About four or five times this year I’ve written fanfiction, though only once did I do it thinking it was fanfiction. Fanfiction has been a thorny issue for me ever since I consciously realised I had stopped reading it. Mostly, my opinion has been negative – harshly negative, at times. I used to write and read Ranma 1/2 fanfiction – and other fanfictions, though for the life of me I have no idea why. Ranma 1/2 is a decent enough series, with a fairly fun, if poorly structured approach to storytelling. It’s good, but not great, and sits in my mind around the same point as Inu-Yasha. Fun enough, inoffensive, watch-with-your-mum kind of anime fare. Nudity jokes, but basically no sex jokes. I didn’t consciously stop until one day I realised that I had downloaded megabytes at a time of fanfiction and just wasn’t reading it. I was parsing through it at high speed and jumping to the end as quickly as I could.
That’s about when I stopped bothering to read at all.
For a time I commented regularly on Imgur, before I felt like there was a wash of anti-feminist sentiment so thick I just didn’t have it in me to endure screeds of mysoginy broken into 140-character multi-tier strings from people desperate to look for a fight they could win. Often, I’d see high-quality screenshots, videocaps, or drawings from various fan projects. Most direly, I saw My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic work, with these pictures of things like Twilight Sparkle as a steampunk Civil War general opposing robots crafted to look like they were from… say, Chrono Trigger. These crossovers that had, to me, no common ground, things that did not make me think or wonder or dream or inspire me, but just looked like an enormous amount of effort spent trying to take a square peg and hammer it into a round hole.
I often lamented in these situations “What if this person had instead tried to make an interesting, new thing?” which gave voice to my personal frustrations with fanfiction in general. Why do you work so hard on these things that are subordinate to, that require familarity with, these other things to be good? Who can love your work without appreciating the media from whence it came?
I still think there is something there. I think there’s something wrong, something… something almost contemptable about these coerceive attempts to make Gritty And Dark Ponies. I think that the joke of Ponification has to have a distinct end. But…
Watching Old Boy, I was struck by how the story arc paralleled a retelling of The Count of Monte Cristo. Much of the Cthulu mythos writing I love is shared between writers, with some iconic “Lovecraft” pieces not being written by Lovecraft at all (such as The King In Yellow). I adore the Naoki Urusawa works Monster, and Pluto, which are an oblique fanfiction and a direct fanfiction.
I wrote My Name, Eternal, a mishmash of three Bible narratives that is, sadly, impenetrable to every human in the world who doesn’t know who Shamgar, Son of Anath is. I wrote Hate Plus fanfiction, a single little scene in words, in an idiotic attempt to create something someone could smile about as much as they might smile about fanart.
Fanfiction is not always bad. The black score in my mind has been replaced by a gradient. My natural reaction to so so so much of it is that it is bad, it is awful, it is terrible and self-serving and you should make something of your own… but…
Honestly, I think when I say that I’m wrong. I’ll continue to hate almost all of the fanfiction I see, but I have to set aside the idea that it’s the medium as much as it is the many, many, institutionalised and socialised problems around it.
I hope you make something of your own. I hope to see new things. But if you need someone else’s framework with which to work… then that’s okay too.