Fandom Then/Now presents research conducted in 2008 and uses to facilitate fan conversations about fan fiction’s past and future. In my last round of posts I was focusing on things I noticed in 2008 as I read different works of fan fiction and commercial romance. So far, I’ve touched on narrative arcs and world building and character relationship development (p1, p2). The last story elements I noticed were trends regarding seriality and narrative instability.
Here are a few core tendencies I noticed as I read:
Three: Seriality & Instability (p1)
In 2008, I noticed a heightened feeling of seriality in the popular works of fan fiction I read, particularly when compared to the popular romance novels I was comparing them to. Many of the works of fan fiction I read had sequels or were part of a larger series. Reading these stories, it felt as if the characters were part-way through a larger journey. This felt different from many of the commercial romances I was reading, which often stood alone and had a clear sense of closure at the end. This may be influenced by the medium itself. As I’ve already discussed, an individual work of fan fiction feeds off of a larger story-world that keeps changing. From season to season, a television show will introduce new plot developments or characters to challenge it’s protagonists. These changes continually introduce new obstacles for a fan writer to deal with. This environment may facilitate a greater sense of seriality within fan fiction.
However, as a reader I didn’t only experience this feeling of seriality when I read fan fiction from fandoms where the source-text was still being produced. Irregardless of the fandom, many of the fan fiction authors I was introduced to were working on extensive follow-ups to their initial stories. A work of fan fiction contributes to much a larger body of fan work, a network of stories being continually produced by fans. An individual story joins both this broader network of stories, as well as potentially being affected by a source-text that may still be developing its own version of the story. These larger networks of stories work together to reinforce the sense of a continually changing story-world, one always filled with the potential for new conflicts. Essentially, even if one individual work of fan fiction ends with a happy couple, there is always a layer of instability within a fandom’s larger story world. This deeply affects the sense of finality fan fiction readers may get from an individual story’s happy ending. It may also drive fan authors to keep revisiting characters and working to restore them to a moment of stability and happiness.
What do you think about this idea that fan fiction often tends to feel more serial? Do you notice anything like this when you read commercial or fan romances today? Does fan fiction feel any more serial to you today than it did in past years?