Sorry, a flashback to my thesis there for a moment. Thank goodness I stopped in time. I’m not really sure how you’re supposed to conjugate the plural form of thesis. Thesises? Thesisae? Thesie? Thesise?
On to the definition. ‘Fanfiction’ is a bit of a fluid term, subject to some debate if you really think about it. Debate, because we are trying to be academic and it is not academic to use terms such as ‘nitpicking’, ‘rules-lawyering’, and ‘legalistic gobbledegook’. Certainly, everything in Fanfiction.net, which is to be our primary source of materials for analysis, can easily be classed under this, but that’s not all we’ll be speaking of. Are adaptations fanfic? Does this mean the movie ‘Romeo Must Die‘ is a fanfic of ‘Romeo and Juliet’? Are ‘Sherlock‘ and ‘Elementary‘ fanfics of Sherlock Holmes? What about every Sherlock Holmes movie ever not based on the writings of Arthur Conan Doyle?
In these blogs, I will be regarding Fanfiction in roughly two groups: ‘Hard Fanfiction’, which are Fanfics written by those in no way related and authorized by the root creator of the fandom or source material in which the fanfic is based; and ‘Soft Fanfic’, which is anything written for a fandom by anyone NOT the original, root writer/creator of that fandom, but with their authorization, whether verbal (in spirit, but won’t stand up in court) or legal (they never met, but the guy signed a paper at some point that in some convoluted way says it’s okay). In legalistic terms, you can make money off ‘Soft Fanfiction’, but woe betide you if you try to do so with ‘Hard Fanfiction’. This is going by the western perspective, since in Japan, you’re perfectly free to flog all the fan manga/doujinshi you want. Hopefully, the woefully outdated west will be mature enough to adapt these more enlightened practices, which is really much better for the capitalist model they insist on both shunning and embracing.
Even as I write this down, I realize that this is a very loose and problematic definition. Sure, there are public domain materials you’re allowed to flog: Sherlock Holmes, Dracula (Mickey Mouse too if Disney wasn’t so… Disney), but in each instance, you will inevitably be in the shadow of the Titan that is THE original. Think you can live up to that?