If you’re part of geek society, you’re probably aware of the strata that we employ when classifying our ilk. When you’re down this low, you do what you can to stay near the top. If you’re not one of us, the only classifications you probably notice are those which stipulate what size locker you’ll need when you feel the overwhelming urge to shove us into something.
It might not be a universal sentiment among the geekerati, but I’ve never been able to tolerate fan fiction. It’s a few miles below playing Magic: The Gathering or Warhammer. It’s below LARPing. It’s even below the weirdos who draw non-ironic Rule 34 “artwork,” even though they also leech off of intellects greater than their own. It’s just hard to hate on hilariously sad porn drawings.
For every Malfoy/Potter makeout scene that some awkward 16-year-old girl has penned from her bedroom, there’s at least a 100 more being written by the thirtysomething, unemployed, creepy crowd at their cat-hair covered kitchen table.
Okay, maybe that’s a really stereotypical generalization, but if you browse the web for “fan fiction” and the names of any two characters (fictional or real), you can be fairly confident that these characters have, in the imaginative prose of some misguided creature, boned. When I find myself decrying the perceived merits of fan fiction (which is often), I’m generally told, “Wait! There’s actually some really good fan fiction by this chick on her MySpace. It’s better than the usual stuff.” You could show me 50 pages of someone phonetically spelling out The Sounds of the Ancient Vomitoriums and it would have a more compelling grasp of character than any fan fiction.
I credit my unbearably strict love of intellectual property rights as one reason I find fan fiction unpalatable. The idea that someone can boldly send Captain Kirk into Sulu’s undiscovered country without the approval of Roddenberry Productions or Paramount is disconcerting, even if you take the very sci-fi perspective that all fan fiction takes place in a series of parallel universes (most of which lack any sense of propriety and have a surprisingly accessible quantity of lube). I get it. We all need something to spank it to, and some of us even want to feel valuable, but I promise you: fan fiction is not the answer.
Here’s the thing: neither intimate knowledge nor a pronounced passion for something is license to shove your own clumsy words and ideas into it. I don’t care if you can quote everything that Spike and Xander have ever said or that you can claim dominion over their imaginary psychological profiles—you are still not allowed to write your own scenarios around them and think that it’s somehow socially acceptable. A love of someone’s creations should extend into respect for its creators as well. Imitation, as it were, is not the sincerest form of flattery. Here are some words to live by: if you can’t put it on a dating profile, don’t do it. “Babylon 5 fanfic” is the anti-boner.
The sad truth is this: most people aren’t smart or creative enough to embrace “mash-up” culture and get anything great out of it. You’re not Pogo or Beck. If you are one of those rare minds with a flair for good storytelling and the ability to extract the purest essence of something to refine it or enhance it into something exciting or moving, don’t waste it on someone else’s brain babies. Your imagination is fertile. Squeeze out some of your own. Even LARPers are out there exercising. So what if it’s with pouches of birdseed and they’re pretending to be bugbears or rust eaters.
Creators put their ideas out there for you to enjoy, but I’m doubtful that all creators would be equally enthusiastic about their nerdo fans creating awkward bastardizations of the things they’ve poured themselves into.
Power Girl cosplay remains acceptable.