Monday, June 2, 2008

Fan fiction

Does it matter what team the protagonists in our football fiction support? Does it make a difference? Does it add to or take away from our reading experience? What about as a writer, should a writer have to consider their audience or fanbase? Is it possible to get a message to as many people as possible if you write about one team - more specifically the team you follow?

They say write about what you know. They also say a good writer can write about anything. Book shelves are filled with examples which prove both these theories.

Arsenal man, Nick Hornby bared his soul in Fever PItch, while Chelsea man Peter Gilmour bared his arse in Sexy Football. These two, I know for sure, have identified themselves as supporters of a particular club. Many others, who may or may not have some degree of club loyalty, have written football fiction.

Alan Bissett’s Boyracers are Rangers supporters and Irvine Welsh, famous for his love of the Edinburgh club, has Hibs fans all over his work. Dougie Brimson has written fiction about West Ham supporters in The Crew and Top Dog and a Watford supporter in Billy’s Log. John King’s first three novels are about a group of Chelsea supporters, does that mean he is as well?

I don’t know if Jonathon Tulloch is a Toon Army man, or if Laura Hird, like most of the main characters in her story This is My Story, This is My Song, is a Hearts supporter. Does it really matter? I don't think it's had an impact on the popularity of their work.

In Peter Gilmour's case, the exception in the list above, I would suggest the comparative lack of popularity of his book is probably due to the quality of the writing as opposed to people taking issue with the club he loves.

As a football fan it doesn’t concern me which team is involved. It's not like the writers are endorsing the club in the same way say Oasis would in sponsoring Manchester City, the club they follow. Wet Wet Wet's sponsorship of Clydebank is a bit different, lead singer Marti Pellow is a Rangers fan, but I'm getting away from my point here.

I don’t imagine David Peace would need to have been a Leeds United fan, or even a Brian Clough fan, to write such an astonishingly good book as The Damned United.

Should we concern ourselves with this stuff? What if you start to empathise with the characters and then they play against your favourite team? Talk about a conflict of interest. If we narrowed our reading to books about our own club we'd all be wearing eye patches, wouldn't we?

It is obviously entirely possible to get away with it though, most of the people I’ve listed here have, but it made me wonder if it's possible for a writer with no interest in football to write about it or that you could be interested in football without following a team?


Paula Weston said...

Here's a question: has anyone followed a football team for no other reason than their loyalty was inspired through fiction?

the ink-stained toe-poker said...

If tabloid newspapers were counted for what they actually are instead of what they want to be, I'd say yes loads of people.

On the book front Tim Parks spent a season with Verona and wrote a book about it, but that was non-fiction.

A boy called Jeff Connor wrote an absolutely fantastic book called pointless about East Stirling, and by the end of it he was fond of them, again this is non-fiction, but that's the closest I'm aware of.

Danny said...

Having tried as recently as last year to encourage more of an interest in football without having a club to support, I can say that it isn't an easy task. Without narrowing one's focus down to a specific club, you get feeling a bit lost, or like someone in the middle of a crowded party who doesn't know anyone. Having recently latched on to the club a friend of mine supports, I now feel a bit more grounded, and also like I'm having more fun with it.