Friday, June 29, 2007

Fan Fiction & Activist Judges

A few weeks back, Brian Cronin wrote an interesting post on the term "fan fiction" where he asks what it means and how since it is rarely defined, as a critical term, it is relatively meaningless.

I posted what I thought the term to be, which was something along the lines of when the "inner fan" aspect of the writer wins out over the "professional writer" aspect. I know, that's vague and subjective, but that's the best I can come up with. I've long argued that anytime I read that a new writer will rock a book simply because he/she loves the characters that that comment tends to make me want to avoid the book, because I don't want to read comics written by fans, I want to read comics written by writers. Of course, being a fan doesn't necessarily mean the writing will be bad, just as not being a fan won't mean the writing will be good, but I'll place my bets on a non-fan over a fan any day of the week simply because I know there's a much better chance of the "professional writer" showing up than the "inner fan" showing up.

However, that's me and my idea of what the criticism "fan fiction" means, so it isn't exactly useful for everyone else (unless everyone else adopts it, of course). The discussion, though, got me thinking about the wider use of the term and the fact that it's usually used as a catch-all for negativity. The real world equivalent would be "activist judge." Like "fan fiction," "activist judge" is used only when the critic disagrees with what he/she sees, which means the term has little value. When was the last time you've seen either used to praise? Or used by someone who LIKED what happened?

Much like politics, where judicial decisions are judged by liberal/conservative standards, comics are judged by Marvel/DC standards. A bold judicial ruling that angers half the country, while making the other half happy? It's either a fine example of judicial oversight or judicial activism depending which side of the political scale it falls. It doesn't matter if the writing/plot points are nearly identical, if the comic was published by your guys, it's brilliant, if it was published by the other guys, it's FAN FICTION.

How sad is that?

So, yeah, I'm not using the term "fan fiction" anymore until the general level of discussion is raised above such petty, meaningless bullshit, the same way I never used the term "activist judge." Because, fuck it, I'm better than that--and you should be, too.