Long before Facebook and Twitter and WordPress, most of my time on the Internet was spent on fanfiction.net. I really can’t recall how I found it in the first place, but it was like stumbling upon a really nerdy oasis, where the cabana boys are all shirtless incarnations of Legolas and we girls not only have psychic powers, but also intimidating command of a bow/cutlass/throwing knives that allows us to handle ourselves in any time-travelling or dimension-hopping situation. And while that makes it sound like a grotesquely self-indulgent place to find oneself, it was also a remarkably inclusive environment in which to take my first Bambi steps as a writer. All it took was a username and a great love of books.
Before trying my hand at writing fanfiction, I read a spectacular lot of it, even before discovering fanfiction.net. There was great anime-based fanfiction on fanmade websites, my favourites being in the realm of Visions of Escaflowne. Escaflowne was the epitome of everything my preteen self wanted in storytelling: a strong, relatable heroine; a damaged, but charismatic hero; a psychotic yet alluring villain; thrill and emotional drama, swordfights, and – oh yes – GIANT BATTLING ROBOTS!
Sitting high on a stack of classic novels, I want to think that my tastes have evolved somewhat since then, but here I am writing a novel about a widowed king, a blind girl, a telekinetic, emotional martyr, and a prince who is best friends with the bastard son of a legendary swordsman, who himself falls in love with the blind girl. Much closer to Escaflowne than Austen, sans cat people and giant battling robots. (I just couldn’t make it work.)
My few attempts at Escaflowne fanfiction never saw the light of day, but those hours spent at the kitchen computer eventually gave me enough confidence to give a real effort to Lord of the Rings fanfiction and post it online under a suitably Sindarin pseudonym. It took only a few encouraging reviews for me to become quite addicted to writing and making my weekly chapter updates.
Drama, romance, comedy, A/U, slashfic, songfic – I tried it all, using my beloved Middle Earth as both a springboard and a safety net. Lord of the Rings was already an institution in itself. My past-my-bedtime typing was hardly going to damage it, so I gave myself free rein to have all the fun. And the fun was allowed! My experience in the LotR fanfic community was that almost any deviation from Tolkien’s plot was allowed – it was bad artistic choices and inauthentic storytelling that called for criticism.
My longest and most-reviewed piece was never completed. I felt that I had gotten my writing legs under me and was ready to tread down the dark and misty path of original narrative, which brought with it a whole slough of insecurities that occupied my time. On the odd day, I still get email notifications of Author Alerts and Favourites from fanfiction.net, and I feel equal parts proud and guilty. I cannot discount that one day I might be seized with inspiration and finish the few chapters that remain, but for now I am still wandering in the unknown of my own story, hoping that I don’t run out of matches.
As you can tell, I still hold a flame for fanfiction. I am, after all, reading an alternate version of Pride and Prejudice that after five or so readings I’ve come to hold almost as dearly as I do the original work. I was awestruck by the violence and compassion in The Child Thief, which puts it in stark contrast to its originating story, Peter Pan. And though Gregory Maguire’s Wicked is literature to the masses, it too is fanfiction that, in its postmodern glory, inspires its own fanfiction.
Though my fanfiction indulgences are few these days, I still sometimes seek Lupin/Tonks stories from my favourite authors; and one time at a birthday party my closest friends and I had an uproariously good time doing a dramatic reading of The Magic School Bus fanfiction.
Everything I write is a credit to those early experiences on fanfiction.net, and in truth I do not know what would have become of me without it.
And now giant battling robots. Enjoy.