Fanfictions I Have Loved
Today’s post is from Phoebe Sinclair of the Whole Heart Local blog. Phoebe is a regular contributor to the Ladies of Comicazi podcast, and a writer who was recently awarded the Ivan Gold Fellowship at the Writer’s Room of Boston. Here she talks about how she discovered fan fiction and how it’s been a part of her life. If this piece inspires you to consume more fan fiction, join us on June 8, 2019 for the third annual Fan Fiction Theater. There will be humor, heartbreak, and poems about Batman.
Adapted from Whole Heart Local
The beginning, for me, was the Fellowship of the Ring, especially Frodo and Sam, who I bro-shipped long, long before I knew a term for it, or discovered a community of people out there feeling the same way.
The beginning was the Robotech novels my older brother loaned me, where I imagined myself the (unusual) girl on a team of flight-suit-wearing, shaggy-hair guys.
The beginning felt like real friendship between me, Penny, and Brain of the 1980s syndicated cartoon Inspector Gadget. Penny was even an occasional visitor to my childhood dreams.
My allegiance to Martin the Warrior mouse from British author Brian Jacques’s Redwall series, despite all the other mice and rabbits and fierce critters I met in subsequent books, led me to make up and illustrate my own stories. Had I been introduced to fandom, instead of trained away from derivative works by my formal writing education, I might have remaining more than a few, wrinkled, handwritten notebook pages and skill at sketching badgers.
I engaged and emulated and wished for more contact with these characters --these personalities that did not belong to me, whom I was permitted to visit but never contain. I knew Star Trek was out there, an entity for which people created costumes and attended conventions (whatever those were), but the limits of what I was permitted to do with what I enjoyed seemed stark. Influence traveled in one direction. Creativity did not flow back the other way.
Enter Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. Book I spotted top-shelf in the Portland Oregon’s Multnomah Public Library, book I didn’t read until a visit to the East Boston Library. I fell into that book in a big way and, like good literature does, it made me curious. In years previous, some of my poking around on the Internet brought me into passing contact with something called “fan fiction”, which I’d (then) passed over because stories based on somebody else’s idea, especially penned by people hiding behind usernames --nothing to write home about, right? A situation to avoid, right?
Wrong. I love when art leads me to art: Rowell’s Fangirl brought me to the mouth of a chasm. I leaned to peer into sparkling depths . . . and the rest is probably millions of words read,and thoughts expressed rabidly enthusiastically to whatever poor fool whomever wanders near. I’ve occasionally, semi-seriously ruminated whether to shuck my all other aspirations and race back to college to study this shocking (to me, but not to those 80s’ zine-creators) art form.
Reading as a writer is an interesting experience, but more so when I’m flying through fics that create worlds on top of pre-established worlds. (This from someone who only begrudgingly read short story collections previously --maybe one per decade.) Culture-creation fascinates me; can’t say I’ve seen it develop in real-time like I have with fanfiction.
Some of what I’ve discovered:
I’ve rarely been compelled to read what appeals to other writers, but the briefness of much of fanfiction permits rapid exposure --my browsing habit gained roller skates and I now cheerfully trundle through author’s or reader’s personal favorites, looking for gems
I edit/proofread in my head as I read. Until recently, I did not realize how much I do this
The idea that people are going ‘home’ after work/school/child rearing/etc. to write their hearts out brings me BIG HOPE. Art-makers are out there, in the wild, makin’ stuff and my phylum, writers, aren’t rare among them.
Having someone else’s characters, concepts, and ideas to give a boost inspires so, so many people to put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard. I’m one of those writers who feels, if you read, you can write, at least for personal and social enjoyment. I’ve long wondered ‘where does it all go?’ when I meet voracious readers who don’t write. I mean, words go in; gotta reappear somewhere, right (nature ≠ vacuum)? As visual art, as movement, as craft, in the business meeting, in a song sung to a child, as movies inspired-by-the-true-story. As fanfic.
Reading fanfic prompted me to go back and revisit my inner baby artist-self. I learned young that, for art to be seen as valid or of note, it need to be ‘original.’ Conversely, as I grew older, I learned nothing is original. What’s a creator-of-art to do, squeezed between this smothering contradiction?
I believe people embracing “transformative works” via consumption and encouragement allows legitimacy to bloom. Thus, for all of my selves – kid, teen, adult – a gate lifted, one I hadn’t realized I was living behind. I see in these works a conversational reflection: I see you/I see what you’re making/I respond/you respond. Echoing rings of ideas connecting the originator, the receptive enthusiast, and the audiences of both.
Copyright exists for REASONS, and other people can speak to them with more education and experience than I, so I’ll leave that debate to the experts. What I will say is: what initially shocked me about fanfiction was all that writing, all those words, flow for FREEZIES. And, as with much of life, when money is absent or pulled from the equation, the outcome morphs -not necessarily into something better, but into something different: creative, interesting, weird, frightening, amazing . . .
I’ll share a few of the stories that so opened my mind. All are safe-for-work, a few have may swearing or violence --also, in general there’s intense stuff in fics out there so please be cautious/take care of yourself when reading.
Recs recs recs:
What have you got against Denny’s? - Cap and Thor of the Avengers get lured by America’s cheap eats, 2012
Brother-friends stuck in a cabin with a sock-stealing cat - Legolas and Aragorn of Lord of the Rings struggle to survive a mishap, 2003-2015 (incomplete as author passed away)
My Venn diagram will EAT yours - !!! & Ironman of the Avengers, 2014
Said Beowulf: I’m on a Boat - yup, that ancient guy and Old Spice, 2010
Original character blows established characters out of the water - Avengers, sorta, 2016
Batman is not a great dad - penned by yours truly, 1999 or somethin’