Yes, I am guilty of this. But can one be truly guilty if it helps towards one’s writing career?
I’ll admit: I started writing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fanfiction back in 1991. That’s twenty years ago. No, you may not read it. Not because it was horrible (it was) but also because I sent them off Viking-Funeral-Pyre style, minus the boat, in the backyard of my friends the
Pyromaniacs Bullards in 2005. There may have been gasoline involved.
Thankfully, those never saw the light of the internet.
The Gargoyles and Transformers fanfiction, on the other hand, did make it online. And whilst I’m not (completely) ashamed by them, I do see them as a bit…juvenile.
For starters, yes, I was a blatant abuser of the Mary Sue (that would be Gargoyles, between the years of 1996 and 2000, with a revisit in 2005, I believe, to finish up a story which had been sitting on my harddrive for five years.) Without going into too much detail, main “original” character, female, love interest of one of the popular main characters, daughter of established character-reformed-villain (Dude, Macbeth rocked harder than Manowar at 120 decibels), had fae blood, cursed, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, ad nauseum.
Then came the Transformers revival, which actually happened around 1997 and took root in fanfiction in either ’98 or ’99. From a writing evolution point of view, I suppose, looking at TMNT was crawling out of the primordial ooze, Gargoyles was developing opposable thumbs, and Transformers was the dawn of modern warfare.
Around the time I lost interest writing Gargoyles coincided with my discovery of the Mary Sue. It was too late to save my current character, so I killed her off. Just like George R.R. Martin, only he kills everyone we like. Except Vesyris. I’ve never wished death on a character so badly. But I digress. Returning to Transformers, the next “original” character went into Anti-Sue. She was a classic “wrong place, wrong time” “victim” whom, stemming from one bad choice in her past, ended up untrustworthy, an alcoholic, used by everyone (and vice versa) and ultimately befriending other unsavoury characters. And accidentally getting hold of the Matrix, and thus causing the Autobots to descend into a bloody civil war which was a catalyst into the birth of the Maximals and Predacons, which during the Beast Wars the character attempted to seek redemption — still failed at that too. Still cheesy, still fanfiction, but damn it all to Unicron if it didn’t really whet my taste for tormenting characters and royally destroying worlds and universes, let alone character development.
And heavens to Metroid, all of my fanfiction arcs were connected by using Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion concept as well as breaking the fourth wall. At least once in an arc, a character would comment on how the current events reminded them of a Moorcock novel.
But I digress.
So what is my point, asketh the reader of this blog? Where are you going, oh rambler in the night?
Simple: when fanfiction crosses over into original fiction.
Apologies in advance, Christine; I’m bringing this up.
Hubs, the amazingly multi-talented man that he is–and no, you can’t have him, and yes, he did just walk up behind me–did cover art for some of Christine Morgan’s earlier books, published through Sabledrake. We had met Christine through the Gargoyles fandom, and I’ve even read a good chunk of these ‘fics as well. (And seriously, if you didn’t know who Jericho was, you weren’t too deeply in the Gargoyles fandom.) But back on topic, Brian, as part of the payment, received copies of each book of which he did the cover. Understand one thing about Brian: he loves to write, hates to read. He reads my stuff, but only because I threaten vegetarian meals on him if he doesn’t. So naturally, these books don’t get read. Curious, being a fan of her fanfiction, I picked up Black Roses.
There’s something about fanfiction: it’s appealing when one is in a darkened room late at night with a cuppa in reach and the mouse cradled in your palm, scrolling down as one reads on a monitor the words of a known fictional universe. When it comes to original fiction, it’s best curled up in one’s favourite chair with some music and that same cuppa as one turns the pages.
I have a hard time meshing the two, so when I finished Black Roses (and for me to finish something, there needs to be a certain level of grammatical correctness involved,) I felt as though I’ve read a Gargoyles fanfiction with slight name changes.
This is an obscure, cult reference. Christine is known in fantasy and fandom circles, but if I asked a random patron here at the library if one knew of her, one’d give me a blank look.
Now, something a little more mainstream: Cinder by Marissa Meyer. Now here we have an extremely well-written young adult novel, and, as I had reported back to my friend Ellen of the Children’s Book Cellar, predictable but enjoyable. But it was Jenny whom picked up on this, as she was more of a fan of this fandom than I: Marissa brings up in her acknowledgements a Sailor Moon message board.
Oh, snap, now that makes sense. And what little I know of Sailor Moon (some of Sailor Moon R and the live action series, which is too fun with its gratuitous panty shots…but I digress) comes crashing into my realisation. I’d still recommend the book, but at the same time, I now visualise Prince Kai, as Tuxedo Kamen.
Now, even more of a horror upon horrors for me. Even though she runs a shop called Children’s Book Cellar, Ellen does have adult books in stock, and yes, she does carry Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. My first introduction to this series was from an art buddy of mine, whom recommended it with a caveat: “It has a great plot, but don’t think too deeply in the grammar.”
Now let’s step back here. What was the reason why I couldn’t finish the Twilight books, other than the fact I ran out of Lord Calvert’s by the time I reached the baseball scene and had to crawl to the bathroom to bow before the porcelain god? (PS: Thank you, BBC, for helping me be able to like “Supermassive Black Hole” by Muse once again. Amy and Rory playing darts inside the TARDIS trumps ALL.)
That’s right, true believers: glaring grammatical issues. (And see “What’s with the hating…” thread if one needs a refresher course in my issues with grammatical issues.)
It got worse.
Back to Ellen. She had on her counter a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey. I pick it up, open the cover, and start reading. First person point of view, present tense. Granted, I’m not fond of either one of those by preference — I find first person fiction pretentious, and present tense too limiting — but there have been exceptions. So other than style preference, I’d keep trying it.
Oh, my brothers and sisters, if you’ve had the misfortune to read Star Ruby’s “Megatron’s Unexpected Surprise,” consider yourself warned when I compare Fifty Shades of Grey to that fanfic. (Thankfully, the fanfict was short, and I had access to alcohol and WordPad. Yes, I MiSTied it, and it ultimately ended with GIR from Invader Zim giving birth to a beanie baby car named “Jeffy.” But that’s not the point.) Fifty Shades of Grey starts out reading like a fanfiction, which should have been a warning sign.
And, lo and behold, I find out that yes, it had started life out as a fanfiction.
And not just any fanfiction.
It is originally fanfiction of Twilight.
(And originally named after my favourite song by Hawkwind, to boot, but I seriously doubt that was the case. E.L. James is English, however, so there could have been a possibility, but hopefully, no, that isn’t the case, because I’d so hate to destroy my lovely vintage vinyl of Doremi Fasol Latido in angst-stricken grief.)
I’m finding myself gazing longingly at my collection of British pulp science fiction of the sixties and seventies (mostly Michael Moorcock) and reminiscing on when guilty pleasures not only had fun, fast moving plots, but did so with compound sentences and semicolons.
Fanfiction really should stay fanfiction.
And no, I won’t show you the notes to my Doctor Who fanfiction which will never be written.