So, I think about fanfiction a lot, y'all may have noticed. And serial fiction. And the whole act of making fiction "real". What is it in a narrative that makes us think -- after the door is shut, after the windows are pushed down, after the covers are closed -- that the story goes on, before the first page, and after the last?
If you think of a single-author book as a window, or a doorway, you realize that even through you can only see a small portion of the world (i.e. what's framed by the aperture), there must be so much more just out of frame. If there isn't this sense, then the story is flat, two dimensional -- it doesn't encourage wandering. But in a good
story, you don't think that the small, squared off picture is all that's real. Because if the thing is three-dimensional, it has solidity. You can pick it up and turn it around. It still exists when you look at it from another side.
Think about mythforms. Superheros. They all exist
and the more people use them, carve another perspective onto them, the more solid they actually get.
From Henry James's preface to Portrait of a Lady
(a little wordy; James never used one word where fifty would do) :
The house of fiction has in short not one window, but a million-- a number of possible windows not to be reckoned, rather; every one of which has been pierced, or is still pierceable, in its vast front, by the need of the individual vision and by the pressure of the individual will. These apertures, of dissimilar shape and size, hang so, all together, over the human scene that we might have expected of them a greater sameness of report than we find. They are but windows at the best, mere holes in a dead wall, disconnected, perched aloft; they are not hinged doors opening straight upon life. But they have this mark of their own that at each of them stands a figure with a pair of eyes, or at least with a field-glass, which forms, again and again, for observation, a unique instrument, insuring to the person making use of it an impression distinct from every other. He and his neighbours are watching the same show, but one seeing more where the other sees less, one seeing black where the other sees white, one seeing big where the other sees small, one seeing coarse where the other sees fine. And so on, and so on; there is fortunately no saying on what, for the particular pair of eyes, the window may NOT open; "fortunately" by reason, precisely, of this incalculability of range. The spreading field, the human scene, is the "choice of subject"; the pierced aperture, either broad or balconied or slit-like and low-browed, is the "literary form"; but they are, singly or together, as nothing without the posted presence of the watcher--without, in other words, the consciousness of the artist.
Now, apply this not just to fiction in general, but to a single
story. Isn't this the act of fanfic? To make things real
D. and I argue about this all the time. He thinks that contradictory/differing versions make things less
real. I think they make them more
so -- just like multiple eye witness accounts differ, if they're true. When they're identical -- that's when you begin to think people are lying.
What d'you think?
I wonder about this a lot.
On a not entirely unrelated note, remember the Paul Cornell thing? Here is my version
, the lovely magnetgirl
, the dulcet tones of rm
...and Paul Cornell's account of same
Kind of funny, no? We loom so large in our own minds. For everyone else, we're all just sidekicks and extras. Sometimes we're the cool best friend, or the romantic interest. But protagonists? We're all our own. As it should be.
I almost called my thesis "Windows on the World" but then decided the WTC/9-11 allusion was not quite... what I was going for. Fucking terrorists.