Postcard For Reader + TIME

Do you write fanfiction? A new project you might be interested in.

Everybody here knows Katherine -- she's come over to talk about some controversial and interesting topics. Currently, she's working her way through the erotic versions of The Vincent Boys to see if the added sex scenes were worth it. (Apparently, the entire books are not.)

However, she's working on a new project and since I'm helping mod the blog for it, I figured I'd share it with you guys here. It's definitely something up my alley and I know some of you might be interested in reading or contributing to it.

"Fiction's about what it is to be a fucking human being." – David Foster Wallace

Pardon the coarse language and (vaguely) cliched quote-opening, folks. I've got the vocabulary of a sailor to begin with, but I don't mean to offend. Also, I just can't help but pimp out a Wallace quote whenever possible and I just feel that this one really fits the sort of project I'm getting into.

Thanks for showing interest (in the project), by the way. I'm so excited to get this off the ground and I love that you want to know more and get involved.

I've been trolling around a few of the #darker corners of the internet lately, specifically some of the writing communities on Tumblr and Livejournal. While one of the most prominent things I've seen has been young people with a clear, unadulterated love for the craft of fiction – people who clearly want to write, tell stories and get better at both of those things while delivering something to an audience. In the modern world, I think that's a pretty cool and relatively safe way to take part in the writing process, grow and do all the other beautiful things that come along with writing.

But, I've also run into something else: stories that depict incredibly problematic things. From uneven and typically sexist power imbalances, abuse and rape apologism to rabid girl on girl hate and body and slut shaming, there's a lot going on in the fanfiction world that manage to work against every good thing these communities build by promoting lazy (and oftentimes awful) characterization, bad storytelling and ultimately socially harmful situations.

Now, I'm not saying that everything in the written world needs to be sunshine and rainbows. I'm far from that naive. However, there is a clear difference between a story that addresses these real issues and one that romanticize them (most commonly due to ignorance, inexperience or the extreme media exposure). There's a clear difference between the culture of consensual sex, fantasy and kinks and straight up non-consensual actions and that difference should be noted if the writer wishes to tell his or her stories effectively.

The thing about writing and creative license is that the words you put out into the ether matter; the stories that romanticize a culture of abuse promote said culture, whether the creator intends for them to or not. [1]

That's what spawned the idea for this project – which I'm currently calling “Feminist Fiction.”

What if we talked to online fiction writers about their craft and the stories they're telling? What if we find out where the problematic situations are coming from in a way that promotes sex positivity, celebrating the differences in sexuality and writing styles? What if there was a one-stop place for young writers to discuss the social issues in their work or their reading material, to ask questions and better understand what their stories are doing without fear of judgment?

Think of it as a hybrid of a media literacy/feminist theory/creative writing seminar.

Because that's basically what this project is going to be.

Now, where do you come in?

I'm currently looking to hold email/skype/phone interviews (whatever you're most comfortable with) with authors of fanfiction to peak into their heads. I'll ask about the sort of stories you've written or read, situations you've encountered and ethical dilemmas you've crossed. Nothing's really concrete in these interviews, it's just a chance to hold a conversation with you as a member of a community and find out your personal experience with the fanfic world.

If you have your own idea for a post to reflect on an issue, we can hash that out too. I want this to be a platform to start conversations and hear different sides of stories.

This project is in its earliest stages and any and all suggestions will be considered. I love getting insight from others whenever possible!

Thanks again for taking the time to read my crazy ranting and (potentially) getting involved. I feel like the online writing communities are such nurturing places, fundamentally, and that these tools could benefit a lot of young writers and show that there is merit to what people are creating on the internet each day --- even the slash fic [2].


Katherine Speller

[1.] If a writer wants to put that message out there, then fine. But there are consequences: readers, publishers, critics recognizing problematic structures or, worse yet, not. Sometimes a writer with good intentions, thinking they're characterizing their romantic male lead as a protective, macho man is actually characterizing a controlling and abusive figure (cough, Edward Cullen, cough).

[2] Hell, especially the slash fic.

Katherine, and more:

Do you write fanfiction? A new project you might be interested in. + TIME