The Americanisation of British Fandoms
If you take a look at the fandoms prevalent on the Internet you will see that the vast majority are North American. Look at the fans and you will see that the majority appear to originate in the United States or write American English. Fair enough, America is a very large and highly influential country and its culture has spread far and wide to the extent that American English is now taken as the standard language and spoken almost everywhere. That’s a fact that I, as a Brit, accept with a certain amount of equanimity. Whining on about it isn’t going to change a thing. I also accept that usage and boundaries are constantly shifting and what is regarded in the UK today as an Americanism may be commonplace in a decade or so. To be honest, there is much about American culture that I like, admire and happily embrace, and when I write for an American fandom I ensure that, as much as I am able, I write my characters in that culture. That means that as well as using betas I need to use an American to ‘Americanise’ my work and catch any howling Briticisms – and there’s been a few.
What I want is for that same courtesy to be given to British fandoms and, before the yelling begins, I know that many writers do. I’ve been reading in The Professionals fandom for a number of years and, on the whole, I’m impressed by the effort made to get Bodie and Doyle and their environment as authentic as possible. The trouble is I’ve just started reading Harry Potter fan fiction and, apart from being astounded at the vast amount of stories out there, I’m becoming more and more irked by the fact that there are far too many writers who are not bothering to learn about the culture that Harry and his friends and foes live in, despite having the books as reference material. Some of the stories I’ve read appear to have taken J K Rowling’s basic idea and transplanted Hogwarts and its characters slap bang in the middle of North America. I may be missing the point here, but surely the Britishness of the Harry Potter books is an essential part of their appeal? Isn’t finding out that the summer holidays are half the length of the American school system, six weeks for most state schools (your public schools) and up to eight weeks for the private (our public schools) school system that Hogwarts could be said to belong to, an interesting fact? Can you understand why we laugh when you have your characters sleeping in a cot? I now know that a cot is equivalent to a camp bed, but a cot to us Brits is a baby’s bed/crib, and, in the same vein, an ass is a type of donkey, an arse is Brit slang for the buttocks, bum or backside. Did you know that gotten is very old English that presumably went over to America with the Pilgrim Fathers, but fell out of use in Britain and is now only commonly used in the phrase ill gotten gains? Knowing that, aren’t you far less likely to have you characters, particularly the adults, use gotten instead of got? While being aware that cereal and toast is still the most common breakfast in the UK (for those not indulging in a regular cholesterol high of a fried breakfast) might stop you sitting the Dursleys down to a breakfast of pancakes, syrup, bacon and toast. Dudley might enjoy it, but I guarantee that Aunt Petunia would be mortified. J
For those of you unfortunate enough not to find a willing Brit to look over your work there are a number of on line resources. Try http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_and_British_English_differences for a start, or this page http://www.hp-lexicon.org/help/strictly_british1.html from the highly informative Harry Potter Lexicon. Hopefully you’ll then find the differences that divide the two cultures as fascinating and, at times, amusing as I do.