Engagement. (Not the kind with the rings.)
So here’s what happened tonight.
First, I was going to go to bed. I switched off the Mac and said good night on Twitter and everything.
Then I switched it back on. I was going to come here and write a long and involved post about fan fiction, remixes, transformative art, and hitRECord. I even had a Tumblr post I was going to quote, and everything.
Then I went back and read the post, and of course what was actually said was far less important than what I read into it and the connections my brain made.
(I’d still recommend checking out the post, and most particuarly the video it contains. Definitely on my list of “stuff that makes me smile”.)
My thoughts are, as usual, half-formed and incomplete. But I want to talk about this concept because it fascinates me.
I was going to stick “of course” on the end of that sentence, and then I wondered, why “of course”? I wouldn’t be me without fandom, without my fannish interest, without this particular outlet. I can’t imagine myself without it. So that rates an “of course” from inside my own head.
And “of course” (ha), I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t engage in thinky-thoughts about the things I’m interested in. I need intellectual engagement to feel really involved in something, so I spend a lot of time thinking about the value of fandom. In those of us who are fannish, what needs does it satisfy? Where do the non-fannish find satisfaction for those same needs? What draws us to fandom?
There are, naturally, as many answers to these questions as there are people who call themselves fans.
But for me – and I think for a lot of other fans, too – part of it is about taking a text* that interests you and engaging with it on a fairly intense level. Not only as a consumer, but as a creator, as an artist. It’s not just creation but co-creation. With the originator of the text, sure, but also with your fellow fans. Fandom’s a community. And in that community, you build a much bigger, deeper, wider, broader picture of what the text is about.
Each fanwork (a story, a video, a drawing, a comic strip) draws not only on the text, but the community’s ideas about the text – as expressed in other fanworks and in discussions. And each fanwork goes on to add something to the community’s ideas about the text… which goes on to inform the next round of fanworks.
As a fan artist (of any stripe), you take some idea or some element, combine it with your own skills and your own heaspace, and run with it. You create a new piece of art, drawing on ideas from the original work, but infusing it, of course, with yourself.
You remix it.
You transform it.
It’s truly fascinating, for me, watching this process happen from the inside. Watching fandom build a whole universe on the basis of a two-hour film, simply by asking – repeatedly – “what if?” And then answering the question in fiction, in drawings, in videos, in music, in almost any artistic medium you can think of. And of course in essays like this one. And unlike this one. (Some are very unlike this one.)
So that’s one reason I’m fascinated with fandom. One of the many reasons, but that’s the one I wanted to talk about tonight.
I wanted to talk about the intersection with hitRECord, too. When I conceived of this post, it looked very different in my head, but it turns out that the bit about that place is just an addendum to what I wanted to say.
One of the reasons hitRECord is cool is that it has the collaborative, co-creative spirit that I know from fandom, but with a twist – it’s all done with permission. The whole point is to find someone else’s work, get inspired, remix it, transform it, upload it, and have someone else (hopefully) get inspired to make something new all over again.
Fanworks are potentially dodgy, legally, because you’re drawing on someone else’s copyrighted material without permission. I’ll confess I haven’t looked too deeply into the legal situation, because that’s not really my area of interest, but it’s my understanding that no one’s ever actually been sued for writing fan fiction. (Other things have happened, but transformative work as a concept has never actually turned up in court, as far as I know.)
At hitRECord, where it’s all legal**, the level of engagement seems the same. I’m not sure the quality*** of engagement is exactly the same, because it’s a different community with a different culture, and because by nature, they are not drawing on the same material over and over again. (Some works are remixed repeatedly, but obviously, there’s a huge wealth of material there in many different media.) But… it’s the engagement that excites me.
(Because this is a “process blog” first and foremost, it occurs to me to wonder what about the engagement gets me so enthralled. But let’s leave that where it is for now.)
I think what got me so excited about hitRECord, though, is the idea that the remix doesn’t have to be dodgy. It can be joyful. It can be in the open. It doesn’t have to hide. There’s a sense in some parts of fandom that the whole endeavour is somehow not-okay. (Or maybe that’s just me.) And the fact that hitRECord even exists reminds me that co-creation, remixing, and transformative art can be – Um. I don’t want to use a cheesy word like “beautiful” here.
But the point is, we fan-artists don’t have to be ashamed.
As far as I’m concerned, that’s a bloody important point. I’m definitely into finding ways to not be ashamed of the stuff I do. I’m defiant about my fandom and I’m proud of many of the fan fiction stories I’ve written. They’ve been good for me and they’ve given a lot of pleasure to my readers. (Plus, I think it’s hard to overestimate the value of good erotica for women, but in a post about transformative art, the erotica part is definitely by the by.****)
Did this post suddenly turn into being about hitRECord all over again? I think it did! When I started writing this section, I was pretty sure it wouldn’t be. But there you go. This is where the thought process led me.
So much for an addendum. Turns out both parts are important to me.
The part where transformative art as demonstrated in fandom is immensely cool and the part where we don’t have to be ashamed to want to create this way.
I probably haven’t made all my points here. There’s always more to say. But for now, this is where I would like to stop. Those points are enough for one night.
*I’m using “text” in the lit-crit sense here; we could be talking about a TV show, film, picture, piece of music, whatever.
**Insert juvenile joke here.
***I don’t mean one community or the other is “better quality”, just that they have different…. flavours. It’s 1am, give a girl a break.
****Or is it? A question for another day, perhaps.
This is as impersonal a post as I’m ever likely to make on here, which means it doesn’t read to me as a cry for help or a whine about my circumstances. (Good!) I don’t see how anyone could, or would want to, offer me advice on the basis of this post – but if in doubt, please don’t. I’d like to keep the blog an advice-free zone.
On the other hand, I would love to hear your opinions on this. On transformative art, on how people engage with the things they read, watch, listen to, or look at, on how ideas and creation work together.
Have at it, darlings!