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Introduction

I bind fanfiction to convert interactive digital objects into static analog forms. In doing so, I try to preserve as much interactivity from the digital form as possible while understanding that printed books are a different medium with their own limitations.

In doing this conversion, I explore why digital is considered ephemeral, unreal, and low culture, while analog is considered permanent, real, and prestigious. More often than not, it is not the form itself that has value, but what kind of institution the form represents. Digital self-publishing may have lower barriers to entry, but many self-published works meet or exceed the quality of their traditionally published counterparts.

Digital matters, and fanfiction matters. It is not the physical book itself that makes the story worthy, but the content, regardless of form, that was already worthy.

Istighfar

March 2015. twoskeletons’ fanfic Istighfar uses title text to provide inline translations for the Indonesian that appears in the dialogue. I wasn’t able to replicate the effect exactly in an analog form—however, I wanted to preserve as much as I could and thus didn’t create a glossary or margin notes. Instead, I printed the translations on translucent paper that could be overlaid on the English text to approximate the title text translations.

Only Human

March 2015. callowyn and TheGeminiSage’s Cambionverse has three minor characters from the CW’s Supernatural team up as the next generation of hunters (in parallel to the prior trio of hunters that the series focuses on). Cambionverse is phenomenal and reads like any traditionally published YA novel. Only Human is part 4 of the series and centers on Ben Braeden, Dean Winchester’s son.

I realized that I hadn’t read Only Human at the same time that I was on a bookbinding kick, so I bound a copy for both callowyn and TheGeminiSage. Although the format of the story is less interactive than Istighfar, there were still some components that required additional thought and effort.

Tags and notes pages.
Tags and notes pages.

My impetus for bookbinding was having an excuse to go through fanfic and figure out how to format Archive of Our Own’s tag data in a way that’s more aesthetically pleasing than the tables generated on their mobile files. Rather than discard the data, I wanted to preserve it in a way that reflected their relevance to the work. I formatted the tags page to echo the bibliographic information page of a traditionally published book. I also took care not to discard any author’s notes, no matter how minor they seemed, and instead preserved them in traditional formats—as prefaces, appendices, forewords, and afterwords.

Physical CD of Stargazing ambient mix.
Physical CD of Stargazing ambient mix.

Only Human also comes with an ambient mix for one of the scenes. TheGeminiSage provided an edited version of “Angie” by the Rolling Stones. The original mixer isn’t able to play the audio on top of the mix, but I was able to download both the mix and the song and combine them in Audacity. I provided the result on a physical CD tucked into a CD sleeve on the back cover.

Binding a copy of Only Human is interesting in the context of Cambionverse because callowyn & TheGeminiSage are currently doing a redux of their story series, in which they take down their published works, edit and rewrite them, then repost them. Although some traditionally published novels get re-published with revised or expanded versions, the majority of traditionally published novels see only one version published. Printed books have a static quality to them, in that they don’t have the flexible ease of editing that digital objects have. That static quality fuels some of my anxiety about producing creative writing of my own—printed books necessarily capture only one moment in time and can’t evolve along with the author.