Every unified body conceals a crowd…*
A/N: Over the past two years, I have been obsessing over fan fiction – its mechanisms, outputs, glossaries and ways of forming community through the exchange of text. By integrating fannish libraries and archives into my daily reading, it has revitalised my relation to narrative writing and redefined how I approach the task of reading with a swift and erotic gust.
Fan fiction works by worming its way into the corpse of popular narrative. Bloating its cadaver to get into its tissues and cells. It submits characters and plot lines to the desires of fannish eyes in order to write out connections, romances and scenarios unfounded in the original texts. As plot lines and characters fold strange and meet otherwise, fan fiction trespasses the hegemony of the closed-off artefact of text. Eating away at the separation between consumption and production with hands that do not stop at turning the page, with eyes that read past the screen, past the page.
Having entered fan fiction via the internet and online communities or archives, my computer has become the primary surface for this encounter. It works by producing a bifurcated mode of attention, split between two distinct spatio-temporal planes: the motor plane (the keyboard) and the visual plane (the screen). In an intimately linked and rehearsed back and forth between touch and sight, moving and observing, the screen establishes reading as the movement of entwinement between these two, and likely more modes of sensing.
Touch is the sense of communication in far more than a metaphorical sense. It is the sense of proximity, a nearness that never quite fuses touching elements into one new thing, but literally puts them all in touch. Sight depends on separation, the possibility of distinguishing what is touching from what is touched. Anything seen has no say in the matter, but that which is touched always touches back. Sight is the sense of security which tactility completely underlines.*
* Sadie Plant, Zero and Ones (1997)
Though there are many platforms both online and offline for fans to share and archive their work, I have been most attracted to and working from the website Archives of Our Own (AO3). I liked that it owes its name to Virginia Woolf’s canonical feminist text A Room of One’s Own, and more specifically I appreciate that AO3 works to design an open source repository that gathers fan works contributed for and by its users.
Putting forth a rather contestable claim, AO3 aims for maximum content inclusiveness (within the limits of legality) and tries to handle the problematics that this claim entails. It rigorously works with content warnings and elaborate tagging methods to situate its readers’ gaze. Its abbreviated formula for introducing fan works allows readers to grasp the frameworks of desire and trespassing at stake before attending to the narrative unfolding. The tagging and content warnings work two-fold: first to connect fictions that work along similar lines and second to give an associative medley of terms to interface the kinds of encounters or plot lines that might entice or deter the sensitivities of the reader.
His Eyes by TabbyCat33098
Harry Potter – J.K. Rowling
No Archive Warnings Apply,
Harry Potter, Draco Malfoy, Eyes, Lots of eyes, Pretty colors, Possible Confusion, Post-Hogwarts
Harry meets Draco’s gaze at Draco’s trial. All of a sudden, Harry is whisked back into memories of looking into those same eyes over the years. He takes a journey through all of the shades in the span of a minute.
Language: English • Words: 1,167 Chapters: 1/1 • Kudos: 2 • Hits: 15
Although fandom has a variety of outputs (fanfic, fanart, fan videos, podfic, etc.) and a variety of inputs (TV, movies, books and real persons), I have been focusing specifically on the textual contingent of its workings. At the site where eyes and hands navigate their entangled articulation, where seeing and touching or reading and writing begin to reroute the pathways of taking narratives in and pushing narratives out. With fan fiction eyes that see the touches untouched, with fan fiction hands that write the story unseen in the story that is read.
To end this introductory note, I’d like to mention a list of the fan writers to whom I owe credit and readerly indebtedness. As fan fiction actively works against the idea of the single author writing into the void, it only makes sense to retain the workings of this logic here. Thank you to Marysiak, ZZzara, Torino10154, editorbit, oceansinmychest, FreshBrains, Shisuca, crow-leyshouseplant, salable_mystic, dt8b0t, ladyroxanne21, harv-roth, fizzyblogic (phizzle), 100SleeplessNights, amongst many others who extend their desirous and disseminate scripts.
Entering the Scroll
Any time I take interest in an author, a figure or a text, I visit AO3 and search for it within the archives. My hands go ‘Christine de Pizan,’ ‘Charlotte Perkins Gilman,’ ‘Marie de France,’ ‘Joan of Arc,’ ‘Harry Potter,’ ‘Invisibility Cloak.’ With these nouns, I write my cut into the archival swell. Temporarily conjuring the desired figure, splintered into stories, onto the screen. It is with this mode of reading that I choose to loosen my loves and lusts into the proliferating cloud of other readers’ desires. Following them into the spilt erotica, spent online. And still, some have yet to appear… ‘You searched for: Novella d’Andrea sort by: best match descending. No results found. You may want to edit your search to make it less specific.’ As this notice appears, it might be possible to hear from the depths of the archives a begging plea – write into me.
Novella Rehearses Behind her Screen by lurker (unpublished)
No Archive Warnings Apply,
fluff , self-insert, striptease, stripteach
Language: English • Words: 394 Chapters: 1/1 • Kudos: 0 • Hits: 0
My name is Novella d’Andrea. I was born in 1312 in Bologna and died in 1333 or 1346 or 1366. Having extensively learned canon law in the quiet of my home, sometimes when my father fell ill or was occupied by some tasks, I would step in to take his place as professor at the University of Bologna. Whenever I would replace him, I was asked to draw up a screen in front of me to process my voice and discreet my image. I would lecture my lecture in the tight space behind the screen.
I always take sincere pleasure in this task, to the extent that I often find myself praying for my father’s poor health.
In the solitude of my room, I occasionally would even play out this moment. I close my eyes.
Coming in from the distance, I hear soulful coughing and then there is a knock at my door. I usher the visitor in, it is my father looking sweaty, pale and drowsy.
‘My daughter,’ he says, ‘I need you to go to the university today and deliver my lecture.’
I suppress the pangs of excitement and say, ‘Of course I will father.’ And he shuts the door behind him.
I run behind my changing screen and imbue my voice with authoritative command.
I imagine myself as one of the law students on the other side, receiving an entire lecture by staring at a blank screen. Handling only the texture of a voice, while I could be doing anything I want behind the screen.
I start to rehearse the lecture. As soon as my voice steadies, I begin to loosen one by one the attached garments that articulate my dressed form. Showing off in this narrow space, my makeshift podium, my naked back, its flatness, my pulsing hide. I begin draping my clothing over the screen, piece by piece. To the room, only listening to my voice, I gently publish my presence like uninhabited clothes. Letting the once contiguous fabrics detach and retire from their task of disguising my form.
Over the screen now hangs a body of sorts: a shirt, pants, underwear, a bra. I turn on my lamp, and cast my silhouette onto the screen. Hidden behind the history of canon law, stunning a silhouette, head to foot, one can feel my invisible body from out the lecture.
fig 3: Making
…the text is a ‘structured prefigurement,’ but that which is given has to be received, and the way in which it is received depends as much on the reader as on the text. Reading is not direct ‘internalisation,’ because it is not a one-way process, and our concern will be to find means of describing the reading process as a dynamic interaction between text and reader.
Wolfgang Iser, The Act of Reading: A Theory of Aesthetic Response, (1978)
Fan fiction is just one (partic-ularly dynamic) response to the question of what happens between the reader and the text. Tethered between the logic of binding and disobedience, a fannish engage-ment with text is about forcing its content to snap to another grid of desire – the desire of its receiver. Opening up the frame wider and wider to accommodate the writing body within the reading of text.
As reading opens onto the practice of writing and bypasses the idea of quotation, summarisation or transcription, the writer necessarily does away with father-author and the hegemony of the guarded text. This process involves reorganising the sensory apparatuses of receiving and using them to write. While the reader sits simultaneously still in the thick of reading, the fingers begin to type.
She does not set herself up as one, as a (single) female unit. She is not closed up or around one single truth or essence. The essence of a truth remains foreign to her. She neither has nor is a being… the female sex takes place by embracing itself, by endlessly sharing and exchanging its lips, its edges, its borders, and their ‘content,’ as it ceaselessly becomes other, no stability of essence is proper to her.
Luce Irigaray, Speculum of the Other Woman, 1974
As a reader, the fan fiction writer begins to leak. Lubricating the plot line to allow for connections unfounded in the text but founded in the eyes of the reader. Orifices are pried open to kiss the kisses unkissed, to fuck the fucks unfucked. So that the latent desires in the eye or the ‘I’ of the reader amount to another text.
A particular sub-genre of fan fiction that demonstrates this mechanism most succinctly is slash. Slash is when an oblique stroke (/) is placed between two characters of the same sex. Graphically ‘shipping’ (putting two characters into a romantic or sexual relationship) a homosexual union that goes unmentioned, unarticulated or under-fleshed in the original fiction(s). Restoring or revising the legibility of homoeroticism within contemporary landscape of popular narrative. Slash is both performed within the limits of a single story (Harry/Draco) but also across storylines (Joan of Arc/Hermoine). When written for two female figures it is sometimes also tagged: f/f slash, femmeslash, altfic and saffic and for two male characters, it is: m/m slash. The subcategories and tags for slash continue to amount.
As I have been cloaking myself in the glossaries of fan fiction and assuming its forms, it only feels fitting to announce myself in its terms.
I am a lurker. A reader who does not comment, contribute or review, but absorbs the fandom without actively participating. A reader who remains fasci-nated, unobtrusively hiding in the shadows, away from any possible wanks.
In my defence, I did not come to fan fiction to lurk. I came to read. I just didn’t initially understand the function of that difference. When my reading was redefined as lurking against this new set of terms, I became ever more fascinated by its figural form. In the shape of a shimmering cloak.
Invisibility Cloak by Torino10154
Harry Potter – J.K. Rowling
No Archive Warnings Apply,
Draco Malfoy/Harry Potter, Harry Potter, Draco Malfoy, slash, oral sex
Part 18 of 2013 Anniversary Ficlets
Language: English • Words: 203 • Chapters: 1/1 • Kudos: 24 • Bookmarks: 3 • Hits: 1912
‘After all the times I saw you in this,’ Draco said, fingers barely touching the shimmering fabric, ‘I never thought I’d actually see the Cloak of Invisibility.’
‘I don’t think you actually saw me in it.’ Harry chuckled. ‘I was invisible.’
‘Prat.’ Draco rolled his eyes and continued examining the Cloak. ‘It’s breathtaking.’
‘Let me show you something.’ Harry stood and took the Cloak from Draco. ‘Ready?’
‘Go on.’ Draco hadn’t really been done looking at it but he supposed Harry would let him see it much more often now.
Harry threw the Cloak on and disappeared from view.
‘I hope there is more to it than this – Oh!’ Draco gasped as he felt, but couldn’t see, Harry’s hands on the zipper of his trousers. Eyes wide, he watched the placket open, his pants lower, and his instantly hard cock sprung free.
Draco’s heart skipped a beat as his dick disappeared but the warmth of Harry’s mouth assured him that it was in safe keeping.
‘Merlin,’ he said with a moan, as Harry proceeded to suck him off.
‘That’s some Cloak,’ he said afterward, Harry’s come still salty on his tongue.
‘Just wait,’ Harry said, grinning, then gave Draco an equally salty kiss. My lurking has found home in the Harry Potter series. The book of my childhood that first taught me how to get absorbed in reading. Though there might be an unsurprising link between the invisibility cloak and the lurker, it has nonetheless propelled me to read and collect the various appearances that this shimmering fabric takes in the world of fandom.
As the fantastical tool of the voyeur, the cloak is often used to trespass the rules that compartmentalise the rooms and relations that guide the story. Letting its wearer cross over into scenes and spaces otherwise not permitted. Yet this trespassing also applies itself to the erotic tensions between characters. The invisibility cloak works in Hogwarts slash fiction as a tool to bracket homosexual encounters – Harry steals a kiss from Draco under the cloak – or works onto the boundaries of the body – genitals disappearing in the warmth of a mouth, followed by a salted kiss.
Fan fiction might find resonance in the hagiographer John Capgrave’s claim: ‘My labour was to bringe hem into o body.’ Though Capgrave writes in an English that predates the presently used one, when read on the surface the ‘o body’ feels wildly fitting. Pointing towards the opening in the corpse of character or narrative, fan fiction works its way into and through the w/hole – destroying, vitalising it. Narrating this narration other-wise. Is that right…Did we hear this corpse say: ‘Use me’? … ‘a statement of vertiginous simplicity, it is not mystical, but materialist. Let me be your surface and your tissues, you may be my orifices and my palms and my membranes…’
The fan writer steps in letting the fingers of a figure wander and be found casually or passionately in the holes of another or another’s, in a dark hallway, a swimming pool, cross-author, cross-text or behind the unrelenting facade of a story as it was initially told. Text issuing forth, more and more of it. And the desirous reader bulges out. Making holes to make bodies. Reading text to write text. Inhabiting characters in order to appear. Getting laced into the shipping of characters that a reader would only dream of connecting.
With disregard to big shot author, the fanfic writer says, ‘I want it otherwise.’ Rather than asking what if the world were different, the fan says, what if the character were different.
Looking in lust, hands set out in version. To capture the narrative not there, yet suspended mid-air. A bastard taking shape in the reading eye. The excess that author never wanted to father, that the reader is moved to write. Whose site of origin collapses through the language of a wank, a fuck.
Clotting the standout, the sold text, the fans gather and abscess.
Late night, any night, I get into the puss.