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Fan fiction is a form of cultural participation in which eager fans use the fixivity of a fictional character or narrative for their creative fruition. The fans take their favorite cultural narratives and reproduce them in alternative conditions. Using Michael Taussig’s insight, we can look at fan fiction as a process of out-fetishizing the fetish. Taussig attempts to understand the process of embodiment and reproduction in his book Mimesis and Alterity, the making and existence of the artifact that portrays something gives one power over that which is portrayed. Fan fiction often begins from a fan’s desire to read something different from the original, to account for the absence of the other or to intensify an already existing power relationship. It is produced out of the outside writer’s desire to assert themselves into a cultural narrative, and possibly gain power over such narrative.

There is always a limit or termination of the original texts that prompt fan fiction. The amateur fan defies this limit by personally extending the narrative into all possible scenarios and plots. Like a virus, fan fiction has the ability to mimic aspects of the original text and poison and program alternative conflicts. Within the online community of fan fiction writers, strands of the virus produce a poisonthat can produce moments of dormancy, moments of latency and moments of uncontrollable emergence. Often, the viral uproar and emergence of a fan fiction text’s popularity seems unexplainable, as if it had appeared from nowhere. FSOGs sudden explosion into the literary world is an example of this, other examples include a fan artwork from the series Adventure Time that became so popular it was eventually included into the show. The voice of the fan unravels the top down power structure of typical publishing and cultural production. No longer is culture offered/sold to the public in its expected binary channel of delivery and consumption. Rather, a cultural production becomes a mutating medium that grows incestual siblings by the hour, alternative versions of itself that un-does any notion of an original author. In fact, the author becomes transparent and all credits are bestowed upon the characters and relationships occurring in the texts. An entire readership contributes to the evolution of these characters as they continually re-embody them in what becomes a possessed scream of outsiders asserting themselves into the texture of culture.

All of the possession and reinterpretation occurring in fan fiction amounts to what Avital Ronell would call haunted writing. Ronell coined the term haunted writing. while completing her thesis research on the uner-workings of Germanic philosopher Goethe. Ronell often states that writers from the past act as hosts for her philosophical concerns. For her, Goethe was an ideal host for her study on marginal and monstrous figures from history, she explains her decision to use Goethe as a figure to write with/about; He could handle me, and I felt that he was possibly relieved to get dusted off by a perv who understood one part of him so often pushed away and canceled out by his largely prudish handlers, the legitimate custodians of his legacy. The notion of using an author as a host, or maybe even as a disguise, grants the contemporary writer permission to evade or crack open disregarded, wasted, or leftover literary territories. Avital deems herself a perverse, deviant onlooker of alternative histories, like a fan fiction writer her perverse state gives her full autonomy to first, occupy an alternative body or body of works, and then care for that body and extend it into marginal spaces of histroy. Avital speaks of this process as initially feminine and submissive, she must begin writing by surrendering herself to the work she is hosted by. After a process of feminine submission, a space for critical combatants becomes available to the writer, this unique space challenges the text from the inside and is at once fighting for and against the original work. Avital Ronell came to the term haunted writing after submitting herself to Goethe’s form only to realize that there was already someone inside- Goethe’s young assistant Eckermann who was body-snatched, becoming a phantom voice in almost all of Goethe’s texts. Eckermann was so attached to Goethe that he actually finished and penned Goethe’s final works after his death- Eckermann anonymously continued Goethe’s legacy and became a possessed or haunted writer deleted from philosophical history. Avital Ronell’s work could be seen as a document of the first fan fiction writer who she describes as the “refuse that guarantees the purity and the propriety, the properness,of Goethe’s work and signature.”

Unlike Eckerman, the contemporary fan fiction writer is a misfit with a voice. This voice, or possessed scream, can transform members of My Chemical Romance into gay lovers, Harry Potter into a hermaphrodite, or the writer of the fan fiction into Justin Beiber’s ideal girlfriend.* Fan fiction’s most featured trope is the reinterpretation of romance, sexuality, and gender. The haunted writers of fan fiction are essentially a massive group of losers (or average people) fucking their way into the mainstream.

Fan fiction writers submit themselves to their texts, finding a space similar to an incubator where new sexual identities, fantasies, and cultural norms and can be tested out. Despite, the incubation of a renewed or transformed culture, the fan fiction is still married to the host it is working inside of. Michael Taussig describes this predicament as the the image affecting what it is an image of. While fan fiction challenges the notion of a fixed cultural, it is simultaneously confirming its permanence. The same characters and narratives are continually repeated in a fetishtic manner that limits culture to the characters already in circulation. Like a stereotype that is solidified through its anxious repetition, certain cultural figures become permanent as fan fiction intensifies their power or fuckability.