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Nomad - Ivy
No, actually you can't. *clings to fandom, barnacle-like*

Somebody at some point a few months ago (I can't remember who or under what circumstances, as I've been working doggedly on Quicksilver for the past six months while trying to get my mother through cancer treatment and a series of debilitating vertigo attacks, and everything that's happened to me since January is pretty much a blur) told me I should write something about the way I relate to fandom, which they thought was interesting and fairly unusual for a pro author. So here I am, writing about it.

First,my fannish credentials. I started writing fanfic in my early teens, back when I naively thought I had invented this brilliant new idea that no one had ever imagined before. I wrote stories for Anne McCaffrey's Harper Hall books [1] and Susan Cooper's Dark Is Rising series, and then I wrote for all my favourite TV shows like Remington Steele and Scarecrow and Mrs. King [2]. And my first, awful attempt at an original manuscript [3] was a file-off-the-serial-numbers version of a Fifth Doctor fanfic trilogy I'd written a couple years before.

But like the witch-cursed peasant in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, I got better. And not coincidentally, the marked improvement in my writing skills happened shortly after I got online. Because that was where, for the first time, I met other writers. Some of them were professionals; some were working toward publication; some weren't even trying to get published, but were just happy exercising their skills as a hobby. But they showed me how to look at my writing with a critical eye, and figure out how to make it better. They encouraged me and corrected me and gave me line-by-line or chapter-by-chapter feedback, and taught me to see criticism as a necessary and desirable part of the writing process. I learned to get my stories beta-read before I posted them, and that prepared me to understand and accept the kind of critiques I would get from a professional editor. And where did I meet the majority of those smart, talented, critical-thinking but constructive people? In fandom.

I'm far from being the only professional author who got her start in fandom, of course. Several people I met in X-Files fandom or HP fandom or Alias fandom, or any of the other fandoms I was part of in the early 90's, have since been professionally published and gained a fan following in their own right. Yet I know at least some of them still dabble in fanfic from time to time when a plot bunny hops across their path. And sometimes they write meta and get involved in other aspects of fandom, too--cosplay, fanart, going to cons as an attendee rather than a guest. Because they're still fans at heart, they still love the kinds of shows and movies and books and music they've always loved, and getting paid for their original work hasn't changed that. Why should it?

That being said, nearly all the pros I know who are still involved with fandom use a pseudonym. And often with good reason,because their fannish activities are frequently of a different nature and intended for a different audience than their professional work. This is especially true of authors who write professionally for children and teens, as I do -- but it applies to some authors who write books for adults as well. [4] They may be heavily involved in fandom, but they prefer to remain incognito because the content of their fanfic may well be of a more explicit or controversial nature than their published writing, and they don't want any negative personal or professional fallout from that.

Another reason pro authors who write fanfic often stick to a pseudonym is the desire to avoid any appearance of profiting from another creator's work, even indirectly. After all, if Midlist Author writes fanfic for Bestselling Author's books, and people like it and decide to check out Midlist Author's books as a result, isn't she unfairly profiting from the work of Bestselling Author? Some may say no, because it's the quality of Midlist Author's writing that won her those new readers. But others would say yes, because those new readers would never have read Midlist Author's stories if they hadn't been about the world and characters invented by Bestselling Author. So the issue can get thorny, and some authors feel it's best to avoid it altogether by keeping their fanfic under an alias.

I don't hide my identity, however. Like Diane Duane, Peter David and a few other stout or possibly reckless souls, I do my fannish activity under the same name as I publish my books.

One day, perhaps, I may come to regret this. But so far, using the same name for all my writing and meta and fannish interaction hasn't caused any problems for me. For one thing, my fanfic has pretty much the same content and rating as my original novels, and in some cases is even a bit tamer than the canon I'm writing for -- so it's unlikely that a parent is going to go ballistic if they find their tween or teen reading my stories.

Another reason I don't bother with an alias is that I am no longer a BNF [5] in any fandom, if I ever was; which makes any accusation of me profiting unduly from another author's work to be a pretty long stretch. [6] So I still have the profile on Fanfiction.net that I set up when the site first opened. I'm on AO3 and Fiction Alley and a few fandom-specific archives as well. I'm a happy member of sounis, and though now and again some other member recognizes me and says something nice about my writing, I keep my replies brief because I'm not there to talk about me, I'm there to share in the Queen's Thief love.

Here's my philosophy of fandom in a nutshell:it doesn't matter what I do for a living, because the fandoms in which I participate are not about me. When I participate in a fan community, I'm not there as a creator, I'm just another fan. And when I post a fanfic, I am also just another fan. There's no reason anybody should pay more attention to my writing just because I'm professionally published, or consider my stories to be inherently better than the stories of the many amazing fanfic authors out there who are not professionally published. In fact, there's no good reason for me to mention that I'm a published author at all, because the writing should speak for itself. And just because you can write a novel and get it published doesn't necessarily mean you can write good stories about other people's characters.

So when I post comments about fannish stuff in another person's LJ, or on a community like sounis, I try never to use an icon that promotes my own books. Instead, I use icons that reflect or promote the fandom being discussed. And in my profile on FF.net and other places, I don't say "HEY KIDS, I AM A PUBLISHED AUTHOR! HERE ARE MY BOOKS SO YOU CAN BUY THEM!" [7] I don't want to treat fandom as a self-promotional tool or use other authors' success as a springboard to my own, because that's rude and obnoxious. I just want to enjoy the fun with everybody else.

Anyway, that's how I do fandom, for good or ill. Because I am still a squeeing fangirl at heart, even if my pro commitments keep me too busy to write a lot of fanfic or meta these days. And unlike some pro authors I know who have had nasty experiences with fans harassing them for not writing more fanfic instead of those STOOPID ORIGINAL NOVELS HOW DARE YOU, I've had a pretty easy ride in fandom on the whole. The tiny group of readers I have who've stuck with me since my pre-published days have been lovely, kind, supportive people; and the modest amount of fanart, vids and fic I've seen for my books has been created by enthusiastic young readers who have no idea I've got any fandom history at all. And as long as that keeps up, I've got no reason to go underground.

And when, as happened this afternoon, I get a bunch of thoughtful, enthusiastic reviews for a fic I wrote back in 2003 from a reader who has no idea I've written anything professional at all, it makes me just as pleased as a good review for my published books does. Because I put all the same heart and skill into my fic as I do into my published work, even if the skill set involved is a little different. And because, as a fan, I know how enjoyable and worthwhile a well-written fanfic can be.


--
[1] This was before I had any idea that Anne McCaffrey was militantly opposed to fanfic based on her work. Sorry, Anne.

[2] We will draw a merciful veil over the Spies & Detectives' Convention crossover with Manimal and Simon & Simon, in which my self-insert Mary Sue accidentally stabbed A.J. Simon with a letter opener and had to nurse him back to health. And an even more merciful veil over the everybody-gets-mutant-abilities crossover that had twenty-six characters but only sixteen pages.

[3] All 120K of it. I still feel like I owe that poor editor at Del Rey an apology just for subjecting him to the first three chapters.

[4] Naomi Novik, for instance, is heavily involved in fandom and it's no secret that she writes plenty of fanfic herself; but most people don't know her fannish alias, and she prefers to keep it that way. I know of two or three other well-known authors who take a similar stance.

[5] Big Name Fan -- i.e. an author or artist whose name everybody in a given fandom will probably recognize, even if they haven't seen their work.

[6] Since I got published I have only written one piece of fic based on another author's books, and I think said author and I are on pretty similar levels at the moment as far as book sales go. So if somebody reads that particular fic, they're just as likely to be a reader of mine discovering her work as they are to be a fan of her books discovering mine. And since the story is so heavily based in her world and characters, it isn't really an advertisement for my own imagination so much as proof of my mad fangirl love for hers.

[7] I did mention it on my Teaspoon profile, in the first flush of my "Squee, I'm going to be published!" enthusiasm, but even then I didn't mention the title of the book. And it's changed now.


This entry was originally posted at http://rj-anderson.dreamwidth.org/3168.html. There are comment count unavailable comments on Dreamwidth.

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( 30 comments — Leave a comment )
grav_ity
Jul. 5th, 2012 12:42 am (UTC)
I'm pretty sure we ALL wrote Anne McCaffrey fanfic before we found out she was opposed to it. At least she's opposed to it in such a way that I feel called to respect her wishes (unlike some other people, who are so mean about it that I feel the urge to read their stuff specifically so I can write fanfic about it).

This is very excellent. I have two years to play with (technically, I have an alias, but it's very easy to connect the dots!), but at some point there are a few fics I might consider pulling down or locking.

In the meantime, though, MORE TENZIN AND LIN AND PEMA!!!!
tenshi_makenshi
Aug. 3rd, 2013 02:33 pm (UTC)
"At least she's opposed to it in such a way that I feel called to respect her wishes (unlike some other people, who are so mean about it that I feel the urge to read their stuff specifically so I can write fanfic about it)."

I just wanted to commend you and say I get that as well. XD
anywherebeyond
Jul. 5th, 2012 01:20 am (UTC)
I don't use the same name because my fanfic is not necessarily appropriate for my pro audience. But also?

Fandom is my downtime. I play there. I don't want to be work-me there. I don't want to have to put on the professional face and be Above It All and not act like a lunatic even though I am freaking out at the sixteenth promo photo to come out today and LOOK AT THEMS ICKLE FAAAAAAAAAAACES*.

*Actual fannish dialogue. From this week.


Edited at 2012-07-05 01:20 am (UTC)
rj_anderson
Jul. 5th, 2012 01:26 am (UTC)
I totally get the idea of downtime, but I just act like a lunatic anyway. I am sure I have alarmed any number of readers who didn't expect me to go into full-bore fangirl mode at the drop of a hat.

Also, I'm guessing these are Merlin-related FAAAAAACES?
anywherebeyond
Jul. 5th, 2012 01:37 am (UTC)
X-Men: First Class, although last week it was all OMG LOOK AT ALL OF GWEN'S NEW FROCK faces. :D
robinellen
Jul. 5th, 2012 01:36 am (UTC)
I discovered fanfic through a now-published author (Sarah Rees Brennan) -- she was posting her HP fanfic on her blog, and I happened across it (through another friend, though I can no longer remember who that was). I got completely caught up in her writing, and I must admit, that's why I picked up her first published book -- but it was that book which made me pick up the next two. :)

There are definitely fanfic writers which have 'proven' themselves to me through the fandom, and that's why I would seek out their original fic -- but it has little to do with the original HP characters, in all honesty. In the case of JKR, however (who has said she's fine with fanfic), I'm not concerned about anyone 'stealing' her readership ;)

And yes, I've written a few stories myself, mostly to play with scenarios and ideas and to see how things played out...fun stuff!
(Deleted comment)
rj_anderson
Jul. 5th, 2012 02:46 am (UTC)
Oh, that's interesting! I didn't know that about McCaffrey. Pity I threw out that half-finished Talmor/OC story I started writing when I was eleven...

And true, if I have any claim to having been a BNF, it would be in HP fandom. But even then I think it was just in the sub-set of Snape fandom. Mercifully well prior to the point where certain fans started claiming to have married him on the astral plane. :)

And if you're dating yourself I'm dating myself a whole lot more! I was 31 when I wrote D&L, after all.
goldvermilion87
Jul. 5th, 2012 02:54 am (UTC)
For me this is quite encouraging. I keep TELLING people that I'm writing fanfic to practice so that I can become a real author one day, but you know... I'd never actually met someone who did it. :-D

And if I should become a published author, I don't know how public or not public I would make the connections to my fannish background, [it certainly wouldn't help me on the selling end...] but one principle I have is -- I'll never put anything anywhere on the internet that I'd be ashamed to show my mother. I figure that way, it should all be fine.
rj_anderson
Jul. 5th, 2012 12:17 pm (UTC)
Your principle is also mine. That's probably why I've had so little pushback from using my "real" name. (Which is actually my unmarried name plus initials, neither of which I use in daily life, but it's my pro writing name at least.)
goldvermilion87
Jul. 5th, 2012 02:56 am (UTC)
PS to footnote 2:

*SNRK*
rj_anderson
Jul. 5th, 2012 12:20 pm (UTC)
SHUT UP, IT WAS A VERY MOVING SCENE. Especially the bit where A.J. in a fit of delirium decided it was a good time to kiss my self-insert Mary Sue. Which is odd, because I was never really that much of a Jameson Parker fan on the whole, but everybody else in the story already had a canonical match so I guess he was the leftovers?

Nothing came of it, anyway. My Mary Sue got an OC boyfriend from England shortly after that so she can't have been too impressed. :)
goldvermilion87
Jul. 5th, 2012 01:57 pm (UTC)
(still giggling...)

You know... this is a serious thing I've noticed and pondered more than necessary in fandom. Forget all the issues around what happens when people decide on a romantic pairing in a fandom. Isn't it a bit odd that nearly everyone assumes that everyone in a story is going to get together with someone else in that same story? For example, I've seen Molly paired with nearly everyone. I don't know that I've seen that Molly was ever paired with an original character we haven't ever met, but who is her perfect match. Or Anthea as Mycroft's wife/lover/etc. It suddenly struck me as very very very weird. And now I can't stop thinking about it.
rj_anderson
Jul. 5th, 2012 02:59 pm (UTC)
I used to write OC romances more often than not because I honestly couldn't imagine pairing up the Doctor, or Snape, or whoever, with anyone we'd so far met in canon. So part of the challenge was imagining somebody who would make a good match. And then, of course, winning the reader over to liking the OC and believing in them as much as the canonical characters, which was a whole other challenge in itself.

That being said, I read a great Mycroft/Anthea fic once. I wish I could remember who had written it...
goldvermilion87
Jul. 5th, 2012 03:06 pm (UTC)
I'm certainly not complaining about having pairings -- I think I read a good Mycroft/Anthea fic as well. The idea is intriguing.

Maybe I don't read enough fiction. Or maybe it's that I pretty much stay in the Sherlock fandom (and that for more writing than reading) where people are not at ALL creative about pairings, I'm afraid...

Actually... someone is writing a Sherlock/Amy fic, which I haven't read, and which I don't really approve of because RORY, but still, that's creative.

Also, I saw Molly Hooper/Martin Crieff. That I approve of entirely and utterly (though I still haven't read it).

So maybe I'm talking myself into thinking it's not as prevalent as I thought...
kerravonsen
Jul. 5th, 2012 03:12 am (UTC)
What? You actually wrote badfic? And here I thought your perfectly polished phrases had sprung full-formed from your brow like Athena. (grin)

with fans harassing them for not writing more fanfic instead of those STOOPID ORIGINAL NOVELS HOW DARE YOU

How dare you not finish "Incarnations"? Oh, yeah, because the story would no longer make sense without certain other stories which are no longer around. (you do realize I'm teasing, yes?)

For one thing, my fanfic has pretty much the same content and rating as my original novels, and in some cases is even a bit tamer than the canon I'm writing for -- so it's unlikely that a parent is going to go ballistic if they find their tween or teen reading my stories.

Yep, me too. Not that I want to be published, but I do put my real name on the vast majority of my fanfic; those exceptions have been due to other circumstances, not the rating of the content.
rj_anderson
Jul. 5th, 2012 12:27 pm (UTC)
I honestly wish I had kept the early fic, because it would be SO FUNNY now. All I can remember is Lee Stetson and my Mary Sue character having a conversation in bad French in the middle of Beijing ("Ou est Amanda?" / "La voila."). And the time I ended a kissing scene with "After that, all other considerations were irrelevant."

And alas, poor "Incarnations". Well, at least I got the Eighth Doctor cameo in before I quit?
kerravonsen
Jul. 5th, 2012 12:39 pm (UTC)
Well, at least I got the Eighth Doctor cameo in before I quit?

Did you? The main thing I remember was the encounter with Thea-and-son. And Mulder remarking that an alien threat wouldn't wear galoshes.
rj_anderson
Jul. 5th, 2012 03:02 pm (UTC)
"I'm not used to my X-Files wearing galoshes; it kind of spoils the whole transcendental cachet of the thing, don't you think?"

It's sad that I can still quote that line from memory even though I haven't looked at the fic in about ten years.

But yes, Scully met Eight when her car broke down on the way to work, and then she and Mulder met Two and Zoe a little later on. Unless I never posted those chapters publicly, which is quite possible. It's been a while. :)
kerravonsen
Jul. 5th, 2012 09:03 pm (UTC)
I'd completely forgotten about that. So of course I had to go check my copy... an hour later, and I was at the end, and all sad that the cliffhanger was never going to be resolved. 8-( And also reminded how much I love Eight. "hitchhikers dressed like Oscar Wilde" (grin)
mary_j_59
Jul. 5th, 2012 03:18 am (UTC)
Just want to say I love this post. I guess my experience with fandom has been unusual because, although I was always a fan, I never participated in a fandom until HP. And you were one of the first writers I discovered. It's been exciting and encouraging to follow your journey - and I tend to agree with Megan Whalen Turner, who said that writing is writing, whether essays or fanfic or original fiction. It all trains your mind and your style. But she is very cool, anyway - even if she did slag librarians at the Horn book awards. :( I love her characters and am very happy that there is, in time, going to be another book. Looking forward to Quicksilver, too.

I've got another possible series for your boys, btw. Michelle Paver's Gods and Warriorsis coming out in September, and, if it doesn't quite have the raw power of Wolf Brother, it's still gripping and very well thought out. I think the series might actually end up topping the "Chronicles of Ancient Darkness", and that's going some.

I'll keep your mom in my prayers.
rj_anderson
Jul. 5th, 2012 03:05 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the book rec, and the prayers!
sartorias
Jul. 5th, 2012 04:27 am (UTC)
Yeah, I love fandom. I do use a different name for fic, but that arose out of mainly doing YA and the fics weren't YA.
anywherebeyond
Jul. 5th, 2012 02:06 pm (UTC)
That. Exactly.
rj_anderson
Jul. 5th, 2012 03:07 pm (UTC)
Yep, and that's a totally sensible and legit reason to use a fandom alias.

I used an alias for my one and only vid, but in that case it was because I had author-type videos on my existing YT channel and I didn't want subscribers to get all confuzzled.
shveta_thakrar
Jul. 6th, 2012 05:56 pm (UTC)
This was a great post, and also *hug* for the stuff you've been dealing with, Rebecca.

I was involved with one fandom (mostly I didn't realize fandoms as such existed!) but never wrote fiction for it. I wonder what that would have been like . . .
rj_anderson
Jul. 6th, 2012 08:32 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the virtual hug, Shveta. It's been a long road. I'm glad you enjoyed the post!
Summer Griffin
Sep. 4th, 2012 01:52 pm (UTC)
Fandom?
hey umm what is fandom?!
I am 13 years old and I love writing but I have no idea how to meet the right people to help me and generally get into the writing world! How did you get your books noticed and on the shelves and how can I do the same?!
summer xx
p.s.
I loved swift!!
rj_anderson
Sep. 27th, 2012 05:04 pm (UTC)
Re: Fandom?
Fandom: Being a fan of a particular book/movie/TV show/comic etc. in such a way that you want to participate and create your own stuff. Could be art, music, stories, cosplay (dressing up in costume), going to conventions to talk about the books/movies/TV shows/comics with other fans, etc.

As for getting noticed, the most important thing is to work on your writing. If it is good enough, it WILL get noticed eventually. Connections are great, but most of the publishing connections I've made were after I became a writer, and the ones I made before becoming a writer helped me see the weaknesses in my work and develop my writing skills, but didn't give me an "in" with any publishers or agents.

There are lots of great writing tips on the Internet written by other authors -- you should check out the fantastic set of articles on Zoe Marriott's blog, for instance!

Thanks for writing, and I'm happy to hear you loved SWIFT!
tenshi_makenshi
Aug. 3rd, 2013 02:30 pm (UTC)
Reading this makes me very happy. I'd like to see more positive talk about fanfiction go around. I just wanted to comment that I'm glad you shared. As a fanfic writer who hopes to one day write original novels this just really cheered me on. c: I like seeing positive words said about fanfiction for writers as it can be stereotyped as such a bad thing, lacking creativity, which for many writers is completely untrue. The same can be said for someone writing with their own characters. I personally think it's wonderful to be able to express your love for someone's creation, and fanfiction greatly encourages my writing dreams.
rj_anderson
Aug. 5th, 2013 08:25 pm (UTC)
Glad you liked the post! Thanks for reading, and best wishes with your own writing!
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