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.

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

Books I Loved in Middle/High School, Part 8

I’m going to sort of “cheat” for the next few posts on this topic. I decided to move on from the novels I loved in middle and high school for now to the manga I loved at that time, but technically, it wasn’t always available. The unflopped-$10-or-less-a-pop manga boom began when I was just getting to college. When I was in middle and high school, I had limited access to manga. What I did get was imported from Japan (at least I saw pretty pictures and practiced my fledgling understanding of Japanese, but I certainly didn’t totally follow the story) or limited/edited/flopped (as in mirror imaged to follow American left-to-right reading style)/much more expensive for the most part. In other words, this library wasn’t anywhere near this large back then (each shelf is double-stacked; there’s another row of volumes behind it, although some non-manga stuff has creeped in there. Should I be bragging about probably thousands of dollars spent on manga over a decade and a half? Not really, but yes… Yes, I should… ):

Still, the manga I’ll cover in this series meant a lot to me as a middle and high schooler, and they still mean a lot to me today. I may or may not have had the translated volumes until after high school, but I often had import volumes and grew to love these series through anime adaptations, so I certainly knew the stories.

Bishoujo Senshi Sailormoon (Pretty Solder Sailor Moon) by Takeuchi Naoko

I have to start here. Sailor Moon was my first “official” introduction to anime at age 12–what I understood to be anime, anyway–and it snowballed into a huge part of my life ever since. Japanese anime and manga not only inspire me creatively, but this facet of pop culture inspired my love for the Japanese language and culture, helped me make many of my most treasured friends, and led me to meet my boyfriend of seven years in a college Anime Club, too. (More than seven years ago. We didn’t date immediately!)

So although I’ve read and seen so many manga and anime since, and I may not think SM stands up as the very best of the best or anything, it means a lot to me. At the time, finding a whole team of girl superheroes–girls around my age at that–spoke to the comic-book-loving girl I was. The series not only balances superhero battles of good and evil, but it has drama, comedy and romance, too.

The series starts with a single heroine, 14-year-old Tsukino Usagi, who discovers she can transform into Sailor Moon and fight evil demons attacking Tokyo thanks to a talking cat named Luna (whom I named my own kitty after). Eventually, she finds four other girls her age who are other Sailor Senshi, and even later, she encounters five more, older and younger girls, to round out the team. (And possibly even more girls after that. It gets complex.) There’s way more to it than that, including reincarnation and a love that lasts through lifetimes, but that’s the very basics.

The anime is actually quite different from the manga, other than characters and the enemies of each battle arc, but I actually did have access to translated SM manga in middle and high school, a sort of butchered version by Mixx/Tokyopop that I collected first in a magazine called Mixx Zine, then in a magazine called SMILE, then in individual American comic-book-style issues, and then in graphic novel form. Actually, some of that was concurrent; they published different arcs at once. And the translation used half English dub names and half original Japanese names; it was just a mess! But still, I collected it eagerly. And a few years ago finally rid myself of the whole haphazard mess… Thank goodness Kodansha started bringing out a much nicer and better translated version last year! (And they were the first to translate the prequel series, Codename Sailor V, yay.)

The original manga is 18 volumes, although the re-release packs more in one volume, so it should be 12 (14?) in the end. Although it’s much more drawn out, I think I prefer the anime to the manga, although I’m a fan of the manga’s gorgeous style. Still, I appreciate having two versions of the same story; many manga are almost completely unedited adaptations of their manga (or these days, light novel or game) origins.

Fushigi Yuugi (or Yugi; “Mysterious Play”) by Watase Yuu

This series became my absolute favorite series in middle school, perhaps only eclipsed in high school by a another Watase series, Ayashi no Ceres. I started with the anime (and watched it four or five times all the way through–there was less to watch back then!) and collected the manga in Japanese shortly thereafter, but some of the manga was available in English by the time I got to high school, in a magazine put out by Viz called Animerica Extra. I collected the manga in English through the magazine for all of its run, but it was canceled before the 18-volume manga ended, and years later I got rid of the magazines and collected it in six big three-volumes-in-one re-releases.

FY follows the tale of two 15-year-old Japanese best friends, Yuuki Miaka and Hongo Yui, who get magically sucked into a book about fictional ancient China. One goes on to become the Suzaku no Miko (“priestess of Suzaku”‘; Suzaku is one of four mythical beasts in Chinese folklore), and the other the Seiryuu no Miko, her mortal enemy. How these two friends come to be at such odds is a compelling part of the drama, and the two are in a race to gather their seven warriors and call their mythical beasts to grant them three wishes. Oh, and those warriors? Most are handsome men, and there are love triangles and rectangles and all sorts of shapes going on, which spurs more of the drama. And the series can be pretty funny at times, too.

There’s a prequel series, Fushigi Yuugi: Genbu Kaiden, about the first Japanese girl to become a miko in this ancient book, that’s still coming out both in Japanese and English, but volumes are few and far between these days since Watase is juggling multiple projects and this one seems to be on the back burner. The middle schooler in me loved hearing there would be another tale set in that universe (especially since we learn a bit about this protagonist in the original series), and I do love many things about it, but it perhaps doesn’t have quite the charm as the original to me (it’s less funny, too), and the conflict is more political than personal like it was in FY. I actually would have preferred a prequel story about the Byakko no Miko, who comes after the Genbu no Miko, from what we learned in the original FY, but I’m not sure Watase will be up for it since she’s accomplished her dream of doing a weekly shounen (boys) manga, as opposed to the monthly shoujo (girls) manga she used to do. Ah, well.