tl;dr: If you enjoy beautiful, slow burn fanfiction, read this immediately. But even if not, read the rest of the review to find out why you should fall in love with Casey McQuiston’s Red, White and Royal Blue.
In an interesting development: I’ll be lecturing about the history of fanfiction at Leakycon Dallas! You can see the schedule for the whole convention here. I’ll be presenting at 10:15 AM on Saturday, August 10th. It’ll be fun, I promise–we’ll cover arguments people had in 1978 that changed how we organized fanfiction for decades, how the VHS tape helped fandom explode and anime reach America, and we will talk All. About. Zines.
I hope I see you there! And if you’re not already, follow me on Twitter so you can keep up with my con prep and what I get up to at the convention!
Warning: This article is NSFW.
How we have kept “mature” sexual material out of the hands of others has evolved over time, along with our morals and culture around sex. Erotic images that were once common in Pompeii were later locked in the Secret Museum in Naples for nearly 200 years, only accessible to “people of mature age and respected morals.” In Ancient Greece, women weren’t allowed to view the Olympics, because all of the sports were done in the nude.
If there’s one recurring theme I’ve found when I’ve looked into the history of fandom, it’s that what we do now and what fans did back then can be similar in some surprising ways, and that new technology has always played a big role in facilitating the spread of fandom. While Netflix and other home streaming services have been touted as creating a “binge culture,” the reality is that watching entire seasons of a show in a day wasn’t the invention of the internet age.
In the annals of Star Trek fan history, few novels have been as infamous as Della van Hise’s Killing Time. Published in 1985, Killing Time was the 24th book in the Star Trek book series being released by Pocket Books at the time. And, due to a publisher mix-up, the infamous first edition is incredibly, painfully gay.
(I’m going to go on a tangent about Star Trek. Bear with me.)
There’s been a complaint, recently, about the new Star Trek series, Star Trek: Discovery. Actually, there have been a lot of complaints, but one of the real head-scratchers has been that The Orville, the parody TV show created by Seth McFarlane, feels more “Star Trek” than Discovery. While Discovery is certainly a departure from the usual Trek formula, it seems…a bit much, to decide that the parody is the more “real” creation.
There’s a unique art form that blossomed on a unique social platform, spurred by the unique way fandom democratizes art. Photosets, edits, or photomanips–they go by all those names, and yet many other things do, too–rose as a way for fandom to express itself beyond the bounds of fanart or fanfiction, and the aesthetic sensibilities that have risen from them have had wide-ranging implications on fandom on Tumblr.
Rose Christo is the pen name of a mildly successful author of fantasy fiction. She also authored My Immortal, the most (in)famous fanfiction ever written. She’s planning on releasing a memoir next May telling the whole story–but Tumblr outed her before news of the book release could drop. So how does this affect where we stand with our favorite fanfiction?
Videodrome is a series of blog posts I’m considering making wherein I talk about various videos of every stripe, because fuck it, I have the ability and it’s not like I’m here to make money, folks.
“More than a memory | (non)Disney Valentine’s MEP” is a fanvid (fan video) that crosses all over the animated children’s film universe, pairing characters in what seems to be essentially random groupings. The creator, AiraSora, puts a lot of work into even having these characters appear in the same shot, much less to construct a narrative of romance between each pairing. This video is fast-paced, apparently throwing a shitton of pairings at us in celebration of Valentine’s Day, so your mileage may vary on whether you find any of these pairings romantic or whether you can remember any of them. I’ll admit to being charmed by the Nani/Prince Charming pairing; when I watch these sorts of videos, I base the merit of the pairing on the merit of the plot the vid creator has constructed, and the story of a white prince falling in love with Nani when she’s halfway through a dog door is delightful.
I think this video serves as a good, albeit over exaggerated, example of what fanvids are made for. A fanvid is made, generally, to either express appreciation for a franchise or to create a fake, generally romantic scenario. A large and growing aspect of fandom is the act of shipping, where a fan finds a cute couple (or threesome or foursome, etc.), obsesses over them, and produces fan works about the couple. This couple does not need to have a single basis in reality, and that’s what often makes fanvids interesting. Because fanvids take footage from the franchise they’re a fan of and remix it to create a new work, the video maker cannot decide that the characters work in a coffeeshop or are stuck in a hot tub, because the footage doesn’t exist. They have to work with the footage they have to create a narrative it wasn’t intended to create, and it’s brilliant the way vid creators go about doing this.
There’s a dedicated community of video makers on Youtube dedicated to this particular subgenre of cut-and-pasting animated characters into new stories. It’s more advanced in some way than normal fanvid making; the ways they succeed as well as fail in making characters look like they exist in the same universe is something really outside of what’s normal for the average fanvid. In a Supernatural fanvid, Dean and Castiel’s thousand-yard stares will be reinterpreted to be in the other’s general vicinity; in these videos, characters are manipulated into kissing, and often. In the above video, several characters are also animals and have magic powers. It takes a few watches before you can make the leaps of logic along with the video maker, but the fact that the leap can be made is a testament to how well these video makers understand narrative.
These videos might not be enjoyable or especially watchable to people outside of this particular video making community, but I am obsessed with watching them, to see what they choose to portray, what movies they take apart and sew them back together. They use a shitton of cheesy iMovie filters to cover the lighting differences across films, to change hair colors, to create overdramatic moods. They use flashing, pulsing crossfades more than any human should be allowed. Every character becomes everything, from an innocent virgin to a rapist, and they live in half-worlds between properties that don’t feel like real places, only amateur backdrops to the drama unfolding between creations that were never meant to touch. Video makers have only the videos that have already been made in reality to work with, and in this particular community, they prove that it’s no barrier to their imagination. Anything is possible in their worlds, and frequently, there’s already a video about it.
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