Danmei and/as Fanfiction: Translations, Variations, and the Digital Semiosphere



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Since the late 1990s, Chinese internet publishing has seen a surge in literary production in terms of danmei, which are webnovels that share many of the features of Anglophone fanfiction. Thanks in part to recent live-action adaptations, there has been an influx of new Western and Chinese diaspora readers of danmei. Juxtaposing these bodies of literature in English in particular enables us to examine the complexities of how danmei are newly circulating in the Anglophone world and have become available themselves for transformative work, as readers also write fanfiction based on danmei. This paper offers a comparative reading of the following three such texts, which explore trauma recovery through the arc of romance: Tianya Ke, a danmei novel by Priest; Notebook No. 6 by magdaliny, a novella-length piece of fanfiction based on Marvel characters; and orange_crushed’s Strays, a fanfiction based on the live-action drama that was, in turn, based on Tianya Ke. The space described by Lotman’s semiosphere offers an additional model in which these texts reflect on one another; furthermore, along the porous digital border between fanfiction, danmei in translation, and fan novels based on danmei, readers and writers negotiate and vex contemporary culture.




Humanities 13 (1): 20 (2024)