Posted in Geek Out, Reading, Writing

The Fanfiction in My Head

I read a tumblr post recently (sorry, lost the link!) in which someone asked a professor what he (she?) thought of fanfiction. The overall point seemed to be “write what you enjoy, and actually, all writing is fanfiction to a degree and has been for hundreds and hundreds of years.” The professor also said something about how before this stress on originality (and even then, how 100% original can we be?), readers really only wanted what was essentially fanfiction. A writer would take something like a King Arthur tale, for example, and make it even better than ever before.

In any case, the post got me thinking about fanfiction and my own experiences with it. I actually have never read much of it (for one, the best source for it is the Internet and I don’t like staring at a computer screen to read text for long, long periods if it can be helped), but I did write some when I was pre-teen and early teen. One was a relatively short pure Mary Sue about a “Sailor Universe” in the realm of Sailor Moon who had ALL of the senshi’s powers (before I knew about Sailor Cosmos, by the way). Another was a somewhat more original seven-chapter series about Genbu no Miko, a prequel to Fushigi Yuugi. In the original manga and anime, Watase hinted at a girl who had been the Genbu priestess in the past, but she hadn’t yet fully developed the story, so I took her hints and spun my own tale. Years later, Watase did her own version, which of course was infinitely better than mine.

They’re actually still on the Internet under a pseudonym (yes, we had Internet when I was that young, ha, although it looked a whoooole lot different), if you tinker around with the way back machine, but I’m not going to link you to it. Geh! I just visited the page and found another short fanfiction I’d forgotten all about: Usagi from Sailor Moon wishing she could leave Mamoru for Seiya. Too bad for Chibiusa, eh?

But then I was thinking, what other writing did I do back then? It may not have been fanfiction, but it was inspired by my love for something at the time. I read The Chronicles of Prydain, and I was writing my own (unintentionally hilarious!) attempt at high fantasy. I saw and read Centennial, and all of sudden I was writing a Western historical. And it sometimes still happens today. I got back into a Regency and Victorian era kick recently (not that I ever stopped liking them), and an idea for a Regency historical started kicking around in my head.

Perhaps most embarrassingly of all to admit, but ever since I could remember, I’ve “performed” (?) fanfiction in my head. Not as much these days since I have less trouble hitting the hay, but when I was younger, it’d take me quite a while to fall asleep after I went to bed. If sleep wasn’t happening, I imagined whatever book/movie/show/comic/anime was new to me or a favorite thing at the time, only with… Me. Basically, with a Mary Sue. And the very worst kind of Mary Sue, who has greater powers than the other X-Men, for example (a favorite “power” to give my Sue, as you can see from the Sailor Universe thing above, is having EVERYONE else’s powers, ha, like a single being wouldn’t like explode with the sheer force), and who’s befriended by all of her favorite characters. Now that I know what a Mary Sue is (I did start doing this in elementary school), it’s extremely mortifying to admit that that entertained me, but I guess it entertains a lot of people. The term exists for a reason, right?

That said, short of my young days of writing those few fanfiction, I don’t pretend that a Mary Sue I come up with would entertain anyone else. As a reader, I would hate to read about a perfect, deus-ex-machina character. (Not that I haven’t come across a few…) In fact, even in the fanfiction in my head, I prefer drama to everything magically going the Mary Sue’s way. There’s something about arguments, misunderstandings, obstacles and characters learning to improve themselves along the way that perfect Mary Sues just don’t hold a candle to.

Then again, apparently people are entertained by fanfiction and Mary Sues. I’m not even talking about the tons of free fanfiction available online to those who seek it—read what you love, and enjoy the well written stuff out there. But I just love informing the random women I come across who love a certain extremely insane-selling erotic book series how it’s a Twilight fanfiction. These types of women don’t usually know what fanfiction is, but once I explain the Twilight parallels (and how the author originally uploaded it for free with the Twilight characters’ names in tact and basically just did a search-and-replace with new names for publication)*, they start understanding: they love fanfiction! They love erotic fanfiction at that. And for them, that’s okay. Apparently I love fanfiction in my head, so who am I to judge? (Just maybe, the next fanfiction to get published could have a little better character development and prose? _)

*How do I know so much about these books? No, I haven’t read them, but I have read samples and articles explaining the original Twilight connection. That’s my story (but it’s truel!) and I’m sticking to it.

Posted in Books I Loved in Middle/High School, Reading

Books I Loved in Middle/High School, Part 4

This time I’m finally going to discuss a couple of books I liked in high school. During middle school, I read a lot of long-running series. In high school, I put many of those aside and gravitated toward one-shot books or books from short series.

The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles

I read, discussed and wrote essays about this book for school not once, but twice, in high school and in college. It’s a good thing I fell hard for the book during my high school English class; seeing it on my college course syllabus was a welcome surprise, something I might not have felt about some other required reading books with which I never quite connected.

The plot involves a woman ostracized by society for “having relations” while unmarried to a French lieutenant who was passing through town. (Shades of The Scarlet Letter.) An engaged gentleman becomes fascinated with this mysterious woman, and he soon discovers that there is far more to her than meets the eye.

More compelling to me than the plot–which I did enjoy–was the narration. Fowles frequently breaks the fourth wall and addresses the reader about the craft of writing. He went on to write three different endings to the story! I never saw the movie, but I wonder if they filmed all three endings. I also want to know how they translated the narration, which was an essential part of the book to me. Maybe I should pick the film up.

Centennial by James A. Michener

This book wasn’t any part of my compulsory reading for school. What prompted me to pick up this massive tome (1000+ pages in my version) was the massive TV miniseries (21-ish hours total). This was a couple of decades after it first aired, but it was airing again on some cable network while I was in high school. My mom had liked it when it first aired and thought I might like it, too. She was right! I was so hooked, I even warned a friend who called me one of the days an episode was airing that I had to hang up when it started airing. And I did wind up literally hanging up (she was still talking). She called back to ask what happened, and I said, “My show is on!” and I hung up again. Ah, what a good friend I was… (She forgave me!)

I actually have minimal interest in Westerns, although I’ve watched a few. What compelled me to love this show was the unceasing drama, a saga of a fictional Colorado town that lasted generations. I found the same and more in the book, which my mom also had on hand. Luckily, I loved the show enough to make it through the first few chapters, though… Because they literally began with the formation of the earth that made up this town and continued through some pre-historic animals living there… If I’m not mistaken, it was at least 100 pages, if not more. (What was Michener’s editor thinking?! I’m guessing it was something he was known for.) I remember they pretty quickly brushed past that part in the TV series. In any case, once you get past (or skip) the pre-historic part, you get to the juicy drama, and it becomes a page-turner. I finished it pretty quickly.

I thought I might like more of Michener’s works, so I picked up a few more volumes. All of them had pre-historic first chapters… And not knowing for sure I’d love the drama within, I gave up on them. (I probably should have skipped those chapters, but I never do that!) Still, Centennial remains dear to me. I got the DVD set a few years ago, and I became hooked again and re-read the book. My well-worn copy from the 1970s will always remain on my bookshelf.