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FAN(G)S: Fan fiction and the vampire trope

Research project FAN(GS) analyses two phenomena in contemporary Western culture: the vampire trope and fan fiction (texts published online, which build on an already existing fictional universe). The project particularly focuses on how sexualities and gender are represented in the texts.

Close readings of fanfic increase the understanding of how readers interpret stories they encounter. Our results nuance discussions about the role of fiction in today’s culture; how it inspires amateur authors’ creativity, and how structures in the source texts change to encompass the fanfic authors’ experiences. The latter is highly visible in fanfics which challenge the heteronorm. The vampire trope lends itself well to this as it is associated with transgressive sexualities. Fan fiction about contemporary and historical vampires show how readers concretely interpret the trope and what functions it has in their texts

Head of project

Project overview

Project period:

2011-04-07 2013-12-31


Finansår , 2011, 2012, 2013

huvudman: , finansiar: Vetenskapsrådet, y2011: 874, y2012: 874, y2013: 874,

Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Department of Language Studies

Research area

General literary studies, Modern languages

Project description

Fan fiction (or fanfic) are amateur authors’ stories which take as their starting point written or visual texts which the author admires. The fanfic authors present their own versions of events in the source text, create alternative scenarios or pair characters in alternative ways. Fanfic can thus be said to be written readings of elements in the source text, and fan fictions concretely illustrate how readers and viewers today both use and create fiction. The text form has not been studied to any great extent so far and is mostly mentioned as part of a bigger context within fan studies. In ethnological and sociological studies, focus is often on identity construction in a computer mediated context and there are strong tendencies to see fans as groups rather than individuals. The project’s close reading method makes it possible to focus on the texts as literary artifacts and as expressions of individual readers’ and viewers’ interpretations of the stories they encounter in TV-series, films and novels. The texts can also be historically contextualised when seen in relation to earlier forms of derivative writing. As many fanfic authors present alternative events, characterisations and relationships, our close readings show that fanfic is an important text form to consider and discuss when ideas concerning passive reception are problematised.

The research within the project is focused on aspects connected to gender and sexualities since fanfic predominantly consists of stories in which relationships are central. Fanfic about vampires is particularly interesting because the trope is associated with forbidden sexualities and often moves beyond the traditional binaries male/female. However, many vampires in contemporary texts, especially within the romance genre, are represented as tamed, de-fanged and staunchly heterosexual. When basing their stories on this type of source text, fanfic authors often show resistance to these stereotypical and conservative representations by creating new romantic/erotic couples or by representing characters’ sexualities in alternative ways. The project’s focus on fan fiction connected to some of the central historical and contemporary vampire texts (written and visual), nuances and deepens the understanding of both fanfic and the vampire trope’s popularity in today’s consumer society.

There is a huge amount of fan fiction already published online, and new texts are added each day. The overarching research questions limit our selection of texts to study. We are particularly interested in how the fans’ interpretations of the source texts are made visible in how they have adapted scenarios, events and characterisations in ways which show resistance to contemporary cultural norms. Fanfics which are very faithful to the source text therefore fall outside our scope. We focus on a limited amount of source texts and incorporate a historical perspective (supported by Gothic studies), as the contemporary vampire trope and its function in contemporary popular culture is best understood in relation to older texts and interpretations. The texts we study are predominanlt taken from the two categories slash and femslash (homoerotic stories about characters who are not paired in the source text). Alternative representations of characters’ sexuality/ies clearly illustrate aspects connected to gender and power, and how the contemporary heteronorm is challenged. Queer theory provides us with starting points for the analyses.

Fan fiction illustrates dynamic, non-commercial, relatively democratic and very productive uses of fiction which is available to many, but neglected in literary research. FAN(G)S is a pioneer project textual analysis is central and as fan fictions are seen as literary artifacts, not simply imitations of an earlier text. Our results nuance discussions about the role of fiction in today’s culture; how it inspires amateur authors’ creativity, and how structures in the source texts change to encompass the fanfic authors’ experiences. Fan fiction texts have countless predecessors as people throughout time have adapted stories to their own situations and needs. The comparative perspective: analyses of both historical and contemporary vampire texts, similarly illustrates a historical development and shows how the trope is interpreted by active, at times highly critical, readers.

Keywords: fan fiction, the vampire trope, popular culture, intertextuality, remediation, queer theory
Latest update: 2018-06-20