[Metroactive Features]

[ Features Index | Silicon Valley | Metroactive Home | Archives ]

[whitespace] Work illustration

Fanfic of the Damned

By Analee Newitz

CHARLES LIKES to play a little game when he goes online to avoid working--it's called "Find the weirdest fanfic." When you're as jaded as Charles is, the game can get pretty hard. He's one of those hard-core fans who knows every Buffy plot arc weeks before I see it unfolding on television. Although Charles swears that he hates Star Trek: Enterprise, he still reads the episode synopses on message boards every week. That's how devoted he is. He even reads the plots of shows he despises just because they're there. If we ever catch a glimpse of an episode while flicking through the channels, he instantly recognizes it. "Oh yeah," he'll say, rolling his eyes. "It's that episode where they find out about the Vulcan terrorist plot." Yes, friends, things are that bad--you can actually avoid absorbing the beauty and transcendence of a television show by ... reading!

Hence the seductive lure of weird fanfic. As you may already know, fanfic is a genre in which fans of a show, book or movie write stories about the characters in it. Sometimes, it's great stuff, better than what David Gerrold could do for Star Trek. (Shut up! I like tribbles!) Often it's erotic. Kirk does Spock! Scully does Mulder! Xena does Gabrielle! Yoda does Obi Wan! But no matter how good or bad an individual piece of fanfic might be, it's always just a little bit cool because it shows that fans have enough imagination and talent to extend the fantasy worlds of their favorite shows.

Fanfic is also dangerously illegal. When the stuff was distributed the old-school way, in photocopied pamphlets at sci-fi conventions, it was harder for companies to crack down on it. Now that most fanfic is on the web, however, bored attorneys can do a Google search and come up with 16 potential lawsuits in 10 minutes.

The excellent website Chillingeffects.org has an entire section devoted to the legal issues that plague fannish writers. Copyright owners of a movie can interpret fanfic about its heroes as "derivative works," a big no-no in intellectual-property circles. On our copyright-obsessed planet, even characters on a show are trademarks. So are plotlines. Last year, a Star Trek fan site (www.bradley.edu/campusorg/psiphi/mov) was served with a cease-and-desist notice from Viacom's attorneys for posting a plot synopsis of the latest Star Trek movie. Even sweet Anne McCaffrey, author of the Dragonriders of Pern series, has sicced her lawyers on people who draw pictures of dragons "inspired" by McCaffery's work.

For fans who dare to think independent thoughts about the stories mass culture tells, the penalties are prohibitive. Fines for copyright infringement in fanfic cases have been as much as $100,000 when the offender is found to have "knowingly" used trademarked characters in his or her stories or images.

And yet despite its pseudo-black-market status, or maybe because of it, we quest for the weirdest fanfic in the galaxy. I found the Star Wars Chicks website (www.starwarschicks.com), complete with erotic stories from a group called the Sith Chicks. Who knew that Darth Maul could be an object of desire? For alien-lovers, there's also Alf porn fanfic (www.writings.com/fd/Alf1.txt.html); elsewhere you can find Alf erotic drawings complete with a distinctly Alf-like penis with little furry stripes to match his nose.

Just a few days ago, Charles found the Strangest Fanfic Known to Earthlings. Let us now praise Staked Blake (www.hermit.org/Blakes7/Fanzines/Judiths/Staked.html), a fanfic zine that, so far, no entertainment conglomerates have dared to call a derivative work. Who would want to admit their show could spawn such terrifying offspring? You don't want to believe it, but nevertheless it's true. Some demented fans have combined the characters from dark British sci-fi show Blake's 7 with the characters from Buffy.

Not surprisingly, most of the episodes involve time travel and Blake's leather-clad master of sarcasm, Avon. A typical plotline: "When the crew of [Blake's ship] Liberator encounter a temporal warp, history is not what they expected." Based on some of the other plotlines, I'm pretty sure Willow is going to get it on with Avon. It's not the kind of thing I'd ever have imagined in a zillion years, and yet now I can't get it out of my mind.

I get shivers every time I imagine a world without fanfic, a world whose creativity has been so stymied by copyrights that Willow would never meet Avon, and Kirk would never look dreamily into his lover Spock's eyes. What would I do without fanfic? Shit, I might start having to watch TV again.


Annalee Newitz (slowzone@techsploitation.com) is a surly media nerd currently addicted to Vernor Vinge and who has Andrew Dalke to thank for it.


Send a letter to the editor about this story .

[ Silicon Valley | Metroactive Home | Archives ]


From the June 6-12, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.




Foreclosures - Real Estate Investing
San Jose.com Real Estate