I Want to Touch It; It is Shiny

I learned to write by writing fan fiction.

Okay, to be fair, I’m sure my mom and my kindergarten teachers had something to do with my learning to actually write. But the crazy-imagination-find-some-worlds-and-go-nuts creative bits, I practiced on other people’s characters.

Though I didn’t realize it at the time, my pencil-written epic about Sarah coming to her senses and returning to the LABYRINTH- totally fanfic. The continuing adventures of Han Solo and Princess Leia, as enacted by 4 inch figurines in my mother’s tomato garden every single day for approximately forever, also fanfic.

Then I grew up and found actual fanfic. I was a screenwriter, already writing spec scripts, when I discovered the fiction form. It’s not a huge secret that I wrote for multiple fandoms and some of y’all reading right now are like, “Uh huh, I know.” But I do generally keep which fandoms are mine to myself. In large part because even though writing is my job now, fanfic remains my hobby.

That’s right. I love writing and fanfic so much that job and hobby, twain constantly meeting. My head is a messy place, I can’t help it. If I fall in love with a world and a character, I want to spend more time in it. I want to manipulate it, pull its strings. I want to rub it shiny, and figure out how it works. When the credits roll, I want another crime to be solved. I want another monster to arise. I want more of the things I love, and that’s how I ended up writing fanfic.

I love writing alternate universe versions (among my favorite, you won’t be shocked to hear, historical AUs.) I love thinking about how to get Civil War-era Scully out of her father’s parsonage and into the Jefferson School of Medicine. And I love writing case files, or monsters of the week– stories that could fit right into the existing canon, if only they’d let me have a turn at the wheel.

Examining a universe and its logic thrills me. Extrapolating from a character’s known qualities, to figure out how they’d solve something not yet encountered in canon is fun. Screenwriting taught me so much about pace and voice. Fanfiction taught me about place and characterization.

Certainly I understand why some authors and some TPTB just don’t like it. They made up their toys, they don’t want anybody else playing with them. That’s fine by me. I can satisfy myself with the Lestat that already exists as Anne Rice wrote him. I don’t need to go looking for more. But for authors and artists who don’t care, FRABJULOUS!

I’m not going to argue whether fanfic is legal. I continue to maintain that because I am legally allowed to write spec scripts of extant television shows, and I’m furthermore not only allowed, but encouraged, to copyright my original expressions in those scripts, that fanfic is legal. Likewise, I don’t think it’s plagiarism– though obviously, the source should be credited always (how else will we know which bits are your brilliance?)

If you think I’m wrong, more power to you. But I’m not going to argue about it. I love fanfic, I’ve always loved it, and I wouldn’t be published without it. I think people are designed to embroider stories. We have a primal need to make things our own, to explain ourselves by incorporating ourselves into the stories that surround us. Greek mythology didn’t start out with 47 different origin stories for various gods- everyday Greeks added.

PARADISE LOST and DANTE’S INFERNO are fanfic. ROMEO AND JULIET is fanfic. PHAEDRA is fanfic. MAN OF LA MANCHA. WIDE SARGASSO SEA. WICKED. THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING. All fanfic. They’re stories that were changed. Examined. Explored. People saw the shiny and wanted to touch it. They picked it up, and made more of it. I see shiny and I want to touch it, too.

I love fanfic, and I love that people will never stop writing it.