In 1997 I attended LoneStarCon2 (which was the nickname-type thing of the WorldCon that was held in San Antonio that year). Not sure what the panel topic was, but one discussion drifted toward where writers get their inspiration, and after lots of experting and panelisting, the panelists asked for audience questions. Intrepidly stupid, I raised my hand and asked what they thought of writing fanfiction as a way to, you know, learn the basics, practice, find your voice.
Bad move, younger-me.
The pros were all a unified voice in declaring the villainy of fanfiction. Terms like "lazy" and "derivative" and "waste of time" were thrown around. I think "illegal" might have been uttered. I slunk off afterward, embarrassed...but undaunted.
See, I was already writing fic when I asked that question, and I was probably hoping for personal validation -- yeah, good start, kid! -- as much as anything. Technically I'd been fanficcing in secret since I was five and wrote a story about Han Solo. It always seemed like a natural thing to do. Like doing football at school and then going home and playing some Madden. Or diligently practicing guitar and also playing Rock Band on the XBox. One source of joy did not, in my mind, nullify the other.
It still doesn't. I still believe writing fanfiction is real writing. I mean, last I checked, writing was about making words into sentences into scenes into stories. Fanficcers absolutely do that.
There. So I'm a proponent.
This week SFF Seven asks what fandoms I'd write for. My answer: any that inspire me to read between the scenes. So far those have included Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, Star Wars, Firefly, Heroes, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, The X-Files, Pinky and the Brain, Farscape, and the rebooted Battlestar Galactica. Some of those fics were novel-length stories. Most were flash-fiction or drabbles (stories told in exactly 100 words). Some were poems -- I experimented with several of the major forms, including sonnets and odes and even limericks. I did character pieces, action-heavy adventures, romances, angsty weird bleak things, incredibly silly things, and plenty of "I bet you can't" challenges. Mostly, I made words into sentences into scenes into stories, and in the process, I learned.
I believe that anything you do with words is an opportunity for learning and growth as a writer. It doesn't matter if the thing you create is sellable or even shareable. In fact, sometimes it's best not to. Share, I mean.
However, despite that sage advice, I'ma break it right now. Here's a River Tam POV Firefly (post-Serenity, but no spoilers) piece I wrote a really long time ago. I share it here because I'm not ashamed of my fanfiction past and also because this particular piece is about found family and faith in myself, two things fanfiction gave me:
"Thanks From the Inside"
God, these are my thanks,whispered so no one else will hearand launched into the vasty Blacklike a love-bladed boomerang.I read it all, you know, the Book,both paper and sinew,and understand the origin of things.
It all comes from you, apparently, so here:Thanks for the geniusthat cushions my solitude;for the sometime intrusion of others,who share this strange space;for the brother who learned to be fearless;for the thrum of home beneath my feet;for this family, better than the last;
and for the Captain's fierce lovethat keeps us aloft.