Late 1970s: Buddy Shows and Blockbuster Sci-Fi

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Late 1970s: Buddy Shows and Blockbuster Sci-Fi

The mid to late 1970s were characterized by two phenomena that turned some Star Trek fans into self-defined media fans. The first of these was the appearance of the buddy cop show Starsky and Hutch (1975-1979) and its British counterpart, The Professionals (1977-1983). Although these mainstream shows might seem a far cry from Star Trek, stories about the importance of friendship and partnership were now prevalent, and fannish practices for creating and distributing those stories were easily adaptable to shows like Starsky and Hutch. As Lichtenberg et al. (1975) note in "Star Trek" Lives!, women "tended to identify more with the male heroes of the genre -the adventurers and problem solvers" (224). As police detectives working the mean streets of "Bay City" (Starsky and Hutch) or agents in C15, a government organization dedicated to fighting crime and terrorism (The Professionals), the protagonists of these shows were certainly adventurers and problem solvers; further, they were as isolated from mainstream society and dependent on each other as a result of their occupations as Kirk and Spock were - more so, in fact. The relative ease with which certain fans were able to apply their reading strategies and creative practices to these buddy shows gives additional credence to Cynthia Walkers theory that The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and not the more famous Star Trek, was the prototype media fandom; U.N.C.L.E., too, is a buddy fandom, with characters who have dangerous, problem-solving, socially isolating jobs as globetrotting international spies (making it a much different thing than the story of that isolated loner, James Bond). The same aspects that made buddy shows attractive to relationship-oriented fans also made them attractive to slashers; the fact that these shows were set in an era of tight jeans and unbuttoned shirts, and of the loosening of formerly strict standards of acceptable male behavior, only provided additional evidence for a homoerotic interpretation. As Camille Bacon-Smith notes in Enterprising Women, "When actors are shot in sufficient close up for the viewer to read facial expressions clearly, they cannot maneuver appropriate social distances and still look at each other while they are speaking ... so actors portraying friends consistently break into each others spheres of intimate space" (1992, 233). This leads to what one of Smiths interviewees calls "Starsky and Hutch syndrome": the idea that the leads appear unable to stay apart or keep their hands off each other. Such body language encouraged homoerotic readings by many mainstream viewers as well. Slash was slowly coming out of the closet; a new 1978 Star Trek zine called Naked Times announced on the editorial page of its first issue that "While Naked Times did not start out as primarily a K/S zine, thats certainly the way this first issue has turned out, mainly due to the fact that thats the majority of material I received." Buddy shows werent the only things broadening the scope of media fandom beyond Star Trek: the debut of Star Wars (1977) triggered a science fiction blockbuster explosion in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Suddenly fans whod been suffering from a dearth of science fiction stories were drowning in them. After the huge success of Star Wars, producers were quick to try to capitalize on the sci-fi craze, producing shows like Battlestar Galactica (1978), Blakes 7 (1978-1981), and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979), as well as films like The Black Hole (1979), Battle Beyond the Stars (1980), and Flash Gordon (1980). Perhaps most importantly, the popularity of Star Wars finally made possible the return of the Star Trek franchise so desperately desired; Star Trek: The Motion Picture debuted in theatres in 1979. This is not to say that Star Trek fans and Star Wars fans happily shared space in the emerging subculture of media fandom; as one science fiction fan glumly noted, "As far as Im concerned, SW was the great splintering of *my* fandom (Trek) as people zipped off into that new media trend (still bear a grudge) and stopped doing stuff for my Trek zine and started writing *shudder* Luke Skywalker fic" (Ithiliana, personal communication). Still, fans of Star Trek, Star Wars, buddy shows, and other kinds of mass media storytelling began to form their own distinct culture in the late 1970s. The first of the cons that would become MediaWest was held in 1978 and organized by Lori Chapek-Carleton and Gordon Carleton, founders of the TKuhtian Press, which put out such Trek zines as Warped Space. The con was called TCon and held at the Lansing Hilton Inn. The MediaWest Web site describes the cons philosophy and lineage: When Star Wars began to generate a fandom of its own, some Star Trek fans felt threatened by this sudden upstart and began to treat Star Wars fans as badly as they had been treated. Others, however, thought there was room for a variety of interests, and Media Fandom was born.... Under the tutelage of KWest*Con veterans Paula Smith and Sharon Ferraro, a format was conceived: an SF/Media convention run by fans, for fans, with no paid guests. It had been observed that at conventions with little or no Media programming, fans would gather in the halls, or wherever they could, and have their own discussions, workshops, etc., but it was anyones guess if there would be enough interest to support an entire convention without the drawing power of professional authors, actors, etc. There was, and there is [ htm, accessed June 1, 2006]. Smith and Ferraro also edited a number of important zines, most importantly the ongoing Trek zine Menagerie (1973). They also created the FanQ awards to honor Star Trek fan writers and artists. These midwives to the birth of media fandom brought the organizational structure and habits of Star Trek fandom with them; the conventions they helped to organize were formally reestablished in 1981 as MediaWest, which has been held annually ever since. Other media and media-friendly cons followed, including Creation Con and DragonCon.
Early 1980s: Good Television and Better Blockbusters
In the early 1980s, it seemed like every new issue of Starlog announced the coming of a new and exciting science fiction or fantasy-themed film; some, like Ice Pirates (1984), were terrible, but most were of much higher quality than the films of the immediate post-Star Wars generation. Even the second Star Trek film was considered vastly superior to its 1979 predecessor, and within a few short years, films such as The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Raiders of the LostArk (1981), Poltergeist (1982), Blade Runner (1982), Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1983), Return of the Jedi (1983), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), and The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984) flew across the screens. It was at this time that media fandom really grew and spread, not only because there were so many films to choose from, but also because the obsessively researching nature of most media fans meant that it was a rare fan who didnt see even the nongenre films that Harrison Ford starred in (such as Force 10 from Navarone [1978], Hanover Street [1979], and the few seconds of his turn as a bellboy in Dead Heat on a Merry Go Round [1966] ). Being an informed media fan could be a full-time job. On the small screen, two different kinds of television were having an impact on media fans. The first of these was British media, imported and made available to American viewers through their broadcast on PBS. For instance, the BBC had tried to sell the long-running British science fiction series Doctor Who to American television in 1975, but it failed to catch on. It was only in 1978 that the Tom Baker seasons were sold to PBS, where they attained a growing and fervent cult status through the 1980s (http://en., accessed June 1, 2006). Although Monty Pythons Flying Circus had been broadcast on PBS since 1974, the early 1980s saw a rising interest in British media such as Fawlty Towers (1975), Blackadder (1983), and the various incarnations of Douglas Adamss comedy science fiction universe, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (radio series 1978, broadcast on NPR in March 1981; original trilogy of novels published in 1979,1980,1982; UK television series 1981, broadcast on PBS in 1982). Media fandoms affinity for the Doctor was only the most recent example of its growing BBC obsession; public television membership drives often featured scarf-wrapped media fen answering phones, and "British Media" became a catchall phrase indicating a love of a number of otherwise disparate British shows. The other significant development in television was American. "Quality" television series like Hill Street Blues (1981-1987) and Cagney and Lacey (1982-1988) introduced more complex narrative arcs and characterization issues, changing the ways fan fiction writers thought about television, and leading to what longtime fan Jessica Ross calls "a non-genre fandom explosion - everything became zineable" (personal communication, June 21, 2005). Ross drew on her zine collection to make the point: a typical multimedia zine of the period, Warped Space 50, put out by TKhutian Press in 1983, features the following list of fandoms: Star Wars, Star Trek, Hill Street Blues, Remington Steele, Knight Rider, and a comic based on The Fantastic Four crossed with Star Wars. Cagney and Lacey, it is worth noting, was the first show to actually be brought back from cancellation by a Star Trek-style letter-writing campaign to the network, and not only was it one of the first shows where women got to be adventurers and problem solvers, but it was also the first lesbian slash fandom.
Late 1980s: Crossovers
Crossovers were nothing new in fandom: there had been Star Trek/Man from U.N.C.L.E. crossovers, for instance, as early as 1979. But even a cursory examination of a typical zine blurb shows the creative lengths to which fans went in pursuing multimedia crossovers in the late 1980s. Heres an example. LIONS & TIGERS & ZINES, OH MY #1, Airwolf, Real Ghostbusters, Mac- Gyver, Road Warrior, Buckaroo Banzai, SW, Land of Giants, Space Rangers, Equalizer, Kung Fu TLC, QL, Alf, B7, Are You Being Served/She Wolf of London, Fantasy Island, Moonlighting/Miami Vice, Miami Vice, 440p, $10.00. Moonlighting (1985-1989) and Miami Vice (1984-1989) are both detective shows, so one can see the potential for crossover between their worlds. But Are You Being Served/She Wolf of London? Presumably even werewolves have to shop. Here we see fandoms mixed together with gleeful abandon. Although the list of active fandoms during this period would be long and would include such strange bedfellows as Space: 1999 (1975-1977), Simon and Simon (1981-1988), The Greatest American Hero (1981-1983), Remington Steele (1982-1987), Tales of the Gold Monkey (1982-1983), and Robin of Sherwood (1984-1986), the three largest and most important fandoms to emerge in the late 1980s were Star Trek: The Next Generation (19871994), Beauty and the Beast (1987-1990), and Wiseguy (1987-1990). Predictably enough, the relaunching of a televised Star Trek franchise attracted the attention of science fiction, Star Trek, and media fans alike. Henry Jenkins devotes a chapter of Textual Poachers (1992) to fannish engagements with the romantic Beauty and the Beast. Wiseguy, on the other hand, was an ongoing episodic drama about a federal agent undercover with the mob, but even the mainstream media noticed that the intense relationship between the agent and the mobster "verges on being homoerotic" (OConnor 1987). This colorful explosion of zines might well, in hindsight, have signaled the beginning of the decline of that culture; in the late 1980s, fannish interactions began to move away from the medium of print zines and onto what would come to be called the Internet. Fans began to move their communications onto Usenet and bulletin boards; in many ways, the Internet was the ideal medium for fannish interaction because, as Henry Edward Hardy noted in his "History of the Net" (1993), "The written culture of the Net is much like an oral culture in the immediacy of communication" (http: //, accessed June 1, 2006). Fans already had those written-oral cultures in their letter zines, APAs, and fanzines. Fans of every ilk began to colonize Usenet, creating space for their interests. A glance at just some of the group titles shows the diversity of groups who began to use the net: fans met in such communities as rec. arts.sf.fandom, rec. arts.startrek.fandom, and alt.drwho.creative.
Early to Mid 1990s: Developing an Internet Infrastructure
Many, if not most, of the new fandoms that developed in the early 1990s developed their culture in both the traditional ways-zines, letters, conventions-but also in new, online ways. Both new and established fandoms established Usenet groups for fannish discussion and the distribution of fan fiction -alt. tv.x- files. creative or alt. sex. fetish.startrek. Fans created centralized online, fandom-specific archives for their fan fiction, but these early archives were labor-intensive; by the end of the decade, fans would write software that would automatically format and store fiction in searchable databases. The Forever Knight (1992-1996) fandom can claim the first online mailing list, ForKNI-L, started on December 9, 1992, by Jean Prior; other fandoms got e-mail lists if they had a member with access to the technology. In the early to mid-1990s, running a mailing list was a relatively restricted thing; it required Majordomo or ListServ software and was generally run off a university server by someone who worked or studied there. Home computers were generally not online; commercial Internet providers were only beginning to be popular. Fans, as a group, were technologically ahead of the curve; many worked from VT 100 terminals at university computer labs or were early adopters of home computing equipment. But the fannish list administrators, moderators, archivists, and Web hosts were drawn from the ranks of the most technologically savvy fans; if media fandom had expanded its traditional base in science fiction fandom, it still depended on a core group of highly educated, science-oriented women. Important fandoms that emerged during this period include Quantum Leap (1989-1993), Highlander (1992-1998), The X-Files (1993-2002), Lois and Clark (1993-1997), Babylon 5 (1994-1998), Due South (1994-1998), Xena: Warrior Princess (1995-2001), Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (1995-1999), and, of course, the nearly inevitable Star Trek franchises: Deep Space Nine (1993-1999) and Voyager (1995). In a way, the early 1990s can be regarded as a time of modernism for online fandom: a fandom was judged by the strength of its infrastructure; everyone knew you found X-Files fan fiction at the Gossamer archive, Due South fan fiction at Hexwood, Star Trek fan fiction at Trekiverse. A well-organized fandom might have two centralized mailing lists: one for distributing fiction, and one for hosting discussion, with fiction sometimes broken up into "gen" and "adult"; these lists had names like XFF, DSX, and ROG, which were a kind of code fans understood: X-Files fan fiction, Due South adult fiction (including slash), Really Old Guy (the 5,000-year-old Methos on Highlander). Eventually, as the Internet grew and the technology became more accessible, lists proliferated, with ever more specific mission statements; by the end of the decade, with the rise of OneList, eGroups, and groups, anyone could create a splinter list or have her own fannish vanity list. From there, fandom arguably entered the postmodern era. The movement of media fandom online, as well as an increasingly customizable fannish experience, moved slash fandom out into the mainstream. Whereas slash zines had often been sold at cons literally from a box under the table, the Internet allowed for slash-specific lists that fans who wanted to read homoerotic stories could join and that other fans could easily avoid. Similarly, slash-friendly discussion lists allowed these fans to consolidate and talk openly to each other; many began to articulate their reasons for slashing, reading strategies, and politics.
Late 1990s: When Fandoms Collide: Comics, Celebrities and Music, Anime
In the late 1990s, the mainstreaming of online technologies allowed ever more people to enter media fandom. Formerly, most fans had been mentored by older fans or had attended a convention in order to meet others who shared their particular obsession. Now people could just google their favorite show, join the available lists, or start reading fiction - even erotic fiction - on a public online archive. Several new and important media fandoms emerged during this time, notably Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003), The Sentinel (1996-1999), Stargate SG-1 (1997-present), and Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999). These fandoms all fit comfortably within the genres of shows typically attractive to media fans, but the late 1990s were distinguished by the crossover between traditional media fandoms and other kinds of fandoms, namely comics, celebrities, music, and anime. These intersections would quickly have a profound effect on traditional media fandom. None of these other fandoms was "new," and each of them has its own history distinct from the one Ive attempted to narrate here. Comics fandom has existed since the very emergence of comics in the 1930s and can be seen as another kind of offshoot of science fiction fandom. As Gerard Jones explains in Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book (2004), Superman creator Jerry Siegal was involved in early science fiction fandom and may have created the first science fiction fanzine, Cosmic Stories, at age fourteen. It was a compilation of stories he had written and was advertised through a classified ad at the back of Science Wonder Stories. Jones locates comics fandom as having emerged from science fiction fandom and argues that "every subsequent geek culture -comics, computers, video games, collectible figurines- has either grown directly or taken much of its form" (37). Celebrity fandom is arguably the very earliest form of fandom; as Henry Jenkins notes in Textual Poachers (1992), one of the earliest uses of the word fan was to describe theatre goers who admired the actors rather than the play (12). The Nifty Archive, which provided a home for a number of erotic stories, many of them homoerotic, many about celebrities, was established online in 1993; as fan historian Laura M. Hale notes, "Historically, this archive is not viewed as a home to true fan fiction but rathercelebrity based erotica which was absent the fannish fan fiction context" (Hale 2005, 34). Although not part of fandom per se, the Nifty Archive did provide a center around which people interested in celebrity fan fiction could congregate. Similarly, Barbara Ehrenreich, Elizabeth Hess, and Gloria Jacobs (1992) have described girls fannish engagement with musicians like Frank Sinatra, the Beatles, Michael Jackson, and David Bowie. In the late 1970s, some media fen crossed over into music fandom, writing fan fiction about "Tris and Alex," who were thinly disguised versions of Led Zeppelin musicians Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, although this remained a relatively isolated phenomenon. According to Hale, Duran Duran slash and het fic was circulating in fanzines in 1991, but fans "did not seem to come from the same community as `traditional fan fiction fans were coming from. They did not have the idea the material they were creating was taboo.... until they started interacting with media based fen" (34). Ironically, the fact that celebrity and music fandoms are so mainstream and have so many commercial venues, such as People magazine and VHIs Behind the Music, meant that celebrity and music fandoms never had much of an organized subcultural presence. They were too close to mainstream culture, and although that mainstream culture has always looked askance at Star Trek fans or writers of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan fiction, devotion to a band or a singer, or a public crush on a celebrity has always been considered relatively acceptable. Music fans dont generally need to attend conventions or to self-identify as "fannish" in order to explain their enthusiasm or defend their entertainment preferences. Anime, manga, and yaoi have always had their fans in Japan; the problem for English-speaking fans has always been access, both to the materials themselves and to translations of them. Perhaps because of the access issue, anime fandoms were some of the earliest adopters of online communication. Hale (2005, 32) claims that anime fandom created their online fannish architecture as early as 1991, which was also the year of AnimeCon, one of the first conventions dedicated to anime and manga. The Internet has steadily increased the popularity of Japanese fan forms. Although western fans have always managed to find anime, manga, and yaoi, the rise of scanners, digital video, and file-sharing technology has made access infinitely easier. When all of these fandoms- media, comics, celebrity, music, anime - moved onto the Internet, they gained a wider audience, and the most obvious audience for a "new" fandom was a person from what, for lack of a better word, we might call a neighboring fandom. So some media fans got interested in comics, some anime fans started writing about celebrities, and some celebrity fan writers began to model their work on that done in media fandom. This had several important repercussions, one of which was the rapid rise of the phenomenon known as popslash within media fandom. Fan fiction writer Helen, then a writer of Sentinel slash, currently a writer in the Harry Potter fandom, wrote the seminal popslash story "The Same Inside" (2001,, accessed June 1, 2006), whose premise is explained by its famous and endlessly replicated opening line, "Somehow, in the night, Chris had turned into a girl." Helen reimagined celebrity erotica through the conventions of speculative fiction, making boy band fiction explicitly about gender and about genre. Consequently, popslash grew popular among media fan writers, many of whom created similarly brilliant and science fiction-like premises to explore celebrity culture as a metaphor for gender identity and other performances of the self. Interestingly, however, the sudden surge in popslash connected media fans with entirely different groups of music fans who had never heard of Star Trek or MediaWest, and who may use fannish terms like Mary Sue or describe a story as being about Benji/Joel without having any connection between that joining slash and the slash that so famously joined K/S more than thirty years ago. If the expansion of the Internet allowed communication between fans in different worlds, the translation and adaptations of fannish terms, forms, and practices that has emerged from those communications is rapidly transforming the fannish landscape into something that older fans may barely recognize.
Early 2000s: The More Things Change, the More Things Are Totally Different
Media fandom may now be bigger, louder, less defined, and more exciting than its ever been. Arguably, this is fandoms postmodern moment, when the rules are "there aint no rules" and traditions are made to be broken., the largest multifandom archive, was founded in 1998; today, it contains literally hundreds of thousands of stories, with more than 200,000 of them from Harry Potter alone. The infrastructure of fandom has changed yet again. Mailing lists are rapidly dying, abandoned in favor of personalized blogging technology. If mailing lists customized fandom by allowing fans to select from among their fannish interests, blogs such as allow them to select particular fans from among many. Livejournal debuted in 1999 but began to be widely adopted across fandom around 2003, where it caused a wide-scale reorganization of fandom infrastructure. Fan fiction is now posted to ones individual Livejournal, or to a LJ community devoted to a particular fandom, topic, or pairing. LJ comments are replacing letters of comment. People can move through fannish interests at an astonishing speed. That being said, some things remain the same: major new fandoms include much in the way of tradition genre fare: Smallville (2001), Harry Potter (2001), Lord of the Rings (2001), Stargate: Atlantis (2004), the new incarnation of Battlestar Galactica (2004). And yet media fandom has also been visibly affected by the changes of the previous decade. For instance, there has recently been an explosion of fan fiction set in the DC universe of comics, films, and animated television, a trend that will no doubt be exacerbated by the release, as I write this, of Batman Begins (2005). Groups of female media fans now share space with groups of male comics fans, and they seem to be having productive exchanges, even if they do occasionally baffle each other. Similarly, the Lord of the Rings fandom has produced an offshoot fandom that, borrowing from the tradition of celebrity fandom, writes fan fiction not about the Lord of the Rings characters but about the actors who portray them in the Peter Jackson films. The practice of treating actors as characters was initially deemed more or less immoral by media fandom and was viciously debated during the emergence of popslash. Now the practice, although not universally accepted, is more or less condoned. But media fans are making more kinds of art than ever before. Not only are they still writing fan fiction, but image manipulation software has also allowed for ever more sophisticated visual art. Digital editing software has taken the fannish art of creating music videos, or vidding- which began with slide shows over music in 1975, and was then developed into a high art by VCR vidders in the 1980s and 1990s- to a whole other level: the Vividcon convention, dedicated entirely to the art of vidding, was founded in 2002. Soon, media fans might simply be able to make movies on their home computers, as fans in the neighboring fandom of machinima are already doing (see Jones, this volume). And fans are continuing to create a rich critical literature about themselves and their art. Fans have always done a wonderful job of explaining themselves to themselves, and a tradition of fannish metadiscourse continues to flourish online at such places as the Fanfic Symposium Web site, the Glass Onion mailing list, and on LJ communities dedicated to self-reflexive fannish analysis. Panels on analytical and theoretical subjects continue to be held at fannish conventions. And critical books like this one are now being written by us, by the fans- smart women who no longer feel quite so much like aliens.
I dedicate this essay to Joan Marie Verba. I am indebted to Jessica Ross, Laura M. Hale, Lucy Gillam of the Symposium, Margie Gillis, Shoshanna Green, elynross, Cynthia Walker, Gina Paterson, and the women of Eris. Thanks especially to Terri Oberkam- per for her editing acumen. All remaining mistakes are my own. References Bacon-Smith, Camille. 1992. Enterprising women: Television fandom and the creation of popular myth. Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press. Ehrenreich, Barbara, Elizabeth Hess, and Gloria Jacobs. 1992. Beatlemania: Girls just want to have fun. In The adoring audience, ed. Lisa A. Lewis, 84-106. London: Routledge. Hale, Laura M. 2005. A history of fan fic. Fanzine. Hardy, Henry Edward. 1993. The history of the Net. MA thesis, School of Communications, Grand Valley State Univ. Jenkins, Henry. 1992. Textual poachers: Television fans and participatory culture. New York: Routledge. Jones, Gerard. 2004. Men of tomorrow: Geeks, gangsters, and the birth of the comic book. New York: Basic Books. Larbalestier, Justine. 2002. The battle of the sexes in science fiction. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan Univ. Press. Lichtenberg, Jacqueline Sondra Marshak, and Joan Winston. 1975. "Star Trek" lives! New York: Bantam.
OConnor, John J. 1987. TV reviews; Two crime series, on CBS. New York Times, September 16. Pohl, Frederik. 1974. The publishing of science fiction. In Science fiction, today and tomorrow, ed. Reginald Bretnor. New York: Harper and Row. Verba, Joan Marie. 1996. Boldly writing: A Trekker fan and zinc history, 1967-1987. 2nd ed. Minnesota: FTL Publications. (accessed June 1, 2006). Walker, Cynthia W. 2001. A dialogic approach to creativity in mass communication. PhD diss., Rutgers Univ.
1. Archontic Literature
A Definition, a History, and Several Theories of Fan Fiction
Abigail Derecho
ABSTRACT.-This essay offers an analysis of fan fiction not as a cultural phenomenon (as fan fiction has been studied by most fan-scholars to date), but as an artistic practice. What is fan fiction, where does it come from, and what does it mean, in a philosophical sense? These are questions that need to be addressed if we are to think critically and seriously about fan fiction as an art form. The first part of the essay defines fan fiction as a subgenre of a larger type of writing that is usually called "derivative" or "appropriative" literature, but which I choose to call archontic, a term borrowed from Jacques Derridas definition of archives as ever expanding and never completely closed. The second part of the essay traces the history of archontic literature from the seventeenth century to the present day, with an emphasis on how archontic writing has been often used by minority groups and women as a technique for making social and cultural criticisms. The third part of the essay uses concepts from twentieth-century poststructuralists Gilles Deleuze and Edouard Glissant to argue that fan fiction and archontic literature are ethical projects that oppose outdated notions of hierarchy and property.
On May 30, 2005, on the community called fan-ta-sm: Adventures in the Study of Fan Fiction (one of several communities dedicated to meta-that is, meaning and historical, theoretical, and conceptual issues of fandom), a poster named oblomskaya started a thread entitled "Pride and Promiscuity" asking whether a published book containing bawdy, sexually explicit parodies of Jane Austens Pride and Prejudice can be called fan fiction or not. The post generated twenty-seven comments written by five posters. Of the five respondents, one lobbied for a broad definition of fan fiction, arguing that fan fiction has existed for thousands of years and includes, for example, ancient Greek and Roman literature, such as Homers epic poems. Another poster argued that stories can only be defined as fan fiction if they originate in a self-identified fan culture, implying that the only fanfic is that body of work that explicitly labels itself "fanfic"- or at the least is composed by people who self-identify as fans. On the Fanfic Symposium, Laura Hale dates the origin of literary fan fiction to Jane Austen and Sherlock Holmes fan societies in the 1920s, and the origin of media fandom to Star Trek fans in 1967 (Hale 2005). Hale justified her preference for this narrower definition of fanfic by stating, "When anything becomes fan fiction, the distinction is meaningless and you might as well call it literature." Oblomskaya eventually took a middle position, asserting that "Of course, all literature IS one big Intertext where everybody is citing each other," but "Having established that all texts, including if [fan fiction], have this same essence, one must make [sic] a step further and start looking for distinguishing particularities of each type of text inside of the `field." The posters in this fan-ta-sm thread articulated the three general lines of thinking on the origin and nature of fan fiction that I have seen and heard repeatedly proposed by fan-scholars, not just on this site, but on other meta sites, in meta discussions on "ordinary" fan sites, and in conversations I have had. The three arguments typically made are as follows: (1) fan fiction originated several millennia ago, with myth stories, and continues today, encompassing works both by authors who identify themselves as fans and those who do not write from within fandoms (one commenter gave Tom Stoppards 1967 Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, a speculation on minor characters from Hamlet, as an example of the latter); (2) fan fiction should be understood as a product of fan cultures, which began either in the late 1960s, with Star Trek fanzines, or, at the earliest, in the 1920s, with Austen and Holmes societies; or (3) the first argument may be too broad, but the second line of thinking may be too narrow; some other identifying traits of fan fiction might be expressed that would more accurately situate the genre within the larger field of literature. I am of the opinion that the third option is the correct one; but where would this third path lead? If fan fiction is to be defined neither as encompassing most of literature (because not all works that refer to other works can be called "fanfic"-it seems more specific than that) nor as the consequence of a relatively recent trend in audience response (because connections between fanfic and older forms of storytelling surely exist, and fanfic does not seem to be a completely new narrative approach that sprung up, without precedent, in the twentieth century), then how should we characterize it? Once we have attempted to answer the questions "What is fan fiction?," "When did fan fiction come into being," and "Where does it come from?," we must also ask, "What does it mean?" These are the issues for which we must try to develop a theoretical vocabulary if we are to think seriously about fan fiction as art. In the pages that follow, I will attempt to expand on fan-scholars work at greater length (most posts on meta sites are succinct opinion pieces) and in a slightly different register. I draw on poststructuralist and other critical discourses to piece together a definition, a history, and several theories of fan fiction. In so doing, I focus on a different set of issues than those that most professional scholars of fan cultures have given their attention to. Academics writing on fan communities have concentrated largely on fandoms as cultural phenomena to be approached and analyzed by means of various techniques of ethnography; in contrast, many of the fan-scholars I have read are interested primarily in investigating fan-authored narratives as a type of art. From the research carried out by academics, we have both data and analyses of what types of fan works are being made, by whom, and with what intention. What we lack - and what numerous fan-scholars are striving toward in their meta discussions- are concepts that would enable us to think more critically about how this enormous amount of artistic output called fan production works as art, and what they signify for broader culture - not just on a political level, in terms of whether they serve as adequate forms of resistance to the culture industries or are merely forms of cooperation with media corporations, but on a philosophical level.
What Is Fan Fiction? A Definition of "Archontic" Literature
Although the term fan fiction was not used until the 1960s, it must be acknowledged that fan fiction is a subgenre of a larger, older genre of literature that is generally called "derivative" or "appropriative." I wish to replace these terms with a new one: I choose to call this type of writing archontic, which I think better describes what fanfic is and how it operates as literature. Archontic relates to the word archive, and I take it from Jacques Derridas 1995 work Archive Fever, in which Derrida claims that any and every archive remains forever open to new entries, new artifacts, new contents.2 No archive is ever final, complete, closed: "By incorporating the knowledge deployed in reference to it, the archive augments itself, engrosses itself, it gains in auctoritas. But in the same stroke it loses the absolute and metatextual authority it might claim to have. One will never be able to objectivize it with no remainder. The archivist produces more archive, and that is why the archive is never closed. It opens out of the future" (68). Derrida ascribes motivation and action to archives, as can be noted in the way he makes "the archive" the subject of sentences ("the archive augments itself, engrosses itself, it gains ... it loses ... it might claim ... it opens...."). Derrida names the internal drive of an archive to continually expand: he calls it the "archontic principle." Without this principle or "function," or "power," as Derrida sometimes calls it, "no archive would ever come into play or appear as such." The archontic principle "gathers the functions of unification, of identification, of classification" and is "a principle of consignation, that is, of gathering together" (3). The archontic principle is that drive within an archive that seeks to always produce more archive, to enlarge itself. The archontic principle never allows the archive to remain stable or still, but wills it to add to its own stores. The adjective archontic better describes the intertextual relationship at the core of the literature than the words derivative or appropriative do. Although derivative and appropriative both imply intertextuality, an interplay between texts- one preceding and providing the basis for the other - these adjectives also announce property, ownership, and hierarchy. Derivative, when applied to artwork, has a negative connotation in everyday speech; it usually indicates a poor imitation or even a corruption of an original, pure work. Calling a text based on a prior text "derivative" thus signifies a ranking of the two texts according to quality and classifies the secondary text as the lesser one. Similarly, appropriative connotes "taking" and can easily be inflected to mean "thieving" or "stealing." To label the genre of fiction based on antecedent texts "derivative" or "appropriative," then, throws into question the originality, creativity, and legality of that genre. I prefer to call the genre "archontic" literature because the word archontic is not laden with references to property rights or judgments about the relative merits of the antecedent and descendant works. A literature that is archontic is a literature composed of texts that are archival in nature and that are impelled by the same archontic principle: that tendency toward enlargement and accretion that all archives possess. Archontic texts are not delimited properties with definite borders that can be transgressed. So all texts that build on a previously existing text are not lesser than the source text, and they do not violate the boundaries of the source text; rather, they only add to that texts archive, becoming a part of the archive and expanding it. An archontic text allows, or even invites, writers to enter it, select specific items they find useful, make new artifacts using those found objects, and deposit the newly made work back into the source texts archive.3 An archontic texts archive is not identical to the text but is a virtual construct surrounding the text, including it and all texts related to it. For example, we have Jane Austens Pride and Prejudice (P&P) as a story that consists of several thousand specific words given in a specific order, and we also have a P&P archive, which contains such usable artifacts as Elizabeth Bennett, Fitzwilliam Darcy, the sprawling estate of Pemberly, and Austens particular version of English manners and morals. Many writers, such as Linda Berdoll (author of Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife, published by Landmark in 2004) and Pamela Aidan (author of Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman, published by Wytherngate Press in 2004) have made withdrawals from the P&P archive, used their selections to make new texts, and deposited their new creations back into the P&P archive. The P&P archive thus contains not only Austens novel, but Berdolls, Aidans, and the hundreds of other stories based on Austens novel that have appeared in print both officially (issued by publishing houses) and unofficially (issued in zines and Web sites). Given that what I am calling archontic texts are always open and have the potential for infinite expansion, one might say that in a sense, all texts can be called "archontic." Julia Kristeva (1980) argues for the inherent intertextuality of all literary works: "any text is a mosaic of quotations; any text is the absorption and transformation of another" (66). Roland Barthes (1981) calls intertextuality "the condition of any text whatsoever," noting that intertextuality "cannot ... be reduced to a problem of sources or influences; the intertext is a general field of anonymous formulae whose origin can scarcely ever be located; of unconscious or automatic quotations, given without quotation marks" (39). However, it is the specific relation between new versions and the originary versions of texts, the fact that works enter the archive of other works by quoting them consciously, by pointedly locating themselves within the world of the archontic text, that makes the concept of archontic literature different from the concept of intertextuality. All texts may be intertextual -that is to say, it is possible to argue that all texts are archives that contain hundreds or thousands of other texts-but for the purposes of my discussion, "archontic" describes only those works that generate variations that explicitly announce themselves as variations (see Stasi, this volume). Archontic texts definitely "use quotation marks" by referencing characters and narratives in obvious ways. Fanfics tie themselves overtly to preexisting texts; this annunciation is a convention of the fan fiction genre, performed either in the identifying headers that precede and categorize individual fics, or by the location of each fanfic in fandom-specific zines or Web sites. Although no such convention exists for nonfan literary works- that is, readers do not expect a novel to state outright, in its first few sentences, that it is a revision of, a continuation of, or an insertion into, a prior narrative - nonfan works do explicitly mark themselves as revisions, continuations, and insertions through replicating titles (Isabel Allendes Zorro), using established characters (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in Stoppards play; Crusoe and Friday in J. M. Coetzees Foe, Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy in Linda Berdolls Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife), and/or using plots and dialogue recognizable from the source text (Jean Rhyss Wide Sargasso Sea).
Where and When Does Fan Fiction Come From?
A History of Archontic Literature Several fan-scholars have written histories of archontic literature. They call them histories of fan fiction, although what they have really produced are lists of the kinds of archontic writing that preceded fan fiction. Super-Cats 1999 "A (Very) Brief History of Fanfic" ( posium/symp5.htm, accessed June 1, 2006) and juices 2004 "A History of Fan Fiction" (juice817,, August 6, 2004) summarize the best-known milestones in the evolution of archontic literature. Their examples of fan fiction that predate film and television include the Jewish exegetical tradition of midrash; John Lydgates 1421 continuation of Chaucers Canterbury Tales, called The Siege of Thebes; Miltons Paradise Lost; and the entire body of Shakespeares plays. Sheenagh Pughs 2004 essay "The Democratic Genre: Fan Fiction in a Literary Context" opens with a compressed history of archontic literature and cites examples ranging from Robert Henrysons fifteenth-century variation on Chaucers Troilus and Criseyde (itself a variant of a Greek myth) to John Reeds 2001 Snowballs Chance, a reworking of George Orwells Animal Farm. Because the broad history of archontic writing has been covered by others, I present a slightly different, more limited history, one that emphasizes the way that archontic writing has often been used as a technique of social, political, or cultural critique in the hands of what John Fiske (1992), drawing on Pierre Bourdieu, calls "the culture of the subordinate" (32). Although Bourdieu and Fiske use subordinate specifically to refer to the proletariat in the modern (twentieth century) era of the culture industries, I choose to apply the term to earlier periods as well, because many subordinate cultures throughout history, especially women and ethnic minorities, have chosen to record and/or publicize their opinions by writing archontic literature. As a genre, archontic literature has had lasting appeal for subordinated groups seeking adequate means of expression. Although writers have used archontic literature to critique patriarchy, xenophobia, and racism at least since the fifth century BCE, when ancient Greeks produced politically motivated retellings of ancient myths like Euripides Medea, I begin my history of archontic literature as a medium of political and social protest in the seventeenth century, when the first original prose fiction by a woman in the English language was published. That text was a work of archontic literature. The same was true of the first published sequel by a woman, and one of the only known printed novels from the early modern period to contain a womans (the books owners) handwritten additions to the story. These works were all based on Sir Philip Sidneys The Countess of Pembrokes Arcadia, and they were, respectively, Lady Mary Wroths 1621 The Countess of Montgomerys Urania, Anna Weamyss 1654 Continuation of Sir Philip Sydneys "Arcadia," and the 1590 copy of Sidneys Arcadia owned by Lucy Hastings (Hastings wrote her insertions and continuation in the book between 1624 and 1664). The first published play by a woman in English was also a piece of archontic writing: Elizabeth Cary based her 1613 The Tragedy of Mariam, the Fair Queen of Jewry, on the midrashic scholar Josephuss story of King Herods wife (Burow- Flak 2000), and also on a translation of Garniers Marc Antonie by Mary Sidney (Philip Sidneys sister) (Weller and Ferguson 1994, 27-29). So archontic literature and womens writing, at least in the English language, have been linked for at least four hundred years, and from the first, the act of women entering the archives of male-authored texts and adding their own entries to those archives has generated conflict. Wroth, who was Sidneys niece, received sharp criticism for writing the Urania from fellow noble Sir Edward Denny, who lambasted her for producing a romance, a type of work unseemly for a woman -the only appropriate genres for women writers being, according to Denny, translations of scripture and other devotional material (Roberts 1983, 239). Wroth responded to Denny by parodying a poem that Denny had written to censure her. She adopted his rhyme scheme, including his exact rhyming words, and defended herself archly, demonstrating that a female writer could freely enter and add to any male-authored archive she wished, and that such archontic activity could be a successful technique for critiquing the style or message of the male writers writing. At the beginning of Weamyss Continuation, several prefatory poems by contemporary male poets and publishers give the reader to understand that Weamys was infused with the spirit of Philip Sidney, Arcadias author, downplaying Weamyss agency as an author by attributing her literary talent to spectral insemination by male genius. Ironically, the works of Wroth and especially of Cary are read today as examples of early modern feminism, because both works portray patriarchal aspects of English aristocratic society as ridiculous and unjust. Thus some of the earliest women authors who published in English chose to write within the genre of archontic literature, possibly sensing an opportunity to highlight the inequalities of womens and mens situations in their culture by creating new versions of earlier stories and producing a contrast between the old and new tales. Their efforts to add to male narratives were, for the most part, resented, minimalized, or ignored by their male contemporaries. We do not have many instances of womens archontic writing published for more than a century after Weamyss continuation, although it seems unimaginable that women did not write their own versions of texts they read during this period. It is possible, even probable, that, like Lucy Hastings, women wrote their variations of stories as ephemera and marginalia in the pages of the books they read. In any case, the next instances I have found of women publishing archontic literature are Maria Romeros 1792 translation and augmentation of, and Madame Morel de Vindes 1797 sequel to, Madame du Graffignys Lettres dune peruvienne (Letters of a Peruvian Woman). According to Theresa Ann Smith (2003), there are five known sequels to Graffignys novel: two by anonymous authors who could have been either male or female, one by a man, and Vindes and Romeros. There is also a copy of Romeros translation/augmentation of the Graffigny, which contains handwritten alterations/expansions of the text by an anonymous author whose gender is unknown. The markings are similar in style to Hastingss additions to the Sidney text. During this period of time in Europe, women sought publication in far greater numbers than in the time of Wroth and Weamys, but the path to public authorship was still difficult and dangerous. Smith writes, "`going public could be a perilous prospect for female intellectuals in any nation during the early modern period, because publication involved a measure of transgression against social expectations of womens modesty, submission, and anonymity" (119). I am thus inclined to believe that the anonymous authors, including the author of the handwritten marginalia in the copy of Romeros book, were women. Graffignys novel, although popular, frustrated many readers by its ending, which does not unite the Peruvian heroine of the books title, named Zilla, and her faithful French suitor, Deterville, in marriage, but has Zilla rejecting Detervilles proposal and deciding to live a life of reflection in relative isolation. All of the sequels to Graffignys work, including the handwritten alteration of Romeros version, rewrite the ending and marry off Zilla and Deterville. These are readers who, we can infer by virtue of their not wishing to alter the main body of Graffignys text, enjoyed most of Lettres dune peruvienne, but found the absence of a wedding at the ending to be so unacceptable - despite Graffignys goal being primarily to critique institutions that limit womens opportunities, including marriage - that they wrote conclusions that went against the spirit of most of the originary text, conclusions that reaffirmed the institution of marriage as the ultimate happiness for women. The Graffigny sequels are therefore an interesting example of how women have used archontic writing to express their dissatisfaction and to voice their own desires, but that in some cases, their desires coincide with the values of dominant, not subordinate, culture. In the case of the Graffigny sequels- and we see this trend in much of fan fiction today (as well as in romance novels, as Catherine Driscoll explains in greater detail in this volume, and in many so-called womens films)-archontic literature allowed women to publicize their narrative desires, but what they wanted was a narrative that concluded in an idealized marriage, a desire that the Graffigny text refused to satisfy. The nineteenth century saw a wide array of continuations and sequels authored by women, including many versions of Lewis Carrolls Alice in Wonderland books (these are collected in Carolyn Siglers 1999 Alternative Alices), and Mary Cowden Clarks The Girlhood of Shakespeares Heroines (Garber 1999). However, as a tool of social criticism, archontic literature has reached its most productive period over the last eighty years, with the explosion of postcolonial and ethnic American literature. There is a massive amount of archontic postcolonial literature. The archive of Shakespeares Tempest has been enlarged by many postcolonial variations, beginning with Aime Cesaires 1968 Une Temp@te and more recent works like Dev Virahsawmys 1995 Toufann, the later texts following the lead of Fernandez Retamars 1971 and 1986 essays proclaiming Caliban to be the archetype of an indigenous person forced into colonial subjection. The Jane Eyre (JE) archive has been expanded by Jean Rhyss 1966 Wide Sargasso Sea, Jamaica Kincaids 1990 Lucy, and Bharati Mukher- jees 1999 Jasmine. The Robinson Crusoe archive has been augmented by works such as Carlos Bulosans 1946 America Is in the Heart and J. M. Coetzees 1986 Foe. The last fifty years have also seen a tremendous growth in the amount of ethnic American archontic literature published. Some of the most notable of these are David Henry Hwangs 1988 M. Butterfly, based on Puccinis opera Madama Butterfly and on a newspaper account of a French diplomats unknowingly homosexual affair with a transvestite Chinese diva; Alice Randalls 2001 The Wind Done Gone, based on Gone with the Wind, narrated by Scarlett OHaras slave and half-sister; and Nancy Rawless 2005 My Jim, based on Mark Twains The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, told from the points of view of the slave Jim and his wife. All of the works I have just listed are clearly intended to draw readers attention to unjust power relations between dominant and subordinate subjects, to discriminatory policies, to psychological and institutionalized prejudices, and to the power of canonical texts to perpetuate stereotypes of race, gender, class, and nation. Although I lack the space here to adequately summarize all the scholarship issued by postcolonial and ethnic studies academics, I will try to indicate the high level of insight that this scholarship has brought to bear on archontic literature by quoting from one of the most prominent of this group of scholars, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. Spivak (1999) comments that what Rhyss Wide Sargasso Sea accomplishes is no less than a forced reevaluation, on the readers part, of all that is taken for granted and blithely accepted as "necessary" in the Jane Eyre story:
In this fictive England, she [Bertha, the "madwoman in the attic" of JE, daughter of Dominican plantation owners, and wife to Rochester] must play out her role, act out the transformation of her "self" into that fictive Other, set fire to the house and kill herself, so that Jane Eyre can become the feminist individualist heroine of British fiction. I must read this as an allegory of the general epistemic violence of imperialism, the construction of a self-immolating colonial subject for the glorification of the social mission of the colonizer. Rhys sees to it that the woman from the colonies is not sacrificed as an insane animal for her sisters consolidation [127].
Rhys addition to the JE archive takes the older contents of the archive - Jane Eyres goodness, innocence, and heroine status, Rochesters position as a tormented but deserving hero, and Berthas role as the unreasoning animalistic shadow villainess- and changes them by refracting the JE elements through a mirror of her own design. By doing so, Spivak claims, Rhys critiques not just the fictive world of JE, but the project of British imperialism that gave rise to JE and other novels that depict the enslavement or dehumanization of colonial subjects, especially female ones, as necessary for the individual development of British subjects. To restate Spivaks point in the terms Ive been using, every addition to an archive alters the entire archive. Returning to the quantity of published archontic literature that serves as political, social, and cultural critique: So much archontic literature produced by postcolonial, feminist, and ethnic American writers has been issued recently that book critics at mainstream publications have begun to speak of it as a genre. Helen Schulman, in a January 2005 book review for the New York Times, called Rawless My Jim part of "the fiction of reaction," along with Randalls Wind and Sena Jeter Naslunds 2000 "feminist response to Melville," Ahabs Wife. Barbara Lloyd McMichael wrote in the Seattle Times in February 2005, "In a fascinating development of the past decade or so, contemporary American writers have revisited some of the best-known works in Americas literary canon and have engaged in some audacious revisionism. Theyre resurrecting characters that had been marginalized in the original stories and positing voices that had been muted." Although McMichael is wrong about this type of revisiting and revising being a recent development in literature, she is correct about the volume of production of ethnic American and feminist archontic literature trending upward. Thus, since at least the early seventeenth century, archontic literature has been a compelling choice of genre for writers who belong to "cultures of the subordinate," including women, colonial subjects, and ethnic minorities. This body of work, this long tradition of archontic literature, is the heritage of contemporary zine and Internet fan fiction. Fan fiction, too, is the literature of the subordinate, because most fanfic authors are women responding to media products that, for the most part, are characterized by an underrepresentation of women. The Media Report to Women 2002 (Gibbons 2002) stated that although 51 percent of the U.S. population was female at the time of the reports writing, 37 percent of characters on prime time television shows were female, and 28 percent of characters of the 250 top-grossing domestic films were female. Only 17 percent of behind-the-scenes jobs in the motion picture industry were held by women. Over 20 percent of the highest grossing domestic films employed no women in top jobs (as director, executive producer, producer, writer, cinematographer, or editor). The same report predicted that by 2005, over 60 percent of Internet users would be women. Therefore, adisproportionately small percentage of women have positions of power and visibility in mass media organizations, and a disproportionately large percentage of women have (and use) access to the Internet. If, as Henry Jenkins (1992) claims, fans write fanfic out of a combination of fascination and frustration with their favorite media products, the Media Reports employment numbers indicate that women consumers are very likely frustrated and disappointed by mass media, perhaps feeling that media narratives to do not fulfill their desires or give them the programming that they want. Even if a great deal of fan fiction, as I mentioned in the earlier discussion of the Graffigny sequels, tends to reinforce traditional gender roles and social norms, fan fiction on the whole qualifies as a resistant artistic practice because, if nothing else, it is the means by which women write against the media corporations whose products they consume by augmenting or sometimes replacing the canonical versions of media texts with their own texts. Fanfics that adhere to heteronormative ideals of social and sexual interaction, that privilege "romance" as an ideal narrative form, are also subversive of patriarchal culture in the same way that Janice Radway argues, in her 1984 Reading the Romance, that print romance novels are subversive. Radway, building on Jose Limons analysis, claims that what patriarchal society does not give women "enough of," such as "emotional gratification," "attention" and "nurturance," women writers tend to supply for women readers, allowing readers to experience vicariously through narrative what they do not experience in sufficient quantities "in the round of day-to-day existence" (212). These female-constructed worlds, Radway states, often posit a value system, one privileging "love and personal interaction," that is significantly different, even opposite, from the value systems of male-dominated "reality." Historically, writing archontic literature has been a risky undertaking for women, and this is as true of contemporary fanfic authors today as it was for the first published women authors. Today, women who write fan fiction write under threat of legal prosecution. Writing fan fiction is commonly regarded by copyright holders (the rights to films and television shows are held, in most cases, by large media corporations) as a violation of Title 17, and many moderators and administrators of fan fiction sites have received warnings or cease-and-desist letters from studio lawyers demanding that content be removed from the Internet. So even the most socially conventional fan fiction is an act of defiance of corporate control and a reclamation of women viewers rights to experience the narratives they desire by creating them for themselves.
What Does Fan Fiction Mean?
Theories of Archontic Literature The reason I chose to focus, in the previous section, on archontic writing as the writing of subordinated groups was that I believe the larger philosophical import of this type of writing is that it undermines conventional notions of authority, boundaries, and property. In other words, archontic literature is inherently, structurally, a literature of the subordinate. I have pointed out that members of subordinate groups have gravitated toward this type of writing in different periods; now I will make the claim that the attraction that archontic writing holds for women and minorities may have something to do with the fact that the genre is intrinsically against "cultures of the dominant." I will explain this idea further by using concepts and terms from two twentieth-century poststructuralist thinkers to assist my explication.
Gilles Deleuze, in his 1968 Difference and Repetition, argues that "repetition" need not mean "physical, mechanical, or bare repetitions (repetition of the Same)," but can refer to "the more profound structures of a hidden repetition in which a `differential is disguised and displaced" (xx). In other words, repetition can be something other than a strict, exact replication - there can repetition with a difference, repetition that appears, at first glance, to be a repeating of the same, but in fact contains differences that make the second iteration to be completely new and distinct from the first. These repetitions, says Deleuze, "do not add a second and a third time to the first, but carry the first time to the `nth power" (1). Deleuze believes that this type of repetition could be found anywhere, and can certainly be found in texts. Although he speaks in this passage of scholarly commentary, consider how apt a description it is for the relationship between works of fan fiction and originary works: Commentaries, Deleuze states, should have "a double existence and a corresponding ideal: the pure repetition of the former text and the present text in one another" (xxii). When one reads a work of archontic writing, in other words, one is really reading two texts at once. The prior text is available and remains in the mind even as one reads the new version. The two texts resonate together in both the new text and the old one (with the old text, it is a retrospective resonance, in the way that Wide Sargasso Sea forces us to regard Jane Eyre with new eyes), and the reader thus notices the similarities and differences, however great or small, between them. Deleuzes interest in making this argument, in redefining repetition and difference, is in part to enable us to rid ourselves of notions of hierarchy. "There is a hierarchy which measures beings ... according to their degree of proximity or distance from a principle" (37), Deleuze writes, and automatically I think of how narratives based on prior narratives are denigrated or dismissed as lesser because they are "unoriginal," they did not come "first," they are "derivative." "The smallest becomes equivalent to the largest once it is not separated from what it can do" (37) Deleuze continues, which leads me to think of how short works of fan fiction, or of any other kind of archontic writing - which can also mean short in stature in comparison to originary works, being written by unknown writers and lacking the cultural capital that has already accrued to the prior work -can have as much weight and affect as the originary texts, once preconceived ideas about what constitutes a complete, whole, or original work are forgotten. When we conceive of the "smallest" work as a repetition, with a difference, of an earlier work, we understand that the smaller work can have a great deal of resonance with the previously existing one. The resonance is what gives the smaller work meaning and significance, and no longer does its length or stature matter.
Another concept that Deleuze introduced was that of the "virtual" and "potential" being just as real as the "actual": "The virtual is opposed not to the real but to the actual. The virtual is fully real in so far as it is virtual" (208). Deleuze claims that there is a set of virtual realities, or possibilities, or potentialities, that exist at the same time that our actualities exist. The virtual is that which could happen, what we could become, at any given time; the actual is that which is happening, how we are, at any given time. Because both the virtual and actual exist, they are both real. The virtual realm, the realm of possibilities, is no less real than the realm of the actual. Fan fiction, and all archontic narrative, permits virtualities to become actualized. Archontic literature assumes that every text contains a wealth of potentialities that variations of the text can then make actual. Print culture allowed anywhere from a handful to a few hundred possibilities within texts to be actualized by fanfic writers; the Internet has enabled thousands of potentialities within single texts to be actualized and circulated (witness the number of X-Files or Buffy fanfics accessible on the Web). Alternate universe stories, stories that pair different characters than are paired in canonical texts, stories that posit interstitial material (that is, that fill in missing scenes-what takes place in the cut from one scene to another), stories that ignore large parts of the canon - all are examples of virtualities or potentialities within the originary texts becoming actualized thanks to fanfic authors.
I take the concept of "relation" from Edouard Glissants 1990 Poetics of Relation. Glissant, a Caribbean intellectual, grounds his critical theory in the history of the Caribbean Islands, marked as it is by slavery, plantations, and creolization. For Glissant, the only viable ethics in a world traumatized by humanism that led to colonialism is to attempt to get rid of individualistic identities as such, and start defining ourselves and our world through relation. Relation can and should take place, Glissant claims, not only between people, but between nations, between objects, between ideas, between words. Relation gives equal privilege to parts and wholes; it never allows itself to be fixed into identity. Rather, changes and shifts are critical for relation; if relationship ever stabilizes into an "ideal relationship," a concept that stays permanently defined, the result can be totalitarian thought: "ghouls of totalitarian thinking might reemerge" (131). Relation thrives on chaos: "The way Chaos itself goes around is the opposite of what is ordinarily understood by `chaotic and ... it opens onto a new phenomenon: Relation, or totality in evolution, whose order is continually in flux and whose disorder one can imagine forever" (133). In chaos, the beings that have entered into relation never make a stable whole. They remain in constant flux with each other, as an "accumulation of examples" that "never complete[s] description of the processes of relation, not circumscribing them or giving legitimacy to some impossible global truth" (174). Archontic literature, with its parts and wholes that never stabilize into one definable text, with its texts in constant expansion and motion, its archives endlessly expanding, generating more texts that in turn generate more archives, exemplifies Glissants theory of relation. Archontic literature, which does not privilege new variations over originary works and which does not aim to limit creative production to authoritative or canonical versions, enacts Glissants ethical program at the level of literature. This concept of relation is quite different from Kristevas and Barthess concept of intertextuality, although relation expands on the earlier idea. Intertextuality assumes a writer unconsciously under the sway of influences; it assumes texts have interplay without any conscious intervention on the part of the writer. Relation acknowledges this interplay to be possible, but it also requires that people be conscious of the play and remain vigilant, guarding against the possibility that the play will cease and become fixed and rigid. Relation requires humans to take responsibility for keeping objects in play, whether they be stories or racial categories or languages or geographical boundaries. The nature of fan fiction, the way that fan fiction operates, adheres to this requirement automatically. To write or read or study fanfic is to admit that the text is never stable, that virtualities inside source texts are perpetually in the process of becoming actualized, that between texts within a given archive there is repetition with a difference, and that the interplay between the texts can never be solidified and stilled, for fear of losing the difference, the spark, the chaos that is invention and innovation. All three of the concepts just discussed - Deleuzes "repetition/difference," his "virtual/actual," and Glissants "relation"- are all attempts to initiate new ways of thinking ethically. They all seek to do away with outmoded perceptions and categorizations. Deleuze sought to overcome the notion that all repetition must be mechanical and identical, that virtualities and potentialities do not count as real; Glissant aimed to discard the humanist project of defining identities and valuing totalizing systems and wholes. Both thinkers wanted to replace these older concepts with ones that allowed objects and beings without size or stature or conventionally defined identities to be regarded as powerful, creative, inventive, and worthy. This is why I stressed the fact that archontic literature and fan fiction are the chosen means of expression for so many subordinate groups over so many centuries: because archontic writing, the archontic principle, seeks to empower and elevate what is subordinate. The archontic genre suits the desires of cultures of the subordinate perfectly. The larger import of fan fiction, then, is significant. Fan fiction is a genre that has a long history of appealing to women and minorities, individuals on the cultural margins who used archontic writing as a means to express not only their narrative creativity, but their criticisms of social and political inequities as well. Fan fiction is not a genre of "pure" resistance; as Fiske (1992) and others have pointed out, there are elements of pacification by and cooperation with the dominant culture in fandom. But fan fiction and archontic literature open up possibilities- not just for opposition to institutions and social systems, but also for a different perspective on the institutional and social. In the realm of the archontic, in the multi- verses of fan fiction, there is a recognition of the valuable innovations that occur in the process of repetition: one scene from a film or television show can be rewritten in fifty, or five hundred, different ways, with each repetition elucidating some different aspect or dynamic of the scene (as Francesca Coppa also observes in "Writing Bodies in Space," this volume). In fan fiction, there is an acknowledgment that every text contains infinite potentialities, any of which could be actualized by any writer interested in doing the job: fic authors posit the question "what if" to every possible facet of a source text (asking "What if these two characters became romantically involved?" "What if this significant event had occurred earlier/later/never?" "What if this entire narrative arc took place in another era, in another country, on another planet, in an alternate reality?") and explore situations that the makers of the source text simply cannot, because of the need for continuity and chronological coherence in the source texts universe (and the lack of such a requirement in fan productions). In fan fiction, there is a constant state of flux, of shifting and chaotic relation, between new versions of stories and the originary texts: the fics written about a particular source text ensure the text is never solidified, calcified, or at rest, but is in continuous play, its characters, stories, and meanings all varying through the various fics written about it. Fan fiction is philosophically opposed to hierarchy, property, and the dominance of one variant of a series over another variant. Fan fiction is an ethical practice.