The “Fake” Fan and the Enduring Fandom 

A couple of weeks ago, an Instagrammer I follow in part because of her charming Harry Potter shots was the victim of a troll bashing her for having a large collection of Harry Potter memorabilia despite having only discovered the books a couple of years ago, claiming she was a fake fan. (We won’t get into how not Potter that behavior is.) The Instagrammer in question is a college student (and I’m fairly confident the troll is younger than at least the very first book), most likely born within a year or so of the first book being published.

It got me thinking, because I was just barely born into a world without Star Wars in it, and then had to work with people who had no idea Episode 1 was released many years after Episode 6. And then I taught kids whose idea of  Star Wars consisted of Clone Wars. And now there’s the new movies. As I wasn’t quite two when Star Wars itself was released, I can’t make any claims to remember the world before it, but it was an integral part of my entire childhood. It was the same for others who grew up around that time.

Those discovering the Star Wars movies today are experiencing a different fandom than the one I grew up with, mainly because they’re growing up in a time that’s nothing like the time I grew up in and fandom cannot escape the effect of the society around it. Does that make them fake fans for coming to the series later on? No. Of course not. I look at the little girl who’s fallen head first into a fandom that existed before her parents were born, and think it’s super cool that she can run around pretending to be Rey the way I ran around pretending to be Leia when I was her age.

Harry Potter is the same way. The first book is just over twenty years old. So many children have been born in those twenty years, and are coming to Hogwarts for the first time. And they’re falling in love with it, and the fandom, and the general culture. As long as those books are in print, they will gain new fans who didn’t even exist when the series began. Does that make them fake fans? No, of course it doesn’t, no more than the girl cosplaying Rey is. With a long-running, long-lasting fandom like that, the newcomer is just as valid a fan as the one who’s been there for years.

That’s both the blessing and the curse of the fandom that spans generations (and there are so many out there) – There will be the elders who have been around since the early days; there will be the newcomers who just stumble in one day and never succeed in stumbling back out. And they’re all there because they love the fandom, and they all celebrate the fandom in their own way. In a way that’s often culturally appropriate to when they discovered the fandom. There’s plenty of room for everyone. Trolling newcomers is just ridiculous and against the spirit of fandom.

Writing Fan Fiction When You’re New to the Fandom

So, I’ve spent a lot of my free time this month marathoning Critical Role from the beginning, finding all sorts of little gems I’d either missed or forgotten about, and reading the fan fiction. And right around the time I got to Episode 45, I came across a fanfic written in response to all the fanfic that have Vax mercilessly punching Percy to a literal bloody pulp. The writer, admittedly a relatively new fan, had written their kinder, gentler version because the trope bothered them, and they just couldn’t see Vax going after Percy at all.

As I type this, there are sixty-seven episodes of Critical Role. It takes roughly 260 hours (Thanks, critrolestats!) to marathon them. So, a new Critter (a Critical Role fan) is forgiven for not necessarily wanting to go back and catch up. On the other hand, a new Critter wanting to write what they believe to be canon fan fiction without doing a little research (even if that research is just turning to another Critter and asking, “Why are people so obsessed with Vax punching Percy?”) should probably stop themselves and just go ahead and put in the time.

Maybe it’s the fact I came across this fic while watching Episode 44 that made me scrunch up my nose at the author’s complete unawareness of the punch or the events that led up to it, but that single punch is canon (and an amazing show of restraint on Vax’s part).

I used to have this problem when reading Yu-Gi-Oh fan fiction where it became obvious rather quickly that someone had written a fanfic, not of the original story, but of someone else’s fanfic. Yu-Gi-Oh had been around for a few years before I started reading the fan fiction, and so there were cases where the fanfic of a fanfic ran layers deep, and had problems not unlike what happens when you run a copy through an old mimeograph machine, and then run that new copy through the mimeograph machine, repeating the process several times. The copies eventually contain some of the same elements, but are faded so far as to be unrecognizable next to the original.

Being a newer fandom, Critical Role doesn’t have that deep of a problem yet, but moments like these are a sign of things to come. It’s odd to be in a position to watch it begin. But to the new fan wanting to jump in, I still say connect with the original first so you won’t find your “original” story has unnecessarily reinvented a wheel.

BBC Sherlock: An Intersection of Adaptation and Fan Fiction

To get ready for the Sherlock Holmes and the Internet of Things (SherlockIoT) MOOC that’s just started, I’ve been re-reading all of the Sherlock Holmes stories. It’s something I’d been meaning to do since I read Fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking Over the World, because Sherlock Holmes is considered the original fandom. That is, it’s the first property that historians and anthropologists agree exhibited a lot of the activities we associate with fandom today.

Re-reading the stories has been interesting because between the last time I read them and this time, BBC has released a rather fun adaptation of the Sherlock Holmes world, bringing the famous detective’s world into our own times. So as I’ve read, I’ve marked up places where showrunners/writers Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss directly lifted material, and where they wove in something that caught their attention or that they felt was important for whatever reason. (I’ve also rewatched the last season, because it’s amazing how much I don’t remember those episodes. Heh.)

As I’m fascinated by the practices of adaptation and fan fiction, working through the stories with this eye towards analyzing how someone else adapted the material while thinking about how I was going to adapt an object for the class has been educational. Being able to see what Moffat and Gatiss chose to call out and how those elements were used in BBC’s Sherlock provides a bit of insight into what the two self-proclaimed fan boys felt was noteworthy from the stories. But then they layered in original elements, like the OC (original character) Molly, who was a wonderful addition to the modernization of the tale. Sherlock is a great example of what you can do while adapting material and how fan-created elements can co-exist peacefully within an adaptation.

I’ll be spending the next couple of months hanging out with the Sherlock Holmes stories, so there may be more meditations as I really think about what I see in the series against what we’re creating in the MOOC. It’s amazing how much you can see working with material and seeing how the people around you are interacting with that same material. (I think that’s part of why I enjoy reading fan fiction when I can.)

Friday Five: Eclectic Writer Edition

As so many of us do at the end of the year, I spent time last month cleaning out various physical and digital spaces. You know how it goes when you clean out spaces you haven’t touched in a long while – you find all sorts of garbage and treasures long forgotten. I found a nice little pile of links I thought strung together nicely, both with each other and with my goal for fitting a steady writing practice into my voiceover schedule this year.

There are posts here for the undiscovered, the newly published, and the veteran, so enjoy!

1. John Scalzi, past SWFA president and friend to writers new and established, wrote this great article almost two years ago (a really long forgotten treasure!) explaining to new writers facing their first contract just how powerful their position is in negotiations. If you’re pursuing publication, you will want to sit down, read this, and mark it up.

2. Many writers have their own method for organizing their writing. Some prefer physical notebooks and binders; others digital notetaking apps. But I’m always interested in hearing how other writers organize their work because you can often pick up a trick or two you may not have thought of before. Wendy Van Camp’s Novel Reference Journal isn’t anything new to me. I do the same thing digitally on Evernote. But it’s a great, relatively simple method for keeping information organized and quickly accessible.

3. I like Sherlock Holmes. I like adaptations. I’m a feminist. And I’m currently re-reading the Sherlock Holmes stories in my free time (heh), trying to take a closer look at how Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss are adapting the stories for Sherlock. One of the problems in the series, and in pretty much every modern attempt at retelling Sherlock Holmes, is that no one seems capable of presenting Irene Adler as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did. It almost always feels like you’re seeing, in fanfic terms, Irene Adler (OOC). (OOC means “out of character”.) I’m not the only one who’s noticed this…

4. You hear so often people thanking talent scouts, agents, or other people in similar positions for taking a chance on them. Athletes and creatives are especially bad about this. But here’s the deal: Those scouts, agents, and what-have-you are all businessmen. They aren’t “taking a chance”; they’re pursuing what they see as a reasonably secure business risk. It’s very calculated, and the article does a great job laying this out.

5. This week’s final link is a nod to my weakness for cool toys and games that enable storytelling. Rory’s Story Cubes is a set of dice, an image on each face. The goal is to roll them, and then tell a story that connects all of the images facing up. I can see this being a lot of fun with a group of friends or strangers, and I can see this as potentially being useful for breaking through writer’s block.

All right, so…another week down. If you’re enjoying these posts, feel free to let me know. If you find something useful in these links, let me know. If you just want to say hi, feel free.

Passing the Reins or Developing Fan Fiction?

I am a huge Brandon Sanderson fan. I’ve read nearly everything he’s released. Everything except The Rithmatist and the Wheel of Time books. The Rithmatist is on my to-read list. The Wheel of Time books are not. While I adore Sanderson’s work, I’ve never been able to get into Robert Jordan’s. When it was announced that Sanderson would be completing Wheel of Time after Jordan passed away, I was excited for Sanderson, but bummed because there were suddenly going to be these two books in his body of work that I was never going to read. From what I have heard, Sanderson is a Wheel of Time fan, and was not only delighted to be asked but dedicated himself to finishing the series in a strong manner, basing the work on Jordan’s own notes.

Contrast this with what happened when Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry passed away. I grew up with Star Trek. I loved Star Trek. By the time Roddenberry passed away, creative control of the franchise had passed to Rick Berman.  Granted, Berman was groomed to take over the Star Trek franchise, but it became clear fairly quickly that he either didn’t get Roddenberry’s vision or simply wasn’t interested in it. Now, J.J. Abrams is running things as the director of the rebooted movie series, and it’s not entirely clear what of the original vision was passed on to him.

When Les Miserables came to the big screen last winter, Disalmanacarian tweetedCan’t wait for the sequel, Les Mi2. On the one hand, it reflected the current movie production culture where movies, regardless of how well they’ve done, get a sequel. In this case, though, there’s no material to base a sequel on. Victor Hugo has been dead for over a hundred years. Any sequel would have to be created out of thin air, effectively making it fan fiction. Not that this stopped Disney in the 90’s and 00’s, but it can have mixed success.

The practice does encourage an interesting question: When does carrying on someone’s creative legacy stop being a change in leadership and start being fan fiction? Is it the level of success? The training and pedigree of the person tasked with continuing the story? The recognized authority of the person conferring the right to continue the story? Because when you get right down to it, someone else taking over a creative franchise is going to bring their own vision to the party and the late creator is not in a position to say, “Yes, this is canon,” or, “No, you fool. That would never happen. Where did you get that?”