fandomthennow:


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Fandom Then/Now presents research conducted in 2008 and uses to facilitate fan conversations about fan fiction’s past and future. In my past few posts I’ve asked what similarities/differences you see between commercial romance and fan fiction. Now, I’m going to start talking through the things that I noticed in 2008 as I read different works of fan fiction and commercial romance. 

What do you think of my findings? Read the full write up on fan fiction and romance here. Share what you think about this on the Fandom Then/Now website or respond here using the #fandomthennow tag.

[With] fan and commercial romance authors producing so many stories each month, it is not possible to definitively map out either writing space. Instead, I decided to think about these things as tendencies within each zone of production, rather than story elements that “define” either commercial romance or fan fiction… These patterns help us better understand the role that production environment can play in the construction of erotic and romantic stories, as well as how production environments organize different communities of readers.

Here are a few core tendencies I noticed as I read:

Two: Character & Relationship Development

In [fan fiction’s] approach to character and relationship development, attraction often emerges out of an existing partnership rather than hitting like a bolt of lightning at the first meeting. This, in turn, opens up the possibility of shifting some of the emotional intensity of the story from one aspect of the narrative (the meeting) onto other kinds of interactions. Preexisting characters and story-worlds may also impact the ways that romantic or sexual tension is established. By shifting away from that charged first meeting and with the characters already acquainted, the author potentially needs to spend less time introducing the characters to each other and rapidly escalating their relationship.

I hesitate to go so far as to call one approach more realistic than the other. It’s hard to think of Hogwarts, Atlantis or Mordor as particularly realistic settings. However, this shift away from a charged meeting may lend itself to different narrative foundations for relationships. It may also allow authors to experiment with different and potentially more mundane relationship conflicts. (For example, ‘You didn’t pay the electric bill!’ versus ‘You were kidnapped by werewolves!’.) This leads me to suspect that both the preexisting relationships/storyworlds fan fiction is typically built on and the prevalence of stand-alone stories within commercial romances are facilitating some of the variations between these two storytelling forms.

What do you think? Do you notice relationship-focused fan fiction using different types of narrative conflict or developing tension differently than a classic romance novel might?

Hot Under the Bonnet | Bitch Media

Although technically “romance novels,” these books stand out in the genre. As much as they overlap in plot structure with more traditional romances, they diverge in sexual tone. In this, the books help readers process their experience of a sexualized culture, and allow them to retreat from that culture temporarily. The characters lead moral lives, wear modest clothing, and abstain from sexual expression unless they’re married. Descriptions of women’s physical attributes—the bedrock on which most romance novels are built—are almost absent, which offers a refreshing lack of body objectification. As one characters says of his fiancée in Lewis’s The Shunning, “Of course, a woman’s beauty was not the main consideration when taking a mate, but when a woman was as pretty as Katie Lapp, the spark was stronger.” Additionally, the text is written without even the suggestion of sex, in keeping with the preferences of the genre’s mostly evangelical Christian readership. On her wedding day, for instance, Katie is embarrassed to have to admit she had not remained “pure,” because she had kissed a boy a few years ago. Fifty Shades of Rumspringa, this is not.

So what lies behind the allure of the Amish among evangelical and mainstream audiences alike? Perhaps it’s that the Amish seem like a convenient vehicle for citizens of a quickly modernizing culture to process their own insecurities and the changes they see around them, especially in terms of technology, gender, sexuality, race, and religion.

Interesting take on the current popularity of Amish-themed romances.

“…almost any romance author you speak to about the genre will quickly tell you that what they write is not true life but a fantasy. The critical space between what one reads and likes and what one actually does is something that critics of the genre must remember, especially because their own policing of women’s desires is the product of the patriarchal system they are trying to criticize. MacLean argues that "we have to give ourselves permission as women to have fantasies. We aren’t saying that men should threaten sexual dominance or harassment or abuse. But it’s okay if we, at some point, find the idea of that threat hot.” In a society that often wants to boil women’s sexual experiences into the polar opposites of purity or sluttiness, romance novels, even when we may as individuals judge their plots to be problematic, are the largest cultural space available for women to read about and imagine their own sexual fantasies.“

Beyond Bodice-Rippers: How Romance Novels Came to Embrace Feminism,” Jessica Luther, The Atlantic

(I agree with a lot of the ideas in this article re. present day romance, but I’d feel more comfortable with them if the author seemed a bit more aware of what was going on in romances in the 70s and 80s.)

…almost any romance author you speak to about the genre will quickly tell you that what they write is not true life but a fantasy. The critical space between what one reads and likes and what one actually does is something that critics of the genre must remember, especially because their own policing of women’s desires is the product of the patriarchal system they are trying to criticize. MacLean argues that “we have to give ourselves permission as women to have fantasies. We aren’t saying that men should threaten sexual dominance or harassment or abuse. But it’s okay if we, at some point, find the idea of that threat hot.” In a society that often wants to boil women’s sexual experiences into the polar opposites of purity or sluttiness, romance novels, even when we may as individuals judge their plots to be problematic, are the largest cultural space available for women to read about and imagine their own sexual fantasies.

Beyond Bodice-Rippers: How Romance Novels Came to Embrace Feminism,” Jessica Luther, The Atlantic

(I agree with a lot of the ideas in this article re. present day romance, but I’d feel more comfortable with them if the author seemed a bit more aware of what was going on in romances in the 70s and 80s.)

The inseparability of sex and gender in practice is one of the things that romance genres make obsessively visible, and one of the ways in which romance is itself pornographic. Romance is always seeking to display the imperative bind between sex and gender without, perhaps, naming it as such. The imperative to visibility in porn is also embedded in the themes of revelation and discovery that shape a romance narrative, always exposing the truth of feelings, desires, and character, and always manipulating the audience’s desire to know what they already know… both romance and porn consume the question of sexed and gendered relationships more for its epistemological context than its content.

Catherine Driscoll (“One True Pairing,” 94)