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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Friction over Fan Fiction

Fan fiction? It’s no secret that J. K. Rowling has a tremendous following. Unknown to most people, however, is the burgeoning online community of Harry Potter fans who amuse themselves by writing their own stories set in Rowling’s fictional world. And the phenomenon is hardly confined to Hogwarts. Fascination with the imaginary worlds of television shows, films and books has prompted devotees – the vast majority of them women – to respond with their own amateur creations. The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Star Wars, X-Files, Xena: Warrior Princess, and of course, Lord of the Rings, are among the many works that have inspired fans to write their own stories using the characters and settings from the works they love.

This is fan fiction, and it’s all over the web, at sites such as, and Though its roots are in the science fiction book world, the phenomenon really took off with the TV series Star Trek. By the series’ second season in 1967, fans were writing their own episodes and sharing them with like-minded friends. Drawing on Star Trek characters and settings – referred to as the canon – they placed the characters in narratives not contemplated by the show’s writers, very often with subversive results. Most famously, these early fan writers perceived a repressed sexual passion between Mr. Spock and Captain Kirk and began writing stories exploring this relationship. Thus was started a roaring sub-culture of fan writing, largely by women and for women, about homoerotic relations between ostensibly heterosexual male characters. Stories of such relationships – known as slash from the “/” used to connote a pairing (such as Harry Potter/Severus Snape) – continue to make up a major proportion of fan fiction.


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