No, this isn’t a post about the havoc wreaked by Daylight Saving Time (although there is a considerable amount of that), neither is it a confession that I stayed in New York past my allotted time (although I was very, very tempted, camped outside the Magnolia Bakery, eating cupcakes and watching the person wearing a giant chipmunk suit dancing around in the Marc Jacobs window. God, I love New York!). Instead, it’s a post about fan fiction.
So if you’ve had the unfortunate luck to be around me for any amount of time at all this year, you’ve probably heard me wax rhapsodic about the joys and wonders of fan fiction. Really. No sarcasm at all here. Over the summer, I bought the Buffy the Vampire Slayer box set on DVD on a lark, started watching it as a break from the hard work at DMAC, and randomly looked around online for “what was out there.” Nine months later and I’m contracted to write an article about Buffy fan video. Stay tuned. [What I actually said to myself was “gee, this will be so far from work that it will be a mental vacation. It will be great to watch something that I don’t feel like I’m ever going to write about.” Oh, life-irony. You’re so clever. Joke’s on me, I suppose. Har har.]
The point of this is that I’ve been reading a LOT of fan fiction in my spare time. Is there some dreck out there? Sure. Does it bring up all kinds of questions about copyright? Perhaps. Is it a totally impressive, renewing-my-faith-in-the-human-desire-to-create, deeply communal practice engaged in by hundreds of people? Yup. Sure is. Let’s not forget: Buffy went off the air in 2003. Whedon stopped writing her life then, but the fans continue on. Not a week goes by that I don’t read something in the Buffyverse that blows my mind, either because of the author’s inventiveness, or the careful and considered feedback given to her, or the characterizations and/or re-imagining of the “canonical” episodes. [In fact, this week I’m fascinated by the inscription of feminine sexuality—but that’s another story.] And when you have this experience, over and over again, you begin to realize that it’s not an isolated event—this is an amazing phenomenon, period. These communities are both deep and broad; the authors slip between the fictional and the personal, the fecundity of their imaginations allow them to slip even across fandoms and to take their readers with them. For the record? Lots of loyal Buffy fans also dig Supernatural and Veronica Mars. Who knew? [And a better question: what’s the connecting point across these shows?]
So there I am, poking around on LiveJournal communities, reading from story to story, and I see it: heads up, Kate L! Torchwood fan fiction, complete with icons. In retrospect, it’s totally obvious: cult BBC show with lots and lots of ambiguous sexual behavior? It’s practically a set-up for fan fic authors—the equivalent of popcult catnip. And since Torchwood is pulling both plot points and images from Buffy (not to mention actors, as the appearance of James Marsters–a.k.a. Spike in the Buffyverse–in the first episode of season two), it shouldn’t surprise me that this is a combination that appeared early, and I expect to see it more and more often.
However, isn’t it amazing how fast a fandom is born? Torchwood is about halfway through it’s second season in the U.S., and we’re about a year behind the Brits. So, at most, we’re talking about a two year television phenomenon, yet a quick google search for “Torchwood fan fiction” yields 485,000 hits. ?!!!
I’d love to see someone track the scatter pattern of a particular fandom from patient zero onward. How many episodes before the first fic emerges? How fast do communities form? Are they largely comprised of fans from other shows? At what point do questions of canon emerge?