“Dead Links, Vaporcuts, and Creativity in Fan Edit Replication” is my essay published in volume 20 of the journal Transformative Works and Cultures. Building on some of the groundwork in an earlier paper of mine, I examine some of the ongoing problems related to storing, sharing, and accessing fan edits online, followed by examples of how fan editors attempt to recreate intangible fan edits but inevitably produce variant works that reflect their own creative perspectives. Portions of this essay, such as my practical investigation into Psycho: The Roger Ebert Cut (Stomachworm 2009), were developed in an earlier blog entry.
In fact, the first research for “Dead Links, Vaporcuts, and Creativity in Fan Edit Replication” began in 2011 with an editing experiment with Psycho: The Roger Ebert Cut prior to making Watchmen: Midnight. Despite the torrent for Stomachworm’s original fan edit remaining indexed by The Pirate Bay, it was neglected, unseeded, and effectively dead. I was determined to see “Ebert’s version” of Psycho (1960), so I recut the film in the way Ebert suggested in his 1998 review. I realized I had not only created something to illustrate Ebert’s argument that Hitchcock’s psychiatrist was superfluous, but I had also recreated Stomachworm’s “lost” fan edit. An introductory portion of this new essay recounts that experience in more detail as a means of addressing the ephemeral and mutative tendencies of fan edits.
In the essay, I coin the term “vaporcut” in order to distinguish authentic fan edits from unsubstantiated projects such as Star Wars Episode III.5: The Editor Strikes Back, a putative fan edit by Topher Grace. “Vaporcut” is adapted from “vaporware,” a term used in the technology industry to describe products that generate discourse but never see public release, sometimes because they never actually existed. By describing Grace’s editing projects as vaporcuts, I do not mean to suggest they are hoaxes, but I refer to them in order to argue that a conscientious study of fan edits should not give credence to unsubstantiated works. Although there have been a reports that The Editor Strikes Back was screened privately in 2012, until there is a public release to authenticate the project, it should be treated as apocryphal — as a vaporcut.
Note: a vaporcut is fundamentally different from a genuine fan edit that was once available but subsequently became inaccessible. Although my term could potentially describe any unsubstantiated fan edit, I use “vaporcut” in the essay specifically to describe high-profile works, like Grace’s The Editor Strikes Back and Close Encounters of the Third Kind: The Remix, which generate a remarkable amount of discourse despite any public release. Steven Soderbergh’s fan edits have also caused a stir, but he has consistently released his projects in full as embedded videos restricted to his web site. In the essay, I find that Soderbergh and Grace’s projects have been sources of inspiration for fans who attempt to reconstruct elusive works but inevitably create new fan edits that reflect their own creativity. Thus, I draw attention to several fan edits like Star Wars: Turn to the Dark Side (Double Digit 2014) and Star Wars: A Last Hope (Jared Kaplan 2014), which began as attempts to retrace narrative structure Grace’s The Editor Strikes Back but manifested as personal treatments of the same material.
Wille, Joshua. “Dead Links, Vaporcuts, and Creativity in Fan Edit Replication.” Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 20. http://dx.doi.org/10.3983/twc.2015.0663.
Christine Metz Howard, “Citing ‘Psycho’ as evidence, scholar argues for fan editors’ artistic freedom,” KU Today, October 27, 2015. (URL)