Saturday, April 11, 2015

When Fanfiction and other Fictional Works Become Real

I recently read Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl, and was struck by the fact that the book includes fanfiction written by the main character, Cath. Throughout the book, Cath reads her fanfiction to her roommate's ex-boyfriend, and what Cath reads is written out in the book.

As it turns out, people loved it so much that Cath's fanfiction story, Carry On, Simon, is now being published as a full-length novel titled Carry On. It seems a little weird to me, especially because I interpreted the fake story of Simon Snow (who Cath's fanfiction is based on) to essentially be Harry Potter. As weird as it seems, I'm also fascinated by it, because Simon Snow apparently has his own fandom. While researching the book that's coming out later this year, I came across fanfiction about Carry On, Simon, which I started referring to as fanfiction about fake fanfiction. Then I found a second fanfiction piece about Carry On, Simon.

I also came across an online store where you can buy a Carry On shirt that is referenced in Fangirl. There are multiple Tumblr pages dedicated to Carry On, Simon (and Fangirl). There's a Tumblr page for Cath. I even found a Pinterest page for it. All you have to do is search Google, and you'll find plenty of sites dedicated to a story that, at one point in time, was nothing more than a story within a story.

I think the reason I'm so fascinated by this is because I've never seen anything like it before. I've known about fanfiction for a long time; a friend introduced me to it, and I read some of it every now and then. I've also known about fandoms, which Wikipedia defines as "a term used to refer to a subculture composed of fans characterized by a feeling of empathy and camaraderie with others who share a common interest. Fans typically are interested in minor details of the object(s) of their fandom and spend a significant portion of their time and energy involved with their interest, often as part of a social network with particular practices (a fandom)." I've never seen a fandom dedicated to a fictional fandom, though, and while I'm not completely sure the fan base surrounding Carry On, Simon is a fandom (yet), I'm not quite sure what to make of it.

I think all of this shows how the nature of publishing is shifting. In addition to Carry On being published, David Levithan recently published Hold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story, which is the musical a fictional character writes in Will Grayson, Will Grayson. An Imperial Affliction, a novel that Hazel reads in John Green's The Fault in Our Stars, has a cover and is on Goodreads, but it is not actually a book. Instead, it's a book John Green made up for the purpose of The Fault in Our Stars. An Imperial Affliction is not likely to ever actually be written by John Green, but he has an alternative for anyone who wants to read it. And, of course, there are The Tales of Beedle the Bard: A Wizarding Classic From the World of Harry Potter, Quidditch Through the Ages, and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which are all fictional books in the world of Harry Potter that have since been published as companion novels to the series.

I think this also leaves something to be said about readers, too. Is the nature of how we read and how we participate in fandoms shifting as we read fictional stories and fanfiction within novels that we then want to see published as their own entities? I imagine so, as it allows us to delve even deeper into something we are already so invested in.

What are your thoughts? Are you interested in reading any of the fictional-turned-real books that I mentioned in this post, or is it a little too strange of a concept?

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