“Fan fiction” is pretty much what it sounds like – a fan of something (TV show, book series, whatever) writes a story about those characters, set in that universe. So a Trekkie (for example) creates a story about Data, post-emotion-chip, falling in love with Dr. Crusher. Something like that. Unlicensed, unofficial, and possibly not so much legal – anyone can do it. All you need is a story and a site to host it on.
The world of fan fic is a twisted, slightly horrifying, eternally fascinating place. See, anyone can write it – so you have thousands of different authors, and zero quality control. The Vulcan proverb says “Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations,” and that’s exactly what happens. Without a filter, you get everything – every possible idea for a story, good or bad, it’s out there somewhere.
“Good or bad” means, of course, mostly bad. Sturgeon’s Law applies: 90% of everything is crap, and in this case I’d say 90% is generous. No cliche is unused, no relationship pairing is unexplored, no act of sex or violence is so grotesque that it isn’t portrayed in extensive graphic detail somewhere or other. (Draco putting Harry Potter in a sex dungeon isn’t a story, it’s a genre.) And, of course, these aren’t professional writers, so even the better story ideas are often marred by poor writing.
And yet, and yet…I confess there’s a certain allure.
Partly it’s fun seeing how wacky the stories can be, even if they aren’t especially good. Partly it’s cool spending a little more time with characters you love, even if they aren’t written quite right. And partly – I admit – some of it is actually pretty good.
Lately I’ve been writing some fan fic myself – Buffy, of course. It’s the first serious writing I’ve done in months, and the first fan fic I’ve written in over a decade. It feels a little weird, a little silly – and you know what?
I love it.
It’s an entirely different experience than writing an original story. For one thing, it’s much easier (in my opinion), because so much of the work is done for you already. World-building? Already finished. Characters? Developed, ready, and waiting. Exposition? Minimal, since your readers already know the universe. The groundwork is there – all you have to write is the story. It’s an intriguing exercise.
And besides, creating more content for a show you love is just fun. Each story is like a scene, or an episode, that never existed before – and if you do it well enough, it even feels sort of “real.” You can write plots or confrontations that you always wanted to see in the show, but never did. You can do, well, anything you want.
My obsessions tend to go in cycles, and this one may burn itself out in a week or two. We’ll see. But for now, it’s a pretty good time.
Have you ever read, or – god help you – written any fan fic? What was it like?
I wrote an X-Files/Lovecraft cross-over many years ago.
When I found it in an obscure folder on my computer many years later, it started me writing again. So I rate it as flawed by readable.
X-Files/Lovecraft sounds like fun. 🙂
It isn’t brilliant, but it is an enjoyable way to pass a little time.
Unfortunately, while the Lovecraft’s creations are almost certainly not in copyright, the X-Files are, so I can’t publish it as is; even on my blog. If I were just a hobbyist the breach of copyright would almost certainly be ignored; but as a published author it would be more of a potential issue (leaving aside my moral objection to benefiting from copyright violation).
I have occasionally considered rewriting it to remove the X-Files references, but other projects that have potential always seem more sensible than severe changes to a story to remove half the things that make it what it is.
As far as I can recall, I’ve never written any, though certainly it’s quite possible that I dabbled in Dark Shadows fan fiction back in the early 1970s. I regard it as similar to NaNoWriMo — a very useful (and fun) tool for a lot of people. It doesn’t happen to speak to my condition, but for a lot of people it gets them started (or re-started) in writing, and that’s great.
Also, I think this is very important to keep in mind (I saw this on Facebook):
“Fan fiction is a way of the culture repairing the damage done in a system where contemporary myths are owned by corporations instead of by the folk.” (Henry Jenkins, director of media studies at MIT).
That’s sorta how I feel about it too: not sure I’ll keep doing it long-term, but for now, it has me writing. Can’t ask more than that.
Brian, how do you feel about using characters developed by someone else?
I tried doing a post ST:Voyager fan fic when I thought I might want to try writing myself (mostly inspired you and Ben and thinking it would be easier to begin by building on work instead of creating a new one entirely). The biggest obstruction I had was that despite watching every episode of every ST series and being well acquainted with existing personalities, I couldn’t not write the characters in a believable way. That might just be because I suck a writing, but I’m curious what you feel about it.
Ha… of course I mean “could not”…
It’s definitely hard. Sometimes I write a line or a scene, and I think, yeah, I nailed that character. Other times they just feel “off” but I can’t figure out why. Often I’ll have to fiddle with it a while before I can get it to feel right. A lot of writing is in the rewriting. 🙂 But yeah, you’re certainly not alone in feeling that way, and the fact that you can even tell that it’s “off” is a promising sign.