ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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When Harry Met Darcy

By enabling and empowering readers to imagine a wide range of alternative worlds, fan fiction allows fans to participate in the reimagining of their favourite fictional beings.

The emergence of a global fan culture is one of the visible consequences of the technologies of our time. Today, it is possible for television shows released in the United States to be watched on the same day in Chennai, Jakarta or Buenos Aires. The internet makes it possible for the garrulous fans of these shows to be in continuous conversation with one other, exchanging commentary, fan theories, cosplay photos, fan art, fan comics, and fan fiction. These social tendencies, which have always existed among fans, but whose articulations the internet has greatly multiplied and amplified, are part of a broader phenomenon the media theorist Henry Jenkins has termed participatory culture. In this article, I look at the currently resurgent form of fan fiction and examine the modes through which fans participate in the reimagining of their favourite fictional beings.

The term fan fiction refers to the body of unauthorised stories written by the fans of books, comics, films, and television shows; and featuring characters drawn from the canonical fictional world. The reading and writing of fan fiction (or fanfics, or simply, fics) can be traced back to the 1920s but the phenomenon first gained momentum in the 1960s and 1970s. This followed from the emergence of large fan communities (or fandoms) associated with cult television series such as Star Trek, Starsky and Hutch, and Battlestar Galactica. Shows such as these spawned numerous fanzines (or zines), which, in turn, enabled viewers to circulate fan fiction written by them. However, it was only with the advent of the internet that fan fiction began to emerge as a full-blown mass-cultural phenomenon. The internet made self-publishing easy and practically free of cost. It also revolutionised the logistics of distribution: fics could now be read in fandoms that stretched across the world, and that too, moments after their publication. As in the past, the bulk of fan fiction continues to be written for television show fandoms. Even the book-based fandoms centred around Harry Potter, the Twilight Saga, and R R Martins A Song of Ice and Fire series swelled significantly after the corresponding fictional worlds had been translated into the visual medium. As of this writing, the number of Harry Potter stories posted at the popular hosting site fanfiction.net is about 752,000 and rising. These include fics from all over the world, written in forty languages, ranging from Afrikaans to Vietnamese.

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