The term “fictionkin” isn’t a new one. Nor is the idea of it or the community surrounding it. But throughout the years, some of the same questions, accusations, and confusions have come up.
“You guys think you’re anime characters? That’s crazy!”
“You’re infringing on copyright and ruining creative license!”
“How do you guys even believe this works?”
And all of these things and more have been addressed here and elsewhere, over and over again. But I haven’t been wholly satisfied with a lot of it, because it clashed with not only my longstanding personal beliefs about the multiverse, but also with my thoughts and ideas about fiction and myth in this world.
People always insisted dragons, elves, demons, unicorns, and other mythological ‘kin were somehow more “real” than Toothless or Legolas or Hellboy or Amalthea because of something along the lines of a historical precedent, or religious significance, or something else taken out of the context of its time and the culture surrounding it.
And that bothered me. That bothered me a lot. It left out the cultural role that religion and myth played in human history, and the similar niche pop culture and modern fiction fill today. It reeked of a longing for some fantastical “golden age” that never really existed, a nostalgic approach to an ideal formed of people’s personal desires.
Because scientifically? There is no difference. There is infinitely more evidence for fabrications, fossil misidentification, and medieval scholars taking descriptions like “body of a leopard, neck of a snake, feet of a deer” too literally when the first-hand viewer was describing a giraffe.
But the nonphysical, astral reality of these things is documented by many people. Some chalk it up to collective unconscious, or egregores, or mass belief. I’m not discounting it as a possibility, but I think it’s only part of the picture because it’s a bit too anthropocentric. To think this world’s humans are the only independently-existing beings anywhere is a bit pompous, don’t you think?
Some people find this blasphemous to a degree. Fictional characters and creatures are created, intentionally designed by an individual or team of people. So how can they be real independently? How can the existence of fictionkin not go against the very idea of artistic license and creative freedom?
This is where a lot of my thoughts, ideas, and new propositions come in. Previously, a lot of interpretations of fictionkin have left those gaps, and lots of subsequent philosophical breakdowns, and all of it got me thinking: what if people viewed the fictional source not as truth or gospel, but instead the same way dragons view dragon myths and many angels and demons view the Bible? What if we viewed the book, movie, TV show, anime, game, comic, etc. and the inevitable transformative fanworks it spawns as myth, as legend, as the story it is meant to be? A story that just so happens to eerily resemble events some of us recall?
My big breakthrough with this occurred when my mate and I were re-watching Attack on Titan to catch up with what we had missed before the new season came out in April of 2019. For those of you who don’t know (because I can tend to be on the secretive side about specifics, which is frankly ridiculous) I could say that I’m Hange. Not the only one, not the one shown in canon, not any of that by a long shot. Hell, I don’t even actually use the word “fictionkin” for myself in any context these days.
There’s a reason for that. Watching the show again, looking at how everything was presented compared to what I remember from my life and how things happened for me, I realized something. I was already aware of the differences between timelines, the ideas of multiple universes, and because of that, the thought that multiple iterations of the same world could exist. I was already aware that the media we experience here isn’t meant to reflect all the banalities of daily life, it’s here for entertainment value. In short, it won’t be 100% accurate or complete.
But the show itself played out like epic poetry of a historical battle in my eyes. Things were altered to put emphasis on the grandiose, the magnificent, and possibly even making the metaphorical literal, at least when compared to what I knew and felt. It was a deliberate artistic choice to include certain elements, to present things the way they appear in the final cut of any media.
But like in the old tales, the myths and legends of ages past, transformations of personality and ability were given a literal twist. The berserker literally becomes a bear, the “shifter” literally becomes a Titan. Of course, I’m certain there are some people who align themselves with this particular story may well have had that be a literal thing for them!
And that’s when it clicked for me in a real, tangible. The series was just a story, it was just a coincidence that lined up with so many things it was easier to take it as an archetypal myth that was easy to point to for the reference of others. My story still happened, it was still a literal truth for me, but there just so happened to be a story here that matched mine well enough to point to it. How the series exists as it is now would exist independently of me, and I would with it as well.
It’s why I never felt like an anime character, like so many people assume. My life existed regardless. I don’t see myself as a character in a story, and I don’t see the character in the story as me. They’re just similar enough to how I was, to how my life was, that it was easier to say “that’s me” when it came up rather than go into a long-winded explanation of it every time.
But it didn’t feel right to just not have a way to put words to thoughts and ideas that had been bugging me for a long time, because I wasn’t articulating the issues I had with the complaints about fictionkin as opposed to traditional mythological otherkin in a way that satisfied me.
If dragons and demons and elves can see the stories humans of this world wrote about them as myth rather than truth, why can’t I? What makes us so different? Copyright laws are a human invention. So are the myths we all point to so we can give others an idea of who and what we are. Truth is stranger than fiction, yeah? So what’s wrong with the age of our fiction being different? If it’s normal for dragons to say “not all dragons are like this”, why is it so odd when fictionkin claim the same?
Even the ever-favorite concept of “doubles” doesn’t really cause problems if we take the stories told here as myth. Doppelganger phenomenon is real. Many people have found people with near-identical lives, names, origin stories in this world, yet they’re still vastly different people. Another Hange isn’t another “me”. They’re another person who uses the same story and archetype to describe themselves. And if me being so similar to them is unnerving and uncomfortable? That’s fine too. Lots of people don’t like the idea that there could be someone out there just like them.
Mythology used to be a much more common theme and precedent in many parts of the otherkin community. “Mythkin” as a term is still even used on occasion, and on my own time I’ve even started jokingly referring to fictionkin as “modern mythkin” to draw more direct parallels and poke fun at the ridiculous divide. Yes, many fictionkin see their Other side as human rather than “Other”, but for those of us that don’t feel the same way we shouldn’t have to put our species in front of our individuality in order to be taken seriously.
I looked into other possibilities, too, with my given example alongside other things. I’ve researched quite a bit of Norse mythology more than once, for numerous different events and periods of questioning. It added interesting context as far as the series’ inspiration went, and parallels in my own lives, but it didn’t answer the same questions in the same ways. Even if some people were to take a sort of soft-polytheism approach and apply it to this sort of thing and slap on the generic “well, myths change and adapt”, it doesn’t negate the possibility of the new myth actually being different on some level.
So I suppose the question now might be, how does this all tie in together? How does this apply to people who take different approaches and different systems of belief into account? Well, it doesn’t beyond what I’ve said. Nobody said these things couldn’t exist all at once. Something can be literal, and symbolic, and created as its own thing once it was thought of, and mere coincidence all at once. It could be one, or many, or none. That’s the wonder of subjective experience and spirituality. It’s complicated and convoluted and takes a lot of time to think about.
So it doesn’t matter if I say “I am Hange” or “I am not Hange”. Both of these things are true. I am me. I am not the myth. But the myth exists regardless, and I think it’s about time we took that into consideration.