Where Are the Fat Girls? The Absence of Plus-Size Characters in Fantasy Literature
Charis M. Ellison – presented at Sirens 2018 in Beaver Creek, Colorado – Video
Abstract: In popular culture, fat bodies are discussed most frequently in terms of negative space: pounds lost, dress sizes dropped, the empty half of a pair of giant trousers. This void extends deeply into the worlds of fantasy literature, art, and film. Despite the boundless opportunities presented by the genre for women to explore new worlds, identities, and power, fat women continue to be a notable absence. This presentation is both personal essay about the experience of being a fat woman, and an exploration of fat representation in fantasy, including discussion of existing fat characters and misconceptions about fat bodies.
Infinite Iterations: Fanfiction and the Digital Transmutation of the Oral Tradition
Charis M. Ellison – presented at Texmoot 2019 in Waco, Texas
Abstract: For centuries stories were passed from person to person, from memory to memory, across cultures and generations. These tales spread from one voice to another, transforming to suit different audiences and different storytellers, something that is seen clearly in the abundance of regional versions of fairy tales and folklore. A story might keep recognizable core elements and be dressed in new clothes, decorated with fresh flourishes that are in turn adopted or discarded by the next storyteller. As media distribution has advanced, from the printed novel to streaming TV shows, stories seem locked into a final form, frozen in place, immutable. But there will always be incorrigible storytellers who can’t keep their hands to themselves. In this paper I will discuss the ways in which the tradition of oral storytelling has been reborn in the digital age through fanfiction.
The existence of fanfiction far predates the internet, but online communities have developed and become a new world in which stories are ever-changing, re-imagined in new settings that reflect the interests, the concerns, and the desires of the teller or the audience. Fanfiction authors expand the horizons of our media, taking characters from Regency novels into space, or inserting superheroes into the truly exotic fantasy of a coffee shop that pays a living wage. Although these stories are not spoken, they are fluid, reflecting the personal nature of oral storytelling. Like their forbearers, these new stories bring communities together and are shared freely from person to person, often inspiring yet new stories and new ideas, self-perpetuating in the great tradition of oral storytelling.
- ‘Red‘ – featured in Strange Horizons
- ‘Shades of Gray’ – featured in Cicada