Saturday, April 13, 2019

Fanfic, Byzantine literature and 21st century culture

I have mused here before on how the science-fiction subculture that was so important to me in the 1960s and 70s has emerged as a very important element in current "popular" (right word?) culture.  I am hardly the only person to notice this. because many scholars -- generally a bit younger than me--study "popular" culture with the same seriousness that they study anything else.

And they often do that because they are producers of "popular" culture as well as part of its audience.

Take for example Arkady Martine's article:

On the Cult of Originality: What Byzantine Literary Culture Can Tell Us About Fanfiction,

. which appeared recently on the site, being a major science-fiction and fantasy publisher. Martine is interested in the phenomenon of fanfiction (fanfic).

Fanfic is a derivative (unoriginal?) art form. If you love Mr. Spock and wish there were more stories about him, and I have a great idea for a Sherlock Holmes novel that Conan Doyle never thought of, and we write up our particular visions and (usually)distribute them in a non-commercial way, that is fanfic, written by and for fans. tells us that Martine is a fan writer whose first commercially published novel A Memory Called Empire has just come out. Martine is also a published scholar on the subject of Byzantine literature. Byzantine literature of the Middle Byzantine period is often considered unoriginal and not very good at all, because it draws so heavily on other people's work.

Fanfic, or close to it.

But is it inherently inferior?  Martine the scholar argues pretty convincingly that Byzantine fanfic has got the virtues of current fanfic. One of the main virtue being community building.

Have a look.

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