South Park Self

this means war

One of the more entertaining side effects of my liminal academic existence and strange research interests is that I'm becoming the go-to person for The Media when they approach my Cherished Institution for commentary on the more outré corners of culture: Lewis Carroll, or fairy tale, or Terry Pratchett, or vampires, or, apparently, fan fiction. Yesterday I found myself giving, at extremely short notice, a ten-minute interview with Cape Talk Radio, because two of the show's staff suggested to the host that he talk about fanfic, and he said "What's fanfic?" and proceeded to find out. I rather enjoy being given an opportunity to babble enthusiastically about my interests, and he asked good questions, and this morning there are three emails in my inbox from previous students going "gosh, fanfic, loved your lectures, nice to hear you babbling". (Not in so many words. Students are generally more polite, possibly because they're afraid I'll bite if they're not.) Also, apparently there's a podcast.. (I'm a bit sorry I didn't get into the gender stuff. Fanfic as a female response to the male domination of media narratives is my current personal hobby-horse).

But it's also amusing to note the attempts by said media forces to box and label my weird place in this faculty, leading to me being variously and erroneously identified over the last few years, despite my best efforts, as "the Head of the English Department", "the Dean of Literature", and, yesterday, "Lecturer of Fan Fiction", which sounds like far more of an official position than it actually is. While I lecture volubly and enthusiastically on fan fiction, this faculty would scream, shudder and faint in coils at the mere thought of a precious official position devoted to fanfic. But it's a nice illusion, for ten minutes.

Of course, this also means I was nicely primed for today's XKCD, which is enough on the nail that my colleague in the office next door has just wandered in, slightly worried, to find out the source of the mad cackles of laughter proceeding from my location.

This is such a beautifully layered joke, not just because it relies partially on our knowledge of the personal proclivities of black-hat guy in the strip. "Headcanon", for the uninitiated, is a fanfic term used to describe the personal, internal micro-narratives you have which round out a media character in some way not actually defined by the text, or not necessarily defined in a particular fanfic you might write - it's almost an unspoken assumption, and as a result of being unexamined, is often deeply personally felt. (In my Avengers headcanon they're totally all living in Stark Tower, and having sitcom interactions around movie nights and who's cooking and why Hawkeye is perched on things again. I tend to have a momentary snarl at each new Marvel movie because it doesn't actually embody that. Maybe Age of Ultron will, the preliminary stills are promising.)

The thing about fanfic communities, of course, is that they're intense and passionate, because they're built around intense and passionate feelings about texts. This means that they are prone to outbreaks of conflict which too often degenerate into mud-slinging and hissy-fit and demagoguery, known colloquially and collectively as "fandom wank". I am currently a little stunned by the divisions in Sherlock fandom around what is known as The Johnlock Conspiracy, which is the fervent belief that Moffat and Gattis always intended Sherlock as gay, John as bi, and a romantic relationship between them as the endgame of the series. The personal headcanon of "it's romantic/sexual" versus the personal headcanon of "it's not and the bastard showrunners are all about the queer-baiting" is, indeed, about heavy artillery and the need to obliterate the opposition, because the opposition's mere difference is intensely threatening to the inside of your own head. I shall be extremely surprised if this strip is not all over my Tumblr feed this morning, because, yup. That's exactly it.
This whole post makes me happy - it's good not to be on the very outer lunatic fringes anymore, with Reavers and men with blue hands. Yay for fanfiction! Also adore the xkcd headcannon - do the Avengers not all live in Stark Tower? I thought that was canon canon!
Weird. Everywhere I tun this week, I'm running into Firefly references. It's making my head spin. We have PZ Myers with "in fact, it makes me feel like an inhabitant of the planet Miranda, only I can’t make up my mind whether to just lie down and die or go full Reaver" and Confused Cats Against Feminism.

Two by two, hands of blue...
In various bits of comics canon the Avengers live either in Stark Tower or in Tony Stark's mansion, with sitcom shenanigans resulting, but the MCU hasn't depicted this yet. The best we've seen is a glimpse in the end credit sequence of one Iron Man movie of Tony's blueprints for different floors of Stark Tower tailored for the individual Avengers. MCU reserves the right to diverge from comics canon early and often, so I for one will be delighted if they choose to follow this bit.
Lecturer in Fan Fiction - cool!

I completely misunderstood your ref to the Avengers living anywhere. Surely John Steed and Emma Peel are kinda London based?

Then I read jeaniewal's comment, and realised I'd got the wrong Avengers. Such is lif, such is being part of an older generation!

As for 'the JohnLock Conspiracy' - why are the producers (and fanfic writers) so fixated on sexual orientation? I thought these days we'd got past all that and people could just get on as colleagues. Or am I imagining things?

BTW - do Steed and Peel have fanfic?
I think the sexual orientation aspect of Sherlock is inevitable given Doyle's original text, which does construct a very close relationship between Sherlock and John, and which also explicitly presents Sherlock as not being into women. Certainly there are a lot of Sherlock versions pre Mofftis's one which play up the homoerotic subtext - and I think there is definitely a homoerotic subtext. The fan fiction focus is partly the tendency of fan fiction generally to focus on romantic relationships, but it also responds to the show's shameless and frequently frustrating games with homoerotic tension.

If you want Avengers fanfic in the John Steed/Emma Peel sense, see, but you'll have to weed a bit as some fic writers apparently don't have much truck with tag coherence, and there's some bleed into Marvel Avengers owing to mislabelling.
It's like the Harry Potter 'Ship Wars all over again.
Complete with can(n)ons.

If there's a show/book/film, theres fanfic about it. You might try An Archive of Our Own (A03).
Loved, loved, loved the interview, it was such fun. I think you actually got the gleefully pompous John Maytham to consider reading fanfic...
Glad you enjoyed it, I had enormous fun giving it :>. I keep meaning to send Mr Maytham some recommendations, he did put out a call for high-quality fics, but I get sidetracked...