Whoosh! Issue 53 - February 2001

By J. Bailey
Content copyright ©2001 held by author
Whoosh! Edition copyright ©2001 held by Whoosh!
1506 words

Writing About Characters on TV Shows (01)
Writing About Fans of TV Shows (02-03)
Writing About Fictional Fans of TV Shows (04)
Writing About Fictional Fans of Fictional TV Shows (05)
Where Does the Madness Stop? (06)
Summation (07)

On Some Varieties of Fan Fiction

Writing About Characters on TV Shows

No, no, Gabrielle!  You put your *left* foot in, you take your *left* foot out...

Xena and Gabrielle wander through Amazon forests.

[1] As is well-known, there are television shows (and also movies, and other mass media, but primarily we will consider television), and fans of these shows, and some fans write fiction that includes characters from a television show of which they are a fan. This is called FAN-FICTION. A silly example follows. [Note 01]

Xena and Gabrielle were traveling through a forest when they noticed a very strange looking tree. Examining it, Xena commented, "This reminds of a joke I heard long ago, but I can't tell it to you."

After a few moments of silence, Gabrielle demanded, "Well, why not? I want to hear it!"

Xena replied, "The joke is so funny that those who hear it die of laughter. Gabrielle, I don't want to be the cause of your death."

Gabrielle was incredulous. "You must be kidding! And besides, why didn't you die when you heard the joke?"

Xena answered, "At the time I heard the joke, I had no sense of humor, and thus was safe. That has changed, and it takes an effort of will to avoid thinking of the joke, which, if it fully entered my mind, would destroy me."

Gabrielle was dissatisfied with this explanation, and still very curious; but it was clear that nothing she could say or do would convince Xena to change her mind, and so they continued their journey. [Note 02]

Writing About Fans of TV Shows

[2] What would one then call fictional stories that include as characters real fans of a real television show? We cannot call it fan fiction, since that term already has the previously described meaning. An even sillier example follows. The (presumably) real fans that appear in the story are (at the time of this writing) members of the IAXS (International Association of XENA Studies) Executive Committee. [Note 03]

Kym had some disturbing news for Bret. "Bret, I recently received this very disturbing letter."

Bret asked, "Does it involve WHOOSH! strategy?"

Kym knew what was coming, but with a sigh she answered that it did.

As expected, Bret said, "That means we have to use the cone of silence." [Note 04]

"You know I HATE the cone of silence, Bret!" Kym answered. But, as usual, Bret insisted. So the cone of silence was lowered.

Kym said, "..."

Bret said, "..."

Kym shouted, "!!!"

Bret replied, "???"

Finally, Kym swore, "%&@#!" and raised the cone of silence. "Bret, I swear that is the last time you get me to use that ***** cone of silence!"

Bret, looking contrite, said, "Very well. What is this letter all about then?"

Kym passed the letter over, and Bret started reading it. His eyes bulging, he exclaimed, "I can't believe it! I thought we destroyed WHEEZE! [Note 05]—our powerful and evil arch-rival organization—at the end of season 3!"

"Apparently not," Kym said. "And you will notice of course that Nubile Wench, their leader, is back."

"She threatens to dance on us with red high-heeled shoes, and laugh!" Bret said, as he continued reading.

"This letter was covered with dust," Kym told Bret, "and I've had it analyzed. It's moon dust!"

"You think they've set up operations on the moon?" Bret asked.

"Yes," Kym said. "I'm sure of it. Bret, I want you to design, build, and launch a lunar orbiter ASAP to check for signs of WHEEZE! operations on the moon."

"I'll get right on it!" Bret said.

[3] The author proposes calling fiction of this variety META-FAN-FICTION.

Writing About Fictional Fans of TV Shows

[4] Another variety of fan fiction (in the most general sense) is fiction in which all characters are fictional fans of a real television show. This could be called FICTIONAL-FAN-FICTION.

For example:

Jack and Jill were an old married couple, married for over forty years. Their children had been raised to varying degrees of success, at least to the degree that they had all left home and now had lives of their own. Furthermore, by systematically avoiding accountants, financial planners, lawyers, full-service brokers, and so on, throughout their lives, and investing the money that they would have otherwise paid to these and other symbiotes and parasites, they had achieved financial security. Thus, they were free in their declining years to watch as much TV as they liked, and one of their favorite programs was XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS.

Unfortunately, it so happened that after a particularly moving episode, they began to argue. Jill was convinced that it was quite clear that Xena and Gabrielle had an intimate physical relationship. Jack was equally sure that they were "just friends". The argument escalated. They began sleeping in separate rooms. Jack moved out. Ultimately they were divorced, on grounds of "irreconcilable differences".

Subsequently they lived happily and separately ever after, although "ever after" wasn't really very long, because they both were, after all, quite old.

Writing About Fictional Fans of Fictional TV Shows

And we have better costumes than XENA fans, too!

Aliens were big fans of GALAXY QUEST.

[5] Is that it? No, there is more! There are examples of fiction in which the characters are fictional fans of a fictional television show. For an example, we need look no further than the movie GALAXY QUEST (Dean Parisot, 1999). [Note 06] In this movie, the (fictional) fans are essential to part of the story. In fact, viewed in a certain way, GALAXY QUEST could be considered primarily a story about fans and fandom (in a fictional setting). What should we call this variety of fiction? Somewhat lacking in imagination, the author proposes the term META-FICTIONAL-FAN-FICTION for stories of this variety.

Where Does the Madness Stop?

[6] This can go on indefinitely, although we are now reaching a point in which the number of removes from reality is becoming confusing. Suppose, for example, that one of the fans in GALAXY QUEST had (in the fictional story) written some fan fiction (in the usual sense, but in this fictional setting), and that someone had published this as GALAXY QUEST-related material. How would we classify this story? META-FICTIONAL-FAN-FAN-FICTION perhaps? Until an example appears, the author suggests that we not worry about the terminology for this and even more complex varieties.


[7] In summary, the author proposes the following terminology for classifying the four simplest varieties of fiction related to fans and fandom.

FAN-FICTION is fiction written by real fans of a real television show or movie in which there are characters from the show or movie, or the setting is the same as the show or movie.

META-FAN-FICTION is fiction where there are characters that are fictional versions of real fans of a real television show or movie.

FICTIONAL-FAN-FICTION is fiction in which there are fictional characters that are fans of a real television show or movie.

META-FICTIONAL-FAN-FICTION is fiction in which there are fictional characters that are fans of a fictional television show or movie.


Note 01

All of the author's examples will be silly and badly written as well, since truth to tell the author is simply no good at writing fiction. Whether the author is any good at writing a coherent article remains to be seen.
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Note 02

The idea of a joke that is too funny to tell appears in the short story "Nine Hundred Grandmothers" by R. A. Lafferty, 1966. An authorized online version can be found here.
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Note 03

The current members of the IAXS Executive Committee (who appear to be real people) can be found here.
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Note 04

The cone of silence is (of course) from the television show GET SMART (1965-1970).
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Note 05

The idea of a WHOOSH! enemy organization called WHEEZE! headed by Nubile Wench appeared in the Studios USA Cleopatra 2525 Forum.
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Note 06
Information on the movie GALAXY QUEST (Dean Parisot, 1999) can be found, for example, online here.
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J. Bailey J. Bailey

J. Bailey became conscious in 2507. After spending twelve years in Unauthorized Aboveground Human Search and Destroy Patrol, he/she/it transferred to Betrayer R&D, where he/she/it made significant contributions to the technological advancements which enabled the creation of Betrayers identical at the molecular level to the original subjects. Currently he/she/it is engaged in a top-secret (shhh!) project related to the reverse engineering of psionic-reality-plane devices. He/she/it downloaded all XWP episodes from historical archives in 2520, as part of human culture studies related to the previously mentioned Betrayer R&D work. There are no common cross-cultural-referents which would facilitate him/her/it selecting any favorites.

Favorite episodes: See above.
Favorite line: See above.
First episode seen: not applicable, all episodes were downloaded and analyzed in parallel.
Least favorite episode: See above.

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