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Should there be More Criticism of Fan Fiction?
by Janet

The dearth of fan fiction criticism has been noted in many contexts.  Some of us greet this lack with joy, others with sorrow.

My feelings are rather ambiguous.  Perhaps fan fiction should be a criticism-free zone?  Or is this bad for the genre?  Would fan fiction benefit from being scrutinizedon a regular basis by some sort of ad hoc committee?  Or would this scrutiny merely scare off any potential participants?

Why should there be criticism of something that is done out of love, and which receives no compensation other than reader approval?  Professional writers get paid at least starvation wages for their efforts.  They should expect to be called on their fouls, it's par for the course.  But why should a fan fiction writer expect anything worse than indifference, even if she produces nothing but dreck?  After all, we didn't pay good money for her story.  Just delete it, and forget it!

On the other hand, we would all like our fan fiction to be up to the standards of, say, Francesca, or Emily.  Perhaps Fan Fic Crit would help.  Surely it couldn't hurt. Let's point out everything that we hate about all that dreck out there, and maybe fan fiction will improve in the future.

However, do critics ever help shape literature?  Does getting a scathing review in The Times turn a bad writer into a good one, or even discourage him or her from writing?If one considers the amount of literary criticism available, most professional writers should be superior to Shakespeare by now.  But a mere sample of the current best sellers would put that theory to rest.

So I am going to stay on the fence in this debate, since I can see the validity of the arguments on both sides of the issue.  Sue me!

There is, however, another kind of criticism which I have not mentioned.  This is the sort of criticism which considers trends, themes, etc.  It points out the good aspectsof literature as well as the bad.  This could be useful to fan fiction writers, and readers.

I would love to see more consideration of the themes of fan fiction, and why they exist.  Recent columns in this forum have questioned why there are so many stories in one fandom, and so few in others, for example.  This sort of discussion is more interesting to me than complaints about bad fan fic.

How about some comparisons of fan fiction from different shows?  I don't mean: 'Which is better?',but: 'What are the differences or similarities?'  And if there are none,why?

And what about some comparisons of fan fiction to other forms of literature, while we're at it?  What do fan fiction writers do differently?  Are these differences GoodThings, as Martha Stewart would say? (Though not, I'm sure, in this context!)

Does fan fiction have value?  Does Slash have value?  Or are we just wasting our time here?

Now, I don't think we are wasting our time with either Slash, or fan fiction in general, but I'd like to see this question addressed by placing fan ficton, and Slash in the context of literature and society.  Perhaps when we consider the place of fan fiction in our society, the writers will take their work more seriously, and want to improve, all on their own.

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