For today’s post, I didn’t know what the word liminal meant. According to Merriam-Webster, the word means…
What this particular word reminds me of in regards to fanfiction is original fiction writers attempt to pass of as fanfiction, but also the attitude that comes with why some people feel this is okay.
The first question which comes to mind is this – what is original fiction that passes itself off as fanfiction. The best way to describe it is, replace the names of all canon elements, and you’ll find that you won’t recognize what fandom it is for. However, I’ve read a few pieces of fanfiction which aren’t original fiction trying to pass itself off as fanfiction, so this isn’t a catch all. You also can’t come out and say that that particular element was likely inspired by a given fandom either, unless maybe you’re talking about fanon headcanons. It’s something that’s not, in other words, easy to explain, beyond the fact the work strips the fandom of it’s identifiable elements, and it doesn’t feel like the fandom anymore. Which brings us to two problems.
- A few people argue that people should not be subjected to limitations on what fanfiction can or can’t be.
- Some argue that what a fandom feels like is subjective, not objective, because it is a feeling, but there is a bit more to the feel than just emotional feeling, but more on that in a bit.
In regards to the first problem, there is a group of people out there who try and argue that writing has no rules. Let me make it rather clear that this group of people is honestly looked down upon in writing circles, and no, this isn’t because of some kind of elitist attitude. I’ve found in the long run, the ones who tend to have the elitist attitude in regards to writing are those who either believe the classics are flawless, and attempt to mimic these works without stopping to think about the flaws, or people who think there should be no rules, and that those who believe there is any rule can just stuff it.
However, in regards to what can or can’t be fanfiction, that’s not subjective at all. That said, there are three definitions of fanfiction.
- Fictional works derived from another person’s fictional work.
- Fictional works created by a fan of something about said something, meaning it is still derived.
- Fictional works created by amateur writers who are just fans of the genre. (This is the original use, and was used by professional writers in genre like sci-fi to brush off the work made by amateur writers in amateur publications as not as serious as their work, which is why saying fanfiction isn’t serious business is a major nitpick.)
For something to be a fanfic of an already existing work, it needs to be in some manner derived from that work. If it’s not, it’s just original fiction passing off as original fiction, no matter what the writer and fans of said story says. But what does this mean? It means that one is able to recognize the work as being a part of that original work, but what exactly are the criteria for this?
What defines a fandom are the characters, place and objects that are unique to that fandom. Thus, I will cover each.
If a character is out of character (OoC), then they are not themselves anymore, but an OC pretending to be the canon character. Thus, place becomes important in making the work still a fanfic, which is why situational AUs are problematic for when characters are made out of character – the story no longer contains any of the three elements. Even if this isn’t the case, place itself can be made OoC as well, thus having the same effect. For example, stories which take place in the world of Harry Potter with creature inheritances, and added features that serve no real purpose, and the canon elements taking a back seat are really hard to argue as being fanfic and not original fiction. Fanfiction is about writing in another persons world, and not about creating your own world – that’s the purpose of original fiction, so when you start crossing the line into creating your own places and characters with only a faint resemblance to the canon ones, or even none, you’ve crossed the line.
Not everybody likes using the canon characters. Some prefer using the place, but if place itself is not described, and focused on, one gets into problems as well. For example, I once read a story where a bunch of OCs claiming to be Harry Potter OCs ran around doing random stuff with no relation to the canon material, supposidly taking place in the world of Harry Potter. That was hands down original fiction. Other times, place just isn’t well described, and could be anywhere, unless destinct details are given. This is particularly problematic in regards to the schools outside of Hogwarts, which is why including canon characters somehow is important.
Fandoms like Pokemon present a unique element in the fact one simply needs to mention the use of Pokeballs, and other items to be qualified – and the Pokemon do count. This allows people to create new worlds for people to explore. However, a bunch of fans playing the Pokemon games does not count as fanfiction, not unless they are canon characters.
Why is this a problem?
I read fanfiction to read fanfiction, which is about the characters, places and things I love from the fandom, and not to read original fiction. However, this brings me to the fact some people can’t recognize that the fandom isn’t the fandom anymore. In some part, this can be explained by the following.
- Those who are new to the fandom, even some adults, are learning what it means, and are simply excited about getting into fanfiction.
- Some readers, aren’t good readers.
The second one is problematic, as this led to some Twilight writers taking advantage of Twilight fans whose reading comprehension skills left a lot to be desired. They took their original fiction, purposefully published it for the fanfic readers, then pulled it once it got popular – because others were doing it – to retool to publish as original fiction, making something someone got for free now something they had to pay for, although the payed for version had a few edits here and there.
Speaking of reading comprehension, here’s another issue. It counts visual comprehension as well. Some people do not comprehend what they are reading or writing, and thus have an interpretation of the canon material that doesn’t add up. For example, the Galra theory is popular in the Voltron: Legendary Defender fandom, but is also came about because of visual comprehension problems. For Bleach, there is a group of fans who believe Hinamori Momo can do no wrong. Not only to they write her this way, they expect other writers to never make her have to deal with repercussions from her fatal flaws – like characters voicing the fact they’re frustrated with her actions behind her back.
However, there’s also a group that honestly doesn’t care. All they care about is getting their ship kick, with as much sexy romance to make their senses drool, that they don’t care about whether the characters are in character, let alone if the plot makes any sense. The writers are the same.
That’s it for today’s word.