By a stroke of good fortune, I happened to read Joanna Russ’s feminist classic How to Suppress Women’s Writing just prior to reading Anne Jamison’s Fic (Smart Pop Books), which made for an interesting pairing. On one hand, Russ’s book feels depressingly current: You need only spend a few minutes on Twitter to witness all of the tactics for suppressing women’s writing that Russ details. But on the other hand, even with all of these tactics being leveled at the (mostly female) writers of fanfiction (especially the “poor author too pathetic and forlorn to get a man” trope), here we are talking about it in a sustained and serious way. Progress!
Fic is not — as I was imagining when I picked it up — an academic text. As Jamison explains in this excellent interview at Critical Margins, she wanted to reflect the complicated relationship to authordom that you find in the world of fanfic, rather than producing a more traditional monograph. Accordingly, she includes interviews and short essays from writers of fanfiction, offering their views on fanfic communities, diversity (lack of), the ethics of monetizing, etc.
This is all very good, and I appreciate the inclusion of these voices on a theoretical level (some of them had really interesting things to say, and some not so much, sorry Amber Benson), and I wouldn’t have minded if Anne Jamison’s chapters had been twice as long in each case and if there had been twice as many as them. An academic who teaches classes in fanfiction and a writer of fic herself, Jamison’s writing style is friendly and approachable and also nicely authoritative. Like where it is extremely readable, and you also feel you are in good hands.
Because Jamison’s particular area of study is Twilight fanfiction, this book leans heavily on the Twilight end of things. Her most in-depth case studies of modern fanfic area centered in the Twilight fandom, and she has a whole section about E. L. James and the fandom’s conflicted relationship to fanfic-for-profit. If that sounds like a complaint it’s only a complaint in the sense that this book was fascinating, and I wanted it to go on being fascinating for maybe infinity chapters while offering a basis for comparative studies of different fandoms and norms and community standards.
My main criticism of the book, in brief, is that there isn’t more of it. If there were infinite books dealing with the workings of all the different online communities, I would curl up in my reading nook with all of them stacked around me and never come out again. And I certainly look forward to any scholarship Anne Jamison plans to produce on this topic in the future.
Assist me please: In the comments, if you have favorite works of fanfiction, kindly recommend them to me. I never know where to start with fanfic — there’s so much of it — so would appreciate some guidance.