Barry McNamara  |   Published September 23, 2021

Fan Fiction and Censorship

New Monmouth professor Aimee Miller, a 2015 graduate of the College, to speak on that topic during Banned Books Week.

MONMOUTH, Ill. – A Monmouth College professor with deep ties to fan fiction will present a lecture on that topic as part of the College’s observance of Banned Books Week, Sept. 26-Oct. 2.

BANNED BOOKS WEEK: The annual event celebrating the freedom to read was launched in 1982 in respo... BANNED BOOKS WEEK: The annual event celebrating the freedom to read was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and librariesAn annual event celebrating the freedom to read, Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. The theme of this year’s event is “Books Unite Us. Censorship Divides Us.”

Aimee Miller, a 2015 Monmouth graduate who is now a member of the communication studies faculty at her alma mater, will speak about fan fiction and censorship at 7 p.m. Sept. 29 in the instructional classroom on the first floor of Hewes Library.

“Fan fiction is a transformative work,” said Miller, who has been writing fan fiction since she was 12 years old and is nearing the one million-word milestone for such copy. “You take a traditional piece of media – so say a piece of literature, maybe a TV show, a movie, something like that – and you write your own story on it. An example of that would be if you really enjoy Harry Potter, you might take all those Harry Potter characters and put them in a coffee shop. You take already established characters and make them your own.”

On the one hand, Miller said fan fiction can be viewed as “a love letter to the original work. Writers of fan fiction (usually) want to treat the characters very well. They want to explore these characters, and they want to do right by these characters.”

But it’s a love letter that many times the original author would rather not receive.

“Fan fiction at its core is an inherently controversial topic because a lot of the established authors look at fan fiction and they don’t like it,” said Miller. “They’re very possessive. They say, ‘These are my characters and my story and my copyright, so I don’t want people using these characters.’

Miller said authors such as Anne Rice have pursued litigation against authors of fan fiction related to her works.

“This is a really interesting topic for younger generations. They tend to be really involved in fandoms, and that’s because of the proliferation of social media websites. I think this is a program that’s going to be really relevant to Monmouth College students.” Aimee Miller

“And that is a form of censorship, because you see these authors saying, ‘No, don’t do this writing. Don’t take my characters. I don’t want you sharing that,’” said Miller.

She said the idea for her lecture came from a chat she had over coffee with Hewes Library Director Sarah Henderson in the library’s Einstein Bros. Bagels shop.

“We talked about my research interest in fan fiction, and the next thing you know, we were talking about how fan fiction can be censored,” said Miller. “Somehow the idea came up that we should do something for Banned Books Week. Part of the reason that Sarah and I agreed to do this program is that this is a really interesting topic for younger generations. They tend to be really involved in fandoms, and that’s because of the proliferation of social media websites. I think this is a program that’s going to be really relevant to Monmouth College students.”

Miller said it’s a bit “surreal” to now be part of the faculty after having been a Monmouth College student herself. As she progresses in her career, she hopes she’ll have the same type of influence on students that Monmouth faculty had on her.

“(Former psychology professor) Marsha Dopheide was the one who originally encouraged me to start pursuing fandom as a research pursuit,” said Miller. “I was really hesitant to get into it because fan fiction has something of a stigma to it. She encouraged me to look into it in a more academic way, and that’s had a profound impact on my life. And Marsha isn’t the only professor who has done that, either. I think of the communication studies department, in particular, and all of the impact they’ve had on my life.”

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