We have had a long-running column on our blog (you do read our blog, right? it’s fab) written by Chloe N. Clark. Her column has focused on fandom studies, with an emphasis on fan fiction. Happily for her and sadly for us, the column has come to an end as she’s earned her MFA and is moving on to some awesome new opportunities.
Her departure leaves a gap in the LSQ family, one that is vitally important to me. While I may not have the academic credentials Chloe does, I agree with her stance that fan fiction is a vital, important genre (medium?) within writing. Most of you who know me know I used to write Star Wars fan fiction. It’s where I learned how to write.
Unlike many writers, I did not have the drive to tell stories in the traditional sense, from birth. As a child, my outlet was imaginative play, lots of running around the yard pretending a stick was a lightsaber, and getting the other kids on board with my ideas for new adventures for the characters I loved.
Then growing up happened and a lot of things got in the way of that vivid imagination I had when I was younger.
I had thought about writing a bit here and there over the years, but nothing really came together until Revenge of the Sith came out. The internet had grown up enough by then that TheForce.net and its forums existed and I was able to find a group of wonderful people on their fan fiction boards. I worked up the courage to write my very first story. It was… not horrible. I was helped a lot by the fact that I was well-read and a bit older than your average first time writer.
Just as important, though, was the wonderful concept of the beta reader. My first beta reader helped me by proofreading and talking through a couple of spots when I got stuck in the plot, as well as being an all around awesome cheerleader. Beta readers are a side benefit to writing in fandom that is not to be underestimated.
Also not to be underestimated? Feedback. There are few places an author can go to be guaranteed a warm response to their work. All writers want to see their work read by someone. We often start out telling the stories for ourselves, but they really feel like living, breathing things when they have someone read them. Beyond the ego boost, though, is the valuable skills a writer can develop in fandom.
Original work is important, but I have a habit now of telling new writers to think about starting their journey in fan fiction. Working in a world you are familiar with means you already love the characters and the setting and you won’t get caught up in world building. This frees the author to focus on learning plot and structure. It also gives one the freedom to play with genre and form, from the ever popular drabbles and vignettes, to long form works that rival the source material for breadth and length.
While all those factors may give you a reason to start writing fan fiction, there is one more aspect to it that makes it a worth-while endeavor, even when writing time is limited: it’s just plain fun. Getting to write your favorite characters, tell wild, silly, sad stories, and then sharing them with the friends you make in that community is a priceless experience.
Hopefully I don’t have to sell you all on the importance of fan fiction as a force in pop culture and an awesome place for new writers to cut their teeth. There are a plethora of articles on the subject, with the ability to back their claims up with centuries of examples.
All of that valuable experience is important to a new writer, but you may be wondering what all this has to do with LSQ. Quite frankly, if fan fiction did not exist, if I hadn’t participated and found so many wonderful women writers through that community experience, LSQ would not exist.
I’m not honestly sure how much people know about what that community is really like. It changes over the years, ‘ship wars come and go, but there seem to be a couple of consistent aspects that I find interesting and inspiring. For example, the vast majority of both writers and readers are women. These women come from all walks of life, all ages, all levels of experience. Some of them wish to become published authors, some already are published, and others just want to enjoy building onto and retelling the stories they love and being part of a community.
Fan fiction is all about love. Yes, sometimes it’s about the expression of love that maybe you don’t want your boss to catch you reading. But it’s also about love of story and characters and their creators. That love of storytelling shines through with every lovingly crafted word.
It was in learning about these women and their wonderful, imaginative storytelling that I was inspired to start LSQ. I wasn’t seeing the magic, the love, the sheer joy I saw in fan fiction out in the world. Everyone was always talking about original fiction as if it was a burden they had to bear, that telling stories was akin to opening a vein and it was horrible and don’t do it. And yes, it can be challenging to tell difficult, painful stories, but underneath it all, there should be a thread of joy. My own experiences showed me there was another way, another kind of voice out there, that wasn’t getting enough attention.
It was in seeking that thread of joy that I started the magazine you now hold in your hands. It was never something I ever foresaw myself doing and yet seven years later, here I am and here you are and here is another issue filled with stories that carry that intention forward. This volume is filled with tales that were a joy and a challenge for their authors to write.
Like so many things in our lives, one turn leads to another and another and before you know it, you can no longer extract a thing from its origin. Change just one aspect, just one choice, and the road leads in a very different direction.
After many unexpected twists and unplanned turns, for Luna Station Quarterly, that origin sits proudly in fandom.
Now go write something that brings you joy.