Anna J. Cook is a queer feminist, librarian, historian, and writer. She lives in the Boston metropolitan area with her wife, also a fan fiction writer, their two cats, and over one thousand books. She publishes her fan fiction at Archive of Our Own under the pen name elizajane.This post was adapted by invitation from a three part series at her personal blog, the feminist librarian.
For as long as I can remember, the questions “what happens next?” and “could this happen differently?” have been central to my engagement with fictional narratives – as has the assumption that I could answer those questions through the act of transformative storytelling, or the writing of fan fiction.
As a queer feminist, I look around me and see mainstream narratives wherin scant attention is paid to queer experiences and women’s sexual subjectivity is given short shrift. The realm of sexual pleasure and agency, in mainstream stories, is generally a land where only the conventionally-attractive, the young, and the able-bodied dare to tread. In this context of canon erasure, I see erotic fan fiction as an opportunity for activism: a chance to insert ourselves into a space that so often overlooks human sexual variety.
In my writing, I bring a messier vision of sexual intimacy into direct dialogue with the conventional narratives of mainstream media. I dis-assemble and re-form the original work as a way of pushing back against restrictive gender and sexuality norms. I write stories that explore the vulnerability of desire: what it means to expose what (and just how much) you want. I try to include broken humanness: awkward conversations and misunderstandings, bodies that frustrate and fears that overwhelm. It is my hope to affirm that no matter how broken we are, it is still possible to reach that moment of knowing and being known. Of being naked together – in every sense of the word.
Talking back to original works in this way, centering often marginal voices, is to me an explicitly political, feminist act.
What experience (if any) have you had with fan fiction? What role do you think it has “talking back” to original works and broader cultural narratives?