Reading Fic as a Non-Fan: Gone With the Wind Fanfiction

After reading the profic derived from Gone with the Wind, I decided to check out some of the fanfiction written about the novel and its film adaptation. Gone With the Wind is one of the smaller fandoms I’ve looked at (with the exception of a few very popular books series, like Harry Potter, Twilight, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Lord of the Rings, and The Hunger Games books tend to attract less fanfiction than television (and film less than both, probably because many film series are adapted from books, and one standalone film simply gives fans les to work with); also does archive over four thousand stories about the Bible!!!! which I was very temped to explore). has close to a thousand stories based on Margaret Mitchell’s novel, and Archive of Our Own has just under 200 ( is ten years older than AO3, which might account for some of the disparity in the number of stories).

I want to be upfront about my reading experiences: I did not enjoy a lot of it. The fault, though, is not in the fic writers, I think, as much as it is in the source material. Just as fans’ love for the source material informs their reading of fanfic, my dislike of it informed mine. I just have too many problems with Mitchell’s novel to enjoy the fanfiction about it. So I’m afraid I’m going to be ubercritical in this post, and I want to post a disclaimer that this fanfiction is not worse than or more problematic than others (I ship Spuffy; I know what it is to love an unhealthy and problematic relationship), but it is simply not for me.

Okay, so to begin with one thing I did like (before I start my bitching): the slash and femslash. The couple of slash stories I read, “Five Things That Never Happened to Ashley Wilkes” by bonibaru and “Rescue” by GoodJanet, focused on a romantic relationship between Ashley Wilkes and Rhett Butler. The stories imply that Rhett’s feelings of animosity toward Ashley are not because of Scarlett’s affection for him nor are they due to Ashley’s general uselessness, but because of Rhett’s desire for him. More interesting than Rhett and Ashley though are stories about female same-sex relationships. These stories, many of which focus on Melanie Wilkes and Scarlett O’Hara, explore the dynamics of the women’s domestic and sexual relationship. They also offer an interesting take on Eve Sedgwick’s interpretation of love triangles: in this case, it is the body of Ashley Wilkes that is serving as the conduit of Scarlett and Melanie’s homosocial/homoerotic desire. (This idea appeals to me, I think, because Ashley is so boring, and I don’t understand why everyone is in love with him—one of the two things I agree with Rhett about.)

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The most common pairing, though, is Scarlett/Rhett. Most of these stories seem to be written by shippers, who want to rewrite the ending of the Mitchell’s saga to find a way for Rhett and Scarlett to end up together (readers of my last post know my feelings about Gone with the Wind’s “great love story,” so I am not the intended audience for these fics). Many of them offer a reconciliation between the characters. For example, the summary of “A Thousand Tomorrows” by Phantom710 promises readers that the story “picks up initially a month after ‘Frankly My Dear…’ and then moves forward to almost a year later, when Rhett and Scarlett encounter each other in Atlanta for the first time. This isn’t a quick finish. If there is ever going to be a happy ending between them, a lot must happen.” This summary lets reader know that they can expect a slow burn, but that reconciliation is likely.

Other stories insert a reconciliation into Mitchell’s plot, presenting an AU departure from the events in the canon. In WordOnFire76’s “A Chance Encounter,” Rhett comes home to find Scarlett in the bath. Smut ensues and then the characters declare their feelings: “He had no idea how he had gotten here, how his marriage had been turned upside down and then one chance encounter had suddenly turned it right again.” Likewise, in “Awaiting the Voice of Scarlett” by YourAverageRomanticSidekick, Rhett and Scarlett are reconciled when she calls out for him while recovering from her miscarriage. The story follows some of the conventions of the hurt/comfort genre; Scarlett’s physical injuries and semi-conscious state make her vulnerable and open in a way that she usually is not. TheCrimsonLetter’s “Without Pretense” imagines the mutual pining of the characters as Rhett travels during a time of marital estrangement, both characters realizing how much they care for each other during their absence, which leads to confessions of affection and reconciliation once Rhett returns.

Some Rhett/Scarlett fanfics explore and expand on the night of Ashley’s birthday party. In the novel, Mitchell’s description suggests that Rhett rapes Scarlett; she resists his sexual advances, but he forces himself on her without her consent. The morning after, Scarlett, problematically, reflects that she enjoyed the previous evening. This message is, of course, dangerous because it suggests that even if a woman loudly and clearly says “no,” she secretly wants it anyway or that a man can fuck a woman in wanting to have sex with him. Both of these messages perpetuates and justifies rape culture.

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Unfortunately, the two stories that deal with this section of the novel end up reinforcing Mitchell’s problematic sexual politics. Both eroticize the rape and both are in Rhett’s POV. We could argue that we have an unreliable narrator, that he sees Scarlett’s desire because that’s what he wants to see, but if that is the case, more could be done to challenge his reliability. In “The Midnight on Your Lips” by lostrocket, Rhett proceeds with every intent to rape Scarlett, but then he realizes that she is aroused:

“He slid two fingers between Scarlett’s thighs and his heart stopped when they came away slick with her arousal. The urgent need to dominate her, own her, possess her the only way he could was transformed by the wet proof of her desire for him. When his heart started beating again it made his chest feel full to bursting. Awareness of her crept slowly, edgewise around his senses, through the black angry haze and blind desire. He saw her slim fingers twisted in the sheets. Her legs were scissoring restlessly, the bare skin whispering against his pant legs. Her hips lifted, following his hand as he pulled it back. He heard her whimper, softly, a timid sound that pierced him through.”

The story suggests that her arousal means that she loves and desires him; however, women can become physically aroused during a rape, while not consenting to sex. Rhett reads Scarlett’s body as desiring and consenting to intimacy, but it could also be a physical reflex to protect against injury to the vagina or genital region. This message is dangerous because it confuses a physical response with actual consent.

The rest of the story continues with confessions of feelings and rough, but loving sex. Though at the end of the story, Rhett asks Scarlett if he has hurt her. She responds with “I’m fine,” heavily implying that, yes, he did. Rhett expresses guilt, but then again, a lot of abusers feel and behave that way.

“Control” by WhoIsYourHeroDoloresHaze does a better job. It is labeled as dubcon (dubious consent) and has a “rape/non-con” warning. And is tagged as “unhealthy relationship” and “morally questionable but sexy as hell lets be real.”  WhoIsYourHeroDoloresHaze explicitly recognizes that this is trash smut; it is problematic, but still “sexy.” Like “The Midnight on Your Lips,” Scarlett’s physical arousal is read as desire for sexual intercourse, even though the story acknowledges that her body is acting of its “own volition.” And like “The Midnight on Your Lips,” “Control” abruptly switches from rape to consensual sex as Rhett goes from “I will appreciate my wife’s body if I damn well please, Scarlett” to “I’m not going to make love to a wife who does not want to do the same” over the space of four paragraphs.

Both of these stories shift from violence and rape to a focus on Scarlett’s sexual pleasure, but the implication remains the same as in the source material—if a woman says “no,” you can force her into wanting to have sex with you. Both were uncomfortable for me to read, especially because were from a male POV.

Also uncomfortable for me to read were stories that presented the characters in BDSM relationships. My intention here is not to kink shame. In most cases, I enjoy reading BDSM stories and believe that people should do whatever makes them sexually happy.

But the context of this story makes it uncomfortable because of the source material’s treatment of slavery. As I explained in my previous blog post, Mitchell’s novel does it’s best to make the case for why slavery wasn’t so bad. Slaves, she argues, like being slaves, want to be slaves, and would have no idea what to do with themselves if they were not slaves. And the slave owners, Mitchell’s story goes, were such nice people and they treated their slaves so well.

Given this context, in which the brutality and dehumanization of slavery is erased, it is uncomfortable to read some of those same images and discourses being appropriated as erotic. For example, the story “Scarlett and Mistress Melly” implies a master/slave dynamic, but one that is mutually pleasurable (unlike, you know, real slavery). And “If You Want It, You Can Have It,” which takes its cues from Rhett’s line “I’ve always though a good lashing with a buggy whip would benefit you immensely,” Rhett whips Scarlett and they both get off on it. Here, too, the iconography of slavery is appropriated and becomes eroticized, ignoring the historical legacy of whipping slaves, which both characters previously own. Even if they never personally whipped slaves, Scarlett and Rhett participated in and benefited from the institution that sanctioned it. In the novels, neither character challenges or even questions the institution of slavery (in fact, Rhett eventually fights to defend it). So to see the characters whip each other for erotic pleasure is problematic.

As I said, in most cases, I am fine with BDSM. But when the reality of slavery is erased from the source text and this discourse and these images are applied to the bodies of white characters and presented as erotic … it just doesn’t work for me. And I guess that demonstrates one of the perils of the intertextuality of fanfiction. In many cases, it presents opportunities. But it is not without its baggage. And different readers are going to carry the baggage in different ways.


Works Cited

Bonibaru. “Five Things That Never Happened to Ashley Wilkes.” 13 September 2017.

GoodJanet. “Rescue.” Archive of Our Own. 21 July 2016.

Lostrocket. “The Midnight on Your Lips.” Archive of Our Own. 23 April 2015.

Phantom710. “A Thousand Tomorrows.” Archive of Our Own. 31 May 2018.

Ronsparkyspeirs. “If You Want It, You Can Have It.” 29 July 2017.

The_hidden_agenda. “Scarlett and Mistress Melly.” 4 August 2018.

TheCrimsonLetter. “Without Pretense.” 7 June 2016.

WhoIsYourHeroDoloresHaze. “Control.” Archive of Our Own 23 February 2018.

WorldOnFire76. “A Chance Encounter.” Archive of Our Own. 23 February 2017.

YourAverageRomanticSidekick. “Awaiting the Voice of Scarlett.” Archive of Our Own. 17 February 2014.

The Wind Keeps Blowing: Gone with the Wind and its Derivative Works

In a previous post, I discussed the difficulty of defining fanfiction, especially when it comes to distinguishing fanfic from profic. In this post, I take a look at Margret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind and two derivative works of profic based off of it: Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley and The Wind Done Gone by Alice Randall. I want to analyze the relationship between the original work and the novels it informed, and how it relates to the types of fanfiction that I discussed in my four-part series.

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Despite its outdated and offensive racial and gender politics, Gone with the Wind is an enduring classic, whose legacy was undoubtedly helped by its 1939 film adaptation starring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh. Reading the novel in 2018 is cringe-inducing. The romaticization of slavery, the brutal and blatant racism, the misogyny. The slaves all love being divested of their humanity and agency; they adore the people who treat them like property and objects. This is perhaps understandable, because in

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the novel slavery is presented as benevolent. No slaves are raped or beaten; in fact, the novel suggests that black slaves “own” the whites “body and soul” (42, 152).  Once freed, the “good” former slaves stay beside their former masters and continue to serve them; the bad embrace their freedom and attack white women. The n-word is used frequently. The Ku Klux Klan is not only justified, but glorified (613). The romantic hero consistently belittles and negs the heroine, threatens her (832), and, eventually, rapes her (871). Women are wed and bred at fifteen and sixteen years old; Rhet tells Scarlett that he wanted her from the first time he saw her, when she was a girl of sixteen and he was a man of thirty-three (328). Gross.

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Then there is the protagonist, Scarlett O’Hara. Throughout the novel, Scarlett needs to be the center of attention. She is manipulative, ruthless, and a narcissist. She marries three men for monetary gain. While that choice is understandable, given the financially precarious position of women in this society, the Machiavellian tactics that she uses, especially to ensnare Mr. Kennedy, who had promised to wed her sister when he had saved up enough money, are not (560). She has no empathy for those around her, but always positions herself as the victim. No one has suffered the way that she has, and no one is as deserving as her (557). And while it is true that she goes through tremendous trauma in the novel, she exhibits her selfishness and viciousness well before Atlanta burns or Tara starves. The war and reconstruction only give her an excuse to behave the way she does. She does break with social conventions that are oppressive to women, like setting up in business and doing math, but these things are never done out of a feminist impulse to defy society, but to satisfy her own self-interest. She never does anything to help the other women around her, white or of color. It is perhaps not surprising that a number of critics has suggested that she suffers from a histrionic personality disorder. The symptoms certainly seem to line up.

Excuses for the novel have been made: “It was written in a different time and about a different time.” And this is true, though I don’t believe that it excuses the content of the novel nor that it makes its representation okay. The conditions of its production certain don’t make the text any less racist nor do they make its racism acceptable. However, we might turn to some more contemporary derivative works to consider how these issues are handled and how they comment on the original novel.

Alexandra Ripley’s Scarlett was published in 1991 and offers a relatively uncritical continuation of the original plot. It has a “more of” relationship to the original text (Pugh), expanding, as Jenkins might explain, the story’s timeline. It begins where Gone with the Wind left off and follows Scarlett from Melanie’s graveside to Charleston to Savannah to Ireland, and eventually, into Rhett’s arms.

Scarlett avoids charges of racism by largely removing black characters from the story. Mammie, who was flattened in Mitchell’s novel to a stereotype, dies in the first part of the novel (25). The offensive dialect given to black characters, and notably not white in Gone with the Wind, is removed from Ripley’s version. Once Scarlett leaves for Ireland, she doesn’t encounter another person of color. Erasing characters of color from Scarlett’s story so that the uncomfortable issue of slavery doesn’t have to be dealt with doesn’t make the novel less racist. It just conceals the racism of the original text

Once Scarlett crosses the Atlantic many of her interactions are with the Irish peasant class. The novel does address colonial oppression of the Irish by the English, illustrating the brutality of the British landlords and their overseers (553, 611, 720-722), but it doesn’t present the Irish in a great light either. They are uneducated, superstitious (560, 572, 716, 730), and ungrateful for everything that Scarlett, as The O’Hara, has done for them (734, 767, 814, 816-17) (yes, Scarlett actually spends her money to help other people; an act of altruism that would baffle the version of her in Mitchell’s original text).

The novel is also paradoxical in how it treats the gender norms of the time. Scarlett dispenses with her restrictive corsets, which coincides with her heel-face-turn to becoming a better person (I guess being able to breath makes her nicer). She becomes the head of the O’Hara clan, a great landowner, and rejects the conventions of being a lady (548). She runs her own estate and handles the expenses. But while in Ireland, she also embraces conventional female roles that she had traditionally rejected, including motherhood. Part of the softening of her character is that all of the sudden she loves being a mom (583- 84), and she puts her children’s needs and happiness above her own (previously she just wanted to get rid of them) (626-628).

The romantic plotline of the novel is also troubling. Scarlett spends the entirety of the novel pining for Rhett. Most, although not all her actions, are motivated by her desire to win him back. She travels to Charleston and insinuates herself in his mother’s house to beguile him (120). When she flirts with men during the season, it is to make him jealous (219). She angles to get him alone so that she can seduce him. She hangs around Savanah, hoping that he will come for her (421).

Even when she is not actively attempting to reconcile with Rhett, he is still the primary motivation for her actions. She decides to stay in Ireland to hide his daughter from him (659). Even her decision to marry Lord Fenton is a reaction to hearing that Rhett’s new wife is pregnant (793). While she does make her own decisions in the novel, they are often in reaction to Rhett.

So it is not a surprise when the novel ends with them reuniting, no matter how improbable the circumstances that eventually bring them together. The entire novel is making the argument that Scarlett and Rhett’s relationship is not toxic, but destined, meant to be, a love story for the ages. In order to achieve this, both of their characters are softened considerably to make them more likable and their relationship less disturbing. Rhett belittles and mocks her not because he is a jerk, but because he is vulnerable and afraid. Once Scarlett breaks free of the repressive staves of her society, she becomes a person capable of love. Theirs is a great romance, the novel argues. In short, Ripley ships it.

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While Ripley’s novel comes off as fangirling, Alice Randall is clearly not a fan. The Wind Done Gone, published in 2001, tells the story of Cynarae, Scarlett’s half-sister, the product of Gerald O’Hara raping Mammie. Randall’s novel is critical of the ideology, racism, and politics that informs Gone with the Wind, and by shifting the perspective of the novel is able to level these critiques through the story it tells. It explores the parts of slavery that Mitchell attempts to erase: the rape, the whipping, the beatings, the separation of families. It gives voice to the people of color who are dismissed, ignored, or stereotyped in the original novel, telling their stories and speaking their names. (Randall plays with the convention of slave owners forcibly renaming people of color, divesting them of names and identities; Cynarae renames all of the characters in the novel so that Gerald is “Planter,” Scarlett is “Other, and Rhett is R.)

The novel also explores the way in which race was socially constructed in the South. Cynarae is light skinned and can live as white, but she views herself as black, no matter what her pigmentation is (158). On the other hand, it is revealed that Ellen O’Hara, who had lived most of her life as white had a black ancestor (124). The one drop rule of the South, then, decrees that she too is of color, though she is allowed live to white as long as no one finds out. The entire racial hierarchy is deconstructed and shown to be a lie.

The (supposed) romance of Gone with the Wind is also undercut by Randall’s novel. Rhett, we learn, was never in love with Scarlett, but with her half-sister. However, though he claims to love Cynarae, his attraction to her is surface level. He makes no attempt to understand her (27) or even learn her true name (193). At the end of the novel, she leaves him for a congressman of color, deciding that she would rather be the mistress to a man who can understand her than the wife of a man who won’t (197).

So, we have two derivative works, based off of the same novel, telling very different stories that present very different interpretations of the original. It is worth noting the different way that Mitchell’s estate responded to the two novels. The covers of the novels reveal the disparate treatment of the texts.

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Under the title Scarlett, Ripley’s novel is embossed with

“The Sequel to Margret Mitchell’s

Gone with the Wind

Now Celebrating its 75th Anniversary”

The Mitchell estate not only allowed but endorsed the novel, tying it directly back to its source material.

Not so for The Wind Done Gone. Copies of the book are stamped with the emblem “The Unauthorized Parody.” Parodies are protected under

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Fair Use and this label is likely an attempt to get around copyright law. Mitchell’s estate reportedly sued Randall, though the case was eventually settled. Still, the book is disavowed as unauthorized, disowned by the estate in much the same way that Planted disowned his black daughter.

These two very different responses demonstrate some of the legal landmines that accompany derivative works. If an author likes your interpretation of their novel you might get an endorsement; if they don’t, you might get sued. In the case of Gone with the Wind, this also has an unfortunate, and perhaps unintentional, racial component. Alexandra Ripley is white; Alice Randall is black. According to the estate, one of those women has the right to speak, the other does not. Not great optics for a novel that has aged as poorly as Mitchell’s racist, apologist depiction of the South.


Works Cited

Jenkins, Henry. Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture. Routledge, 1992.

Mitchell, Margaret. Gone with the Wind. 1936 New York, Scribner, 1996.

Pugh, Sheenagh. The Democratic Genre: Fan fiction in a literary context. Bridgend, seren, 2005

Randall, Alice. The Wind Done Gone. New York, Houghton Mifflin Company, 2001.

Ripley, Alexandra. Scarlett. New York, Grand Central Publishing, 1991.

Glossary of Fan Terms (Part 2)

In my last blog post, I detailed terms associated with fandom. In this post, I want to look at terms that are specific to writing and reading fanfiction.

Enjoying fanfiction often means finding and reading the right stories, and avoiding the wrong ones. Within fandom, right and wrong are not necessarily correlated with good and bad writing (although fans do tend to prefer well-written stories) but with the content of that writing. While some sites, like, have limited filters that can be applied to searches, Archive of Our Own (AO3) allows users to customize tags, making them very specific to the story. However, in order to navigate tags, readers need to familiarize themselves with the jargon of fic. Do you prefer het or slash? Do you want smut or a slow burn? Would you prefer an AU set in the omega ‘verse or high school (or an omega ‘verse high school)? Although “tag wranglers” will link similar search terms, fans need a shared code so that readers can find fics that best fit their interests.

Consider this story on AO3 by CaptainMercy42. The writer is providing a lot of very useful information, but readers need to have the vocabulary to decipher it.

Screen capture from AO3.

Gen: Gen is a shorted form of “general” and refers to fic where the primary focus is not on romantic relationships. These stories might feature action/adventure plotlines or be focused on character friendships.

Het: Het is a shortened version of “heterosexual” and indicates a story with heteronormative romantic pairings.

Slash: The term slash originates from fans’ use of a slash to indicate a

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romantic relationship in a story. For example, if I am looking for a Supernatural fic, “Dean, Sam” indicates a story in which both brothers are present, but “Dean/Sam” let’s me know that it is Wincest—Sam and Dean in a romantic relationship. Although heterosexual pairings are also indicated by a slash (Buff/Spike), the term slash refers specifically to same-sex, generally male-identifying, pairings. Slash fiction originates from the Star Trek fandom and the relationship between Kirk and Spock. It remains common today, especially in fandoms formed around male-centric stories, like Supernatural, Lord of the Rings, and Sherlock.

Femslash: Like slash, femslash refers to the representation of a same-sex pairing. In femslash, though, the pairing is between two female-identifying characters. 


WIP: WIP is an acronym for “Work in Progress.” The publication of most longer fanfic is serialized, usually broken up into chapters. This practice helps readers, who might be overwhelmed by a 254,000 word fic, to read novel-lengthen works by segmenting them into more manageable chunks. It also helps the writer to attract new readers—the story refreshes at the top of the archive page each time it is updated. In many, though not all cases, the writer has not entirely finished the work when she or he begins publishing it. There are some stories that are abandoned by writers who either get stuck with the plot or no longer have the free time to write and remain unfinished (I have one or two of them kicking around). For that reason, some fans have an aversion to WIP stories.

OOC: An acronym for “Out of Character.” As Sheegan Pugh notes, because fanfic writers and readers are so invested in the characters of a media property, being told by other fans that a character is OOC is a fairly harsh critique. However, it worth noting that not all fans have the same interpretations of characters, so that characters that might seem OOC to some fans, will be in keeping with the interpretations of others (Pugh 70-71). Fans might indicate their interpretations of characters through story tags like “jerk!Xander” or “Dany is the Mad Queen.”

OC: Not to be confused with OOC, OC refers to a prominently featured original character. These are characters that do not appear in the source text, but are including in a fan’s fic. OCs can be used to present a new, sometimes outsider, perspective on the media property’s universe or might be instrumental to the plot of the story. Fans are sometimes reticent to put original characters in their stories because they do not want to risk writing a Mary Sue.

Mary Sue: The term Mary Sue originates from Star Trek fandom. Camile Bacon-Smith explains that a Mary Sue “is young and desirable, competent and moral. Her intellectual and physical attributes not only meet the writer’s standard for the perfect woman, but the people she admires appreciate her value as well” (97). A Mary Sue is an overly idealized woman: she is intelligent, beautiful, capable, skilled, and every male character falls madly in love with her. Often viewed as an author avatar, these characters are derided across fandoms. While the term originated in Star Trek fanfiction, on occasion, fans will use the term to deride canonical characters. For example, Bella Swan from the Twilight series shares many idealized characteristics with fans’ Mary Sues, and many people consider her to be an author avatar for Stephanie Meyers. A male version of this trope, Harry Stu, does exist, but the label is much more likely to be applied to original female characters.

Image sourced from KnowYourMeme.

AU: AU is an acronym for Alternative Universe, a label used to indicate to readers that the story will diverge from the source texts’ canon. There are two prominent approaches to this divergence. The first is to ignore or rewrite events in the canon, while maintain the canonical setting and world building. In these stories, writers ask “what if Buffy had never returned to Sunnydale after season two?” or “what if Harry’s parents had not been murdered by Voldemort?” Then based on what the writer knows about the characters and the world of the source text, they extrapolate an answer.

The second AU approach is to take characters from the setting and genre of one story and put them into a different one. The characters and their relationships stay intact, but fans have the opportunity to explore different facets of them. AU stories might remove supernatural or science fiction elements (called “all-human” AU) or introduce them a more realistic source text. Subgenres of this form of AU include Modern AU, High school/College AU, Historical AU, Coffee Shop AU, Fairytale AU, and Omega ‘verse AU (See below).

PWP: An acronym for “Plot? What plot?,” these stories tend to be focused on characters’ relationships rather than the events of the story. Initially, these stories could focus on any aspect of the relationship, but the term has now come to more specifically connote smut or erotica.

Real-Person Fic (Celebrity Fic): These stories are fictional accounts of real people. They used to be considered taboo in fandom, but have come to be more widely accepted. In these stories, fans fictionalize (and often sexualize) the relationships between celebrities, often the actors working on the set of a television show or film or musicians in a band together. Writers are clear that this is not what they believe is actually happening between these celebrities, but some members of fan communities object to these stories, viewing them as invasive. Others feel that they are relatively harmless, because it is unlikely that the celebrities they are written about will ever encounter them and they are recognized as fictional accounts. (See Kristina Busse, “My Life Is a WIP on My LJ”)

RPS: An acronym for “Real Person Slash,” the stories focus on same-sex romantic relationships between celebrities, generally actors on set or members in a boyband. Like Real-Person Fics (described above), these stories are about fictionalized versions of real people, not fictional characters.

Hurt/Comfort: Hurt/Comfort is a subgenre of fanfiction. In these stories, one character has been emotionally, physically, or sexually harmed, and the other offers care and comfort. This genre tends to use physical or psychological damage to make a generally tough and closed off character more vulnerable and open. Hurt/Comfort can be used to deepen friendships between characters, but it is more often a way to get characters to recognize (and even sometimes admit) the feelings that they have for one another. Sometimes Hurt/Comfort stories result in sex between the two characters; sometimes they do not. If sex is included, it is generally used to illustrate the increased intimacy between the characters. (See Bacon-Smith for a fuller discussion of the genre).

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Slow Burn: The term slow burn is used to describe the pace of romantic development between characters in a fic. If a story is described as a slow burn, you can expect that it will take chapters and chapters for characters to discover their attraction, and even longer to act on it. This trope is in direct contrast with love-at-first-sight or insta-love clichés, and these stories also tend to include “mutual pining” and may also be tagged as “friends to lovers.” The slow pace of romantic development allows fans to explore characters more fully and to develop the reasons for and foundation of their romantic relationship.

Fluff: The term fluff is used to describe feel-good stories that focus on the affection between characters. Fluff often, though not necessarily, refers to romantic relationships, though the tag might also be applied to friendships.  These stories often do not have much in the way of conflict or plot, but are meant to give positive, uplifting feels.

Angst: The opposite of fluff. In angst stories, conflict abounds. They might be dark, bitter, and depressing. Most longer stories will combine fluff with angsty misunderstandings, sometimes as a way to prolong the slow burn.

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Smut: Stories that include sexually explicit scenes. In some cases, smut will be incorporated into a larger narrative as a way to explore characters’ growing romantic intimacy. In PWP stories, the entire story is smut. On sites like Archive of Our Own, fans will include additional tags to let readers know what kind of sexually content to expect from the story (for example, cunninglus, mutual masturbation, light BSDM, spanking, etc.).

Alpha/Beta/Omega (A/B/O; Omega ‘verse): Generally considered a kink trope, the Alpha/Beta/Omega tag refers to a specific genre of AU set in a ‘verse with a bio-socio-sexual hierarchy. One’s place within this hierarchy is biologically determined and dictates both social and sexual behavior. Same sex intercourse and male pregnancy are built into the Omega ‘verse, and tends to be associated with slash pairings and mpreg stories. However, women can also take on alpha, beta, and omega roles, and alpha women can impregnate omega men. Alphas tend to be dominant and aggressive; they are the ones doing the impregnating. Betas are subordinate to the alpha’s but dominant over omegas. In some stories they can impregnate Omegas, in some they can’t. Omegas are the lowest members of the hierarchy and can be impregnated by Alphas. Characters may also be tagged as alpha, betas, or omegas, as in “Alpha Dean,” “Omega Sherlock.” While often fans will assign the roles of alpha, beta, and omega depending on their interpretations of characters, in other instances, writers will pay with characters, making usually dominant or aggressive characters omegas.  (For more information see Omegaverse Explanation and Guide.)

MPreg: Stories that feature male pregnancy. These pregnancies might be biologically, like what we find in the Omega ‘verse, magically, or technologically explained within the logic of the story. Tags will frequently also let readers know which partner is going to be impregnated.

Image sourced from DeviantArt.

Works Cited

Busse, Kristina. “My Life is a WIP on My LJ: Slashing the Slasher and the Reality of Celebrity and Internet Performances.” Fan Fiction and Fan Communities in the Age of the Internet, Ed. Karen Hellekson and Kristina Busse, McFarland, 2006.

Bacon-Smith, Camille. Enterprising Women: Television Fandom and the Creation of Popular Myth. University of Pennsylvania Press, 1992.

Pugh, Sheenagh. The Democratic Genre: Fan Fiction in a literary context. Poetry Wales Press, 2005.

Pupperlover857. “Omegaverse Explanation and Guide!”, 18 March 2014,

Glossary of Fan Terms (Part 1)

“When I was reading ASOIF, I totally used to ship Jonerys, but ever since watching AGoT, Jonsa is my OTP. They’re such cinnamon rolls. So many feels!!!!”

This sentence is likely impenetrable to anyone who hasn’t spent much time investigating or participating fandom. Even people who belong to specific fan communities, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Harry Potter, while able to discern some of these terms, might not be familiar with all of them. Welcome to the wild world of fan slang.

Fandom, like all communities, has developed its own slang, a lexicon of fan jargon that separates insider from outsiders. In fact, many books on fan studies include a glossary of fan terms to help uninitiated academics navigate fandom specific words and acronyms. There are some terms that pervade across fandoms, like canon, fanon, OTP, and ship, while others, most commonly ship names, are fandom-specific. As fans migrate from one fan community to another or join intrafandom communities, like SuperWhoLock, they introduce new terms into these subcommunties, which may, or may not, be adopted and gain larger traction within other fandoms.

Canon: In fan communities, canon refers to the official material that makes up the story and universe of the media property. Determining what counts as canon can be tricky. For example, in the Buffy fandom, the television show (1997-2003) counts as canon; however, most fans ignore or reject the 1992 film. Some fans accept the comics (which have not been read by the majority) as canon, others don’t count them. Officially sanctioned novels and other media spin-offs, too, hold an ambiguous position within the canon. Other fandoms, like Harry Potter, debate whether insights and material from author interviews count as canon. For example, is it canon that Dumbledore is gay or that Harry and Tom Riddle are related?

Fanon: Fanon refers to beliefs held by the fan community that are not supported by the property’s canon. Fanon can develop backstories for characters, provide them with more emotional depth, expand world building, or resolve plot holes or inconsistencies in the media property. For example, it is fanon in the Buffy fan community that vampires will mate with a specific human, marking that human by biting them. The mark binds the human and vampire together. It never happens in the show, which treats vampire bites erotic but not binding. However, it does occur in a lot of Buffy fanfiction. Fanon can also include fan theories that are widely accepted by the fan community, like A Song of Ice and Fire’s R+L=J theory, which although not confirmed in the novels, is widely accepted as fact (and has been affirmed by the HBO television series adaption). When theories like these are confirmed, they move from fanon to official canon. In other cases, they are “Jossed,” and disproven (the term is a play on Joss Whedon, who has a habit of doing this to fans).

Head-Canon: Head-Canon is basically individualized fanon. Like fanon, it is not necessarily supported by the show’s canon, and is often used to fill in plot holes, continuity issues, character behavior, or other incongruities found within the canon. However, unlike fanon, which has wider acceptance within the fan community, head-canon tends to be held only by the individual. In some cases, like the example below, head-canon is used to intensify the emotions or relations of characters. These head canons might result in feels (see below).

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Ship: Ship refers to a romantic or sexual pairing between two characters. Ship can be used as a verb, as in “I ship them,” or as a noun in reference to a relationship, “the good ship Bethyl.” The term shipper refers to a person in support of the romantic relationship, and shipping is used to describe the practice. Generally, ships are not formed around canonical relationships, but by picking up on subtextual cues between characters. Fans become emotionally invested in seeing the characters eventually get together and will

Image sourced from Odyssey.

look for clues in the media property that this will occur. Because fans are eager to interpret the text as supporting their ship, they run the risk of wearing shipping goggles, a term used to recognize the subjectivity of shipper interpretations. Some ships become canon; others do not. Within fandoms, ship wars can break out when ships are mutually exclusive. For example, in the A Game of Thrones fandom, arguments break out between fans who want to see Jon Snow with Daenerys Targaryen and those who think he should marry Sansa Stark.

Ships are often identified though portmanteaus combining the characters’ names. Jaenerys refers to the Jon/Daenerys pairing and Jonsa is Jon and Sansa. Spike and Buffy fans ship “Spuffy” and those who want to see the Slayer with Angel are into Bangel. In some fandoms, other short hand is used. For example, while the Once Upon a Time fan do have ships like Bellefire (Belle and Balefire) and Rumbelle (Belle and Rumpelstiltskin), others have names like Captain Swan (Captain Hook and Emma Swan), Outlaw Queen (Regina (aka the evil queen) and Robin Hood), and Brave Warrior (Merida and Mulan). In this naming convention, identifiers tend to be consistent so that Emma Swan is always indicated by “Swan” and Regina Mills is always “Queen.”

OTP: OTP stands for “One True Pairing” and indicates a fan’s favorite pairing within a fandom. While a fan might ship multiple pairings, the OTP tends to be the primary relationship featured in fanfiction or posts, while other relationships take a more secondary, supporting role. For example, fans whose OPT is Jonsa might also ship Robbaery (Margaery Tyrell and Robb Stark), Gendrya (Arya Stark and Gendry Waters), and Lannistarth (Jamie Lannister and Brienne of Tarth), and those ships might appear in their fanfiction, but the focus is on Jon and Sansa and their relationship.

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Variations on the phrase are also used by fans. NOTP (Not One True Pairing) is used to refer to ships that the fan does not endorse. And BROTP indicates a fan’s favorite masculine (nonromantic) friendship.

Trash Ships: Sometimes a ship is problematic in some way. Perhaps the relationship is incestuous or canonically abusive. Maybe there is a troubling power dynamic between the characters. It’s unhealthy or toxic. Fanfiction written about these couples tends to be angsty and dark. But fans ship it anyway. These are trash ships. Unlike crackships (see below), fans are genuinely invested in these pairings, even though they recognize that they are troubling, problematic, or morally icky. The term trash ship originates from fans asserting that they are trash for shipping it, but that does not mean they are going to stop.

Crackship: While fans recognize that their OTP may not become canon, they are relatively certain that crackships will never be actualized. The term of the crackship refers to ships that are bizarre, insane, or unsettling (alluding to the fact that a fan would need to be on crack to come up with it). Crackships are generally developed as humor within the fan community, and fans will attempt to outdo each other with the absurdity of the pairings they come up with. For example, on a reddit thread, Harry Potter fans challenge each other to come up with the “worst/funniest potential” ship, like Hermione and Hagrid, Umbridge and Firenze, Neville and Bellatrix, Colin Creevey and Voldemort, and Hogwarts Castle and the Giant Squid. As Darrark, the user who initiated this thread notes, all of these pairings are “awful, either in a humorous or horrifying way.” In short, they are all crackships.

Feels: When fans watch a particularly emotional episode of a television show, look at a GIF capturing an important interaction between characters (a longing look, for example), or read a piece of fanfiction with a major character death or an OTP getting together after a long slow burn, they run the risk of having feels. Feels are the vicarious emotions that fans experience by engaging with either the source text or the artistic work of other fans. A shortened version of the word “feelings,” feels indicates emotional intensity, either positive or negative. Fans tend to represent feels as a physical assault and something completely out of our control. They tend to be overwhelming and something that we enjoy (the vicarious butterflies in the stomach that comes from watching our OTP interact) and dread (the devastation that comes with the death of a beloved character).

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Cinnamon Roll: The term “cinnamon roll” originates from an article in The Onion that featured a picture of a cinnamon roll with the title “Beautiful Cinnamon Roll Too Good For This World, Too Pure.” This phrase was adopted into and spread throughout fandom as a way to describe favorite or sympathetic characters. Eventually the phrase was shortened, so that simply referring to a character as a “cinnamon roll” evoked the entire phrase.

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Queerbaiting: Within many fan communities, especially those dedicated to shows, films, or novels that disproportionately focus on male characters and their relationships, fans pick up on homoerotic subtext and develop same-sex ships. When media properties self-consciously suggest, but refuse to actualize same-sex relationships, they are queerbaiting. As the term indicates, this practice is seen as a way to attract queer viewers without actually having to depict a same-sex relationship and deal with potential network or viewer backlash. Shows like Supernatural, Sherlock, and Merlin have all be accused by members of their respective (and sometimes overlapping) fan communities of queerbaiting.

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TPTB: TPTB is an acronym for “The Powers That Be,” a reference to a media property’s creators. The phrase suggests that the creators have an almost god-like authority, and fans might also use the phrase “the word of god” to refer to information that is not explicitly present in the canon, but has been provided by creators in interviews or blog posts. Fans can have various reactions to the TPTB: sometimes accepting their proclamations as canon, sometimes ignoring them. TPTB might be loved with a favorite ship becomes canon, but they can also face scorn and derision if a major character dies or is represented in a way that is not in keeping with fans’ interpretations.

BNF: BNF is an acronym for “Big Name Fan.” These are popular fanfic writers, artists, podcasters, or bloggers within the fan community. Very often, these fans will develop their own fan bases and might be invited to participate in convention panels. Some BNFs have found ways to monetize their status within the fan community.

Works Cited

Darrak. “Worst/funniest potential Harry Potter pairing?”, 2014,

Jessica Writes Fanfiction (Part Four)

This blog post is Part Four in my series about the different categories of fanfiction, as outlined by Henry Jenkins. Part One can be found here,  Part Two here, and Part Three here. So far, I have discussed different ways in which the story of the source text can be expanded to reveal interpretations of the characters, how fans shift perspectives and genres to get “more from” the source text (Pugh 19), and the emotional and erotic intensification found in some fanfic. This final post considers how characters are dislocated from their source text and put into different ‘verses and genres. 

According to Jenkins, cross-overs “blur the boundaries between different texts” by taking characters from one text and putting them in the setting (the ‘verse) of another (170). Jenkins explains that these “stories break down not only the boundaries between texts but also those between genres, suggesting how familiar characters might function in radically different environments. ‘Cross-Overs’ also allow fans to consider how different characters from different series might interact” (171). My cross-over between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Supernatural explores the different value systems of the two shows and their varying class and gender politics.

“Welcome to the Hellmouth”

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“What the hell are you doing?” Buffy said. She had been in the graveyard. With Spike. Patrolling. And there might have been some minor smoochies. Okay, major smoochies. Head-swimming, toe-curling, forget-about-heaven-and-the-pain-of-being-ripped-out-of-there smoochies. And then out of nowhere these two guys with a really unfortunate sense of fashion were pulling Spike away and threatening him with a pretty vicious looking knife.

“Back off, lady. We’ve got this,” the shorter one growled.

“You so do not.” She pulled at his arm, which currently had Spike pinned up against a crypt.

“Son of a bitch!” He shouted, as she pried his arm off and Spike slipped out of his grasp. “We’re trying to save you.”

“Okay, I know this is going to sound crazy,” said the tall one, who had hung back. “But, you see, your boyfriend here is a monster.”

There was something so patient and earnest in his tone and she couldn’t stand it. “Alright. Three things:” she said, moving between the men and Spike “One: I do not need saving. Two: He’s not my boyfriend. And three: I know he’s a vampire.”

“You tell ‘em, Goldilocks,” Spike muttered rubbing his throat. “Soddin’ bugger. That’s gonna leave a bruise.”

“We saw reports of vampire attacks in the area and came to investigate,” the tall one explained. The shorter one was trying to look like his arm wasn’t bothering him. Guess she’d been a bit rough with him. “And we saw you and him and thought he was attacking you…”

“Yeah, well he’s not gentle.” She tried not to blush; she was certain of Spike’s smirk and raised eyebrow behind her.

“You don’t seem surprised.”

“You Hardy Boys aren’t from around here, are you?” Spike drawled.

“No.” The tall one eyed him warily and the short one scowled.

“Yeah.” Buffy said, “The flannel kinda gives you away. Welcome to Sunnydale. Vampire attacks are pretty much an on the daily thing here. Or I guess nightly. Not such big fans of the sun.”

“And you…” The tall one asked.

“I slay them.”

“Didn’t look like slaying to me,” the short one scoffed.

“Yeah, well, Spike’s different.” She felt guilty enough for the things she let him do to her. The things she did to him. She wasn’t going to let some guy who looked like he did all of his shopping at Lands’ End shame her too.

“Are you trying to tell me that Billy Idol here is a good vampire?”

Spike chuckled darkly and moved to stand beside her. “Not on your life.”

“Down boy,” said Buffy, grabbing his shoulder. She directed a pointed look at the two men. “Not good. But different. And you’re not going to kill him.”

“And, you think that just because you’ve got some demented Ann Rice thing going on here that you’re going to be able to stop us.”

“Oh, I know I’ll be able to stop you.”


“Because I’m Buffy.”


In “Character Dislocation,” frequently know as Alternative Universe (AU) fics, characters are displaced in terms of genre and historical period (171). In some cases, the character names are changed, in others they stay the same. But these stories do often attempt to retain character traits and relationships, demonstrating the writer’s interpretation of them. My story dislocates the characters of Pride and Prejudice, placing them in contemporary high school, a frequent trope of AU fiction.

“That Darcy Guy”

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“Oh my god,” Jane squealed as she slid into the cafeteria seat. “Have you seen the new guys?” She did not notice Charlotte Lucas, her sister’s best friend, discretely shaking her head. “Aren’t they just gorgeous?” Only then did she notice her sister’s stony expression. “What’s wrong, Liz?”

“Nothing.” Liz sat glowering, her arms crossed in front of her chest.

“It’s not nothing. You look like you’re about to literally eviscerate someone.”

“I said that it’s nothing.”

“Oh, knock it off. You can’t lie to me. It won’t work. Know you too well. So just tell me so that I don’t have to torture it out of you.”

Liz’s grim expression broke into a brief smile. “I can’t imagine you torturing anyone, Jane. You’re far too nice to be any good at it.”

“Well, then, I’ll be insufferably nice and break you that way. Anyway, you’re not going to distract me. Spill.”

“Fine. It was just one of the new guys. That Darcy guy.”

“What did he do?”

“He refused to be her partner for an English project,” Charlotte interrupted. “Poor Lizzy. It was stupid and he’s a jerk.”

“Oh,” said Jane, looking thoughtful.

“What’s with the sudden pensiveness?”

“Just something Charlie told me.”

“Who’s Charlie?”

“He’s the other one. The other new guy. His locker is right next to mine and he is really nice and funny and cute and really, really nice.”


“Shut up,” Jane said, smacking her sister’s arm. “Anyway. I asked him how he liked Netherfield High, and he said that it was great, but that he was worried about his friend. Darcy, it seems, can be a little antisocial.”

“Antisocial?” Liz exclaimed. “He’s barely housebroken.”

“Perhaps we shouldn’t judge too quickly,” Jane quietly demurred.

Liz sighed. “Dude, I already confessed. Stop with the insufferable niceness. The guy is a jerk. End. Of. Story.”


Finally, fanfiction can allow for a kind of “Personalization” (171), a way for fans to put themselves in the story. This self-insertion is generally done in two ways: 1) the insertion of an idealized author avatar in the form of a “Mary Sue” character (171), a practice derided throughout fandoms, or 2) through humorous metafiction (172). My story takes the latter approach as I imagine how the characters I have written about her might respond to my stories. 

“The Author”

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The author sat with her computer in front of her, her fingers moving furiously over the keys. She paused only to take a sip of the steaming Earl Grey in the mug next to her computer. “Just one more line,” she murmured. “Just one last part to tie this all together.” She bit her lower lip, and then smiled, her fingers back on the keys. “Got it.”

She was interrupted by a knock on the door. “Who the hell?” she said as got up to answer it. She wasn’t expecting visitors.

And she certainly wasn’t expecting the hoard of people that pushed their way into the front hall of her small, but cozy, home.

“We just wanted to say thanks,” said a man in a black mask that covered half of his face. “We appreciate everything you’ve done for us.”

“My dearest Westley and I are in a PG movie,” the striking woman who was clinging to the masked guy’s arm was saying. “He can barely get away with mentioning my breasts, let alone touching them. It was a real relief to be able to do something more than a single relatively caste kiss—no matter how it stacks up in the history of kisses.”

“And I’m glad someone considered my perspective for once,” said a young woman with bushy hair who was dressed in black robes. “Those boys were beastly to me for no real reason. At least until the troll…” She trailed off and then her expression, once again, became indignant. “And then a bit afterwards too, at times, like the Yule Ball. Sometimes I don’t know why I put up with them.”

“Well I’m not happy with you at all,” said a supernaturally beautiful young woman with dark hair and  golden eyes. “I was supposed to live, or be undead or whatever, happily ever after. Edward is my soul mate. But you ruined it.”

“Actually, vampires don’t have souls,” interjected a young woman from the back, who was holding hands with a man with beach blond hair and long black leather jacket. “So, not so much with the soul mating.”

The author, feeling very overwhelmed, turned back to the dark-haired young woman. “Do you really think you’d be happy for an eternity with your high school boyfriend.”

“Edward loves me. He wouldn’t want to live an eternity without me, and I can’t imagine even a month without him.”

The author rolled her eyes. “Edward is an abusive chode.”

“He didn’t abuse me. He was trying to protect me.”

“Listen Stockholm, he disabled the engine in your truck, stalked you, dictated who you could be friends with, and snuck into your bedroom to watch you sleep without your knowledge or consent, all while telling you that if he lost control he would kill you because of what you do to him.”

“Okay, you may have a point,” she mumbled.

“Any other complaints,” asked the author, turning to face the crowd that had spilled over from the front hall into the living room.

“I don’t mind being political, even if it isn’t honorable,” said a sullen young man dressed in dark furs. “But you do know that Sansa’s my sister, right?”

“You know nothing, Jon Snow,” said the author. “Just wait until next season….”

“Okay, but he is definitely my brother,” said Sam. “That’s not going to change.”

The author ignored him and looked past them to where blond woman and the Billy-Idol look alike were standing in the back of the crowd. “Don’t you have anything to say?”

Buffy shrugged. “We’re canon. Can’t complain about much.”

“Wouldn’t mind a bit more shaggin’ though,” Spike said. “You tend to skip over all the fun bits. After years on network television it would be nice not to fade to black whenever things get interesting.”

“Noted,” said the author with a blush. “Anyone else?”

They all looked at her silently. There were a couple of people, some teenage girls and severe but beautiful blond woman, who hadn’t yet spoken. And now, it didn’t seem like they would.

“Well, it was great of you all to stop by, it really was,” said the author. “And I appreciate your input, though” she looked pointedly at the sullen young man, “it probably won’t change all that much. But if you don’t mind, I need to get back to my story.”

Works Cited

Jenkins, Henry. Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture. Routledge, 1992.

Pugh, Sheenagh. The Democratic Genre: Fan Fiction in a literary context. Poetry Wales Press, 2005.

Part One can be found here,  Part Two here, and Part Three here

Jessica Writes Fanfic (Part Three)

This blog post is Part Three in my series about the different categories of fanfiction, as outlined by Henry Jenkins. Part One can be found here and Part Two here. In the first post, I look at different ways in which the story of the source text can be expanded to reveal interpretations of the characters. Part Two looks at how fans shift perspectives and genres to get “more from” the source text (Pugh 19). This post considers the emotional and erotic intensification found in some fanfic. 


In “emotional intensification” stories, fans focus on character affect and relationships (Jenkins 174). These stories are often PWP (Plot? What plot?) stories; the focus is less on what the characters are doing and more on what they are feeling. A subgenre of this approach, Hurt/Comfort stories feature one character who is physically or psychologically damaged, rendering them more emotionally vulnerable, and another character cares for them, generally creating a bond between the characters. Camile Bacon-Smith identifies these stories as central to fandom because of the emphasis that they put on characters’ vulnerabilities, emotions, and relationships (see chapter 10). In my story, Buffy, the super powered slayer, is physically injured, and as Spike, a vampire with whom she was in an abusive and destructive relationship, cares for her, and they have an open, honest, and intimate moment.


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Buffy limped home. Each breath was painful, and she was pretty sure that she had broken more than a few ribs. The side of her face was cut and raw and she could feel the blood oozing out, splattering on the pavement as she dragged herself home.

She could have died today.

If she wasn’t the slayer, she would have.

She had stumbled across the ubervamp during her patrol. She hadn’t been looking for him, hadn’t been hunting. If anything, she’d been avoiding the Turok-Han since her first run in had left her bloody and bruised and afraid. Sure, she’d gone all Thunderdome with that one in front of the girls, but that had been different. She had needed that fight, had needed to convince them that the ubervamps could be defeated. That she could defeat them. That they could. But she didn’t exactly relish another fight like that.

And there had been no avoiding this one.

He had attacked her, smashing her ribs, gripping her throat, throwing her to the pavement, flinging her across the street. The impact of the concrete, the scrape of the asphalt, the vampire’s strength as he tossed her around, they haunted her. The vamp could have killed her, snapped her neck, drank her blood. But it had been playing with her. Taunting her. Showcasing its strength to demonstrate her weakness.

And she had run.

She had run from a fight. Hobbling off and feeling like she had when she was newly called and afraid. She had lost.

And Buffy didn’t lose. Couldn’t lose.

But she had.

She entered the house as quietly as she could. She didn’t want to wake the girls. Couldn’t let them see her like this. If they saw the way in which she had been beaten, she would never convince them to fight.

“Jesus, Slayer. What the hell happened to you?”

She hadn’t seen the vampire lurking in the hallway.

“Shhh. Had a run-in with an old buddy of yours.”

Spike winced. “Hope you have as good as you got.” He whispered.

She shook her head.

“That bad?”

She nodded.

His face softened. “Alright then. Let’s get you upstairs and those wounds tended to. He took a nasty chuck outa you, didn’t he?”

“More than one. But I don’t need your help. I’ll heal.”

He rolled his eyes. “Listen, Slayer. I let you Florence Nightingale me after you dragged me out of the First’s lair. Let a bloke return a favor.”

He offered her his arm and it felt so good to lean on him, to lean on anyone, that she let him lead her up the stairs to the bedroom.

“Good thing you’re a Slayer,” he said when he’d gotten a better look at her. “Normal girl wouldn’t have been able to survive this.”

“A normal girl wouldn’t spend her night fighting uber Neanderthal vamps.”

“No. She’d just be dead.” He paused. “But you’re not. Now let’s take a look at those scrapes. You got some ointments and suchlike around here?”

She pointed him to the first aid kit and was surprised by the gentleness of his touch as he cleaned and dressed her wounds, the salve cooling, soothing.

She had never seen him like this before. So caring and nurturing. So soft and kind and open. She relaxed in his hands. Finally exhaling after the fight. Finally feeling safe.

“You’re good at this.”“Don’t be so surprised, Slayer. I spent a century taking care of Dru. Not a complete shock that I learned a thing or two. I’m not that daft.”  He dabbed some anti-bacterial ointment onto her cheek. “What happened out there?”

“I lost. He was stronger. Faster. Better.”

He scoffed.


“Didn’t he already beat you up enough? No need to go all punching bag on yourself.”

“I’m not. It’s the truth. I don’t know if I’m strong enough for this fight.”

“You’ve already dust one of these buggers.”

“One. How many hundred more are their going to be?” She could feel the tears rising in her throat, fear, frustration, anger, regret. She just wanted it over.

“You’ll dust them too. Ashes to ashes. And all that.”

“I’m just tired, Spike. Tired of fighting. Tired of bleeding. Tired of hurting.”

“Tired of living?”

“No.” She smiled softly, her eyes glistening. “That was so last year.” She paused. “But I don’t feel like I’m actually living. I’m fighting. I’m surviving. But I’m not living.”

He nodded. “Never ends does it?”


“Like bleedin’ Ground Hog Day. But instead of a fuzzy little rodent to deal with you’ve got a bunch of nasties.”

“Ow.” She held her ribs. “Don’t make me laugh.”

“Let me take a look at those. Take that shirt off.”

She shied away from his touch. “No. I’m okay.” She knew that he was different now. That he had a soul. That he wouldn’t hurt her. But she couldn’t do that. Couldn’t bear her body to the man who had held her down on the bathroom floor, his body bearing down on hers, demanding entry that she did not want to give.

“Buffy…. I’m… I’ll leave you be.” He got to his feet.

“No, Spike.” She silenced him. “Stay? Please.”

“Alright then.” He settled back beside her and she rested her head on his shoulder.

“You’re the only person I can be like this with. For everyone else I’m the Slayer, the General, the Hero, the Leader, the Chosen One. I’m tired of being those things. Sometimes I just want to be me.”

He nodded.

“Thanks. For tonight.”

“Thanks for saving me from the First. The torture scene was getting a bit stale.”

“You would have done the same for me.”

“To hell and back for you, Buffy.”

“Been there. Done that. Can’t say I recommend.”

“I’m serious.”

“I know.”

“Do you think… do you think it ever could have been different… I mean… between us.”

She looked at him sadly. “No,” she said simply. “Not the way I was. Not the way you were. We were destined to be painful and messy.”

“Yeah. I reckon you’re right.”

She took his hand. “But maybe. Not now. But at some point. Maybe things will be.”


Fanfiction has a bad reputation for being nothing more than porn, and while this is untrue, fans do eroticize stories that otherwise might not be. In addition to emotional intensification, PWP can also refer to erotic stories that focus on sexual encounters between characters. Jenkins explains that “Fan writers, freed of the restrains of network censors, often want to explore the erotic dimensions of characters’ lives. Their stories transform the relatively chaste, though often suggestive, world of popular television into erogenous zones of sexual experimentation” (175). I selected to write about The Princess Bride for this story. Not only does the film’s PG rating prevent anything to racy within the context of the film, Fred Savage’s character censors some of the story’s potential eroticism.


“A Kissing Book”

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She felt herself call out his name (or at least what she called him) just so that he would look at her. His eyes, like the sea after a storm, dark and deep and calm, engulfed her, pulled her under and in and she was drowning but didn’t need air. Only him.

“Fetch me that pitcher,” she said, fumbling for something to say. Anything to keep him near and looking at her. She knew it was stupid. The pitcher was just over her head and she could easily fetch it herself. But she needed him, wanted him. Any excuse to keep him here with her a second (a lifetime) time more.

She held her breath as he approached, moving slowly and deliberately across the room, his eyes never leaving hers and she could only hope that he had read into her words the meaning that she had discovered in his. And he was there, before her, only inches away, and reaching up around her for the pitcher and she could feel the heat of his body and his gaze.

“As you wish,” he murmured, as he handed her the pitcher. And he looked so earnest and hopeful and beautiful that she couldn’t help but smile.

“Thank you, Westley.”

“I don’t think you’ve ever called me that before.”

“I could continue to call you ‘farm boy,’ if you prefer.”

He reached up and she felt herself leaning into his touch on her cheek. “No. I don’t think I do.” He paused for a moment, licked his lips. “May I kiss you?”

“As you wish.”

And then his lips were on hers, sweet and soft and gentle and chaste at first and then hard and hot and demanding. The pitcher crashed to the floor, and her fingers were in his hair that smelled like sweetness of straw and the shadows of the forest and the green grass of the fields and his were around her waist and running up her sides and on her breasts and she wished that there were not so many layers of clothing between them nor so many customs stopping them from undressing. If they kissed like this for another second longer, she knew that she would surrender to the heat between her legs, which was now engulfing her, to the hardness between his, which was pressed against her.

“Westley,” she breathed as she pulled away.

He looked down, ashamed. “Buttercup, I’m sorry… I…”

She kissed him lightly, a moth-wing whisper across his lips. “Shhh.” She hushed his apology and silenced his shame. She looked down, now her turn to be embarrassed. “I’ve never kissed a man before.”

He tucked his fingers beneath her chin, lifting her face so that she met his gaze, his eyes like the sea. “And I’ve never a woman.”

“You do it well.”

“I’d like to keep practicing, if you’ll have me.”

“I believe I would.”


Works Cited

Bacon-Smith, Camille. Enterprising Women: Television Fandom and the Creation of Popular Myth. University of Pennsylvania Press, 1992.

Jenkins, Henry. Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture. Routledge, 1992.

Pugh, Sheenagh. The Democratic Genre: Fan Fiction in a literary context. Poetry Wales Press, 2005.

Part One can be found here,  Part Two hereand Part Four here

Jessica Writes Fanfiction (Part Two)

This blog post is Part Two in my series about the different categories of fanfiction, as outlined by Henry Jenkins. Part One can be found here. In the first post, I look at different ways in which the story of the source text can be expanded to reveal interpretations of the characters. This post looks at how fans shift perspectives and genres to get “more from” the source text (Pugh 19).

Fans can also recontextualize a story through “refocalization” or by writing from an alternative perspective (Jenkins 165). Jenkins explains that “some writers shift attention away from the program’s central figures and onto secondary characters, often women and minorities, who receive limited screen time” (165). My example shifts focus from the titular Harry Potter to Hermione Granger, and, by doing so, draws attention to how poorly she was treated by Ron and Harry at the beginning of the series’ first novel.

“Dear Ms. Granger”

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When Hermione Granger had first received her letter from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, it had been absolutely brilliant. At first, she had been rather shocked. As far as she had known, there was no such thing as witches nor wizards, let alone a school for them. But Hermione prized her mental dexterity and decided that when new facts presented themselves, she had no choice but to reevaluate. She determined to, as soon as she could, to learn as much about Hogwarts and the world of wizards as she could.

Frankly, she was relieved. She had always felt that she didn’t quite fit in. The girls and boys that she went to school with tended to pick on her. They made fun of her bushy hair and front teeth and the fact that she always knew all the answers in class. They called her a brown-noser and a teacher’s pet and other nastier names. She loved learning, but decidedly did not care for school.

But a magical school was bound to be different. The other children must be as eager and excited to learn as she was. They would, after all, be learning magic and she might finally have friends.

At first her parents, who were both dentists, weren’t sure what to make of the letter.

“What do they teach at a School of Witchcraft and Wizardry?” her mother had asked.

“I wonder what their maths program is like,” her father mused.

Of course, they had consented. They had even taken her shopping for the necessary school supplies, wands and cauldrons and robes. In Flourish and Blotts, in addition to her required reading, she also picked up a copy of Hogwarts: A History, which she read in the car on the way home from the shops.

The night before she was supposed to leave for school, she could barely sleep. She looked forward to meeting the other children on the train to Hogwarts tomorrow and the promise of all of the friends she would make.


“Moral Realignment” also offers a change in perspective, this time shifting focus to the story’s villain (Jenkins 168). Jenkins explains that “some fans invert or question the moral universe of the primary text, taking the villains and transforming them into the protagonist of their own narratives” (168). In doing so, fans often present a more sympathetic portrait of the villain than present in the source text. My story provides insight into Serena Joy from The Handmaid’s Tale and suggests why she might have been complicit in the formation of the oppressive regime of Gilead.

“True Believer”

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Serena Joy was one of the most frightening things in the world: a true believer. She saw the declining fertility rates, heard the stark quiet of the maturity wards, recognized her own growing desperation for a child. She monitored her cervical mucus and basal temperature. She scheduled sex with Fred during times when it should have been most advantageous for conception. He teased her about her eagerness and some days he complained that it had been a long day, that he wasn’t in the mood. She didn’t let his teasing bother her, didn’t listen to his protests. Afterward, they prayed.

Each month, she mourned the blood of her menstruation.

She did not understand why God refused to bless her with a child. All she could do was hope and pray that the next month would be different. That next month she would conceive. That next month her womb would flower. That next month there would be a miracle.

She never used the “i-word” to refer to their condition,

Each month her hope dwindled. But each month her faith grew.

Eventually, she saw what God had planned for her, what he wanted her to do. He had not given her a child because he needed her to be mother to a country. He was punishing America for its atheism and hedonism and materialism and narcissism. He was punishing the world for turning away from him, for closing their ears to his Word, and ignoring his message. It was a modern plague, this withholding of children, and it would not end so long as the world’s hearts were no longer hardened to him.

Together, she and Fred conceived of Gilead. And God needed her help to ease the birth pangs of a new nation.

She wrote books. She appeared on television and on college campuses. She explained what had to be done to save the American people and the babies they were being denied. She was cursed at, spit upon, shot at. But she persisted. Because that’s what a mother does; she defends, protects, her children at all cost.

And when Gilead arrived, she did as mothers before her have done. She gave up everything for the sake of her child.

Well, not everything. For the first time in a long time, Serena Joy began to hope again.


In “Genre Shifting,” fans, picking up on subtextual cues in the source, take characters from one genre, say action-adventure, and put them in another, frequently romance (Jenkins 169). This genre shifting is a way for fanfic writers to focus on the emotional content and to argue for the romantic nature of characters’ relationships. I have taken, for example, the zombie survival show, The Walking Dead, and shifted to a more romantic focus in my exploration of the interactions between the characters Beth Greene and Darryl Dixon, and thereby arguing that the characters were romantically interested in one another.


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Living in the prison, they hadn’t spoken much. He’d always kept to himself, stalking through the woods, hunting for food. He’d spend time with Rick and Carol, but he was wary of the newcomers. She’d been with the children, teaching them, nurturing them, mothering them. Her life there had been cozy, almost, safe, or as safe as you could be with the dead walking the earth. She didn’t think that he’d known a life that wasn’t hard.

(There had been that one hug. After Zach had died and he’d come to tell her. She had confessed to the emptiness in herself and he had looked, full of guilt and grief, and she had hugged him. He’d been so stiff at first, as though not sure what to do, but then his hand had come up and held her elbow and she hadn’t wanted to pull away.)

And then the prison fell and they’d lost everything except each other.

At first it had been hard traveling with him. He didn’t talk to her. He was rough. He scowled and hollered and snapped and growled. He was like a wild animal, so focused on survival that he didn’t see anything else in the world. He kept them alive, sure, but it wasn’t living.

But then things changed. Maybe it was drinking moonshine. Maybe it was the screaming match. Maybe it was the hug, where she had held him up so that he could break down. Maybe it was sitting out on the porch buzzed and talking well into the night. But something changed.

He was easier around her now. He smiled and laughed, even made jokes. He asked her to sing. He touched her when he didn’t need to, giving her piggyback rides and carrying her around the house. (And sometimes those touches would linger for a few seconds longer than they should after he’d put her down. And sometimes she wished that they would never stop.)

And then there was the way he looked at her. She didn’t think anyone had ever looked at her like that. Not the boys she knew in school. Not Jimmy. Not Zach. His look was so intense, so piercing, so penetrating, and full of admiration (and maybe, she dared to hope, love). And when she caught his eyes, she didn’t want to look away. (But always did, feeling flushed and thrilled and maybe a little shy.)

(She imagined what it would be like to kiss him. To take him to bed. To have him look at her like that with their naked bodies pressed together, intertwined, him inside her and her around him, and more alive than they’d been even before the dead started walking.)

Works Cited

Jenkins, Henry. Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture. Routledge, 1992.

Pugh, Sheenagh. The Democratic Genre: Fan Fiction in a literary context. Poetry Wales Press, 2005.

Part One can be found here,  Part Three here and Part Four here

Jessica Writes Fanfiction (Part One)

In my last post, I mentioned that Sheenagh Pugh argues that fanfiction writers want “more from” or “more of” their source text (19). In this series of blog posts (this project got away from me a bit, so I am going to break it up over multiple blog posts), I want to consider the various positions that fanfiction, as it provides “more from” and “more of,” takes in relation to its source. The categories of fanfiction that I explore here are outlined in Henry Jenkins’s Textual Poachers and provide an overview of the kinds of fanfic one might encounter. It is worth noting, though, that these categories are not mutually exclusive, and very often fanfics can be classified in more than one (this is, in fact, true of a number of the stories that I have written here).  

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Potential spoilers for Twilight, Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, Handmaid’s Tale, Pride and Prejudice, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.



One common approach that fanfic writers will take to get more from the source text is “expanding the series timeline” by writing prequels or sequels to the story’s canon (163). Prequels are generally based on “hints or suggestions about the characters’ backgrounds not fully explored within” the source text (163). Sequel’s imagine the characters’ “future lives” (164). Like all fanfiction, sequels and prequels depend on an interpretation of the characters. In my example below, my interpretation of Bella and Edward’s relationship suggests a darker future than that implied by the ending of the series.  


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Their first fight had been about Renesmee. They had been married for five years. Sometimes Bella felt like she was the only one not determined to spoil the child rotten. Edward bought her everything she wanted, the elaborate toys, fancy designer dresses, and the latest iphone. She was sure that eventually, when he determined that she was old enough to drive, Edward would give their daughter a Jaguar XK.

“Maybe we don’t need to give her every little thing she wants.” Bella said to Edward one night after they had put Renesmee to bed. Their child was getting too big for night time stories and rituals, but Bella wanted to hold onto them for as long as she could. Because of her accelerated aging, Renesmee’s childhood would be so short, and Bella would be deprived of years watching her grow. She didn’t think Renesmee would leave them, but it would not be the same when she was grown. Renesmee would feel like less of a child, and Bella less like a mother.

“How could I resist her?” Edward had replied. “She is almost as irresistable as her mother.”

“I’m just not sure it is the best thing for her.”

“She’ll be fine,” Edward assured her, and despite the hesitation she felt, she let herself be convinced, overruled by him.

When Renesmee was six she attacked a human, a hiker who had wandered into the woods where the Cullen family was hunting.

“It’s not entirely her fault.” Edward had told his wife. “She was hunting, her blood was up. She couldn’t resist the temptation.”

“She has to resist, Edward. That’s not who we are. We’re not killers.”

“Most vampires, however well intentioned, have slips. Only Carlisle is saintly enough to have never hurt a human.”

“I haven’t.”

“Well, we can’t all be a perfect as you,” he said darkly.

“I never said that I was perfect.”

“No. You wouldn’t. You just make the rest of us feel like we’re not nearly as good.”

“How the hell do I do that?”

But he didn’t answer, and in the end, she felt bad enough to apologize to him for making him feel that way. Then she was mad at herself. She always gave in, let him get the upper hand. He was an expert at manipulating her, controlling her, and stupid lamb she was, she always fell for it every single time.

When they had been married for ten years, she realized that they had little to talk about. Renesmee had moved out and in with Jacob, something that Bella would never be completely comfortable with. Their daughter visited them frequently, but without her constant presence, Bella realized how much she and Edward had depended on their child for topics of conversation. Now that Renesmee was gone, Bella and Edward sat in silence most nights. She didn’t go out much. Edward didn’t like it if she did. He hadn’t forbidden it, but he had let her know he disapproved. So they stayed at home together, and Bella felt very alone.

She tried to remember what they had talked about before, but she couldn’t. Books? She tried to bring up the topic. They had talked, and she wondered if he had always corrected her so much. He made her feel so stupid, the way he dismissed her interpretations and ideas.

“Sorry I haven’t had over one hundred years to read every book ever written,” she had fumed one night when he looked at her disapprovingly for not knowing some obscure German title.

The sex was still amazing, but the silences between were growing wider and sadder.

When they had been married for forty years, they stopped having sex. Bella wasn’t sure exactly when it had happened. It had been such a gradual reduction. They still lived together, but they started staying in separate bedrooms.The worst part was that she had no one to talk to. Charlie was dead of a heart attack and her mother had Alzheimer’s and didn’t recognize her or anyone else. She had come to love her vampire family, but they were Edward’s siblings and parents and she wasn’t sure that she could tell them about how bad her marriage had become. She was afraid that they wouldn’t understand; they all seemed so happy, still, in their relationships. Or worse: they would take Edward’s side. And then she would feel more alone than she did at night beside her husband.

That was the reason why she had never considered a divorce. She didn’t even know if vampires could get divorced, if they could leave their mate. It was not something that the Cullens discussed. But she did know that if she got divorced, she would be alone in the world. Forever. And so she stayed. Year after year after year.


Fans might also “recontextualize” character’s actions and motivations by providing scenes, interactions or thoughts that occur off screen (162). As Jenkins explains, these stories tend to “fill in the gaps” and “provide additional explanations for the character’s conduct” (162). My story draws on the Northern Fool theory, developed by fans of Game of Thrones during the show’s seventh season, which argues that Jon Snow is not really in love with Daenerys Targaryen; he engages in a sexual relationship with her in order to manipulate her into an alliance with the North, to secure her help fighting the horde of ice zombies heading toward his home. This missing scene lays the groundwork for those actions.


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He finally found her in the Godswood. He had looked all over Winterfell for her, from the Great Hall to the kitchens, from the Crypts to the ramparts, from the practice yard to the Lord’s Chamber. And now here she was in the last place he had expected to find her, though perhaps it should have been the first.

Her skin was pale as snow and her eyes like the blue of the winter sky. He knew how cold those eyes could be, though since their reunion she hadn’t looked at him save with warmth. With fire when she was frustrated or angry, but never with ice. Even her Tully hair reminded him Winterfell; it was the red of the weirwood’s leaves against the bone white of its trunk. She was the North itself.

It was snowing lightly, but she didn’t seem to notice. She was beneath the heart tree, in the same position he had found their father so many times before.  She looked up as she heard the crunch of his boots on the crust of snow that covered the woods.

“I thought you kept the Faith of the Seven.”

“I’m not sure that I keep any faith at all,” she replied. “The New Gods did me little good in King’s Landing, and the Old did not protect me from Ramsay after we knelt together before their tree.”

“So why do you come here?”

She shrugged. “When I was South, the capital and the Eyre, it was the one place that reminded me of Winterfell, of home, of father. It was the one place I felt safe. At first, it was because I though the Old Gods were watching over me. I don’t know when I stopped believing that was true.”

He nodded. “I don’t know what to believe anymore, either.” After all the things he had seen—the Other’s relentless march south with their armies of the dead, the scars in his chest that would never heal, a red witch who could give life to the dead, rumors of dragons that proved true and dreams of wolves there were real—he believed in everything and nothing.

“I know that father had faith in these trees and their gods. But there is so much that he believed in that no longer makes sense in this world.”

“The wars have changed many things.”

“Not everything. Not the fact that the pack is strongest when together, when united,” she paused and took his hand in hers. “Don’t go. Please, Jon. No good will come from going South.”

“It may.”

“It never does.”

He looked at her sadly. “Sansa, you know I must.”

“I wish you wouldn’t.”

“Aye. I wish for the same. I wish that the Night’s King wasn’t threating us from the North and a mad queen menacing us from the South. I wish that Arya and Bran were alive and here and that none of us had to leave the safety of these walls.” His eyes met hers. “I wish that so many things were different.”

“If only the gods heard ours wishes.”

“If only they answered them.” He squeezed her hand. “But they don’t, so I must go.”

“You don’t. Stay. Don’t abandon the North.”

He sighed and his voice was weary. “The North doesn’t need me. It has you. And I’ve already explained to the Lords, to you, Sansa, we need her as an ally. She sits on a mountain of obsidian and her dragons are our best hope of defeating the White Walkers.”

“She won’t just help you out of the goodness of her heart. She will want something thing from you. Would-be-queens always do.”

“Well, then, I’ll give her what she wants. If I can.”

“And what if you can’t? What if she asks a price that is too dear? We’ve fought too hard for our home, for the North, you can’t give her that, though she’ll want it to complete her kingdom. And Northerns will never fight for her, even against Lannisters. You heard them. Her father killed the Lord of Winterfell and his heir. Our grandfather and uncle. And her brother kidnapped and raped our aunt. The North has not forgotten and will not fight to put another Targaryen on the throne.”

“You’re right they won’t forget. Especially if you keep reminding them.”

“They don’t need to be reminded. They lost fathers and sons, husbands and brothers, in the war to usurp a dragon; they won’t risk more kin to seat another.”

“Then I’ll offer her something I can. Or find some way to persuade her.”

She smiled at him sadly. “You are a Northern fool.”

“Sansa.” He reached out and cupped the back of her head. “This is a risk we have to take. I don’t know what the Dragon Queen will do when I meet her, but I do know what the army of the dead will do if it breaches The Wall, and I must do what I can to protect the North. Our home. You. I cannot have this argument with you. I leave tomorrow. Let there be peace between us.”

“I can’t lose you again,” she said quietly. “Not now that I’ve only just gotten you back. Jon, you’re all I have left in this world.”

He pulled her to him and embraced her. She had grown taller than he, but she curled herself into him and seemed so small that for a moment he almost acquiesced, almost agreed to forget the Night’s King and the Dragon Queen and the whole rest of the bloody realm and stay in Winterfell with her. But he knew that they could only pretend to be safe for so long. Winter would come for them eventually.

“I will return to you,” he breathed into her hair.

“You shouldn’t make promises you can’t keep.” Her words were hot against his neck.

“I have every intention of keeping this one.”

“Do you swear?”

“To the Old Gods and the New. I swear I will return to Winterfell, to the North, to you. And I hope to return stronger, in a better position to defend ourselves.”

She pulled away from his embrace so that she could look into his eyes. “Remember, Jon, the Gods won’t help you. Do what you must to survive, to return.” She paused. “Even if you need to turn your back on some of the old ways, to forget some of father’s lessons.”

“I’ll do my best, Sansa.”

“I know you will. If there is one thing I still believe in, Jon, it’s you.”

“Aye. And I believe in you. Hold the North. Care for our people.”

She nodded and held his gaze. And they stood together under the heart tree, still holding each other and neither wanting to let the other go. In each other, they had found their family and regained their home, and they were afraid of what parting would mean for them. So they stayed close and put off saying goodbye for just a few minutes longer.

Works Cited

Jenkins, Henry. Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture. Routledge, 1992.

Pugh, Sheenagh. The Democratic Genre: Fan Fiction in a literary context. Poetry Wales Press, 2005.

Part Two can be found herePart Three here and Part Four here

Defining Fic

What is fanfiction (fanfic, fic)? It’s actually a good question, and one that is not as easy to answer as you might think. There are debates within fandom and fan studies about what constitutes fanfiction and what distinguishes it from other derivative works.

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In a blog post, Henry Jenkins, the father of fan studies, defines fanfiction as “original stories and novels which are set in the fictional universes of favorite television series, films, comics, games or other media properties.” This definition is pretty broad, but it does predicate an emotional attachment to or engagement with the source material. Fan fiction stories are not set in the universe of any old television series, film, comic, or game, but specifically “favorites.” The emotional attachment that Jenkins presupposes is in keeping with his assertion in Textual Poachers that fans tend to “appear to be frightening out of control, undisciplined and unrepentant, rogue readers,” who bring a degree of intensity and subjectivity to their reading and writing that seem at odds with traditional academic and bourgeois practices, which privilege distance and objectivity (18).

Other definitions tend to be even more restrictive. Wikipedia defines it as “fiction about characters or settings from an original work of fiction, created by fans of that work rather than by its creator. It is a popular form of fan labor, particularly since the advent of the Internet.” Merriam Webster’s definition is similar: “stories involving popular characters that are written by fans and often posted on the internet.” These definitions are notable for their foregrounding of fan authorship, asserting that fanfiction is necessarily the product of fans. The focus is just as much on who is doing the writing as what is being written about. While Jenkins alludes to fan authorship in his recognition that these stories are often written about “favorite” texts, Wikipedia and Merriam Webster offer a more assertive categorization of the authors as fans. Interestingly, these definitions are written for non-fan and non-fanstudies audiences: Jenkins is writing for the teachers, attempting to convince them of the merits of using fanfiction as a critical and educational resource and Wikipedia and Merriam Webster are for the most general of audiences.

In contrast, Pugh, whose monograph, The Democratic Genre: Fan Fiction in a literary context, is likely for fans or fan-studies scholars, offers a much broader definition of fanfiction: “Myself, I would go along with those who define fan fiction as writing, whether official or unofficial, paid or unpaid, which makes use of an accepted canon of characters, setting and plots generated by another writer or writers” (25). In this case, fanfiction is not limited to the work of fans, but speaks to larger practices of derivative writing.

Pugh’s definition invites us to trouble the sematic distinction between “fanfic,” derivative fiction written by fans for free, and “profic,” derivative fiction written by authors for profit (Pugh 11). Part of the trouble in defining fanfiction comes from the fact that it is participating in a long historical practice of authors drawing on preexisting characters and stories to tell their own. The literary canon is full of examples of authors “plunder[ing] the vast resources of myth and history” (Pugh 13). For example, Geoffrey Chaucer, Robert Henryson, and William Shakespeare all wrote stories about Troilus and Cressida (13), two side characters in the Iliad who had no interaction in Homer’s epic. What these writers are doing, then, is expanding and recontextualizing the original text by giving the characters their own story—something that fanfiction writers do all the time. So, what makes profic different from fanfic?

Pugh suggests that it isn’t. She finds presumptions about supposed quality of writing unsatisfactory and the monetary distinction unsubstantial (11). Instead, she suggests that fanfic and profic writers are, in fact, writing in the same literary genre of derivative works. Instead of focusing on who is doing the writing and how much they are getting paid, she argues, it might be more helpful to think about how the writing is relating to the source text. Pugh

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asserts that fanfiction writers “wanted either ‘more of’ their source material or ‘more from’ it” (19). In the former case, stories can extend the canonical work, reaching into the past or imagining the future, filling in gaps in the original. In the latter, stories take on new perspectives and challenge the ideological messages and constraints of the originals. Profic or fanfic, the stories are rhetorically doing the same thing and the relationships between texts follow the same patterns.

This assertion helps to elevate fanfiction, which is often derided as amateurish and pornographic. For example, take this definition submitted, by the user ~souba~, to Urban dictionary: “1. Put bluntly, fiction by the fans. Created by fans of any particular fandom, 50% of fanfiction is crap, 24% is non-crappy smut, 25% fits into the category of crap and smut, and the remaining 1% is some pretty good stuff. 2. Something English teachers don’t like.” While Urban dictionary does have many more positive and more objective definitions archived on site, some written by self-identified fic readers and writers, this one does a good job of encapsulating the stereotypes about fanfiction. Pugh rejects these stereotypes, and positions fanfiction within the larger literary canon. Her definition suggests that the works of fan writers are performing some of the same rhetorical and literary functions as texts like Wide Sargasso Sea (which gives a voice to Bertha/Antoinette, the mad (and silenced) wife from Jane Eyre), Foe (a retelling of Robinson Crusoe that challenges its patriarch and colonial discourses), and Ulysses (an AU (Alternative Universe) version of the Odyssey set in Dublin in 1904). In each of these cases, the derivative works are not simply a regurgitation of the source text, but function as interpretations of the original. Which is the same thing that fans are doing when they write their material. Maybe these profic authors are fans of works they are drawing from (based on their writing though, in many cases I suspect they are not), but their active and critical engagement should not be segregated from the work of fans.

Works Cited

~souba~. “Fanfiction.” Urban Dictionary. 18 November 2018, Date Accessed 26 August 2018.

“Fan Fiction.” Merriam Webster n.d. 19 August 2018, Date Accessed 26 August 2018.

“Fan Fiction.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 3 August 2018. Web. Date Accessed 26 August 2018,

Jenkins, Henry. “How Fan Fiction Can Teach Us a New Way to Read Moby-Dick (Part One).” Confessions of an Aca-Fan: The Offical Weblog of Henry Jenkins, 11 August 2008, Accessed 2 February 2017.

—. Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture. Routledge, 1992.

Pugh, Sheenagh. The Democratic Genre: Fan Fiction in a literary context. Poetry Wales Press, 2005.