|Fanfiction as Art
||[Aug. 5th, 2005|11:28 pm]
Let me begin by citing a well known fact: Fanfiction is crap. It is, as we know, insipid, unoriginal, contrived, and oft times badly spelt. I dispute none of this, I merely ask, 'Can this crap be art?'
As authors of Fanfiction, we are first and foremost thieves. We happily purloin the creation of another, filching worlds, characters, hats, plots and wit that we do not possess. Fanfiction is plagiarism and it is naughty.
Now, does this mean we are savages without benefit of conscience or personal style? No, say I, we follow in the footsteps of that most spectacular species of theatre: the Commedia dell'Arte! Pinching other people's work has a strong literary and theatrical tradition (after all, who is Lockhart if not another incarnation of the Commedia's dashing Captain or Plautus's Miles Gloriosus?) Expect an essay any day now.
Certainly, our backgrounds are cardboard and our characters are borrowed templates. And I would be the first to admit that to have read two distinct Fandom plots is a rare achievement, to read three is a case of double vision, but it is not the materials used in studio that determines the artistic worth of the final product. Can we as authors take these fell-off-a-truck ingredients and weave them into a whole that is more than the sum of its parts?
Yes, yes, and yes! I would even say that it is our obligation to ensure that our work has some artistic merit to make up for the cannibalistic method of its creation.
Stories that are written to titillate shippers are worthless.
Stories that intend to explore vague aspects of canon are worthless.
Clever character studies, interesting plots, thoughtful treatments of serious issues are worthless.
Pack'em in, they don't mean a thing.
There is only one thing that can make fic writing worthwhile, the Philosopher's Stone of the literary world, that immutable sliver of truth that turns mere words into life.
I don't really want to dwell on Aesthetics here, but I can assure you, if you have seen or experienced a work of Art you have known it. Art does not sneak up on to or pass you on the street only for you to turn back three blocks down and scratch your head saying, 'That was Art was it?'
Just so, when you create art, you know it. Oh, and art can be bad, don't get me wrong, this isn't as pretentious as it sounds, I'm not hinting that any of us will ever reach the accomplished and inspired thievery of a Moliere, I suggesting that when you, as an author write, Fanfiction or no, you reach out for that truth.
Do not write to tell a story. Do not write to win fans. Do not write to fulfill your wishes. Don't write at all. Unless...
You are willing to sacrifice it all on the altar of artistic truth for no other reason than that it is right.
And if by sheer act of will you can pull something pure out of all the crap then perhaps you will have, in a small way, begun to redeem the thief in us all.