A Space of Our Own: Mandarin Fanfiction Creation [4] Fanfiction Community

Welcome back to the blog series about Chinese Mandarin fanfiction creation! Here are links to the first three blogs: Introduction to fanfiction, uniqueness in fanfiction, and writing and barriers. Before starting with our final blog, which focused on the importance of the fanfiction community to its writers, I would like to return to Naomi Novik’s speech at the Hugo Award Ceremony. “… all our contribution would mean nothing without the work of the fan creators who share their work freely with other fans and the fans who read their stories and enjoy their art and comment and share bookmarks and give kudos to encourage them and nourish the community in their turn.” (1) In 2020, a few days after AO3 was reported and banned, a video editor made this video asking what is the point of fanfiction: That is everything. The fanfiction community has been the most vibrant contributor to the development of fanfiction. Writers gain support, happiness and even the strength to survive another day not only from writing down stories but also from kudos and comments from fellow readers. Of course, just like other groups, the fanfiction community is by no means a paradise and writing is naturally painful. But to quote one of the interviewees Auretta: “Although the fanfiction creation environment in mainland China is getting more and more difficult, I will keep writing. I’m not born to have any influence on anyone’s thoughts, but it would be an honour if I could help someone or bring solace.”

Texts in [ ] are originally written in English and other answers are translated from Chinese.

Some jargons first:

Ship: n. a pairing. For example, Drarry (Draco Malfoy/Harry Potter) is a ship

v. When I say I ship something, it means I like this pairing.

What does fanfiction bring you?

Allen: Not too much for me. It’s just an ordinary means to kill time. I was very addicted to feedback for a while, but then I figured out a way to get out of it.

Auretta: Emotional sustenance. Because of fanfiction, I met two very good friends … I also gain recognition from others and sometimes help other people. Once I wrote a story that I thought was very cliche, but then a reader told me that she had experienced the same thing from her family, which was similar to the protagonist in my story. She was pleased to see that the protagonist finally gets away from family. I’m flattered to hear such feedback hahaha.

Bella-Illiz: [Friends for sure. Several of my best friends had known me because of my fanfictions. Fun fact: I spent the first night with one person who later became one of my best friends in a library writing fanfictions together. And also better understandings of political philosophy theories because, obviously, I need to fully understand what Enjolras was fighting for to write fanfictions about him.]

Eliel: I meet many friends who share my love for the same character or actor through fanfiction creation. I also bring them happiness through writing. The happiness of sharing is unparalleled.

Eggachingdaisy: It is mainly used to combat some nihilistic feelings caused by doing a job I don’t like and to have something to expect in repeated life. (I don’t plan to have children, so I can’t get a sense of freshness from the child’s growth.) Creation can give me a sense of accomplishment. I have gained kudos from many readers and it is also a form of communication with them.

Lum: [I actually got my degree and my career out of writing fanfiction, and I am not joking about that. Cuz I wrote in high school, I entered the university as a student enrolled under the college of communication, and I later joined the film and television department under this college. I finished my undergrad degree as a film student and am applying for grad school for both film & television and game design programs right now.]

Mumu: The core of fanfiction and shipping is emotional sustenance. I am a person with a lot of emotions. When I am single, my ships have solved my emotional needs. Feeling the love of others has given me a channel to vent my own emotions … But generally, fanfiction is a happy thing no matter in which field … I hardly take fanfictions for real, and therefore I obtain happiness from it … I would like to add that the basis of my fan creation comes from the love for celebrities in real life. I want to call them muses of my writing. If the interpersonal relationship they show weren’t compelling enough I won’t have the opportunity to write down my stories about them.

R: For me, it’s a corner where I can breathe when I’m busy and about to collapse.

Rangli: I can satisfy my desire to express myself through rewriting stories for characters that already exist. During my writing, they re-introduce themselves to me and it also gives me a sense of comfort by giving them a happy ending. In this way, I won’t be overcritical of the real people in the real world.

Salmon: An expression and recognition of personal interests, desires, and abilities. It is also guidance for social interaction and a projection of an ideal world (which does not necessarily mean perfection and may include anything that I cannot achieve/have in reality). Currently, because of my disapproval of the real world/personal life, fan creation has become an important motivation for my survival.

Saikofujima: Happiness. Even if I hardly post them online, I feel happiness when I reread my works. This happiness from writing is more appealing than falling in love.

Songxiabuzhai: Emotional sustenance.

Xiaoxiwang: Friends and happiness. It is also a way to heal and calm myself down.

Yansengwu: I get attention and friendship from fanfiction.

The role of the fanfiction community

Allen: The feedback given by the fan community undoubtedly has a positive effect on me. It is the incentive for me to continue creating and it contributes to the good mood in the real world.

Auretta: Hahahahaha can you say they are not helpful? Of course, it is good to have friends, but sometimes the fan community will form a kind of monopoly of discourse. For example, there is an author in my fan community that usually depicts the character with big eyes and long eyelashes with coquetry. Because she has written many works, this description became a kind of prototype and if other writers do not follow, they will be accused of being out of character. The administrator of this pairing’s online community on Weibo will also block contents that they do not like. I can’t judge but I don’t agree with such behaviour.

Bella-Illiz: [Stimulation, inspiration, and encouragement. I would never finish some of my best works without their cheers and critiques.]

Eliel: Encouragement! Comments asking for later development is my greatest drive. I am excited to receive kudos and see discussions about characters in the comment area and they also bring me more inspiration. Fan creation is a beautiful thing … Although the Internet environment in recent years has not been very friendly, I believe that the true meaning of fanfiction has not changed.  Sharing your thoughts and your own opinions with other people who like the same work is a very happy thing itself. I hope fan fiction creators will not lose their desire to create because of individuals and some incidents.

Eggachingdaisy: Leaving me comments. For me, fanfiction is mainly about communication. I need their response.

Lum: [Many of them who I wrote with are still my friends till today, so it is about 8-9 years I think. They’ve witnessed me grow from middle school to post-college, and I’ve seen them start their career or give birth to their children, so it is pretty magical. Also, I was extremely lucky cuz one of my editors is a screenwriter in the real world, so I actually got some kind of “formal” training as a writer back then. For example, she recommended Robert McKee’s Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting, so I read it as early as in high school. This is actually kind of a formal screenwriting textbook used at college-level courses, at least my professors all listed it as recommended readings. So I was really grateful that I got to know some professional knowledge when I was just writing for fan books.]

Mumu: There are both positive and negative influences. The positive influences are encouragement and a sense of belonging. Every time I see someone saying they like what I write, I will be very happy, and the feeling of shipping together will make me very excited, commonly known as “I find a home”. On the negative side, because I am a person who is easily influenced by others, others’ comment sometimes can change my view of my ship, which affect my creation to some extent.

R: I feel encouraged when communicating with others and meeting like-minded friends (some have become friends in real life).

Rangli: I know some like-minded friends and have been trained in many aspects. In the fanfiction community, I experienced the feeling of being supported and loved, which is different from what you expected from family and friends. My writings are like my children and I feel naturally proud and happy when someone likes them.

Salmon: Social support. Relatively speaking, I am more likely to be out of place in the real world and am unable to get along well with people, nor to build intimacy or benign emotional connection through socialising. There are two periods in my short life, junior high school and now, where almost all valuable and social interactions with quality are only obtained through fandom.

Songxiabuzhai: Before I know this fandom, the fanfiction community attracts me there. But they left when I become a fan and write fanfiction. I feel grateful when fellow fans send kudos to my work.

Xiaoxiwang: Friends on the platform read my work and I also meet new friends there.

Yansengwu: I make friends from the community and there are more people reading my works.

Conclusion

I have been posting my fanfiction online for about 4 years, but I actually started making up stories for myself when I was in elementary school. Telling myself stories was the only way to escape from the heavy schoolwork and bullying and to imagine me having a totally different life like all the fantasy protagonists. When I post my first fanfiction online in 2018, I received many comments and kudos from readers who share my interest in the same character. This support and my desire to write my own story carried me to finish the 230,000 words novel and I can still get comments on it even in 2022. Creation is naturally painful, and I also encountered some unhappiness from fellow fans, but fanfiction itself, as well as writing and discussions, create a utopia driving me to pick up the pen to write down my stories.

For women who want to start writing but do not know where to start, fanfiction is actually a good starting point. Characters and background settings are already there, and the online community gives instant feedback from other fans. It is different from the support from family and friends because the recognition from a stranger is unparalleled. Most fanfiction writers do not receive professional training in creative writing and they are simply writing out of enthusiasm. This “queer female space,” (2) as well as the sense of achievement in finishing a story, encourage women to write fanfiction now and maybe masterpieces in the future. After all, in a sense, Dante’s Inferno is also a fanfiction to the Bible. I hope my interviewees’ experience in writing can inspire other women who are afraid of picking up a pen or who thought their writing isn’t good enough. Do not be afraid of drawbacks because you are not alone. Write down anything that is in your mind and post it, that is the whole point of writing.

This blog series is reaching its ending. Thank you all for reading it.

My deepest gratitude goes to my interviewees: Allen, Auretta, Bella-Illiz, Eggachingdaisy, Eliel, Lingyi, Lum, Mumu, R, Rangli, Saikofujima, Salmon, Songxiabuzhai, Xiaoxiwang, Yansengwu. Thank you very much!

(1) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tYtLH4f0qrg&t=5719 1:33:25-1:35:04

(2) Busse, K. (2017) Framing Fanfiction: Literary and Social Practice in Fan Fiction Communities, University of Iowa Press pp.13.

Picture: https://archiveofourown.org/

Post a Comment

Your email is kept private. Required fields are marked *

*
*

You may use some HTML tags and attributes.