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.


Know (Own) Your Fandom

In the Twentieth Anniversary edition of Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture, Henry Jenkins reflects on the positioning of fan scholars and scholar fans, or what he eventually comes to term, “acu-fans,” a compound of the words “academic” and “fan” (viii). He notes that “the autobiographical turn had long been a part of the cultural studies tradition” (iv) and been absorbed into fan studies. As Suzanne Scott (who interviewed Jenkins for the twenty year retrospective included in this edition of the text) observes “it’s now common practice for fan scholars to disclose their investment in the texts and interpretative communities they study” (viii).

Jenkins’ certainly anticipated this trend in 1992 when he first published Textual Poachers. In his introduction, he acknowledges and negotiates his dual identity as fan and scholar: “When I write about fan culture, then, I write as both an academic (who has access to certain theories of popular culture, certain bodies of critical and ethnographic literature) and as a fan (who has access to the particular knowledge and traditions of that community). My account exists in a constant movement between these two levels of understanding which are not necessarily in conflict but are also not necessarily in perfect alignment” (5). It is in this spirit, then, that I want to focus this introductory blog by outlining my background and positions within fan and academic communities.

From my earliest interactions with stories, I have been draw to fannish practices. Growing up, if there was a book or television show that I loved, I didn’t want it to end when the covers closed or the TV went dark. Instead, I found ways to expand those stories, to incorporate them into my life. My brother, friends, and I would play in Narnia (though every closet door and painting in my home proved a disappointment and I never found a way to enter that magical place, save through my imagination), spinning new and elaborate narratives in the world that C.S. Lewis had created. Sometimes we would take on the roles of the Pevensie children; others we would invent new character to populate the fictional world. Sometimes there were costumes involved. Sometimes we would write down the new stories we had crafted through our play.

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As I grew older, we moved from Narnia to Florin to Middle Earth to The Goblin Kingdom, and the stories grew more complicated, the boundaries of these realms sometimes porous and nebulous so that characters from one would appear in another.

And eventually, as all children do, I stopped playing out these stories. But I’d didn’t stop writing them down.

I now recognize that many of the impulses that drove me as a child continue to inspire my fandom. In drawing this connection, I do not mean to infantilize fans, including myself, by presenting them as puerile, but rather to show that the impulse toward fannish activities has always been a part of how I consume the stories I love. Those stories capture me, or I capture them, and I don’t want to let them go. I want to know more about the world in which they take place, the characters that populate them, their histories and futures. Some might consider my relation to these texts as bordering on obsession, but I, taking a cue from Jenkins, prefer to think about it as active, critical engagement. My consumption of these texts is not passive but productive.

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The first fanfiction I posted online was about Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I was earning a MA from Fordham University, and I was at a point where I felt very isolated and alone. I had recently fallen into the Buffy fandom, endlessly rewatching Buffy’s seven seasons and its spinoff’s, Angel, five. But I wanted more. At first, I lurked around some fanfiction sites, reading stories but not engaging with the community. This experience mirrors that of most fans’, who spend time learning the conventions of a fan community before actively participating. Eventually, I set up an account and commented on the stories I was reading. It didn’t take long for me to post the stories I had penned during my breaks from coursework and find my place within that community of writers and fans.

I still remain a member of the Buffy fan community, though recently I haven’t had the time to write or post much fanfiction (grad school will do that to you). Like most fans, I have moved in and out of fandoms, becoming active in some, like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, lurking at the peripheries of others, like Sherlock and Supernatural.

While I was discovering fan communities, I was also figuring out my place in the academic world. I had entered my MA program at Fordham with a focus on post-war American literature, and feminist and postcolonial studies. But, at the same time that I was fangirling about Buffy, I also learned that I could write critically and academically about the show. My first published article was about the ways in which Buffy rearticulates colonial discourses, and I my first conference presentation was at Slayage, an international conference focusing on the works of Joss Whedon, Buffy’s creator. In the Whedon Studies Association, I found a group of scholars, who, like me, were also fans, who could critique the works while still loving them, who could point out their creator’s flaws and shortcomings while still enjoying what he had created. I had found my people.

While I continue publish and present on Buffy, my focus, in recent years, has shifted to fan studies. In this work, the Venn diagram of my academic and fannish lives intersects and I, like Jenkins, use one to inform the other. I see this as a continuation or evolution of my work on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I wrote on Buffy because I was fan; fandom was my entry into the text. Now, to some extent, my fandom is the text, or at least where the text begins.

As a second-year PhD student at Stony Brook University, I plan to explore the reading and writing practices of fan communities, drawing from reader response theory, cognitive studies, and rhetoric. This blog is accompanying an independent study on fanfiction, where I plan to post my thoughts on the scholarly and fannish texts that I will read throughout the semester.


Works Cited

Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture. 2nd Edition. Routledge, 2012.