Friday, December 11, 2009

When the Empire Struck Out

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, a guy named George Lucas wrote and directed a movie called Star Wars: A New Hope. Maybe you've heard of it? I was seven at the time the movie came out, and completely blown away when I saw it on the silver screen. To this day, I think that the first (or fourth, depending on how you count them) Star Wars movie was what jump-started my obsession with speculative fiction. The following movies, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, only re-affirmed my love for sci fic, and for years following the release of Jedi, I and other millions of fans waited in eager anticipation to see what Lucas would do with the rumored prequel films.


Too bad he fucked it up.


Yes folks, I am one of those crochetedy old folks who looks at the latest trio of Star Wars movies and turns my nose up in disdain. How could Lucas screw things up so badly? I mean, I'll forgive a lot of things that man has done - hell, I don't even complain about that freaked out Christmas Special he produced, starring Bea Arthur for pete's sake - but Phantom Menace? What the hell was he thinking?!


I will not get into to what I think is wrong with Phantom Menace and the other prequel trilogy movies (whose names I can't remember and can't be bothered to look up). Suffice to say, the man who sparked my love of sci-fi made me scream with outrage over his follow up acts. In fact, it was one of those instances where I thought, "Jeeze Louise! I could write better than that!"


Which brings me to the actual topic of my discussion today - fan fiction. Ah yes, the guilty pleasure of geeks the world over. How many of us have longed to rewrite Phantom Menace, and get the story right this time? How many of us looked beyond Return of the Jedi to hypothesize what the future might be like for Luke, Leia and Han? Yeah, yeah, the latter actually did get done via a talented set of authors like Timothy Zahn who were contracted to write the follow up books since Lucas wasn't going to produce those movies (and here I thank God for small favors; I can only imagine how bad the last three movies might have turned out!). Still, why should those writers have all the fun? We all loved Star Wars and we all had our dreams about what the characters might have done, had we been in charge of their story.


Fan fic isn't limited to Star Wars, of course. In fact, I believe it got it's start with Star Trek. I know for a fact a certain sub-genre of fan-fic was born out of that particular universe. The entire m/m erotic romance genre should bow down in humble gratitude to those first writers who dared to create Kirk/Spock slash fiction. Verily, our roots lie there.


A not-so-careful search of the internet will reveal that fan fic, and especially slash fic, has invaded all sorts of beloved tales. From Star Trek and Star Wars to Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, with many cross-overs in between, fans are creating the sequels they want for the characters they love. Be these chaste stories of action and adventure or wildly improbable tales of lusty elf/dwarf romance (Legolas and Gimli, anyone?), there's a whole slew of alternate universes out there waiting to be written.


Did a favorite TV show kill off the character you love? Bring him or her back to life through the wonders of fan fic!


Do you ache to see Snape and Lupin get it on doggy or werewolf style? Fire up that laptop and show us what you got!


Want to rewrite Phantom Menace? Go ahead! Please god, rewrite that awful tripe. You couldn't do worse than George Lucas, especially if you find some creative way to put Jar-Jar Binks' overly long tongue to use ("Meesa like oral sex!").


Of course, there are always issues to consider whenever you venture into someone else's playground. You are working with someone else's intellectual property you know, so don't sell it or try to claim the characters or setting as your own (piracy and plagarism are still piracy and plagarism, and should not be tolerated). Instead, just have fun. And to you creators out there who's work is being fan-ficced, keep in mind that's what this is all about; your readers and your viewers enjoying what you made. We love you, really. And that's why millions upon millions are out there rewriting and extending your stories, though if you fuck up, we'll deal with that too. Perhaps folks like George Lucas should consider it the Revenge of the Fandom Menace.


Nothin' but love, George. Nothin' but love.


*****


A year or so ago, I wrote the only piece of fan fic that I've ever produced. Here's a snippet...


Torch This!


by Helen E. H. Madden


It was a dark and stormy night…


Thunder crashed as Mary Sue typed the words into her laptop. Though a real storm raged and bellowed outside her living room window, she paid it no heed. Wrapped up as she was in her favorite terry cloth bathrobe and fuzzy bunny slippers, she was perfectly cozy and content. What's more, she was in the zone.


The fan-fic writing zone, that is.


Tippy tap, tippy tap, her fingers danced over the keyboard, bringing her favorite characters to life. Lured by the sound of a writer hard at work, plot bunnies scurried out from under the couch to array themselves at Mary Sue's feet. They looked more like little bits of fluff than actual bunnies, but they were very cute and enticing. One jumped onto Mary Sue's lap.


"Oooh! You look like fun!" She scratched the plot bunny's fluffy little chin. "You know, those big blue eyes of yours remind me of… Frodo Baggins! Oh, and Samwise Gamgee!"


At that very moment, a crackle of electricity shot out of the laptop's screen and coiled around the plot bunny. As it pulled the squealing creature into the computer, Mary Sue gave a wicked smile.


"Oooooooooooh," the other plot bunnies murmured, and they huddled closer to each other.



"I think Frodo and Sam deserve a very special story tonight, don't you?" Mary Sue said to the bunnies, and she began to type even faster, her eyes alight with glee.


It was a dark and stormy night. Frodo and Sam huddled together for warmth in a cave outside Minas Morgul. They desperately wished they could be back at Bag End in Hobbiton, curled up beneath a mountain of blankets before a warm and toasty fire.


"Mr. Frodo, do you think we'll ever see home again?" Sam whispered in the gloom of the cave.


"I don't know if we'll ever see it again for real, Sam. But when you hold me, I feel like I am home." Frodo shivered. "I'm so cold. Don't let go of me, Sam."


Sam squeezed his fellow hobbit tighter. He opened his shirt and pressed Frodo's hands against his bare chest to warm them. "I promise, I won't ever let g-"


"This is Torchwood! Open up!"


At that very moment, the front door to Mary Sue's condo burst open. The writer looked up, blinking in surprise. The plot bunnies dove for cover as a tall, dark-haired stud of a man in a long RAF greatcoat strode through the splintered remains of the door. He was followed by scrumptious-looking younger fellow with puppy-dog eyes, dressed a dapper three-piece suit.


The tall man in the great coat drew out a very large revolver and pointed it at Mary Sue. "Mary Sue Smith, you're under arrest for possession of alien technology and infringement of copyright laws. Put the laptop down and step away from the plot bunnies. Now!"


"Oh… my… gawd!" Mary Sue squealed and clapped her hands. "You're Captain Jack Harkness! And that's Ianto Jones! I was just thinking about you guys. But wait, where's the rest of your team?" Before either man could answer her, another plot bunny jumped into her lap and was promptly devoured by the computer. Mary Sue giggled. "Hold on a sec. I've got to get this down!"


*****


You can find the rest of the story here ;) Enjoy!

20 comments:

  1. LOL! I recall reading that some time ago, I think it was what led me to you in the first place- not that I can recall how I found it.

    The sheer quantity of slash fanfiction is amazing - and almost all of it seems to come from female authors. (Not quite all, of course.) Whereas we guys would, in general, much rather pair Hermione and Ginny than Harry and Ron... ;-)

    I remember a conversation I had with my wife and a (female) friend. A mention was made of a F/F scene that had been on television. Both ladies were turned off by it, not surprisingly though I was all in favour!

    I said that I thought that, culturally, Two ladies kissing was 'more accepted' than two guys, a contention both denied. What do you think?

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  2. Steveh11, I definitely agree that two women kissing has always been considered sexy, but two men...yikes. Men everywhere are shuddering! That's part of the fun of writing it, I guess. To make it seem more normal, more acceptable.

    Helen, I used to write American Idol fanfic and don't tell people that very often, so keep it to yourself. *G* But it was fun making people do what I wanted them to do.

    Sorry to hear you didn't like the last three Star Wars movies. We're a pretty big fan family, have a whole room dedicated to collector's stuff, and we enjoyed them a lot. To each his own, for sure.

    Great post!

    Jenna

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  3. When I was 14, I wrote my own 'ending' to Star Wars...proof I was doomed for the romance end. I focused on the Han/Leia angle, and completely forgot about that 'I am your father' part! I wrote 4 pages a month, from Sept-May, every other friday in English class. 27 pages long, and my teacher was soooo sick of it by the time I finally wrote 'The End'.

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  4. Helen,

    The fan/fic is wonderfully entertaining. But please, never forget that TORCHWOOD is an anagram of DOCTOR WHO. I only mention this in the hope you can include more David Tennant/Billie Piper next time :-)

    Best,

    Ash

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  5. The whole community of fanfic and slash fic is just mind-boggling. I've always rewritten and continued stories in my head, but never took pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) to consciously mould the ideas into stories.

    About a month ago I began my first attempt in response to a late night showing of Pride & Prejudice. Deep into writing another of my m/m stories, but unable to pass up the chance to watch Darcy, I speculated about what would've happened if Darcy and Bingley had gotten together. Yum. A story was born...

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  6. Hi Helen!

    Plot bunnies. I like that. I like the idea of plot bunnies carrying around my feet like bedroom slippers. Stephen King describes it as a "Fornit" a kind of beery old troll with a cigar who drop an idea on your head. I want plot bunnies. Or maybe 72 dark eyed Plot Hoaris would be nice.

    Garce

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  7. Hi, Helen,

    How clever of you to turn this topic to fan fic! Actually I was thinking last night, as I often do while exercising, about writing a sequel to the Rocky Horror Picture show. What would have happened to Janet after Frankenfurter and his crew returned to Transexual, Transylvania? She has been totally transformed from mild-mannered girl next store to sexually awakened siren. Would the rest of her life be spent in regrets? Or in searching for another guy "whose lust is so sincere"?

    (I realize this will make no sense to anyone who doesn't know RHPS. But if you don't, you should!)

    Always liked that plot bunnies tale, too...

    Hugs,
    Lisabet

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  8. Helen, what a delightful post. : ) LOVE the plot bunnies, they kind of remind me of tribbles. LOL

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  9. LOL Lisabet; that sounds like a GREAT idea! LOVE TRHPS:)

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  10. Good grief! I got eaten alive yesterday by holiday parties and couldn't make it back to check comments until well after bedtime, so I put it off until the next day. I had NO idea the topic of fanfic would generate this much interest! Better get to answering comments now, huh?

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  11. Steveh11,

    Culturally speaking, are 2 women kissing more acceptable than 2 men? Depends on the culture. I think among straight men, you'd probably be right. Among straight women, maybe less so. Among the GLBT culture, you'd be dead wrong ;)

    I certainly don't mind seeing two women kissing, and I fall into the straight woman category, but I have to admit that as a heterosexual female, I get a little tired of being expected to accept f/f as the norm and then being told that m/m is disgusting and perverted, or even that full frontal male nudity is wrong. I'm a straight gal, I get turned on by looking at men in sexual situations. I don't understand what's not acceptable about that.

    As for who's writing what in slash fiction, I can't say exactly. From personal experience, I've certainly seen more women than men slash writers. However, there is no lack of Hermione/Ginny pairings, or any other f/f pairing you'd care to think of. The slash in slash fiction only stands for the slash mark placed between the names of the characters featured in the story, and stories may focus on any relationship of any orientation with any number of characters.

    And that's what makes fanfic so much fun!

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  12. Jenna,

    LOL! I certainly won't knock anybody who enjoys the Phantom Menace and follow up movies. Lord knows I enjoy a lot of movies that would make other people roll their eyes (like "Army of Darkness" or "Shawn of the Dead"). To each their own, I say, and if you enjoy the movies, I'm glad. I can always rewrite them in my head ;)

    The fun think about fanfic is that you can make the characters do what you want them to, and that was the point of the story I wrote, albeit one taken to the extreme. Writers get ultimate control over the characters they write. Of course, this is also why we have copyright law in place, so that the original creator is the one who reaps the benefits of coming up with such characters in the first place.

    Enjoy your weekend!

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  13. Molly,

    I've heard many a romance writer cut their teeth on fanfic, mainly because they want that HEA. I say it's a good way to get started writing. Fanfic writers today can build audiences without worrying about the need to publish and publicize their work.

    Have a great weekend!

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  14. Ashley,

    For you, I would write all the Doctor Who fanfic I could! And I promise I would do the most interesting things with Ms. Piper. And then maybe write about them, so you could read those stories too ;)

    Have fun!

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  15. Devon,

    Ah, yes, you have been tempted by the dark side of the writing force. Give in... give in to your desires to write fanfic!

    Seriously, sounds like you have a hot story in the works!

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  16. Garce,

    The plot bunnies sprang into my mind fully formed, and when they did, I knew exactly what I had to do with them - sacrifice them to an evil, evil story ;)

    I do think they would make great slippers, but then you might also want to have the plot Hoaris to bring you those slippers...

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  17. Lisabet,

    I know exactly what happens to Janet! She goes on to have a smokin' hot sex scene with Catherine Denueve and becomes a vampire! Or wait, did somebody write that already?

    Anyway, I'd love to see what you'd do with a story like that. In fact, maybe I should keep that idea in mind for future Heat Flash episodes. "What happened afterwards?" would make a fun theme.

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  18. Michelle,

    Oh, I'm a huge fan of tribbles too! Best episode of Star Trek ever, and of Deep Space 9. David Gerold will go down in fandom history just for that one script. I envy the man.

    Enjoy your weekend!

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  19. I got interested in a possible fanfic story for another erotica author's universe, and ended up getting promoted onto his team, with pretty much carte blanche to play in his universe. I understand that, in comics, such a promotion is every fanboy's dream.

    That said, I've had little interest in writing fanfic of more mainstream works. I'd have to find a plot hole that left me wondering enough to want to fill it, I suspect. I just don't have an itch to do Mary Sue type stories, or 'what ifs' that are wildly off the beaten track (like most slash fiction is, for the original work).

    Aside--I agree with you that Lucas screwed it up. I was offended when he took a great metaphysical force and made it something in your blood! Yeah, let's completely undermine the 'farmboy who could be a hero' meme with yet another 'ya gotta be descended from the chosen ones' meme.

    Back to the main topic--I think the only popular universe I'd want to play in for fanfic would be Joss Whedon's Firefly Universe, and that's because he never got to fully expand that fricking thing. There could be lots of great stories without even using the main characters. Alas, there are still better places to spend my writing time than that.

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  20. Big Ed,

    I hear ya. I only ever wrote the one fanfic because ERWA ran a theme on fanfic that month, and because I knew I could do a very tongue in cheek story. But as other writers have told me, fanfic does not pay. And to be honest, I have my own stories and characters to write about. Still, it is fun to see what other people come up with when they envision someone else's universe. Some fanfic writers are very good at what they do!

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