?) would have to do with the traditional roles of men and women as being respectively responsible for the public (men) and private (women) spheres. Therefore, men are more prone to see the world as a place of action, where individuals are defined by their external attributes (courage as in Achilles, cleverness as Odysseus, one eye for Cyclop, bat-winged cape for Batman, etc) and their heroic deeds. Women, due to their age-old role as the mistresses of the private sphere, see the world in terms of psychological and often unspoken conflicts and repressed intentions, making them experts of interiority. (I believe that Ang Lee has shown that this is as English as it is Chinese?...)

gale said...

Joyce and Laura - I agree. Women love interiority, or writing about it. And since so often these interpersonal relationships are underwritten in action-adventure-sci-fi, I think women fans feel a need to fill in the gaps.

As an example, Joyce, think about the X-Files. The sexual tension between Mulder and Scully was obviously one of the show's most valuable assets, but even at the show's end, it remains underplayed as compared to the various conspiracies and aliens and such. So, fan fiction ladies can fill it in with their own domestic scenes between the two. I haven't read any, but I would imagine that in these stories, Mulder and Scully cook dinner and talk about their day, go on a date, have romantic encounters, fight and make up, raise children, etc. Just a guess.