this is gonna be weird

Charles Butler hannibal at
Sun Nov 21 05:05:09 EST 2004


> There are some secondary characters in some books whom I feel need
> and giving their own stories.  I shan't give examples because it wouldn't
> be fair, but it sometimes feels as if there ought to be a Society for the
> Protection of Spear-Carriers (to take the word from Alexei Panshin's *Rite
> of Passage*).

A lot of 'respectable' fan fiction is in this category, isn't it? 'Retold
from the point of view of...-fiction' is a sub-genre in itself. *Beowulf*
from the point of view of Grendel; *Hamlet* from the point of view of
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern; *Jane Eyre* from point of view of Mrs
Rochester; *Heart of Darkness* from the point of view of the Africans; *The
Wizard of Oz* from the point of view of the Wicked Witch of the West.
'Fan-fiction' very often shades into critique with these examples (Chinua
Achebe wasn't paying Conrad a compliment with *Things Fall Apart*, for
example). They seem designed to identify and explore some blind-spot in the
original work: just *why* didn't R&G's deaths weigh on Hamlet's conscience?
Maybe that element of critique is part of what distinguishes it from
fan-fiction? On the other hand, it makes them feel kind of ungrateful, which
fan-fiction doesn't.

A question which may have some bearing on the issue of definition: does
*Mistress Masham's Repose* owe more to *Gulliver* (from which it directly
takes the Lilliputians); or to *The Box of Delights* (of which its villains
are so reminiscent)? If it counts at all as fan-fiction it's on the strength
of the former; but it feels more derivative on the basis of the latter.

And now, to the Archers...


To unsubscribe, email dwj-request at with the body "unsubscribe".
Visit the archives at

More information about the Dwj mailing list