Kristina Busse

Abstract for Intense Intertextuality: Derivative Works in Context

Media in Transition (May 2007)

Mainstream media and self-reflexive fan discourses often conflate amateur fan writing with the professional version of derivative works, which range from mythological adaptations like the Iliad to postmodern rewrites like The Hours. Such conflation often views audience-authored creativity as training wheels, as a stepping stone to becoming a commercial writer. Even as media convergence erodes the dichotomy between fan and professional, fan fiction’s raison d’être must be understood on its own terms, as a very personal—if not intimate—textual engagement. Looking at two case studies (the recent debates surrounding fannish appropriation of fan texts and the problematic responses to the nomination of a fan story for a professional award), I want to suggest a difference in affect between different modes of sampling and remixing textual materials. That centrality of affect, compounded by fan fiction’s near ephemeral intertextuality (with source text, cultural and literary context, and, most importantly, other derivative interpretive texts), suggests that we must recognize amateur derivative fiction as its own form of writing; we cannot simply divorce fan fiction from its context and equate it with other forms of derivative creativity. Indeed, recognizing the importance of intimacy and intertextuality in fan fiction helps explain why such texts often elicit popular (and even critical) anxieties when placed in positions usually reserved for commercial texts.