Femslash Fanfiction as Literature of Queer Survival in the Digital Age

Graphic mashup showing writer using notebook and iPad, contrasting with view of 20th century typewriter

Dr Alice M. Kelly is the Digital Scholarship Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute for Advance Humanities at the University of Edinburgh (September 2019 - June 2020). Alice’s research positions femslash fan fiction as queer survival literature of the digital age, and is exploring fan fiction in the context of digital scholarship. 

During the fellowship, Alice authored a paper published in Literature Interpretation Theory, titled: ‘"Lots of Us Are Doing Fine": Femslash Fan Fiction, Happy Endings, and the Archontic Expansions of the Price of Salt Archive’. The digital fan archive, Archive of Our Own (AO3), is a platform that preserves and publishes the kinds of stories that the queer community have been seeking for a long time. Alice looks at the example of fanfic from the film Carol (2015) based on a novel published in the 1950s, that depicts a relatively happy ending for the two main lesbian characters. Much of the fan fiction texts accessible via AO3 that Carol has inspired take that ending as a starting point for a happy life for the main characters. AO3 can be considered an archive of happy endings for marginalised people with the Carol example, but also by looking at how AO3 was founded as a non-profit, feminist, digital publishing space run by, and for, fans. 

Alice is also exploring anti-canonicity through fanfic recommendation lists on Tumblr. Digital fan archives run counter to canonical ideals of authentic, pure textual boundaries, as is demonstrated in the form of '#fic rec' posts on Tumblr. The fic rec tag is a way for Tumblr users to circulate recommended fan fiction reading lists for particular fandoms, writers or themes; tagged posts represent alternative canon-building in the digital age. By treating fic recs as texts in their own right, we can understand how fan fiction is being circulated, curated and memorialised in digital cultural memory. 

·         Alice M. Kelly’s IASH researcher profile 

·         ”Lots of Us Are Doing Fine” - Alice’s paper published in Literature Interpretation Theory (Jan 2020)