Fanfiction: Devotional or Uninspired?

Yesterday’s post had to do with the strange phenomenon of “shipping” when it comes to fictional characters and worlds. Today, I follow that up with a post about fanfiction, which is basically fans writing “episodes” of TV shows, movies, comics, etc.

My first question is this: Why fanfiction? Sure, some are just little short stories depicting something the fan wishes had happened on the show/in the comic/whatever. But some are epic, novel-length works about their favorite characters and worlds. It boggles my mind, because if you have enough imagination to write a novel, why not create your own world and characters? Why piggy back off of someone else’s characters? Is it really just to show your devotion to the show? Is it to make real the things you wish the show writers had put in there?

I admit, I’ve only written one novel, but I can say without a doubt that it’s my own novel. I didn’t base any of the characters or situations on something I had seen in someone else’s work. I took a character of my own making and created a cast that revolved around her.

Now, I’m not saying that I’m “better” than a fanfic author. That’s not what I’m saying at all. What I’m trying to say is, if you have that much creativity inside you, why not use it to create your own world? Maybe even write a novel that gets turned into one of your favorite TV shows or into a movie. You could have fanfic written about your original idea. Wouldn’t that be even more awesome? To be the origin of fanfic, not a perpetuator?

I don’t know. I could certainly write fanfic if I wanted to. I’m a terrible worldbuilder, so theoretically if I just snatch up someone else’s world and fiddle around with it it should be easier. Then again, I’m also selfish and narcissistic. I want something that I made. Something that wrote from my imagination. I want to be able to say, “I did that. I created those characters. I wrote the plot. Me.”

Sure, my plots might not be the most original. How does the saying go? Something about how no idea is truly unique anymore. Every story has already been written, and it’s only a matter of the spin you put on it. In that case, isn’t every story fanfiction? Every vampire story a fanfic of Brahm Stoker’s Dracula? Every tragic love story a fanfic of Romeo and Juliet?

Who knows. What I do know is that fanfiction is yet another area of fandom that I don’t fully understand. Why ship things that don’t exist? Why write from other peoples’ ideas instead of creating your own?

I may never know.

Sailing Away

Ships. They pull in and sail off, come and go.

And some of them make absolutely no sense.

I’m not talking about your average boat. I’m talking about relationships, specifically in books, TV shows, and movies. People see two characters who they feel should be together, and boom! A ship is born. It’s the biggest thing in fandoms lately, and it shows no sign of stopping.

The ships don’t even have to be characters that are in a scripted relationship. Sometimes they’re between characters that don’t have any romantic chemistry. Sometimes they’re even incestuous.

Why do we ship? Why do some fans rabidly defend their ships, often to the point of full-on fan wars? I mean slur-slinging, trash-talking, hate-mailing wars, all over fictional characters that may never have been in a relationship to begin with.

It’s a strange phenomenon, one that I don’t fully understand. At times I can see the chemistry that creates a fanborne ship, but for the most part it’s beyond my comprehension. Why invest so much energy in a fantasy world, especially one in which the thing you fantasize about doesn’t exist? Some fans even write fanfic (fan-authored fiction–a topic for another day, perhaps) or fanart (fanfic for the artist set) depicting their favorite ship.

I suppose I’m something of a purist. If the characters are written as being in a relationship, fine. If they’re written/played as having chemistry, okay. But non-canonical, non-romantic couplings that don’t make any sense? That just doesn’t jive with me. I don’t even like canon relationships without some sort of romantic vibe there to spark a ship.

The rabid nature of shipping also baffles me. You take a relationship that isn’t established and defend it to your dying breath. Friendships can be made or lost due to fandom ships. Is a fictional relationship really worth that kind of cost?

I, for one, don’t think so. I think shipping could theoretically be fun, if taken as the make believe that they are, but certainly not to the extent at which people are willing to go lately.

If your ship leaves the dock and sets sail, for the love of all that’s holy, just let it go. Don’t get in heated fights with someone you don’t even know over a fantasy. It’s not worth it.

Die Hard

Fans. Short for “fanatics”…and many fans more than fit the definition of the word. But what makes a fan so crazy for a particular TV show, author, movie, comic book, etc.? What drives a person to extreme levels of love or hatred over fictional worlds and characters?

People who are immersed in fandom take their devotion to almost inhuman levels. They create social media identities that are intertwined with the fandom, often so engrossed in their obsession that their own identity is lost in the madness. Posts with fanfic, fan art, memes, and clips and GIFs of their favorite thing encompass the entirety of their fan profiles, with little to no hint of an individual personality.

There is only the fan.

Now, I’ll admit to being obsessed with certain shows or books. I’m a fan of the new Doctor Who, that’s for sure, and it has become a part of my identity. A small part, but a part nonetheless. Do I become entangled in fan battles about the show and its canon, about whether Rose or River is a better match for the Doctor, about which companion is the “best”? No, not really. Does that make me any less of a fan? Some would say so.

The psychology of fandom is a mystery to me. Then again, I dropped my psychology course in college because the professor was a bore. Lol I still wonder sometimes what kind of personality is drawn to this level of immersion into fantasy worlds. Can a person’s home life really be so bad as to be overwritten by fiction?

I know that I myself had a hard time of things growing up. I became obsessed, in my own way, with certain books or TV shows or comics. I didn’t let them become the entirety of my identity, as some of these fans seem to do, but then again I grew up in the age just before the social media explosion. Are these fandom profiles I’m seeing really as fanatic as they seem? Or are they just secondary profiles, places to escape from the real profile for a few hours a day?

I shudder at the thought that these are, in fact, the fans’ primary profiles. Is social media somehow to blame? There were die-hard fans before social media, that’s for sure. I just wonder how far is too far, and how long it will be before the fandom engulfs the fans.

Fandoms: Like minds or hive mind?

Since becoming more active on Twitter last year, I noticed something: people in fandoms (fans who are fanatics in the truest sense of the word) seem to identify themselves by their fandom. There are countless usernames and Twitter handles referencing various fandoms, Supernatural fans often have a username that includes the show title, theme song, or cast, Doctor Who fans have usernames dedicated to the show or referring to quotes or moments from their favorite episode. It makes me wonder…at what point does the fan lose himself/herself in the fandom? When does one’s love of a TV show, book, movie, or musician become part of their basic identity?

When I started on Twitter, I had no need for a fancy username or handle. I just used my first and middle initial and my last name. Simple, and more importantly, wholly me. Sure, I may have a profile photo that indicates my love of Doctor Who, Star Wars, Star Trek, or any other geeky thing, but that’s just a part of me. I’m also an author, a painter, a sculptor, a poet, a journalist….How can one fandom convey all of that?

Sure, my name alone doesn’t indicate much about me, but it’s me. I mold my name to become me through my tweets, favorites, and retweets. I tweet about TV shows that I like, about things I’m doing throughout my day, about the spectacular and the mundane. I put me into every 140 characters. Sometimes it’s fandom-related–more often it’s not. So what makes someone decide to dedicate an entire profile to their favorite entertainment?

There’s fanfiction. There’s head canon. There’s fan art, fan groups…legions of fans. Rabid, hungry, relentless fans. And there’s no stopping them.

Fandoms can merge, split, and even war with other fandoms. Ever heard of the battle royale between the Supernatural fandom and the Justin Bieber fandom? Or how about Twihards versus Potterheads? And no fandom mention would be complete without the ultimate trifecta fandom, Superwholock. Confused yet? Don’t worry. Head on down to Twitter, or Tumblr, or even a little bit of Facebook. They’re there, proclaiming their devotion at the top of their, well, keyboards.

Maybe it’s just that the things I’m a fan of don’t always stay the same. I once was a staunch supporter of the X-Men, until their movies became increasingly terrible and the comics changed storylines so often I couldn’t keep up. Do I still love the X-Men that I read in the past? Sure, but I probably won’t be buying new comics or merchandise any time soon, and Blink will probably never be part of any username or email address of mine again. I was a part of the fandom, but I moved on.

Or maybe it’s because I’m a part of so many different fandoms. I can’t very well limit myself to one or another. They’re all a part of me. How do I choose?

So I wonder, why limit who you are to what you’re a fan of? You may love DC comics more than life itself…but is that it? Does WonderWoman4Life have to be who you are? Why can’t you be JaneRDoe or JoeQPublic? Sure, there’s the issue of Internet safety and anonymity–possibly the reason for more fandom-related usernames on Twitter and Tumblr than on Facebook–but what’s so wrong with being you?

Then I wonder: what’s so wrong with loving something so much that it becomes a part of your identity? My coworkers and friends will forever associate me with my love of Doctor Who, even though they themselves might not be fans of the show, so I might as well change my username to HelloSweetie or MelodyPond. Will I love Doctor Who forever? I’m not sure, but it will be a part of who I am until I’m old and grey and can’t remember what it is I like. I’m a Whovian at heart, but I don’t consider myself so ensconced in the world that I have to create fanfic of my favorite characters or change my screen name to “ElevenIsNumberOne.” Does that mean I’m not a “true” fan? Not really.

Now, I’m not knocking fandoms. I’m just trying to understand the mindset. Every individual is so much more than their favorite book or TV show or sports team. Why make your entire social media presence about that one thing? When does being a fan just mean loving something wholeheartedly, and when does it begin to take over your identity?

If I were more scientific-minded and less lazy, I might do a study of sorts. Follow people with “normal” usernames and people with fandom names, compare the postings of the two, try to determine at what point the fandom assimilates the fan. Is it just a phase for most of them, or will there be little old folks in nursing homes who know nothing but the Sherlock episodes that they’ve memorized after countless hours of binge watching?

But I’m not scientific-minded and I’m quite lazy, so the study will remain a pondering for now. I’m just an average Joe with silly questions in my head.