The Stories We (Re)Write Pt 2

Right, so back to where we left off: fanfiction and Torchwood. 

I want to say upfront that I blame this all on my best friend, soera. Since she’s an avid fanfic enthusiast as well as a student of English literature, she tends to send me interesting, well-written fanfiction to read. One of the earlier fandoms I got into — at least, to the extent that I began looking for stories myself — was Torchwood. And here’s where the problem begins. 

That interesting, well-written fanfiction gave me the erroneous idea that the plot lines of Torchwood were subtle, well-conceived, and humorous for the most part. Of course there would be dud episodes every now and then, but for the most part, right? I was also under the impression that the characters were (usually) intelligent, witty and charming. 

Except that now I’m watching certain episodes from the actual TV series. 

And it’s kind of crap. 

Actually, it’s pretty terrible. 

The acting is mostly off, and often melodramatic. My favorite might actually be Rhys. The CGI is beyond bad, but we can blame older technology for that. And the plots are… occasionally just plain ridiculous. A sex-crazed alien? A space whale? (There are probably worse episodes, but I’m starting from the beginning so there you go.)

Okay, you say, you’re just dumb now. What were you expecting? 

I suppose I both under- and over-estimated fanfiction. I underestimated it because I expected fanfiction be capable of being nothing much more than an extension of the original canon. If it could be more, then why weren’t the authors simply capable of writing their own works? And if it was simply an extension of the original piece, then it wouldn’t be allowed to be more than the canon. I mean, how much can you extrapolate, anyway? 

Answer: a lot. 

I’m impressed, really, I have to say it. Because it’s ultimately a challenge. You have the basic background, the structure of the canon, but the point is that it isn’t enough, or isn’t enough for you. The subtlety that’s lost to viewer ratings or publishers’ whims or, hell, bad editing — that’s something a good writer can manipulate. 

Someone once wrote that corporations have taken away our natural storytelling abilities, and that might be true, at least to the extent that extrapolating from stories you’ve heard, building up the mythology, creating legends that your clan tells, that kind of thing is mostly lost to us now. We tell stories for entertainment and profit, but maybe mostly profit. 

So yes, about 99% of fanfiction genuinely is awful. But some of it gives so much more dimensionality to the fabric of what we can feel but not really own — not in our heads, not if, say, the movie rights have been bought. 

This does not, however, mean that I am tempted to read Dan Brown fanfiction. 


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