I must confess to being excited about some writing that I have had included in a forthcoming anthology. No Safewords 2 is a collection of short-story fan fiction inspired by the work of Laura Antoniou . For the uninitiated, Laura Antoniou is undoubtedly amongst the world’s most talented authors of erotic fiction. In her Marketplace series, Laura has created an engaging universe in which beautifully crafted characters explore the world of consensual BDSM (Bondage, discipline and Sadomasochism). While this sexual style may not be everyone’s cup of tea, I would highly recommend the six books currently available as they touch on deep themes about belonging, identity, vocation and of course the nature of passion.
Fan fiction can take a whole plethora of forms, but at its core is a desire to produce new writing or art inspired by an existing canon of work. While it is likely that Fan Fiction as a contemporary phenomenon began as a response to the Kirk/Spock relationship in Star Trek, you can find forms of it that are connected to pretty much any series that engenders significant levels of devotion. This issue of devotion feels important in that the content of a given series is felt to be important enough to inspire the new author to take their heroes’ story arc in a new direction.
Famously the Kirk/Spock relationship was central in birthing “Slash” fiction where our protagonists are imagined in a whole range of male-on-male erotic activity, but fan fiction can also take our beloved characters into a whole array of other possible situations. In keeping with its Ironic and Postmodern nature the series “Sherlock” has generated huge amounts of fan fiction (including some great Sherlock/Watson Slash) while being itself a form of Fan Fiction inspired by Arthur Conan Doyle’s original genius. Sherlock reimagines the Conan Doyle characters in 21st century London, but also accentuates aspects of their characters so as to contend with more contemporary concerns. One excellent example of this is the way that Benedict Cumberbatch’s depiction of Holmes has been viewed as iconic by people identifying as being on the Asexual spectrum. While Conan Doyle’s Holmes had decidedly asexual traits, the evolution of Holmes in the Sherlock series has made this more overt and positive depiction of even greater importance.
In my own experience of writing fan fiction (and I don’t find fiction the easiest thing to write), my own efforts were probably successful because of my love of the original Marketplace series and the degree to which I had soaked myself in the canon that Laura and others have created. Great art often inspires both obsession and inspiration. Perhaps due to our desire to connect to a modern (or postmodern) form of mythology, we look to the hyper-reality of the screen and print as a way of making sense of our lives. While the slightly musty myths of the past may feel harder to access, it maybe that the power of story still provides us with an evocative way of touching the deepest aspects of our personal and collective psychologies. This is certainly the case with the Star Wars films and most of us are well aware of the degree to which George Lucas was influenced by Joseph Campbell’s work in trying to understand common mythic themes.
Personally I think that fan fiction is awesome ☺. Yes it can be a decidedly mixed bag in terms of quality, but for me it reflects something brilliant about how we as humans respond to stories that touch us and use the power of these myths to empower our own journeys. The original author may well be horrified by the quality of our art or what we have imagined their characters getting up to, but for me it reflects the tendril-like nature of inspiration that threatens to break apart any attempt to erect walls around a holy canon of work.
In many ways the Gnostics were the original purveyors of fan fiction. While the orthodox elements of the early church were trying to ensure certainty about what Jesus and the apostles did and didn’t say, the Gnostics just kept being inspired. It could be argued that even the canonical Gospels of the New Testament (especially John) are perhaps some of the greatest pieces of fan fiction known to history. Whatever one makes of the historicity of Jesus Christ, the idea of his life and mission were hugely inspiring and generated an avalanche of literary responses.
For those with an interest in trying to prevent heresy and innovation, the Gnostic approach to hermeneutics was highly disconcerting. The God of the Old Testament was generally viewed as an inadequate megalomaniac and Jesus; well frankly he just wouldn’t shut up. While his earliest core sayings may have been brilliant, his inspiration kept igniting the imaginations of those not content with the answers of orthodoxy. While holding a position of profound respect for both Christ and his Apostles, the inspirational torrent of the Nag Hammadi library represents a form of innovation and adaptation that is in keeping with the best of fan fiction.
Those of us who love and produce fan fiction would rarely claim to have reached the levels of creative genius that are present in the primary texts that inspire us. For me fan fiction entails a process of playful investigation as to how these heroic figures of art can fuel my own development and creativity. Imitation can be the greatest form of flattery and also an expression of gratitude for how the great work of others make our lives more doable.