Since I’m returning to university for another graduate degree, I felt that it was time to do some more reading. (confession: I haven’t read a single novel of literary merit since completing my first MA two years ago, but of course the Overlord would get me back in the habit).

My book for September is We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas, and I cried on eleven separate occasions while I read this book.

*Warning: There are spoilers ahead.*

My name is not Eileen Leary. I have never lived in New York.I am not the daughter of Irish immigrants, but I am the granddaughter of Norwegian ones. I will never be a nurse or have a son named Connell. I do not own my own house nor do I have any desire to purchase a fur coat. My ambition does not lie in physical possessions but intellectual accomplishments.

For all this, We Are Not Ourselves may be my own story.

There are several reasons that I blog anonymously. I like the freedom, I like knowing that the Diva and I built our readership without relying on the “click-throughs” of FB friends, but the biggest reason is one I haven’t written about on here. I come from a conservative Christian culture, and it’s the kind of conservative culture which would sooner judge me for my interests in popular culture than make an attempt to understand the importance of why I write what I write, or even why fandom itself is a significant part of our society and history.

Before I continue, it’s necessary for me to say that, while I no longer actively participate in organized religion, I have faith, I have beliefs, and I judge no one for theirs. This blog post is merely the venting of the frustration I feel when I try to build a bridge between my conservative past and my pop culture savvy present.

Via reactiongifs

This past weekend, I overheard a conversation between two family members that unnerved me. Out of respect to my family, I shall not repeat verbatim what was said, but the gist of it was that these two persons were of the opinion that the writers of Hollywood could not possibly be good religious people, because they have made a living from writing. 

Time for a nerd-fession: I spend much of my hard-earned money on grammar and writing books. Ultra nerd-fession: I’ve been known to special order them.

Having participated in two simultaneous BB Fanfic extravaganzas this year, I’ve written more in a shorter amount of time than I ever have in my life. With no time to leisurely amble through the writing process, I’ve had to be at the top of my writing game, and well, I got by with a little help from my books.

Here are my 5 favorite books on the craft of writing, in no particular order. Pardon the low-quality photos; these are from my personal collection.

1. The Elements of Style by Strunk & White

Available here on Amazon
Available here on Amazon


image property of HBO
image property of HBO

Jon Snow

House: Bastard son of Eddard Stark, Lord of Winterfell

Title: Steward of the Night’s Watch

Direwolf: Ghost

Allegiance: Night’s Watch, House Stark

Love interest: Fire-haired Wildling, Ygritte

Actor Portrayal: Kit Harrington

Main Character in Books 1-5 and Seasons 1-4

Jon Snow is a hero, he just doesn’t know it yet. I know readers aren’t supposed to have a favorite character whilst trudging through George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, but Jon Snow tugs on my heart strings as, I’m a sucker for an outsider and rebel with a heart of gold. Jon is the bastard son of Eddard Stark and his mother is unknown. Nobility do not give house names to bastards, instead, northerners give them all the same last name: Snow. In the text, we see Ned Stark bring Jon to Winterfell after Robert Baratheon takes the throne, to be raised with and loved by the Stark children as a half-brother. Unfortunately, Catelyn Stark is not as welcoming, and when he is nearing adulthood, Jon joins the Night’s Watch at the urging of his uncle Benjen, a Night’s Watch raider.

Reinventing Sherlock Holmes: The Transmedia Co-Construction by and for Fan Communities

Original illustrations by Sidney Paget for Doyle's "Final Problem"
Original illustrations by Sidney Paget for Doyle’s “Final Problem” (1893)

The adventures of Sherlock Holmes continue to fascinate audiences, regardless of the fact that the author of the original text, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, has been dead for 84 years. Doyle penned a total of 4 novels and 56 short stories containing the beloved Holmes over a period of 40 years, the 8-year long “Great Hiatus” between The Final Problem (1893) and The Hounds of Baskerville (1901) notwithstanding. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the protagonist Sherlock Holmes is “’the most-portrayed movie character’, with more than 70 actors having played the part in at least 200 films” (Fox 1). In the last ten years, there have been numerous movies, books, and television series’ devoted to reinventing Sherlock Holmes, each one aimed at helping audiences find value in the historical character while simultaneously attempting to entice newer, younger consumers to participate in fan communities based on said character. For purposes of this “Transformative Fandom” series, I will take this concept a step further. According to the Archive of Our Own website for transformative fan works, there are currently a total of (I’ve updated this number 4 times in 1 week) 59,761 texts, pictures, videos and podfics uploaded and tagged with the term “Sherlock Holmes”. The characters of Holmes and Watson, as created by Doyle, are in the public domain, which means anyone can use them without permission, the caveat being that works only include the specific qualities of these characters as defined by the author in his texts published before 1923. For writers, artists and filmmakers, this means commercial adaptations can be made (mostly) without fear of copyright infringement, as long as the features of the characters are explicitly early canon or, conversely, unique. The Consulting Detective has enamored readers for over a hundred years, but with only 60 original stories written by Doyle, fans take it upon themselves to explore, in detail, the universe surrounding Sherlock, while others enjoy filling in the blanks of our beloved character’s existence with imagined cases, love interests and encounters that Doyle never anticipated. While neither community is necessarily exclusive or superior, both have specific goals and characteristics that assist in the co-creation of Sherlock Holmes via multiple media sources.

A few months ago, the Collectiva Diva and I sat down and had a long discussion on what it means to be in a fandom. For us and others like us, a fandom is a safe place–a space where interests, theories, and ideas are expressed, validated, and transformed. For others, “fandom” is the margin into which society pushes those of us who take books/films/television/video games/comics “too seriously.” If you are in a fandom (and let’s face it, if you’ve been reading our blog, you are), you’ve inevitably faced fandom shaming at some point or other.

But why should we be ashamed? Fandoms are another means by which we express our identities, a line on our personality resume. Throughout the next seven weeks, the Collectiva Diva and I will be discussing a variety of fandoms and key issues surrounding them.  You may know us as fangirls afficionados, but the Diva and I will be putting on our academic caps and using our graduate degrees for good in this series of posts as we discuss what it means to be a fan, the power of fandom, and why we should never be ashamed of any of it.

The FF Word: Blurred Lines in Criticism and Copyright of Fan Fiction

Source: The New Yorker
Source: The New Yorker

Fan fiction holds a tenuous (and sometimes volatile) relationship with the canon on which it is written. Pieces written by fans have occasionally been dismissed by society at large as “copyright infringement” or “unoriginal” or, as it pertains to certain types of fan fiction, “vulgar.” The truth is that fan fiction can be all of these things or none of them. A loose definition of fan fiction is any fictional piece written by a fan using setting/plot/characters/etc. from a text authored by someone else. This definition, although workable in a day-to-day context, is unsuitable for a comprehensive guide to the history and legal issues surrounding fan works for the following reasons: 1) many well-known  texts have sources in older works, such as J.R.R. Tolkien’s incorporation of elements commonly seen in Norse mythology and legends in his Middle-earth histories; 2) the very act of reading is an implied collaboration between reader and writer to tell a story–the writer provides a description of the protagonist, but the reader interprets that description and creates his or her own mental image for it. This brings us to two questions: Who defines the text? And who owns it?

In short: is it the author who gives the story its meaning, or is it the reader?

We here at the Collective love our fanfiction. I first delved into the fanfiction world almost ten years ago, when I was a quiet and introverted freshman at uni. As college progressed, I didn’t have the time to read like I once did, but once I finished grad school, I jumped right back in only to realize the fanfic ‘verse is MUCH bigger than it was 8 years ago. It’s a bit overwhelming if you’re new to it, especially if you don’t know the lingo, so here is my quick and dirty guide to fanfiction for the newbie.

Choosing the ‘verse

As I’ve said before, the beauty of fanfiction is that it showcases how incredibly creative and talented we fans can be. But, fanfiction is like a drug, and you’ve got to pick the right one that does it for you. Now, before we go any further, if you’ve been to the three biggest fanfiction websites– (FFN) or (AO3) or Wattpad–you’ve probably noticed the excessive use of the exclamation point (!) in the tags. The exclamation point denotes an emphasized characteristic of a character or of the universe in which the fanfiction is set, i.e. Possessive!Draco or Omega!verse. So when it comes to choosing the ‘verse you want to read, be aware that tags with the exclamation point are pretty much the road signs–they’ll take you where you want to go or warn you away from things you don’t want to read.

Some common terms about fanfiction ‘verses:

AU–Alternative Universe. This could be as simple as the story taking place in a coffee shop (a popular setting) or it could be one of the author’s own imagining. Either way, AU means it is not set in the canon.

This is what we call an AU.

The Canon–This term encompasses everything that defines the particular work(s) on which a fandom is based. In other words, everything created by the original author/creators. If it’s in the show/book/movie, it’s canon. Fics are usually labelled as canon or non-canon compliant. (If it’s AU, it’s pretty certain to be non-canon. Most of the time.)