The Flame Con panel on the history of queer fanfiction didn't begin with Kirk/Spock slash stories, the seminal fan culture moment where most audience members acquainted with the field were probably expecting it to start. Instead, the panel moderator, Princess Weekes, traced the lineage all the way back to Greek myths and Paradise Lost, noting that, when you drop the pretense of prestige, it's obvious that stories which expand and change the worlds of established characters, and are written by people who didn't originally invent those characters, are definitely a kind of fanfiction.
The assertion immediately reframed the art of fanfiction for everyone in the room, not so much lending it gravitas as giving fanfiction its due. Joined on stage by Kalia Hale Stern, her colleague at the female-focused geek site The Mary Sue, and Marvel writer Leah Williams, Weekes led a discussion about the importance of fanfiction, especially to queer and minority communities, who so often are left without representation on screen and on the page.
Whether they’re turning subtext into text or exploring their own identities, queer writers use fanfiction — and the communities that spring up around it — to create their own canon and influence the public perception of characters. And as Williams explains, years of fanfiction can also influence the canonical writing of characters, creating a creative loop that only serves to deepen stories and heroes.
After the podcast, we checked out the Flame Con cosplay contest, and took photos of some of the coolest costumes — check those out below!