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Rhetoretician -- Fiction etc.

Phoenix Rising Report, Saturday Afternoon & Evening

Phoenix Rising Report, Saturday Afternoon & Evening

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Here’s Saturday afternoon and evening. I should have one more installment to give you later.
The first afternoon session on Saturday was Mature Poets Steal: Fanfiction and the Literary Tradition by Catherine Tosenberger, who just defended her dissertation in children’s literature and folklore at U of Florida. Cat has coined the phrase “recursive literature” to refer to literature which takes the characters, settings and/or plots of pre-existing works and uses them in a new way. The actual definition is, literature that takes “specific, extensive, coherent referents from a specific, extensive, coherent text.” (This is a contrast to the concept of “intertextuality,” which refers to the interrelatedness of all language within a given culture.) Recursive literature goes back as long as we have culture and has its roots in folk storytelling traditions. She defines fan fiction as “recursive literature that functions outside the realm of commercial publishing, distinguished primarily by its means of distribution.” Because it is free from commercial standards, it gives the writer a much larger realm of artistic possibilities; further, because it’s recursive it has an implied “clued-in” audience based on its existing canon. Someone asked about “Tie-In” novels – e.g., the many published Star Wars and Star Trek novels – and she said that these are certainly recursive, but not fan fiction because they are officially (commercially) sanctioned; fan fiction is “out of institutional control.”
(The “academic” aspect of this conference, by the way, might have been called “The Jenkins & Tosenberger Show.” Outside of their own presentations (and they had several), Henry and Cat were called in comment or participate in numerous other events, panels, roundtables, etc.) 
I didn’t actually go to any other sessions Saturday afternoon, because Jo, Anya and I spent two hours over coffee talking about a wide range of topics, including each of our fics, the fates of different characters, the psychological interpretation I mentioned in my last post, etc. I tried to advance my argument that H/G, while planned from the start, was deliberately hidden and obscured so that the reader would feel Harry’s own surprise in HBP – and got absolutely nowhere. We all agreed that R/Hr was obvious from GoF onward, but they maintained that it was obvious even earlier. We talked a lot about Snape (about which all of us have strong opinions, for various reasons). Jo told me about “Asking for Roses,” which sounds wonderful. And of course, we mercilessly gossiped about all of you!
Saturday evening was the Keynote Transformations: From Fans to Fandom, which was the event to which I received a free ticket as a prize for winning the challenge. Jo and Anya also went; Jo (I didn’t know this) is a pal of Megan (Arabella), who was attending to support zsenya, who was on the panel. The event featured a “walking dinner” through the Aquarium of the Americas, followed by a lengthy panel discussion including Cat Tosenberger as moderater, Henry Jenkins (of course), Jennie, Melissa Anelli of the Leaky Cauldron and Simon Branford (formerly of Fiction Alley). I can’t do the whole session justice, but it was a wide-ranging exploration into the fandom phenomenon (and particularly the HP fandom phenomenon). There were distinctions made between fans as they existed before the Internet and afterwards. Most members of the panel became part of fan communities via the Internet and developed their friendships and the work they eventually did in fandom via the Internet. The HP phenomenon itself was discussed in terms of its broader public appeal, but it was the development of the communities that was at the core of the discussion. (HP is somewhat unique in that JKR has taken the step of honoring certain fan sites on her own Web site, with the result that they take on a sort of “legitimacy” and increase their popularity.) One case-study was the “Potter Wars” a.k.a. “Defense Against the Dark Arts,” in which Warner Brothers tried, not long after getting some license rights in HP, to shut down some fan fiction – the reaction via the Internet was immediate and public, and the adverse publicity was pronounced, and WB eventually changed its tactics and stopped trying. It then began to dawn on WB and other media companies that fan fiction and similar enthusiastic activities actually increase value by maintaining or spreading enthusiasm for the original work itself. Truly I didn’t take the world’s best notes at this presentation, but it was fascinating.

The Aquarium of the Americas, by the way, is gorgeous, even nicer in some ways then the Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut, to which I am devoted.  I think the sea otters were the biggest hit with the crowd.
I have yet to describe later Saturday night or Sunday, but I now must begin packing etc. I’ll try to finish the write-up on the plane.
  • I think the history of the fandom is so interesting - not just the personalities and blow ups and schisms that led to different websites and mission statements - but also how the fandom has exploited technology in ways never dreamed of ten years ago. (Podcasts for instance) At least someone at Warner Brothers was paying attention. You Tube and Second Life seem to be getting the same sort of treatment by corporations these days.

    Can't wait to hear more (esp. the shameless gossip!)
  • And of course, we mercilessly gossiped about all of you!

    I trust, Ken, that you remained discreet and did not mention my "fondness" for manly scars and Scots accents. You know that's our little secret.

    Otherwise, thanks for the update. All in all it sounds like a great effort to analyze/understand a huge phenomenon while it is still evolving. How fascinating.
    • "I trust, Ken, that you remained discreet and did not mention my "fondness" for manly scars and Scots accents. You know that's our little secret."

      That's not a secret - everybody knows about your "fondness".
      • Shhhh, tdu000! I forgot I had told you, too! Don't tell anyone else, OK?
        • If I ever find anyone who doesn't know about your fondness (or should that be obsession) then I won't, of course, mention it. However, I think that you are sadly deluded if you think that is actually anyone in the fandom who isn't aware of your little "secret". You've certainly dropped enough anvils to let everyone know.
    • Hi Annette. Er, it was Jo and Anya I was talking to; I think they already...know?
  • Great report again. I was wondering if you were going to see Melissa Anelli. I heard she would be there. It should be added that the fandom has made Melissa and Emerson (of mugglenet) kind of mini celebrities. I kind of half expect them to pop up on VH1 with their celeb reality show.

    The history of fandom is interesting. The internet changed the way I saw HP. I read the books before, because I do read children's books. The internet introduced me to fan fiction, somthing I had never head of before. Fan fiction is still kind of bizarre to me, becuase I have since been aware of other kinds like Star Wars, etc. Everything from TV shows to books and films.

    The Aquarium sounded really nice. Your going to be kind of tired by the time you get back. Those reports were really nice, and you still have to make reports to the people that sent you.
    • Hi, Rachel. I didn't actually get to meet Melissa, but she certainly had "rock star" status at that conference, as did Jennie.
  • Thanks for the blow-by-blow, Ken! It's not as good as actually being there (no tipsy strolls down Bourbon Street!), but pretty good.

    I agree... we want the GOSSIP! Who, what and where!
    • It was all of you. You know, that time with the leather and the feathers, when you thought I wasn't looking...
      • *blush* And I thought we had got you so well intoxicated that you wouldn't remember. It's an Obliviate for you, next time, Ken!
  • Apparently, some readers have a "fluffy radar" (that is either Jo or Mary's term) that enabled them to spot the Harry-Ginny relationship in the second chapter of the first book. Others of us only picked up on it when told, or not at all until HBP. I was one of those who had to be told.

    Thanks for another bulletin. It must be quite odd to meet so many other people with a Harry Potter obsession. I'm used to just obsessing alone or virtually.
    • Thanks, Bel. It's a relief to know that I'm not the only person on the planet who had to be told that H/G was cannon in HBP. (Well, jeez, I still could be the only person in the Northern Hemesphere, couldn't I?)
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