Fan Fiction Archives as Sites of Cultural Practices

Curator's Note, the largest online multi-fandom archive hosts thousands of fan fictions that serialize, transform and appropriate existent media texts: More than 6000,000 for the Harry Potter universe alone.

Unlike traditional archives of literary texts, fan fiction archives do not preserve primary sources and works of canonized authors that are deemed to be of enduring historical and cultural relevance. Fan fiction is a sprawling phenomenon with ever more texts being published regardless of their quality or relevance every day.

Even if a text is hosted in an online archive, it is not guaranteed that it will be retained. Fan fictions are often deleted or moved to other sites by their authors. Fans have in several instances experienced interferences by the administrators of the commercial sites they use to publish their work, which eventually led to the loss of their texts.

It seems more fitting to look at fan fiction archives as sites of cultural practices. By posting their own fan fictions online, readers create themselves as authors and perform their authorship through their account profiles and notes to their readers. All members of the community are endowed with the authority to be readers, authors and critics at the same time. These practices therefore challenge distinctions between these functions established by print culture.

Fan authors often collaborate with their readers through the comment and review functions almost all sites provide. Readers become in these conversations co-authors and critics.

In a more abstract sense, all fan authors of a fandom collaborate by contributing stories to a narrative that transcends the borders of individual texts. Digital fan texts create a de-centered hypertext, in which readers again need to collaborate with authors by creating their own reading path. The interest of the individual reader will thereby actualize a narrative that can consist of fan fiction texts by several authors.


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