Jocelyn's Other Desk

The writings of Jocelyn Smith, aspiring author, soon-to-be lawyer, once and future politician, all-around opinionated twentysomething.

My Photo
Name:
Location: Orlando, Florida, United States

I'm a lawyer in Florida, working on three novels, a screenplay, and half a dozen pieces of fanfiction at any given moment.

Friday, July 22, 2005

More on Sexuality in Fanfiction in the Harry Potter Context...

At risk of starting a whole new uproar, (or maybe for the purpose of starting a new one, it's very quiet around here lately!) I noticed a very interesting article posted on MuggleNet, (I think it is from Time Magazine) in which J.K. Rowling's taste in reading was discussed, specifically, her lack of previous strong interest in fantasy. She never finished Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, (oh well, nobody's perfect, I guess), and didn't like C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia very much.

But her reason for the latter I found most interesting. She is reportedly religious (what type I don't know, and it isn't really relevant) but her issue with Lewis was the way he treated religion versus sexuality. I've never read Chronicles of Narnia, but Jo had a problem with the fact that when a female character discovered lipstick (and through it, sexuality) she was no longer portrayed as "religious."

So now, the million-dollar question: How does J.K. Rowling react to the variety of...shall we say...more sexual expression in fanfiction?

I rather suspect she responds just as any reasonablely normal, intelligent adult would.

I'm not talking about pornfic. That's a whole different can of worms and sleaze. I'm talking about sexual content as part of a romantic plot.

On the whole, Rowling has been wonderfully supportive of fanwriters in general. I was surprised and amused to note a little sexual innuendo creeping its way into Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, to the point where I rather suspect she has adjusted her writing for her now-heavy adult readership.
  • At one point, the password to enter Gryffindor Tower is "abstinence," shortly after our various young heroes start pairing off. Subtle for young readers, but for us grown-ups...definitely giggle-worthy.

Given that, and the other attitudes she's expressed, I have a feeling she (as an individual, as opposed to the author/copyright owner advised by a small army of lawyers from agent and publishers) would not be too alarmed by stories in which our teenaged protagonists take their relationships to "the next level" (depending, of course, on whether the descriptions/discussions in the stories are gratuitous.)

As for stories involving the relationships of the adult characters...same standard probably applies. So long as the fanwriters aren't targeting kids with heavily sexual material and taking some efforts (ratings, segregating archive sections, etc) to warn of any adult content, I doubt Ms. Rowling will take serious issue with it.

But what about cross-generation relationships? One of the most popular pairings in the Harry Potter fandom is Severus Snape/Hermione Granger. (Yes, I know, people, keep your hair on; intellectual connection is one of the primary basis for May-December relationships.) It would depend, of course, on the way it's portrayed; many stories pair the two off after Hermione has graduated and returned to Hogwarts to teach or do research. So that doesn't really count.

All in all, so long as the "adult content" is not gratuitous and there are warnings for younger readers, I seriously doubt Rowling will be terribly alarmed.

Face it, friends: lots of adult and teenaged fans are interested in speculating and writing about what the characters will do after Hogwarts, and after Hogwarts, they will be adults.

Adults have sex. Kids grow up to be adults, get married, or don't get married, and make more kids.

Are we sensing a pattern here?

My point is: sex happens. Rowling knows this. Sexual content does not automatically render a story pornographic and corruptive. Rowling knows this too. Many writers consider sexual content a legitimate part of developing a romantic plot. Rowling knows this too.

Yes, the Harry Potter novels are primarily for children. But that doesn't mean all Harry Potter fanfiction is, or should be.

I think Jo Rowling is a rational, intelligent adult, and that she, along with her legal entourage, is aware that people who write stories about the characters as adults, doing adult things, are not an army of evil perverts. So it seems unlikely that she loses much sleep over ordinary fanfiction.

7 Comments:

Blogger Claire said...

Interesting comments. I'll wade in. A few of us discussed it recently, and note, I am the one who reads no more of Harry than I absolutely have to. Personal choice. To me, they are kids books and poorly written kids books. Too long, too descriptive, too many ellipses and horrific sentence structure. Doesn't surprise me at all that she hasn't won any prizes for children's literature in this country. At least, not that I know of.

From what I understand of HBP, the book isn't one I'd hand off to my kids with confidence. Too mature, too dark. Maybe when they are in their teens. At some point I'll buy it for them and if they want to read it, they are welcome. My guess is that it's not going to interest them much.

It's possible that some of the younger segment are suffering from HP Fatigue. If not them, then the parents.

I cannot speak to what Rowling would think of sexual content in her stories. She's written a children's story that has crept into young adult. The characters moving to 'the next level' has no place in her book, I fail to see why ficcers think it's okay to go there in their fanfic.

I'm more and more in favor of labeling fanfic a puerile activity (no matter what the age of the writer), so I may not be the one to discuss this with.

From what I pick up on the wank boards, JKR wrote HBP the way she wanted. She's always had her vision for these stories. Each book has a story arc and there's an overriding arc for the series that is only going to come clear after she's put the words 'The End' on the final book.

So - ficcers are...writing... because they think Harry's cute or whatever, or they really want Hermione and her professor to get together. This is kid stuff, Jocelyn. This is teenage girls giggling behind hands at the water fountain. I don't care if the writer is 43 years old.

Hermione and Snape? Why? It's unethical on Snape's part. Put aside the fact that Hermione is a kid. And if he does her when she's in grad school she'll still be a kid compared to him.

Is it the fanfic version of 'Daddy Long Legs' or 'Gigi'?

I have some other thoughts on this. But I'll hold for your reply.

Back to research.

Wait a minute: wanted to explain the use of the word 'puerile'. I think fanfic is a great place to 'cut teeth' if somebody needs a place to BEGIN to learn to write. And I mean BEGIN. I think when people start taking a lot of crit from other fanficcers, their skills diminish. In other words, there's an initial bit of improvement, some confidence gets built, then the writing weakens. That's because, by it's nature, fanfic is a 'group activity'. What can be learned from fanfic can be garnered in a few months, after that it's a downward slide.

So - I don't want to discourage, nor do I meant to insult your mom with my comments. I see she just wrote her first solo fic and that's great. I applaud her. However, I'd really love to see her next solo bit of writing be an original short story.

Best,
Claire

10:39 PM  
Blogger Jocelyn Smith said...

The characters moving to 'the next level' has no place in her book, I fail to see why ficcers think it's okay to go there in their fanfic.

I guess that's where we primarily differ in our views of fanfiction.

After all, if fanwriters confined their writing only to "going there" to places where the original author has already gone, there's no point.

Why should writing a fanfic (for an adult audience) about the courtship and marriage of two characters (maybe containing a few steamy scenes) be any different or any less acceptable than writing a fanfic about the characters' post-Hogwarts education?

So - ficcers are...writing... because they think Harry's cute or whatever, or they really want Hermione and her professor to get together. This is kid stuff, Jocelyn.

No, fanwriters are writing because they think this plot angle or that plot angle would be interesting.

Ever read Laurie R. King's Mary Russell series, about a woman who ends up in a May-December relationship (and eventual marriage) with Sherlock Holmes? Cross-generational relationships aren't creepy or unethical by their nature. (I personally agree that stories that pair Hermione and Snape off while Hermione's in school are a bad idea, but if the character is an adult, behaving like an adult in the story, why not?)

And if he does her when she's in grad school she'll still be a kid compared to him.

Is it the fanfic version of 'Daddy Long Legs' or 'Gigi'?


Well, I quite agree that stories where this character "does" that character with no plot are just stupid. But a well-written story about an intellectual, academic relationship between two intelligent people with many things in common and interesting personalities that eventually develops into a romance...I have no problem with that. (Such well-written stories are, by their nature, hard to find, but they do exist.)

That's because, by it's nature, fanfic is a 'group activity'. What can be learned from fanfic can be garnered in a few months, after that it's a downward slide.

No worries, no offense taken. But fanfiction isn't only an activity intended for "learning to write" anymore than writing is solely intended to "hone your skills."

Goes to what Guyot's always saying about "the writer's soul." I swore I was going to concentrate more on my original fiction after Mum and I finished Battle of Wills, but the minute I finished the latest Potter book, I had a new idea spinning to life in my head for a new series of stories. They're shorter (thank heavens) but they're just begging to be written.

I'll probably be juggling fanfiction and original fiction all my life. There are joys in both forms of writing.

But back to the debate: I think you're assuming that the motive behind writing romantic and/or sexual scenes (discounting porn) is a giggly sort of "ooh, I wanna see so-and-so do so-and-so," and it is not.

It's a case of... "I wonder what would happen..." or "I wonder how..." and experimenting with character interaction.

10:28 AM  
Blogger Claire said...

Head back to blog, okay? I have a few thoughts, but I don't think I want to put them up here.

Regarding the reasons behind fanfiction. I know what I thought they were when I was in the midst of it. My thinkiing on it has changed. But we'd be going back over old territory, to get into it again. Perhaps some of the others will weigh in. For Ms. Rowling, her books are complete with the next. What corners are unexplored remain unexplored because that's what she wanted. She's unique, most of us don't get 300K words or more to write a novel. We have to get that story arc in by 120K max, or we're stew. Her first is far longer than the typical Middle Grades or Young Adult novel.

Rereading my original comment, I think I sound a little harsh. Didn't mean to sound that way.

JKR is the author. If she doesn't care what people do sexually with her book, that's her prerogative. As an author of children's books, she has a responsibility to make it clear, since she does allow and encourage fanfic, what those parameters might be. Since she's richer than God, she has the ability and wherewithal to seek out the offenders and have her attorneys send C & D's.

That she doesn't do so, speaks volumes. So I can't comment on what is all right, or not all right. If writers of R rated and higher fic are going to hide behind what OTHER supposed YA authors are writing in their books as the barometer, there is nowhere to go with the argument.

I sometimes wonder if she would have been half as popular if she'd written the story about a bunch of older teens making the passage into true adulthood - say 17 to 25 years old - a fascinating time period. I still think the attraction for too many of the adult writers of the fanfic is that these are kids...like the Narnia series.

11:18 AM  
Blogger Fandom Rebels said...

JKR is the author. If she doesn't care what people do sexually with her book, that's her prerogative. As an author of children's books, she has a responsibility to make it clear, since she does allow and encourage fanfic, what those parameters might be.

agreed and

That she doesn't do so, speaks volumes

agreed.

I'm not sure what you're arguing, Jocelyn. She said she didn't want pornography. If people are going to parse words because they WANT to write about it, what's it matter what JKR thinks about it?

Aside from that - she's the author. Why does everybody feel this great need to put these kids in bed together or string them out on drugs or have hermione and snape get together, no matter how intellectual and 'pure' the relationship?

I mean. Who cares?

Carol.

11:14 AM  
Blogger Jocelyn Smith said...

I'm not sure what you're arguing, Jocelyn. She said she didn't want pornography. If people are going to parse words because they WANT to write about it, what's it matter what JKR thinks about it?

It wasn't so much an argument as trying to figure out, based on her public statements, what kind of writing she would actually QUALIFY as pornography.

My argument is that just because a story contains a sexual relationship, it does not automatically qualify as pornography, in her eyes and in the general public's eyes.

Why does everybody feel this great need to put these kids in bed together or string them out on drugs or have hermione and snape get together, no matter how intellectual and 'pure' the relationship?

"Everybody" doesn't. Some people write about kids growing up and getting married. Some people write about two people similar in temperment and intelligence but very different in age interacting, and maybe or maybe not becoming romantic.

I quite agree: who cares? But my point is, why is it such a big, horrific deal in fanfiction when that sort of thing appears in original fiction by the truckload?

11:32 AM  
Blogger Fandom Rebels said...

Hi, Jocelyn, I just had a hissy fit. But decided to post my answer to you elsewhere. Forgive my temper. It sucks.

Carol

6:56 PM  
Blogger Jocelyn Smith said...

Hi, Jocelyn, I just had a hissy fit. But decided to post my answer to you elsewhere. Forgive my temper. It sucks.

Carol, no worries. I've been on the receiving end of worse.

You're perfectly free to post anything you like here; I won't be offended. I have a very thick skin.

9:06 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home