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"The Poet Laureate of Fan Fiction" by Adam Carlson

In which a poet writes a book, the internet assumes it's about Supernatural fanfic, he thinks it's cool, and it becomes a transformational lovefest on both sides.

My 20th-century intention was to make a place where I could articulate my thoughts and feelings. I thought it would be a place where the reader and I could meet. That’s no longer the way storytelling works. Now readers enlarge the places an author has made, include themselves in this larger space, and meet with each other without the author. ...

In the driest language possible, I would say that fan fiction successfully undermines the traditional American heteronormative dynamic in ways that can’t be undone. In wetter language, fan fiction sexualizes. It’s transgressive because it suggests the possibility of the erotic. It’s political, because it complicates power structures. And it’s personal, because it grants permission for range of previously unacceptable expressions and interactions. I think my poems enact a space for complicated, multivalent relationships. I think that’s the draw.

And yet, the Wincest and Johnlock fandoms put their attention to very different kinds of interactions. In Wincest fanfic the relationship is aggressive and incestuous, forged in life-or-death battles with angels and demons. The brothers are young, handsome, similar, fated to be together, and on the run. In Johnlock fan fic, the relationship is tender and between friends. They are older and dissimilar. They don’t share a common history. They are not fated to be together. Instead, they choose each other.

Here’s the biggest question and the biggest problem: What are the consequences of sexualizing these relationships? The possibility of erotic desire may or may not be hinted at in the original work—but ignore that. The probability of romantic love could be low or high—but ignore that. The suggestion that these partnerships are necessarily monogamous, supersede all other potential loves or lovers, and could be considered a type of marriage—ignore that. The question, the problem: How can I possibly convince anyone that I could like my best friend for non-sexual reasons? How do I make room for the possibility of deep care and tenderness between men who aren’t fucking if I sexualize every male/male relationship I encounter? Perhaps the subtleties come later. Perhaps we need to push all the way into highly erotic realms to allow ourselves the room to pull back into places of possible non-sexual tenderness.

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