The first blog post I ever wrote was about my disdain for fan fiction.
It was an angry, expletive-laced tirade mainly directed at Harry Potter Slash-Fic (in my opinion, the absolute bottom of the barrel) and moved into more mainstream ideas like the Star Wars “Expanded Universe” (one step up from the bottom of the barrel). Bear in mind, it was over ten years ago that I wrote those words. I would link them here for you now, just for the sake of argument, but I believe livejournal has removed my archive to make room for more mopey emo kids desperately crying out for attention.
Most of my beliefs about fan fiction continue to hold true. Much like the junk in the Pacific Ocean, this sort of tripe floats around on the currents until it arrives at an enormous garbage atoll of a community where it joins with other detritus and becomes part of the large burning reminder of all the horrible writing in the world.
Occasionally some of this flotsam washes ashore. Much of it is still refuse but on rare occasion something of value (or something someone thinks is valuable) is recovered. Some of it is repurposed to fit a new and even more valuable niche, such as the Fifty Shades series being sculpted from Twilight fan-fic (of the worst variety, if there can be a true “worst variety” of Twilight fan-fic) into the screamingly awful bondage and dominance extravaganza targeted specifically at bored housewives and unfulfilled cat ladies and exploiting that market into millions upon millions of dollars in revenue and a forthcoming feature film.
That aside, I have recently come to believe that fan fiction for the sake of personal fantasy fulfillment (interjecting an original Mary Sue-like character into an established universe or engineering settings for impossible and completely out-of-character romantic relationships for example) is the true enemy here; those who secretly wished Snape and Harry were meeting in the dungeons of Hogwarts to engage in late-night “wand battles” or those who write parallel fiction within the same universe where their character with a name and appearance similar to their own – a 5th Year Ravenclaw Animagus Metamorphmagus Auror-in-Training who is attempting to avenge their parents by single-handedly defeating He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and collecting all the Deathly Hallows before Harry Potter has a chance while balancing romantic relationships between Hermione Granger and Draco Malfoy – are the people from whom we must remain guarded.
Alternate fictional universes have long been a passion of mine. I understand that this largely works in contradiction to my original rant about fan fiction and the sanctity of the creator’s domain, but it’s true and I’ve only recently come to discover my hypocrisy. For as long as I’ve been reading comic books, I’ve been in love with alternate universes. It started with “Days of Future Past” for me and continues right up until now. Multiple tracks of fictional development – Marvel’s What If…? Stories, DC’s Elseworlds series, the big events in regular continuity where something incredible, for better or worse, alters the landscape forever – account for some of my favorite story arcs. It’s as fun as alternate history but even more so because it usually comes with a flashy graphic redesign that will probably result in alternate costume choices in video games (looking at you, Batman Arkham series).
It’s only natural, then, that I would gravitate toward alternate histories of other fictional universes which didn’t involve pre-teen sexual experimentation or downright child molestation by adults who are normally portrayed as authority figures. Something with a decent point of divergence, or even a few, could make something much more interesting and revitalize your passion for that work of fiction.
I am speaking, specifically, of my discovery of Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.
I’m always a bit slow on the uptake with trends like this, but I understand HPMOR has been around for at least a few years and is an ongoing project, stretching 100+ chapters. I’m just doing my part to get it out to a wider audience.
The idea behind HPMOR is that Harry was raised by his Aunt Petunia and her husband, an Oxford University Professor, to become an intellectual prodigy, gifted well beyond his years in scientific knowledge and the titular rationality. He’s still eleven-years-old when he receives his owl from Hogwarts but his perspective sounds more like that of a frustrated intellectual thirty-something. Being of a scientific mind, he immediately questions the existence of magic and the wizarding community. When this existence is proven to him, he resolves himself to unravel the secrets of magic through science. Like, real science. Like, you could actually learn things from the principals discussed.
Of course, hijinks ensue.
The story is an absolute scream. I have been reading it just as I’ve read any other J.K. Rowling-penned, canon-official Harry Potter book (which means with nearly every spare minute) and, over forty chapters I have so far read, it has not yet lost my attention and has presented a sufficiently twisted track for the hero and has only thus far adhered to the most necessary conventions of that universe and accurately shown the reactions of established characters to this different set of circumstances. I highly recommend it to any Harry Potter fan out there.
Random interjection: The guys as How It Should Have Ended are also, technically, writing alt-universe fanfic and animating it. Mostly, this is done out of parody and, mostly, this is hilarious.
When you think about it, a great deal of comic books written after DC’s Golden Age and Stan Lee’s inception of the Marvel Universe Proper are technically fan fiction in the sense that writing for certain characters has changed hands so many times over the years that the characters involved have passed from the creator’s vision to something of a more public ideal such to the point that almost anyone could write a passable Batman or Spider-Man story arc without much of a problem (in fact, if you’ve read more recent issues of Spider-Man, you’d think that was exactly what was happening). I’m speaking mostly of the older and more mainstream characters, mind you, there are still some creators writing their original books.
On that token, characters introduced by other writers via their piece of the storyline are original characters interjected into the same fictional world. Some of them are the 5th-Year Ravenclaw Mary-Sue train wrecks that I was describing before; good for mostly nothing but a Deus Ex Machina unless they really hit big with the fans in which case their fade into obscurity from the core will take a little longer. Some of them stick around for quite a while. Some of them are even retconned into the mythos and lore to add to their staying power.
But, that’s the world of comic books. Surely literature, even YA, should remain with the original creator, right? My answer has changed from a resounding yes to a slightly hesitant not always.
HPMOR has opened my eyes. It has emerged as a single diamond found deep within a river of sewage. I am sure, with some hard searching that I honestly have no intention of performing, that there are other diamonds down there. I plucked this from the surface due to an obscure reference found somewhere and only dirtied my fingertips just a tad. I will not dive in head first in search of more.
I will, however, give one other fraction of kudo to an interpretation done as an infographic which has been making the Facebook circuit. It states a slightly different grammatical interpolation of the Prophecy which deemed Harry Potter the chosen one and the ultimate fate regarding his destiny. It proved to be an interesting concept and something like my original prediction as to how the series would have ended.
In this case, I am guilty of “predictive” fan fiction. I never wrote down my Harry Potter ending theory (which would have been super badass and cool unless I’m falling into the same trap as every other fanfic writer, in which case, burn me at the stake) but I did write down one I had predicted for the ending of LOST, which wrapped the whole thing up in a nice little bow and didn’t involve a church or any of that BS.
Seeing as I have Potter on the brain and, in a way, to compete with the “mind blowing” change to the ending of Rowling’s beloved story, I may be writing down my version of how Harry Potter should have ended and posting it here within the next short while. I assure you it doesn’t rely on any grammatical oversights and abuts perfectly to the original story, only changing the last few chapters (from the point Harry discovers the Resurrection Stone to the finish) and adding a deal of gravitas where once rested a truly happy ending.
I can’t believe I just confessed I’m going to write a bit of fanfic. I feel dirty.
I have to get it out, though. Now that I feel it’s slightly ok.
And because I can’t let some infographic changing the ending blow people’s minds more than my epic last three chapters.
Keep fighting the good fight.