Reviewing CW2K: A4 Agency, Desire, and Boundary Transgression: Building Community in the Multi-Verses of Internet FanFiction

  • "Writing, Performance, and Community-Building in Internet Fanfiction," Molly Travis
  • "Challenges to Community: Re-Imagining Agency through Fanfiction as Hypertext," Brandy Walker
  • "Buffyverse Beyond Slash: Crossing the Final Taboo in Fanfiction," Kristina Busse

The panel offered presentations on a little-discussed aspect of Web writing, fanfiction. Molly Travis's comments introduced the audience to the world of fanfiction writers, those who take characters from popular culture (such as television shows) and spin new tales, new adventures, and even new sexual combinations for those characters to explore; such writing is more and more frequently published on the Web, where writers often form virtual communities to share and critique each others' fanfictions. Travis argued that such writing is much more than just a hobby or entertainment; rather she suggested that fanfiction, a form of writing mostly practiced by women, can be a powerful form of self-agency and empowerment as writers variously identify with and re-shape the lives of characters they have become invested in. As such, fanfiction reveals itself to be a vital writing of "agency, desire, and interactivity."

Picking up where Travis left off, Brandy Walker explored in her very easy to follow presentation the ways in which the traditional meanings of text, author, and reader are troubled and reconfigured as fanfic writers "read" others' stories and "re-write" them or take them in alternative directions. Tying together various postmodern theories of authorship and narration, Walker demonstrated how fanfiction both partakes of and exemplifies the complex and changing "role" of the author at the turn of the millennium, and she thus made a good case for studying fanfiction as emblematic of the contemporary (and en-webbed) nature of "text," "author," and "reader."

Kristina Busse's presentation focused on a particular strain of fanfiction, that surrounding the popular television show "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." Fanfic writers often create stories, called "slash" in which male characters from the show engage in homoerotic activity, or "hurt/comfort" narratives in which characters are tortured so they can then be comforted, their comforting licensed by the torture. All of these plots stray substantially from the original show and thus they reveal to us the preoccupations, concerns, and issues of those writing them. Zeroing in on the vampire characters in "Buffy," Busse notes that fanfic writing provocatively use characters to project important psychoanalytic investments and relationships, some of which may touch on the pervasive "incest taboo" and thus represent a complex, if barely conscious, grappling with fundamental intersections between psyche and social formations. Thus, studying Web fanfics may offer the curious student insight into not just reconfigurations of "writing" but also of "desire."

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