Sat 11 Jun, 2011 09:01 am
I am a fan of fanfiction. Whenever I am faced with a new story, whatever the medium it is expressed in maybe, I am aware of the new world that it has brought into existence. The infinity of possible narratives that can spring up from one narrative : interpretations, elaborations, interpolations, extrapolations, modifications... overwhelm me. My discovery of fanfiction in its latest incarnation brought with it the revelation that a narrative is never complete, or definite in any way, for that matter. This was not new idea, I had come into contact with it in one form or the other several times before. But, faced with the deluge of hundreds of thousands of narratives that had sprung up from one book or anime, the idea was forced into the forefront of my consciousness, unlike the gentle nudging that accompanied all my reading before.
What is also interesting for me are the unspoken rules that evolved, and now accompany fanfiction: a particular fanfic could be judged to follow the canon, while another could be adjudged AU, but still a fanfic of the same piece of fiction. Fanfics are commended for originality, but readers are quick to deride narratives that are too alien, that snap the tenuous link that connects a fanfic to the original.
This brings me to the debate regarding the respective values of various forms of narrative. The realist narrative, it is said, mirrors reality, and hence is valuable as an honest chronicle of the state of affairs. Fantasy on the other hand (I include science fiction in this) narrates a story based on imaginary conditions, and hence its value is dubious.
This debate stumped me for a long time. I knew I liked fantasy genre, considered it valuable, but could not explain why. It was the workings of fanfiction that finally shed some light on the issue for me. I realised that fantasy is not baseless imagination. Or more to the point, much like AU fanfics that are too alien (with respect to the canon) are rejected, fantasy that is too alien is rejected.
Realist narrative mirrors (or at least tries to) what is there, there is nothing hidden, no circumspection, a depiction of reality as is. Fantasy moves away from reality, follows a narrative that is unlike any reality, but, it is not baseless, it does not snap the tenuous connection that ties it to reality (as I said earlier, those that are too alien are rejected), it merely engages with it in a circumspect manner. Is there value to be found here?
Sure there's value. Some people love to write, and writing fanfic gives them more of a ready-made audience.
So, uh, any special reason you're spouting off about this?
Hmm, I am just interested in the value of 'story', and how we engage with different kinds of stories.