That ship hasn’t sailed yet

12 Jun
by Darryl Ayo

(c) Samir M. Barrett

Thanks to Kel McDonald for pointing me at this cartoon.

Kel Says: “I was pitching my book to a girl at anime central. She told me she doesn’t read comics with girls in them, because girls get in the way of the shipping”

(C) Bryan Lee O’Malley; art by Kris Jacque

“Shipping,” if you’re not into the slang, is the term that fans sometimes use to indicate discussions about romantic pairings that they would like to root for. Often shipping is a driving force behind fan fiction.

(C) Andrew Hussie; art by Yuko Ota

Here is the gist of my response:

I’m very intrigued by this style of experiencing literature (movies, tv shows, comics, prose novels) where the actual TEXT (what is literally in the story) is used as a jumping-off point by the reader (or viewer) to explore fantasies based on said text. In which the text serves as a passive background for the reader’s active imagination.

(C) Marvel Entertainment; art by Magnolia Porter

I feel that I had a bit of that impulse when I was young and reading X-Men, imagining entire alternate storylines or what I wished would happen. Perhaps it appears more magnified in today’s pop culture because these thoughts are no longer fleeting and are instead immortalized in blogs and fan-fiction rings and so on.

(C) Marvel Entertainment; art by Corey Lewis

(C) Bryan Lee O’Malley; art by “SourTea

(C) Andrew Hussie; art by Harry Hazard

(C) Andrew Hussie; art by Magnolia Porter

It seems that for many people who are seriously involved in “fandom,” the literal text is of no greater importance than a common bar where you’d meet up with your friends; the text serves as a foundation upon which to build and create and interact. In this way, things like fan art and fan fiction and “head canon” become more important to some people involved in fandoms. The original textual material is like a natural resource which is mined; the fan-creations become the artistic expression for fans. Source material takes on an otherworldly detached, yet ever-present quality, akin to religion.

What fandom a person is a part of may as well be that person’s religious order.

(C) Bryan Lee O’Malley; art by Ruth Afrita

As a writer and artist, I give a great deal of thought to what it means to be the creator of a thing. And of course I am a reader and viewer of art as well. Until recently, I haven’t given too much thought to the idea of interplay between creator, creation and audience and how that stream can flow in different directions. Very interested in how these cultures of fandom work and what they mean.

Let’s talk.

9 Responses to “That ship hasn’t sailed yet”

  1. Brandon June 12, 2011 at 6:56 pm #

    I really like the idea of a show or comc being the natural resource which is mined.
    I like seeing how far rom the source matterial people can get– Imagine showing a romantic take on baby Watson and Holmes to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. “this is what you started” at that point it isn’t even important where It’s coming from , it’s become something new.

    It’d be cool to see something like an ongoing comics anthology based off of one tv show.

    • darrylayo June 14, 2011 at 4:24 pm #

      Yeah, it’s a strange impulse to build on a thing that you love; but a natural one.

      If humans come alive through stories then expanding on fictional stories must breathe a kind of life into them…

  2. Jess June 12, 2011 at 7:36 pm #

    Ah how cool to see this post — I just got textual poachers by henry jenkins from the library. The book gets into fandom as an interpretive/creative community that actively uses content from tv. Trying to figure out if/how my work with Waldorf and Statler falls under the jurisdiction of textual poaching…

    • darrylayo June 14, 2011 at 4:19 pm #

      My twin library systems do not succeed in having this book in stock. Perhaps I should GoogleBook it..

  3. Geneva June 13, 2011 at 12:43 pm #

    I definitely grok the comparison of religion and fandom. The analogy jibes completely when you think of the Greek gods and goddesses; or other religions that involve elaborate casts of characters and the drama that unfolds between them. Fandom appeals to a very particular part of human nature in the same way. It also provides connections between people. Half the fun of fandom (and half the purpose of religion) is to strengthen social bonds through a shared culture.

    • darrylayo June 14, 2011 at 4:15 pm #

      This is the core of what I’m about. Developing story, more research needed…

  4. Costa June 15, 2011 at 6:45 am #

    I dislike fanfiction. I’ll admit it. ESPECIALLY when (as I’ve seen a few times) authors/creators specifically ask their fanbase not to do it but it gets done anyway. Plus, a lot of it’s just awful. The editor/writing teacher in me cringes.

    The culture of entitlement that’s grown up around fanfiction scares me, encountering people who feel a certain inalienable right to claim a portion of someone else’s original creations, JUST because they’ve got a hard-on for two or more specific characters and don’t have the balls to just up and write their own original but super-obvious ripoff of their influences with different names.

    I will grant that there’s a certain pulp legitimacy akin to TJ Bibles to fanfiction…I just feel that at a certain time, you gotta put that shit away, create your own work. Especially when you’re the obnoxious nerd in front of me in line at a con super-excited about telling so and so creator about your fanfiction based on their run of Batgirl or whatever…Gail Simone hit it right on the head telling aspiring writers/creators to NEVER show fanfiction to anyone in the industry.

    • darrylayo June 15, 2011 at 12:37 pm #

      Not to take anything away from your contention but a person named Maggie wrote this comment on Megan Gedris’ Tumblr wall:

      I don’t think that fan work constitutes a lack of creative ability, but a different set of creative concerns and motivations. Of course there are problematic aspects, but still.

      There are a great number of people whose way of expressing appreciation for something is to draw it. It can even be a form of critique or cultural response in the same way that writing prose criticism is.

    • Jess June 17, 2011 at 1:00 pm #

      Yeah, I think that often it can seem a bit like karaoke.

      But…I think there is potential for fan fiction to act as a way to critically investigate an original text. Or to do something different with it at least.

      Like the way that the play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead uses Hamlet as a source, but does something different with it. Or the way that the book The Penelopiad retells the Illiad form the perspective of Penelope. Or even the way that early (and current…) Star Trek fan fiction, which imagines a relationship between Kirk and Spock, gives a voice and space for queer culture — one that did not necessarily exist in the show or 1960’s pop/sci-fi culture.

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