Novelist Sara Donati responded to my post on fanfic by directing me to a long essay she wrote on the topic. Among her thoughts…
But there’s a lot more to fan fiction than the obvious. It has to do with storytelling in the first line, yes, but far more important: fan fiction has to do with communities of storytellers. People who get together (symbolically, of course, and mostly on the internet) and starting with a character they all love, they spin tales. Then they write back and forth about those stories, exchanging ideas. Five hundred years ago people sat together around fires and told stories about the gods, about heroes they all knew and feared or loved, about Coyote, about ancestors. That was a kind of fan fiction, too.
She also pointed me to a very interesting overview on Fanfic from the BBC. I especially enjoyed the “fanfic glossary.” Some highlights:
Fanboy/fangirl – A fan who is childishly obsessive about his or her fandom, and so over-the-top that even other fans are embarassed to be associated with them.
TPTB (or TIIC)/Canon – TPTB – or in full, The Powers that Be – are the producers of the original source material; more specifically – in terms of TV series – the creator, the executive producers and the most prolific writers/directors. The term is mostly respectful, but a little sarcastic; the opposite balance exists in the term TIIC – The Idiots in Charge. The material which they produce and sanction – the series itself, plus some of the accompanying books, comics and what have you – is canon material, and is revered and referenced like the unadulterated words of the gods by the majority of serious fanfic authors. Anything else – and in particular all fan fiction – is non-canon, and fanfic writers feel no compulsion to consider it when creating their stories (but cf fanon).
For example, while a Buffy fanfic writer would be considered bound to respect the fact that the character Jenny Calendar died before the end of season two, they would not be expected to respect a fanfic in which the entire Scooby Gang were turned into vampires and burned down a 7-11 (cf AU).
Fanon – Fan canon. A fan-created fact or event widely accepted as canon, or a fact deemed to be unstated canon.
(To Be) Jossed – To have events in one of your fan fictions be invalidated by a canon development. Originally derived from Buffy fandom, the term ‘Jossed’ is named after Buffy creator/writer/guru/god Joss Whedon.
Plot Bunny – The central idea of a fanfic; the equivalent of a movie pitch. Writers sometimes swap around plot bunnies, especially if they have an idea which they don’t have time to explore more fully. The term comes from the fact that if you get one or two of these ideas together, they tend to breed like…well, you know.