Is fanfic the new folklore?
That’s the thought that’s been pacing in my skull for seven days (and counting). Ultimately, my answer is probably no. But I can’t stop thinking about fic in relation to other things. I’ve spent half a decade avoiding fan-communities/works, because as much as I love it all, getting involved is hugely invasive and hungry for attention–and then Mjolnir struck me in the ribcage, cracking it open for heart-access, and when I got up, it was with obsession. The THOR/Norsk fandom wriggled in past my cracked ribs, crawled up my throat, and eventually settled in with my (very few) intellectual faculties.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about folklore, and literature, and the headstrong crossover between the two, mythpunk*. With the appearance of an old obsession (fanfic/art), all these electrochemical signals naturally collided with all the force of mid-Ginnungagap (am I giving myself too much credit? I am.), and I began noting the similarities between fanfiction and folklore.
(Warning: most of this is brain-vomit. I’m just letting my thoughts dance about unchecked.)
Obviously, there’s a lot of fic that spins around rewriting lore, replacing traditional characters with, say, Sirius Black and Remus Lupin; tweaking gender roles; contorting tropes to better fit plotlines and character arcs; and, of course, the addition of lots (and LOTS) of sex (not that folklore shies from fucking–it just tends to be more graphic and long-winded in fanfic). This use of lore is especially prevalent in the THOR fandom–which is only to be expected, given the source material, though in this case, replacing the characters isn’t always necessary. However, the re-imaginings are frequently slant, are often re-imaginings of re-imaginings, as a lot of fic is based on the movies, which are based on the comics–etc, etc, you know what I mean; stories are reincarnations of stories are reincarnations of stories; it’s just the nature of the beast…
Anyway, my point is folklore can be like fanfiction: a retelling.
Call them tropes, stereotypes, fanon, canon, tale-types, or motifs plucked from the Aarne-Thompson Index–fanfiction, like folklore, is full of repetition, darkened mirrors, and doppelgangers. Think of the endless pairings, the descriptions (hurt/comfort, angst, AU, PWP, etc)–they’re all filters, methods for us to pick and choose how we like to feel. To find a new iteration of the familiar. I often read fanfic for the experience, to get that certain clutching of the upper-chest and throat, to find an emotion catharsis, to experience the characters I obsess over, until they’re more, deeper, than obsessions–until they become human.
Perhaps that’s elevating fanfic too high. But maybe not. What do we seek in fanfic? Humanity–a potent, emotive dose of humanity. And isn’t folklore for learning about humanity, for feeling it like a punch to the gut? The stories aren’t always right, sometimes they say wrong things, and in this way, reveal the many, amazingly snarly, nasty truths about the nature of human creatures–but all the repetition that occurs in lore, all the circling, all the characters with news faces, but familiar hearts? Sometimes, it’s all just the human-beast’s collective voice speaking to us.
So maybe folklore and fanfic are just two different voices speaking to, and of, the same spinal things in us. Folklore’s a primal, bone-fed voice; fanfic is a spitfire tale-spinner that feasts on and subverts our memetic hearts.
*For the record, I don’t think mythpunk has much to do with the bridge between fanfic and folklore, as I don’t feel that bridge is particularly anarchic in nature. But mythpunk’s been on my brain, so I mentioned it. I think the reason it came to mind is that there may be a parallel relationship between mythpunk and myth-driven fanfic (mythfic?)…