If ever there was a time when the term “fanfiction” was in a precarious and unstable state, it is now. As I’m writing this, pre-ticket sales for the most recent Star Wars installment have reached $50 million (Mendelson), a new Star Trek film trailer has the internet buzzing, and a film adaptation of a novel (Fifty Shades of Grey) based on a “fanfiction” adaptation of a previous novel has grossed $166,147,885 since its release in May of 2015. What’s interesting, of course, regarding Star Wars and Star Trek specifically is not merely their canonical places within the history of “fandom” but rather that these latest installments are produced (Star Trek Beyond) and directed, produced, and co-written (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) by a self-proclaimed “fanboy,” J. J. Abrams. In a recent interview with Wired, Abrams himself discusses the difficulty of being a fanboy in the Star Wars director’s chair, stating, “The key to doing this movie for me, was to acknowledge, embrace, and appreciate your fandom, and then put it in your pocket…. There were nights where I would go to bed and think, ‘Holy shit, we shot a chase sequence in the Millennium Falcon today’” (Franklin-Wallace). Given Abrams’s unique position, one must posit the question: If Abrams qualifies as a genuine “fanboy”—we will revisit this term shortly—and is in possibly the highest position of artistic authority for these specific projects (director, producer, writer), then can (and should) these films themselves be incorporated into the fanfiction universe?
Such a question poses myriad problems regarding precisely what the term “fanfiction” itself suggests. Is fanfiction quite simply a signifier pointing toward any derivative work created by a fan, or is there more to it? Does Abrams’s latest work prove that the term itself is inadequate in our post-modern era where the notion of an original creator or artistic work is itself problematic? This paper intends to address these larger questions regarding fanfiction adaptations and the shifting understanding of authenticity and authorship in contemporary media. Of course, to sufficiently speak to these broad issues a transnational approach must be taken with special attention being paid to the ever-changing media landscape that offers content creators, audiences, and users new approaches to production and reception. The global connectedness and transmedial nature of fanfiction are key in understanding the kaleidoscopic and evolving terrain of fandom and fan adaptations.
To adequately comprehend the nature of fanfiction, it is first and foremost necessary to address the issue of fandom more generally, which is itself taken a priori as a necessary element of the former. Suggesting that fandom is a simple notion or characteristic describing a spectator’s enjoyment of a particular work is flawed. The term “fandom” or “fanboy” carries with it a particular connotative element that is fundamentally problematic. Specifically, the word “fan” is essentially the abbreviated form of “fanatic” which, as Henry Jenkins argues, has evolved to mean, “any excessive and mistaken enthusiasm” (Jenkins 12). Jenkins suggests that this is itself an evolution from the original terminological understanding of “fanatic” which meant, “Of or belonging to the temple, a temple servant, a devotee” (12). Raymond Williams contends that “language is the articulation of [an] active and changing experience; a dynamic and articulated social presence within the world” (39). What we can extract from this is that the very notion of fandom is in constant flux within specific structures of feeling and, as such, the term itself must be reevaluated. Whereas fandom and fan appropriation can be said to have previously existed as an affront to “bourgeois taste and [a] disruption of dominant cultural hierarchies” (Jenkins 17), the shifting socio-political and cultural landscape has drastically altered this conception. The fan preferences once seen as “abnormal and threatening by those who have a vested interest in the maintenance of [bourgeois] standards” have themselves functioned to break down and reformulate the very notion of “good taste.” In fact, the “bourgeois standards” themselves have not only consistently been reincorporated into the mass cultural apparatus but simultaneously have historically appropriated mass cultural works into the domain of “high art.”
One need only examine a confrontational work of art such as Duchamp’s “Fountain” to get a sense of how “high” and “low” culture interact historically—in this case the work itself served as a challenge to the dominant “high” class discourse surrounding art but, given time, has been appropriated as an example of superb and important art generally reserved for high culture. This boundary blurring pendulum swings both ways as can be seen specifically in such remediations as the “No Fear Shakespeare” series, which recasts classic Shakespearean texts into graphic novels effectively reappropriating artistic works initially crafted as mass cultural objects which were, over time, appropriated as an example of high art. Fan culture is of course an active part of this appropriation, remediation, and reformulation of high cultural artifacts and, conversely, fan subculture itself becomes a resource mined by the mass cultural apparatus.
Thus, this socio-historical relationship blurs the border between high and low culture. Furthermore, the very idea of fandom as a signifying term is itself becoming abstruse when one locates its origins not in the struggle between high and low culture but, rather, as an issue of subculture vs. mass culture. It is perhaps beneficial here to turn briefly to John Fiske’s work on the “Cultural Economy of Fandom” to begin an argument on precisely what fandom is not, and through a process of negation a clearer picture of fandom and its tenuous relationship with mass culture should emerge. Of specific interest is Fiske’s assertion that “fandom is a heightened form of popular culture in industrial societies and that the fan is an ‘excessive reader’ who differs from the ‘ordinary’ only in degree rather than kind” (454). Fiske’s argument, while temptingly simple, is fundamentally flawed. Firstly, it discounts the social cohesion that clearly demarcates fan circles. By merely suggesting and perpetuating the stereotype of the bespectacled fan smugly satisfied in their encyclopedic knowledge of a particular fictional universe, this theory fails to account for the rapid rise of conventions and events such as “Comicon” in which many gather not as a means of “fulfilling [a] cultural lack” or gaining “social prestige and self-esteem” through the accumulation of quasi-cultural capital, but instead to collectively show their appreciation for specific narratives. Admittedly, Fiske could not have foreseen the meteoric rise in popularity of texts traditionally relegated to a subcultural underclass (i.e. superheroes, Star Trek, vampires, zombies, etc.).
Secondly, and perhaps more problematically, is Fiske’s complete avoidance in discussing the inherent politicization accompanying fandom. By arguing that fandom essentially fulfills a “cultural lack,” Fiske shifts and misinterprets the power dynamic considerably. In fact, it is not difficult to illustrate that fandom does not in and of itself suggest an attempt at building cultural capital but rather a means to make visible a central post-structural understanding that the locus of meaning lies not within the artwork but rather within the spectator. To clarify, it is inadequate to conceive of fans as “Emma Bovary” or “Don Quixote” seduced by works of fiction to a fault, it is arguably quite the opposite. Fandom does not entail a passive readership in which one is merely living vicariously through the narrative, but conversely an active participation in which, collectively, fans create, shape, reinterpret, and evaluate texts not only to better appreciate the work but to shape the narrative according to their own wants, needs, and tastes. Even in a seemingly passive spectatorship, these “fans” are in a better position for negotiated and oppositional readings precisely due to the investment in a specific work. Rather than merely consume one text at a time, these fans witness the unfolding of the narrative world, the development of characters, and recurring themes intertextually from a privileged position. Cassandra Amesley notes the importance of “double viewing” inherent in fandom which Henry Jenkins explains as a condition in which, “the characters are understood as ‘real’ people with psychologies and histories that can be explored and as fictional constructions whose shortcomings may be attributed to bad writing or the suspect motivations of the producers” (66). Thus, it is through an intense relationship with a given narrative world that fans can, and do, articulate concerns and produce cultural meaning, collaborate in shaping the discourse surrounding a work and the production of new works based on the specific narrative world, and appropriate the work for their own purposes if significant issues (narratalogical, sociological, political, etc.) appear to go unresolved or are altogether unaddressed.
Perhaps the clearest example of this incredibly active and confrontational fan approach is that of “slash” fiction. The “slash” in this case “refers to the convention of employing a stroke or ‘slash’ to signify a same-sex relationship between two characters and specifies a genre of fan stories positing homoerotic affairs between series protagonists” (Jenkins 186). Imaginings of sexual encounters between Star Trek’s Kirk and Spock were common in the early days of slash and, of course, were met with much criticism. However, many have defended the “slash” fanfiction genre as not simply pornographic but rather stories that allow “for a more thorough exploration of issues of intimacy, power, commitment, partnership, competition and attraction apparent both in the scripted actions of those characters and also in the nuances of the actor’s performances” (Jenkins 202). Regardless of the intricacies of the slash subgenre, early adopters were faced with legal threats, specifically, in 1981 Lucasfilm Ltd. declared, “Lucasfilm Ltd. does own all rights to the Star Wars characters and we are going to insist upon no pornography…. You don’t own these characters and can’t publish anything about them without our permission” (qtd. in Jenkins 31). Arguably the most important facet of slash is specifically that it has been, historically, a predominantly female subculture of fandom. Slash, in many respects, serves as the antithesis of traditional, heteronormative approaches to media representations of sexuality. In effect, feminist critic Joanna Russ suggests that slash reflects its female writers desires for “a sexual relationship that does not require their abandoning freedom, adventure, and first class humanity…sexual enjoyment that is intense, whole and satisfying…[and] intense emotionality denied to women within consumer culture” (qtd. in Jenkins 192).
As media platforms shift, and local frameworks of fandom are broadened to global networks, the issue of slash, and fanfiction more generally, gains new importance. Where early works of slash and fanfiction were relegated to limited run circulations of fanzines or group meet-ups, the Internet has both broadened the geographical scope and exponentially increased the quantity of such works. Not only are literary adaptations surfacing in tremendous quantity on myriad popular websites such as FanFiction.net, ArchiveofOurOwn.org, and AdultFanFiction.org, but endless remediations and remixes have proliferated through social media outlets like Facebook, YouTube, and Vimeo. As such, what at one point could be confronted as mere annoyances and simply addressed through legal channels—as was the case specifically stated with LucasFilms—fan fiction is becoming a central and unavoidable branch of many forms of popular culture. In effect, the producers of the hypotext are thusly faced with a critical dilemma. Should one approach these seemingly endless iterations of hypertexts confrontationally or is a tactful approach better suited in dealing with these unauthorized interpretations?
To examine how contemporary popular culture is approaching this issue, it is beneficial to examine two instances of a hypotext or producer of a hypotext directly confronting the hypertextual manifestations outside of their direct control. The examples that I will discuss represent two of perhaps the most popular sources of slash and fanfiction in contemporary popular culture. Supernatural and Twilight fanfiction represent 15,307 and 31,251 entries on the FanFiction.net archive respectively. In an effort to contextualize this quantity, Star Trek and Star Wars (two of the canonical targets of fanfiction) represent 3,484 and 8,381 entries respectively. Supernatural in particular, tells the story of two brothers, Sam and Dean Winchester, who fight supernatural threats. This series serves as not only a popular case in contemporary fanfiction but more specifically one of the most popular “slash” fictions. On the predominantly slash website ArchiveofOurOwn.org, the term “Wincest” brings up 16,402 separate fan works. This unabashedly direct term, of course, needs little explanation or clarification. Interestingly, such a seemingly transgressive category of fan adaptation would lead one to assume that the producers, distributors, writers, etc. of the relatively tame television show would assuredly take action against these works which not only depict the main characters in graphic homoerotic situations but, by extension—and more violative—in incestuous relations. Quite interestingly, the new media landscape precludes or at the very least problematizes this approach as the shear number of fans involved in these adaptations, and their ubiquity and visibility, places the producers of the content in a precarious position. Is it better to attack a large portion of your fan base or find an alternative approach?
Supernatural takes an approach that is at once highly reflexive and metatextual. In a 200th episode extravaganza, the protagonist brothers themselves, unknowingly, become spectators of a high school fanfiction musical production of Supernatural. The episode—perfectly titled “Fan Fiction”—opens with a drama teacher angrily storming out of the rehearsal of what is clearly (for those familiar with the show) an all-girl musical based on the very show being watched. In this first scene we are given an unmistakably disparaging reflexive commentary on the show itself as the drama teacher opines, “Why couldn’t they just do Godspell like good little skanks. Instead it’s this awful, unbelievable horror story. Like that stuff really happens. Theater is about life…truth! Where is the truth in Supernatural?” This last line is spoken while looking directly at the camera, which shoots voyeuristically through a bush. As soon as the last words are voiced the critic is grabbed by the very bush the camera was positioned in. This opening reflexively and transtextually positions Supernatural as both a work of subpar popular culture dealing with unimportant themes, yet simultaneously seems to conflate the unbelievable supernatural elements of the film with a work such as Godspell, which itself deals transtextually in religious themes highly cloaked in the supernatural. What’s more, our subjective position as—quite comically—the attacking shrub, is yet another reflexive tool arguably suggesting the futility of “high culture” criticism in the face of such uncontrollable fandom. We, the spectator shrub, have collectively lashed out and overpowered this stuffy critic. This scene fades out to a montage of Supernatural graphic titles that intertextually parody existing works—X Files, Indiana Jones, Casa Blanca, etc. Here we have our first approving wink at the fanfiction audience not only through the assault of the critic but additionally through the paratext of the title sequence, which effectively illustrates that the show itself is a dialogical and intertextual work, a fanfiction in its own right.
It is one thing to approach the broad issue of fanfiction without much disapproval, but what is perhaps more interesting is the direct reference to slash fiction or “Wincest” within the episode itself. As the two brothers walk in on the rehearsal of the fan adaptation, they stand shocked, terrified, and confused as the performers essentially sing about their lives. As the director notices their presence, she approaches—clueless as to their identities—and states, “I’m the director slash writer. Are you the press?” Unable to control his confusion, Dean Winchester shouts, “There’s no singing in Supernatural!” to which the assistant director snidely responds, “Well this is Marie’s interpretation.” The audible emphasis on the “slash”—complete with hand motion—in conjunction with the all female cast is immediately understood as clearly demarcating the work as a piece of “slash” fiction. The assistant director’s confrontational response to the very protagonists of the work is yet another admission for the fanfiction crowd to continue with their “interpretations.” Any subtlety regarding the “slash” fiction element is quickly removed in a later scene in which Dean explores backstage with the director. In another allusion to the activity of adaptation and fanfiction, Dean, looking at props, questions, “Where did you get all of this stuff.” The director quickly replies, “Some parts homemade, some parts repurposed, all of it original…” This is quickly followed by a close up of a disgusted Dean looking off screen. We then cut to a medium shot of the two actors playing Dean and Sam in the musical, standing very close together and flirtingly touching. Dean asks, “Why are they standing so close?” The director matter-of-factly responds, “They’re rehearsing the ‘BM’ scene. Boy melodrama. You know, where the boys get together and they’re driving or leaning on ‘baby’ [the car], drinking a beer, sharing their feelings.” At this point the camera cuts in for a swooning close up of the two actors as sentimental music begins to play. The director continues, “The two of them together, alone, bonded, united…” Dean uncomfortably interjects, “You know they’re brothers, right?” The director winkingly responds, “Subtext.” Later she reiterates the subtextual and goes a step further stating, “Then again, you can’t spell subtext without S-E-X.”
The directness, reflexivity, and approval of slash and fanfiction put forth in this episode is certainly a break with traditional attempts at reigning in, or at the very least discounting fanfiction as an unimportant and subpar offshoot of the “original” narrative world. The episode even goes so far as to suggest new variations on Supernatural “slash” as one brother argues to the other that there should be Samstiel slash fiction (Sam and a character Castiel) instead of just Destial (Dean and Castiel). Furthermore, Dean recounts the “actual” events that have occurred throughout the narrative discourse of the “real” show—the fiction the audience is familiar with—to which the director of the fanfiction responds, “That is the worst fanfiction I’ve ever heard!” Such a brief recounting of the episode barely scratches the surface but even this brief analysis makes clear the fairly direct approval of fanfiction and even the transgressive slash fiction adapted from the Supernatural universe as well as the direct questioning of an authentic narrative arc with the show itself being criticized as merely subpar fanfiction.
Such a seemingly direct acknowledgment and approval of fanfiction should be understood not as a kind of token gesture on behalf of the producers of the show, but rather one way to approach and possibly gain some sense of control in an era where fanfiction itself is in many ways able to surpass or parallel “original” works. Participating in fanfiction has moved beyond snail mail “zines” and small meet-ups to a global network of hyperconnected, dedicated fans intent on seeing the narrative world unfold according to their wishes, even if that means fundamentally altering the world of the hypertext themselves. Linda Hutcheon articulates this shifting power dynamic between producer and consumer stating, “We have seen adaptations disrupt elements like priority and authority. But they can also destabilize both formal and cultural identity and thereby shift power relations” (174).
This brings us to another contemporary example of perhaps the most “successful” fanfiction to date, specifically E. L. James’s unauthorized adaptation of Twilight (Stephanie Meyer). This case study poses an altogether different means of recuperation on behalf of the producers of the dominant hypotext. James’s fanfiction, itself an overly sexualized adaptation of the novel—turned film—Twilight, gained increasing popularity and visibility through fanfiction websites. The fanfiction, initially titled Master’s of the Universe, began as “Twilight fanfiction that was posted on the Internet. The trilogy was picked up by an Australian publisher, The Writer’s Coffee Shop, who released them as e-books and print-on-demand paperbacks” (James). Following this initial success, Universal Studios opted to buy the film rights, effectively reincorporating the work back into the dominant culture industry.
It is worth mentioning at this point that such an act of cultural clawback additionally necessitates protecting the reincorporated work from further unauthorized adaptations. Quite ironically, we can turn to the lawsuit filed against Smash Pictures for adapting the fanfiction Fifty Shades of Grey novels into a parody porn film titled Fifty Shades of Grey: A XXX Adaptation (Gardner). What is of course ironic in this particular scenario is not only the fact that the hypotext itself began as an unauthorized adaptation, but, furthermore, the pornographic adaptation is argued to be closer to the source novel than the authorized film adaptation due to its ability to retain the graphic sex scenes cut from the Hollywood adaptation to appease the censors.
At this point, we can effectively return to our initial question regarding what exactly demarcates “fanfiction” in an era when “fandom” is spreading internationally and fans themselves are progressively gaining control of popular cultural forms generally assumed as untouchable in terms of shaping the dominant narrative world. What is particularly important to note regarding the aforementioned scenarios is the interaction between hypotext and hypertext; receiver and transmitter; consumer and producer. Although this relationship is surely shifting dramatically, what can be said to differentiate fanfiction from mainstream constructions is precisely the power structure in relation to individuals. Returning to J. J. Abrams to clarify this argument, although Star Wars: The Force Awakens is undoubtedly helmed by a self-proclaimed fan, the work itself cannot be considered a work of fanfiction. To be sure, Abrams may indeed be the world’s biggest Star Wars fan, but the truth and/or intensity of Abrams’s “fandom” is irrelevant as the film itself was commissioned from an authorial position. As such, it is depoliticized and effectively becomes a forced fragment of the dominant culture industry. One may choose to acknowledge this work as a continuation and elaboration of the Star Wars narrative world but whether one acknowledges the work or not does not alter the fact that it is permanently embedded within the narrative. Conversely, fanfiction emerges from a position of inherent “inferiority.” This is not to say that such works are artistically inferior to the hypotext but rather one must create the work first and foremost as an outsider. It is therefore only through collective consideration and support that a fanfiction work itself can gain the attention of the producers of a hypotext and thus be incorporated within the traditional universe or recuperated as an alternate fragment of the dominant culture industry.
Such an understanding of fanfiction points toward not only the power of collective action but additionally the seemingly unstoppable shift toward more collective forms of artistic content which will—and have—fundamentally alter preconceived notions of “original” works. This shift is already well underway when one examines the alteration in the channels of production and distribution. Siobhan O’Flynn suggests, “Industry giants operate in a space where the platforms of communication change in rapid cycles of adoption and obsolescence, where audiences remix and extend given properties creating new forms of intermedial adaptation, and where disruptive innovations launched by unknowns can alter existing business models without warning” (qtd. in Hutcheon 181). It is within this volatile market where one can seemingly sense the drastic sea change regarding the production, distribution, and authorship of content. O’Flynn continues:
Where media conglomerates and IP holders once controlled the production and distribution of adaptations, with limited temporal, geographic or product releases, audiences now claim all aspects of ownership over content that they identify with, immerse themselves in, adapt, remix, reuse, and share. The digital world in which these practices take place is driven by ‘variation and repetition,’ by porousness, instability, collaboration, and participation on a global scale; the tools of production, distribution, and communication are easily accessible, networked, and ubiquitous (qtd. in Hutcheon 206).
Perhaps most interestingly here, is not the fact that fans themselves are in a much better position to shape and alter existing narrative worlds, but rather are precisely in a position to create entirely new forms and worlds through hypermediated, transtextual reconfigurations in which the intertexts themselves are not only made apparent but the remediated form of the texts are foregrounded.
In order to better describe this new configuration of fandom, fanfiction, and authorship, we need only turn to the fascinating and complex otaku culture. Otaku seems to exist in a post-modern Baudrillardian reality where “the distinction between original products and commodities and their copies weakens, while an interim form called the simulacrum, which is neither original nor copy, becomes dominant” (Azuma 32). Otaku can conceivably be understood as the Japanese reformulation of “fandom.” It generally denotes a devoted fan of the manga/anime subculture, which has, in a similar fashion to US comic book fandom, become increasingly popular and visible in contemporary Japanese culture. What is perhaps most interesting and rather different than the previous illustrations of traditional fan culture is the interactivity and the complete disregard or absolute dissolution of a hypotext. To sufficiently illustrate this shift, we can begin by briefly discussing Tsubasa dojinshi or what can be understood as a close relation to traditional fanfiction.
Tsubasa dojinshi refers to a specific and early form of Japanese fanfiction in which—predominantly female—fans of an existing work, Captain Tsubasa, collaboratively produced their own “small narratives” based on characters featured within the existing work. What is interesting here is not merely this work of reimagining but rather the popularity that such works garnered and the corresponding blurring of the lines of authorship and authenticity. Otsuka Eiji argues that what is of fundamental importance within this practice is the creation and subsequent consumption of “small narratives” in an effort to make visible the “grand narrative.” Otsuka argues, “It would be incorrect to call these girls’ works ‘parodies.’ A parodic work is one that depends on the existence of a strong original work toward which it then holds an ironic, mocking, or parodic stance” (Otsuka 110). Are these works simply fanfiction adaptations? Otsuka would most likely argue that they are quite a bit more complex as the authorized Captain Tsubasa texts themselves merely serve as “small narratives” existing to make visible the “grand narrative,” thus the Tsubasa dojinshi serve precisely the same purpose. Evidently, many others were in agreement with this stance as “several publishing houses based around the commercial publication of dojinshi versions of Tsubasa appeared” in response to their growing popularity (Otsuka 111). In effect, the argument of authenticity becomes irrelevant as each small narrative effectively serves to articulate the grand narrative.
If Tsubasa dojinshi creators can effectively be understood as challenging traditional hierarchical paradigms based on authenticity, than what does this mean for future content creators and consumers. In an essay published in 1989, Otsuka himself posed a similar question and answered it thusly, “At this future point in time, the commodity producers will become excluded from the system of consumption and will no longer be able to manage the commodities they themselves had originally produced” (113). Effectively, the consumer, in an economic self-fertilization, will become both the locus of consumption and production. “There will no longer be manufacturers. There will merely be countless consumers who make commodities with their own hands and consume them with their own hands” (Otsuka 113).
Otsuka’s prediction is shocking in its prescience. Reexamining otaku culture in its current iteration reveals precisely this post-modernist turn. Contemporary otaku culture can be characterized by a complete fragmentation of small narratives into:
Products [that] have no independent value; they are judged by the quality of the database in the background. So, as these databases display various expressions depending on the differing modes of ‘reading up’ by users, consumers, once they are able to possess the settings, can produce any number of derivative works that differ from the originals (Azuma 39).
In this context, the term database is indicative of a new form of understanding works as increasingly dialogic and intertextual to the point where any “grand narrative” itself becomes irrelevant. Otaku culture is concerned not with a narrative or original text but rather the connectedness, similarities, derivations, and reappropriations of existing works. This of course has led to the complete dissolution of a hierarchical authenticity. The concept of “original” becomes ludicrous in a sea of simulacra. Such an alteration in interpretation and valuation alters the very nature of commodity production in that the producer or author of a work is rarely recognized as such. In effect, the appearance of new artistic forms tends to work in reverse order. Azuma points to the emergence of a popular character within otaku culture—Di Gi Charat—that was created through “sampling and combining popular elements from recent otaku culture” (46) to serve merely as a mascot for a dealer of anime. Since Di Gi Charat’s emergence in 1998, a “solid world of its own” has developed around the character “collectively and anonymously” (45). Di Gi Charat can be read as merely a precursor to the now ubiquitous reversal of production. In otaku culture, narrative becomes a malleable afterthought authored collectively while the character serves merely as an amalgamation of existing works. “As a result, many of the otaku characters created in recent years are connected to many characters across individual works, rather than emerging form a single author or work” (Azuma 53).
This usurpation of the existing order can effectively be read as an evolutionary shift in fan culture more broadly. The extreme case of otaku culture where “it is quite ambiguous what the original is or who the original author is” (Azuma 45) to any given work, effectively illustrates the precarious position not of fanfiction as posited in the opening of this paper, but rather the role of authenticity and authorship. In a continuously growing, hyperconnected, global market, the model of an individual authoritative producer of meaning within a given text is increasingly difficult to maintain. Not only is this abundantly clear within otaku culture but, additionally, within the aforementioned analysis of both Supernatural and Twilight. Both of these works, confronted by the increasing demands of a collective fandom, are forced to respond. How to respond—whether through a seemingly good hearted, passive nod; a recuperative effort to market and retain a derivative work; or, as the LucasFilms episode indicates, direct attacks on the fan world—is going to be the fundamental challenge facing the “producers of meaning” in the coming years. Regardless, fanfiction and collective authorship is clearly an embedded and evolving piece of the contemporary media landscape and will only continue to gain traction as new and revolutionizing media possibilities surface.
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