GABBLER RECOMMENDS: The Promise and Potential of Fan Fiction By Stephen Burt

“The interesting question at this point is not whether fan fiction can be good, by familiar literary standards. (Of course it can; cf. Virgil.) Rather, it’s this: What is fan fiction especially, or uniquely, good at, or good for? Early defenses presented the practice as a way station, or an incubator. Writers who started out with fanfic and then found the proper mix of critique and encouragement could go on to publish “real” (and remunerated) work. Other defenses, [focused] on slash, described it as a kind of safety valve: a substitute for desires that could not be articulated, much less acted out, in our real world. If women want to imagine sex between people who are both empowered, and equal, the argument ran, we may have to imagine two men. In space.

It’s true that a lot of fanfic is sexy, and that much of the sex is kinky, or taboo, or queer. But lots of fanfic has no more sex than the latest “Spider-Man” film (which is to say none at all, more or less). Moreover, as that shy proto-fan T. S. Eliot once put it, “nothing in this world or the next is a substitute for anything else.” It’s a mistake to see fanfic only as faute de mieux, a second choice, a replacement. Fanfic can, of course, pay homage to source texts, and let us imagine more life in their worlds; it can be like going back to a restaurant you loved, or like learning to cook that restaurant’s food. It can also be a way to critique sources, as when race-bending writers show what might change if Agent Scully were black. (Coppa has compared the writing of fanfic to the restaging of Shakespeare’s plays.)

Moreover, fanfic requires neither cultural capital nor much actual capital to make. You don’t have to take a class, or move to the city, or find an angel, or find an agent; most of your readers may never know your offline name. For all these reasons, fanfic can give its creators a powerful sense of participatory equality. In this respect, what Coppa calls its “defiantly amateur” scene is a far cry from the world of trade publishers and prestige novelists, and a bit more like the avant-garde-poetry world in the nineteen-seventies, where the slogan was “Work your ass off to change the language & never get famous,” or else like American indie rock before Nirvana, except that—and it’s a notable difference—the fanfic world is largely female.”


June, July, August, September Roundup: Dear Hades, keep your wife.

So, the monthly roundup isn’t so monthly anymore…

In June, we posted about how authors shouldn’t guilt trip readers and about Theodora Goss on why she writes.  One of June’s BookTuber Tuesday posts covered an interesting discussion on Book Packagers, and a GABBLER RECOMMENDS included Maria Bamford’s Lady Dynamite. 

In July, we started the EPIC CATALOG category on the blog. Check out all the lists we have categorized so far. That month, we posted about a film written by AI and what not to do with a nom de plume.  Also, why we need to consider how ghostwriting/ghostwriters harm our culture.

August led to BLA’s rants on The Cursed Child and this post about how multiple versions of a book might sway opinion of it. Gabbler RECOMMENDED this RadioLab podcast about why Homer never mentions the color blue (not just because he’s never sad; seriously, listen to it!).

In September we celebrated the anniversary of THE AUTOMATION by hosting a giveaway. If you didn’t win, that’s OK, you can read it for free or download it as an ebook on Goodreads.  A #BLAThoughtOfTheDay included this post on why we need to talk about Lionel Shriver. And, to end with, we really recommend reading this opinion piece by Amy Hungerford on why you might not want to read ALL THE BOOKS.

Here’s to the next season when we’ll eventually get to our monthly roundup!

BookTuber Tuesday – Disappointment with Harry Potter & the Cursed Child

“I could have written something better.”

Check out other book vlogs we’ve featured here.

Have a book vlog video you want us to check out? Submit a link below in the comments and it could make the CIRCO blog.

[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

all yellowB&N | Amazon | Etc.

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: BLA’s Twitter Rant about The Cursed Child



Indeed, why did J.K. Rowling not think that her screenplay for Fantastic Beasts would be enough to delight readers? We’ve waited this many years for something for her that is “Harry Potter” — that would have been enough. Why would she give up more of her rights and her story to a play that was so sub-par? Did Jack Thorne and John Tiffany blackmail her? Is she trying to prove to us that she isn’t perfect and makes mistakes? That the fanfiction community is her bitch? What?


Indeed, where is Remus and Tonk’s child? Clearly there were some characters Rowling didn’t allow Jack Thorne to touch.

[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

all yellowB&N | Amazon | Etc.

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: On ‘The Cursed Child’ as fanfiction, and where the problem really lies by Michal Schick

“This kind of self-awareness is, to varying degrees, inherent in fanfiction. Transformative works are necessarily built on the platform of canon, expanding above it in countless ways. Fanfiction has to be aware of its source, but for a source to be aware of itself requires a very specific (and usually comical) type of art. Harry Potter and The Cursed Child, it goes without saying, is not that kind of art.

But of course, it is neither format nor self-reference that fundamentally fill The Cursed Child with That Fanfiction Feeling. Most prominently responsible are the controversial story decisions in The Cursed Child, all of which come about because the play propels itself on the energy of the wrong type of question. Over and over again, with wide-eyed enthusiasm, the play asks “What if?”

What if Harry’s son had polyjuice potion miraculously to hand? What if Voldemort had a child? What if Time-Turner?

“What if” questions are not bad questions, but they are almost always the domain of fanfiction, and for good reason. Within the bounds of an established, canonical tale, storytellers must be judicious in their application of “what if,” because “what if” is not governed by theme, history, or character. “What if” can lead anywhere, and stories that bear the weight of canon cannot afford to go anywhere.

None of these ideas are inherently bad, and none of the audacious ideas in The Cursed Child are inherently bad outside the context of canon. What they are, however, is fundamentally light, unmoored from cannnical responsibility. That’s a beautiful, inspiring thing, but it can also be less than satisfying.

Readers like rules. Modern stock in the concept of “canon” may be riding unnecessarily high, but it appeals to us for a reason. We want our stories to have weight and boundaries; we don’t actually want them to fly off in any direction when we feel safe within the walls of canon. Fanfiction scratches a different itch than official stories do, and when those lines cross, we often feel damned uncomfortable.

That’s certainly how I felt, reading of Voldemort’s unexpected progeny in The Cursed Child. It’s how I felt every time someone yanked out that ridiculous Time-Turner. It’s how I feel now, imagining new characters tramping over a world that had been so definitively bounded by the words “All was well” back in 2007.

I think this is more than the growing pains of change, the mild discomfort we all felt while digesting the latest Harry Potter novel. I believe That Fanfiction Feeling represents a fundamental difference between Rowling’s approach in her novels, and the tact taken by John Tiffany and Jack Thorne. Rowling’s series was constantly inventive and powerfully imaginative, but also deeply consistent. It was not self-aware; it was loyal to the pulse of themes and characters pounding through a remarkable body of work.

The Cursed Child, however, beats to the drum of “What if?” questions, spinning off into a kaleidoscope of surprising (and to be honest, bizarre) answers. To that end, the story feels like fanfiction; this is not a measure of quality, but a measure of intent. Author-approved or not, The Cursed Child shares the fundamental sensibilities of fanfiction — not of canon.

It is a lesson of The Cursed Child that both good and bad can come from unexpected places. This is just as true of literature. Canon can awe or disappoint, while fan-works can make us groan or move us to tears. As a story hatched from the worlds of canon and fanfiction, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child also does both — and it’s up to each of us to decide if that’s our cup of Polyjuice or not.”