tevere: Jihae, solemn with hint of smile (Default)
I like [personal profile] facetofcathy's clear and articulate explanation of the institutionalised systems of privilege that lead to something like the J2 Haiti story coming into existence. I don't think it's particularly productive to focus on [livejournal.com profile] gatorgrrl as an individual,* when it's our (for varying values of 'our': white, Western, developed-world, storytelling, media-consuming, fannish) culture that implicitly and explictly produces, endorses and perpetuates narratives like these.

*[ETA] I'm not saying she doesn't bear responsibility for that story. She does. And she should be criticised. But I feel that story is a symptom of a wider problem that also needs to be addressed. Loudly and angrily, where necessary.

To me, an interesting part of the discussion around this story is the ongoing conversation on whether or not fanfiction -- as opposed to original fiction -- is ever an appropriate vehicle for the exploration of real-life natural or man-made tragedies, particularly in non-white and post-colonial settings. The Haiti earthquake, 2004 tsunami, genocide in Rwanda, the reign of Idi Amin or the Khmer Rouge, the war in Iraq. (Or even fictional scenarios that are stand-ins for specific real-life tragedies.) This is clearly not to say that original fiction has carte blanche in its exploration of these topics, but: is there something inherent in the structure, audience or culture of fanfiction that makes it unsuitable for this purpose?

I don't have any answers to this question, and I know other people are saying insightful things about it elsewhere. Instead, I'll just offer a personal example as further food for thought.

Last year I wrote a fairly long fanfiction AU set during East Timor's Popular Consultation for Independence. In September 1999, approximately 1,500 Timorese were killed by Indonesia-supported local militias and Indonesian soldiers; more than 400,000 people were displaced; and 80% of all infrastructure was destroyed. The story I tried to write was about (highly problematic) Western perceptions and experiences of those events, about white privilege, and about the hypocrisies of international intervention and humanitarian aid. (Whether or not I succeeded is up to you.) It also, not incidentally, contained a romantic sub-plot between the (white, male, US national) protagonist and another white male US national.

A few people who were unfamiliar with the source material told me that story worked well enough as original historical fiction. I briefly considered filing off the serial numbers, as it were, before abandoning the idea. The thing is: if I had written it as an original story, I would have written it quite differently. Why?

Some examples )

In conclusion: I'm not sure whether all of that means fanfiction is fundamentally unsuitable for these topics; is generally unsuitable but can be made appropriate through careful choices of style, genre and source material; or is just different from original fiction.

Thoughts?

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