In a weird sort of coincidence, I’ve been asked about fan fiction three or four times in the past month. I figure that’s the universe’s way of telling me to blog about it.
So, what are my feelings on fanfic? I’m sure it will surprise absolutely no one at all to learn that they are complicated.
I actually wrote quite a bit of fanfic in my younger years. When I say “younger years,” I mean from the age of fifteen to roughly college. I was a comic book geek and I wanted to be a comic book writer, but I had no idea how to pursue that career. A chance encounter introduced me to the idea of “fanzines,” and the next thing I knew, I was regularly writing fanfic about the New Teen Titans. Not my favorite super-team, but fun and with a more manageable roster.
Now, with no offense intended to anyone who loves fanfic, I want to explain that I never once thought that writing these stories, well, counted. I was having fun, yes, but I wanted more than just fun. I wanted to be “official.” And a paycheck would be nice, too. I realize that there are great numbers of people for whom fanfic is an end in and of itself. For me, it began as an attempt to get noticed by the pros and write comics for real. (The fanzine I belonged to was known to be passed around the offices at DC Comics.)
But soon enough, it morphed into something else: An opportunity to hone my craft.
I won’t lie to you: So much of that early writing was just plain bad.1 Hell, I was a teenager. Most teenagers — even those with native talent and a facility with words — aren’t going to produce anything wonderful in those early days. My work at that time was typically an attempt to be edgy and dark. Transgressive. Often time, insensitive and offensive. I was a teenage boy — I had angst and pent-up frustration and a disdain for propriety and boundaries, and I bled all of that onto the page as aggressively as possible.
But as the years wore on, I began to see my fanfic as an experience that could improve my overall writing. I came to realize that the idea of someone at DC stumbling upon a copy of the ‘zine, opening it to my story, and thinking, “Good God! I must hire this astounding writer!” was little more than an inane and risible pipe-dream. My fellow ‘ziners, though, seemed to be enjoying what I was writing, and I was beginning to see the advantages of writing in someone else’s universe, with someone else’s characters: The world was built, the players were on the stage, and the relationships were established. I could focus, then, on plot, on language, on dialogue, and on consistent characterization.
My days in fanfic ended when I began writing a massive, sprawling epic tale that would have numbered a couple hundred pages — novel-length, for sure. I realized about halfway through that I had introduced several of my own characters, and that I was enjoying writing them more than the Titans.
This isn’t a Titans story, I realized. It’s my story.
And I haven’t written fanfic since then. Again, not because there’s anything wrong with it or because I look down on it. It’s just that I realized I wanted to tell my stories…and to me, that means my characters, my world(s).
Given my history, it would be hypocritical of me to refuse anyone who wanted it the opportunity to write fanfic of my work. It’s not like I called up Marv Wolfman and George Pérez and said, “Mind if I take a stab at Nightwing and Cyborg?”
But…I am conflicted about Lyga fanfic.
First of all… Dude, really? I mean, I consider myself a very minor sort of literary figure, so the idea that someone out there wants to fanfic-ify my wordage sort of boggles. It’s like visiting a movie set and asking the key grip for a selfie and an autograph.
But hey, different stroke for different folks. Whatever works for ya.
Second of all… It’s just plain weird to me, OK? Again, I’m not trying to offend anyone, but these are my characters. I bled and wept and vomited them into existence. Having someone else put words in their mouths and give them actions to perform feels like watching someone else raise your child (a simile that strikes home to me more than ever, having recently become a dad). It’s not that fanficcers are doing something untoward or wrong. It’s just…not right.
But I’m no hypocrite. And if writing fanfic of my humble little creations makes someone happy, well, I say the world needs more happy.
I have only two rules:
1) Don’t sell it. Trying to make money with your spin on something I created is a no-no. It’s doucherocket behavior, and you don’t want to be a doucherocket, do you?
2) Don’t show it to me. Seriously. Like I said above, it’s just weird for me. And, worse yet, if I ever ended up writing and publishing something even remotely similar to what you’ve conjured, I could get in trouble. I don’t like being in trouble. I have a kid; she’s enough trouble for me. So, don’t send it to me or ask me to read it or tag me or pester me for my thoughts.
Simple enough, right? Have fun!
- And yet, I have sprinkled first pages from three of those stories throughout this piece!↩