BBC Sherlock, Comment is free, Ewan Morrison, Fan Fiction, fanfiction, future of publishing, Guardian, originality, response to Ewan Morrison, Sherlock and John, Sherlock Holmes, Slash fanfiction, writing fanfiction
This is a response to the Guardian article by Ewan Morrison:
Mum, Dad, whoever else who knew me as a child and values their visions of me as a pre-pubescent, cease reading here. Please. This is not for you.
What did you do last time you were sad? Ate something bad for you? Went running? Spoke to a friend?
I have a not-very-dirty, not-very-secret dirty secret, something which I turn to every time I am recovering from a breakup: this Sunday, I spent about two hours typing up handwritten fanfiction.
The fanfiction I write can be characterised as ‘slash’ fanfiction. That is to say, it investigates romantic relationships between characters.
These relationships are normally homosexual, and almost never existent in the canonical text.
I have written in various ‘fandoms’, and began with Harry Potter. My flirtations have usually been brief, my reading voracious but temporary, my writing often abandoned, half-finished, when I am happy again.
This time is no different, and I expect that I will part ways with the Sherlock Fandom before very long, and shan’t miss it when I go.
Why do I do it? If I wish to be a writer, why spend time writing something which copyright and public taste prohibit from being published?
Why spend time pursuing curious alleys of the internet when I could be doing what women (and communities are overwhelmingly female) are supposed to do when they break up?
Eat ice cream, get a haircut, watch a romcom, cry.
The reasons I write fanfiction are varied, complicated, and particular to my makeup.
I do not attempt to speak on behalf of any community – indeed I never interact with other fandom members, beyond occasionally leaving feedback on a story – so am wholly unqualified to do so.
I write fanfiction because:
In summary: I want characters in whom I am already emotionally invested, to experience love, be fulfilled, face obstacles, and interact with one another in complex and challenging ways. I want this because it is a safe, useful and revealing method of investigating the world, investigating relationships, sexuality, and love. How would Sherlock Holmes say ‘I love you’? To whom? And how are the dark depths of his almost inhuman brain made bearable?
But also because:
- I do not enjoy romance novels. I do not find the consumerism or anti-feminist characters fulfilling, but I enjoy love stories.
- it is excellent writing practice.
- there are not enough books in which gay characters, male or female, are allowed to behave normally, to fall in love and fuck and take centre stage.
- I am queer and I have sex and feel and because I want that to be, in a non-politicised or censored way, played out before me.
- I believe in the democracy of storytelling and, like mythic heroes, believe that the best fictional creations can move off the page, and be told or retold in infinite ways
- I believe that these infinite retellings inform us, in important ways, about the concerns of society and the preoccupations of the world. The characters are like ciphers.
- I enjoy exploring the constraints of genre fiction, and it is enormously rewarding to write within confines. Existing characters or universes present excellent confines.
- it is something entirely selfish, and conducted entirely for my pleasure.
- because through doing so, I write out some of my grief, but am not tempted to subject anyone else to my ‘writing as therapy’ work.
- when I am not happy, it is crucially important to me that I create happy worlds, but am not naive enough to believe that happy worlds always make for good writing. With fanfiction, I can disappear and comfort myself.
- I enjoy learning accurate imitation of literary style. You should see my JK Rowling.
- it is subversive, and it is an easy form of rebellion against cultural expectation.
- I fall in love with characters, because I want to play with them, and because I believe that often, homosexual or romantic subtexts stay hidden in books. Or perhaps just because the characters seem to ask for more back story, more fleshing out.
- because allusion, and selective recreation, are important, fun literary tools.
- because it allows me power and freedom, and I am not subjected to qualms about quality, subject, style.
- because when I read it, it uplifts, comforts, and heals me, and I hope mine might for someone else.
So, as you can see, there are very few aspects of this relating to being ‘resentful’ of characters for ‘controlling’ my life.
Nor, really, are there any dark sexual subtexts. The sex may be dark, but my reasons for writing it are the same as writers of mainstream erotic, romantic, or really, any, fiction.
And I do not believe that fanfiction is a threat to originality. Myths are not threatening to other myths, and myths about, for example, Olympic Gods, are almost endless.
Predominantly, in fact, fanfiction writers seem to value originality within genre.
Crime thrillers are all crime thrillers, but each one is different.
The same is true of fanfic. Sure, it’s always Holmes and Watson, but sometimes in Iraq, 1800, or outer space.
Bizarre? Yes. Appealing? Possibly not. A threat to culture? Well, unlikely.
Yes, EL James was fanfiction, but she is a terrible writer, whatever she is writing. The very best writing in the Sherlock fandom is as complex and brilliant as Conan Doyle himself, easily.
90% of any genre is terrible, and the best stuff floats. Plenty published writers dabble in fanfiction, keep in practice, try new things.
It is also a community of keen critiquers, pulling out what is good and rejecting the dross.
And finally, it is a kind place, mostly. The internet is not always kind, but in discussions of what sort of fabric softener Sherlock Holmes’ brother would use (and the answer is he wouldn’t know, he has people for that sort of thing), the internet shows kindness, wit, acceptance.
So whether I am trying to piece my heart back together by securing happy endings for characters I love, or signalling an end to the originality of culture one step at a time, I am happy and proud to write fanfiction.