by Chiara Codecà
One is a version of Pride and Prejudice set in an England with zombies, the other places the Sherlock Holmes stories in a science fiction universe. The first is a book released by the means of traditional publishing and it will soon become a film, the latter is a fanfiction (or fanfic), freely available online, and it will soon become a book. It's also a perfect example of the success that fanfiction is enjoying among youngsters and adults. But what is fanfiction exactly? Literally, it's fiction written by fans, meaning that is based on material - books, tv series, comics, etc. - of which the fanfiction author is a fan. The result is new original content. Freely distributed among fans, fanfiction is part of the gift economy at the core of fan culture. It's a sign of its popularity that a market giant such as Amazon has recently created a commercial platform to publish fanfiction. And though internet has given fanfiction momentum and widespread readership, don't make the mistake of thinking it a recent phenomenon.
Traditionally ignored by the publishing and media industries, fanfiction has been referred to as the refuge of frustrated aspiring writers and as the source of the 50 Shades of Grey series, to this day the most famous traditionally published books originated as fanfiction. The subject is more articulated however, because it touches upon - and includes - literature criticism, copyright, cultural influences, social constructs, and it can't ignore the changes happening in the publishing industry. It's an ongoing conversation that involves an ever growing number of authors, scholars, fans and readers.
There are no entry requirements to write fanfiction, with the understandable consequence that the average quality can be very low. The exceptions, though, can be striking, and the phenomenon potential in terms of possible effects on publishing are plentiful. At its core, writing fanfiction means shifting from consumer to producer. It implies the ability to exercise a critical analysis on a text or content, the conscious choice to further explore some of the themes and ideas present in the original work and it aims at developing non-original starting material into an independent, transformative, result. It is a potentially subversive process that can develop talent, promote themes, ideas and interpretations that have not yet been legitimized by society or by the market.
There is a public of both young and adult readers who are passionate about these stories and curious about the forthcoming changes in the publishing world. And we'll meet them in Mantua.
At Festivaletteratura, Chiara Codecà will speak about fanfiction with Bjorn Larsson, author of Long John Silver (which means that he, technically, is also a fanfiction writer).