Though we have long reserved the title of “author” for a single nominated figure associated with the film, television show, book, videogame, or other media product, authorship is multiple, and when paratexts can change meanings, at times profoundly, then we must acknowledge how trailer editors, poster designers, book cover artists, fan producers, DVD producers, and so forth are all authors in their own right. And to acknowledge them fairly as authors is to acknowledge that authorship is a fractured process, spread out over time, not simply preceding the work or product in question. Anything authored can be re-authored, and paratexts will be the primary means of re-authoring. 

From this observation about authorship follow a series of other observations about textual power. Authorship, after all, is about power, about determining who has the ability and the right to speak for the text, and who gets to speak with the text. Authorship is authority, a position of power over a text, meaning, and culture. Hence, paratextual re-authoring assures that this power to speak is shared among many, and it disallows any text the ability to speak in one way continuously, unabated. Hopefully, we might note the degree to which this situation denies any text too much power, for with smart and careful paratextual engagement, we can always re-author texts, negating past meanings and uses. Practically, though, this situation should invite us to realize how content producers have regularly aimed to control the paratextual field precisely to shut down alternate readings and to maintain authorship, authority, and power. Indeed, if following Umberto Eco, all texts are “open,” paratexts are key tools for managing what any given text is at a specific moment in time, and it is through paratexts that various stakeholders may work to limit how open a text can truly be at specific moments. 

Gray, J. (2016) ‘The Politics of Paratextual Ephemeralia’. The Politics of Ephemeral Digital Media: Permanence and Obsolescence in Paratexts. New York: Routledge. 
Fandom, Paratext, Authorship
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