Growing Up in Fandom Part I
Fanfic get’s a bad rap.
I should go back, some of you reading this might not have a clue what I mean when I say fanfic or fandom or WIP or a dozen other terms so, crash course:
- fandom: “implies a community of people with similar interests, participating in fanac and interacting in some way, whether through discussions or creative works. The interaction may be face-to-face at gatherings such as conventions, or written communication, either off- or on-line.” source fanlore
- I’ve always considered fandom so be mini “fan kingdoms” centered around a specific area of interest such as a movie or television show and encompassing all the people who take part in fannish activities (discussions, fanfic, fanart, meta, mixes, fanvids ETC)
- fanfic: “is a work of fiction written by fans for other fans, taking a source text or a famous person as a point of departure.” source fanlore
- fanfic is essentially transformative fiction, using a common source material as a jumping off point, inspiration, setting etc
For more reading Fanlore.org is a pretty good fannish wiki. It was created and is maintained by the people at the OTW ( a group of fans who run fan-based projects and outreach programs).
Now, as I was saying. I wrote my first short story with my mother’s help when I was six years old. I dabbled over the following years with writing little stories of dubious quality often on the back of church programs. When I was about 12 or 13 a friend’s parents introduced she and I to a movie. This movie was called Labyrinth, you’re probably heard of it 😉 I remember feeling incredibly sad and unhappy with the ending. I desperately wanted Sarah and the Goblin King to hook but because he was totally into her duh. Through a series of events I don’t remember now, another school friend passed me a note with a web address on it. That web address was fanfiction.net; suffice is to say I immediately ran home and wrote an alternative ending to Labyrinth to post to ff.net. The rest, as they say, is history.
From then on I was a tiny school girl fic addict. I wasn’t a very prolific writer but participation in fandom kept me writing small (and terrible, I’ll admit it) short stories through my early years in high school.
So that being said, fanfic get’s a bad rap because there is a lot of bad fanfic out there. Stuff being written by young kids essentially (though also by older people) that’s underdeveloped, that’s childish and rough and being posted without editing or beta reading etc. I would argue that this isn’t altogether a bad thing, because fandom fosters these young, developing writers, and encourages them to keep writing and to write better and to challenge themselves. So ten years down the road they aren’t just writing terrible sloppy sailor moon or Labyrinth fic anymore, they’re writing fully realized and complex, engaging narratives.
Because the other side of the coin is composed of fanfic that is incredibly well written. There are several women in fandom whose writing I have followed for years because they did their time as terrible teenage writers and honed their craft into something sharp and beautiful. There are literally hundreds of fanfic writers out there who have day jobs, who don’t write professional (though they certainly could if they wanted to) but love fandom and therefore write just for the hell of it. For their own enjoyment and their own enrichment and because it makes them happy. And they write really really well.
I can be a bit stingy. I almost never buy a book brand new, I am a hardcore used bookstore goer. If there’s one thing I really hate, it’s spending $10 for a book that is badly written or boring. I hate to break it to you, but there are lot of books being actualfacts published (we’re talking paper and glue binding published) that are not well written. My predicament then is, why should I bother paying for actual kindling when I can get a very well-written story for free from a friend in fandom?
As I’ve gotten older (well, since graduating from my ultra conservative high school and moving out into the big real world) I’ve been increasingly more open. Open about my thoughts, opinions, personal philosophies and proclivities. In the last year I’ve been a lot more open to real life friends about my participation in fandom, honest about the fact that yes, I still write fanfic from time to time.
Like I said way back at the beginning of this post, fanfic get’s a bad rap. “Regular” people (should I call them fannish muggles?) know so little about fandom, all they get exposed to are the extremes: the extreme fans, the extreme stalkers, the extreme kinks, the extremely bad examples of fanfic. Their opinions are shaped by this exposure.
I won’t deny there is badfic out there, that there is a lot of badfic out there, in fact (heh, 50 Shades of Grey is, quite honestly, an example of badfic okay? Misrepresentation of the BDSM community aside, it’s a poorly written story much like it’s source material go figure). Badfic is not the only type of fic out there, and even badfic can be a stepping stone, a learning exercise for a developing author.
I refuse to be shamed into silence because I like geeky things or because I take part in online fannish communities.
Next time on Growing Up in Fandom: why I still dabble in fic writing