Kristina Busse

Abstract for Will the Real Ending Please Stand Up? Experimental Multimedia Narratives and Fan Fiction

Console-ing Passions (May 2006)

Fan fiction collectively embodies many of the more significant postmodern truisms: beyond its roots in popular culture and its growth alongside postmodern theory during the last four decades, fan fictionís destabilization of canon and coexistence of multiple contradictory realities challenges uniform notions of truth and identity; its intertextuality and constant questioning of single authorship blurs clear boundaries between author and reader, literature and analysis, and, at times, text and reality. Yet few fan texts contain the formal stylistic and narrative features more typically associated with postmodernism as literary category. The seeming rarity of postmodern, experimental, and multimedia fan fiction must be understood within the writing tradition of fan fiction, a tradition that as a whole already employs such stylistic devices. In this paper, I argue that fan texts must be read against the entirety of critical and creative writings within their community context at the same time as they are

creative artifacts in their own right. Only when seeing fan fiction as both single and collective text, as artistic product and social artifact, can we begin to interpret its literary characteristics. In such a contextually contingent reading where any single story is but a part of a larger fantext, it becomes clear that even though the single text may not employ all the possibilities new media offers, the collection of fan texts does. Whereas the single story may not necessarily employ new media technology to its fullest potential, its creation, dissemination, and reception often does. In particular, fan texts comment on not only the source text but also its surrounding communities, thus responding to creative and analytical debates as well as layers of personal interaction. The ultimate reliance on pure text in most stories is noteworthy, especially considering the rhizomatic structure of fan favored interfaces such as LiveJournal and the recent move to image intensive presentation of fan texts.

Far from being dismissible, texts experimenting with narrative, structure, or style are exemplary of the experimental use of the new media interfaces. At the same time, their exceptional status is indicative of fan fiction's overall reliance on more traditional narrative as its central driving feature. This paper looks at fan stories that utilize the new media interface, such as including non-textual elements or linking to alternative or supplementary material, in order to show how these devices often replicate a context that already contains multiple co-existing storylines, endings, options. Likewise, I connect multimedia fan texts to the way fandom relies heavily on multimedia interaction. In particular, I focus on new media texts shaped by blogging tools such as LiveJournal role-playing games and comment fic. These texts suggest that the strong collaborative nature of fandom encourages experimental forms that make use of multiple authorships and furthermore question clear boundaries between writers and readers.