Fan Fiction and Academic Writing

Since I seem to have time on my hands, I recently volunteered to write for New Zealand’s Creative Commons about various topics that may be relevant to copy right and creativity. My first entry went up a few days about Fan Fiction, and while I attempt to champion the cause, and stick by to the idea that people should write more because it does make them more creative, and indeed eventually makes them read more which expands the entire literary market, it is a tough sell. Why?

I remember  back when I was very young, I read a lot of Fan Fiction. Mostly X-files stuff since that was the only thing I cared about and I couldn’t wait to read the new situations. Then fast forward a few years, and in University I had a roommate who wrote Fan Fiction, I can’t remember in what area, and I was upset. 1) Because she had gone beyond me, beyond the reading and 2) I didn’t think she was cool enough (not that I was cool by any stretch of the imagination). I fell short of the whole community again. See, I’m not nerdy or geeky enough with my obsessions to be accepted, but the fact that I have such leanings makes me strange to the outside world. I’m guessing a lot of people must fall in this category but because of this ‘middle of the road’ mentality, we never meet or form support groups. We are perhaps, just a bit normal.

Anyway, writers were never supposed to be ‘cool’. So what is wrong with Fan Fiction? It IS creative. I guess it comes down to quality control–the complaint against a lot of indie publishing. But really what is quality. You can have a perfectly written manuscript with a terrible story. Or a terribly written great story. We are looking for that sweet spot. But that ‘spot’ is subjective.

Throughout the course of my PhD, I was told again and again what a terrible writer I was. And I would meticulously re-read my paragraphs for what they meant. I think, they hated my style–my voice. That illusive thing that writers are searching for all the time. Academic writing is supposed to be bland and dry. The more boring it is, the better it sells (to libraries and people who only skim read it because it is so boring).

Academic writing may have something in common with Fan Fiction then–that sort of tight initiation group and a particular way of writing. Not everyone can fit in. Perhaps this is a bit of a stretch. Neither is evil, both need something a bit more. I want MORE creativity from Fan Fiction and a transition into ‘real fiction’ which is silly. And I want academic writing to be interesting.

As a way of confession, I finally opened up my old thesis. I’ve decided to take a Fan Fiction approach to it. Make it more interesting, fill in the gaps and tell the story that people actually want to hear. But to do that I have to become a fan of my own work, which is going to be a tough one.

Sorry for the ramble. But I’d love to hear thoughts on Fan Fiction and Academic writings for you guys. Parallels, differences, you hate one, love the other. Again, I guess my mantra really is: just write.


5 thoughts on “Fan Fiction and Academic Writing

  1. your dissertation is interesting and despite the comments from the ‘judges’ – it was dry enough to be academic. the sad thing is that the topic itself seems to be of immense interest to so many people … so yes! do doctor it up and see what happens …


    • There is a lot of work to do on it. I think ‘dry’ is you being a tad nice. For such an interesting topic, it is downright boring at the moment. I might have to just start with a blank document and rewrite it. But yeah, we’ll see 🙂


  2. ‘And I want academic writing to be interesting.’ THIS.

    I remember in my first year of uni, I included in my essay on semantic change several witty remarks, which my tutor praised highly, telling me it was always a pleasant relief when they encounter humour done well in an essay. (I don’t know if it was received well because he was American; I don’t think I’ve been as audacious with the rest of my British tutors.)

    For whatever reason, I stopped doing that, which is a shame. But I’m all for challenging tutors and professors with provocative essays. I refuse to subscribe to preestablished notions of thought and write conformed pieces of bullshit. Okay, that’s not completely true—I’d still like to get a good grade so I maintain a balance, but I’d rather write something I’m proud of, an original opinion or position, and get a lower grade for it than write something I don’t believe in to get a higher grade. But I guess I can afford to do so because I’m not pursuing a career in academia.

    I’m still searching for ways to be radical in academic writing, but I only have 6 months left. I’m writing my dissertation on comics, so let’s see how interesting I can make it.


    • Have you also noticed that the best answer in the UK is always a middle-of-the-road answer? You have to give evidence, balanced on both sides to achieve the highest marks–whereas in the USA most want you to take a stance and defend it to the death. It is an interesting difference in the academic cultures. I’m glad that the writing is more important than the grade. Whatever they tell you the grades are more and more arbitrary and it is a shameful reality that good essays can be graded down if the marker disagrees with your ideas. I’ve heard way too many giggles from tutors and harsh comments made from their own ignorance…

      I tended to leave most of my witty remarks for footnotes in the hope that they would pass inspection there…

      Good luck with the dissertation!


      • I have noticed that (it’s no coincidence major news outlets appear to adopt similar approaches too…). I personally prefer the UK method. And yes, about grades being arbitrary. But then again, I expected it considering English Lit is one of the most subjective disciplines around. Maybe that’s why I feel a bit more free to write liberally, knowing even what I consider to be ‘tutor pleasing’ could well easily be perceived as otherwise.

        Being still an undergrad, I’m barred from footnote explanations. Bummer. Thanks!


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