Kristina Busse

Abstract for Historical Memory, Affective Imagination: Fan Representation in Media Fan Fiction

PCA (April 2009)

Fan fiction regularly includes critical analysis of its source texts, often focusing on specific interpretive concerns or debates within fan communities. Such fiction thematizes fans’ experience of reading and engaging with texts—particularly via stories that trace and commemorate specific events, debates, interpretations, and approaches. As such, media fan texts become an archival memory of fandom, of the conversations surrounding the source texts, and of fannish affective responses to these conversations.

This essay looks at fan fiction that focus on this particular process of fandom analysis and the texts it creates. Such stories take a variety of forms, addressing fans and fandom itself in style or theme. Stylistic engagements occur when stories directly incorporate the contentious nature of fandom by enacting multiple points of view. Thematic treatment often uses (one or several simultaneous) Alternate Universe scenarios to foreground the fact that every interpretation effectively creates a world alternate to the one depicted on the source text.

Other fan stories complicate the way fans engage with the television characters and the bodies that play them on screen by thematizing the fans’ fannish imaginary. Focusing on two very different readings of the fan/star relationship in Speranza’s “OK Computer” and Rivka T.’s “Filthy Minds,” I suggest that these stories archive traces of the ways fans theorize themselves positively as well as negatively; fans cast themselves as idealizing creators who give the characters backgrounds, complexity, and life, and as aggressive manipulators who force the characters to fulfill their own desires.