WARNING! Deep thoughts ahead! Grab a beverage and some chocolate or something.
So, yeah. Went cray at ClexaCon the beginning of April and I cannot even begin to tell you all the awesome that went on. It’s truly something you have to behold your own selves to really understand it and to grasp the ethos of the gathering, which is one of the most amazing spaces I’ve ever been in. Quite possibly THE most.
It was a great space, and felt welcoming, but I know that there were most likely tensions I didn’t see, and issues and drama that I wasn’t privy to. That’s the nature of gatherings like this. Lots of different personalities, creative clashes, and underlying issues regarding systemic marginalization that occurs even in LGBTQ spaces like this.
I’ve been part of fandoms most of my life, and I see some of the toxicity that can infuse them. Dreaded “ship wars” (ship in fanspeak means “relationship”), in which some people ship certain characters and others ship others and never the twain shall meet, resulting in not-so-much-fun in the fandom. And because fandoms are microcosms of the world in which we all live, there are misogynists, racists, and anti-LGBTQ people who participate in fandoms. And some of these people are themselves LGBTQ. I see biphobia and anti-trans sentiment in LGBTQ fandoms as well as non-LGBTQ fandoms, in addition to racism and misogyny. And I see ageism, too, whether it’s nastiness directed by younger fans at older or older directing it at younger.
But I also see a lot of love, respect, support, and an unbelievable amount of creativity flowing in and out of fandoms. I’ve seen fandoms effect incredible change, spread a whole lot of good cheer and positive energy, and grow into amazing networks and friendships.
Like the world-at-large, fandoms are what you make of them and because we are human, we bring all the messy, angst-ridden, hurt, beautiful, and redemptive aspects of being human into them.
I bring this up because almost two years ago I started writing fanfic and posting it. I’ve written a bit of fanfic in the past, but it lurks in the nether regions of my laptop and I used it as a stress-free writing exercise. That is, no deadline, no expectations, no pressure. Nobody has ever seen that fanfic on my hard drive except me, and I reveled in the sheer joy of writing when I was working on the story. It was me, the story, the characters, and nothing beyond sharing the adventure with them.
But one of the fandoms I’ve been participating in made me want to write fanfic again and post it, as my contribution to a fandom that is still reeling, in some ways, from the death of a beloved lesbian character.
Here is a handy hint about that character (in all her badassery):
In fanfic, we can re-write the story, and the character lives on in canon and AU (alternative universe), and can help provide a bit of healing to fans — especially younger ones who perhaps haven’t had to deal with the crappy bury your gays trope as long as older fans have. And maybe we can provide inspiration to others to write more stories, and maybe take those stories into other arenas. Like, say, TV and film, and thus really start changing the industry and bringing stronger and better representation to traditionally marginalized people and communities in media.
So the fanfic I’ve been writing in that fandom has been immensely profound, in some ways, for me. I wrote my longest-ever tome (weighing in at about 509,000 words and over a thousand single-spaced pages), and it required a bit of research and use of the language developed for the show by a linguist. It required intensive plotting that involved political intrigue, battles both personal and beyond, inner demons, and romance set in a post-apocalyptic world. It was an intense experience, and required attention to detail because I was using canon elements and re-writing an entire season of a particular TV show.
I worked on it almost every day for over a year, posting every week or couple of weeks, because in the fanfic world, posting regularly is important and can make or break a journey. But keeping to a schedule like that forced me to really write, even when I wasn’t feeling like it, or had other things to do.
And it was so much fun.
Because I was writing it for me, as part of my healing from the BYG trope and, frankly, from the toxicity that has become our world, seemingly accelerated in the last few years. I didn’t have deadlines on which businesses depended. If I didn’t post every week, I didn’t lose any money. Nobody worried about something not being available on Kindle or in some other format. No stress over cover designs. No money spent on posting it, as the site I use is free (though donations are appreciated).
I had forgotten how much fun writing is, and how much fun I have doing it.
Fanfic reminded me of that, and it’s a good thing, friends, because I’ve been wavering about stopping writing for publication.
Yeah, go ahead. Read that again. I’ve been thinking about stopping writing outside of fanfic.
It shouldn’t be too surprising, since I do things backasswards all the time. A lot of lesfic writers START in fanfic and then move into publishing. I started publishing lesfic first THEN moved into the fanfic world and I’ve seriously been thinking about not writing anything else besides fanfic.
I mean, I’ve been writing lesfic most of my life and publishing it for over 10 years, and I’ve been wondering about the point of it all, about why I bother publishing anything I write when it seems it doesn’t make much of a difference. I remind myself that I love writing fiction (I do), and I love working in publishing (I truly do), but it seems the work I write for publication doesn’t change anything or mean anything, especially in the current environment.
I’ve been feeling like I’m shouting into a void, and everything I write and then publish just…disappears after it’s published. It’s there for a minute, and then people move on to the next thing and all the time and energy and work I put into it means…nothing.
Fanfic reminded me that I write for the love of writing, first and foremost. And ultimately, I have to do that because if I don’t love writing, then I really shouldn’t be doing it. And fanfic also put me directly in touch with people who read it and offer immediate feedback and comment (it’s not for the faint of heart…lol). There’s an immediate response to fanfic, and some people let me know that my stories have made them FEEL, and ultimately, made them feel GOOD.
That, too, is why I write. For connection.
So even though there can be toxicity in fandoms, there is also a lot of hope. There’s a lot of support and sharing and learning, and a lot of it is immediate, something that doesn’t really happen when you publish a book. And some authors don’t hear from readers about the book they spent so much time preparing. So they never know if anybody cared. They have to trust that somebody out there did, whether from reviews or sales, which are more impersonal than the back-and-forth in the fanfic world, but it’s not the same as hearing directly from people who read their book and it moved them to contact the author and let them know that it did.
I’ve enjoyed that immediate contact/connection in the fanfic world. And it’s making me feel a bit better about writing for publication.
So, yes, I’ve been thinking about some things and wondering what my next steps are. As deeply tired as I am on an almost cellular level in this arena that is showcasing the absolute worst of humanity, I do know how important it is to tell our stories.
And I’m working on connecting the energy I find writing fanfic to the stuff I do for publication.
Heh. Like everybody else up in here, I’m a work in progress, too.
At any rate, happy Friday, all. And may The Force be with us all.