In Which I Am An Ignorant Jerk and Then I Write Fanfiction (Which Makes it All Better)

With Mass Effect 3′s release right around the corner, I am having an enormous amount of difficulty thinking, talking, or writing about anything else. Therefore, any posts between now and probably November 27th (give or take a week) are likely to be related to Mass Effect or BioWare in some way. Just so you know.

I have an enormous number of faults as a human being, but the greatest (that I’m willing to admit to) is my tendency to be a stubborn, arrogant asshole. I will get an idea in my head and commit to it as though it were embedded into the very fabric of reality. According to my friends, there are times they only tolerate me “because you figure it out eventually.” And then I apologize for being an ass.

Today is an apology kind of day.

There was a time, before Mass Effect moved into my brain like one of those zombifying fungi insects get, that I secretly felt that fanfiction was a lower form of writing. It wasn’t something real writers indulged in. (I ALREADY SAID I WAS AN ASSHOLE. I’m really, really sorry.)

I had never actually read any fanfiction ( I had standards, after all *eyeroll*), but obviously I was an expert in what “real writers” do. After all, I hung out with writers a lot, and I occasionally started a story I was unlikely to finish.

I was a pretentious git, but it took me a long time to realize it.

The first step on my road to enlightenment occured when I was finally exposed to good fanfiction.  The only fanfiction I’d seen had been pieces so awful that people had sent them to me as a joke. Since I’d never seen anything better,  I just assumed that it was all like that. You know, just like how all fantasy novels are exactly like “The Lord of the Rings”. (<- sarcasm.)

That attitude lasted until I noticed that nearly everyone on my social networking sites was gushing over a fic called  “Manipulations“.  I got curious enough to check it out- because God forbid I be the only one that doesn’t know about something on the internet- and I was totally unprepared for what I found.

You know how they say that drug dealers give away the first hit for free just to get people hooked? I have no idea if that’s true, but that’s pretty much what happened with me and fanfiction. That one taste (which, granted, was like 5o chapters and five hours of reading)  was all it took to make me a hardcore addict. I didn’t tell anyone at first, ashamed of the hours I spent alone, scouring fanfiction.net for a new Mass Effect fix or just one more hit of  Dragon Age.

It wasn’t long after I’d started reading fanfiction that I found myself writing it.  I made a lot of excuses about why I wasn’t technically a fanfic writer; things like  “I’m just writing Mass Effect stuff as a practice exercise. It’ll give me a chance to work on voice and plot without all that pesky worldbuilding,” and “Well, because the overlying plot is already established I can focus on my dialogue progression in smaller scenes,” and even, “I doing this so I can practice writing sex, because, um… yeah.”

I abandoned that pretense when I  realized that I’d been writing fanfic in my head every time I played a BioWare game.  Every one of my Wardens and every one of my Shepards had unique personalities  and relationships that seemed to develop somewhat beyond my control.  When the game ended, my mind spun with the scenarios that could follow, the places the story could have gone, the places I could take it.

Putting those stories on paper was not what made me a fanfic writer; it was simply the last step in a long process that began the first time I played a game where what happened in my head was just as important as what happened on the screen.

I still sometimes feel awkward about writing in this medium. I think that’s largely why I don’t share my pieces very often (besides the fact that I tend to get distracted and not finish them). I feel like I’m saying to the creators of the worlds I’m working in, “I’ve been sneaking into your backyard to use your swingset- but look how high I can go!”

On the other hand, I don’t feel like fanfic writers are stealing from other writers or exploiting their worlds; writing fanfiction is an act of love.  When a fanfiction writer pours out new stories, they’re saying “This world I visited inspired me, it made me feel and it made me dream, and those feelings and dreams were much too big to stay in my head.”

Although sometimes they’re just saying “I think it would be super hot if those two characters (or three, or maybe all of them) had all the sex.”

These days I’m really embarrassed by my old attitude. I know how stupid it is to say that all fanfiction is badly written; it’s just as ridiculous to suggest that it’s less valid than other types of creative expression. I’ve spent too many hours stuck to my computer, reading and dreaming, to hold on to those fallacies.

So, fanfic writers, I owe you an apology. I was an asshole, and I was wrong.

I’m sorry.

(While I was writing this, I asked my daughter not to distract me because I was writing.

“What are you writing?”  she asked.

“Just something for my blog.”

“Oh, you’re just BLOGGING,” ” she said dismissively.  “That’s not REAL writing.”)

Posted on February 23, 2012, in Miscellania, Opinions and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. 1) I love you so much for writing this.

    2) Like you, I used to be in the “fanfiction isn’t real writing” camp. And I do still think of it differently in my mind. It’s not the same as writing original fiction, but I’m not sure there needs to be a value judgement on that. (Unless the writer wants to do something for pay, in which case, yeah, writing fanfic is a dead end street except as a way to hone one’s skills). I like what you said about it being no less valid than other types of creative expression. Yes, that’s it exactly.

    3) “The Arrangement” was the story that got me hooked on Dragon Age fanfic. And now I’ve read . . . several dozen, at least. Maybe pushing a couple of hundred. (The only one I’m still following is “Victory at Ostagar”). I’ve mostly stopped reading fanfic for the moment though because . . .

    4) I’m now writing my own. :D It started out as my 2011 NaNoWriMo project, but I don’t really see the end of the tunnel yet. I’ve written the first “book” (~350,000 words) in what I intend to be a trilogy of my Cousland wardens entire life, and I’m now half-way through the second book. (The three books will eventually span her life from age five until about ten years after the Blight). So, um, yeah. I guess I don’t get to make fun of fanfic writers anymore, huh? And I am having an incredibly good time writing my story. And if people want to read it some day, well, yay? I might end up posting it at ff.net. Or I might not. I haven’t thought quite that far ahead yet. (I do have one dedicated friend who has read the first few chapters, and promises to read everything else I send him, but right now I’m working on writing forward, rather than editing stuff I’ve already written, so I’m not sure when he’ll get the next fix). :D

    5) Like you, I also still feel very awkward about writing in this medium, especially since I have FOUR unfinished novel-length works of original fiction that might actually be publishable if I put any effort into them. But no. Right now, I’m having fun with the Dragon Age world.

    5) Did I mention that I love you for writing this?

  2. Oh wow! Haven’t gotten around to finding good ME fanfic, but that one’s great. Got any other reccomendations? I like funny and I like character stuff, and romance is good but I can’t stomach a fic that has nothing else.

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