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Further thoughts on fan fiction...

Yup, I'm still talking about it. And this time we're talking about sex and the id and freaky stuff, so be warned! Be afraid!

My readership seems to be largely divided between "Oh, god, NO!" and "Come to the dark side, we have cookies!" on the fan fic front. (Reading, writing, doesn't matter.) I find that funny, but also largely comprehensible. A month ago, I would have rejected fan fic with a wave of the hand--then I actually read some, and now I am...well, I feel somewhat different.

No, I don't really know why.

And yes. If someone wrote Digger fan fic, I would go "Hmm." And I'd like to think I wouldn't read it, because that's the healthy thing to do, but I might anyway, and presumably they'd find me turned to a pillar of salt at the keyboard later.

But I think now I wouldn't freak out. No, not about Gearworld fan fic, either, although I really wouldn't read it. See, what I fear most about Gearworld is somebody else laying claim to it and my having to leave--as long as Gearworld remains my sanctuary, other people loving it or connecting to it don't bother me. The thought of it getting commandeered makes me psychotic, but homages don't bother me--except that I wouldn't read them, because it's a shaky enough place in my own head that it would be too easy for somebody else to put their stamp on it. But I realize now, I wouldn't mind. As long as it said "This is Ursula Vernon's Gearworld, and she owns it"--well, people, mi sandbox su sandbox.

Frankly, I could understand people writing fan fic of Gearworld much more easily than I could a lot of other things. A lot of fan fic, as I'm starting to understand it, is about the stuff that gets in your head and under your skin. And shit, Gearworld gets in my head and under my skin--I can hardly blame other people if they felt the same way.

Pong fan fic, now--that's just weird.

Okay, that was a digression. Back to...err...my main digression!

I went for a walk the other day. I do this frequently, particularly when writing (which I haven't been doing since the shit hit the fan--although I was clipping along at a blinding pace right up to that--which is probably another essay for another day.) because for whatever reason, I think best when I'm walking. I can sit down at the keyboard and my fingers will simply not know what to say--but I get up and walk, and the feet apparently know. If I walk around the lake behind the house, a two mile stretch, I simply listen to the characters argue in my head, and that's good.

So I was walking, and I started remembering when I did this as a kid. I'd wander around the backyard and just daydream for hours. Complicated stories and scenarios, largely inspired by whatever I was reading at the time. It was fantasy, as purely distilled as I imagine I will ever be capable of. I was maybe nine or ten. I actually wore a track in the grass from pacing and dreaming.

This sounds all very sweet and idyllic and creative, but brother, I can remember just the edges of some of those daydreams, and holy shit on a cracker, that was some fucked-up stuff. It was what Teresa Nielsen Hayden once called "all the magic stuff: Sex, power issues, identity issues, physical or emotional violence, revelation, transformation, transcendence, violent catharsis, and whatever else is a high-tension power line for that writer."

There was definitely a lot of stuff that boiled down to sex. Not explicit sex, since I had only an abstract notion of what was physically involved there, but let's not kid ourselves. Kids think about sex a great deal. It's hard-wired in our species, and we're a little bit scared of it, and of course it's going to underlay our fantasies. But a lot of other stuff, in there too--power and identity and violence and torture and rape (and now we're back to sex) and all kinds of weird shit, all wrapped up in what were my metaphors, which were...well, Star Trek and Pern and Swiss Family Robinson and Dragonlance and The Hobbit and Watership Down and all the other stuff that is dumped into the brains of young geeks.

Which made sense. Life was a clam, and those were the tools I had to shuck it with. Of course that was what my fantasies were made up of. But oh man...the things I did with those tools... my adult self cringes back involuntarily, but my nine-year-old self was fearless and went stomping through those black pits of the id with Anne McCaffrey under one arm and Trek novels under the other.

I think it was Stephen King, in Eyes of the Dragon, who said that children's minds are like deep wells of clear water. And this is probably true on some levels, but oh, man, there are things down at the bottom of the well with lots of eyes and tentacles and squidgy slippery bits, and some of them have teeth as long as your arm.

And here's the thing.

It is possible that I am weird. Okay, yes, I know, my art is very peculiar, but you may note that it's not all that scary. The vast majority of my art takes place in a world that is rather oddly kind. If there are laws to my art, it's that the smaller you are, the tougher you are, and the bigger and scarier you are, the more likely you are to be shy and civilized. (And then there's Gearworld, which is getting back to this freaky monster stuff, and even I don't go there lightly or often.) I don't think anybody thinks I'm a raging pervert--even my delving into furry erotica resulted in some very mild cheesecake at absolute worst, and these days, I'm more like a freaky Beatrix Potter than anything really scary.*

It is possible that I am weird. Maybe I was a sick and demented child, to have these monsters in that well--but I doubt it highly. I'd bet that there are the same monsters in most wells--probably a little different in the number of limbs and teeth, but close relatives. If I'm unusual in any regard, I'll bet, it's that I can still remember the edges of some of these daydreams. Not well. There's so few of them, a half-handful of images, and they're stuck down like a wet coaster on a table, and I keep trying to pry up the edges and see if I can actually get a grip on them.

Thing is...I read some books, and I get an echo of all those old, dangerous day dreams. All that magic stuff.

And here's the funny thing--either I love those books and keep them on my shelf forever and re-read them when I'm really depressed--

Or I dismiss them as absolute crap, a load of tripe, cheesy, contrived, usually degrading to women in the process, etc. And part of that's probably because I was nine, and of course it was all dreadfully weird wish-fulfillment that was cheesy and contrived and, had it been written, would have been inconceivably puerile. Mary Sue doesn't just hail from that country, she owns it. I was a pre-teen girl, and nobody wants to read anything that reads like it was written by a pre-teen girl.

But. (I have a point. I'm gettin' there. Bear with me a little longer.)

I read fan fiction, and holy crap, I recognize some of those monsters there. I know that one, or at least his cousin. I've lived with that one. I've--okay, no, that one, you're on your own. But that one over there? Man, that one and I are like this.  It's a whole bloody genre--largely, yes, populated by teenage girls, which probably explains it--that has an infinitely higher percentage of...of that stuff...those monsters in the well hauled out thrashing into the light...than published stuff.

There was a really good essay about this-- http://ellen-fremedon.livejournal.com/325780.html --coupla years back. She called it the ID vortex, and suggested it was because fan fiction, particularly the freaky and occasionally slashy stuff, has made an agreement with itself to suspend shame. It knows that there are monsters, and it knows that those monsters will be approached--and that a helluva lot of 'em are about sex, frankly, it's the mommy monster at the bottom of the well, with fifty lazily blinking eyes and muck settling across its back--and out of this agreement, derived a vocabulary to talk about the monsters and rate them and develop a critical structure and a lot of other useful stuff. That the reason some of this is good is because the fandom has agreed that we can talk about it and not be horribly embarassed, within these constraints, and thus writers actually practice and get better at writing about the monsters. (On the other hand, still be desperately ashamed of your grammar. Yes.)

I cannot say that this is untrue. I am not well-versed enough in the genre to make any kind of call. I have gazed into the abyss, and it held up a plate of cookies, but I don't live down there yet.

I do know that reading fan fiction, much like reading romance novels, is desperately shameful and I am badly embarassed by it because I know that I should not enjoy it. Internal censors scream "The person you are should not like this!"

Unfortunately, the person that I am does like some of it. Rather a lot. Even as I cringe a lot of times, sometimes I recognize old friends. I know those monsters! My inner nine-year-old, who once wore a track in the backyard daydreaming about some rather shocking things, understands some of these things much, much better than I do. I can only approach them obliquely--scare me too bad and I close the window and jump away from the keyboard as if burned...and then generally come back and read more. (If I were Lot's wife, I'd probably have turned to salt in thirty-second increments over the course of a couple of hours.)

This is a very very strange thing to discover when you're reading things that are generally about 50% likely to devolve into gay porn, believe me. (And has little to do with it, oddly enough--I did not, at nine, actually comprehend on any kind of level that homosexuality was something real people did. Like every other girl of my generation, I figured that out from Mercedes Lackey books, and at one point put down the book and went, "Um. Whoa." while the universe carefully re-aligned itself around my newly expanded brain.) 

Maybe what the censors are really screaming is "The person you should be shouldn't like this!" and in that case, they can get bent.

I don't know.

I do know that I can't speak too ill of it. I feel odd about that--what a weird set-up, so much bad writing, and yet...and yet...my inner nine-year-old keeps kicking me and going "Remember that? Remember?"

I don't know.

It's interesting to meet some of those monsters again. The waters get murky as we age, and we stop seeing them, except for the occasional flicker of a fin or the flash of an eye. It's...interesting. And a little alarming. (Okay, very alarming.)

Why was I never meeting these monsters? Where have they been been? Why the hell should I find them, here of all places, sandwiched between--god, Lord of the Rings/Spongebob Squarepants crossovers?** Of all the places for a freakily familiar corner of the soul to be located, why there?

I suppose that's just one for the ages.

*Yes, okay, the rocks. I am aware of the rocks.

**Yes. And yes. No, I didn't read it. No, I won't link to it. No. Stop asking.

Well as a person who read fanfic and romance novels along with my beloved SF/F, historical fiction, mysteries, non fic on way, way too many subjects to list I say go for it. Sometimes I want to wallow in romance novels. Sometimes I enjoy a good hurt/comfort fanfic read (though I don't care for slash). It's reading, it's good. Be comforted that the average Canadian reads the equivelent of 1.5 novels a year and we're one of the most read of modern countries. That's a scary statistic! As some one who gets so much enjoyment out of reading, I approve of people reading. Period.

the average Canadian reads the equivelent of 1.5 novels a year


I can't accept that! Obviously I have to start reading way more books than I already do in order to bring the average up.


It is possible that I am weird.


I find it more facinating to study fanfiction fandoms. Because, when you get right down to it, they're all inherently alike. Especially when you start looking at... oh... gaming forums, and stuff forums. (Dear lord there is no wank like 40 year old women with barbies wank)

And then you start trying to figure them out, like why is this pairing so popular and this other ignored? Why do some attract slashers like nobodies business, and some they're simply not there?

Though as for the homosexual thing, I partly blame the fact that I can count the number of female characters I ever really liked without running out of digits to count on.

*grin* Yeah, that's one thing I have learned--fandoms are all basically the same. The ratio of harmless nuts may vary, but...all basically the same.

Oh, Ursula. As soon as I discovered that monster bathing innocently at the bottom of my well, I dove down into its jaws without a second thought and haven't looked back since.

My first fanfiction-- my very first extended piece of writing with a beginning, middle, end, and some semblance of plot-- was a pseudo-bondage fic about Robin (of Batman fame).

Age? Nine. My mom got used to finding hastily scribbled porn around the house, eventually. Now she proudly tells her friends that her daughter is an aspiring novelist, but doesn't tell them exactly what her daughter writes.

Y'know, the monsters bake really, really well. :D

(Okay, sometimes. Other times, it's like my cookie experiment this winter that didn't involve eggs(?!) and was prefaced at every delivery with "These cookies are kinda weird" yet someone inevitably liked them anyway...)

I've been an editor too long not to feel about fanfic the way oncologists feel about smoking.

I'm sure it's a guilty pleasure. I'm sure it feels good on some level. I realize it's habit-forming.

But it's not healthy. And, while, like smoking, I support your right to do it in a designated area where I don't have to experience it, I really wish everybody would just stop.

I think that's a bad way to put it.

I think it's more like masturbation.

It feels good, it's fufilling, it's less dangerous, but it's not a relationship. Your vibe will never bring you flowers, but it will also never leave the toilet seat up.

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Eccentricity is your anti-drug...or end result...

Heh. At the beginning of the post, I went and googled up "surfing the id"... (And am horrified to find that the LJ total braincrack alternate universe M*A*S*H posts that inspired them are gone 'cause the user is suspended or banned. Darnit.) And then you went and linked to it, and... yeah, definitely.

Another thing that shows up in fanfic would be the "bulletproof kink" -- I suppose that's a good term, possibly, for the monsters where someone sort of stuffs them under the bed and feeds them bonbons when no one's around?

(I've recently recognized some of mine; they're not sexual ones, though of course that's -- as you say -- the mommy monster underneath, but they're the sort of things that I read, re-read, and will forgive much (if not bad grammar) for a good rendition. And write. I peered at some of my stuff, nodded sagely to myself, and have decided that I should wallow in it to the extent that it will actually tell a story.[1] After all, ain't no one gonna write anything that hits those buttons like I can, probably.)

[1: The stuff that doesn't tell a story, I wallow in without writing it down. It'd disrupt the good wallow to actually get up and get a keyboard in front of me.]

After all, ain't no one gonna write anything that hits those buttons like I can, probably.

Interesting. For me, the effect of that attitude is different. While I will write stuff that I want to read, I'm also big on bugging other people to write that same pairing/situation/whatever. Because I know what I'd write to handle that whatever, and I want to see a different take.

... When I read this, I don't think I'm really that surpirsed.
You devour stories my dear. That thing at the bottom of the well, it takes all those stories, and cartoons and books and myths and legends and spreads them out. If I was feeling espcially dark I would suspect it skins them, field dresses then and carefully preserves them on shevles and in jars. Even the strange and alien bits that you just don't comprehend at first. Everyone's mind does this.. far fewer go back into the dusty corners to see what's there, and even fewer drag it out into the light and see what can be done with it.

I like to think that when you are hungry for new stories you get the thread of an idea and string along all the bits and bobbles and shineys and darks and lights and odd little fiddly bits that probably belong in the bottom of your junk drawer, but look rather nice when polished a bit.

Like a person let loose in a bead store new fic writers just string together all sorts of things. A lot of it fasinating, but with time and skills.. you get some pretty amazing combinations. And gay porn, well it's prehaps the oddest thing in the world to a lot of minds. It is at least the most fasinating. So it gets put on the string quite frequently.

I guess, to a certain degree we all have the same string, and our bins get a lot of the same things to fill them with? So the really amature, odd, and bizzare jumbles looks alike after a while.

*shrug* It's a theory, but then again, I'm wierd =P

If I was feeling espcially dark I would suspect it skins them, field dresses then and carefully preserves them on shevles and in jars.

And writes on the skins in purple ink, yes...

The dark places in my soul are places that I can still go, but it makes me titchy to read other people writing about those same things, or to see them in movies and TV shows. As I've gotten older and acquired more life experience, it's gotten easier to see them in other people's stuff.

A lot of stuff about sex just doesn't interest me. But the things that prod at the tender places- erf. Don't want other people to poke there. I could mess with it all I want, but nobody else was really allowed, and I still get squirmy internally when I see 'em coming.

Kind of like brushing my hair, honestly. I have super-ultra-sensitive to pulling scalp under long, fine hair. The number of people who wanted to braid my hair was much larger than the number of people who could do it without making me start crying. But I can brush my hair all I want, even the nasty knots.

I should point you to a friend of mine who has an MA in children's lit and is a serious fan-fic person. She's got some interesting thoughts on the matter; lemme know if you're interested.

Here's my deal. I read stories for entertainment, and if I get a message out of them it's not going to be a metaphor except for my own drama. I am just not good at keeping track of storylines. Plot, characters, you name it. I can read it five times and still get stuff completely wrong.

I do not read fanfiction because I only confuse myself more, and I only ever read the "we're trying to make this as canon as possible" stuff.

Except the marching band section of fanfic.net. But I don't consider that fanfic, really, it's like... um... bandnerd-ism, published online. Really. There are no other words for it. =^n.n^=

What?! Marching band fanfic?!

Just when you thought the Pit of Voles had nothing left to offer.

I am SO with you on the walking thing. The feet know what to say. Whenever I'm working on a story, I'll chug away for three or four hours and then suddenly need to get up and go for a walk outside...which can be problematic when it's two in the morning.

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Heeeeeey...are you tryin' to use reverse psychology on me?

Oh, I remember these monsters too! It has become my purpose to chase them down and pin them to paper (albeit cringing all the while, often too terrified and shame-stricken to show them to anyone.) One of my oldest memories is a blatantly sexual vision of a girl (myself obviously, but a Mary Sue version) strapped to a table in a medical facility with tubes going into me everywhere and a mask over my face. I had an obsession for a while as a child with that sort of thing. But now, well - medical horror and especially medical erotic horror scares and disturbs me like almost nothing else. Go figure.

I know what you mean, though - it's something that a lot of truly horrible fanfiction shares in common with some of the greatest fiction ever published, the fearless confrontation of these monsters. The stuff in the middle, the decent yet-not-legendary fiction on the market, doesn't tend to confront them as anything other than pale shadows. I think your theory is fascinating, that it stems from the collective agreement to suspend the shame of these things. I don't think I ever thought about it in those terms before.

I was maybe nine or ten. I actually wore a track in the grass from pacing and dreaming.

*Blinks and stares*

I... am you?

Damn... some of the earliest plots I played out were with these little plastic puppy pocket pals, and they generally involved the princess (a pekingese) being kidnapped by the suave villain and forced to have his babies. That was when I was, what? Five?

Then I had a hill of dirt outside, and I would pace and pace and pace in the late, golden hours of summer until I was forced to come in, and plan and dream. That hill had a track worn in, too.

You make me so happy. XD

Oh, dude! I used the little plastic animals with the Strawberry Shortcake dolls, but--err--yeah!

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