Borrowed: Understanding Authorial Practices in Fanfiction

July 14, 2017 | Author: setsuna_cutey | Category: Fan (Person), Fandom, Cosplay, Author, Intertextuality
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Descripción: My master thesis examines new modes of authorship in relation to fan cultures. Through a diverse theoretica...



Understanding Authorial Practices in Fanfiction Nicolle Lamerichs

CAST master thesis, Maastricht University, 2009

Borrowed Understanding Authorial Practices in Fanfiction by Nicolle Lamerichs

University Maastricht: Cultures of Arts, Science and Technology

Borrowed: Understanding Authorial Practices in Fanfiction Nicolle Lamerichs B.A. Arts and Sciences Maastricht, 2007 Submitted to the program Cultures of Arts, Science and Technology in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of master of philosophy, University of Maastricht, August 2009 Thesis supervision: Dr. Karin Wenz Thesis committee: Prof. Maaike Meijer © 2009 Nicolle Lamerichs. All rights reserved.


Borrowed: Authorial Practices in Fanfiction

Table of Contents Table of Contents




Chapter 1: Fan practices as a subject of research Introduction


Defining the fan


The differences between fans and users


Fan practices across various media


Fandom as a heterogeneous construction


Transformative and performative authorship


Transmedia storytelling


Researching the fan


Self-reflexivity: The researcher as a fan


Chapter 2: Bards, authors, scribblers: A history of authorship and its consequences Once upon a time there was a storyteller


Electronic writing


Think about it: Reading as an active process


The fine print: The hierarchy between a creator and fans


No trespassing: Legal aspects of fanfiction


Chapter 3: Transformative authorship: Reworking Tales of Symphonia Can you imagine it? The many genres of fanfiction


Be my beta: Social and creative skills


Play it your way: Tales of Symphonia


Lost in translation


Tales of Symphonia at


Feedback from fellow-fans


Interactivity and collaboration


Help, I’m a Sue! Self-conscious elements in fanfiction


The fan-author


Chapter 4: Performative authorship: Writing and role-playing characters The practice and varieties of role-playing


Role-playing systems online: Defining these texts and their writers

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Luceti: The plot and its characters


Using LiveJournal to stage stories


Making conversation: Writing and style in role-plays


Performing characters: The live audience, gestures and the mise-en-scene


Between gaming and writing


Chapter 5: Submitting and sharing: Undermining the author? Bibliography


Appendix A: Images


Appendix B: Glossary



Borrowed: Authorial Practices in Fanfiction

Acknowledgements Many thanks to everyone who helped accomplish this thesis in one way or the other. I am indebted to my supervisor, Dr. Karin Wenz, for guidance, input and most of all her continuous support the last months. Thank you for the chances you always gave me to explore this research. It means a lot to me. To the entire team of CAST teachers, who taught us the tricks of the trade and the charms of research, allowed us to sit in during important research meetings and always made us feel at home at our faculty. Notably Prof. Wiebe Bijker, our program’s director, provided us with a unique set of courses, opportunities and motivation. To the Animecon, for enabling the workshop and for hosting a great weekend for fans of Japanese pop-culture, year after year. Special thanks to Jeroen and Matijs who despite the stress of real life still assure that with the convention and events run smoothly. To OpenMinded and our little Dutch doujinshi scene. My fellow-fans and artists, you always remind me of what being a creative in fan practices means. Special thanks to Marissa Delbressine, for our current art projects and publications. Without your friendship and guidance I would have never been able to run projects and still work on this thesis full-time. And to your lesbian Peter Pan for inspiration. To everyone I talked to and interviewed about fanfiction: Iris, Corinne, Wendelien, Melissa, Suzanne, amongst others. Your views and insights gave me new perspectives. Marianne, I promise I will interview you if I ever get a PHD. Thanks to Elsje for midnight MSN sessions and rambles about the research, fiction and whatnot. This thesis is Splen-free, I assure you. Also many thanks to Luceti, for letting me lurk there for some weeks. I enjoyed it and feel like I finally understand a bit more what role-playing is all about. To all my other friends, you have always been there in one way or the other. I am sorry for locking myself up in my room these last months but you know why. To my family, notably my sister, a big Tales of Symphonia fan. Without your material this research would have surely looked different. There is not as much Yuan/Kratos in this thesis as you might have hoped. I am compensating for that now.



Borrowed: Authorial Practices in Fanfiction

Chapter 1 Never-ending stories: Fanfiction as a matter of research Introduction Writing is a general way of communicating nowadays, so common and transparent that we may not even realize it at all. While it used to be an exclusive activity for those that had the time and ability to read and write, we now have a flourishing culture of literacy. Everyone reads and writes, scribbles in the margins and produces texts. More recently, the internet with its various platforms shaped most of its users into active textual contributors. Even those that do not visit forums or profile sites may write emails or chat. User participation is growing, but for a long time the most active audience consisted of fans that engaged with texts closely and derived meaning of those for their private life. Since several decades fans have been inspired to write texts based on their favourite fiction, featuring parts of that setting, characters and plot. This phenomenon is called fanfiction; a sole work is usually referred to as a fic. The internet made the distribution of these stories easier and has enabled interaction about the content. Writers here base themselves on source-text - an existing text such as a series, book or game - which they explore through their own fiction. Here fans pay homage to a fictional product and try to rewrite a certain phase in the story, tell something untold or unseen in the series itself or describe an entirely new adventure or romance. Fanfiction is a way to share one’s imagination with other fans and to interpret a text at fullest. It is usually derived from pop-cultural texts, for instance, Harry Potter is a very popular field of fanfiction. Fans can also base their stories on classics, to name two examples: Sherlock Holmes or Peter Pan (Walter, 2004). One can find fanfiction of nearly every imaginable text (even the Bible) and there is even a wealth of fiction based on the actors and authors of the source-text. Fans are very free in the use of genres and storylines, making fiction that either relies heavily on the source-text or moves away from it by combining texts or ridiculing a series. Sexually the stories are also very diverse. Though some writers may try to stage a story that could have easily been in the actual texts, others playfully give it their own spin. An existing story thus is given new life and is opened up. Even if the original text long since ended, the fanfiction author still enriches a text. From a fixed product the text thus becomes a neverending story, one that lacks the typical closure that we long since associated with fiction.


Fanfiction is a grassroots kind of fiction, meaning that consumers make it and distribute it. The movement of grassroots arts and communities is spontaneous; a bottom-up process that may reach attention in mainstream culture and relies on the input of locals. Fanfiction is kept vivid by the activity of fans and is promoted by them. Fans make an active audience group and have, for a long time, been a good example of how readers can creatively assess fiction. Nowadays user activity, including fan activity online, is a larger process that is sometimes referred to as convergence culture. This term, by media theorist Henry Jenkins (2004b) describes a tendency towards user’s activity online stimulated by recent sites that rely on networking. These are often packed together under the umbrella term Web 2.0, referring to sites since roughly 1999 that have a user-friendly design and rely on collaboration. This is shown in various features such as comment functions, tags, easy links and search functions (e.g., Wikipedia, YouTube). Convergence culture is also a larger process than Web 2.0, as Jenkins describes it is a site: ‘where old and new media collide, where grassroots and corporate media intersect, where the power of the media producer and the power of the media consumer interact in unpredictable ways’ (2006b, p. 2). New relations between producers and consumers are established; fan behaviour online forms an example of this. Through this new technology consumers can become creative producers themselves. They engage more closely with texts nowadays via new media and information technologies (e.g., Jenkins, 2006a, 2006b). This opportunity for audience participation enables spectators to attribute to an existing text. Fans do this by broadening a story world via new texts that may be more or less related to the original narrative. The relationship between the author and the reader changes in this field because fans transform existing material into new fiction. As Aarseth (1997) describes: ‘The politics of the author-reader relationship, ultimately, is not a choice between paper and electronic text, or linear and non-linear text, or interactive or noninteractive text, or open and closed text, but instead is whether the user has the ability to transform the text into something that the instigator of the text could not foresee or plan for’ (p. 164, italics NL). This transforming and adapting is at the heart of fan cultures, but has become a matter for convergence culture in general too. In this thesis specific attention will go to the portrayal of authorship and the view fans have of their identity as an author or writer. Fanfiction authors do not gain similar attention as institutionalized authors and fashion themselves differently. Their writing practice and creativity are also of a different nature. The quality of fanfiction varies but quality is not the only thing that affects a writer’s reputation: the persona of the author is here heavily embedded in small internet subcultures that have specific norms and conventions. The 8

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relationship between author-reader-text is constituted alternatively here when compared to original, printed fiction. The main research question of this thesis is the following: How does fanfiction redefine what authorship means in our modern society? In this chapter I shall elaborate on several key concepts and ideas. I shall describe what a fan is and what practices a fan engages in. Then I shall define the concepts that are used in this thesis: transformative and performative authorship, as well as transmedia story-telling. Lastly I shall depict the previous research that has been done in fan studies, the methodological problems this subject poses for a scholar and the method I used myself. Defining the fan The concept of a ‘fan’ can be debated. Indeed it is difficult to define when someone is a fan and when he is not, especially now that other mainstream consumers have become more active online (e.g., Jenkins, 2007). The consensus is usually the following: a fan differs from a regular viewer by being more emotionally and attentively engaged with the source-text. A fan uses the text for self-expression, for example by attributing creative works to it, by wearing clothing related to it or by citing it. A certain fictional text or artist is relevant for the fan’s self-construction and he will show this to others, not just fans but also non-fans varying from family members to colleagues. Indeed engagement with and attachment to a certain text are at the heart of fan practices. As a second feature the fan has a specific way of interpreting texts. His reception shows high interpretative qualities towards the source-text, more than that of an ordinary consumer (Meers, 2006; Jenkins, 2006a, p. 204; Kaplan, 2006, p. 150-151). According to Jenkins fans are firstly emotionally very connected to a text and will make sense of it on that emotional level. For instance, they will be very pleased when their favourite character has a good scene, or when the plot becomes very endearing. At the same time fans maintain a critical distance and judge a product aesthetically, often by rewatching it or discussing it indepth with other fans. The mix of these two levels can lead to subjective analyses as McKee (2001) for instance has shown. Secondly, being a fan and judging a text takes place in a community or as the general actor’s term is called, fandom, a rough equivalent of fan community and also adopted by scholars. This term is used to describe the fans that are actively grouped around a text and establish social relationships with their fellow fans. The fan incorporates the preferred meaning of a group and standards on how to judge fan practices. This discussion fans have of a series and their own fan products is commonly described as meta-text. For some fans being 9

a fan also means adopting an alternative identity that is sometimes constructed in a larger framework. Bailey (2005) has written about fans of Futurama that portrayed themselves as geeks. Other overarching identities that fans, sometimes ironically, adopted include categories as ‘nerd’, ‘otaku’ or ‘metalhead’. They frequently described an affinity with a certain genre or a certain lifestyle. In mainstream culture fans is sometimes perceived as deviant. Showing affinity with Star Trek or other products may then be portrayed as a pathology or escapism. Early works in fan studies from the eighties and nineties heavily argued against the image of the fan as either deviant or violent, a discourse notably linked to sports (e.g., Jenkins, 1992). It appears that nowadays fandom is overlapping with mainstream culture more and more where consumers also become active, self-aware and fashion themselves for instance via ringtones or fannish clothing. The line might be blurring to such a degree that Jenkins (2007) even speculates fandom might blur into mainstream culture altogether. Aside from the division between fans of a series and fans of a genre, other ways to categorize fans have been thought of. For instance, Hills (2002a) has divided between cultfans and fans, the difference being that a cult-fan is engaged with a product that is typically not in production anymore (a finished series, for instance). When dealing with cult, moreover, there is a strange dynamic at hand since something has to be dubbed ‘cult’ as well by its fans. Umberto Eco also defines cult products and their fans. In his essay about Cassablanca (1973) he argues that the essence of cult movies lies in the fact that they are highly fragmented, integrating many references and genres, thus forming not one movie, but many. This is what interests the cult fans, all the references make it highly enjoyable to rewatch and enact. Other categorizations of fans include the difference that Gray, Sandvoss and Harrington (2007) have made between fans and anti-fans. The anti-fan is recognizable not by his affinity with a source-text, but with his hatred thereof. The dislike of certain texts and genres can thus become a binding element as well, a shared common good and project, with practices equal to those of the actual fans. As all of these categorizations show, being a fan can mean many things and depends on the source-text a fan emotionally invests in. In general I would like to underline that fandoms typically include a variety of individuals, all with different backgrounds and relations to a source-text. Some may be a fan of various texts; others may be very keen on one product. Even within a certain source-text, the relations may vary, for instance because some refute parts of a text and others may approve it. For example, Meers (2006) describes how the movies of Lord of the Rings changed the fandom and caused schisms between the new fans 10

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and older fans of the books. The relation to the text and other fans is crucial to the selfidentification of the individual fan. The differences between fans and users The line between fans and non-fans used to be more clear-cut. A fan was an enthusiast, a fanatic, an intensive viewer of a series who liked expressing his affinity and loyalty to a certain source-text. Now that the internet has become widespread, recognizing the fan is not that easy anymore. Many theorists from the fields of media studies and literary studies (e.g., Jenkins, 2006a; Landow, 2006; Kelly, 2005) argue that the user participation online allows for a more active, constructive audience. Internet has increased the amount of texts people read from day to day, by enabling short writings as blogs, news articles and posts on boards or more recently, social networking sites (SNS-sites). The more recent concept of Web 2.0 describes the increase in SNS-sites that allow more user/viewer participation. This online activity and democratization is celebrated as a field in several ways: information can be distributed easily to all kinds of parties that have access to this technology; the audience can talk back and contribute; everyone can potentially become a user and writer. ‘Indeed, the whole discourse about ‘web 2.0’ has been animated by the hunger to develop a new, more empowered, more socially connected, and more creative image of the consumer’, Jenkins explains (2007, p. 358). Various terms have been coined to describe the online active user/writer: wreader (Ryan, 2001, p. 9) to depict the new writer-reader relationships online, where the reader can review a story, engage with it, arrange it or co-create it (e.g., in various genres as hypertext, SNS-sites, fanfiction). Another term that occurs in current literature is prosumer (e.g., De Mul, 2008; Jenkins, 2007, p. 358) which also describes this bottom-up process in which consumers become producers. However, some critics fear that this may lead to a decline in culture. Notably scholar Steve Birkerts describes that by the lack of institutions as publishers and editors, the quality of electronic writing such as hypertexts will be lower. In The Gutenberg Elegies (2006) he claims that the lack of authority and proper institutes results in a loss of quality. Other critics fear similar consequences, such as online news editor and scholar Jane Frel. ‘Pretty good has become the new perfection’, she remarks in an interview about online texts (Friedlander, 2008). The quality of fanfiction has also become more dubious since fandoms moved online: where it used to be limited to magazines with editors, publishing is now open for everyone, from young teens who write for friends, to professionals (illustrated in chapter 3).


Quality aside, the internet is hailed as the medium for self-expression and democratization. That is exactly where the definition of a fan becomes a slippery-slope. Where fans used to be the quintessential active audience, nowadays all the audience members are asked to contribute. We are invited to go to the official website of a television series once we watched the episode; we can talk about our favourite books at discussion boards, and even a non-fan is familiar with standard tagged or manipulated images of a series. Fan practices and modes of reception are slowly integrated in mainstream practices, especially online. Jenkins ironically states when discussing these practices: ‘The old ideal might have been the couch potato; the new ideal is almost certainly a fan’. (2007, p. 361). He describes this participatory culture more thoroughly in Fans, Bloggers, Gamers (2006a) and Convergence Culture (2006b). The active participant and consumer is approached in the new digital era, where bottom-up processes are on the one hand appreciated and on the other hand problematic. They create awkward tensions in the consumer-producer relation economically, legally and creatively, as Jenkins illustrates in many of his essays. Specific here is not that the audience talks about media content, forms ties or communities and tries to reach out to the corporations. Indeed, before the internet was wellused many people would discuss, quote or enact upon media content. Fans packed together in older days when a show was about to be cancelled, and now they do so a more widespread online (e.g., online petitions/actions for Carnivale, Firefly or Pushing Daisies). Though fans are a more rigid example of consumer activity, general viewers are also preoccupied with such matters but to a lesser degree. They may choose not to express their affinity that much or take an active, organizational stand. Media had a ritual function before the internet as a conversational topic that could glue people together and as a fiction that could mean be used as a means of self-expression (Fiske, 1989). The actual point is then that fan practices have become more visible. Because of these online platforms, people will stumble upon fan practices sooner and become engaged with them. The fan is present as the optimal consumer and receptor. The corporations still have trouble defining their relation with their audience, but are more willing to play with the benefits. At the moment the difference between fans and users is still pretty large, but in the future it may become more problematic to define between these two groups. This discourse of active audiences still deals with two separate groups that only have ‘activity’ in common. Fan practices across various media Fans express their ideas and affinity to a text – book, series, game - in various ways, fanfic12

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tion being just an example of this (e.g., Jenkins, 2006b, p. 12; Coppa, 2006). The range of creative practices fans are indulged in is quite broad and mediated in different ways. After going into the history of fanfiction shortly, I shall describe a few other dominant fan practices: Fan art, fan videos, cosplay, fan translations and fan conventions. Fanfiction is a rather old practice. Since the seventies of the twentieth century media and book fans (e.g., Star Trek) have written their own stories featuring the characters they love that often take place in the same setting. Similar practices started earlier in the nineteenth century when amateur authors wrote their own Sherlock Holmes stories, Jane Austen fiction or Lewis Caroll sequels (Viires, 2005). Fanfiction also reminds of the various authors that have written Oz-stories throughout the twentieth century. However, in the seventies it became more institutionalized as an amateur, fan practice, rather than related to professional authors that actually published these adaptations. The earliest fanfiction authors bundled their stories in fanzines and sold these at conventions among peers. Nowadays fanfiction is booming since the internet made it easier to distribute these stories and find likeminded writers and readers. Making fan art means that an amateur artist inspires visual art - a comic or drawing or portrait - on a series. The fan may choose to follow the style of the source-text when it is possible by adopting the designs, or choose to explore the characters or setting in his own style. Fan art is a good way to practice drawing and be in touch with the fan community. Commonly the art is uploaded at amateur artists’ sites as Elfwood or DeviantArt or a personal website. Often they will use several systems to host their work. Fans can also upload the work at specific fan forums or genre systems such as Y!Hosting which is specialized at homosexual art. Sometimes the content refers to the show more than in its designs and may specifically address or spoof visuals that are integrated in the series (e.g., Bailey, 2005). Fans may choose to sell their fan art or gain a wider audience by for instance selling prints online or at conventions, or by publishing their comics themselves. Self-published comics based on Japanese content or made by Japanese artists are called doujinshi and can contain original art or fan art. Fan videos are content based on an existing source-text and sometimes incorporate footage of the original text. Though these videos are commonly made by amateurs, the quality of this content varies, since some fans can also be, for instance, professional animators. The length of these videos differs, as well as the size of the team working on them. The earliest fan video was made in the seventies by Kandy Fong, who had by then already presented several Star Trek slideshows accompanied by songs (Coppa, 2006; Jenkins, 2008a). Music videos (abbreviation FMV or AMV) nowadays form a more dominant genre of fan videos: 13

one edits existing footage (e.g., a Star Trek) to fit a chosen song. Other subgenres of fan videos are machinima (videos rendered via the 3-D engine of games); fan dubs (videos that leave the original footage intact, but provide it with different voices); flash movies (original animations made in Adobe Flash) and fan films (original live action videos). Making and wearing costumes inspired on a series is also a common practice for fans. This is described as cosplay (costume playing) by fans of Japanese pop-culture, a term which is now sometimes for Western inspired costumes too. The original production of the costume is the crucial act here: they are made by fans and not sold commercially. Though some costumes can be bought (e.g., Star Trek outfits) most of them cannot be purchased, especially when it comes down to Japanese pop-culture. The fan then has the option of asking someone for a commission, in other words, to make the costume for them, which can be another fan, an acquaintance that can sew or a professional seamstress. When the costumes are finished the fan wears them at conventions or at small fashion shows, as props for fan videos or general parties. Cosplaying is also not the same as role-playing, though some people may choose to be more ‘in character’, in general the costumes are worn out of devotion for a series without loosing yourself in the role too much. However, many cosplayers perform skits (short individual or group performances) at conventions in their outfits, which overlaps more with fanfiction since you write a script and act out a role. Some practices are less creative and can be described as productive or functional. Many fans are occupied with subtitling foreign (often Asian) media content and subtitle that, which results in a fan sub that can be distributed online or otherwise. Other translation activities involve scanlations: scanning and translating (Japanese) comics or doujinshi to make them accessible and understandable for fellow-fans. Some fans may make fan dubs with a team of fan voice actors and dub the content rather than subtitle it. Other fan practices include making icons or wallpapers, capturing screenshots and adding a witty text to them, making animated gifs or creating fan mixes, a kind of mix tape with various songs that a fan associates with the text. Fans may meet up in small groups or attend organized larger meetings: fan conventions, gatherings arranged by fans themselves. While fanfiction itself has its roots in the seventies, fan conventions are a phenomena dating back from the thirties often organised by fan clubs or more recently, fan magazines or other associations. For instance, the earliest fan clubs for Sherlock Holmes - The Sherlock Holmes Society (London) and The Bakerstreet Irregulars (New York) - date from 1934. The first science fiction conventions also stem from the thirties. Though commonly a convention covers a genre (like science fiction) some 14

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conventions are hosted for one series only. Star Trek is a classic example of that, with its first convention hosted in 1972 (Walker, 2008). A convention generally lasts a weekend, though smaller conventions are pretty common too. A hotel or entertainment hall is rented to for these events to take place. Many conventions are a chance for fans to meet up. Where the focus used to be on meeting fans per se, it now also involves meeting up with people in real life that you already know from online boards. On top of that many fan conventions also try to invite famous guests related to the fandom (actors, writers, technical crew) to give interviews, participate in panels and give autographs. This is a more common practice in science fiction conventions, but not all of them (for the tenor of American science fiction cons in the early nineties, check Bacon-Smith, 1992, p. 8-22). For instance, while the German Fedcon invites many actors, smaller conventions like the Flemish FACTS focus on fan practices and merchandise. At anime-conventions, especially the European ones, there are often little to no guests. Especially in The Netherlands this is quite uncommon because the Dutch fan conventions are smaller in size and it would not be cost-efficient. The problem here can also be one of location and language: the Japanese guests commonly need translators to share information. Moreover, when it comes down to animation and games there is a whole team behind a work rather than a few fore-grounded persons that might appeal to fans (e.g., actors, a small writing team) which makes it harder for fans to establish a relation towards the production team. Conventions commonly host many activities. Most choose to feature movies and series related to the fandom, for instance by showing a recent anime. Typically there is a dealer room to buy merchandise, workshops and panels about various fan related topics from practical questions – how to make your own anime music video? - to in-depth information about a product with a professional panel. Some conventions host lectures too. Events for anime-conventions often include competitions related to fan practices: a cosplay competition with short theatrical skits or a fashion show; a drawing table or wall to put your own drawings on or competitions for the best fan video. They may even include music or dance, such as Japanese para para, quick group dances with accessories or, at more fantasy minded conventions, folkloristic bands to dance to. Fandom as a heterogeneous construction Discussing fan communities means that you deal with a troublesome, large unit that is highly diverse. Earlier I already described fandom, the term used to describe fans that actively group around a certain text. The word fandom might lead one to believe fans are one big group. 15

Even scholars tend to depict fans as one subversive, emancipative group that has certain practices in common, most studies have only paid attention to one fan community and have been criticized for that (e.g., Scodari, 2003; Jenkins, 1992, pp. 120-151). This produces a biased image of the fandom as a homogenous construction. Fandom is however mostly an analytical term to describe those that have affinity with a text, while it is scattered across various groups online and offline. As stated in the previous paragraphs fans can participate in several groups and practices and shift among these: this fluidity is very important. Media-fans tend to favour several shows or games and often have affinity with certain genres or subcultures. Similarly not all fans will be active in online or offline communities, some just sit at home to attentively enjoy a series. In this section I shall discuss various features of fandoms in which their diversity is shown. Firstly, though fans are often grouped together based on similar practices, we cannot just describe them as one group or community but should also pay attention to the specific fandoms they participate in. Fans exist of every thinkable cultural repertoire. Though early studies on fans dealt with media fans, recent studies have stretched the domain by focusing on for instance cult fans, celebrities or music (e.g., Bailey’s analysis of Kiss, 2005, pp. 101-156). Here the values and practices of fans can be entirely different. In similar fashion the recent publication Fandom (Gray et al., 2007) features a wide range of essays covering sports, high arts and anti-fans - groups of consumers bounded by their distaste of a certain product. Within previous sections I also discussed that viewers of series can be categorized in several ways, fans only being one of them. Secondly, fandom is bounded to nationality to some degree as well. This often does not show in the fan practices themselves such as the content or quality of fanfiction or the kind of fan art. However, it does become apparent in how fan activities are institutionalized when focussing on for instance conventions or fan publications. In Japan doujinshi (fan comics) flourish, whereas in America fanfiction is more dominant as a self-published type of fiction. In The Netherlands printed fanfiction is very rare even at conventions, in contrast to making and publishing doujinshi, which has a small market here. Thirdly, some fans may want not show their affection towards a text by joining conventions or communities. They are either unaware of fan communities, may prefer not to express their affection with fellow-fans or are not able to join for one reason or the other. There is a difference between these kind of fans - who express their love solely on a local, personal level - and fans that feel the need to organize (e.g., Hills, 2002a, p. 86; Bacon-Smith, 1992; Jenkins 2006a, 162-168). Similarly, the degree of how much a fan gets into the text also 16

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varies and some like to display their knowledge. For instance, in anime fandoms there are fans that also learn Japanese to engage better with the material and they may feel empowered when they master more of the language. Moreover, fans often do not stick to one fandom. This is described by Jenkins in Textual Poachers (1992): fans are not just poachers, but also nomads who move around in pop-culture. They usually love several texts or have an affinity with a certain genre, though their interests may not be that broad. For instance, they may like certain superhero comics or science fiction texts more avidly than others. Sometimes they grow out of a fandom but other times they get back into it after years again and relive that joy mixed with nostalgia. Fans can love both Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and Star Trek equally; they recommend the series to people with similar interests; they discover new bands that make their type of music. Fans constantly try to broaden his territory while still remaining an expert in some series. They are more free-floating than a lot of research depicts them. In this fluidity and interaction a strange tendency manifests itself. On the one hand fans try to recruit newcomers non-stop and get acquainted with different products and fandoms themselves. On the other hand they often shun new fans at online boards, which gives the newcomers a hard time to fit in. They are mocked and portrayed as ‘noobs’ (newbies) when they are not aware of all the ins and outs in the fandom. At a lot of boards or LiveJournal communities users introduce themselves by saying they have ‘lurked’ at the site (observed it) for a while, or describe how they were engaged with the product before coming to the specific community. This in part prevents being depicted negatively as a newcomer. A fandom can also turn out to be highly divided when some fans exclude others based on taste or interpretation. These conflicts can have various causes. Sometimes there is a debate about how to interpret the background of a text or the story world. Other times a sequel or adaptation can cause schisms because some fans accept it while others tend to refuse it. Within my case-study this will become clear when dealing with, amongst others, the sequel of Tales of Symphonia that has been criticized by many of the loyal fans. Other causes of debate and even flame wars are not the content, but the characters. Problems arise offline and online when some fans tend to favour a certain character or when they feel other people misinterpret them. In general there are many communities to celebrate characters specifically. The introduction of new characters can be a source of debate as well, which hovers between the previously mentioned debates of accepting new information added to a story and the liking of characters.


Another anchor point for sub communities are certain pairings (romantic couples) fans prefer. This divides the fan community in smaller groups: new listings are made to celebrate certain pairings, recruit new fans and catalogue practices related to only one pairing. This leads to exclusions of other branches of the fandom and even an open disregard for the others at some points. What for an outsider seem almost childish problems – what characters should date one another – become a root of fan expression and deeply emotionally embedded. This takes place at all kinds of levels. For instance, there is an obvious difference between slashers, those who enjoy seeing the characters in a homosexual relationships, and shippers, those who prefer to see them in a straight relationship. What poses limited problems for an outsider, becomes a large issue in a fandom where fans are so actively engaged with a text. Though this will not always lead to problems and indeed, many fans prefer various pairings or at least reading about them - it can become very apparent at other times. To depict a fandom as one fixed set of actors would be very naive. There is a lot of dialogue and discussion in fandoms that leads to smaller groups. There is also a division based on the activity of users. For instance, those who indulge in similar fan practices (e.g., cosplaying or writing fanfiction) may group together or communicate more. Transformative and performative authorship To depict the modes of writing in fanfiction I will use two terms: transformative authorship and performative authorship, which I based on existing literature that discusses transformative fiction and performativity. Via these concepts I aim to show the difference between creating original fiction, making fanfiction in the form of prose, and textual role-playing. Transformative authorship is a term based on transformative works, another term for fanfiction and similar practices in today’s digital culture (and print culture) that attribute to a work. The term is used more in the legal discourse surrounding fanfiction. I chose to use to apply this concept rather than ownership because it adequately describes the root of the problem here: writers adopt a text and ‘transform’ it into a version or homage of their own. Ownership in contrast to transformative authorship implies that a text is owned by the actual creator of the source-text. When I use ownership in this thesis it is usually meant as legal concept that defines problems of copyright, or in some cases as emotional ownership, when fans feel parts of a fan text belong to them. Transformative works pose problems for the overarching discussion of what authorial practices actually are. A more general term to describe fanfiction is via derivative fiction, which describes fiction based on other texts. This can for instance be a parody, pastiche or fanfiction. 18

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In the Code for Fair Use (2008) the legal implications of making fanfiction are described with the emphasis that a work is transformative when it manages to add something to a text, rather than repeating it. The Organization for Transformative Works (since 2007) is ran by fans and fan scholars, with the purpose of defending fans legally and providing a platform for discussion. Rebecca Tushnet, one of its members, publishes a lot on the questions fanfiction imposes on copyright. One of the problems with transformative works, she thinks, is that they sometimes oppose the view of the author: ‘Transformative uses are uses that add new insights or meaning to the original work, often in ways that copyright owners don’t like’. (2007, p. 61). That may lead to legal cases, such as a prosecution of the adaption The Wind Gone Done, when the copyright holders were not amused by the gay content the author wrote in his version of Gone With The Wind. As I will explain in chapter 3, the degree of originality within such fiction varies, while the concept itself manages to describe what is at the root of the problem: a swinging between original and imitation. Performative authorship is the term I use to describe textual role-playing in blog format. When discussing role-playing as a fan practice, it can also be seen as transformative since it leans on a source-text and changes that into a new text. As I described at the beginning of this section, performative authorship as such can also refer to original content. The term is one that should explain the role of the author that performs as a character, be it an original or existing one. The role-player writes and communicates, but the narrative takes place on another level, in interaction with other users and moderators. The performative author is to some degree a gamer, not just a writer. Performativity is here thus not meant as it is introduced by Judith Butler (1990) in queer studies. Butler specifically relates performativity to the construction of one’s identity in a discourse of power by acts of repetition, which is confirmed constantly through words and actions. Here, the term is used as a concept of theatrics, rather than a social notion: the sourcetext is played out by users who assume several roles. However, this mode of performing implies some features of Butler’s concept, in a sense that the act of role-playing as well as the character itself can become very relevant for the writer’s personal identity and the way he or she expresses him- or herself in daily life. It may also have consequences for the writer’s identity in terms of gender and sexuality, for instance, when the writer adopts a character which he can play out certain masculine or feminine characteristics he does not perform outside the fictional realm. Previous analyses of fanfiction related to performativity include firstly Kurt Lancaster (2001), who discusses various ways (e.g., card games, videogames and fan texts) to play out the world and characters of Babylon 5. Busse (2006) describes 19

performance in relation to gender studies, while Francisca Coppa (2006) compares fanfiction to theatre productions by emphasizing amongst others its bodily features. All authors thus fashion the term slightly differently. My use of performativity in this thesis, when applied to role-playing, will be related to the performing of a character. Transformative and performative authorship do not oppose original content or fiction per se. On the one hand, transformative fiction, as I shall explain in the chapter, bases itself on existing content, but incorporates many original elements and can become a very autonomous story. On the other hand, original fiction also bases itself on pre-existing content, clichés and conventions. Performative authorship can be an adequate term to describe various roleplaying characters. For instance, a fan can also role-play an original character in a fictional blog or at other sites, rather than an existing character, which is the subject I deal with now. Both types of authorship heavily depend on intertextuality. Deriving your work from an existing text and transforming it, already implies that you are engaged in an intertextual practice. I do not intend to use the term as a kind of discourse inherent of texts or to explore how language relates to conventions or culture in general. The term here is meant in a narrow way and describes the way a text relates to a source-text. This gives the newer text its additional meaning, or even forms the complete foundation on which the new text (e.g., a fanfic) is constituted. Intertext can be shaped in various ways in fan texts. The first and foremost relation is that fan texts are frequently unreadable without a notion of the sourcetext. An outsider would not understand these texts; indeed, it is assumed that the reader is aware of the source at least to some degree. A fan text can also refer to different cultural repertoires than the source-text. These can be quotes or descriptions pointing to other popular media or fiction, varying from things that we consider to be normal language ‘good going, Sherlock!’ to references only those acquainted to a popular text will understand. Whether the text actually exists in the fictional universe is not a point here, rather these references should appeal to the knowledge of the reader. For instance, the characters of Tales of Symphonia have never read Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, it does not exist there, but referring to it produces a comical effect exactly because of that. Some references can be more common across fandoms (e.g., a catchphrase as ‘Everybody lies!’ from House M.D.). Other fans allude to high arts, rather than popular culture and cover Shakespeare, poetry or modern painting. Intertext also arises between fan texts that can built on each other’s repertoire and ideas, or make very clear references to other fan products. In the next section this will be illustrated through the notion fanon. Fan communities are however not only influenced by 20

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fans and the source-text, but also by external information that can be provided by the authors of the source-text. Fans frequently base themselves on information (e.g., interviews) that producers or actors have confined. This is usually described as extratextual by scholars (e.g., Jenkins, 1992, pp. 86-119) to divide between the relations established across fictional texts and the external sources fans rely on for interpretation. Intertextual qualities can also be quite practical and relate to the form of the content. Since this thesis focuses on electronic literature, the lay-out of a site becomes important. There links to other platforms (hyperlinks) may be embedded that link a visitor to different content on the same or other platforms. When applied to fanfiction these may be links to favourite authors, stories and reviews or to external sites. This can be seen as a type of hypertext: electronic text displayed on the computer fragmentarily, where the reader can click on hyperlinks to continue the narrative (see also Aarseth, 1997; Ryan, 2001; Landow, 2006). Hyperlinks are important since they give ground to very direct forms of intertext. Within the case-study all these kinds of intertextual practices can be retraced and studied in detail. Intertext is in this research mostly used as a term to depict textual relations rather than to analyze them. My description of fan practices will be more aimed at the concepts mentioned before and focus on storytelling rather than formal or semiotic comparisons between texts. Transmedia storytelling This thesis also explores transmedia storytelling, the spreading and extending of narratives across various media platforms (e.g., comics, movies, animations). This concept was first used by Henry Jenkins in Technology Review (2003) and describes how a story is co-created by various corporations to include new information. While a television series or movie used to limit the story to that medium, nowadays bits and pieces are smeared over various platforms. According to Jenkins (id.) this leads to a specific kind of consumption: ‘Younger consumers have become information hunters and gatherers, taking pleasure in tracking down character backgrounds and plot points and making connections between different texts within the same franchise’. Transmedia storytelling can be taken quite broadly. For instance, Long (2004) writes about the way action figures can add to the story while Ito (2003) discusses card games as adding to a narrative. Transmedia storytelling is only one of the terms to cover the practice of a story being transferred to different media. Marie-Laure Ryan describes the process in Narrative Across Media (2004a) as: the ‘cross-medial study of narrative’ (p. 23); ‘narrative media studies (p. 35) ‘and ‘transmedial narratology’ (id., see also Herman, 2004), all of which refer to the same 21

practice. Another concept that is similar to these is Bolter and Grusin’s remediation. Remediation can be defined as the ‘formal logic by which new media improve upon or remedy prior media forms’, ergo the way in which new media incorporate elements of the old (1999, p. 273). For instance, hypertext can incorporate features of print culture; movie adaptations can depict features of the original comic; television broadcasts still have similarities with the radio. Remediation is therefore not the same practice as transmedia storytelling rather it can be a potential feature when a story is transferred to new media. As a concept remediation captures different media platforms as a kind of linear, technological success story. Here the different versions are not presented as alternatives or additional means of telling a story, but rather as an aemulatio of the earlier medium. Remediation underlines a simplified image of what media do and how different media add up to each other. The term transmedia storytelling, however, enables a discussion about the stories, their shape and their reception, as well as their platforms. Transmedia storytelling is commonly related to big ‘story worlds’ that enable reworkings, prequels, sequels and side stories based on different characters. Even earlier texts as Walter Benjamin’s The Storyteller (1936) explain how important the world and a reader’s connection with it is for telling a story. In this essay Benjamin describes that the storyteller has many similarities with the historiographer in ways of making a chronology and interrelating events. The genealogy is what counts. In his thesis on transmediality Geoffrey Long (2007) writes: ‘the world must be considered a primary character of its own, because many transmedia narratives are not the story of one character at all, but the story of a world’. Transmedia storytelling offers different entry points to dive into a story world, which means that it needs to offer more than an adaptation or imitation of an already existing text. For instance, an accurate movie version of a source-text generally displays a very low factor of transmedia storytelling. After all, it mostly depicts the same story. Transmedia storytelling succeeds where it smears out its narrative over various media, depicting different instances of the story. Thus corporations draw new audiences and expand the genealogy for those already familiar with the content. Story worlds demand active readers to understand the narrative in its fullest sense (e.g., Landow, 2006, p. 245; Herman, 2004, p. 50). The act of putting together bits and pieces of the story is the central goal, though ideally one can also choose to consume only one of the texts of the franchise. Indeed, the puzzling over the narrative may even be the key to the success of such worlds. To enable a good franchise and indeed, flourishing fan practices, one needs a story that is rich, multi-layered and has all kinds of background content that is hinted 22

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at. Fiction that succeeds in building such worlds includes for example The Matrix (e.g., Jenkins, 2006b), Star Trek, Buffy The Vampire Slayer (e.g., Gwenllian Jones, 2005) or Harry Potter. The practice of transmedia storytelling is also a more common thing in Japan, where a series often comes with various adaptations (e.g., manga, anime, game) and a great deal of merchandising (e.g., Jenkins, 2006b, notably p. 110). Another point of success of transmedia storytelling is the unravelling of the actual story line and background content, some of which may purposely only be hinted at. These can be places that are never seen in the source-text, but can be elaborated later, or histories of characters that are only briefly mentioned. Rather than the plot, settings or events, the occurrence of generic or side characters can also appeal to the imagination of the viewer or reader. Long (2007) describes these practices as ‘negative capability’, the act of creating provocative gaps in a story that create a sense of doubt, insecurity and wondering (id., pp. 5369). Providing these openings leaves room for input of the audience but at the same time it generates material for the author or team to come up with more products. This is what particularly draws fans towards stories with rich environments: the first step for a lot of fan practices is made when there are gaps in a story. The audience wants to discuss them, reach a sense of closure and depict what may have happened. To depict the high affinity of fans with a certain story world I use the term immersion which assumes that fans distance themselves from the actual world and succumb to a certain narrative entirely (see also chapter 3). The concept is explored in narrative studies when audience reception and reading processes across media are examined. Immersion as a state of imagination fits the idea that fans actively engage with texts and connect deeply to a fictional world as such. Fans usually refer to the source-text and its story world in the term canon. This is not to be confused with canon in literary studies, which refers to body of works that are highly regarded and studied, though canon in this sense is important for fan studies as well where fans create new canons of popular texts. For fans and within fan studies canon means the official information or material that is established in fictional product by the creators. The information is genuine in a sense that it actually happened in the narrative: this need not have been an actual event, but can also be hinted at by characters. This is described as subtext: themes, motives or meanings that are implicit within the canon source-text. Fanfiction is in general not considered canon because it is not an official product. However, it can be true to the canon in terms of characterization, settings or plot. Fanfiction always corresponds to the canon to some degree, a degree that the fan-author chooses himself. Fans like to play with the


official texts and refer to the canon to describe the ways in which their own stories fit the existing narrative or undermine it. Canon is the opposition of fanon. Sometimes fans establish information themselves which spreads rapidly. Certain fan texts have such an influence that their ideas are used in more fan texts. This is called fanon, referring to the fictional concepts that fans have coined and that circulate online or offline. This interpretation of facts can be confused by fans with the actual canon. Fanon can become canon when companies adopt the information via audience input online which influences their story line development, by licensing a fan text or arguably, by hiring a fan. Transmediality poses problems for the canon in terms of reworking and adapting. Different products of a transmedial story world might not add up narrative wise and fans may base their fiction on varying source-texts, which then needs to be stated, as will be elaborated in chapter 3. Furthermore, if something is translated to another media, elements are lost or replaced. The media-specific elements have been negotiated in several essays in Marie-Laure Ryan’s Narrative Across Media. Most texts argue nothing essential of the narrative is violated when translating (Herman, 2004; Elliott, 2004; Marie-Laure Ryan, 2004a), though it does pose new theoretical problems when defining what a narrative is (Ryan, 2004a, p. 32-33). Moreover for fans and other consumers there can be a fear that things are added or lost in the new ‘language’. The fear of adaptations or additional bits of a story is quite genuine, because some fans feel the story world would no longer be the same, but violated or misrepresented. Often one of the texts will feel like a better representation or more true. For instance, Star Trek Enterprise was subjected to a lot of critique because it did not fit the atmosphere of the earlier series. I retraced similar discussions in my case-study (see chapter 3). Subsets of transmedia storytelling can vary from autonomous (e.g., a standalone movie adaptation) to hardly any autonomous at all (e.g., music, action figures, art books). Though everything takes part in transmedia storytelling, not all of the products will be good entry points and some might provide a slightly different version of the story altogether. Transmedia storytelling has been subjected to the critique that you often need the actual text or ur-text to understand the story world at fullest (Dena, 2007). However, this is only the case with some texts. For instance, it is necessary to start with the series of Buffy The Vampire Slayer rather than the comics, because the comics is an additional season that takes place after the series in the chronology. However, you can hook up with Star Trek at any point be it a series or movie, and because it is highly episodical, you can arguably start within a series as well. I would argue this has to do with the autonomy of the products: though some transmedial products are 24

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stand-alone and form good anchors into the world, others depend more on other texts or take place at a very distinctive part of the series’ history. Researching the fan In the following overview I try to define several key authors and modes in the history of fan studies. I also focus on the critique some of these scholars received to show how the field has progressed throughout the years. Overviews on fan studies commonly start of with Henry Jenkins (1992) and Camille Bacon-Smith (1992) to depict the early studies on fanfiction (e.g., Busse, Hellekson, 2006, pp. 17-20; Gray, Sandvoss, 2007). Some histories begin earlier with the studies of popular culture by Grossberg or Fiske, while the previously mentioned authors still remain anchor points (e.g., Gwenllian-Jones, 2005; Bailey, 2005). The studies on fans of the early nineties are highly involved with the interpretation and production of texts in fan cultures. Their focus remains largely on textual fan practices, such as fanfiction, and how to make sense of the communities that surround these. Here fans are depicted as producers of knowledge and new texts. Later studies argue against that image by showing it neglects the root of fan practices: affection (e.g., Hills, 2002a, pp. 65-72). The absence of the emotional side of being a fan in early scholarly texts leads to an image of the fan as a critic. However, a fan is never an objective reader of a text. Fans are highly passionate about a source-text and act upon that. Fan descriptions may raise arguments of quality within fiction, but one should pay heed to the fact that fan’s opinions are emotionally coloured (see also McKee, 2001, p. 16-20). Early studies on fans also emphasize fan communities as a mode of resistance against mainstream popular culture: fans negotiate the dominant meanings of texts, and poach, as Henry Jenkins (1992) calls it, the text by opening it up for new interpretations and alternative versions. Though fan practices have subversive sides, fans are depicted less politically now than in the nineties. The emphasis on resistance in early studies can now be explained in two ways. The first argument follows out of their unit of analysis, as Scodari also describes (2003, pp. 113-117). Early academic texts usually deal with specific forms of fanfiction: Mary Sues and slash. Mary Sue is a genre of fanfiction that features a perfect, original female character that enters the story world. These narratives are frequently regarded as a wish-fulfilment of the female fan-author and notably interesting because of their feministic representation of women. This element is picked up by early scholars who elaborate upon the empowerment of female characters in this fiction.


Secondly slash is often analyzed in early studies: a genre of fanfiction in which straight characters are portrayed as gay, thereby undermining the source-text and taking a seemingly emancipative stand. Scholars commonly use this to illustrate a progressive tendency in fandoms through its use of homosexual themes (e.g., Bacon-Smith, 1992; Jenkins, 1992, pp. 185-222). The analysis of Mary Sue and slash leads to somewhat exaggerated view of fanfiction as opposed to mainstream culture. However, a fair part of these stories actually deals with heterosexual relations and conventional genres. Moreover, the queer or subversive motives in fan practices should not be mistaken for a political or emancipative stand per se. Slash for instance confirms dominant discourses on gender and sexuality as well: it commonly effeminizes one of the characters in the homosexual relation; it neglects lesbian fiction and often presumes that the characters are only gay by exception (e.g., Scodari, 2003, p. 114). The focus on these genres is not the only thing that leads to a subversive image of fans. In the nineties fans still have to be put on the agenda as a subculture worth studying which requires a certain rhetoric. Emphasizing the good and innovative sides of fandom makes this possible as well as analyzing fanfiction as democratic genre (Jenkins, 2006a, p. 810; Gray et. al., 2007, pp. 1-4). Importantly, early scholars also argue against a specific image of fans that is established in the media. Mainstream culture usually portrayed fans negatively, either as quirky and pathetic, or as potentially violent sociopaths. Indeed, the term is an abbreviation of fanaticus or ‘fanatic’ which has the connotation of ‘fancy’, religious fits and overactive engagement, which can be portrayed tragically or violently (e.g., Bailey, 2005, p. 48-49; Jenkins, 2006a, p. 17). The first studies on fans also try to adjust that image. In doing so they emphasize that a large part of fandom is for instance formed by women who are involved in close-reading and show specific expertise. This focus also produces a normative image of fans in which they are depicted as too progressive (see also Hills 2002a, p. 8-10). Though fan-scholars are more aware of this imagery now, describing fans normatively still remains a discussion point (e.g., Jenkins, 2006a, p. 10-11). After these first studies various publications follow that tap from different academic backgrounds and authors. Busse and Hellekson (2006) continue their history of fanfiction by showing the various scholars, interpretations and discourses within the studies of fanfiction and other fan practices, while underlining that fanfiction continued to be a dominant subject in this field. In their overview they elaborate shortly on individual authors and groundbreaking texts, rather than depicting new trends that followed in the nineties. By contrast Gray, Sandvoss and Harrington (2007) argue that there was a second wave of fanfiction as well, which tried to incorporate the aesthetic quality of fan products. This second wave analyzed 26

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the social and cultural hierarchies within fandom, inspired by Bourdieu’s terminology (id., pp. 5-7). Capturing fan studies in several waves seems rather presumptuous. The field of fan studies is pretty small to begin with, which makes it odd to speak of a first, second and arguably third wave (which would then be Gray, Sandvoss and the like themselves). Though the studies from the early nineties have a clear tendency, what is published after that is rather broad and from various disciplines. Gray and Sandvoss’s suggestion can be retraced in a minor selection of publications to illustrate the second wave, but this is not entirely representative of the corpus of texts of that time (e.g., Busse and Hellekson mention texts with a fully different tenor). Furthermore, the publications of fan studies basing themselves on Bourdieu cover a range of years rather than one particular moment. Analyzing the aesthetic value of fan products is still an ongoing endeavour. For instance, the literary qualities or analyses of fanfiction have recently been discussed by Pugh (2004), Stasi (2006), Kaplan (2006). Indeed, the suggestion of a second wave seems mostly rhetorical in essence, a strategy to make their own publication seem new and inventive. Similar theoretical ideas can be traced in their earlier publications (Gray, 2006; Sandvoss, 2005). Aside from this division in three waves, Jenkins himself has reflected on the history of fan studies. He argues that early media studies of fandom should not start with him, though he was one of the first scholars studying fans and had a large influence with that (Jenkins, 2006a, pp. 12-14). Rather earlier theorists as Fiske and Radway, who are criticized or used by later authors, should be seen as a starting point. From then on, several discourses and groups can be distinguished; authors that benefited from the ways the earlier scholars had paved (id., pp. 1112). He describes himself as belonging to a second generation, rather than the first. Though fan studies has grown a lot over the years, it is still a young discipline with many sporadic publications that are hard to capture in terms of waves or tendencies. The field has developed mostly as a subset of media and social studies, with diverse publications, while certain tendencies of older work – such as a need for justifying fan practices - are slowly disappearing. Nowadays scholars cover diverse fan practices. Research on fan videos is for instance more common nowadays and includes several articles of Jenkins (notably 1992, p. 223-249) and fan scholars as Francesca Coppa. Nonetheless the field still has a lot of niches. Publications on cosplay are very rare; it is difficult to find good literature on conventions or differences of conventions between countries; role-playing is still not represented well and fan dancing as para para seems entirely absent. Moreover, most of the publications focus solely on Western series, while Japanese popular culture has become increasingly important over the


years and dominant in mainstream Western culture (shops; broadcasting; news) and fan cultures: conventions and online fan communities. This study deals with the Western readings and interpretations of a Japanese video game as a case-study. Most Western fans will be familiar with a localized Western variant of the product that has been translated or adapted (or censored). With that specific example this study hopes to contribute to the influence of Japanese source-texts that are more embedded in youth culture than a lot of the commonly studies Western texts (e.g., Harry Potter, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Xena: Warrior Princess, Star Trek, The X-Files). Studies on this are relatively scarce and tend to focus on the adaptation of anime, card games or sentai of the nineties and later (e.g., Jenkins, 2006a; Hills, 2002b; Ito, 2003). By focusing on Tales of Symphonia this thesis will also depict how Japanese products as games are handled by corporations and how they influence Western audiences. Self-reflexivity: The researcher as a fan Fan studies is a field mostly explored by scholars who are themselves fans or have friends or family that are. Through their own practices or conversations they realize fandoms are worth examining since they have so many sides that are yet to be analyzed. Thereby it has a personal touch that is often seen as a taboo in cultural studies, which subjected it to similar critiques as for instance gender studies, a discipline which has grown by the interest and activity of feminist scholars themselves. As the previous history depicts, fan studies is relatively young and mostly a subset of audience studies that has not gained that much ground yet. The subjective dimension of this research and my own position in it will be dealt with in this paragraph. I shall focus strongly on the strange dichotomy that is made between the personal (fan) dimension of research and the academic practice, and question whether avoiding or over-explaining this duality might not be the actual fallacy here. To justify their own touch in fan research, scholar-fans tend to invent terms and concepts to describe their methodology. I employ scholar-fan here because it is a neutral way to describe the scholar who is also a fan and does not have an apparent semantic history as other terms to describe this identity. It has been used by Busse and Hellekson (2006) as a term to depict the authors of their collection of essays. Indeed, coming out in fan studies is taken for granted and various terms have been coined to describe this tension. One of the most important terms used to exhibit the scholar-fan, firstly, is Aca/fan, a term by Hills (2002a) and popularized by Jenkins. As he describes in the first entry of his blog Confessions of an Aca/Fan (2006c) this refers to: ‘a hybrid creature which is part fan and part academic (hence 28

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the current, provisional title of this blog). The goal of my work has been to bridge the gap between these two worlds. I take it as a personal challenge to find a way to break cultural theory out of the academic bookstore ghetto and open up a larger space to talk about the media that matters to us from a consumer's point of view’. Jenkins underlines that he is part of certain fandoms and that his knowledge is a dialogue with the fans, which has led to positive fan reviews and even a kind of American cultus around his Textual Poachers (1992) which is still being distributed a lot amongst fans. However, this position also led to accusations, as Jenkins describes in an interview with Matt Hills (2006a, notably pp. 10-18): as an academic fan he was seen as being too laudatory of fans as a means of self-justification, or as ‘slumming’ it by fans themselves, a fake, a fraud, an imposter posing as one of them. Jenkins does not take such criticism too harshly: it is apparent he has been a fan since his youth and that his writings are a dialogue with those communities. The kind of empirical research performed in fan studies is frequently described as auto-ethnography (Busse, Hellekson: 2006, pp. 24-25; Hills, 2002a). This means the scholarfan analyses himself as a subject as well to gain more insights. As Hills describes it (id., p. 72): ‘the tastes, values, attachments, and investments of the fan and the academic-fan are placed under the microscope of cultural analysis’. Ergo, it refers to position the researcher has when he or so belongs to a certain group (though, as mentioned, it is hard to describe ‘fans as one group) or at least is familiar with these practices already. It answers to bias in cultural studies: subjective tendencies in research should be suspected, rather than taken for granted. The researcher here is a native. Where the objective observer in cultural studies is seen as someone that should be an outsider - communicating with the natives while upholding his authority - the scholar-fan covers his feet in the mud and does not mind joining in on the ritualistic dance. I would like to add here that there is a difference between auto-ethnography and participant observation. The latter is still an outsider who tries to unravel information and insights by mingling and joining in the field to some degree. By contrast the autoethnographer does not start by believing he is a tabula rasa: someone who is thrown in a new environment and is smitten by how awkward everything seems. Indeed, there is a methodological difference between auto-ethnographical tendencies in fan studies (e.g., Jenkins, 1992; Hills, 2002a) and the works that are made by someone who is unaware of fan practices and has just discovered this new field (e.g., Bacon-Smith, 1992). Interestingly, the difference in outcome, theory and quality of both types of work are not that big, by which I do not mean to suppose that methodology is overrated. However it seems to help to make your 29

position explicit and from both sides (being unaware as well as aware of these practices) one can gain valuable insights. Moreover, participant observation can easily lead to similar conclusions once you are familiar with the practices. The auto-ethnographer might be a step ahead in being familiar with some practices, but each case-study also provides him with new insights and requires the liberty of letting go of some presuppositions. In a recent publication Hills (2007) also goes into the similarities between various disciplines and the way the researcher frames his interventions. Particularly interesting is his emphasis on the fact that every scholar - not only in media studies but also in art, literature, politics and so on – is a participant. You are always a member of the audience. Media studies may be depicted as being a different kind of discipline, and subjected to critique, but it is impossible not to be engaged at some level. A literary critic cannot judge without reading the book, and the same could be argued for a broad spectrum of cultural studies. That still leaves the oddity of auto-ethnography largely unexpressed. I would suggest the problem arises not when the scholar-fan goes into a new case or is forced to present himself; it arises when he deals with a case he is very connected with and personal experience and reflection are a wealth of information to be used. How to use that source properly? That is when the actual practice of auto-ethnography is questioned and the loyalty of the scholar-fan is at stake. This dichotomy can lead to strange research, as Hills (2002a, pp. 65-89) shows, where at some point a more fannish discourse overthrows the analytical one or where one tries to self-justify one’s actions constantly. Hills also describes that there is a danger of pouring one’s experiences into a narrative mode, as well as a tendency to narcissistic closure where the scholar-fan thinks he has analyzed himself thoroughly and ends the reflection with a (false) sense of fulfilment (id., notably 71-76). Other dangers include creating a dichotomy between the experiences of the self and other, as well as adapting theory to a scholar’s own preferences. Hills uses good examples to elaborate on these fallacies, yet the solution he provides to perform good auto-ethnography seems feeble. To train one’s self-reflexivity Hills suggests to make a list of all the fandoms (and to keep everything open, also interests) the scholar has ever been in (id., 81-89). When the list is done, the scholar should connect the texts and see how they relate to each other and parts of your life. This creates a similar sense of narrativity as the one he argued against, moreover, it is prone to a lot of memory lacks and nostalgic feelings that reshape the experience. When trying it out myself I found that the list became extremely long and hard to handle. Also, I could not visualize anymore with certainty why I 30

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liked certain series when I was twelve years old. I also found it difficult to judge, for instance, where things related to my tastes or my background. Did I like Star Trek because my dad liked it or did it genuinely appeal to me? How do nostalgic feelings for content you used to love fit in this? The more you think about all of this, the fuzzier it gets. A retrospective, narrative element is integrated that is more suspect than the spontaneous knowledge you had before you started the list. Auto-ethnography can be a misleading concept since in fact all ethnography incorporates a dimension of self-reflexivity. Indeed, some may choose to avoid the term altogether. Though Jenkins is often portrayed as someone who performs auto-ethnography, he himself states he does not perceive it this way (Jenkins, 2006a). What he wants to foreground rather than his own experience is the dialogue he tries to facilitate between academia and fans. ‘It’s not auto-ethnography: in a sense it’s simply an outing, an exposure of myself in my normal fan activity’ (id., p. 14). His method has always involved being responsive to fans, letting them talk, even edit his drafts, or go in dialogue with them in his publications (e.g., Green et al., 1998). This responsiveness is another way of describing the way the research can position himself in the research, though in practice it might overlap with auto-ethnography. In my opinion auto-ethnography as a term is not that telling. It suggests a use of personal experience as a resource that I to some degree even oppose. I try to be aware of my position in the research without leaning too much on my own experiences as a fan. In this particular case-study, that deals with fanfiction and is specified to Tales of Symphonia, there is a different tenor than other fandoms or fan practices, which I constantly tried to mediate between. I want to foreground the specific elements of this case and in general, try to reflect on authorship. I find it important that the scholar-fan stays focussed throughout the research, especially when observing, and tries to reflect on what he experiences, feels and not be afraid to put that in words. Older experiences as a fan might come in handy, but keeping an open mind is the best solution, without instating a false sense of surprise. Rather previous knowledge can be used to make hypotheses and find interesting entry points in the data. As for outing myself and my affinity with the subject: I have been engaged in fanfiction for a brief time when I was sixteen and chose to specialize in writing original prose. It gave me more liberty to try out a more artistic, fragmentary style of writing, and to write in my native tongue, Dutch, which made all the difference. My sister started to write fanfiction somewhat later and has never stopped. Throughout the years I have written quite a lot, but hardly published any prose out of perfectionism. I make comics and drawings, some of which are fan art in honour of certain series. I have spent more time on that the last years, when I 31

joined a doujinshi circle (an artist group that self-publishes fan comics and original works). I also cosplay and enjoy organizing skits at conventions. To give an output to notions that are only marginally (if at all) related to this thesis, I host a blog since January (see Lamerichs, 2009). The blog is an effort to conceptualize all kinds of ideas and drafts. Method I perceive my method not as auto-ethnographical, though it is hard to deny I benefit from my knowledge as a fan. Rather I would like to describe it as responsive, in that I actively communicate with the community at certain sites (e.g., interviews, conventions and information of contacts I had before I started the thesis). Online I opted not to communicate with fanfiction authors or role-players that much, since it would interfere their practice. During this research I try to stay critical of what I do and realize I have some blind spots. Although my main case-study is a new field for me since I do not participate in that fandom, I am familiar with many of the practices involved. Empirically I combine in-depth interviews with virtual ethnography. To explore the notion of authorship in relation to fanfiction I hope to discuss the phenomena personally with fan readers and writers. I have covered five in-depth interviews and talked to various fans about the subject. Some of these interviewees are enrolled in the fandom that forms my case study: Tales of Symphonia, a Japanese game released both in the USA as well as Europe. Tales of Symphonia has a lot of franchise: a sequel, a manga series, animes, action figures and much more, which enables me to discuss the concept of transmedia storytelling as well. To gain more in-depth information and perhaps new interviewees I have arranged to give a talk and host a discussion group at Animecon 2009 (Theaterhotel Almelo, 1-3 May) and hope to check some of my claims there. I selected various websites I wanted to observe. Firstly, - the largest host for fanfiction online – features nearly five thousands stories of Tales of Symphonia, a wealth of material. To keep it tangible I checked the updated fanfiction of Tales of Symphonia and the given feedback from 16 February to 1 April, 2009. These were roughly 220 stories, many of which were updated frequently with new chapters. Secondly, I explored the game’s roleplaying communities on LiveJournal, notably Luceti, a multi-fandom roleplaying blog renowned for its Tales of Symphonia cast. I analyzed this community from 1 April to 16 May after which I entered the role-play to gather specific data on the application and to understand more of the practice in terms of interaction and writing. The fanfiction I read on top of that depended on the interviewees, their own fiction and the content they recommended to me. For 32

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more insights, fiction and meta-textual discussions I occasionally explored the official Namco site’s board of Tales of Symphonia, that I did not treat as a field for observation due to lack of time, but more as a source to back up the data I elicited. The interviews provide substantial, secondary data that could not be derived from virtual platforms as easily. The interviews allow me to elaborate on the personal dimensions of fanfiction and role-playing: the identity of the author and relation to his characters, investment in a series or game, the dynamics of fan cultures and the overlap with original fiction or other fan practices. My interviewees are diverse, as you can see in their profiles in the appendix. All of them are Dutch, because they were conducted in person and not via for instance the chat-programme Skype. As I already stated, I had the liberty of posing questions online via Aim, where I observed the chat sessions of a group of role-players. In this thesis the specific practices of fans are highlighted, which add up to an original text not only out as a creative pursuit, but also as an emotional one. I also take into account how fans describe themselves and their identity as related to the source-text and fandom. This differs from a large amount of SNS-sites that do have active users, but explore social relations rather than fiction. Since I deal with fan practices that have a very specific terminology, I also appended a glossary in which the fan concepts are briefly captured. All of the concepts are explained in the thesis itself as well, but since some of them are recurring it is convenient for any reader to have the definitions in one list as well. The next chapters each have a particular angle. The second chapter deals with the history of storytelling and authorship, how this afflicted our image of the author and the text, and how new forms of fiction renegotiate this. The third chapter focuses on transformative authorship and fanfiction that bridge original and pre-existing content. The emphasis here is on the creative reworking of texts, the community in which this takes place and the way readers value fanfiction authors and their texts. The fourth chapter deals with the performative element in fanfiction which is explained via textual role-playing. Authors are highlighted here that act out existing characters and construct a certain portrayal of them. The last chapter is a conclusion that bridges transformative and performative authorship and describes how fanauthors redefine authorship in the whole.



Borrowed: Authorial Practices in Fanfiction

Chapter 2 Bards, authors, scribblers A history of authorship and its consequences Once upon a time there was a storyteller And this storyteller was the keeper of cultural heritage in the days of old. Script had not been invented yet, or only in a very basic pictorial form, and thus all messages were passed orally from one person to the other, from one generation to the next. They were wrapped in songs, ballads, folk tales, and chants and told in front of an audience. The storyteller could be a bard, a priest, a traveller or your grandmother. A tale was repeated many times by many people living in all kinds of places. Each time the tale became a little bit different. Until, finally, it was another tale, shared in a different culture, in different time. This type of culture - a system in which narratives depend on oral messages and testimonies - is called oral culture. We usually define the development of writing systems in an oral culture, scribal culture and print-culture. In Western countries we have left the oral phase behind us long ago when script was invented, but other societies still communicate this way. In oral cultures there was only a storyteller, who became a narrator much later in Western culture, which will be highlighted in this section. But who was this storyteller and what was so specific about his narratives? When we think back of oral cultures we might be reminded of the Greece times and the blind Homer, who travelled to collect and share stories, which were written down much later, perhaps even by a different individual, or multiple individuals. This might be a highly typical example, but it immediately sets a tone of what orality is about. In oral cultures stories are told and preserved through sharing and retelling. As such, an oral culture is repetitive in nature. In an older yet still insightful essay Walter Benjamin (1937) wrote that ‘storytelling is always the art of repeating stories, and this art is lost when the stories are no longer retained’. Linguistically oral stories are less polished than the written word, often redundant and less structured. The storyteller pays specific attention to actual surroundings and everyday life. When describing his tales the storyteller takes his audience in account. He can see his listeners, pose them questions and steer the story in ways they like. Indeed Walter Ong (1982) shows how highly episodic these storytellers work to improvise the narrative, sometimes for the audience sake, sometimes because it is a better way to memorize content. They tap from different reservoirs and think of multiple ways in which a story can unfold. ‘In fact, an oral 35

culture has no experience of a lengthy, epic-size or novel-size climactic linear plot,’ Ong describes and he exemplifies this by pointing out the absence of a logical chronology in, amongst others, The Illiad (id., p. 140). The structure of these stories was a consequence of their combination in a scribal manuscript. The absence of a clear plot forms a difference with the later writer, who does not improvise, but plans his story carefully, thereby freezing it. Those who read print adjust to a tale. In oral storytelling, the opposite happens (e.g., id., 45). The performative element here is not just crucial for the audience’s sake. A storyteller relies strongly on his performative qualities. For instance, in the way a story is brought rhythm plays a role, as a format to perform a tale as well as a strategy for reminding it (id., p. 57-67). During his performance the storyteller also depends on gestures whereas a writer does not. Storytelling also means showing: working with your body and hands to rhetorically make it more convincing and entertaining. ‘Storytelling, in its sensory aspect,’ Benjamin (1937) explains, ‘is by no means a job for the voice alone. Rather, in genuine storytelling the hand plays a part which supports what is expressed in a hundred ways with its gestures trained by work’. In scribal culture or manuscript culture, a writing system is invented and manuscripts are made by certain privileged literate citizens, varying from elitists to monks. In the history of Western countries this phase mostly refers to the Middle Ages where manuscripts were used to preserve information by the copying of these texts by hand. Going to a manuscript and reading it was usually a journey by itself, almost like a pilgrimage (e.g., Landow, 2006, p. 100). Upon arrival the reader had to invest some good time in understanding the hand writing and the many abbreviations. Scribal culture and its manuscripts were frequently associated with religion and magic (Ong, 1982, p. 92). Since most people could not read, the manuscript was perceived as a rare artefact, mediated by those who could read as a kind of priests or gurus. To some degree each manuscript was indeed unique since the copies varied a lot (Landow, 2006, pp. 99-103). Writing manuscripts was an effort that especially in its early days involved rare tools and hard work rather than just jotting something down on paper as we do now. Until the 19th century literature relied mostly on scholarly or academic life. When reading manuscripts this could also be retraced in terms of style. For instance, literary styles were heavily oritical back then: formal, rhetorical and similar to lectures (Ong, 1982, pp. 92-94). They were meant to be read out loud and written with an imaginary listening audience in mind. The overlap between orality and writing also becomes apparent in other features of this culture, for instance, silent reading did not exist. Readers read these texts out loud. Indeed Ong emphasizes that 36

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‘manuscript cultures remained largely oral-aural even in the retrieval of material preserved in texts’ (id., p. 117). Importantly Walter Ong makes a difference here between oral cultures that feature primary orality and residual orality. The primary stage categorizes those cultures in which there is no writing system and all communication goes by telling and showing, as I described when I referred to oral cultures. Residual orality, however, depicts societies in which there is a writing system that is not mastered by the entire population but by cultural elite or professional scribers. In scribal cultures mass illiteracy and writing often go hand in hand because texts cannot be distributed so easily. In Ong’s terminology orality coincides with other cultural forms: scribal culture for instance does not exclude features of the oral mode such as reading out loud and imagining a text orated. In print-culture this changes when press technology assures that texts can actually circulate in multiple copies rapidly. This happened in Western countries in the late eighteenth century when printing was refined and became widespread. The Gutenberg Press (ca. 1450) was already invented earlier, but it took some time for printing to be applied as such. Printing technologies had various consequences on the practices of reading and writing. Firstly, printing enabled widespread copies which enabled new genres meant for a mass audience such as newspapers. The circulation of texts directly influenced the literacy of the population, their education and need to be educated. Whereas manuscripts were often highly functional aimed at the producer and selective educated readers - printing became consumer-oriented since a copy was far less work and could be distributed (Ong, 1982, p. 120). Print-culture also redefined the way stories were made and published, because it changed texts into commodities, dependent on an audience and market. Publishers started to arise, critics and institutes that had to calculate what readers expected to get out of certain publication. Economics started to play a role. Because reproduction was made possible, authority and copyright became an issue. An author had to be recognized for the intellectual property he had created, in part because he now had to deal with the market mill: publishers, honorarium and more. Authors’ rights were grounded in eighteenth century laws (such as the Statute of Anne, 1709). The related notions of authenticity and originality dating from the Romantics are seen as a consequence of this by historians of print (Landow, 2006, p. 102). But print-culture did not only create the need for copyright, it also secluded texts and changed them. A text became autonomous, frozen and sequential: organized in a strict, linear storyline. Where a text used to be dynamic, edited and had multiple versions, it was now made solid by its multiple copies. A writer had to be selective and revise his products with the 37

help of established editors. This system made new formats possible, such as the novel, a carefully constructed linear story or specific popular genres as the detective, which lean on textual suspense and a climactic build-up (Ong, 1982, pp. 136-152). Reading then became what we know it to be, an act by an individual in silence. The reader sits by his fire place and the author is only an abstract persona for him, perhaps even a genius that crafted an extraordinary work. Where the storyteller used to guide his audience when he performed the tale, the modern reader makes sense of the content by himself (see also Atwood, 2002). By enabling copyright and authorship, the image or persona of an author was also constructed in the Romantic era. Where we take the author for granted nowadays, he is a rather late phenomenon in the history of stories and writing, just like the artist and genius, all defined by their seemingly exceptional skills (Atwood, 2002; Foucault, 1984; Ong, 1982, pp. 131). The author stepped up a pedestal, away from the actual people that he could still reach when he was a mere storyteller. Not just his books had to be one of a kind: the Romantic author had to be one of a kind himself, a true creator, writing what meant something to him. Self-expression became a key value and stories became equated with individual narratives rather than collective endeavours, written by a distant genius, instead of one of our own. ‘The birthplace of the novel is the solitary individual,’ Benjamin (1937) writes grimly, ‘who is no longer able to express himself by giving examples of his most important concerns, is himself uncounseled, and cannot counsel others.’ In the twentieth century there followed a debate over authorship, anticipated by more formalistic approaches to text (e.g., New Criticism) which paid attention to the text by itself, without extratextual information. Authorship was put on the agenda notably by structuralists as Barthes. Specifically Barthes’ essay Death of the Author (1967) influenced the way authorreader relationships were explored in literary studies. The essay argues against authorial intentionality as a way of interpreting texts. Biographical information or interpretations of the author should not be way of interpreting the text, rather this should rely on its readers as active interpreters. A text had to be perceived as a cultural product, dependent on conventions and other texts. Barthes’ text inspired Foucault to write a lengthier essay in 1969 on authorship and the way the idea of an author regulates readers. He argues that earlier texts by Barthes and Derrida - though they made ‘the death of the author’ apparent - never really depicted how authorship concretely functions. Foucault analyzes how the author operates as a cultural phenomenon and influences our interpretation. First he goes into the author’s name, which classifies texts. A name becomes a way of labelling and depicting a work in terms of literary 38

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history. Then he discusses the author function: conventions surrounding the author that influence the ways texts are made, distributed and read. He specifically coins four characteristics of the author function: Firstly, the author function came into existence because authors’ rights were required to show who owned a text, which was important when books were circulated more and fiction became property. Secondly, the author function does not affect all texts in the same way, for instance, we would not call someone who writes letters an author. Thirdly, the construction of an author is troublesome and differs from the construction of an individual identity: he is a regulating principle. Thinking a certain text is written by a certain author will affect our image of it and even solve inconsistencies in it. Lastly, the author is not the actual person but more of an alter ego, a persona. Foucault ends with the remark that authorship is a limitation for textual interpretation and that it might vanish altogether. But what will happen if the author really dies? A new discourse will arise, Foucault predicts, ‘in such a manner that fiction and its polysemous texts will once again function according to another mode, but still with a system of constraint’ (1984, p. 119). The envisioned system in which the author is absent will also lack authority. ‘All discourses, whatever their status, form, value, and whatever the treatment to which they will be subjected, would then develop in the anonymity of a murmur’ (id.). The kind of textual production online reminds us of Foucault’s conclusion. Electronic writing Quite recently the internet changed our perspective on writing, not only by enabling new technologies and media for writing, but also by providing platforms where everyone can upload his or her texts. Writing has become less dependent on print technology now, and indeed, many authors argue that although we still have print, we are at the start of a new paradigm or discourse (e.g., Ong, 1982; Landow, 2006). The internet has opened up texts in various ways in opposition to the print-culture in which texts were fixed, closed and the author remained distant. As mentioned in the first chapter, the internet nowadays includes more participatory sites (e.g., SNS-sites, social networking sites such as Facebook) with comment functions. These also provide us with a large amount of texts that are actually responses of readers. Typical examples include sites as YouTube and Wikipedia, and practices as podcasting. These applications are usually covered under the umbrella term Web 2.0 (since 2001) hinting at the changed atmosphere online that encourages interaction and thus makes the internet an even more open, active, democratic platform. Though older technologies such as blogging 39

provide somewhat similar interaction, Web 2.0 depicts convergence at a much higher, multimedial level and embedded in different systems. It thereby constructs a more active audience by making readers/viewers into contributors. When we deal with electronic texts, this new tension between producers and consumers should be emphasized as well. Landow manages to capture these changes briefly: ‘The characteristic flexibility of this reader-centred information technology means, quite simply, that writers have a much greater presence in the system, as potential contributors and collaborative participants but also as readers who choose their own paths through the materials’ (2006, p. 45). It would however be too easy just to refer to readers as contributors in this communication. The relation between the author, reader and text changes here in various ways. Firstly, the electronic text relies less on institutionalized systems as the printed text. When a reader wants to comment on it, the text and author are often within reach, whereas in print-culture one has to go through different media or critics to give feedback and receive it. The comments on the text are not annotations or plenary texts but actually manage to become a part of the text through hyperlinks/comment systems that create a node or open text, rather than a disclosed text with subtexts (e.g., Landow, 2006, p. 99). The secluded, linear nature of the print text now makes way for a text that is less hierarchical. Naturally we should add that in print-culture there also exist possibilities to make more open texts for instance via footnotes that create texts-within-texts that one can optionally read (e.g., Aarseth, 1997, pp. 7-9; Landow, 2006, p. 120-121). Mind that footnotes are still sealed off from the main text, while annotations within electronic texts establish less of a hierarchy because they are linked to the content and become part of the text. Secondly, electronic texts are less dependent on editors and large publishers. Note that this already changed when low-cost copy machines enabled small-press printing, as for example the fanzine scene has shown. We see that new editor mechanisms arise to assure that even grassroots publishing online has the desired quality for a certain platform. Through feedback of readers or appointed editors a lot of content is refined, polished and cleaned (e.g., chapter 3 deals with the beta-reading system in fan communities). Despite the opportunity to upload every work in progress, most writers will also reflect on this. Despite the varying skills and capacities of authors online, they will try to create the best text they can and perhaps switch to another site or host when they have developed more skills. Furthermore an electronic text has a more fluid nature because it can be edited, removed and updated at will. It is less bounded by a paper publication that freezes it for a long time. Printed publications make a work more permanent. That is not to say that manuscripts 40

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cannot be edited and prints cannot be updated in a second version, but the possibilities are far more limited than electronically. Indeed for a writer it is almost impossible to rewrite an entire narrative after it has been published, though some writers of fiction also changed their second editions immensely (e.g., the Dutch novel Nooit meer slapen by W.F. Hermans). In print-culture such moves tend to annoy critics who are concerned about which narrative was the most authentic. In contrast, when discussing electronic writing it is taken more or less for granted that texts can be rewritten at a certain point and uploaded again. Whereas print-culture forecloses a text, electronic texts remain dynamic. Thereby the text also looses its fixed, autonomous, canonical identity which poses new problems in terms of how culture circulates and what its legacy should be (e.g., Brownen, 2005). Lastly, online texts not only provide a reader with the possibility to interact, but also to influence a story. By commenting on fiction that is still being written, the reader can have an input in the narrative itself. Certain online platforms as forums have also stimulated creative collaborations between artists all over the world. For instance, it is now possible to write a little bit, post it and let others continue the narrative. One can write a chapter in Word, let another author write another chapter and circulate all of this far more easily than earlier. As a communication medium the internet gives immediate possibilities that writing with a typewriter or by hand did not allow. A Word document can be sent in a few seconds to someone else who can continue writing the text. It cannot be denied that the internet and computer-mediated technology make collaboration more easy and stimulate the transforming of and attributing to existing texts. In short, the modern author is no longer the central, dominant figure he used to be, but is becoming more of a team player. For some critics electronic writing and reading evokes a certain fear that something artistic is lost in the margins. A vague sense of an aura or something in the reader’s experience that might change the more we store and read our texts online. A notable advocate of this is Sven Birkerts (2006) who fears that electronic writing and publishing might not only afflict the quality of writing, but also the distribution of stories that are worthwhile and the identity of the reader altogether. He foresees a culture of superficial reading, with an overproduction of non-fiction, while media such as movies attract a bigger audience for fiction (e.g., p. 194). He argues that reading experience online is a fully different, less desirable, experience than reading mediated by books (notably, pp. 117-133). Printed literature in his opinion allows immersion into a private world, close-reading and selfreflection whereas electronic posts are immaterial and harder to read. The fact that electronic writing consists of data rather than tangible print, makes it ghostlike and transparent which in 41

turn detaches the reader. ‘Nearly weightless though it is, the word printed on a page is a thing,’ he argues (p. 154). The copy or text on the internet is portrayed as a trickster, a ghost, by Birkerts. He creates a dichotomy between the print version - that is authentic and material – and the electronic text. Nonetheless, we should remind ourselves that books are also technological copies, just like these digital copies. Writing in print is mediated, just like writing with a pen or electronic writing (e.g., Ong, 1982, pp. 80-83; Landow, 2006, p. 46). Moreover, though an online text seems to lack place, time and authenticity - since it can be dispersed and edited easily - it has a specific topological dimension (see also Groys, 2003). The digital copy is stored in a database, as a fixed, albeit virtual space. Theorists as Birkerts may perceive the digital realm as immaterial, but the same kind of stocking and storing is performed there when compared to material copying. Material dimensions aside a digital copy is easier to preserve since it can circulate well, meaning there are many possible owners of the same digital product. Though in print culture one could hypothetically create infinite copies as well, in practice this is impossible. As Landow (2006) explains: ‘One does not encounter many of these issues when producing print editions because matters of scale and economy decide or foreclose them in advance’ (p. 118). Storing and preserving several versions also becomes easier via new technologies. For instance, drafts of manuscripts were often unpreserved or hard to get by, while nowadays digital media preserve various versions. Where an author used to adapt his written version, scribble in the margins or cross words in frustration, nowadays an author often saves various versions so he can go back without rewriting the whole thing. With this electronic writing it also seems we are slowly stepping outside the printculture paradigm again which perceived a text as closed and linear. The open text, possibly spread over several platforms and media, is by itself intertextual. Importantly intertextuality only became an issue due to print-culture, where it became necessary to remark that texts, despite their seemingly autonomous character, rely on other texts (Ong, 1982, p. 131). In electronic writing the text becomes dependent on intertext by hyperlinks, other texts and comment functions. With that the authority of the printed text starts to crumble and it seems authorship needs to be reconsidered altogether. The following paragraphs will focus more on problems that arise out of this new tensions between authors and readers online, by discussing: firstly, active audience groups in general; the discrepancy between creators of the source-text and fan-authors and lastly, ownership by depicting the legal debates around transformative works. The specific practice of fanfiction and its creative/social community 42

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will be dealt with in chapter 3, which describes and analyzes the transformative practices of fans while chapter 4 focuses on the performative dimension thereof. Think about it: Reception as an active process When depicting a contemporary active audience, fans are surely one of the better examples. Fan writers feel a deep affinity with certain stories and a need to do more with this fiction than just consume it. Indeed transformative works altogether stem from the motivation to flesh out a certain text that has captured one’s imagination vividly. The writer wants to explore the world, its characters or the plot more thoroughly and share his interpretation with others. One wonders what the narrative is outside the actual written text, how it continues, how some characters or worlds came to be. This reader’s wish to explore a text more will be dealt with here. It will show that the reworking of texts is part of certain responses readers have towards texts and is not aligned with any medium whatsoever, but with fiction in general. In literary theory the reader-response criticism nuances on these matters by focusing on the reader’s experience and reception of a text. Notably Wolfgang Iser (1974; 1976) provides inspiring views on how the reader actualizes the text, ergo, is consciously given full meaning by him. Texts, he argues, are not a formal thing as written down by the author; rather they are heavily dependent on the reader and his world view. Each reader will interpret a text differently because he has a different cultural repertoire, taste and set of lived experiences. The expectations of what a text will be about, or should be about, will also differ for each individual and will be restructured when the reader rereads a text. A text is a constant bridging between the familiar – other fiction and experiences – and the unfamiliar, the new experience and content that this text provides. A text is thus always a discovery of the unfamiliar and strange, and of your own imagination and mind set. The text as we perceive it is not the one penned down but something different altogether, a dialogue between reader and fiction. Though the writer provides a kind of potential text, it is up to us how we imagine it. Iser uses the term implied reader to describe this which describes ‘both the prestructuring of the potential meaning by the text, and the reader’s actualization of this potential through the reading process’ (1974, xii, see also Iser, 1976, p. 50-67). To some degree the text as read is thus partly yours, since it heavily depends on your own imagination and is not equal to the written text or text-du-auteur (see also Bootz, 2005). The text is transformed by the reader already. As Iser states: ‘The fact that completely different readers can be differently affected by the ‘reality’ of a particular text 43

is ample evidence of the degree to which literary texts transform reading into a creative process that is far above mere perception of what is written’ (1974, p. 279). The text is thus not something visual or material, but virtual, dependent on our mind set. Furthermore, a text is highly dynamical. Throughout our reading we adapt to the text and how we experience it, both fictionally as well as physically: we may look back and connect little bits of the text; we may miss elements because we are distracted; we take a liking of certain characters and perhaps skim through parts in which they are absent. During the reading process some alternatives become more plausible while other lines are excluded. Our expectations can be completely shattered, yet this surprise can be aesthetically pleasing (id., p. 287-288). The experience and entertainment value of a text varies per person and the way it is read as well. Reading a text thus also means revising it. There is no ideal reader, only a reader with a certain disposition and taste that may take a liking in this text and appreciate elements of it. The text as read is constructed out of bits and pieces from the actual text, our culture and lives. More problematic would be other forms of fiction, for instance television, where the fiction provides visual information. There the environment blends less with the things one is familiar with. Still, a similar practice is at hand there when it comes down to thinking about the narrative or recapturing it after a viewing. Where the writer has left us gaps in the series or background details, or where a setting is left off-screen, one is triggered and starts to wonder. This sense of wonder is the start of each form of fanfiction, in which writers display their own imagination, write it down and share it for each and all. A text is always a network and interplay between the audience and the producers, but within fanfiction this dialogue becomes visible and tangible. What has been described here can also be captured in the term polysemantic (id., 285) or polysemic (e.g., Sandvoss, 2005, p. 123-153). A text can be interpreted in a multitude of ways, as many as there are readers of a text, or, I would even argue, even far more ways. Each rereading or dialogue about the text will alter one’s view of it. Throughout the text we negotiate its details, the conflicting meanings and adjust our opinion. These ideas of multiple meanings and the inclusion and exclusion of certain elements are not at ease with the consistent image of a text we want to end up with. A text is fragmentary, shady and sometimes provocative. We imagine what goes by unformulated. Somewhere between consistency and multiple meanings the reader balances to find his way in the story. The act of reading always involves the construction of a story and is never a passive deed. However, that does not mean that all texts affect us in the same way, indeed, there may 44

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even be a huge difference between genres and how people respond to them. Scholars like Fiske have argued that a popular text may actualize a reader more than a literary one. A popular text is for Fiske something more accessible to the people and something that also belongs to the people. Certain texts are made popular because they are well received and appeal to a larger crowd. In a narrative sense they also differ from more literary texts. For instance, a popular text often has far more gaps that are purposely written into it (1989, p. 104). Indeed cliff-hangers, gaps and suspense are popular plot devices to make the reader speculate, continue watching and feel a sense of attachment. Another key feature of popculture – one that specifically appeals to fanfiction authors – is the flatness of characters and the fact that a reader can attribute more qualities to them or again, fill the blanks in the text and think about why, for instance, a character came to be as he is, be it cynical or comical. Marie-Laure Ryan argues that certain genres or media trigger our imagination more easily than others. For instance, it is often hard to speculate about poetry, because the form is more verbal and less occupied with content or narrativity than for instance prose (2001, pp. 92-93). She argues that a stereotypical text - roughly comparable to Fiske’s notion of the popular as being cliché and familiar - allows more immersion: ‘The reader can bring in more knowledge and sees more expectations fulfilled than in a text that cultivates a sense of estrangement’ (id., p. 97). Ideally a reader engages with a text better when he needs to do less effort. Certain media demand more effort to interpret the story behind them which can be for instance more conceptual rather than full-fledged. This is why an audience connects with these narratives differently and in a less productive fashion. Nonetheless Ryan argues that ‘immersion can also be the result of a process that involves an element of struggle and discovery’ (id.). Sometimes when a reader has to do more hard work, a story will appeal to him more, but this differs per person and text strongly. Readers thus construct a fictional, imaginative world out of a set of signs. They will identify with it and eventually become attached to this fiction. Immersion is a key concept to describe the way a (fan) audience bounds with a text emotionally. This means that a text is not only actualized, but can also appeal to a person so strongly that the medium disappears and the virtual story becomes real in a sense. Notably Marie-Laure Ryan (2001) and Janet Murray (1997) elaborate on this process and connect it to new forms of digital narratives as games and hypertext. Ryan argues that these new media ‘invite the reader to imagine a world, and to imagine it as a physical, autonomous reality furnished with palpable objects and populated by flesh and blood individuals’ (p. 92). The text can evoke very real emotional responses with the reader, a notion that was known even in old times when Aristotle coined the concept of 45

catharsis: the emotional turmoil of the spectator that eventually has a purifying effect. When a favourite character dies the audience is upset and the death will be discussed not only by fans, but also by other viewers or readers. Tearjerkers, as some drama is dubbed, are the result of our immersion in certain fiction and its tragic elements. This emotional involvement with a source-text and its characters is a crucial motivation for both the writers and readers of fanfiction. Aside from the need to fill in the blanks and interpret certain characters, one has invested in the text as a personal story world that can be envisioned and matters. As Rebecca Moore (2005) writes in her article on this type of fiction: ‘Teens find a world they like, befriend the characters, and move in’ (p. 16). The pleasant feeling of being immersed in the world can continue when the reader fantasizes or simulates more of the story and eventually jots his ideas down. Indeed a story often leads a live of its own, even for the writer himself. Fanfiction enables different twists and turns, your very own seasoning of a story and the ability to carry it beyond its original limits. The fine print: The hierarchy between a creator and fans Though a reader may have a very active role when interpreting a story – with the possibility to create a derivative text of his own - there is still a sharp distance between the audience and the creators of the source-text. Firstly, even in fan cultures the author or creator remains an elevated figure in contrast to the fan writers. This creates a paradox between the collaborative activities of fans and the view of a main text as belonging to an actual author. Secondly, though fans become writers through their practices, the actual input they have on the sourcetext is very limited, even if we are dealing with games or electronic fiction. What they influence is the interpretation of other fans. Though fan cultures rely on an open text, there are mechanisms that close it off again. Aside from the hierarchy between the published sourcetexts and fan texts, the community relies strongly on the established information in the text and meta-textual discussions which narrow the interpretations down. The author is still present in a Romantic fashion as the creator of the source-text: the one who enables the story and provides the dominant interpretation. George Lucas is a good example of a persona many refer to when they actually mean a story world his studio established, such as Star Wars. Indeed Matt Hills (2002) relates the cult status of Star Wars to ‘the fantasized ‘presence’ of George Lucas as creator-auteur, and as a romanticized and ‘revolutionary’ figure in the history of film’ (pp. 132). The author produces coherence and an entry point to judge something as for instance tasteful, bad or even cult, if his work was considered to be groundbreaking. Despite the emphasis on audience reception fan cultures 46

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still refer to the author and rely on him. The directors or main writers are seen as essential to understanding and interpreting a text, much in the fashion of authorial intentionality. To understand a series, you first have to go through Battlestar Galactica’s Ronald D. Moore, Star Trek’s Gene Roddenberry or X-Files’ Chris Carter. Indeed the creator may be so important that a new product can stimulate fan activities even before it actually lounged. Note that the question of authorial intentionality is one of literary studies that becomes more problematic when applied to transmedial stories where different teams work on story arcs or adaptations. However, not all media and fiction depend as much on the role of its main creator. In games, for instance, fans pay attention to authorial intentionality in a very different way, because there are usually large teams of writers and designers behind it. There is no one to give the proper credit too or focus on as a central figure. Even when there is only one writer, like in Sam and Max by Steve Purcell, a lot of fans/gamers will not refer to him but to the studio that forges the games. The only person in the games industry who roughly forms an equivalent for authors as J.K. Rowling would be Shigeru Miyamoto. He assured a whole new genre of games at Nintendo and is also the main creator of titles as The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario. Miyamoto’s views and intentions matter when it comes down to the stories, but like George Lucas he also functions as a label when discussing things like Nintendo’s new policies. In most cases games do not have an equivalent for the author-creator. When interviewing fans and observing them, this creator-audience hierarchy was also made explicit. Many fan-authors feel they only own part of the texts, such as the plot, but that the large text does not belong to them. They emphasize that the actual author or team behind it is the mastermind, the one they admire and pay tribute too. The characters, setting and even certain plot elements are seen by them as belonging to companies rather than to fans. All of them however show clear affinity to the texts on an emotional level and though they state they do not own the texts, in conversations it becomes clear they feel connected to them. Some of them even used the words ‘my characters’ when talked about their fanfiction. Though originality is a strive for most of these writers, the fan-authors are also aware that derivative fiction cannot be all that original in the first place and is only read by a happy few. The fans see their take on characters as nothing exceptional, in most cases because their ambition is to stay true to the main-text or, in the case of parody, stretch the features that are already there. The authority still belongs to the author who is also perceived as the owner. In similar fashion the fan-authors show admiration for original content or characters as belonging to a very different creative practice, that of making actual fiction. They associate this with creating fiction on an amateur level such as admired professionals do at a higher 47

level, creating your own characters and story world. The fan-authors I interviewed admired this practice and saw it as something valuable, while they associated their own practice with fandom rather than creativity. In the workshop however it became clear that some fanfiction authors also cared a great deal about their writing and aimed to write on a higher level with original content. Although fans describe their authorship in a dichotomy with the actual creator in conversations, they describe their practices very seriously and aim to master them at fullest. Being a reader as well as a writer, a fan-author may not consciously perceive a text as belonging to him, but may relate to characters a lot, identify with them and even depict them as ‘his’ characters. This tension is very important and will be dealt with in the case-study as well. At the heart of fan practices there is also a wish to connect with a source-text better which overlaps with a sense of emotional ownership. Indeed this is also why academics sometimes describe fanfiction as storytelling or folk rather than in terms of authorship. Because fans rework existing stories in large groups, make personal variations and are not professionals, they are seen as part of a kind of folk process or grassroots culture. There stories travel and belong to everyone. As Jenkins (2000) writes: ‘Contemporary Web culture is the traditional folk process working at lightning speed on a global scale. The difference is that our core myths now belong to corporations, rather than the folk’. Authors’ rights stand between the fans and the creator nowadays, but what exactly are the laws regarding fanfiction and who has authority here? No trespassing: Legal aspects of fan fiction Fanfiction is commonly perceived as a genre that infringes copyrights but is tolerated by copyright holders. Corporations allow it because it is amateur work that is hard to target and attracts highly selective readers yet surprisingly it has become more mainstream during the years (e.g., Walter, 2003). Nonetheless some fanfiction is very well-written and can draw a relatively large audience, when it is based on a popular source-text. Sometimes an author may have reached such high acceptance that he feels the need to publish his work in print or elsewhere, or pursuit an actual career in writing. Most academics tend to depict fanfiction as a slippery slope thing legally: when it stays underground and rather invisible there is no problem, but once money is at stake or the work becomes too famous, it may have legal consequences (e.g., Moore, 2005). Recent research on these matters by for instance Rebecca Tushnet however clearly states that fanfiction is legal and that there is no need for fans to hide behind disclaimers stating they do not own a work. This unclarity is also why scholars stick 48

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up for fans via groups such as The Organization for Transformative Works, Chilling Effects or documents such as the media-related Code for Fair Use (2008). In fact, ‘transformative’ delves right into the heart of the matter by acknowledging texts that bridge original content and reused material, thus questioning copyright law. In the nineties, when fan sites were just starting, there was a lot of protest of corporations against fan practices (Jenkins, 2006b, pp. 169-206; Gwenllian Jones, 2005; Bailey, 2005, pp. 188-192). Studios such as Fox and Warner Bros sent fans cease and desist letters, forcing them to stop their online fan practices. Fans were seen as consumers that infringed copyrights by hosting fanfiction, snippets or images of a series. Some fans chose to stand their ground against the corporations. Notably Henry Jenkins (id.; 2004a) wrote a fascinating account about The Daily Prophet – a virtual newspaper inspired by Harry Potter – whose editor stood up to a cease and desist letter by Warner Bros and won the case. Nowadays corporations rebelling against fan practices are pretty rare, though some writers choose to ban derivative works of their writing. Fantasy writer Robin Hobb (2005) for instance enacted upon this right, arguing amongst others that fanfiction supposedly encourages bad writing habits and imaginative skills. Another writer, Anne Rice, was turned off by the fact that amateurs would have their way with her characters (Pugh, 2004). Others are positive about fanfiction, such as Neil Gaiman (2002) who underlines his own transformative works: ‘It's a good place to write while you've still got training wheels on someone else's character or worlds. […] And it's fun to head over into someone else's playground: I've written several stories over the years set in other people's worlds (including an episode of Babylon 5); and if I don't miss the deadline, I'm meant to be writing a SherlockHolmes-meets-the-Chulhu-mythos story very soon’. However, fans are in a strong position here: Their activities are non-profit and not harmful to the original product (Gwenllian Jones, 2005). Studios have slowly come to realize that working against fans and restricting their practices infringes certain audience rights too. Reception can be both creative and critical, which is not the same as violating the rights of the owner of a work. Furthermore, creating transformative works is not inherently a fan practice, a lot of popular content itself is inspired by older fiction explicitly and exactly this familiarity assures its success. Xena: Warrior Princess reworks ancient myths while Buffy The Vampire Slayer parodies horror fiction. Nowadays rather than clinging on to their content, studios try to encourage fan activity and convergence in all sorts of ways, even by motivating fan practices on boards, Twitter or MySpace.


In general fanfiction has several legal aspects. As Jenkins (2000) explains: ‘Fan critics might be covered by the same "fair use" protections that enable journalists or academics to critically assess media content, or by recent Supreme Court decisions broadening the definition of parody to include sampling. Fans do not profit from their borrowings, and they clearly mark their sites as unofficial to avoid consumer confusion’. Let me briefly touch upon two elements Jenkins mentions: fair use and parody law. Firstly, fair use is an American law (17 US Code, section 107) which differs from European authors’ rights. It leans heavily on the use of copyright material for “purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright” (17 US Code, section 107). Whether the use of a work is fair depends on several aspects of a work: First of all it has to be transformative, rather than imitative, secondly, it should not compete with the actual work and its market (Chander, Sunder, 2005). The latter is hardly ever the case when it comes down to fan practices which only reach a small audience, but may become interesting when a writer has grown qualitatively to such a degree that he considers publishing. Firstly I shall explain transformative use and when exactly a work falls under that category. Rebecca Tushnet (2007, p. 61) writes: ‘Transformative uses are uses that add new insights or meaning to the original work, often in ways that copyright owners don’t like’. A review can be transformative in a sense that you interpret a text and write a plenary text to negotiate it. For a fan text this often means the plot has to be original to some degree rather than the characters or setting. Tushnet adds: ‘Courts are more likely to find a use fair when it comments on the underlying work – when it brings out in the open what was already present in subtext or context’ (id., p. 62) In general all of this becomes harder when dealing with other fan products, such as fan music videos that also take existing songs and footage (id., p. 70). In The Netherlands and other parts of Europe, however, the legal system includes specific authors’ rights (article 25, Auteurswet). These are a subset of moral rights and can allow an author to press charges when a work is considered to be harmful for his image or enable author’s heirs to ban derivative works. This law is narrower than the American way of judging intellectual property rights. A fan work can also fall under parody law legally. Parody law in the US and Europe works in a similar fashion, meaning that you have the right to make derivative works such as parody or pastiche as long as they do not compete with the actual work and are not harmful. In the Dutch legal system this competing is called ‘concurrentiemotief’, meaning you have the motive to undermine the actual work and its market. Whether something is actually a parody 50

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or caricature or is made with ulterior motives such as slander or plagiarism can be debated. For instance, the Russian version of Harry Potter, Tanya Grotter, was banned in The Netherlands, but considered by its publisher to be a parody. However, the books clearly wanted to profit from Rowling’s success. In Russia many copies were sold and Tanya Grotter gained wide popularity. In many other countries the books were feared to be too imitative and competitive (Gerechtshof Amsterdam 6 november 2003, LJN AN7646). Many problems arise because authors’ rights vary per legal system. Moreover, though the law can deal with professionals to some degree, grassroots producers are left out. Now that the internet has made the distribution of copyright material much easier, copyright law is under fire. Aside from taking fresh looks at fair use, creative commons are becoming more widespread: a form of licensing that stimulates an open idea of authorship and copyright online and offline (official website, 2009). An author can choose to license his work based on several guidelines that allow or forbid: attribution (quoting or taking parts of a work with proper credit for the author); non-commercial derivatives (e.g., fanfiction) or ban derivative works that are not published under the same license as the original. Note that is a sense a form of licensing that does not change anything in the system itself. What is also problematic is that a lot of amateur content online is becoming more transcultural and should fall under international property law. However, when authors’ rights in various countries differ, judging this becomes hard. Fan products may give us new insights in authors’ rights, but also remind us how new and underdeveloped authorship, intellectual property rights and even print culture as such are. As discussed previously the fairly recent Romantic discourse of the author as an owner enabled this thinking. As authorship is opened up by new electronic platforms, or deconstructed even, there is a necessity to redefine what content belongs to whom. In fact, the very nature of creativity as a process of being inspired by other texts is at stake here. Legalities become a different issue when a writer wants to publish his fanfiction on the market. Some authors may at some point consider a career as an actual writer with original content, or may choose to publish their fiction. In some cases this is no problem, for instance, one author published her fanfiction of the band TATU by altering the characters names (Viires, 2005, p. 168). Others explicitly address their passion for fanfiction in their original works, such as the Dutch author Karin Giphart. Also, many novelizations or American comics are written or drawn by people that started of as amateurs in the fan circuit. Most fans who will proceed to original, published content will continue to work in similar genres (BaconSmith, 1992, pp. 37-38). Interestingly, Bacon-Smith reported in the nineties that ‘publishers 51

advise women who wish to be taken seriously as science fiction writers to separate themselves from the fanzine community’. Some listened to that while others adopted new pseudonyms, others refuted it and remained active in fandoms. Back then it was common to think that a fan writer could not step up, though nowadays it seems more accepted and indeed, many consider their writing a serious occupation. Strangely this aversion against fanfiction authors does not correspond with highly praised postmodern literature as well. Maguire’s Wicked, Coetzee’s Foe, Randall’s The Wind Gone Done all rework classics and are highly recommended because of this. Of course a difference here would be that much transformative literature is emancipative and critical, while fanfiction is commonly attached to a source-text, selective and presupposes a lot of knowledge. Still, other examples include pastiches written by famous authors. Perhaps these authors are not judged in a similar fashion because they base themselves on literature rather than media or games. Deriving literature from literature is an old practice and also assures their status as authors remains unharmed, because their used source-texts are considered valuable cultural heritage, worthy of referencing to. Authorship thus implies not only authority, but also a legal and emotional sense of ownership. This chapter we have seen the origins of authorship and its consequences for creativity, how new technologies redefined these standards and more general suppositions about reading and writing. In the next chapters the practice of making transformative texts and its authorial implications will be examined in detail via a case-study.


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Chapter 3 Transformative authorship: Reworking Tales of Symphonia Can you imagine it? The many genres of fanfiction As a genre fanfiction balances between original writing and existing content, which redefines our concepts of authorship. In fanfiction amateur writers give pre-existing narratives an original spin (see also, chapter 1). These stories give a fan the opportunity to participate in his favourite story world and imagine for instance his own Sherlock Holmes mystery. The category transformative works helps to describe these stories, a term which refers to fiction that is derived from other texts and ‘transforms’ those. This implies that the derived fiction partly does something original with the source-text and gives it a new interpretation. Crucial here is that a work is not repetitive, since that qualifies as imitation but manages to redefine the original by showing a different intent and value. Transformative authorship depicts a reader that not only tries to make sense of the content, but also writes his own text about it. Therefore it is partly reception and interpretation and partly the construction of something new. In this chapter several aspects of transformative authorship will be explored via fanfiction. To do this I first have to describe fanfiction adequately in terms of genres, writing and the community this fan practice is a part of. After that I shall go into the specific case-study of this thesis, Tales of Symphonia, originally a videogame with a large group of fans. The casus will address various elements of transformative authorship, for instance, the way fan writers tackle this source-text, personalize it and reflect on their practices. Fanfiction is as broad as popular culture itself. Writers often use a source-text in terms of characters and settings, but the genre and plot can differ immensely from the original. Diversity is a key feature of fanfiction, where everything is possible, which is also addressed in the motto of ‘Unleash your imagination!’ A quick look at the categories of depicts everything from adventure, to comedy, to western. To structure the huge amount of fan texts certain categories are used that are specifically inherent of fanfiction (and other fan texts). These genres are: angst, hurt/comfort, slash, self-insertion, Mary Sue, alternative universe and crossovers. These are actor’s terms and not all categories have their own subsection at certain sites. For instance, has a category for romance which also includes gay romance (slash). These genres are therefore slightly ambiguous, but important because the actors themselves use them frequently to define their fiction. 53

Firstly, angst refers to fanfiction in which a state of panic, anxiety or emotional instability is depicted. It shows a kind of malaise that many teens or adolescents go through. In modern literature the concept is sometimes used as well, for instance to describe the content of Kafka’s work. Angst is therefore not only a category of fanfiction, but is explicitly addressed as a genre amongst fans and a pop-cultural theme. A fanfic can cover several genres, for instance, it can take angst as a starting point, but develop into a romantic narrative later on which reliefs the stage of angst. The tragic elements angst enables and its extreme inward experience can be appealing to many young writers. Some of these writers go through similar states of mind in their daily life or have been through these, and angst fiction can be a way to sublime this. Others might prefer it because it also provides a ground for characters to rethink their life, choices and world view. Angst can also be a way to explore the emotional sides of rational or masculine characters. Indeed angst stories often overlap with Hurt/Comfort (H/C), which refers to fanfiction in which one character is hurt mentally or physically, which requires another character to attend to them. This is often a way of introducing an unravelling romance between two characters, or another more intimate relationship. It can also be a way to bring together two characters that avidly hate each other and befriend them. In science fiction fandoms this early genre can be traced in many fanzines that contain stories in which for instance this ploy is used to make Kirk and Spock bound. In actual popular culture hurt/comfort themes are also a common device to explore character relationships though it is not a genre there as such. Slash are stories featuring homosexual pairings, usually with characters that are undefined or heterosexual in the source-text. Femmeslash refers to the lesbian variant of the genre. Commonly this is based on homosocial subtext or pre-existing intimate, though nonsexual, character relations. Those relationships can for instance be friendship (e.g., Harry/Ron; Sherlock/Watson; Xena/Gabriel); hostility (e.g., Harry/Draco; Clark Kent/Lex Luthor); protective guardian relationships (e.g., Janeway/Seven of Nine; Batman/Robin). Commonly a slash narrative focusing on the boy meets boy aspect of slash (or the realization of queer feelings) leads to a certain built-up. Jenkins (1992, pp. 206-219) describes this quite nicely referring to the phases in slash as: 1) Initial relationship, in which the protagonists are semi-straight or had some gay experiences, but do not realize their attraction for each other just yet. 2) Masculine dystopia, in which one of the protagonists realizes his feelings, leading to a redefinition of self and sexuality. In some cases both characters become increasingly aware of this sexual tension. 3) Confession, in which one of the protagonists spills out the


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beans and comes out of the closet. 4) Masculine utopia, in which they indulge in a love affair. This can also be the dawn of another dystopia when one character rejects the other. Though this is a textbook example of slash, there are all kinds of variants possible. Hurt/Comfort themes can for instance be a good way to get your slash narrative started. A writer can also chose to specialize on sex with hardly any plot or built-up. This is referred to as PWP, ‘porn without plot’ or ‘plot, what plot?’ When browsing through fanfiction that is not categorized as romance but for instance as adventure, a reader soon comes across slash. It is deeply embedded in fanfiction, sometimes to the frustration of those that prefer straight romance. Indeed slash is, aside from a genre as Jenkins describes it, also a theme that is interwoven in fan texts all over the world. Both the doujinshi scene in Japan and the fanzine scene in America focused on queer relationships at roughly the same time in the seventies, which leaves one wondering how these two cultures influenced each other (Kinsella, 1998). Interestingly queer relationships are very dominant in Japanese pop-culture where many professional mangas and animes are published that focus solely on this. Even in mainstream Japanese products that do not focus on romance there are often gay characters and pairings. When dealing with fan practices based on Japanese texts it should thus be noted that any queer values stem not only from the fandom itself which features slash fiction, but also from the source-texts themselves. As a pop-cultural curiosity slash has drawn much attention to academics (notably Jenkins, 1992; Bacon-Smith, 1992; Green, Jenkins, et al, 1998). Surprisingly most slash is made by heterosexual women, which has led to a lot of debate about its subversive qualities, the lack of homosexuality in dominant popular culture and the representation of male characters in fiction. Specific discussions for instance question if slash is a female substitute for porn or if pop-culture flaws in fulfilling certain needs such as a more emotional drawing of male characters. As Jenkins writes: ‘Slash may represent the fullest articulation of this new liberatory imagination, pointing to new directions in the construction of gender and the representation of sexual desire’ (1992, p. 190). Aside from these genres fanfiction also has a great deal of personalized stories, such as the self-insertion, which refers to stories in which an author inserts him or herself in the story world. Now in fiction this is not something extraordinary: The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, Pan’s Labyrinth, all these tales have a similar theme featuring a protagonist from daily life that gets pulled into a fantasy world. In fanfiction the author-protagonist can go to Hogwarts, Starfleet Academy or Oz whenever he wishes. In some self-insertions the boundary between real life and the story world is negotiated while others only have the actual 55

story world as a setting. Self-insertions can also portray a more perfect, cute version of the self, which can be seen as a subset of Mary Sue. This is commonly described as a wishfulfilment of the author in which a brilliant, daring version of the self visits the story world. Both the character and the story then qualify as Mary Sue. Mary Sue is not necessarily the author: she can also be an original character that is constructed poorly with too perfect features. She can have very few parallels with the author but still be a Sue because she has too much exaggerated qualities. Another variant of Mary Sue is called canon-Sue by fans, referring to badly portrayed characters from the source-text. The character becomes as perfect as Mary Sue in a story and his negative qualities are left out of the picture. The genre Mary Sue is named after Paula Smith’s A Trekkie’s Tale (1974) in which a bold female main character becomes officer of Star Fleet at ‘only fifteen and a half years old’ and, after countless heroic deeds, dies tragically while the characters mourn the loss of her ‘beautiful youth and youthful beauty, intelligence, capability and all around niceness’. Her name was Mary Sue. Like slash this genre has gained some attention from scholars as a deviant literary phenomenon (Bacon-Smith, 1992, pp. 141-145; Pflieger, 1999; Scodari, 2003). Commonly Mary Sue is seen as a subversive genre, either in terms of authorship (as being a blatant wishfulfilment) or of pop-culture (a strong female character). She gives a female tone to a homosocial show and provides the female audience with someone they can identify with more (for instance, Star Trek). She is also highly criticized by the community though. The point is that Mary Sue, being the glorified superwoman she is, fails to provide the audience with a good addition to a series. She is not a plausible character because she can do far too much, which upsets readers, plus that in a common Mary Sue, the entire narrative revolves around her. She is the kind of main protagonist that many readers object to because she diverts the attention from the actual main characters you want to read about, those belonging to the source-text. Pat Pflieger (1999) describes Mary Sue as a distinctive female lead, a placeholder the reader should be able to identify with. However, she fails in fulfilling this role: ‘Her very obtrusiveness keeps readers from slipping into her place’. Mary Sues have been around for a very long time in amateur fiction, as early as the nineteenth century these perfect female characters could be traced in stories. Pflieger thinks this is a common phenomenon for young writers, a kind of ‘security blanket’, the result of a fear or inability to engage with characters sufficiently and recognize their flaws. This can also explain the high amount of canon-Sues, where a writer describes a fan character as far too splendid. This fits the problems some fan 56

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writers have when it comes down to imagining, for instance, a character of the other gender, which leads to the effeminization of male characters. A writer needs to learn the fine art of constructing a plausible character and interpreting established characters as such. In the beginning Mary Sues might arise and often the writer is not aware of these. In a later phase, when a writer is more developed, he or she might recognize her own Sue and at some point choose to write an ironical fiction about her.1 That leaves two other distinctive genres, alternative universe (AU) and crossovers. AU fanfiction retells the story differently, often posing a what-if question and continuing a new narrative from there. Crucial here is not a speculation of what happens after or before a series, but an alternative to the story line. For instance, what if Dumbledore did not die in Harry Potter; what if Moriarty succeeded in killing Sherlock Holmes? An alternative universe develops then as an alternative to the existing narrative. Pop-cultural examples include the Star Trek movie (2009) which provides an alternative universe for The Original Series, or movies as Sliding Doors in which a narrative and its alternative universe are both portrayed. Lastly fanfiction features a lot of crossovers, a genre which entwines two series creatively. Though the author juxtaposes this content with another series he may choose to stay true to the series in respects of settings or characters. Examples include things like Luke Skywalker attending Hogwarts, or Harry Potter getting trained in The Force rather than magic. This can enable quite comical fiction, but can also lead to serious, inventive narratives when two story worlds are entwined in a consistent way. Fanfiction thus constantly hovers between a value that obligates one to stay true to the original, and genres in which this is less important (e.g., crossovers and Mary Sue). In some cases the canon information might be very important, for instance, in a story that wants to give a side character’s perspective of the original. But what makes a good fanfiction? If the genres and tastes are so broad, what are the criteria? That is where the fan community comes in. Be My Beta: Social and creative Skills Fan communities are at first sight bounded by the texts they are based on. Around a certain text groups are formed online and offline, which are usually described as the fandom. Attentive consumers come together in those communities to discuss fiction and elaborate upon it. When writing fanfiction a fan relies on the fan community as a main readers group. 1

In opposition to this writers of original fiction/comics have remarked to me in personal contact/interviews that the characters they construct resemble the pop-cultural characters they like.


As stated in chapter 1, these fan communities are scattered online across various platforms and sites. Not all fans will read a certain fan text, since there are so many sites that host this. An author often uploads his fiction at a more general site and will post links at more selective communities that specifically pay tribute to one or two characters. The fan community matters a great deal for fans, not just as a potential readers group but as a group of likeminded individuals who relate to similar fiction. A fan-author should be viewed as part of a community, someone with the need to connect to those who have similar interests. The fans, both young and old, have needs that a fan community fulfils and that fan practices are a part of. Online new friendships flourish when communicating about this fiction on forums or blogs within a group. Teens and young adults find relationships in fan communities that are different from their offline surroundings where they may have fewer or no contacts that share their passion. Some may meet up occasionally with other fans at conventions or with those that live remotely nearby, but for younger fans this is often not a possibility in terms of money or parental approval. At some points the fans may become close friends and the fandom itself far less important. One of the benefits of the internet is the opportunity to meet up with people with similar interest fast. Especially when virtual communities were quite new, these qualities for socializing were highlighted by theorists (e.g., Barlow, 1995; Wellman, Gulia, 1997). For fans a fandom, both online and offline, can become a safe haven, a place where you can be accepted by others like you. As Rebecca Moore (2005) states: ‘Fanfiction is about filling needs, and two of the greatest are those for connection and community’. In fact, media consumption as such is a social process which viewers, not only fans per se, relate to in conversations to find a common ground. Media scholar John Gray (2006) describes that the media as such are crucial for communities in general. ‘Media talk today plays a huge role in social situations, strengthening links and bonds between people who already know each other, and providing common ground for strangers to share’ (p. 125). In Reading Television (2003) Fiske also explains that television is participatory, a social experience to talk about, similar to gossip (pp. 78-80). Indeed this ‘ritual function’ of media has often been explored (e.g., Van Zoonen, 2005). It is also at the root of fan cultures. In Textual Poachers Jenkins (1992) analyzes the discussions about texts within fandoms as a kind of gossiping (pp. 50-85). The process exhibits a very strategic exchange of information that binds the participants. Every new bit of information regarding the text (new episode, sequel, new fan text) is discussed thoroughly. Similar to gossiping, fans are often highly


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critical of a source-text, not just expressing the positive aspects of it, but also debunking it where, in their respect, it flawed. The downsides of these fan communities are that you need to invest time and energy in keeping up with boards and the participants. Furthermore, there may be some quarrels within a fan community about how to interpret certain canonical scenes or characters. If you do things that are popular, like participating in a very large fandom or following the general consensus about a text, you easily gain readers and a following. For those that participate in niche fandoms or alternative tastes, getting an audience might be harder, and there is a good chance you will be ignored or flamed. Furthermore, as in all creative practices those who are more skilled will get more attention, though this is not necessarily always the case. Those that participate a lot are also appreciated and this may result in positive criticism of their products. Again, all of this is highly depended on the platform, the atmosphere within a community and the communication of the individual fan, as will be exemplified in the case-study of this chapter as well. The fan community and its functioning are crucial to the flourishing of an amateur writer’s skills. As Rebecca Moore rightly underlines: ‘The writer needs inspiration, story elements, writing skills, and perhaps most important for amateur writers, an audience’ (2005, p. 16). Fanfiction provides all of these things, not just narrative moulds to work with, but also a potentially active audience that is interested in what you do and willing to take a look. An amateur writer of original fiction may come across problems when trying to find an audience online. When dealing with fan practices, however, the community is already there. The fans are already acquainted with the source-text and willing to see how another fan text can broaden their view of a story world and provide good entertainment. For writer having an audience is a good motivation to keep writing and improve one’s skills and narrative based on the opinion of readers. In fan communities the creative learning process takes place peer-topeer in a somewhat informal way (see also, Ito, 2008). The new fans get the ability to focus on something small, an aspect of the source-text, and show that to a selected, comfortable audience. Fanfiction writers learn many things from the communities they participate in. In the interviews I held with several authors, the focus was often on the benefits of language. It should be taken into account here that my interviews were Dutch and started writing fiction in English quite early because of the communities they participated in. In the beginning this led to problems for some who did not master the language sufficiently, but in result their English improved greatly from the feedback they got in the communities. Writing in Dutch was hardly 59

an option for them: some had explored Dutch fanfiction sites but were turned off by their content or perceived it as awkward since they were so used to reading English content. When going to fan conventions I often heard similar criticism to mangas translated in Dutch, which is a fairly new phenomenon (until a few years ago you could count the mangas published in Dutch on one hand). These fans are not only used to consuming fan texts in English, but also the source-texts themselves. When giving my workshop on fanfiction at the Animecon 2009 this disregard of Dutch also became somewhat apparent. A good mastering of English within fan communities was deemed very important. Naturally native speakers also better their linguistic abilities and modes of expression through writing. One of the interviewees, Suzanne Blanken, only writes in Dutch and hardly publishes her fanfiction online. She chose to distribute it to friends only, though some of them also circulated this content. She remarked that she learned a great deal on the level of individual sentences and their construction, and that in general her later writings are more readable. The same goes for those native English speakers in the communities that develop a good feeling for prose and descriptions more and more throughout their fanfiction. Each writer learns about grammar and style when he or she indulges in writing more and more. Aside from linguistic benefits, a writer learns to focus on specific aspects of storytelling through fanfiction, for instance structuring a plot or gaining a comfortable writing style. The general narrative, settings and characters are already there. A fan can specifically learn to interpret or speculate about a narrative and develop those abilities. Filling the gaps of texts, restructuring them, speculating them and engaging closely with the story world provides a very distinct way of consuming fiction. This can provide new insights in an existing text and a mode of reading one can apply to other texts as well (see also Jenkins, 2008). Jenkins describes this as a kind of informal learning via ‘affinity spaces’, a term coined by James Paul Gee which supposes students engage more deeply with texts from popular culture that they love. This is different from learning through formal ways such as non-fictional text books to which a student may relate less. Other than the interpretation of texts (and close-reading), a more general ability a fan-author learns is a way to connect with texts on an emotional level. For some the benefits may have to do with the construction of fictional characters. General fallacies for beginners include awkward portrayals of existing characters or inconsistencies in their personalities. As one fanfiction reader at the workshop admitted: ‘I hate it when characters pull a full reversal in plots’. He thereby referred to stories in which at some point - without valid reason - the characters start to behave quite differently. Other writers referred to the effeminization of existing characters, or a dislike of either too 60

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emotional portrayals of characters (turning them into drama queens) or too perfect and tragic (making a Mary Sue out of existing characters). Others rejected fanfiction in which androgynous characters (either psychological or racial when dealing with science fiction or fantasy) were confined into one gender in terms of behaviour or appearance. At the workshop and in interviews writers agreed that fanfiction, in terms of reading and writing, gives you insights in what it means to stay true to existing characters. Of course at some points it suits a fan story better if the character’s personality is deconstructed. Indeed, when spoofing characters it becomes fairly impossible to portray them accurately. That is not to say that there are no margins in fanfiction and other texts when it comes down to interpreting characters. Though in fan communities there is a general consensus, in detail one has quite some liberty. Therefore it is only obvious ‘out of characterness’ that is viewed as undesirable when one wants to grow in fanfiction. Jenkins has also described this as ‘emotional realism’ in Textual Poachers (1992, notably pp. 110-113). Emotional realism refers to the fans’ desires to see adequate, credible and consistent character portrayals they can relate to. This is not only the case in fanfiction, but also in source-texts were characters may start to behave differently or the plot becomes less plausible. Ergo, fiction needs to be plausible (depending on the genre plausibility differs), consistent and have a certain merit. Despite the fans’ emphasis on canon, I also want to emphasize that in practice a full understanding of the source-text might not be all that important. Though fans hammer on the canon or established information when making aesthetic judgments, there are also enough fan writers who only consumed the source-text to a limited degree. For instance, through fiction that is already a derivative text of the source-text (e.g., an adaptation), fan texts (e.g., fanfics and meta-discussions) or parts of the source-text (e.g., when the fan is still playing the game). When interviewing and doing ethnography I also came across fans that were not familiar with the source-text or only to a limited degree, but did participate in the fandoms surrounding it. They enrolled in the communities via other fan practices rather than the actual text. For instance, interviewee Mellissa van den Hoogen writes fiction about source-texts she has not finished entirely (e.g., Kim Possible) and reads fanfiction of series she has not seen (e.g., My Otome). Iris Maassen had similar experiences. We should therefore take into account that the source-text is not necessarily the start of fan practices. Fans may be introduced to new fandoms via the fanfiction of their favourite authors, or choose to explore the fanon first to see if the actual text is worthwhile. Of course the trials and errors of others are equally important when developing one’s writing skills. Specifically writing more in-depth reviews or beta-reading is a way to learn that 61

(e.g., Jenkins, 2006b, p. 177-185). When providing feedback to others a writer learns about his own skills. Naturally it also takes some time to learn how to give constructive criticism properly and some may pay more attention to characters and plots, while others will focus on things like grammar. In general it therefore pays off, just like in more academic worlds, to have several peer reviewers. As interviewee Iris Maassen also underlined, the editing that one learns in fanfiction can be a quality when competing at the actual job market as well. Her experiences as a beta-reader were part of the reason why she got a job as an editor, rather than her background, which is in chemistry. Aside from getting jobs as actual writers and editors, fanfiction as a hobby can also give one recognition within communities and a certain prestige. As Camille Bacon-Smith wrote (1992, p. 159) regarding fanzines: ‘Women who have low prestige jobs or who are homemakers can gain national and even international recognition as fan writers and artists; fan publishing constitutes alternative sources of status, unacknowledged by the dominant social and economic systems but personally rewarding nevertheless.’ The internet now gives amateur writers the chance to feel secure in a creative field and develop skills to master it even more. Though at first it may feel frightening and some may get negative criticism, in general there is an opportunity for fans to learn in a positive environment. Even if a young writer commits something that is considered not done, there are usually considerate other fans who went through similar experiences and help out. Though some fans may shun newbies, others are willing to comment with positive as well as negative notes. Finally, what all writers experimenting in fanfiction might learn is whether they like writing at all. Indeed, some may still not get the hang of it after several fanfics or may need to invest too much time in it. Eventually what counts is creativity and some may achieve this better through another medium. Fans may learn from fanfiction that writing might not be their cup of tea after all and that they are for instance more visually oriented. That is not a problem either. Fanfiction cannot be grasped in terms of making money out of it or other tangible benefits; it is referred to as a ‘labour of love’ and is exactly that. A writer can gain many things out of this, from sharing his passion for a product, to increasing his skills. Most of my interviewees however remarked fanfiction is also something they have to do, because the source-text inspires them immensely and they want to express that feeling. Fanfiction cannot be grasped in terms of ‘getting’ something; it is all about investing and giving.


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Play it your way: Tales of Symphonia As a case-study to explore fanfiction, I chose Tales of Symphonia, a renowned Japanese videogame. It features 4.830 fictions (May 8, 2009) at, which makes it one of the most popular games to write about, topped only by a few Final Fantasy games and Zelda (unlike the Tales and Final Fantasy series categorized as one subsection). Tales of Symphonia is a Japanese role-playing game (RPG) released for the Nintendo Gamecube (Japan: August, 2003, European version: November, 2004) and Playstation 2 (Japan only: September, 2004). It is the fifth game out of a longer series of Tales games, most of which are self-contained universes rather than one connected story world. In that sense the series can be compared to other popular Japanese RPG series such as Final Fantasy, which develop a new story world for each game. Tales of Symphonia forms a very distant prequel to the earlier released Tales of Phantasia, but the overlap in settings/characters is very limited. Recently a sequel to the game was released, Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World (Japan: June, 2008; American version: November 2008). Since 1995 Namco has been producing these games. The Tales series now spans twelve flagship titles (main titles in a series) and fifteen escort titles (spin-offs, essentially side stories to the main series). These escorts include crossover games that combine characters/settings from various games, such as Tales of the World; puzzle games that provide additional background content and sequels such as Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World. Interestingly Namco does perceive the sequel to Tales of Destiny as a mothership title, which makes the line between spin-off and mothership slightly unclear, arguably it has to do with the same team being on the sequel (which was not the case in Dawn of the New World). Role-playing games as Tales of Symphonia are based on older traditional role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons that are played in real-life. Features of computer-based role-playing games commonly include combat to increase the skills of your protagonists (often described as levelling), dungeons/puzzle elements, large settings and an emphasis on the storyline rather than on skills in terms of game play. An RPG usually contains a large inventory of items that enlarge your capabilities or unlock certain elements of the game, other than that you often have various skills varying from attack power to magic or speed. The narrative of an RPG can best be described in terms of a quest. The plot asks you to resolve a certain problem in the world, which you can achieve by traversing the settings and gaining experience/items. The highly narrative elements and the fantasy story world draw a specific kind of gamer to these RPG’s. The genre commonly includes dramatic elements and plot twists to 63

surprise the gamer. The plot itself and gaming can be described as very linear and fixed, a story that you can enable by travelling around the world and interacting to make certain actions/scenes possible. Some RPG’s give alternate story lines though. You can for instance choose a certain love interest by interacting with the other characters in a certain manner. Similar options are included in Final Fantasy VII or other Tales games. Other RPG’s are renowned for their multiple endings like the sequel to Tales of Symphonia or Chrono Trigger. Tales of Symphonia can be played with one or several gamers that control the characters. It is not like an online role-playing game but far more traditional: you can give one of the console’s controllers to a second player to help you during a battle, but outside the combat you will only see the lead of your party (team of characters) that the main player can navigate through the world. Specifically Tales of Symphonia also features skits, small conversations between the characters that pop-up as thumbnails, dialogues that you can activate if you wish to read them (or hear them if you play the Japanese version, the English dub is not voiced). The skits provide the gamer with background content as the characters go into witty discussions about the plot or random things as food. The game begins in Sylvarant, a world that is degenerating because the energy source that sustains it, mana, is becoming scarce. A young girl, Colette Brunel, is raised as a ‘Chosen’ that should regenerate the world by travelling to the Tower of Salvation and releasing various seals. On this journey the Chosen becomes less human and more like an angelic vessel to carry the spirit of the Goddess, which also means she has to give up on emotions. On her quest Colette is aided by her best friend, Lloyd Irving; the young half-elf Genis; his older sister and their teacher Raine and a mysterious mercenary named Kratos. The characters also traverse to another parallel world, Tethe’alla, a world that has its own chosen one. Each time one of the worlds changes the mana flow and gets more mana, the other world is left barren. In the end it becomes a difficult task to save both worlds, especially when it turns out the church and the desians (a shady military organisation) are wrapped up in this. At the heart of the matter is an organisation of angels, the Cruxis, ran by Mithos Yggdrasill, the main villain. Throughout the story the game touches upon heavy themes as corrupt religious movements, racism, psychological issues and mass murder. Though appearing light in the beginning and in style, it incorporates some subversive content tastefully. This kind of storytelling is not uncommon in Japanese popular culture. Though the game is Japanese, the plot and environments are staged in a highly Western fantasy environment that represents elements of Japanese culture itself as foreign and different (notably the only Asian inspired village in the game, Mizuho, stands out). This 64

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Westernized point of view can be associated with the content of the game that fits our mythology, tradition of role-playing and tropes in fantasy fiction. In fact these values may also account for the game’s popularity in America and Europe. It should be noted here that in general Japanese pop-culture is highly inspired by Western fiction and folklore and integrates this in its narratives (Ito, 2003; Hills, 2002b). Tales of Symphonia as such leans heavily on Norse fiction from the Edda. Mythological places of those books are used and themes such as the tree of life (Ygdrasill), here a key motive tied to the main villain of the game. Indeed the references to the Edda can be traced in terms of plot as well. Other intertexts include biblical motives (the angels, the fallen) and Arabian mythology for the summon spirits. These myths are addressed very self-consciously, which is exemplified by for instance Mithos Ygdrasill’s first name and the explicit stating of a ‘journey of the chosen one’ as a quest model. With its two worlds, diverse cities and side characters, Tales of Symphonia forms a very large universe. The source-text is dispersed across various platforms, which befits our idea of transmedia storytelling as a practice for narration and new strategy of corporations. As Jenkins also describes (2006b, p. 110) in Japan it is far more common to narrate a story throughout various media, spin-off’s and additional merchandise. When we look at Tales of Symphonia, this practice can be retraced and made an even larger fan base possible throughout the years. For starters, in 2006 an OVA (animated adaptation) of the game was made which also drew mainstream anime viewers that would not normally purchase the game. The OVA had four episodes and is commonly perceived by the die-hard fans as questionable in terms of quality. It rushes through the story and yet manages to add a lot of unnecessary scenes. Most fans of the game argue on top of that many of the characters (notably Lloyd) are portrayed wrongly when compared to the game (see Namco Board for discussions). A new OVA has been announced in 2008 and is still in production. The adaptation of the manga (comic) of Tales of Symphonia is considered to be better but hard to get by for Western viewers. Whereas most would download the anime or import the DVD, the manga can only be imported and a foreigner will not easily make sense of the language. However, online some fan translations and scans can be found to become familiar with it. On top of that there is a range of gashapons (small action figures you put together yourself); trading cards; figurines and other fan merchandise of the series. Aside from the franchise Namco itself actively tries to provide loyal fans of the series with more content. The game itself has been released on the Playstation 2 in Japan with new background information, costumes and content. Tales of Symphonia is very loosely attached to Tales of Phantasia which stimulates fans to talk about the story world and the gap between 65

the two games. Namco also triggers fan activity with titles loosely attached to these main games. Tales of Fandom, a spin-off series of various puzzle games, provides new information and mini-games/quests. Notably the name, Tales of Fandom, describes enough of Namco’s PR strategy that self-consciously stimulates the fandom. In Tales of the World the gamer can also play with Symphonia characters again. Most of these spin-off games are not released in America or Europe; however, many loyal fans are familiar with the content by reviews of other fans. Some may even play the Japanese versions (e.g., two of my interviewees and several of the fanfiction authors I spotted online). Their lack of Japanese thus does not interfere with their commitment to the series and the wish to experience it themselves. The sequel to the game is a fully different matter when discussing transmediality here. Unlike the original the sequel is not that accepted by most fans and indeed, by the company perceived as a separate escort title. Even at sites as or LiveJournal, Dawn of the New World has a separate section to exclude the fiction of this game with its predecessor. At first I thought this was related to spoilers since the release of Dawn of the New World in America was very late. However, stories related to the game are still hosted separately and I suspect this will remain so. The sequel features the story of Emil, a young boy, whose parents get killed by previous main character Lloyd. What follows is a game in which Emil tries to track down Lloyd. At the background the political tension between Sylvarant and Tethe’alla increases, while a new entity disturbs the magical balance between the two worlds again. The game, which is written and produced by a different staff, strongly redefines the canon of Tales of Symphonia by including a new God, new characters and badly portraying the old ones. Criticism by game magazines was rather mixed, often praising the battle system and dishing the graphics and plot. The fan base is overall negative about the game, though some tend to like aspects of it, like the reappearance of the old cast and new character Richter Abend gains quite some attention. Some jokingly compare it to bad fanfiction. Though other content such as the OVA can be considered disappointing, it at least did not redefine the story world. Interestingly when looking at boards and fanfiction, it appears that most fans also perceive the games as two separate universes. The in-depth use of the previous game in Dawn of the New World fan fiction is limited, while writers of general Tales of Symphonia fiction often stay in the universe of the first game. Though there could have been possibilities for bridging the two games, also because there are a few years in-between, the need to fill this gap is apparently limited. Rather fan-authors tend to focus on providing background for Emil or other characters by elaborating upon elements of the sequel itself that are left unexplained.


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Lost in translation Importantly the fact that this source-product is Japanese affects the fans and is thus characteristic for this research. As briefly touched upon in chapter 1, the study of the appropriation of Japanese material by Western fans is rather limited and often includes projects by fan scholars that focus on all kinds of material, such as Henry Jenkins and Matt Hills. In fact, more attention has been paid to other foreign material, such as British series that are transferred to America. Still, the in-depth studies on these matters are limited and often produce a rather one-sided image of the consumer as one that is indulged with foreign or deviant content. This leads researchers to believe that the fan tries to construct a specific identity linked to his exclusive taste (Hills, 2002b). However, Western popular culture has been infused with Japanese popular culture a lot the last years, creating a more mainstream image of this type of fiction. In the eighties it was still a niche for certain older consumers that imported these products (Kinsella, 1998; Jenkins, 1992). Nowadays animes are being broadcasted in Europe and America and mangas are sold in many countries at newspaper stands or ordinary bookstores. It has become a more accepted form of entertainment, though the demography of the fans has definitely shifted to a younger audience. Being a fan of Japanese pop-culture may still give the fan a rather alternative, subcultural identity in certain groups or countries, but in general these Japanese media are spreading widely and rapidly. Internet made Japanese popular culture more accessible for consumers all over the world. As Henry Jenkins explains (2006b) in his essay on The Matrix (pp. 93-130) this circulation is determined by corporate convergences and grassroots activities of fan communities and immigrants. There are three economic stakes or levels, when it comes down to introducing this foreign content: a national and international level (for a country a certain product might be a source of national pride, while it might not be suitable for an international market); multinational corporations that track down suitable content and transfer it to other markets; niche distributors and consumers (e.g., cult fans) that look for very specific things. The adaptation of this content is another matter. Usually something gets lost in translation when the content is made suitable for, for instance, an American market. In some cases the translation may lead to a new product all together. This is frequently the case with Japanese cartoon being adapted for a Western children’s audience where the censorship is stricter. The voice dubs can afflict the original content so thoroughly to suit a new target group that there is hardly anything left of the original dialogues and plot.


Aside from making these translations acceptable for a different market in terms of dialogue/censorship, the appropriation of this content often includes Westernizing it. For instance, in Pokémon rice balls are portrayed as doughnuts (see also Jenkins, 2006a, pp. 152172). This should make Western viewers feel more familiar with the content, though any child would see the difference between an animated rice ball and a donut. In some cases a corporation may choose to release entirely localized versions. These versions are transcultural in the truest sense of the word in that they place something of one culture into another entirely. In Convergence Culture Jenkins (2006b, p. 110) describes this process with the examples of Asian Spiderman as a ninja or the Chinese version of Batman, released respectively by Marvel and DC themselves. Something can also be localized in fan practices/creativity for instance via fan practices (id., p. 115). We will see that many fanauthors localize a series and make it more personal, familiar or witty by introducing the cast to their own setting: their country, culture or subculture. The voices of characters have to be taken into account too, when dealing with these kinds of products. In some cases a dub can be very interesting at local level because it features celebrities or famous voice actors. This adds another layer to a seemingly fictional character because you start to compare it with the celebrity, his career or other voices he or she has portrayed. This is particularly interesting when one analyzes localized versions of Disney dubs that choose a voice actor very carefully, not just in terms of voice but also in terms of status and attitude similar to the American one. A whole process and creative endeavour has to be taken into account here that is sometimes overlooked when dealing with translations. Indeed, when analyzing Tales of Symphonia I also saw entire discourses related to the voice cast. Notably when the English dub of the sequel was introduced, these discussions became apparent. The sequel features an entirely new voice-cast which is depicted as qualitatively bad when compared to the original. Fans felt this violated the characters and the game’s universe as such. Despite that these voices are not the original ones, the Western audience cared about them a great deal. A likeable English voice was also taken in account for fans when investing in a character and they felt the new voice-actors damaged the image of the cast. Another question then would be how important it is that this source-product is Japanese. As has been mentioned, Tales of Symphonia is a multinational product, meaning that it incorporates bits and pieces of all kinds of cultures; a similar example would be The Matrix (Jenkins, id.; Newitz, 1994). The dub as such can be seen as transcultural because it has been adapted and gained a particular Western scent. Though not many changes were made in the content, some dialogues and names were altered. One may wonder if the Japanese 68

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elements are crucial to a fan’s liking of the game. Indeed Hills (2002b, p. 7) supposes this varies and that ‘“Japaneseness” has to be assumed to correspond to a limited set of signifiers such that analysts can recognise these signifiers at work, or so that fan-respondents can judge whether “Japaneseness” is relevant to them.’ Nationality and internationality here play at a different level than just liking something because it is American popular culture or Japanese. Indeed the very introduction of this content in Western countries already ‘westernizes’ it. Rather fans will talk about taking a liking in certain fictional conventions that are Japanese or they may compare the Tales franchise to other Japanese RPG’s or animes. There may be some Japanese features that fans may like about Tales of Symphonia, for instance the designs or game play, though other fans may like other features that are like the narrative. For some this may even have been the first introduction to Japanese content, for others the game may hold a special place as a first RPG. Researching fan cultures means taking this personal, individual relation to a text into account. It also means that you keep an open eye out when analyzing these practices. After all, though the product may have a transcultural dimension, the fan can localize it to some degree and will interpret a source-text from his own cultural background. Tales of Symphonia at From 16 February to 1 April, 2009 I analyzed the updated fanfiction of Tales of Symphonia and the given feedback. is the largest host for fanfiction at the moment which allows a user to upload stories in document form or write them on spot in a text box. The system features reviews per chapter, favourites and a generic author profile. Private contact with other members can be through e-mails or private messages. For those that wish to share their story there is the option to create or join a community, plus a forum-option for users that want to have informal discussions. Both of these features seem not well-used when checking Tales of Symphonia has a lot of forums (60) when compared to other games and series, but most of these are inactive and involved only one or a few topics with short discussions. A few communities such as the ‘pairings’ community have been actively used for a while though, but mostly to discuss selective aspects of the source-text. When the fiction had many reviews I checked the first 100 comments. I also paid attention to author’s profiles and favourites to see what fandoms they were involved in and how they fashioned their writing activities. I did not read the fiction itself thoroughly since that was not the aim of this research, though I did explore the content in a more general way. Thereby I tried not to be distracted by the quality of the fiction, since many of these authors 69

are still in the process of learning to write. I checked the author’s notes that some writers post in the beginning of their fiction which often include statements by the writer regarding the fiction or fandom itself. For this research I also analyzed the disclaimers in which a fanfiction writer states there he does not own the property, though not all authors chose to use these. Ergo, the practices surrounding the fiction and the responses to it were the key issue here. Based on their profiles the authors were in general in their mid-teens to late twenties. Deducing the gender of the authors was sometimes hard since depicts nationality but has no specific gender category. Some authors state it in their profile in the sections that can fill in themselves. The writers I could retrace were largely females, though. The nationality of the authors was very diverse, though this did not seem to influence the content other than in linguistic terms. However, mind that a lot of native speakers did not ace their grammar either. When dealing with amateur fiction or starting writers this is an evident problem. The analysis of this case-study emphasizes various aspects of fanfiction in relation to authorship by depicting: firstly, this fiction written in this fandom in terms of content; then the kind of feedback the writers give each other; thirdly the self-conscious elements in these writing practices and lastly, the construction of a specific identity as a fan-author. Let me first give an impression of the kind of fanfiction I spotted when spending time at and try to give an overview of the fiction. In the Tales of Symphonia fandom all genres can be found, though the explicit content seems rare. It may be that is not the best place to host this or that this is dealt with less in this particular fandom. Nonetheless there is a range of slash fiction hosted here. Other than that comedy and crossovers seem quite popular. The most popular, strikingly, are self-insertion stories in which Mary Sues or original characters are embedded in the existing story world. In fact, these are very dominant, perhaps because as a game and large fantasy setting Tales of Symphonia allows the integration of such new characters easily. The quantity of these fics is very high, that is to say, I came across a few of those a day whereas this was not the case with other genres. I should however note here that this type of fanfiction usually contains many chapters, as long-term writing projects for beginners, which also explains why they are updated so frequently. Not counting the updates of already published fanfiction a large part of the stories belonged to these categories. Much to my surprise there are few examples of authors that rewrite the game from an alternative perspective. In general the source-text focuses on hero Lloyd which leaves openings for those that want to explore a different point of view. Some writers adopted a new perspective, but frequently this was not an in-game perspective. Most fiction with an 70

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alternative perspective dealt with the game’s implicit background and history rather than its main plot. For instance, prequel to the game there had been a war (The Great Kharlan War) and though this is not elaborated upon in the source-text that much, some writers explore this concept with an original character or those in the game that had lived through these unfaithful events (e.g., Key_to_Soul, 2009; Joshuaorrizonte, 2007; Dark-Fire27, 2009). Others choose to explore the history of characters the game hints at. Notably main-character Kratos appears to be a favourite there. He had lost his wife previous to the game and many elaborate on her tragic death (e.g., Shaddowind, 2005; Kratos the 9th Companion, 2009). This is usually narrated by Kratos though some fiction adopts other perspectives or several of witnesses, friends or those that murdered her (e.g., E. an E’ Kaleidoscope, 2009). Other fanfiction belongs to the alternative universe stories and many of these involve a reworking of the chosen one’s journey. The quest structure of the game is here rewritten with different protagonists or a less successful conclusion. For instance in Raenef the 6th’s Tales of Symphonia: Second Chance (2007) the journey is severely messed up by hero Lloyd. In other fanfics Collette is not the chosen one, which leads to a different resolution or a few of the main characters refuse to join in on the quest. In alternative universe fiction it also appears to be a popular theme to create a different portrayal of Lloyd, which is called Crulloyd by some. These stories depict the main character and hero, Lloyd, as a villain belonging to the angelic organisation Cruxis and made him into an antagonist rather than the main protagonist (e.g., NiGHTChild68, 2008). This moral realignment as Jenkins would call it (1992) seems quite popular and perhaps with due right: Lloyd could have easily been a villain - had he not been fostered - since his birthfather is one. Other stories focus on alternatives to Lloyd’s fostering but less on what the moral outcome of that would be (e.g., E. an' E. Kaleidoscope, 2009). Fans apparently love working with this fact, though other forms of moral realignment (e.g., villains switching sides) seem much rarer. The crossovers and references I spotted usually drew on the Western fantasy popculture (e.g., multiple fics referring to The Lord of the Rings) or Japanese pop-culture (e.g., Pokémon, .Hack/Sign, Naruto). From this we can deduce that fans often try to base a reference on a playful similarity. This can either be in-story commonalities like the quest, culture of elves or world of The Lord of The Rings as similar to Tales of Symphonia, or the comparison with another Japanese product which is seen as belonging to a similar genre for Western writers. Other references and crossovers involved general pop-culture such as Star Wars or even, based on short browsing through fiction, internet memes. Specifically comedy series are also quoted or spoofed a lot. For instance I read a complaint by Aion_13 (5 May, 71

2009) in a review (Nightfoot, 2008) that he had counted seven Seinfeld references in various Tales of Symphonia fanfics already. However, references to high-art were not uncommon either. Some writers integrated content from the Edda, building on the mythological aspects of Tales of Symphonia. For instance, ItachiTheDekuScrub’s A Midnight’s Hell (2009) embeds the Norwegian Gods Thor, Fenrir and Odin as new protagonists while Raenef the 6th’s story (2007) draws comparisons with Greece and Roman mythology. One of the more successful Symphonia fanfics by Twilight Scribe (2006) also features a lengthy imitation of Shakespearian language which should depict an old language of the story world itself. What seems striking is that the self-insertions and original character fictions are peeking in the Tales of Symphonia fandom while these are actually the genres that were criticized most in interviews, at the workshop and online. When analyzing the readers of these fanfics online it turns out quite many write similar fiction, which could explain why their interest since they form a kind of sub community then. By reading and reviewing similar fiction these authors hope to find likeminded individuals and perhaps draw the right audience to their own fiction. Since the uploaded Tales of Symphonia fanfiction covers quite a few stories a day, it is only natural that fans do not read all stories or genres. Though I presumed at first that Tales of Symphonia might pose certain problems in terms of transmediality this was less the case than I expected. Apparently because the game is the main source-text and since the other products are somewhat harder to get by, most authors base themselves on that. The blending with the second game is very little and in the section of the sequel it works the other way around. Some of the fanfics base themselves on other parts of the canon, such as the manga or anime (e.g., Freakyanimegal, 2009; Arisu Tsuranu, 2009). Most fanfiction explicitly states this, though some stories appear to be more anime-centered at first glance without any mentioning. Others post fiction based on the spin-off games as Tales of the World in the Symphonia category, since these texts have no section of their own. This causes some problems like accidental spoilers or the assumption of authors that we know this fiction takes place in the spin-off game and thus features different characters too. In one fanfiction the characters of the game enter our world and even make an explicit point of the conflicts between Symphonia’s various source-texts and the discrepancy between those. The characters decide to do some proper research on their fictional lives (VanNeon, 2009). This fanfiction stages a self-conscious story as will be addressed later this chapter. When a story exists in multiple versions, a plot line that addresses the fiction itself becomes more problematic: ‘Lloyd, Kratos, and Tenebrae decided to ask around as to which (the anime, the manga, or the video game) was closest to what actually happened by asking die72

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hard fans for short summaries. After it was discovered that the video game was the closest to truth, Lloyd and Tenebrae (sic) went shopping for four GameCubes (sic) and four copies of Tales of Symphonia. Upon seeing that they were characters from a video game, the person working the check-out counter gave them everything for free’. Feedback from fellow-fans Many of the longer stories at draw a specific reader group that checks for updates at regular basis or uses the alert system, which sends a mail each time a story is updated. Longer stories usually gain a following with frequent reviewers that give feedback on each new chapter, which assures that the fanfics that are a bit popular easily get a hundred reviews or more. The comments that are written by the same readers frequently discuss new plot moves or just an opinion about where the story is heading. For instance, the 77 chapter long fic by Whatsername427 (2007) has as one of its first comments (Kamon Peach Fox, 2 June 2009): ‘I kind of expected Joseph's father to be like that. […] If he sent Michelle to SylvarantTethe'allaWhatev does that mean he thinks she'll find out about it FOR him?! O... The imagination reels...’ A longer fanfic easily gets a kind of suspense quality in which the audience is craving for more, something that shorter fanfiction lacks. No matter how good a one-shot might be, it draws fewer reviews. In fact, the best fanfic in terms of quality that I read, Ripple Effect (E. an' E. Kaleidoscope, 2009) had hardly any reviews. Because the story is one long chapter and not updated so far, it draws little attention and because it is semifinished, it is unnecessary to discuss the plot in detail. However, this is a co-authorship profile of two authors that already have existing, active accounts. With this secondary profile they make less use of the features offer, which also leads to less readers. Aside from plot and expectations, it is not uncommon for reviewers to go into author’s notes or informal content. For instance, some authors may remark they had trouble writing the chapter, state they are having exams at the moment or ask readers to support them when they participate in a fan contest. Reviewers gladly reply to this which again emphasizes that this is not just a formal community, but a community of likeminded individuals. Aside from writer’s blocks and personal matters, author’s notes may address specific elements of the game, which then triggers a discussion with the reviewers. Sometimes reviewers refer to parts of the game out of their own because the story reminds of that. Note for instance this comment (29 May 2009) by Akira Shinji (Nightfoot, 2008): ‘By the way, what is a "Devil's Arm"? From the sound of it, it must be like a...Ultima Weapon kind of thing. Although I've never heard of that


sidequest’. The discussion of a fanfic is then steered to a general discussion about the sourcetext. Some reviewers focus on language, though not that many. In general this is also what the beta-reading system is for, perhaps, which may go from peer-to-peer via mail or private messages rather than via open reviews. Nonetheless, some readers jot down the mistakes they find in a text. Most of them however concentrate on the plot movement or character portrayals or make very generic comments. I suspected to find more comments on language before I started my research, so this struck me as odd to some degree. Writing styles themselves sometimes form a criteria, especially when they are passable to good, rather than when they are bad. When writing styles are not that good – for instance because they are unclear, lack descriptions or read incoherent – the attention usually goes to other aspects of the texts that flaw, such as grammar or individual sentences. I found some constructive reviews on styles, though most of them referred to style only generically. One of the more substantial reviews was on Tiger002 (2009) by She Who Dances Under The Moon (20 January 2009), partly quoted here: ‘As you might have noticed, you have a slight problem of redundancy. Using the same set of words to describe something for a handful of phrases is alright, but you gotta try to find ways to diversify your writing, or else it starts striking to the reader's eye out like a sore thumb and they can't focus on the story anymore. I know it gets very hard to always think of new synonyms and ways of phrasing when we write, but it ensures the reader doesn't get bored and it also sounds more researched, less ...kiddish’. One of the more important criteria to judge a fanfic seems to be its portrayal of existing/original characters. When a fanfiction portrays the existing cast poorly this is addressed by many reviewers. One of the most acclaimed Tales of Symphonia fanfics I came across by Freakyanimegal (2007) Tasks of Spirit, has 849 comments (at 19 February 2007) and a large reader’s traffic. It is the sequel to a large other fanfic she wrote, Grandkid (2005). The reviews mingle from sheer dislike to absolute praise over the length of the story and writing style. Several reviews complain about the original characters and the representation of the Tales characters (e.g., Onihime 942, 26 January 2009): ‘It seems like you've morphed every canon character into an OC. The person you've abused the most is Kratos. Yes, we all love the stoic mercenary who really needs a hug, but, that doesn't mean you have to change every aspect of his character to suit your story. […] Yes, this story is supposed to be humorous, but it really isn't that funny when all of your characters act so childish and OOC. Your OCs are also quite Mary Sue/Gary Stue-ish. They outshine the real characters of ToS, prob'ly because you made so many that you're having trouble juggling all of them.’ 74

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Indeed the comparison between an original character and a Mary Sue is one of the most read criticisms on any story featuring new protagonists. Where an author here tries to add something original and personalize the story world a bit more, there is a danger that the story looses the spirit of the source-text. Some authors try to avoid getting such critique by stating in the beginning of the story that their original characters are definitely not meant to be Mary Sues (or an implicit self-insertion) in any way. Those that do have this aim also explicitly state they are for instance writing a self-insert which they may mention in the title ironically as well (e.g., Tales of Yet Another Self-insert). However, Mary Sue is a bit more difficult since there are relatively few parody-Sues or explicit Sues in the Tales community. Unlike the popular self-inserts these are not a trend here, but viewed as a negative thing or even a taboo. It should be noted that this might not be the case in all fandoms. Until I was observing this community I never guessed that the much criticized genre of self-insertions could be so well-read. It seems that those fans that write self-inserts frequently play with the geeky fanboy/fangirl aspects of their personality rather than using the exaggerations common to Mary Sue. The main taboo in the Tales community seems to be writing a Mary Sue without realizing that. This leads to quite some criticism of fiction that has Mary Sue themes. As Kinuka (2009, 28 February) comments on Task of Spirits (2007): ‘From how you write her out in Grandkid/Tasks of Spirit, she is not just "based" on you. She IS you, living out your fantasies for you, like your other main OC’s’. Not all readers tend to dislike original characters with dubious qualities. Many readers of this fanfic tended to like the original characters, but little can be deduced from the small reviews as to why that is. A more interesting comment is given by ImperialGuardian09 (2007, 17 May): ‘I was slightly sad that most of the children were simply mixtures of their parents in personality. However, I do say that I love how Quet, Malk, and Lerek, although clones, had their own quirks that made them unique.’ Some reviewers explicitly warn for Mary Sue features. For instance Aion_13 (2008, 1 December) comments on a story narrated by an original character - the long-lost daughter of the game’s side character Yuan (Eefara, 2008): ‘I guess I can see this moving into cliché and Suedom, but not if you're careful about it. Do a couple litmus tests, go over her character again and balance it out as the story goes on. It's fine for now, but there’s always the danger.’ To elaborate, the Litmus test is a poll that crosschecks if your original character is a Mary Sue, used by quite some starting writers. The advice to check the test is also illustrative of fanfiction and the specific problems an amateur writer comes across when compared to 75

original fiction. The tool is helpful to find any canon-Sues or general Mary Sues and thus prevent misfits among the existing characters. It would be plausible to assume that the fiction that displays greater writing skill gains more feedback, and perhaps even more professional criticism, but this is not exactly the case. Indeed, it seems that the longer fiction draws more attention, but this might be misleading as well, since reviewers post there several times. Some quality fiction gains a good readers group, but other stories go by unnoticed. This usually tends to be the case at sites where networking, socializing and reviewing each other’s work are crucial to get more readers. Aside from skills what matters is how active you are in the community and how long you have been there. Nonetheless, I have also seen it work the other way around when authors practically review each story in their category, but gain little reviews themselves. Perhaps lower quality or alternative character portrayals lead to fewer readers here. Interactivity and collaboration The fact that readers can track a story and provide feedback at each chapter, gives new possibilities to interact. Where in print-culture a book goes through several institutions before getting published, here the readers can glance at a kind of work in progress that can still be edited. In fact, because the story is uploaded in chapters and reviewed as such, it might be that readers have some influence on the narrative altogether. However, some writers may choose to pre-plan their story to such a degree that they may be reluctant to take the opinion of reviewers into account. Indeed, often the comments are so generic that a writer may not even be able to do something with them plot wise. Even if comments are thorough, he can only try to pay attention to that in the future. A fanfiction author rarely edits the plot of previous chapters: what is edited commonly includes language or the descriptions. Nonetheless I came across quite some fanfiction that explicitly asked readers to give their opinion about aspects of the plot or otherwise. Interestingly, some writers even calculate on audience participation when creating a fanfic. I shall highlight a few of those examples here where writers explicitly count on creative collaboration with their readers. Importantly the type of fanfiction that relies on audience participation is usually episodical, meaning that it follows a similar formula each chapter with a plot or concept that the readers can pick. An interesting example is for instance Raine’s Cookbook (Falcon Crest, 2008) in which one of the characters, Raine, serves a bad meal each time. Raine is renowned for her bad cooking skills in the source-text, an element that is exaggerated in this comedy. Many of the later recipes are chosen by the readers that may suggest something relatively 76

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easy, for instance a pie, which Raine fails to make properly and serves her horrified little brother. Each episode uses the same structure: First it lists the ingredients, then it shows how to prepare the meal à la Raine, finally it is served and tasted. If the readers suggest too many ideas, the author saves the concepts up or combines them into one mixed meal. Another example is a parody featuring one of the characters, Kratos, who discovers fanfiction online (LateNiteSlacker, 2006). Here the audience is asked to give suggestions as to what dubious Tales of Symphonia stories he might read. The author’s goal is then to write a witty, shocked response by Kratos and keep the story going. Suggestions include genderblenders, crossovers with The Legend of Zelda, pairings involving Kratos and more, which in turn result in eccentric plot lines. Another story, Tales of Truth or Dare (Active Gal, 2009), stages the author herself as a game show host that gives a new quiz each chapter. She actively encourages the readers to contribute: ‘“Okay, let me explain the rules,” I turn (sic) towards the camera and smile, “All you readers can send in your questions and dares in your reviews. Even if you already send one for this chapter, you can do it again for the next chapter, and the next, and the next chapter. So in other words, Keep sending your requests in!”’ A last example includes a fanfic that has been praised a lot over the years: Z Skit Theater by Twilight Scribe (2006) with 4,991 reviews quite possibly the Tales of Symphonia fic with the most comments. Featuring 335 chapters (2009, 4 June) it also seems quite long, but the amount of words is doable since the sections are short. These ‘skits’ are imitations of the dialogues in the game, a feature that shows thumbnails of the characters engaging in random conversations. does not allow thumbnails or script format as such, which is why the author of Z Skit Theater uses bold and italics for certain characters to undermine the site’s policy. A pure script format obliges one to write something as ‘Lloyd: ‘Hi Kratos!’ but here a loophole is found by simply stating in the beginning that Lloyd is written in italics and then writing for instance Hi Kratos. Twilight Scribe aims to make new skits that could have taken place in the game and therefore she often suggests a point in the source-text that they could have been activated. The skits are very true to the ones in the game, which is one of the reasons why this fanfic has drawn so much attention. Here a large reader group is formed that comments frequently and gives suggestions for new skits. Twilight Scribe takes these into account and credits the reviewers that coined the concepts. The reviews are usually short and state they found a new skit hilarious. Sometimes they go into moments or plot holes in the game that the skits play with. For instance, some comments address problems in the source-text because the skit allows them to elaborate on things as Lloyd’s fighting skills; angel’s wings or the political climate of the 77

story world. Frequent readers also compare the skits amongst each other in terms of quality, such as Vook (2009, 1 February): ‘HAHAHAHAHAHA this has to be one of the BEST skits EVER! It's probably right up there with the ones where Kratos is trying to speak to Anna about Lloyd through the Exsphere, and the ones on Kratos (skits 200 and 201)’. The internet also facilitates ways to collaborate with other writers more extensively. For instance, two or more authors can write a story and post it on either one’s account. The previously mentioned Ripple Effect (2009) was an endeavour by two authors who made a new account specifically for that fanfic. They both wrote parts of the fanfic and posted that on their shared account. Most collaborative fanfiction I spotted, including Ripple Effect, uses the same strategy in which an author gives the perspective of one character and the other writes another character. Indeed this is an easy way to cooperate. Examples of this include Pirates of Symphonia (Meowzy-chan, 2006) which is hosted at one account and lists the other author. She has a few more collaborations hosted at her profile with different authors that write the perspective of character Kratos. I have not found any examples of more extensive coauthorship then this, though I presumed that this platform might have enabled that. Naturally, it is harder to work together if you both write the same character because there might be differences in writing style then. Aside from reviews and collaborative fiction there are other ways for fellow-fans to have input on a story. Some stories are made at the request or challenge of others or as a kind of commission (e.g., Heart of Shou, 2008). Other fiction can be written to participate in a project or contest. This sets limitations for the writer who then has to integrate a required theme and work with that. This leads to stories that are not collaborative in an extensive sense but coin concepts for the author nonetheless. Interestingly there also exist forums on that members can built themselves. The option is not used that much but does provide a platform at the site itself to interact more thoroughly than via reviews or private messages. At the forums – if you find one that is a bit active - you can address topics such as collaborations. Though this kind of interaction seems ideal, it only works if the members are aware of this option and use it actively. Help, I’m a Sue! Self-conscious elements in fanfiction Fanfiction writers also integrate more playful elements we know from other fiction as well. Some of the more sophisticated literary devices are not uncommon there. Quite some fanauthors embed a self-conscious image of their writing and fan practices in their fiction. In literary studies this is usually described as metafiction to categorize that fiction which is self78

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referential. The term finds its origins in the seventies. Robert Scholes was one of the first to describe it, as fiction that incorporates criticism on itself (1995, p. 29). The most workable definition comes from Patricia Waugh’s book Metafiction (1984), namely, “fictional writing which self-consciously and systemically draws attention to its status as an artefact” (p. 2). This self-referencing interrupts the reality of the story world, but in turn shows that the writers are highly aware of their fiction, writing and even the source-text as a specific medium, namely a videogame, that cannot be accurately represented in prose. In Tales of Symphonia fanfiction notably three elements depict this self-conscious fiction: Firstly, references to fan practices within fanfiction; secondly, underlining the difference in media between the game and prose and thirdly, the author as a protagonist in fanfiction. These aspects of fan texts provide us with an idea of how a fan-author views himself and his writing. It is not uncommon for fanfiction stories to refer to the practice of fanfiction or fans in general. In some fanfiction this may be integrated without causing much discontinuity with the story world. For instance, a main-character from the videogame, Zelos, already has fan girls within the game so it is then only a small step to depict one of these writing fanfiction or drawing him. In other cases this blending of fan activities and the story world is made more explicit, though it can be argued to what degree this disrupts the narrative. Sometimes for instance the characters engage in fan practices in stories, such as making fanfiction or fan art, which is equated with expressing love as a plot device. As an example, in one story (Accident Prone, 2009) Yuan is in love with Kratos but dares not show this. Whenever Kratos is near him he starts to act like a giddy teenage girl rather than an adult man, and in his silent devotion he makes countless portraits. The author describes these as ‘fan art’ rather than portraits. However, courtships in fiction (and perhaps even real life) integrate similar plot devices frequently. It is not per se fannish to make drawings of your loved one (or stories, or unread love letters) but here it is redefined as a fan practice rather than a romantic one. Rather than as a gay man Yuan is depicted here as a fan boy, a teenager like the actual author here. In other cases online practices or fanfiction as such are addressed in fanfiction itself. The story world is personalized here by blending features of the author’s daily life (e.g., internet) with the existing fictional universe. This can lead to awkward situations if characters come across the fan practices that surround them. For example, in the previous section I mentioned a story in which Kratos reads fanfiction (LateNiteSlacker, 2006). He gets a computer and internet and starts browsing at ‘FanFiction dot net’. Naturally he is confronted with many fanfiction parodies of the Tales-cast: ‘Meanwhile, Kratos usurped the computer again! “Translate into English?” Blindly, he clicked away! “Kratos, I love with you!” Girl 79

with brown hair and brown eyes and whose name was Anna says. “I love you!!!” Kratos cries! “But I must tell you. I am really an alien and I love Link.” Zelda says and walks away. THE END “……” Kratos stared at the screen, wondering if perhaps this was all just a very bad dream’. Here fanfiction is discussed as a genre and online practice, not just an expression of love that can easily be equated with other forms of homage and devotion. When it is embedded in the story world as similar to for instance love letters, there is little disruption and the theme may appeal to the fan readers as a kind of in-joke. When confronted with actual online fanfiction the characters have to react to this practice though. A second way in which fan-authors stage a more self-conscious narrative is by making elements of the game explicit. They address the discrepancy between the prose as fiction and the game which requires a GameCube, controllers and has specific RPG-features, like getting grades or obtaining higher levels. Features of the game can be made explicit in various ways. I already mentioned Z Skit Theater (Twilight Scribe, 2006) which is fashioned like the extra dialogues that you can activate in the game if you wish. It aims to reflect that format accurately: the skits are of the same length as those in the game; capture the characters in terms of style and should fit in the source-text, by stating where the fan skits should have taken place. In other fandoms it is not uncommon to write script fanfiction that aims to be as true to the series as possible. For instance in the Futurama-community fan-authors write scripts that match the existing episodes down to seconds (Bailey, 2005). This practice in Tales of Symphonia is thus not all that unusual, but it is interesting to see that it is based on a minor feature of the game which is enriched through these fan texts. Other fiction plays with the line between the videogame as constructed, mediated fiction and our actual culture. In some stories the video-game characters explore our technology or the game’s interface. For instance, they get sucked into our world or elements of our world (e.g., internet) are integrated in their story. I already mentioned the fanfic in which the Tales of Symphonia cast winds up in America and wants to play its own game (VanNeon, 2009). In other fanfiction they are awakened from the videogame as flat characters and made into conscious human beings with all kinds of consequences. Then the lack of the game world is made more explicit (e.g., NexusTehulF0o, 2009, ch. 5): ‘“Things are…kinda bulgy in this world. But I think I’m beginning to like it.” Zelos mused, placing his hand to his chin and adjusting himself on the arm of the couch. He then poked his own arm, studying the 3-D version of himself’. In some fanfiction the characters are depicted as actual humans transported from the story world as a reality or dimension to this world. The only gap then is a cultural one. 80

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Notably self-insertion fanfiction addresses the interface of a game in various ways. Indeed this fiction has a main-motive the gamer/fan getting pulled into the story world, so it is not strange that most of these refer to the interface at some point. For instance, a look at one of the more renowned self-insertion fics, Two Worlds Combined (Venus Tenshi, 2005), features a girl falling into the Tales of Symphonia world. What immediately strikes her as odd is the disappearance of her GameCube as a mediator. This forms a motive that often returns in the earlier chapters of this fic. The lack of her console constitutes a deviant, alternative experience of the story world. This is solved when a few chapters later her GameCube enters as a personification, a character by itself: ‘The girl brushes dust out of her dress before performing a fancy bow, springing back up with a bright smile. I’m still bloody freaked. “I am your GameCube (sic), the one and the only, here for your service!”’ (id., ch. 5). This personification outgrows the device that is based on and has quite a cheerful personality. This does not meet up to the main-character’s expectation: ‘I always expected my GameCube to be kinder if it were a person – and as a male. Well, GameCubes are blue. It’s a hunch, okay? I’m confused with myself, so I’ll shut up. I’ll just ask my GameCube when it/she gets here’ (id.). In other self-insertion fanfics the GameCube is even the reason gamers get warped into the game as a reality. A recurring motive is a power-off or technological fault: ‘"Of course," I breathed, excitedly. "It was the thunderstorm! It must have zapped the GameCube or something" My train of thought slowed as I realized the consequences of my statement. If I had been digitized, then, I might truly be in the game... How would I get home! Even worse, what would my parents do when they found me missing? One scorched GameCube, fried disk, melted memory card, and no anime-loving daughter... Oh, sheezus. They're going to have simultaneous heart attacks’ (Cerby, 2006). Other fanfiction goes into the in-game interface - such as the battle system - more deeply, especially when the protagonist-gamer is forced to fight monsters. It turns out that once he or she’s fully immersed in the story world as a reality, this system has disappeared. What is left is an experience of real-life and actual battle, much to the disappointment of some characters,








EXPERIENCE!” Unfortunately I forgot that you have to finish a battle to get any experience, and the scorpion wasn't dead yet. Come to think of it, I honestly doubt that anyone got experience points in this world’ (Lolbutter, 2009, chapter 2). Lack of levelling appears to be a frequently used motive in these fictions, though some writers may address the lack of grades or other aspects of the game such as the map. This is less common though, since the surprise that there are no levels or accounts of damage is one of the first things a gamer would realize 81

when he goes into battle in this lived story world. The absence of a battle system will then be taking into account in the following events. A third way of displaying self-consciousness is through the fan-protagonist of selfinsertion fanfiction. As a gamer the author of this genre of fanfiction is highly aware of certain aspects of the story world. This also leads to a very specific kind of story in which the author is portrayed as the fan he or she is. The identity of the author as a fan also makes him a deviant subject in the story world. For starters he is highly aware of what will happen because he is a fan that has consumed the game. Naturally this leads to foreshadowing and developments in which he as a protagonist already knows the outcome and can even alter the plot line. A good example is this passage: ‘“That must be Magnius,” Genis says as we stop on the bridge, our group silent agreeing not to take action until ab-so-lute-ly necessary. The last thing we want to do is get anyone killed who shouldn’t actually have to be. I know Magnius killed that man in the game, but what if he doesn’t exactly stop there? And what if Chocolat doesn’t come and Cacao dies? Gah. Must think positively’ (Venus Tenshi, 2005, ch. 27). The protagonist of a self-insertion story also pays specific attention to the characters and world as such. In most cases this is a dream coming true. Making acquaintance with the cast of the game leads to awkward situations in which the fan displays his affinity. Here a fan gets sword fighting class from one of the characters: ‘“Try the beginning, and things may get easier.” Kratos advised coolly, leaning back against Noishe with his sword in his lap. I stared at both of them for a moment, resisting a very strong fangirlish urge to run over there and hug him to death. But no, that wouldn't be wise, he would probably slice my head off long before I got to him’ (Cerby, 2006). Naturally the characters do not know the fan yet, but the fan might accidentally make a slip of the tongue. Note this first conversation between the authorprotagonist and the characters: “It's okay, Colette, my parents had died, believing… in Martel. They would be happy...” I explained, giving a small smile. “How did you know her name?” Lloyd questioned, also giving me a suspicious glance. Niiiiice job, Gabby I did so damn' good, now how do I expect to get myself out of this one’ (Cinnamon Chan, 2009, ch. 2). As a fan with an affective relation towards the characters that knows all the ins and outs of the game, it is problematic at some points to blend into the world perfectly. Though some fans might feel at home in the game, they want to get home in these narratives usually too and then cooperation with the existing cast is essential. At other points it is made clear the fan is from another world and should not make the mistake of referring to things that do not exist in the story world. In one fic the author poses as a teacher: ‘“If you teach yourself then there has to be a subject you like above all others,” he says. It was posed as a half fact half 82

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question. What is my favourite subject anyway? It’s Japanese, but there is no Japan in Sylvarant, and that would lead to some odd questions. I guess I’ll have to go with my second favourite’ (Venus Tenshi, 2005, ch. 6). The author-protagonist thus constantly has to think about how he behaves and what he states. As a fan the protagonist here is also highly aware of fanfiction practices which results in fanfiction referring to fanfiction. The fan can address that the plot reminds him of selfinsertion fiction, perhaps to his disappointment: ‘That’s impossible. I am not in Tales of Symphonia. I am not in Iselia, and I am definitely not in a very clichéd self insertion who joins the Chosen and Lloyd on the journey of regeneration and saves the world at the end’ (IceQueen890, 2009, ch. 1). Before getting pulled into the virtual reality of the story, some fans may be reading or writing fanfiction, such as in this example of Kitty29 (2009): ‘Seriously, I think I should stop loving anime and start taking crack or something. Really, getting trapped in a video game? What is this fanfiction dot net? And sure, next thing I know Lloyd and Genis are gonna get married and Colette’s gonna pull out two machine guns and go Rumbo on everyone’s asses. Hehheh…that would be awesome. But alas, I am not in a video game, nor sucked into the internet’. Self-insertion fics sometimes make very ironical statements about other self-insertion fics, for instance: ‘One thing that always annoyed me about these fan fictions were self inserts. I’ve never been a fan of Mary Sues and so I avoided these self inserts like the plague. One day I was bored and had nothing else to read, so I clicked on a little something titled “Two Worlds Combined”. And by God, I’ve been hooked ever since’ (Whatsername427, 2009, ch. 1). In Nightfoot’s Tales of Cosplayers a few cosplayers enter the story world and refer to fan practices throughout the narrative. One of the protagonists even starts to wonder if she has not turned into the Mary Sues she despises as a fan (2008, ch. 43). Sadly she has to conclude that she did. The fan-author Fanfiction is written by fans who emotionally invest in certain aspects of a source-text. This reflects on their writing practices in several ways. The question is then to what degree these fans are authors and vice versa. How does this specific cultural category of authorship operate? We have seen various elements of this already: the genres; the (fan) community and its specific feedback; the references to fan practices or aspects of the source-text. In the previous section I also highlighted one notable example of how a fan’s and author’s identity can overlap through the author-protagonist. In this section I shall address this double identity 83

even further: firstly by going into ownership and authorship, then by discussing how authorship is addressed explicitly in fan texts and lastly by describing fan-authors that gained a small fan community themselves. As we have seen in the previous sections fans are aware that the characters and settings do not belong to them. Nonetheless they feel attached to the product and want to explore it imaginatively. To assure proper (legal) attribution fans usually post a disclaimer above their fiction. A common disclaimer usually looks roughly like this: ‘I do not own Tales of Symphonia, Namco does’. Because disclaimers are used in almost every fanfic and get cliché easily, fans try to be a bit more inventive. Note for instance this disclaimer: ‘I don't own Tales of Symphonia, or any of its components. This is a work of fiction meant to honor a great piece of fiction and is in no way intended to undermine intellectual rights. Please don't sue me’ (Joshuaorrizonte, 2007). This often leads to ironical suppositions of emotional ownership or the wish to own the source-text: ‘I don't own Tales of Symphonia, which depresses me to no end’ (Whatsername427, 2007, ch. 42). Other disclaimers emphasize this wishful thinking by adressing what they would have done if they had owned the source-text, for instance: ‘I do NOT own Tales of Symphonia or its characters. If I did, Kratos would never have left and the ending would be much [sic] better’ (Active Gal, 2009) or ‘SakuMeiMei does not own the game Tales of Symphonia. Otherwise Kratos would be way faster than he is right now and Zelos would be in your party from the very beginning’ (SakuMeiMei, 2006). Other authors note down what they added to the source-text by describing that the original characters or concepts that belong to them: ‘I do not own ToS... but sadly I do own Raine's recipes...’ (Falcon crest, 2008). These disclaimers thus show an authorial dimension of fanfiction - a sense of originality and authorship in transformative fiction and a wish to create an inspiring story and a fannish one - the characters or structure of a game; the affinity with that specific sourcetext and explicit hierarchy between the fan and the corporation that owns the product. I briefly referred to author’s notes earlier which can trigger specific informal discussions, comments on writing or discussions about the source-text. Importantly author’s notes at the beginning or end of each chapter give insights in the identity of the fan-author. Some author’s notes go more into problems related to writing while others answer questions of readers and thus create an informal bound with the audience. However, most of the time elements of the source-text and fan text or even fan community are mixed. To exemplify with a typical author’s note: ‘I love the Zelos/Lloyd pairing to bits. But reading the stories with it, it looks like in most of them, Zelos is all too close to a rapist. And what’s with the crap of Lloyd always getting 84

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bottom? Yea, so I decided to see what I could do about that. I’m trying to stay true to their characters so…please let me know how I’m doing’ (Accident Prone, 2009). The statements here shift in discourse by referring to: source-text, fan community, the uploaded fan text and authorial practice. This again shows how the fan-author is occupied with the existing text, the fandom and his own written fan text and the quality thereof. In reviews readers frequently make claims related to authorship as we have seen in the previous paragraphs. They refer to the quality of the text, how it fits the game, the character portrayals and others. However, some of them also explicitly address authorship, not just by making statements about style and grammar, but by stating this fan is in fact an author who deserves to be recognized as such. Here the status of an author in the conventional sense of the word is reflected on the fan-author, who is seen as more than just a writer. Note this energetic review of Grand Kid (Freakyanimegirl, 2005): ‘Everything lined up perfectly. U R A GENIUS! Just... perfect... flawless... funny... full of twisting plot... MEANINGFUL plot. This is very rare, I must say. Imagination, humor, a fantastic flow of dialogue, and a well developed plot in one story’ (Eyes of the infinite galaxy, 2007, ch. 87). Laudatory reviews are nothing new but those that explicitly address the fan as an actual author are somewhat rare. Another insightful example of how the fan-author can be valued is this longer review on Shadowwind’s fanfiction (2005): ‘Ever since I discovered fanfiction some sevensomething years prior, I have read millions of words typed by a multitude of different authors, each writing with their own unique style in the fandom they chose build upon already existing ideas in. But never--NEVER-- have I had the priveledge [sic] to read a story such as the epic typed out before me. Over six-hundred-thousand words in length were [sic] the world ran a different way. I believe without a doubt Namco would have purchased and published this idea off of you--or made a comic mini-series of it, at the very least. You are truly a talented and gifted crafter of your language, and it is my greatest hope that [sic] take the pride that you deserve in your skill (Afficiando, 2008, ch. 28). In other reviews the author is compared to praised authors of literature to describe the quality of the fanfic that readers consider to be high: ’I read a book called "The Catcher in the Rye" maybe you have readed [sic] it yourself, but the author writes in a really similar way like you, all sarcastic and funny, I love it! (Supergulo, 2007 on Venus Tenshi, 2005, ch.73) or ‘you have to be the best writer I have seen on this site and if you ever publish a book and make it avalible [sic] in America I will buy it’ (Tiger002, on id., ch. 57). In some cases fanfiction authors gain a fan community of their own and fiction is derived from their fiction. In the Tales of Symphonia fandom I found various examples of 85

that. For starters, Venus Tenshi has quite some readers. Some of them make fan art which they host at other sites, but are linked to for instance in author’s notes. Others derive fanfiction of her work (e.g., Metamorcy, 2009) or feel inspired by her (e.g., Whatsername427, 2007). Similarly one can find fan art and fiction based on the fanfic Grand Kid (2005) and its sequel. Whatsername427 also gained a wide readership throughout the years and features a lot of fan art in her profile. Authors happily distribute the derived works of their own fiction and feel flattered. It seems that lengthy fanfiction that has been around for years has the potential to become really successful and some fans will invest in the original characters as well. In some cases the format of fanfiction has been a source of inspiration for readers. Notably Z-skit Theatre (Twilight Scribe, 2006) has led to other fiction that adopts the same format. Recently two fanfics (BrandonGlee123, 2009; Kitty-Katz-Katz, 2008) were published in the same dialogue format, derived from the sequel of Tales of Symphonia. Both fan-authors asked permission of the author of Z-skit Theater to use a similar ploy which shows that although fans may borrow material from other texts, they are also concerned with authority and paying tribute when necessary. In this case a fanfic inspires other authors to use the same strategy for their own works, though unfortunately they do not reach the same level of quality and success. Others may feel inspired to make a kind of sequel to existing fanfiction. One of my interviewees, Iris Maassen, wrote her first fanfic when she felt she needed to attribute to an existing fanfic. Being new in this field, she did not ask the author for permission, which she regretted later. The author discovered her fanfic nonetheless and responded positively by promoting it at her own site. To broaden their story world and reach a different audience, some fans choose to enrich their narrative through various media. Illustrating the story then or commissioning fan art of others to support the text is not uncommon. Some fans upload their fiction with these images at their personal site, since does not include an image option. Others may explore different media. Meowzy-chan for instance created a roleplaying community at LiveJournal (2006) to support her Idiot Seraphim universe. There she roleplayed with several of her readers in the fanfiction’s setting. In some cases a fanfic can thus be transformative in a double sense, as being based on a source-text as well as a fan text. The fan practices and emotional connection are then the same towards a fan text as to a popular text. Again fans, inspired by a good story, want to be more indulged with the characters, setting and events. Those fans that learn a lot through their fanfiction and keep at it at some point may be surprised to find that they inspire others to transform their stories too.


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When the fan becomes a well-read writer, what becomes famous is his nickname, not the actual name which is often harder to find. The nicknames fans adopt are frequently related to a fandom they were in or still participate in. When checking author’s names at it also appeared many had a nickname related to a more general fandom, say anime, rather than Tales of Symphonia specifically. Others had very playful nicknames indicating a degree of cuteness – for instance by adding cute in their name or ‘chan’ after their name, a Japanese word indicating someone is young or small. A nickname is one of the first things people will notice, therefore it is given a lot of attention. has so many members that a new member is also forced to choose creatively because the conventional nicknames are taken. In general fans use the same nickname at various platforms: changing nicknames is not something one easily does, even if one’s affinity with a fandom declines. It is something you grow attached to and have gained friends with. Nicknames in fanfiction hardly resemble more general literary devices as pseudonyms. While pseudonyms are frequently used to make an author more special, mysterious or detach him from his fiction, fans will use their nickname to emphasize an affinity with a certain interest, fandom or culture or highlight an aspect of their personality. It is a more playful practice and in some cases aimed at becoming accepted in a community easily. A look at this case-study might lead to the supposition that it is hard to gain a reputation as good fanfiction author. As addressed before, the values are very specific and those that write in popular genres or fandoms are more likely to get readers. Moreover, it also matters how the writer interacts online with the other writers, readers and perhaps his fellowfans at different platforms. All of this might even count more than the quality of an author’s writing. However, it also turns out that within these fields writers can get recognition if they meet the wished criteria of their selective audience and mingle these with personal elements. Something original – in terms of plot and style – in the fan text is highly appreciated. Fanfiction might seem a limitation for the writer to some degree since it sets many values that original writing does not have. However, quality wise the limit is lower for writers. This also assures that those who continue at it can grow artistically and if they wish, indulge in other writing practices as well. By being embedded in a certain community the fan-author relies on his readers in different ways than other writers. A fanfic cannot be read by everyone and has to go through a process of becoming accepted in the community. It is a type of art that immediately draws an audience, but at the same time also excludes other reader groups. The more accepted a fanfic becomes, the more recognition the author will get. Those that stay in one fandom for a long 87

time and keep at it will get attention and develop their skills. One of those particular skills is writing or acting out an existing character properly. That is what the next chapter discusses when exploring the performative dimension of transformative works, which is illustrated via textual roleplaying.


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Chapter 4 Performative authorship: Writing and role-playing characters The practice and varieties of role-playing In the last chapter fan communities, collaborative writing and reviewing systems were addressed that influenced the way fanfiction was created and read. Here the readers had a degree of interaction and input since authors relied on their audience as being active and familiar with the source-text. Stories with many participants were absent here, but are dominant in other strains of fanfiction. This chapter will address fan practices expressed through role-playing games or (RPG’s) and the stories that are told there. In these games all players assume the role of a fictional character. The narrative is structured via rules or guidelines in which the players determine actions for their characters. In some games a player starts blank and develops his character in the process; in others he plans the background of this fictional persona carefully. The actions in a role-play are very diverse: they can be a plot-related, a conversation or based on the (fighting) skills of the characters. A role-playing game stands out from traditional story such as written stories in a sense that it is collaborative and every participant can have input. The story becomes interactive and relies on an active audience to construct it and improvise. While some role-plays emphasize interaction and storytelling, the incorporation of skills or teams can also trigger a sense of competition that makes the game more exciting. In terms of structure role-playing games need a system, players and supervisor; I shall briefly touch upon these three elements. Role-playing games come in all shapes and sizes. Traditionally the participants were in the same social setting, but nowadays the internet has stimulated online role-playing. Among the first of these games were tabletop role-playing games, notably Dungeons and Dragons, which are played in real life with a small social group and various handbooks. Most tabletop RPG’s tend to follow the Dungeons and Dragons as a formula which includes statistics and an element of chance via dice rolling. Other tabletops favour less game play and focus on storytelling with a more fluid structure. Role-playing games can also be conducted in real life in a more theatrical way in for instance live-action role-plays (LARP). These games are played in costume and with many props such as specific soft weapons. The sessions will often last a weekend with many participants enabling a large story that may include battles.


Computer-mediated role-plays also include a variety of systems and structures. The first online role-playing games were textual and explored through specific programmes. Nowadays one can also participate in a role-play via boards, chat and blogs, to which I shall pay attention in the next sections. Here the story and interaction is written and the image one has of his fellow-players is often envisioned through text. Of course one can also role-play through video games that have made a specific genre of RPG’s. These are slightly different from tabletop role-playing games. Especially the single-player games (e.g., Tales of Symphonia) do not feature the spontaneous interaction with fellow-players and input in a story which is so characteristic of the traditional games. Here a video game mostly borrows the structure of the earlier role-plays in terms of narrative (quest structure) or game-play (that includes building skills and gaining more expertise) but lacks the interactivity. Multiplayer role-playing games usually resemble traditional tabletop role-playing games a lot in a sense that they do have moderators or game masters, various players and rely on interaction. The degree to which participants can enable a story and improvise in these video games is however debatable and depends on the game. The character of a role-play can be an existing one or original, depending on the roleplay. The fictional character has to be coherent, plausible and the player needs to stay true to his personality when interacting with the others. To some degree the character may overlap with the player and become a fictional alter ego. To quote role-play theorists Hakkarainen and Stenros (2002): ‘A character is a framework of roles through which the player interacts within the game, and for which she constructs an illusion of a continuous and fixed identity, a fictional "story of self" binding the separate, disconnected roles together’. This bridging between the self and the character will become apparent throughout this chapter. When referring to the players of a character I use the term ‘players’ rather than ‘gamers’, ‘writers’ or ‘authors’ since this is the most common term to refer to the participants of a role-play. Furthermore, the other terms highlight only part of the role-playing practice which, as a game mediated through writing, forms a specific type of storytelling. The game master (GM) is a referee that guides the game, makes sure the rules are followed and that characters are, and behave, suitable for that role-play. His functions include helping with the rules, securing the narrative and providing interaction. Online the game master is often also the moderator of the site and will then also be referred to as moderator or mod. Though he fulfils the same purpose as a traditional game master, online he also has the practical function of moderating for instance a board or virtual community. The game master sometimes has a playable character as well, especially in online textual role-playing games 90

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this function is often fulfilled by experienced players or founders of the game who participate themselves. Guiding a live-action role-play with many participants leads to a different organisational structure. Usually these games have a larger staff and not one or a few moderators or game masters. Though role-plays include an element of game-play the emphasis is on collaborative storytelling. Manuals of various role-plays, guide lines, players and scholars frequently underline the interactive dimension as specific to this fiction (e.g., Stratton, 2009; Waskul and Luts, 2004; Wikipedia, 2009). A role-play can be defined as a type of participatory storytelling in which all players contribute to the narrative and its development. More than the collaborative efforts mentioned in the last chapter, role-playing relies on its audience to construct the story. The game masters may have more input but this is mostly to provide a structure to the narrative and the game-play. The way the story unravels is dependent on the system the players use and their own input. What all these role-playing games have in common is the element of make-belief: on the one hand by adopting a character or persona and playing that out, on the other by imaging and co-creating the story world which functions through conventions or symbolism (Murray, 1997, notably chapter 4; Waskul and Luts, 2004). Posing as a character, behind the pc or in real life, is what role-playing is all about. For some players this character, especially if it is an original one, may be very close to their actual personality; others deliberately construct or choose a character that is opposite to themselves. Like in all fiction the original character can also be a hybrid of fictional preferences of the writer, subtly constructed from texts he or she is acquainted with. When choosing an existing character a player may have different criteria when selecting such as: a high affinity with the source-text or fandom; completing the cast of a source-text in a fan role-play; a particular liking of a character; comfortable or easy play because a character has distinctive features; exploration of certain side characters. In the game imagining other players as their fictional counterparts and a mundane setting (e.g., a virtual forum; an actual table with props) as the story world is essential. Through this imagining immersion in the narrative can be achieved. To sustain or reach this state of mind behaviour that is out of character - related to the player himself - is regulated strictly. Opposed to this is in character behaviour when the player has assumed the role of the protagonist. Make-belief is crucial here and can be held up in various ways. In real life costumes or props can help envision the story world better, though table-top role-plays like Dungeons and Dragons are usually played without too much ado. At LiveJournal icons are for instance part of the theatrics. Role-playing relies heavily on symbolism by envisioning 91

props, items, interfaces, people, and texts as something that they are not. This element of play may remind some of children’s games, a comparison that is often made. Though at first this seems slightly belittling, it is a justified reasoning: like children the adults here use their active imagination to construct a story world that is built up from personal elements, tastes and a collective consensus. In terms of genre or setting role-plays differ immensely. From fantasy-settings, to historical periods, to science fiction and fan role-plays based on all kinds of texts, the possibilities are as broad as the participants can envision. Fan role-plays are specific for this research and can be staged in two ways. Firstly, some role-plays adopt the setting of a sourcetext (e.g., Hogwarts, a certain point of the Star Wars timeline) and play that out, often with characters of their own that fit the source-text. Secondly, role-play can adopt the characters from the source-text by using either multiple fandoms (e.g., you can choose any cartoon character you like) which is described as a multi-fandom RPG, while others focus on just one series (e.g., you can only choose a Tales of Symphonia character). Online role-playing games can be conducted in several ways via graphical interfaces or textual ones where writing mediates the game-play. Textual role-playing games were among the first online games altogether with early systems as MUD’s, short for multi-user dungeons: large textual environments with various rooms or settings. These programs have been around since the mid-seventies in various varieties (e.g., Ryan, 2001, p. 310). The MUD’s that are more object-oriented (MOO’s) also allow players to interact with objects. These programs rely on the one hand on programmed content such as fixed descriptions of characters, objects and settings and on the other hand on spontaneous chats and actions by participants. MUD’s drew some attention from scholars over the years. These role-plays predate other online roleplaying practices such as MMORPG’s, massive online multiplayer role-playing games (e.g., World of Warcraft) which have gained great popularity over the last years. Somewhat later role-plays have also been mediated through forums, e-mail, boards, chat-programs and lately SNS-sites as well. These have unfortunately not been subjected to much scholarly research yet. Because my point of focus was transformative fiction based on Tales of Symphonia, which had no separate role-play, I focused on one role-play that had a great deal of the characters from the game: Luceti, a multi-fandom role-playing community at LiveJournal, a widely used system for role-playing. I analyzed this community from 1 April to 16 May after which I applied to the role-play with a character to gather specific data on the application and to understand more of the practice in terms of writing. A multi-fandom role-playing game is 92

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based on various existing texts and thus allows a similar transformative practice as actual fanfiction. The kind of authorial practices that writers engage in here can be described as transformative authorship. The writing practice is not exactly the same as in chapter 3 though. To describe the enactment of existing characters better, I coined the term performative authorship. A role-play is more performative than prose in a sense that the player enacts a character in dialogues and without too much description. A play revolves around on being in character. Where the prose writer can enable developments of a character without much ado, resolve a plot by himself and write multiple characters, the role-player depends on those that interact with him. This performativity will be highlighted here. The research on role-play communities on LiveJournal is scarce and explorative. Most studies focus on the system as a means for social networking (e.g., Wilber, 2007). Those texts that specifically have role-play blogs as their subject view the texts as a subset of fanfiction (Lackner et al, 2006; Carrell, 2009; Stein, 2006). Since these games rely on the enactment of existing texts, depicting them as fanfiction seems logical. Nonetheless they differ from the fanfiction of last chapter in a sense that they are also a game, ergo, an enjoyable activity structured through rules and aimed at fulfilling a certain goal. The story thereby follows a different narrative format because it is guided through these game features and relies on social interaction. It shall become clear that textual role-plays enable a collaborative storytelling in ways that the prose on did not. Role-playing systems online: Defining these texts and their writers Textual role-playing games online differ in their practices in that each poses different limits according to the system it uses. In this section I shall compare the research on MUD’s with other systems, notably LiveJournal and Twitter, to discern between the writing practices that are established on these platforms. The role-plays on LiveJournal and on boards are frequently packed together as play-by-post. This means that players post a message to which others can reply without a real time-limit. Other role-plays, for instance via chat, rely on fast, spontaneous interaction while play-by-post allows a player to reply when he can and think about a message thoroughly. In terms of quality this is a good thing, since a player can take the time to conduct posts that are worthwhile and befit a character. The posts are saved, and can be checked by everyone, which assures that the story and interaction can still be retraced. This becomes slightly harder when dealing with systems that rely more on their game features and personal logs to save the stories (e.g., MUD’s). 93

Textual systems pose analytical problems for a scholar because they are aimed at users and often lack a good overview. Importantly, though there is an overarching story, many roleplays have players that develop personal relations within a role-play and individual stories. A character in a larger role-play will not interact with everyone because there are that many participants and a player will not be aware of everything that is written out. Good moderators (or characters) that summarize the very relevant discussions can then be essential. The interaction usually takes place one on one though sometimes larger discussions can be held if the characters are assumed to be in one place. All of this depends on the role-play and the system, but LiveJournal-communities in general feature a lot of one on one interaction. When looking at a role-play and reading the various discussions one can never really get a good overview of what is happening because a role-play, like actual life, features not one narrative, but countless. One of the more interesting questions is also whether role-plays mediated by writing are the same as authorial practices. Janet Murray (1997) for instance argues that adopting a creative role in for instance a MUD or game is something else than having authorship. You are first and foremost an interactor who depends on a script someone else has provided. This interaction is facilitated by the procedural author: the actual writer who has enabled you to interact with the text and has given you these multiple paths, frames or patterns to work with (e.g., p. 194). ‘Procedural authorship means writing the rules by which the texts appear as well as writing the texts themselves. It means writing the rules for the interactor’s involvement, that is, the conditions under which things will happen in response to the participant’s actions’ (p. 152). However, Murray’s concept seems to refer explicitly to coders of digital content, programmers or authors of hypertext. In her chapter Procedural Authorship (pp. 185-247) she mainly explains the narrative structure of games and how one could facilitate interaction at best. Though an interesting term, procedural authorship would not be the right way to describe practices on already existing platforms such as LiveJournal, which have a basic form and are used alternatively, for instance, to play games. Here there is no procedural author who planned this kind of interaction and foresaw that users would communicate there in such a manner. Also, behind LiveJournal there is an entire team that designed the interface, and users make the most of its (hyper)textual abilities. The user could be perceived as a procedural author in a sense that he makes use of the images, tags, texts and html possibilities to achieve the best representation of, for instance, an existing character. However, since he provides the reader with limited choices this is not exactly the same as Murray’s term of procedural 94

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authorship which implies that you give the reader multiple patterns in a text. The choices for the reader are limited here and enabled by user options. One could argue that the moderator of a role-playing game has an extent of procedural authorship in a sense that he is a game master. The structure of a role-play relies on the game master who ensures the rules are played out correctly, thinks of the general plot and steers the interaction when it is needed. A difference would be here that the game master also plays along as a specific persona himself like the others. The moderator at LiveJournal is a guide and someone who also organizes the game in real life: he checks the applications of potential new attendees, promotes the game and updates general parts of the community. For instance, at Luceti, the moderators play very distinct characters in the game: scientists that pull the strings in that world and experiment on the players. Though the moderators can be seen as having more impact on the game in various ways, they cannot be seen as the authors. The players have immense impact on the game and all of them invest great effort in writing their characters properly and reading those of others. Sometimes they turn in a different direction than the moderators intended them too. The participants are in general aware of their messages and interaction in terms of quality, unlike a MUD or chat session in which you adopt a certain persona: those conversations are often brief, comical and condensed and may include going out of character at random (e.g., id., 115119). Whether MUD’s actually manage to construe a large story is a question altogether. Sherry Turkle (1995, p. 11) considers them ‘collectively written literature’ while Marie-Laure Ryan (2001, p. 312) believes it depends on the role-play you are in and the players there. In another essay she highlights MUD’s provide characters and a setting, but no actual plot and that most of it is ‘small talk’ (2004b, p. 345). While a MUD is very much based on permanent descriptions and actions, at LiveJournal a player has more freedom to explore the story and the setting by referring to spontaneously imagined, rather than programmed content. The roleplayer at LiveJournal can shape the world without codes or commands inherent of an object. The blog-based role-play has freedom in writing and descriptions since it is independent of programming. Communities such as Luceti operate via highly textual blogs with time and location gaps and incorporate long fictional messages. Considerable effort is invested in the style, the visual elements of the message and the descriptions. This kind of exploring makes these role-playing games particularly enjoyable to read, while a MUD-session will often seem like a chat or off-topic for an outsider.


Also, when analyzing a MUD, there is never an overarching story because no player sees everything. You are always in one setting and never get an overview of the entire game. Game theorist Espen Aarseth (1999) describes this as follows: ‘A MUD is an ephemeral phenomenon, with numerous, mutually exclusive perspectives, and no one can have a total view of it all’. At LiveJournal there can be many participants, but in general it is easier to analyze and track the interaction because the blog interface that saves all text. However, the text of comments cannot be edited so what is published is always the original message. This is important, since fanfiction can be edited for mistakes. The role-player thus carefully has to check his comment before posting. Furthermore, a MUD facilitates some solitary play (via locations and objects), while at LiveJournal one is dependent on his fellow-players for interaction. This naturally afflicts the quality of a role-play. As you will read in the following, the role-playing games at LiveJournal rely on their players in general. There is a specific emphasize on justifying a character’s actions and input and on the maintenance of one’s character. Overall I realized while doing ethnography at Luceti and going through other sites that role-playing a fan text here is not about chatting, but about facilitating an optimal, entertaining dialogue that does justice to the characters. It is also about collaborating and weaving a story with many people that unfolds slowly and in which each can take his part. This is not to say that a MUD cannot be very well-plotted, but it is more difficult since it is a social space that provides more context than actual text and lacks an overview (e.g., Aarseth, 1997, 145-147). It is true that MUD-systems can incorporate fan practice but in general I found these to be a less interesting case-study since they indeed are more of a game if one compares them to fictional blogs. The practice at LiveJournal proves to be something different altogether and very deliberately construed. Still, both blogging and MUD’s have something in common in terms of theatrics and performance and I would argue that both are strands of performative writing. That is not to say that MUD’s are the only role-playing media around. I already mentioned various chat sites, though SNS-sites as MySpace are also used for role-playing (e.g. Peeters, 2007) and role-play activity at notably Twitter is increasing. This microblogging system relies on very short texts describing what people are doing at the moment and relies on brief interaction. This makes it much more immediate and direct than fanfiction or LiveJournal blogs (Caddell, 2009, p. 8). I would also argue it adds more realism to roleplaying with its emphasis on small actions and daily activities. What is specifically attractive about Twitter as a platform is the fact that it has an element of game play: The more you participate with good tweets (messages) and gain 96

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followers, the more you are judged worthy of attention. Of course gaining a lot of watchers or followers or friends is a typical SNS-feature, however, note that LiveJournal role-playing games are less based on things like friends pages. In common blogs these might be a sign of status, but in role-playing communities they are not. Your character, being engaged in a roleplay at a community, already has a fixed friends page solely for that role-play and random readers usually know this. Those role-players at LiveJournal that do not belong to a community, but for instance maintain a fictional character blog, might rely more on SNSfeatures to get an idea of how much readers they have and if they can recruit more. Since Twitter has no specific role-playing communities, only profiles with followers, there can be several players with the same character at the large Twitter community (Jenkins, 2009; Caddell, 2009). Naturally this causes problems when a series is popular and roleplayers move to Twitter. Within the Mad Men fandom this caused fights between two over the reputation of the best role-player of the character. This was based not only on the way the character was performed, but also on the use of the system as such: ‘In fact, as the two Betty Draper’s argued about who deserved that character the number of followers and the number of individual tweets played a significant role in their argument’ (id., p. 9). Just as we have seen with fanfiction as prose, what matters is a good use of the platform as well. We will see in the following that at LiveJournal this is also crucial. At the moment Twitter is not that big as a platform for role-playing but this will surely increase. It is used a lot for Western content but not for Japanese pop-culture, in contrast with LiveJournal which is currently dominant in fandoms based on Japanese products. It is interesting to see that some systems tend to draw a different kind of fan group than others, but it remains hard to pinpoint why that is. In the following I shall try to describe the writing practices on LiveJournal in detail via a case-study to analyze how these authors view themselves. When discussing the practice of role-playing as a type of storytelling, a more collaborative and performative idea of authorship is highlighted. Luceti: The plot and its characters Blissfully unaware you wander through a large town of your home world. Maybe you are shopping or enjoying the culture. Or maybe you are not in a town at all, but on board a boat or, if you are from an advanced civilization, a star ship. All seems well until you loose consciousness. The minute you wake up it appears you are kidnapped and somehow grew a pair of wings in the process. In the distance you see a village that might be worth exploring, you might as well take a chance. Wherever you came from, you are in Luceti now, a new 97

world with new rules and you had better get used to it. The town is of medium size, with a barrier around it, at the far reaches of it there is a desert, or so the rumours say. You observe the situation a bit and notice that the population seems pretty strange. Everyone looks entirely different in terms of clothing and appearance. The only things they have in common are wings and barcodes. You need some help, food and a place to stay, it is time to start interacting. As a diverse multi-fandom role-playing game Luceti features characters from all kinds of series: from Star Trek, to Twilight, to Avatar; from people to summon spirits to a small wolf that cannot talk but posts descriptions of her actions. Everyone can interact freely, but at some points you might be more drawn to those that are from your own source-text. The interaction with different fandoms and cultures develops the characters into different persons than they were in the source-text. Nonetheless, you cannot stretch the characters too far: Their actions needs to make sense in terms of the pre-existing story and the new narrative, the roleplay itself. New relations between texts are established then in one crossover setting: Regal, ex-con from Tales of Symphonia, now dates Gelda from Tales of the Abyss; Lloyd is pals with Vyse from Skies of Arcadia; Raine still cares for her little brother Genis and just like back home she gives courses at the local school. No existing character can be there twice, but suppose you stop role-playing, your character is sent home. Then someone else can apply from the same character who is acted out differently then and does not remember ever having been in Luceti. Aside from the existing cast there are a few non-playable characters in the game, some animals and a few elemental spirits. Luceti excludes practically no texts. Players can base themselves even on written content as books or original fiction that they created themselves, but a problem here is that the protagonists are usually not visual. Except for illustrated fiction and graphic novels, the characters in books remain unseen. This becomes an issue in a sense that one needs icons that visualize a character at LiveJournal. In these cases players can apply with cast-by’s, meaning that a character is performed by a certain actor, celebrity, model or artwork. Cast-by’s thus add another dimension to performing a character by basing it on other texts or people again as a means of online representation. A character is mediated here twice in the performance: once by the author who writes it and once by the cast-by icons. Two layers of performative authorship can thus be defined here. One of the players at Luceti, under the nickname Compos_Mentis, even has various actors and models as his character’s icons. All of these cast-by’s should represent his character, Nina, though they are all images from various media sources and artwork. Here the character almost becomes a symbol or generic description based on the commonality that 98

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these women have green eyes and red hair. New transmedial relations and relations between the character, writer and icon are thus established only through these profile pictures. Where it seems evident that Luceti juxtaposes a new story world with the source-texts, here the layer of the character’s appearance constitutes another layer of interpretation and transformation. Luceti is not just a place of multi-fandom interaction where texts are combined. It is also a place where a large main plot is unfolding in a kind of whodunit fashion. The wings, the barrier and the bar codes: all the characters wonder how they are affected by these and what their use might be. In part this might be explained by the fact that in Luceti you are a test subject. Just outside the barrier a group of hostile semi-scientists, the Malnosso, experiment on you. No resident knows how or why these tests are run, but the new posts from the moderator’s characters increasingly give hints to what might be going on. The moderators pose as two traitors of the villainous Malnosso that can offer help to the citizens, but since they might be spied on, the information they give is limited. Being moles in their organisation, they can only provide some hints through secret channels. Players are left with many questions. Are the Malnosso the native species of this dimension? Did they get everyone out of different stories/worlds to deduce specific data? Are they looking for something or someone? How can they be stopped? At some points characters become less attached to a source-text. For instance, particularly hostile characters quickly start to behave more politely in Luceti because they are isolated from their home world and dependent on the cast there. The interaction characters have at Luceti might lead to relationships, some of which might last for years when the roleplayers remain active in their hobby. The story world is a lived environment and this leads to particular choices, problems and conflicts. For example, some characters may want to get married or even have children. In the FAQ (2008) this is explicitly addressed and it is made very clear that, both in and out of character, players have to make a decision here: ‘Please make sure the child will be accounted for and that it won't just be some random fluke. Kids are serious, even in RP. D: But remember, the only reason children can be born is because the Malnosso want new test subjects. They won't be exempt from some of the bad experiments that may go down. Please take this into account before your characters decide to have a child’. To keep the environment and characters active there are ‘events’ at regular basis in Luceti and most other blog-based role-plays. Here the events are frequently linked to experiments that the Malnosso conduct on the villagers. When all of the sudden all the characters have their worst character trait enhanced, have their wings resized or get kidnapped, the Malnosso are surely behind it trying to test something. But what that could be 99

and how it adds up to the main plot is something all the players have to find out together. Defeating that kind of an enemy takes a lot of collaborative skills. Luckily aside from wings you also get a journal. That is where all the action and interaction take place. For the player himself there is nothing visual in Luceti aside from LiveJournal’s profile icons: 15 images of the character a player makes himself or gets from LiveJournal fan communities. The story world is thus mostly an envisioned one. There are no images of what it looks like or what it is. The settings are explained textually, based on a generic map and information about the town. There are various shops and houses, a forest, a desert, tunnels. These can be of use during events or characters can choose to visit them together. Outside of the barrier there are a lot of mysteries, but the characters cannot go through it. As a textual environment Luceti is something different for everyone. The story world is read by each player through his personal experience there, his actual life and the image he has of the source-texts. In this popcultural bricolage a character can bump into all sorts of characters, texts and stories. At the main community of Luceti there is a bit of information about the plot, timeline and a map, but most things have to be experienced through playing and conversing. The character has no clue where he or she winded up and why, that is something the writer will have to deal with by being inquisitive. Using LiveJournal to stage stories After this description you may wonder how the role-play works in practice then. I shall depict this from the starting point, a player’s application, to the actual practice. First a player applies with a character that is not yet in the role-play by checking the residents list. Perhaps he has doubts about who to role-play and checks the requested characters first, in which players from certain source-texts request others from the same fandom. Maybe there are characters in the list that a new player is familiar with and thinks he could do justice. Before the application to a role-play a player should have first done his homework: read all the rules, checked the plot and features (e.g., a player should be aware that there are various wing colours and that he can choose one) and importantly, he should be aware of the character he is about to perform. I should add that all players at Luceti should be considered as fans that have an emotional connection to certain pop-cultural texts, the fandoms surrounding them and the type of friends they have made in those communities. Multi-fandom communities as Luceti are highly embedded in fan communities surrounding American and Japanese popular culture. Role-playing assumes you are engaged with those, even if you apply with a character of your own or of a rather obscure series. Those unfamiliar with the texts, values and communities 100

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that circulate online would hardly be able to make sense of this. For more general role-playing with original characters other platforms are a wiser choice, since LiveJournal is used mostly for fan role-plays. During some explorative browsing through the various role-playing communities at LiveJournal, I had to conclude that, though some role-plays only referred to one fandom, the standard were role-plays relating to various fandoms. General settings that excluded fandoms or fandom as a term were absent. This shows how much fan role-playing is embedded in this blog system. When staging a character from an existing source-text it is very important to be wellinformed. Even if a player has recently consumed the source-text, it could be important to reread it with specific attention to how the character behaves. These analyses are crucial here, even more than in fanfiction because a player communicates a lot through brief messages and cannot elaborate via descriptions or inner-thoughts easily, like in prose. It is essential that the sentences, dialogues and attitude really befit a character. Furthermore, because a role-player is often caught with different responses from fellow-players than anticipated, he is sometimes forced to creatively rethink what a character can say or do. Then measuring this interaction with similar situations in the source-text can be helpful. Deducing how a character is and live up to that can be difficult. Analyzing the source-text and rereading it again – by role-players often described as a canon review - is a first step to commitment to the character. This is why the application also explicitly states the following under the header personality: ‘Please consider here things such as habits, likes and dislikes, thought patterns, experiences and so on’ (Luceti application, 2009). The section is divided in terms of strengths and weaknesses with the note that a player should address these physically, mentally and emotionally. This is followed by a request to include examples from the series. After a player has decently applied with a character he can join. That means that firstly, you make an account for your character under a LiveJournal name that befits him, instead of a random one or a variation of your own nickname. For example, the smart teacher from Tales of Symphonia, Raine, role-plays as Wise_Maiden while Emil is called Ratatosk_Knight referring to his title in Dawn of the New World. Once a character has an appropriate username and journal lay-out, a player adds the communities from Luceti (where moderators post updates about the role-play) and all the characters to his friends page. This is necessary so a player gets all the updates in his friends page and can communicate with other players. Then it becomes important to think about icons. A player can get 15 icons unless he gets a paid account, then he gets additional icons each month. Some players take this 101

subscribing into consideration if they enjoy playing a character. These icons should represent various facial expressions of a character to suit the role-play. It helps to have a smiling one, a shocked one, an angry one and so forth. For some occasions role-players might swap a few of the icons and put their old ones back after a few days. Being the only visual device in the roleplay the icons contribute to how a character is acted out so role-players give the choice of icons quite some thought, track down screenshots and existing icons, adapt pictures and upload those. Finally, a player makes his first post with an introduction and the message that everyone should add his character to their list. After all of those practicalities are dealt with, a player is allowed to make his first in character post. The community operates through friends pages of LiveJournal, so it is important that participants keep track of those that stop roleplaying or join. This system, rather than opting for a LiveJournal community system, has as a benefit that all characters have their own blog where the interaction takes place. It is also easier because the moderators use the community features for other things such as application posts, character reserves (if a character is already played but you want it when the other player stops) and general topics featuring the plot, guide lines and rules. The friends page of LiveJournal is where the actual interaction takes place. By checking only this list rather than one community it is also easy to see the main communities and important posts therein, aside from the other character’s blogs. Next to the general community run by the moderators, there is also an out of character community (Lucetiooc, 2009) where a new player can introduce himself or alert others when he is on a break with role-playing. Aside from these two communities one can interact in character at the log community (Lucetilogs, 2009) in third-person, notably for actions that require much description rather than dialogues and interaction. Lastly one can access the fan community (Lucetifans, 2009) for meta-discussions and art based on Luceti, both important though slightly secondary features, notably the log community will be addressed later. The interaction itself is also a very specific practice. Let me go into a few of its features. Firstly, the interaction takes place as a dialogue between two characters and usually not more. Out of character you can see all the replies characters have already made to each other and maybe some are more interesting than the blog itself. However, mingling in other people’s conversations is in most cases forbidden, since the journal function in Luceti works more like text messaging from one character to the other. Some posts may be overheard by others because characters (not the players) can talk through the journal, but even then it is slightly uncommon to respond to a comment rather than to the first entry of the blog. The 102

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point here is that the interface of Luceti is imagined through magical journals and characters are actually unable to see each other’s textual comments. There are however loopholes in the role-play, for instance, very smart characters can hack journals of others. Also, a character does not have to behave to naive, it is assumed that they also live in the village and communicate outside of the journals as well and are familiar with the latest news and rumours. Furthermore, the character’s interaction relies on the performance of its player. LiveJournal blogs are highly topological, depending on the time and fictive place where one is writing. The meaning of a work and the interaction are based on how often and when a player posts. A player needs to be highly aware of this, certainly in a role-play community, where the main readers are his fellow-players. One needs to adjust his time schedule to that of others. Especially differences between time zones (e.g., European and North American) make this difficult. Still, it becomes apparent from the role-play communities that those that stick together are not from similar time-zones., though it would seem practical. Apparently their interaction is based on other criteria, for instance what characters seem likely to befriend each other. Adapting to others and being flexible becomes important then, to a degree that some might role-play at work or during other chores simply because their fellow-players are online then. Not checking the community frequently assures that a player misses out on interaction, has a hard time tracking conversations or cannot keep up with the current events. If in daily life a role-player encounters certain problems or is gone for a weekend, he needs to state this, since this will affect his character. This is called a hiatus and it may be because the player is sick, needs to ace exams, has a holiday or has a lot of work at his job. Most fictional blogs, aside from role-play blogs, need to state this because readers depend on the updates (Friedrich, 2007, p. 38-39). In Luceti this is dealt with very specifically. A player can allow his character to be kidnapped in the game. The Malnosso then run experiments on him, which may or may not show off depending on the player’s choices. Ergo, it is often very convincing if a hiatus is solved in the game as well. Luceti offers options in this, but not all role-plays do: in that case a player has to make it clear in character and out of character that he will be gone for some time. All of this aims to stage a credible story world without practical issues. If social matters are in the way, the player needs to solve these fictionally too. Similarly the leaving of characters has to be explained in the game as well. Out of character a player may think he has lost connection with a character at Luceti or lost the motivation to role-play altogether. In the game the player’s characters get send back to their home worlds again but how that works is something that should still be explained through the 103

main plot. No one is actually sure of what happened to them. More awkward, sometimes characters come back from another point of the timeline. In actual life this is because the roleplayer that played a character dropped out and the character became available again for other fans that wanted to play him or her. Within Luceti other characters may notice this and discuss it, note the dialogue at the first image in the appendix (image A). The characters speculate why it is that characters leave and return without a recollection of ever having been in Luceti. Naturally characters being ‘sent back home’ is a convenient argument to explain that characters leave, but in terms of plot all of this needs to be negotiated, much like the short hiatus mentioned before. In these cases it also helps to be in touch with some of your fellow-players through your personal LiveJournal, Aim or MSN messenger. They can brief you if something happened in the game, since summarizes of the main events, happenings or updates of the plot are rare. For the convenience of some, certain characters may choose to summarize great events or plot twists that involved many characters since they cost so much time to read. For those that had a small hiatus or are less involved with events, it becomes difficult to see the plot development of the general Luceti storyline and Malnosso. Characters that are friendly, social, involved with the community and bright sometimes aid by making a separate thread stating all the facts in pointers. This is how some practical issues of having a large plot with many writer-players are tackled, because being involved in such a large collaborative project can sometimes be problematic. Another important element of LiveJournal role-plays or other fictional blogs is that the interface is usually made very explicit. As Betsy Friedrich (2007) writes in her thesis on blogs: ‘Blogs are also usually fictional objects through their self-referentially. Authors frequently give their characters a reason to be blogging, the blog does not exist randomly’. This dimension is indeed apparent in many of these LiveJournal communities where the characters have an actual journal to communicate through. The blog function needs to be explained: otherwise the written comments and posts as a medium would make no sense. I can imagine that in some communities the posts are imagined as actual face to face dialogues, but during a preliminary search on LiveJournal I found none of these. In Luceti all the characters are equipped with a journal when they first arrive. The Luceti FAQ (2008) describes this as follows: ‘It’s basically like a written live journal. A little picture, like your icon, will show up next to your comments on other’s entries. This way, others can see how your character is reacting to something. They can see a smile, a wave, or a look of disgust. Also, the journal is magic, so it can imprint your voice, if you tell it to.’ A 104

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player can write in this journal, which is the normal mode of communicating or choose to record voice posts by adding ‘/voice’ as an indication in the title of the entry or comment. Because Luceti is also a story world where characters live, players may want to have real interaction without the blog. Since it is a blog-based RPG, however, this has to be mediated via LiveJournal as well. Characters can talk face to face in Luceti via action posts, that use an ‘/action’ tag in the title (see picture above). Then the self-referential level is undermined and substituted by the blog as a virtual representation for actual communication. This second level of using the blog allows a player to write down posts that assume both characters are near each other and actually talking and doing things. Descriptions of how the characters respond to each other’s presence are added then or how they perform actions together. Using the blog as face to face communication can sometimes seep through other conversations as well. For instance by small descriptive comments role-players make to describe a characters feelings, or by out of character posts stating something personal. Blogs are a very specific medium. Due to their interaction and multimedial aspects they cannot easily be printed (Friedrich, 2007, p. 22). Role-playing communities that rely on heavy interaction on the blog cannot be printed because they are not sequential at all. The story at these communities is fragmentary, a-chronological and takes place at many blogs. Many conversations occur at the same time and while new threads are made non-stop, some interaction may run for days in one older thread. LiveJournal cannot depict many comments at once so a user has to click frequently to see more comments at longer threads. This can be quite impractical for readers since each comment is also put slightly to the right (note the images in the appendix) which results in comments going off-screen at some point. From all of this it appears that role-players make very creative use of LiveJournal’s generic features to stage a large story world. Other options of LiveJournal are also alternatively applied in the role-play. For instance, there is a feature to add tags at the bottom of your post. Role-players add witty descriptions here and update the tags by adding those they have conversed with. The titles are used in a similar fashion. They state for instance whether the post is a voice post or action post (if it says nothing it is simply written and mediated through the journal by writing). However, the comments below also have similar titles, sometimes featuring these tags. Usually they are left blank, because it is assumed the dialogue continues in the same fashion as the earlier posts. Then role-players may add jokes as a title such as depicted at image B, when the authors use the text box to refer to typos.


Making conversation: Writing and style in role-plays You have just applied with your character and made an introductory post. Some of the villagers might approach you and pass the Luceti guide containing the basic information a character needs to manage there. Maybe someone will even tour you around. It is time to start interacting on one of the various blogs that are uploaded a day or on your own. You notice that it takes some genuine effort in the beginning. You start to wonder: How do you write a character at best? In what ways does this differ from what I have written before? Is roleplaying like other textual fiction or not? In this section I shall touch upon various authorial features of role-playing: the narration, the style and the criticism. A story with so many authors is difficult to categorize or capture in existing terms such as co-authorship. Like other online games Luceti is inhabited by many characters that all interact in this town (259 players, counted 17 June 2009). In terms of writing a practice as role-playing is hardly the same as staging a more conventional story with one or several authors. These games feature all the unities a narrative is supposed to have: a plot, characters and a setting. What it lacks is a main point of view or narrator. Each player forms his own perspective of the story and selectively reads threads. Luceti is not the same for everyone, which also makes this problematic to analyze as a scholar who reads more than a general player would and does not participate in the role-play himself. The numerous voices and lack of a main perspective are the main difference between these role-plays and regular stories. However, that there is not one perspective but many does not mean a role-play lacks the clear perspective that we know from existing narratives. When analyzing the texts at Luceti it becomes clear they rely distinctively on narration. The experience however differs per character. The community as such is constructed out of stories told in character blogs: each of these gives a different account of the story world with new interaction and events. It would however be too easy to say that these blogs and their comments are strictly written in first-person. In fact, the author and character often heavily overlap in terms of narration in a role-play. The perspective here is in a strange mixture between performances of the character and the broader knowledge of a player. Importantly a player might add things in terms of tags, titles or little descriptions which cannot be equated with the character but are in fact out of character. These can be written in a third-person fashion to elaborate on a character or as remarks that clearly address the other player. The writing can become very hybrid by this. See for instance image C, the start of a conversation, where the descriptions add an ironical element


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The third-person descriptions in role-playing are in general brief and placed between brackets. In some cases they become longer, notably when a character cannot talk, when something emotional is happening or when the action post requires much description. This can result in a very prose-like third-person style. Let me illustrate via another conversation of a long thread of similar posts (see image D). Here the posting almost becomes prose because one character cannot talk and the other tries to make effort. The writing thus becomes very descriptive and the whole thread starts to read as a novel. Sentences as: ‘There might be a softness in Raine’s gaze as she debates the blanket situation’ are prosaic and subjective, depicting her inner thoughts. This kind of writing in a role-play has little difference with regular fanfiction in terms of style. Aside from these descriptions in tags that are embedded in first-person interaction, the community has a specific log-community. Logging aims to describe an event between two or several characters at fullest. Here everything is written in third-person. The narration is purely prosaic with dialogues that are interwoven in the narrative (see image E). This point of view makes logging rhetorically different from action posts that embed brackets and a small font size for the more descriptive parts on occasions. Note the first lines of this log (Lucetilogs, 2009): ‘Scorching desert air whipped across his face as Kratos flew towards the ruins. He'd never flown such a long distance ever since he came to this world; he had forgotten what a rush it was to fly with only the mana on his back to support him. It was one of the only things he liked about being an angel’. Some communities feature logs in first-person: these are often the ones that do not have action post abilities and use the logs for that. The decision to use either action posts or logs is at Luceti a rather personal one (also discussed by members at Luceti OOC community, 2009). A log has the benefit that it allows a player to reflect on the inner-thoughts of a character because it is fully third-person. The text can be as descriptive and long as you want it to be, in contrast to regular blog conversations. Action posts are conducted quicker and more direct, which is why some players prefer these. Logging consumes a lot of time and a player always has to wait for the co-author, which is also why logs are usually conducted with only two or three people. Though logs hypothetically can tell large stories co-authored by several players, in practice a player has to wait too long and looses his motivation. Writing a log can be compared to traditional types of collaborative writing in which both authors in turn take one point of view. We have seen examples of this in regular fanfiction last chapter; I would argue that the log-function in style is similar to fanfiction. Interestingly it also features similar pointers and credits as fanfiction: stating the characters or 107

pairing it; a summary and even an age rating. A disclaimer is not added in Luceti, which is deemed unnecessary in a roleplaying game. Still one has to wonder why in fanfiction this is so heavily underlined and why role-players hardly seem to wonder about legalities. The writing practice is after all nearly the same, though it seems these games have more liberty in the eyes of the actors. Perhaps this is also because author does not matter in role-playing as much as in fanfiction, which is more related to conventional authorship and stories that could have been printed. What is important in a role-play is a character posing as an author under whose nickname everything is published. It is already assumed that everyone knows this is a fictional product based on other texts that can be found in the profile. That is not to say that roleplayers never get charged. Caddell (2009) describes how a few Mad Men role-players at Twitter were banned by the studio, but ended up working together with the creators to promote the series. I addressed similar cases in chapter 2 regarding fanfiction and fan websites: eventually companies realize fan activity is a benefit for them. In terms of style the conversations at a regular role-play community are very dependent on the character. The personality of the character in the source-text and the performance of the role-player are linked. It is essential to write and interact like a character would in the actual text. A shy character will not approach others that much and talk briefly and softly. Here a smaller font size can at times be used then to emphasize this intonation. Similarly an arrogant character will not approach others either and might react stern or bossy. Social characters will respond to a lot of blogs. Sometimes a character proves to be unsuitable for role-playing. Corinne Lamerichs explained in an interview that she had a lot of fun role-playing emperor Kuzco from The Emperor’s New Groove. However, as an obnoxious and arrogant emperor he would never interact with others because he deems them as unworthy. Because others had to approach him the interaction got limited. Socially a player depends on his character. It is not an option to stretch him too much unless progress is made in Luceti through various events which takes a lot of time and does not suit all characters. Occasionally the mode of typing will reflect the way characters talk in a source-text. Luceti for instance has a Tia Dalma from Pirates of the Carribean that converses like this: Is dere something wrong wit' de river? (Andallaretrue, 25 May, 2009). Playing with pronunciation and text like this represents a more accurate image of the character rather than typing it out normally. A writing style in the role-play has to befit a character’s traits. Most important here is staying in character both in written style, in terms of behaviour and in terms 108

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of plot/choices. If a fan role-player is criticized it will often be on these grounds. Like in fanfiction being in character is a core value. As the Luceti application (2008) states: ‘we want to know that you can really get into this character's head, that you can identify what motivates them as if they were real people. We want to see that you have put a lot of thought into this, and that you really have a desire to do this character justice. In the same breath, please try to have fun with this part! You finally get to talk someone's ear off about a character you want to play; take advantage of it!’ Furthermore, when making conversation it is important to leave openings for your fellow-players. A player’s posts have to be slightly open so that others can raise questions or broaden on the narrative. Making decisions for other players is strictly forbidden and described as Godmodding because you ‘play God’ by disabling the other player’s reaction (e.g., Luceti rules, 2009). More positively a player can have the best interaction when leaving gaps and stimulating the interaction. This was also brought to my attention by role-player Wendelien Meijer (personal contact) who had bad experiences with players that immediately closed her off by never adding new information to their writing. Other points of critique in role-playing are more concerned with the general activity of a user: frequently being online and sociable towards other characters really helps. The players that interact with a wide range of characters appear to get the most comments, because they are very visible and have a lot of acquaintances in Luceti that will respond. The more a player invests in a character and the more plausible he does this, the more he will be recognized as a good role-player. Naturally some fans will not pay that much attention to how the character is portrayed, because they are happy the character is in Luceti at all. Characters that are popular in real life do not necessarily seem to draw more attention though. This is also because players in these games easily group together online and offline in terms of fandom, how long they have been at Luceti and in terms of quality. Because players drop out of role-plays pretty fast and have the tendency to put characters on a hold for some time, users of the game are also a bit alert when interacting. Role-playing practices are valued based on the quality and quantity of the interaction and the representation of the source-text. Writing as such is judged on those grounds rather than inventive exploration of the story world, originality or the plot movements in the community itself. The main plot after all is the one that the moderators establish and that the characters try to explore. To check if they are role-playing well, players usually have a general evaluation post at their LiveJournal (concrit post) where others can evaluate them. These mainly state if readers/players like the portrayal of the character and if something should be different. 109

Critique is thus equated with the value of doing justice to a character: in terms of balancing between the source-text and the game, transforming the fiction, everything should be just alright, but the performativity is important too. Socializing enough and with the right characters is crucial to role-playing. In contrast to fanfiction, reviews hardly ever address grammar, and in general the linguistic level of the participants is far higher. Perhaps this is also necessary if one wants to comment rapidly on other people’s blogs. In fanfiction, we saw in the previous chapter, readers hardly ever interfere with the plot or give suggestions of where a story should head. An author does not care much for these suggestions either, unless he specifically asks for input, which often happens only in those fanfics that stimulate audience participation because it is part of the concept. In role-playing you rely on your fellow-players and often are in contact with some of these. You might show them a post in a chat before actually posting it. Note for instance this fragment of an interview with role-player and fanfiction author Corinne Lamerichs (Meowzy-chan). CL: [about fanfiction] We used to have some readers that inquired about the plot, but not anymore. NL: That does not happen. CL: No, but with role-playing it does. NL: I guess that is different because you have to consult since you are in a group. CL: Even if you have nothing to with them, they will ask for critique. NL: That is interesting! CL: They will say: ‘Think it is IC if Raine would do this or that once?’ and I say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. NL: And are these people from the Tales fandom then? CL: Yes. Gaining a reputation as a specifically good role-player is more difficult. A player might be recognized by peers as highly capable, but as we have seen this always depends on more than just the quality of the writing. Role-playing is heavily related to the community, cannot be published or read outside of that platform. Participants do not perceive themselves as authors but as players. Sure, one’s skills increase during role-playing: the practice stimulates the active imagination and engagement with fiction and characters. Much like fanfiction it will also increase the linguistic capabilities of its participants. Those that are not of a high level yet can reach it through peer evaluation, trying out different characters and learning by doing. However, as a genre it cannot grow outside the communities. It is limited collaborative fiction meant for entertainment of its own audience. Some random readers may stumble upon role110

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plays or track a certain character, but in general role-plays attract only other role-players. Those that are considered good role-players only have that reputation there, and if they want to write for a larger audience, they would have to choose another genre of fiction to accomplish this. Performing characters: The live audience, gestures and the mise-en-scene Blogs at Luceti are thus all about performing a character adequately and certain values are attached to this. We have seen that a writer has to stay true to a character in various aspects and can creatively use his blog to explore a character even more through icons, tags and titles. Performative authorship becomes a kind of acting here that has a theatrical dimension. While we looked at the writing practice of role-plays, the commonalities between a role-play and a performance still need to be defined properly. In this section we will see how the relation between an audience and the narrator can be described in a role-play. By Janet Murray (1997) MUD’s and other role-plays have been defined as a spectacle, a theatrical concept hinting at the relation between performance and writing: ‘Spectacle is used to create exultation, to move us into another order of perception, and to fix us in the moment’ (p. 112). Through this play the audience becomes immersed in the story. Digital environments try to stimulate immersion through participation, which increases the attention and the sensational experience of the audience (id.). The goal is then to make the immersion in the virtual/story world last as long as possible. The process is performative not only in its acts but also in its protagonists: the masks and costumes from the history of theatre here become virtual avatars, playable characters or graphical figures (id., p. 113). The ideas Murray touches upon suit this case-study when going into the performative elements of roleplaying. This performativity can be seen at various levels in the writing: the immediate, live audience; the gestures and body; the importance of place (or stage). Firstly, performative authorship in role-playing is bound by time when making conversation with one’s fellow-players. The blogs are highly temporal: reading and writing lack the gap that they have in print-culture and the audience is allowed to respond. As such blogs become more immediate. Following a blog or engaging in a role-playing community means experiencing and reacting to what is going on at the moment. In that sense role-playing blogs feature a live audience. If you read a fictional blog later to catch up the experience of the text will differ and there is no need to respond anymore, meaning that the dimension of active reading gets lost. ‘What this means for the writer is that blogging becomes something closer to performance art like theatre or dance’ (Friedrich, 2007, p. 41). The distance between 111

reader-writer is limited in a role-play where players respond to players nonstop. Francesca Coppa (2007) classifies this element of acting in front of a live audience as performative or theatrical as well, but relates it mostly to regular fanfiction (pp. 238-243). However, a different kind of relationship is established in a role-play compared to fanfiction, where a reader can still reply to fiction published years ago. Whereas relies on a kind of active audience of writers that reply at any time and give feedback, Luceti relies on immediate activity of its residents. The live audience becomes more direct here. Because the blogs and their replies are time-bounded a role-player has to improvise. Much like in performance art the audience (here, players) will respond in unexpected ways and a storyteller is forced to adapt to the situation. Like an actor who stands in front of an unfamiliar crowd, role-players have to improvise when interacting with characters they have not met yet. The player may make certain mistakes because of the spontaneity of the interaction in terms of grammar or plotting, but that is inevitable. Perhaps the flaws in roleplaying even make it more authentic since a character that writes in a blog can also make mistakes at times. In a large story world as Luceti both character and author have to interact, plan and improvise to establish social connections. The interaction has a specific performative dimension, but it is hard to depict that at best. Luceti hovers between conversation – regular, spontaneous talk which incorporates gestures - and dialogue, written and preplanned texts (for this division see also Friedrich, 2007, pp. 46-55). To an outsider a textual role-play might account for dialogue, since it is written and revised. Nonetheless I would argue that it is also similar to conversation, since it has a clear performative dimension featuring improvisation, time-bounded features, gestures and enactment, which are elements of conversation. However, how can interaction that is in essence without a body feature gestures that underline the performative dimension of roleplaying? At first hand it seems a role-play incorporates textual indications of the body or gestures rather than actual gestures. These signs can be seen as something similar to gestures, as text that is imagined to be a character expressing himself. For instance, Tronstad (2004) emphasizes that MUD’s are based on mere text that is misread on purpose, again underlining the symbolism that is at stake in a role-play. Performativity depends on make-belief here: ‘I know that there are real persons behind the characters, but I also know that unless I have met these people in real life, my interaction with them is more theatrical than real. I imagine them’ (p. 1). Through textual indications a character is envisioned. The constituted story world is fictional and virtual, differently read and imagined by everyone. Descriptions depict 112

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expressions and behaviour, ergo, add a performative dimension to storytelling (see also image D) that helps establish the characters. However, what a player envisions in a fan role-play also relies heavily on text outside the role-play: the source-texts the characters are based on. The source-text provides a kind of additional idea of the story aside from the role-play. Some of the characters in a role-play may be unfamiliar to a player because he has not read the source-text. He will experience and read a character differently, based mostly on the role-play. Nonetheless, even a player unfamiliar with the text interprets a character via icons that belong to the source-text. Francesca Coppa (2007) righteously links the performativity to the body of the characters. The characters are used as actors, moulds, for an imaginary theatre for fans. A fandom role-play bases itself the bodies of media characters; in book fandoms this might differ. In Luceti book-related protagonists are given life through cast-by’s: the body of an actual actor or model is casted as the character. This idea of casting media characters can be related to role-playing very well: the fanfiction author becomes a director as well that makes actors perform and is concerned with the overview. At the same time he is like an actor that becomes the character. A quick look at a LiveJournal role-play shows that we are not dealing with merely textual relations. The body of the character is not just an envisioned by textual references to the source-text. Next to descriptions and tags a player has an interface with icons that contribute to the story-telling. Selecting icons in a role-play is very important since they have to reflect many states of mind of a character and a regular player only has fifteen he can use. The process of making and selecting icons is done very careful and when icons are used well, they can severely change the way text is read. As primary visual content these icons are chosen deliberately to represent certain gestures or attitudes. Like a storyteller makes use of his hands or facial expressions to underline a story, a role-player uses icons to represent the narrating character. Note for instance image B where the first role-player used an overly serious icon depicting authority and strictness in a contemplative, secure pose. Compare that with her reaction which is slightly arrogant, her hand movement and the eyebrows. Making use of icons creatively is very important since it can assure a pacing in the interaction and different reactions. For instance, at some points characters may only post an icon rather than text to show a certain reaction. A role-player for instance can make a post of three or more comments in a row so he can switch icons to depict different gestures or moods. Note for instance image F and the continuation of the conversation in image B. Here the male character is represented through three comments to depict different gestures, which are followed up nicely by female character Azula who has two icons from a similar frame 113

depicting a different reaction. Posting in a row is not a taboo here since it can reflect the attitude of a character better. The icons can then form a kind of animation due to the use of similar frames in which the expression of a character changes. The performative author also relies on place, be it virtual or actual. When adopting a role and behaving in a certain way, the place is similar to the stage that affects the performer. For fans these practices are not just associated with one place, such as LiveJournal, but dispersed over various virtual and actual places that are related to a fandom or text (see also Sandvoss, 2005, pp. 44-67; Hills, 2001, pp. 144-158). Aside from the actual platforms that one associates with the role-play, a source-text and the fandom, the fictional setting matters. This is the place that a player imagines for the story. Note how Luceti is constructed as a specific village in which all of the players live. The characters tell and perform, but the setting provides a background that is necessary for envisioning the actions. The setting is virtual in two ways: it makes use of a platform which is coded (LiveJournal, the first level) and embeds a story world in that system (second level). Though role-playing is performed in a mediated, virtual space, a player takes daily life into account as well, by linking out of character statements to in character behaviour. For instance, if a player knows the other player will not be online for some time, there will be no action in the story world. The virtual and actual are entwined here. Role-players consult each other, keep track of each other’s situation through various platforms, interact when it is possible and rely on each other socially. What matters when analyzing a role-play is the way these platforms touch upon each other and how a story is staged through various platforms and texts, rather than one community. Between gaming and writing To summarize role-playing is a specific kind of writing that is not just transformative or original: it is best described as performative authorship. The practice aims to act out a text and stage a story in which each player can take part. The case-study shows that electronic platforms as LiveJournal can be creatively used for new ways to write and co-author stories. As Janet Murray (1997) remarks: ‘The computer is providing us with a new stage for the creation of participatory theatre. We are gradually learning to do what actors do, to enact emotionally authentic experiences that we know are not ‘real’ (p. 125). Role-plays succeed in creating large collaborative projects written by and for many fans. The players get into an existing character’s mind set and flesh him out through dialogue and description. This makebelief or symbolism, imagined through text, shapes the role-play. 114

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A role-play is distinctive by enabling a writerly discourse in which the author is in fact absent. When players refer to themselves they use terms as player or ‘mun’, hardly ever will any of them describe this practice as writing or define himself as a writer or author. In general role-plays are viewed as games mediated through text. Writing abilities, skills and narration are deemed important nonetheless, which depicts an authorial awareness though the actors might not describe it as such. The values attached to writing are slightly different from fanfiction as prose or scripts where the author has more input and at points is viewed as an actual writer with the attached cultural connotations. Therefore ownership is a more important discourse when dealing with regular fanfiction than role-plays. Nonetheless there is a sense of emotional ownership in role-plays especially if one is attached to the character he performs or has played a long time. The players themselves see the role-play as an entertaining activity with an emphasis on the social aspects, though in practice it is also a type of writing that requires typical imaginative and textual skills. How freely an author can write a character in a role-play is a different matter, just as how much input he can have on the story. Though role-plays are very open at some points, they can also be a restriction because the emphasis on being in character is that high. Furthermore they are restrictive in terms of plot: Luceti has a main story line, but it advances slowly, which creates a game that depends more on events and interaction than on the main narrative. The potential and wish to create a large participatory story is there, but the progress is slow and regulated by the moderators. Interestingly the author is not only absent when players talk about the activity but also in the practice itself. A character is documented in a role-play: he is preserved in these fictional blogs, not the author who is harder to locate. The author here is a double: both a character in the narrative and a narrator at the same time. Last chapter we have seen that fanfiction personalizes characters and stories through the use of self-insertions, crossovers (with other texts or with daily life) and Mary Sues. In a role-play daily life mingles with fiction through the use of the blog system and characters going online. The characters are personalized and the author is rendered absent rather than present. Importantly, in the fanfiction surrounding Tales of Symphonia, it is often the other way around when the fanauthor enters as a protagonist in the story world (see chapter 3). The use of systems as LiveJournal can thus establish a very different, though just as personal, author-character relationship when compared to regular fanfiction.



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Chapter 5 Submitting and sharing: Undermining the author? In this research I tried to depict the authorial practices within fanfiction and show how notions of authorship influence the text and its writers. The thesis addressed this via the overarching question: How does fanfiction redefine what authorship means in our modern society? The role of the author in fanfiction seems to be a specific construction when compared to original fiction or other fields of writing. In this conclusion I shall answer the research question briefly. Firstly I shall focus on the specific transformative and performative practices of fanauthors and depict their overlap. Secondly I shall discuss the identity of the fan-author and how his practices construct an alternative idea of authorship. I analyzed fanfiction as a transformative practice to show how authors each give their own spin to an existing narrative. Transformative as a concept applies to all fan practices in which fans derive new texts or practices from existing ones. This proved to be a helpful concept to explore one of the specific problems of fan writing. Fans hover between existing material and the wish to add something original or personal to that story world without disrupting it with their touch. This paradox becomes apparent many times when fans reflect on their own work. On the one hand fans express the wish to stay true to the source-text and reject certain fallacies (e.g., Mary Sues); on the other hand it is important for them to find their own voice or style and add something to the plot or the characters. Transformative authorship becomes a more problematic concept when we are dealing with transmedia storytelling: stories that are told across various platforms and texts. Here the source-text is already transformative to some degree in a sense that various production teams make their own adaptations or plenary stories. In the case-study the transmedial elements of the source-text posed less of a problem than I had presumed. This was mostly because the videogame was still the dominant text on which the franchise and plenary texts were based. I can envision that a case-study on a transmedial text with several primary texts would have had a different outcome, since each new text then provides a new narrative or subplot rather than additional background information. It should also be taken into account that the case-study I dealt with was Japanese and that some texts are only available in Japan or for fans that know where to look online, which excludes parts of the Western fandom. As for the performative dimension of fanfiction, this becomes very apparent in roleplaying. Here a player relies on the source-text to make an adequate portrayal of his character. 117

The performance is not just plain textual but also incorporates visual elements such as fonts sizes, icons and the LiveJournal lay-out. In the case-study various features of LiveJournal are included to add to the realism of the story world and character. All players contribute to the story though the moderators assure the main plot. Though co-authorship can be established in regular fanfiction, it is less common and often the influence of the readers is limited to reviews and beta reading with minor suggestions. Performative and transformative elements can be found in all fanfiction and the discourses surrounding it. Fanfiction is much like role-playing with its emphasis of staying true to characters and writing them as fitting as one can. Indeed the concepts ‘in character’ and ‘out of character’, which are actually related to role-playing, are here used as ways to criticize fanfiction in general and depict fallacies in various fan texts. Importantly, fanfiction comes in all kinds of formats and stories that touch upon each other. With its emphasis on dialogues the text in role-playing has much in common with fanfiction in the form of scripts. Fanfiction written as prose resembles third-person logs in role-playing. Stories with thumbnails hosted at personal sites look like a role-play, but are only written by one author. The genres, formats and values of written fanfiction relate to each other, but are still not quite the same. During this research I focused specifically on fanfiction and role-playing, but these practices are part of a wide range of fan activities in which certain conventions and values are created. Though it was necessary for my analysis of authorship to distinguish between practices, there were also close resemblances at points. Still, viewing all of these texts as merely fanfiction - one genre - causes analytical problems. Chapter 4 for instance made clear that role-playing is a very specific practice mediated through text (in this case blogs) that involves more play and collaboration. Performative and transformative writing are not limited to fanfiction but are practices that can be found in all forms of fiction. Even original fiction is slightly transformative in a sense that writers rely on conventions and existing texts that they are familiar with when staging their own text. No text can really be constructed from scratch. Elements of the performative in fanfiction can also be found in original fiction, for instance consistency in characterization and emotional realism are also important when creating a new story. The difference is that a writer has developed these characters himself and that certain authorial practices for fans (e.g., rereading a source-text; interpreting a character) are only a minor problem here. Essential in this research is the understanding that fans are not just writers in fanfiction, but also readers and interpreters of a source-text. At points these roles conflict because certain prevalent opinions regarding a series exclude others. 118

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Throughout this research I wondered how the author was positioned in this derivative fiction. He seemingly disappears from the discourse as a genius, someone who creates original, expressive art. Fan-authors themselves hardly fit into the print-cultural paradigm of authorship which emphasizes the single individual writer. This seems to stage a subversive, self-aware type of amateur fiction, but this is not true in all senses. The paradigm of printculture and the individual author is still active here when fans refer to authorship and underline the author behind the source-text. The actual author for them is frequently the person or team who established the original text and to whom they pay homage with their own texts. In general they do not perceive themselves as actual authors because they work with material that does not belong to them. Their text is linked to an existing one; therefore they can never have the entire credit or feel like they are authors in a true sense of the word. The authors of the source-text own their material in all ways and have the ultimate say about the characters. By contrast the fans feel they only own part of a text and experience their writing sometimes as slightly illegal. They are fan-authors who often emphasize their identity as a fan rather than their identity as a writer. Online this can be seen in the fashioning of their profiles, their author’s notes and nicknames. Fans want to show they are part of a fan community. This is also how their fiction should be read. Fanfiction as such is selective and exists out of genres that each draw a specific audience. Fans will also be tempted to read fiction that is much like their own or which confirms their ideas of a certain series. The readers here know the material and browse the internet looking for specific stories. These writers are part of the fan community surrounding an existing text and cannot be equated with other writing practices. Fans read and write for other fans and this creates a selective circulation of the text. Most of them do not consider their practice unusual, though it becomes clear from fan’s discussions about their fiction that they want to grow and become better at it. Though they are self-aware and take writing very serious, they do not fashion themselves as authors. In terms of writing this is not to say that fanfiction does not grant many opportunities and skills for writing or requires certain capacities, but that these practices should not be disconnected from their context. For instance, in all fanfiction it is deemed important to write an existing character well. The fan-author has to understand the characters, their motives and the story to assure this. In this sense he also focuses on other elements than a writer who develops his own story world and characters. A fan-author is always a thorough interpreter, even during the writing process, which forms an interesting difference between fan-authors


and authors of original content. This becomes a value specifically in the context of fanfiction where one has to live up to an existing text. Importantly, fans appear to be subversive writers and interpreters. They open existing texts up to new material, provide them with countless interpretations and establish a flourishing literary culture. However, at the same time they reconfirm conventional ideas of authorship through their practices which are all seen as contributions to an existing text. Where it would seem that fans themselves have an alternative idea of what authorship could mean, this is not shown in their own discourse. Though I analyze their practices as a specific type of writing, they take this for granted as part of their culture but perceive it as something lower, a fan activity that is not the real thing. Still, these unique writing practices and communities that fans establish are important to research in order to define author-reader-text relations nowadays and to depict their diversity. Being an author is perhaps not a status writers will give themselves. It is an ideological, cultural construction that we use to classify texts, as well as the person that created them (Foucault, 1984). As such authorship is a fairly new concept, one that became necessary due to copyright (e.g., Landow, 2006, p. 102). It is a matter of literary history where texts are classified and defined according to the person who wrote them. Authorship is a notion that results from linear, printed texts that are recognized by the distance with their audience and their relation to formal critics. These frozen texts form a contrast with the vivid textual practices within fan communities. Fanfiction is a matter of circulating texts and producing derivative fiction. The stories are a shared good and highly intertextual when compared to original fiction. The reworking and transforming in fan practices resembles oral cultures, where stories are always retold with a personal touch to them and where every myth can be elaborated. Borrowed material is here recombined into a new narrative. At the heart of these stories is the wish to pay tribute to existing fiction. Though fanfiction is derived from other fiction it is no less creative or entertaining. Where it may be easy to dismiss these stories nowadays as second-handed or even stolen, fanfiction is very active online practice with its own standards on originality. A wealth of new cultural material is created by fans that should not be underestimated. Fiction has always relied on other fiction. Fans make this all the more visible.


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Fanfiction Accident Prone. (2009). Llyodd received the Title of Mr. Oblivious. [Published 13 February 2009, updated 21 March 2009]. Retrieved from: Lloyd_recieved_the_title_of_Mr_Oblivious Active Gal. (2009). Tales of Truth or Dare. [Published 13 March 2009, updated 19 April 2009]. Retrieved from: Arisu Tsunaru. (2009). Upsy Daisy Oops. [Published 14 February 2009]. Retrieved from: BrandonGlee123. (2009). BrandonGlee123’s C Skit Theater. [Published 10 January 2009, updated 4 May 2009]. Retrieved from: 123s_C_Skit_Theater Cerby. (2006). I fell in a video game. [Published 22 July 2006, updated 21 February 2009). Retrieved from: Cinnamon-Chan. (2009). Tales of Symphonia Insert. [Published 16 February 2009, updated 28 February 2009). Retrieved from: Symphonia_Self_Insert 128

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Dark-Fire27. (2009). The Kharlan War. [Published 24 January 2009, updated 24 February 2009]. Retrieved from: E. an' E. Kaleidoscope. (2009). Ripple Effect. [Published 28 March 2009]. Retrieved from: Eefara. (2008). Yuan’s What. [Offline since June]. Retrieved from: s/4627257/1/Yuans_Whatr Falcon Crest. (2008). Raine’s Cookbook. [Published 8 December 2008, updated 15 February 2009]. Retrieved from: Freakyanimegal. (2005). GrandKid. [Published 31 December 2005, updated 5 April 2007] Retrieved from: Freakyanimegal. (2007). Tasks of Spirit. [Published 9 April 2007, updated 29 May 2009] Retrieved from: Freakyanimegal. (2009). The Locket. [Published 10 February 2009]. http://www.fanfiction. net/s/4853152/1/The_Locket Heart of Shou. (2008). Yar. [Published 20 September 2008]. Retrieved from: ItachiTheDekuScrub. (2009). A Midnight’s Hell. [Published 2 January 2009, updated 9 May 2009]. Retrieved from: Joshuaorrizonte. (2007). Kharlan. [Published 14 March 2007, updated 23 May 2009]. Retrieved from: Key to Soul. (2009) The Spirit of The Earth. [Published 25 February 2006, updated 17 April 2009]. Retrieved from: Kitty-Katz-Katz. (2008). C Skit Theater. [Published 29 November 2008, updated 21 January 2009]. Retrieved from: Kratos the 9th Companion. (2009). Thrusting Angels. [Published 4 June 2008, updated 16 March 2009]. Retrieved from: T_h_rusting_Angels LateNiteSlacker. (2006). Kratos discovers Fanfiction. [Published 31 August 2006, updated 13 December 2008]. Retrieved from: Fanfiction 129

Meowzy-chan. (2006). Pirates of Symphonia. [Published 8 July 2006, updated 3 October 2006]. Retrieved from: Metamorcy. (2008). Paradoxical. [Published 5 July 2008]. Retrieved from: NiGHTChild68. (2008). One Fallen Angel. [Published 10 August 2008, updated 27 March 2009]. Retrieved from: Nightfoot. (2008). Tales of Cosplayers. [Published 24 August 2008, updated 25 May 2009]. Retrieved from: Raenef the 6th. (2007). Tales of Symphonia: Second Chance. [Published 9 January 2007, updated 27 March 2009] Retrieved from: Symphonia_Second_Chance SakuMeiMei. (2006). 1000 Wishes. [Published 29 December 2006, updated 5 April 2009]. Retrieved from: Shaddowind. (2005). Heart of Phoenix. [Published 19 February 2005, updated 1 May 2009]. Retrieved from: Tiger002. (2009). Through the Darkest Flames. [Published 4 January 2009, updated 25 May 2009]. Retrieved from: Twilight Scribe. (2006). Z Skit Theater. [Published 8 August 2006, updated 29 May 2009] Retrieved from: VanNeon. (2009). The ToS Characters play ToS. [Published 1 January 2009, updated 23 March 2009] Retrieved from: play_ToS Venus Tenshi. (2005). Two Worlds Combined. [Published 30 July 2007, updated 22 May 2009]. Retrieved from: Whatsername427. (2007). Tales of Yet Another Self Insert. [Published 10 December 2007, updated 2 June 2009]. Retrieved from: Another_Self_Insert

Role-playing Idiot Seraphim role-play community. Last accessed 15 July, 2009: http://community.livejour130

Borrowed: Authorial Practices in Fanfiction Luceti application. (2008, July 24). Last accessed 15 July, 2009: Luceti role-play community. Last accessed 15 July, 2009: luceti/ Luceti fans. Last accessed 15 July, 2009: Luceti logs. Last accessed 15 July, 2009: Luceti out of character community. Last accessed 15 July, 2009:

Interviews Blanken, S. [Aquelapple] (17 April, 2009). Hosted her fiction at an MSN community and distributes it amongst friends Role-plays with ball-jointed Asian dolls. Active for other fan practices at: Lamerichs, C. [Meowzy-chan] (31 March, 2009). Role-plays at Luceti and Tadium Vitae Hosts her fiction at:

Maassen, I. [Xwingace] (14 May, 2009). Hosts her fiction at: Meijer, W. [GinGin] (30 June, 2009). Personal contact about role-playing at boards. Van den Hoogen, M. [Lizz or Wingedlizz] (31 April, 2009). Roleplays at the MUSH of Hosts her fiction and fan art at: 131

Appendix A Images a) Fragment of a conversation at

b) Fragment of a conversation at


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c) Fragment of conversation at

d) Fragment of conversation at


e) Fragment of a log

f) Prequel to conversation b. Note the use of icons continued in b.


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Appendix B: Glossary Concepts used by fanfiction authors

Action post – A post in a role-play that should be seen as a live action rather than mediated through the journal (e.g., a character is shopping in the village and talking to others) Angst - Angst refers to fanfiction in which a state of panic, anxiety or emotional instability is depicted Anime – Japanese animation series Anti-fan – Term by Gray and Sandvoss (2007) which depicts anti-fans, fans that are not recognizable through affinity with a source-text, but through sheer dislike and debunking of it Application – Submission for applying to a role-playing game with a character. Usually a division is made between forms for original characters and fan characters AU – Alternative universe, a narrative providing an alternative to certain key elements in the source-text, out of which a new plot develops. What if Voldemort had not killed Harry’s parents? What if the planet Vulcan was destroyed? Such questions can be answered in AU fiction Author’s notes - Some writers post author’s note at the beginning of their fiction in which they can reply to reviews, describe their life, writing practices or go into the fandom or source-text Beta-reading - Passing one’s writing to a peer reviewer that provides it with comments. One can recruit beta-readers in various ways, for instance via a system in, ask for them at fan communities where one participates in or via more informal ways such as asking friends who are also in the same fandom BFFL - Best friends for life, a relationship that can be a good foundation for slash, such as Harry/Ron Canon – The established information in the source-text or what can be deduced from it Canon review – Rereading or replaying the source-text to check the established facts, important for writers (notably roleplayers) who aim to be very accurate Canon-Sue – An exaggerated, glorified portrait of a character from the source-text


Community – In this thesis community refers usually to online virtual communities (and in a few cases, a community offline) at various platforms (e.g., a fanfiction community at LiveJournal). A fandom differs from this as being the large, overarching interest group spread across various online and offline communities. See also, fandom Cosplay – Fan practice in which fans make a costume from a certain series and wear this to a convention or special occasion Crossover – In crossover fanfiction two story worlds are combined into one narrative, for instance Star Wars and Harry Potter Derivative fiction - Fiction that bases itself on existing texts and transforms them into new ones Disclaimers – Credits in which a fanfiction authors states he does not own the property. Dub or dubbing – Replacing the original voices in a series, movies or game with new, translated ones to suit the audience in another country. This can also refer to a fan practice in which fans replace the voices in the same language or otherwise, often with different, humorous dialogues. Emo – A character that is too emotional which results in for instance whiny behaviour or depression. A character may be interpreted as being too emo in the source-text or may be portrayed inadequately as emo in a fan text Event - Happenings at the role-play community that last for a few days, for instance a personality switch, a celebration, a fourth wall break Fan – A fan is engaged emotionally and attentively with a source-text or genre. A fan uses the text for self-expression through creative practices (e.g., fanfiction) or in daily life (e.g., clothing, posters and conversations) Fan art – Fan practice in which fans base art (usually illustrations or comics) on existing fiction either in their own graphic style or in the style of the source-text Fandom – The fan community surrounding a certain fictional product, be it game, series or movie. Fandoms can also be based on non-fiction such as a celebrity or sports club, though this thesis deals more with media fans Fanfiction [fanfic; fic] – Story written by and for fans based on the source-text they appreciate (e.g., a videogame, a series, a movie) Fannish – A proverb describing a subject or practice that has fan qualities, a term used by scholars as well as fans 136

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Fanon – Fan texts and discussions written by fans can lead to unofficial information, often called fanon in contrast to canon (see canon). Interpretations and fiction that are not in the original text influence the larger fan community here. In some cases the fanon may be integrated or spoofed in the actual series Fan video - Fan practice in which fans base videos on existing footage (e.g., a game, movie or series) or make fan films themselves Femmeslash - Fanfiction that addresses lesbian love affairs between existing characters that are often portrayed as heterosexual or unspecified in the source-text Ficlet – Small fic, one-shot, also sometimes referred to as drabble Game master – A player or referee in a role-play. He also organizes the game and assures the rules are followed Het – Heterosexual fiction in opposition to slash Hurt/Comfort – Genre (and motive) in fanfiction in which one character suffers a trauma, physical or emotional, and another character attends to his aid Icon – Small picture at your profile, usually not of yourself but of a fictional character to underline your affinity with a certain fandom In character [IC] – In role-playing this refers to statements that deal with the character rather than the player. When dealing with regular fanfiction it means that a character behaves according to the source-text and that his personality is described properly Livejournal [LJ] - A blogging system that has existed since 1999. Its blogs and communities give ground to many fan practices and discussions Log – Third-person longer messages conducted at a specific log-community for role-playing. Logs tend to deal with certain actions and the thoughts of characters elaborately, usually involving only two or three participants Manga – Japanese comic Mary Sue – A perfect original character, brilliant and daring which is embedded in a fan text along with existing characters. Mary Sue is frequently regarded as a wish-fulfillment of the author. Both the type of story and the character are defined as Mary Sue


Moderator [Mod] – User in an online community with specific access to back-end options to moderate discussions and to structure the community (e.g., keep it clean from spam and lock inappropriate topics) MUD – Multi-user dungeon, a virtual online world described in text which combines elements of role-playing with online chats and quests. MUD’s have many variants, some of which are more practical (e.g., have educational purposes) and less aimed at gaming Multi-fandom role-playing - A role-playing game that makes use of several source-texts and allows existing characters from all kinds of texts to enter Mun – Abbreviation of ‘mundane’. The role-player, a term mostly used in LiveJournal roleplays Out of character [OOC] – In role-playing this refers to statements that deal with the player rather than the character. In fanfiction it can also depict a character that behaves unlikely when compared to the source-text. The character can also start to behave different in the source-text itself. Out of character then means his personality is portrayed inconsistent Ownership – Here meant as legal ownership, a concept of author’s right. Sometimes I refer to emotional ownership when fans feel parts of the source-text or fan text are theirs that were not grounded by them. They feel attached to them through their own practices. Role-playing games (RPG) – In the first meaning of the word RPG’s are games in which all players assume the role of a fictional character. The narrative is structured via rules or guidelines in which the players determine actions for their characters. Role-plays can be conducted offline in various forms (e.g., table-tops, LARP). Similarly there exists a variety of online role-playing practices. Chapter 4 of this thesis deals specifically with textual role-plays conducted through MUD’s, chats, boards, profile sites and blogs. Secondly RPG also refers to refers to a subgenre of videogames (e.g., Tales of Symphonia). Here the gamer does not have the same amount of interaction that players have in traditional role-playing games Self-insertion – Genre of fanfiction in which the author inserts himself as a character in the story world Slash – Fanfiction that addresses gay love affairs between existing characters that are often portrayed as heterosexual or unspecified in the source-text Spin-off – Set in the same story world as the source-text, a spin-off focuses on a different cast that can include guest appearances of characters from the established fiction. Examples from general popular culture include Stargate Atlantis or Star Trek The Next Generation Spoiler – A spoiler is information regarding an episode that has not aired yet (in certain parts of the world). Commonly spoiler tags are added for fanfiction or discussions related to fairly 138

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new seasons or episodes to make sure that some fans are not spoiled. Some fans actively want to be spoiled, especially during season breaks, and are pleased with new information Subtext – Implicit information in the source-text that is only hinted at. For instance, gay subtext in Xena The Warrior Princess Universe or verse – The setting and its history, the story world as it is generally described by fans Voice post – A post in a role-play in which the character chooses to speak to his journal rather than write in it. The journal mediates this and other characters overhear it. A feature often included in LiveJournal blogs. Mind, the feature is a textual one that players imagine: a user cannot actually record his voice on LiveJournal W.I.P. - Work in progress (e.g., fanfiction that is not yet finished but already posted for beta reading) Writer’s block - A well-known problems for fans and academics alike


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