Admittedly, I’m not super active on social media to begin with (something that I should probably aim to change), but I feel like I’ve been especially conspicuously absent the last few days. In the last week or so, there’s actually been a legitimate reason for that.
For the fourth year in a row, I spent the long weekend at (and the subsequent time, recovering from) Arisia, a Boston-based sci-fi/fantasy/general nerd convention. Arisia is my favorite of the admittedly limited selection of conventions I’ve gone to in my life – it falls at a wonderful crossroads of cerebral and silly – as a celebration of media, of reading and writing, of performance and creation, of science and social issues. I’ve yet to attend in a year where most of my core passions or interests weren’t represented, even though I am not, primarily, a genre fan (though I do enjoy sci-fi/fantasy).
For me, though, Arisia is all about the celebration of creativity, enthusiasm, and fandom. Every year I leave Arisia having created something new (this year it was a hand-sewn plushie and a steampunk-style hat), having learned something new (this year, flow arts and leviwand techniques) and thinking about writing – and fandom – in a fresh, new way.
For someone who doesn’t really have a “tribe” in real life (I have very few friends, and even fewer friends who are creators), being in an environment of people who thrive on creating things is refreshing and inspirational, and for someone who’s earliest (and most often forgotten) passion was in writing fan fiction, it’s a rare and unspeakable joy to be around people who consume, create, and appreciate transformative works.
I started writing fanfic when I was eight years old, though at the the time I had no name for what I was doing; I liked certain books and shows and movies, and I liked exploring what those characters I loved did when their “official” stories ended (or before they began, or of the story had gone slightly differently, etc.) The first time I knowingly wrote fanfic (and could name it as such) I was fourteen, writing stories in the Les Miserables musical fandom (a fandom that I was thrilled to see had a fandom/fanfic revival when the film came out a decade and a half later). While it remains my most prolific fandom – two completed novella length fics, plus a dozen fan poems – I have since dabbled in writing in a number of fandoms, from small works of literature, to massive media franchises.
Post-high school, and especially post-college, my devotion to writing fanfic has fallen by the wayside. While my experience has proven otherwise – and while I will adamantly defend the act and product of fan creations, there remains a shameful and stubborn part of me that, over time, came to regard my transformative fiction as somehow lesser.
That inclination, which I steadfastly stand by as being entirely false, is nonetheless insidious, and hasn’t exactly come into existence within a vacuum. For every supportive creator/observer/casual fan, there have been dozens of people, both within academia/the creative community and looking in from the outskirts ready to deride it as garbage.
And some of it is. Maybe even a lot of it is. But so is some original writing.
So is a lot of original writing.
There is so much that is wonderful about fanfic, both as a consumer and as a creator, and both as someone just starting out in the world of writing as well as someone who has been writing for years. It has allowed me to explore gender, sexuality, and story in ways that no other form of writing has been able to do – it gives me a cast of character that I am already emotionally invested in, who I already know and understand, and allows me to explore my own stories, themes, and ideas through them. The fact that other people are writing stories using the same characters means we can converse through the narrative – we can talk motivation, if it rang true for the characters, because we are – all of us, creators and consumers – have a shared history and mutual understanding of said characters.
And I am fascinated by the way one person’s idea becomes another person’s headcanon, becomes the general fandom’s accepted belief, becomes fanon. How did the WTNV fandom collective decide that Cecil was covered with tattoos, despite never being given a physical description? I’m fascinated by the way fandom borrows from itself, how we create not just augmentative, but parallel worlds, drawing from, building on, but ultimately deviating from the source material.
And as a result, we are freer; we are more diverse (in gender, race, ability, neurodiversity, sexuality); and, hell yeah, we are kinkier. We have touched on tropes and plot lines that the canon would never even come close to, especially those in more mainstream media fandoms.
So I’m thinking of diving straight back into fanfic for a bit, especially while the seeds of my other creative projects germinate and I wait for them to break ground. There are certain sandboxes that I have definitely missed playing in.
Do you write fanfic? What fandoms do you dabble in?