Crossovers, slash and Mary Sue

Earlier in the week, I really enjoyed this BBC radio documentary on the weird and wonderful world of fanfiction, presented by novelist Naomi Alderman:

I particularly enjoyed the parallel drawn between modern fanfiction and types of literature which were very popular in previous eras (notably the Middle Ages), although at one point the discussion also touches on the fact that fanfiction is overwhelmingly written by (and apparently also read by) women, and what this says about female readers and how we respond to texts. I must say that a lot of Tolkien fanfiction in particular seems to respond (whether intentionally or not) to the paucity of female characters in his work, whether that’s through the inclusion in the Fellowship of a spunky teenage girl with a gift for archery who ends up getting with Legolas (the infamous “Mary Sue”) or by trying to breathe life into some of the women who are only fleeting presences in, or even entirely absent from, the texts (such as Amarie, or Celebrian, or Finduilas). Some time down the line, I am planning to have a good look at women in Tolkien fandom and the representation of female characters in fan works – not sure whether I’m looking forward to the research, or sort of dreading it…


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