Here’s where we start. As Julie Andrews states: the very beginning.
Actually, that’s not the beginning. Because the very beginning, for me, was the Fellowship of the Ring. Penny of Inspector Gadget. Martin of Redwall. Batman the Animated Series. Robotech. McGyver. Ember of Elfquest. Kung Fu: The Legend Continues. Creations not-mine which I absorbed, which became part of how I move in the world, how I view it.
Enter Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. Book I spotted top-shelf in the Portland Oregon’s Multnomah Public Library, which I didn’t read until I checked it out during a visit to the East Boston Library. I fell into that book in a big way and this prompted me to notice the chasm of fanfiction. I leaned over the edge to peer into sparkling depths, tripped . . . and the rest is millions and millions of words read, thoughts expressed rabidly enthusiastically to whatever poor fool whomever wandered near, and ruminations as to whether I should give up all my other aspirations and go back to college to study this shocking, new (to me, but not to the world) art form.
Reading as a writer is always an interesting experience, and I’m sure I’ll have more to say on the subject, but through the lens of fanfiction, I can say I’ve discovered:
- It’s fascinating (to me) to read what other writers like to read, and the brevity of story and excessive ample access allows for rapid exposure
- 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 for the world. Artists are out there! My type of artists to boot (re: writers)
- Clearly, the low bar of having someone else’s characters, concepts, and ideas to give you 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 enjoyment and 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 has prompted me to go back and revisit my younger artist-self. I learned young that, for art to have validity or be of note, it had to be original. Conversely, as I grew older, I learned nothing is original. What’s an art-maker to do, squished beneath 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.
Now, I understand copyright exists for a reason. We grew it to place protections around intellectual and artistic property. I don’t have quarrel with that. This is what first shocked me about fanfiction -all that writing, all those words, for FREE, because they must be (otherwise, illegal.) And, as with much of life, when money is pulled from the equation, the outcome morphs -not necessarily into something better, but into something different, creative, interesting. Such as Captain American falling in love with Ironman. Apparently. But that’s a curiosity for another blog post.
For now, I’ll share a few of the stories that so opened my mind (all are safe-for-work, some have swearing and violence)(also, there’s intense stuff in many fics out there; be cautious/take care of yourself when reading):
What have you got against Denny’s? (Cap and Thor lured by America’s cheap eats)
Brother-friends stuck in a cabin with a sock-stealing cat (Legolas and Aragorn struggle to survive a mishap, incomplete)
Don’t hang out with Deadpool, ’cause whoa (Poor Hawkeye; yikes)
My Venn diagram will EAT yours (!!! & Ironman)
So! More to say on this subject later, particularly about gender (such as: why do the stories Phoebe spotlights here center around white male protagonists? hmmm), sexuality, voice, and themes I’ve noticed that seem to span what I’ve read. Meantime, happy reading, and watch out for the edge of that cliff. It’s a doozy.