I have done a few posts on fan fiction here, though not recently. I wrote about 150 fan stories in my time, based on series such as Star Trek, Blake’s 7 and Robin Of Sherwood, then stopped when I, a. ran out of ideas, in the middle of a story and b. started getting paid to write.
What is fan fiction, in case you aren’t familiar with it? It’s using existing films, TV shows, books and even games to write fiction of your own. Some fan stories are very good, others appallingly badly written, but even those have their fans, something I know from comments made on them.
Not everyone stopped when they started being paid. Jenny Pausacker, an Aussie YA novelist who moved to England, was a big fan of Kerr Avon, one of the protagonists of Blake’s 7, and wrote online fanfic under a pen name(may still be doing it, I never found out what the pen name was). She even wrote an Avon-like character into a novel. Kerry Greenwood(best known for her Phryne Fisher books) said she composes Dr Who fanfic in her head. Not long ago, I told Diane Duane, author of the Young Wizards series, on Twitter, that I had read some of her fan fiction way back when, and her reply was, “What makes you think I have stopped?”
I have several shelves of fanzines, bought in the days when people were publishing them in print. I even edited a few myself!
But nobody is doing that now. There are fan fiction web sites; the best known one is Fan Fiction Net, which publishes stories from a huge number of universes. I used to read stories on that site, mostly based on books.
Some were based on the Harry Potter series. Draco Malfoy was a popular hero in those, because everybody loves a bad boy, right? Even Professor Severus Snape had his own Mary Sue tales. In one of them, written before the final book explained why Snape had no love interest in his life, he marries the niece of Auror Madeye Moody and they move to Sherlock Holmes’ cottage.
My favourite was a humorous Lord Of The Rings story, “Fellowship Of The Thousands” in which the Fellowship leave Rivendell accompanied by an entire army of Mary Sues - humans, elf maidens, Dwarf girls, etc., more than enough for each of the Fellowship members. The story is told from the viewpoint of Boromir, who is resurrected when his own Mary Sue cries over his dead body. A very funny tale that has great fun sending up the tropes.
By the way, I used to know the fan writer who coined the term Mary Sue to describe the sweet young thing who has a PhD at 16, is related to Spock by adoption and is adored by the entire bridge crew. The author’s name is Paula Smith and she wrote a tongue in cheek piece only a few hundred words long using every trope she could think of in that type of story, with a heroine called Mary Sue; I have lost track of Paula(my pen pal), but I’m betting she never dreamed how far her little story would go.
Another friend, Diane Marchant, unwittingly started slash fiction, ie erotic m/m stories, called slash because it started with Kirk/Spock. She wrote something erotic on the end of a letter to someone big in Trek fandom, as a joke, and next thing she knew it had been published and everyone was doing their own stories about what Kirk and Spock get up to behind the scenes; while people take it very seriously these days, Diane’s preferred pairing was Spock and Nurse Chapel. She has passed away, so no chance to ask her now how she feels. It has moved on to many fandoms, but in those days all we had was Star Trek, and only the original series.
As I said, I used to read the stories on Fan Fiction Net, but I’ve now discovered Archive Of Our Own, which I prefer because you can download stories as e-books and delete them when finished - or when they turn out to be too dreadful to finish. Furthermore, some inspire or commission fan art, taking me right back to the days when I was reading and publishing printed fanzines.
Many authors write entire sagas, some well over 100,000 words long, publishing a chapter a week. It has got me thinking; if fan writers can do a chapter a week, why can’t I, in my own universes? Something to think about.
Meanwhile, I’m back to reading fan fiction, something I haven’t done for quite a while. I will never write it again, but it’s fun to pick a universe and a genre on the web site and read stories set in that world. Some of them are so good that I want to tell the author it’s time to move on to create their own universes. Of course, I may very well be reading something by Diane Duane or Jenny Pausacker, for all I know…
Others will never sell anything, but they are having fun and even they have their fans.
So why write stories set in someone else’s world? When I started writing it, it was mostly because our show had been cancelled and we wanted more. Sometimes it was because there was something that didn’t make sense and we wanted to fill in the hole. Other times, we wondered what happened after the episode, or “what if”?
And then there are those fan writers who create their own characters in someone else’s universe. In a way, Star Trek: Lower Decks, a very funny animated series set on one of Starfleet’s less important ships, about a bunch of Ensigns, reminds me of a series of fan stories written in a fanzine published by my friend Paula Smith. It feels like fan fiction.
These days, there are even fan videos on YouTube. There is a film about the three Black sisters from Harry Potter, Narcissa, Andromeda and Bellatrix, written, filmed and performed by fans. I found another film set in the Blake’s 7 universe, with original characters.
Who knew, way back when we were just wanting more Star Trek that it would come so far?
Anyone willing to admit here to writing fan fiction, or even just reading it?