I’m pretty sure every author makes one or more of these eventually, hence the title.
Universal Nexus exists because I failed horribly at writing fanfic. The genesis of what has become Universal Nexus was born of my attempts at fanfic for various things I love. I won’t detail what. If you know me in real life you can probably guess. If you don’t, you can still probably guess at least a couple because I hide them about as well as Scalzi hides the influence of Starship Troopers on Old Man’s War. (Hint: Read the dedication to The Crown of Eldrete to discover two of my most favorite things in all of media.)
But anyway, I can’t write fanfic. I apparently can’t play in other people’s sandboxes. I don’t know why this is. Probably because I’m a control freak. I do the same thing as DM. I can’t run settings as written. It’s a weird quirk of my brain. I have to tinker with everything until, for example, it’s not still Star Wars fanfic when all that connects it with Star Wars is a character’s last name being Skywalker, in my opinion. So, eventually I changed the character’s name and . . . I won’t tell you who all were originally part of the Skywalker clan. That was several years and many revisions of the setting ago.
So, while I don’t write fanfic, I clearly can’t be opposed to it. It’d be rather hypocritical. Nor do I, as I’ve seen other authors say, consider it a training ground before someone tries real writing. All writing is real writing, just not all writing is for the intent of publishing professionally. Fanfic is, in my opinion, the ultimate compliment to a creator. It’s someone going “I like your stuff so much that I’m going to stay there after I’m done with this book/movie/TV series/whatever.”
Fanfic also allows people to explore possibilities that weren’t in the source material. I would have never thought that Duncan/Methos was a remotely valid pairing, but I’ve read many Highlander fanfics that made it work while remaining true to the characters. That, my friends, takes talent. I would have never wondered “what if Snake Eyes was an Old West gunslinger?” but I once read a GI Joe fanfic that posited just that and was, as I recall, pretty good.
But, you say, “Most fanfic is porn!” First, that’s not true. Second, even if it was, so what? Maybe one of the possibilities people want to explore that was missing from the source material is what two or more characters do in the bedroom. There’s nothing wrong with that. If you don’t like it, don’t read it, applies to fanfic as much as to any book on the bookstore shelves! As Seanan says, not everything is for everyone.
I, for instance, have no interest in reading Bilbo/Frodo slash, but I’m sure someone out there does. And as I was wondering yesterday if anyone had ever written Matthew/Marilla Cuthbert fics, I have no right to judge. And even if you’re not as disturbed as you’re now thinking I am for wondering that, I’m sure you’ve got your own “I wonder if” or “I wonder what it would’ve been like” things that would make me think you equally disturbed, so you don’t get to judge either, even if yours have nothing to do with sex.
But, you say, “Most fanfic is horribly written!” To which I say, Sturgeon’s Law: Ninety percent of everything is crap. I’ve read some fanfic that I can only hope was written by a six year old, but I’ve also read some that was so well written that when I read that the author was a published novelist, I wished she’d reveal her real name so I could go buy her book.
Now, I can sort of understand one argument against fanfic. GRRM just doesn’t like people touching his characters because he thinks of them as his children, from what I understand. That makes a bit of sense. I know if I ever become as famous as him, people are going to write things about, say, Lyndsey, that make me very uncomfortable. But, I know there’s no point in trying to stop it. If I don’t let people put it online, they’re still going to write it, so what’s the point? They’re also probably still going to put it online, just in a members’ only area or something, so, again, what’s the damned point? Write your Lyndsey/Darrien fic. Write your fic where Lyndsey gets brutally and graphically raped and murdered because she overestimates herself while fighting the wrong person. Write your AU where Lyndsey is a demure housewife. Whatever.
Once a story is out in the world, what happens to it and its characters are beyond the author’s control. Just don’t make money off of it, because I’m trying to make a living here.