9 mar 2010
UPDATE form 7th September 2011 - FOR FULL VERSION (with Tables) check here.
The second part of my speech...
Sex in Polish Sci-Fi Fan Fiction
The goal of the study is to determine whether Polish sci-fi fan fiction is promiscuous or puritan. To what extent are fannish creations sexual – do fans write erotica? I have mentioned that I will not make any definite conclusion, describe any trend or build models of Polish fans’ creativity. The article is just a picture of a certain part of the science fiction fandom that we may call “sex in fan fiction”.
When considering the topic in more detail one should begin with paying attention to a problem I have mentioned previously - the inability of Polish fans to describe what they created. As I have signaled fan fiction is not labeled in any way and Polish fans are not aware of the existence of specific terminology that would allow them to put their writing in order. Of course because of the specific history of Polish fandom we cannot apply Western rules to Polish fans. It is not my purpose then to compare different regions. By showing that Polish fans do not know Western terminology I want to analyze sex in fan fiction. There is a tendency amongst Polish fans to recognize terms that are not connected with fan fiction containing sex. For example 93,8 per cent knows what “canon” is, 71,7 per cent understands what “cross-over” means, 58,4 per cent “beta-reader”, 23,9 per cent “hurt-comfort”, 23 per cent “marry sue”. Terms connected with fan fiction containing sex are less recognizable (“first-time” – 47,8 per cent; “slash” – 45,1 per cent; “pwp” – 19,5 per cent; “mpreg” – 16,8 per cent; “gen” – 14,2 per cent; “het” – 12,4 per cent).
Does this indicate that Polish fans are puritan? Although an analysis of terminology is a good starting point it is definitely too soon to establish this. One cannot say anything about sex in fan fiction in Poland only on the basis of terms, especially because a comparison to Western fans is not recommended. It would be helpful to gain further knowledge on the content of the fan fiction itself. I have analyzed it by questioning fans and reading randomly picked fiction.
The results of the survey are very interesting and worth analyzing. According to respondents the majority of Polish fan fiction stands for action and development of characters (original or created by fans). Only 12,5 per cent of fans indicated that sex is the core of fannish fiction. It does not mean though that stories are not sexual at all (see Table 5). 44,6 per cent of respondents have ever encountered erotic stories. This confirms that although in minority sexual sci-fi fan fiction exists. When we refer to the fact that a majority of surveyed fans read fan fiction, we can assume that most of them sometime in the past came across a story that described sexual activities, however this type of stories is not the most common. Results from Table 6 confirm this premise. Only 13 fans “strongly agree” or “agree” that fan fiction is highly erotic while 65 “disagree” or “strongly disagree”. 30,5 per cent of fans reject the possibility that fan fiction contains a lot of sex.
In defense of this thesis it would be worthwhile to analyze some fan fiction placed on Fan Boards. I have decided to randomly pick some stories from Boards I mention in Appendix. Starting from number one in Appendix and reading every fifth fiction beginning with the oldest one on each Bulletin Board I have examined 51 stories. On some Boards there were less than five fictions – in this case I have read only one (selected randomly). Using categories presented in Table 5 I have marked each story with a single word. However, if a fan fiction contained elements of “action”, “politics” and “sexual activities” it was marked as belonging to each three categories. That is why although I have examined 51 stories if one sums up a number of stories belonging to each category, it will exceed 51. I have skipped fan fiction which does not belong to any of these categories, for example stories about fans, different parodies, satire and fairy tales. Below I show the results of my analysis. Examples of fan fiction from each category as well as nicknames of fans who created it, their sex and object of their fandom are to supplement it.
A tendency observed when analyzing fan answers is confirmed by the textual analysis of fannish stories. As we can see only few are sexual. One will not find any fan fiction that is solely erotic (“pwp”), which depicts sex without describing action or focusing on character development. Erotic scenes very often are just an extension of main plot. To sum up, in the case of Polish sci-fi fan fiction we are dealing with puritans rather than promiscuous fans. Erotica is rare, and although we can encounter stories that are sexual, they are in minority.
Let us get back to fans. We can use the survey and try to determine why erotic fan fiction (although in minority) is created. The survey contained an open question about reasons for creating stories with sexual content. Every respondent that ever encountered erotic fan fiction (44,6 per cent) could express their opinion. It might be useful to cite a few statements:
Fans create erotic stories because they lack sexual content in official productions. To make their favourite tv show hotter. (Anonymous respondent; male; age 23; fan of: Star Wars).
Because they are not sexually satisfied (Anonymous respondent; female; age 21; fan of: Star Wars).
Maybe to show that sex needs to be an important part of science fiction (nickname: Lo’Rel; male; age: 27; fan of: Star Trek).
To depict scenes that do not exists, and to show something someone would like to see in official productions, or to expand existing sex scenes and even to deepen the interpersonal relations between characters. All in all to have fun (M.F. Luder; female; age 21; fan of: X-files).
Basically there are two reasons. Firstly, there are fans with an idea. An idea for a story in which sex is an important part of a plot. An then there are stupid, horny teens who after watching their first porno movie see sex everywhere (nickname: Komandor Eire; female; age 20; fan of: Star Wars, Lord of the Rings).
Within Fan Board “Polski Bastion Star Wars” most erotic fan fiction is written by people of age between 13 and 15. They just cannot relieve sexual tension any other way, maybe because they just discover their sexual needs. In case of Star Wars sometimes one has a need to add something to the universe one likes, add a scene that was completely overlooked by producers (nickname: Lord Sidious; male; age 30; fan of: Star Wars).
Statements cited above give a full range of answers. Most fans expressed similar opinions. What about homosexual fan fiction? Does it exist at all? Out of 50 fans that encountered erotic fan fiction, 22 did read Polish fan fiction that described sex between homosexuals (gay or lesbian). When asked about reasons someone writes slash fiction (or femslash) these 22 fans most frequently indicated that this kind of work is a result of a need of artistic fulfillment offering pleasures that ordinary fiction does not provide. Other answers that were frequent underlined political reasons, the need to manifest one’s erotic fantasies, the need to create unique stories and producers’ reluctance to depict homosexual relationships.
Let us get back to the cited statements about reasons for creating erotic stories. “Komandor Eire” described “horny teens who after watching their first porno movie see sex everywhere”. “Lord Sidious” noticed that “most erotic fan fiction is written by people of age between 13 and 15”. Is this really the case? Are most writers of stories containing sex young? What are their demographics? Out of 69 fans that admitted to writing fan fiction, only 12 had ever written erotica. Both “Komandor Eire” and “Lord Sidious” are mistaken. Most writers of erotica are between 21 and 25 years of age. In fact there is only one fan who is less than 16. It is not true that erotic fan fiction is written mainly by men (that was a general tendency). 58,4 per cent of erotic fiction writers are females.
Polish sci-fi fans are rather puritan than promiscuous. It is undoubtedly true that sexual content is present in a minority of fan stories. Most of fan fiction writers concentrate their efforts on creating works which involve character development or action. Of course conclusions may not be so unambiguous. One cannot decide beyond any doubt that fans are puritan. Mainly because some fans do write erotica. Of course even though they are not a speck in the ocean statistics show they are definitely a smaller slice of the cake. One is obliged to say though that despite being puritans Polish fans are tolerant and open. For example they disagree that only heterosexual sex is accepted. They disagree even though they do not believe sexual content is an important part of fan fiction. It may be the case that they have the potential to become promiscuous. Who knows? Maybe some time from now Polish fans will become more sexual.
I will end this article with a remark that I own up to missing some sci-fi productions, but whenever I decided I would not put something in my study it was well grounded. The choice of Fan Boards was not accidental. I chose the biggest and busiest virtual communities of Polish sci-fi fans. I decided to take into consideration only those sci-fi productions that beyond any doubt are science fiction. This allowed me to omit certain movies or TV shows that are highly controversial in the light of being a “real” science fiction genre. That is the reason why I did not research fans of Lost – a TV show that is incredibly popular in Poland. Another thing worth straitening up is that I did not concentrate on fans of a specific show or movie. I must underline that I do not compare Polish fans of different universes. I treat them as a whole. The purpose of the study was not to compare for example fans of Star Wars and Star Trek or fans of Doctor Who and Star Gate. Although fans of some did occur more frequently than other, it is a matter of temporary fashion and media landscape. It certainly does not affect the final outcome of this study.
The following list contains names and addresses of web pages (as well as fictional universe these pages refer to) on which I have placed online survey:
Bastion polskich fanów Star Wars (Star Wars)
Battlestar Galactica (Battlestar Galactica)
Bydgoski Fanklub Star Wars (Star Wars)
Doctor Who (Doctor Who)
Forum BatCave (Bat Man)
Forum Zakonu Force Crusaders (Star Wars)
Holonet 3.0 (Star Wars)
Orion-Tokra Forum (Star Gate)
Stargate Worlds (Star Gate)
Star-trek.com.pl (Star Trek)
Starwars.pl (Star Wars)
Trek.pl (Star Trek)
USS Phoenix (Star Trek)
X forum (X-Files)