In this blog entry, I intend to talk about some stuff that’s probably been talked about a lot on the internet already. So feel free to quit reading here, because it’s going to be all Iron Man 3 and the purpose and wonder of fan fiction.
Yup. Fan fiction. So if you weren’t already done reading when I warned you off the first time, feel free to scurry off now.
I’m late, by about two months, to the IM3 bandwagon. And late by lightyears to fanfic. Well. I’m returning from a lightyear-long prodigal journey, let’s say. In middle school, I was a fanfic geek for any and every Lord of the Rings fic that existed. I wrote some. Let’s not go there.
Then I moved to Louisville, into a crazy house of nerds. Wonderful nerds. Nerds who said YES to fanfic. I dipped a toe in. Star Trek was the gateway drug. Then it was Sherlock. Then Doctor Who. Then The Avengers. Aaaand down the rabbit hole. There was something really compelling about it. I mean, I suppose some of it is really good porn. And some of it is like a wonderful way to experience your favorite story while you wait for the official creators of canon material to get off their asses and give you another series (Hello, Moffat. Yes, I’m looking at you I mean THREE EPISODES A YEAR??).
I couldn’t have told you exactly what was so mesmerizing about it, except I think I’ve figured out a large chunk of it this evening. And this is the chunk I swear someone probably gave a paper about at ICFA two years ago, which I may have read about in the program, and internalized somewhere between poolside Coronas with lime. I know it wasn’t the guest of honor who spoke in 2013, because I was sick in bed with a 101-degree fever when she gave her talk.
Anyway! The catalyst for my long-overdue realization? Well, I hied myself to the discount theatre to see Iron Man 3 tonight. And it was a decent superhero movie. Actually, I’d had a wicked craving for a superhero movie all week, so it filled a gaping, starving hole in me. It even passed the Bechdel test (mostly), and Ms. Potts kicked butt at the end! And the character of color didn’t die! Also, Robert Downey Junior! Getting beat up! Yum! But there were bits I was unhappy with. Like, why couldn’t the little kid be a feisty girl engineer? And what, in god’s name, was that ending? *wet dog shudder*
So here’s where the fanfic comes flying into the rescue, like an automated Iron Man suit piloted by the unflappable JARVIS. So I wasn’t happy with the narrative? So I wasn’t happy with the character? So fix it. Like a tinkering mechanic unhappy with someone else’s faulty wiring. Mod it, hack it, remake it. Just like Tony Stark (man, I wish I was Tony Stark. For many, many reasons), fanfic writers poke stories with a screwdriver and a soldering iron until they’re happy with the result. So what if it voids the warranty? So what if they don’t get paid? They’re like the maker movement of nerddom. They’re doing it to show they can make it work.
Think of all the many people who are underrepresented in traditional media: women, LGBTQ people, people of color, people with disabilities…if they want to see themselves in The Avengers, or whatever, they have to DIY it. And then other people read their fics and say, “thank god, finally!” because they see themselves reflected in that shiny suit of the fan-made fiction.
-Endeth here the maundering of the fangirl-
ETA: Two more thoughts:
One: Sometimes the urge to write fanfic is not only born out of dissatisfaction with the narrative in terms of one’s identity, but out of a pure, savage instinct to EDIT THINGS. To make stories better. An insane urge common to that odd, mad beast, the writer.
Two: somewhat related: most people writing comics and other franchises now grew up reading or consuming those comics and franchises. So…aren’t they basically writing fanfic that magically becomes canon because someone put a special hat on them and paid them to do it? WRAP YOUR HEAD AROUND THAT!