It's International Fanworks Day and by stars, I'm not missing it again. #whatfanworksmeantome
"What do fanworks mean to me?" I ask myself while posting the third chapter to my Hobbit/Elder Scrolls fanfic on FFN and ao3. "That's a loaded question," I tell myself.
Fanworks mean everything to me. They're what taught me to write and to draw, to be artistic, to know that imagination has a place even in the day to day lives of adults, and for a girl who was once shy child and later a lonely teen, that means everything to me.
I loved stories as a small child. Being read to was one of my absolute favorite things. The Chronicles of Narnia were read aloud to me more than once. At one point I could recite the entirety of Horton Hears the Who from memory. I lived in a small world, but I didn't mind it so much because I had so many fantastic stories and wonderful characters to occupy my mind and time with.
I don't know what sparked my initial urge to write. I remember a sunny day and a little hardback journal I'd gotten from my grandmother. I found a pencil and began writing about a mermaid, because I'd just watched The Little Mermaid and mermaids have always been my favorite mythical creatures. I believe I was eight or nine at the time. Around that time was when I first tried to read The Hobbit, which was an epic fail because MiniMe thought it was bland and was upset it didn't have any girls.
Fourteen year old me didn't understand nine year old me at all. Adult me does, though.
This was also about the time I first read Harry Potter. I'd seen Half Blood Prince so I started with Deathly Hallows. I still can't believe my parents let a ten year old read that, but after that, I read the rest of the series in order fairly quickly.
Let me put this together: here I was a few years later, eleven going on twelve and soon to be thirteen. I had dozens of stories in my head, but aside from games of make believe, they always ended on the last page of their respective book. I hadn't written much since the Mermaid Story, but I still liked to have a pencil in hand. Well, there came a day when I was still fairly new to the whole concept of the internet when I wanted to watch The Land Before Time. At the time, I didn't have them on DVD and the one I wanted to see wasn't one of the three VHS tapes I still watched religiously. So naturally, I went to the internet.
Oh the internet.
I typed "the land before time vii stone of cold fire", and got Wikipedia. Wow, okay. I typed it again, but with "watch" added to the end, and got YouTube clips. There followed after several variations, but somehow they led me to FanFiction.Net's The Land Before Time archive. I had no idea what fanfiction was, but I saw one (I recently found it again, too, bit for the life of me cannot remember the title) and I read it on my mom's laptop, hidden away in my room with a plastic bin as a table and a pillow as a chair.
...I had a table, but I'd gotten too tall to fit under it anymore. Moving on.
I read a lot of uncomfortable (not bad, just weird) fanfics in the Land Before Time archive. And then when I'd exhausted it (or thought I had; I didn't know all the M rated fics were hidden, thank God; for a long time I was confused by the discrepancy shown for the number of stories listed on the portal pages verses the one in the archive), so I did some more searching on the site and found Harry Potter. The first story I read there had Dobby being alive and going to live with Harry, Ginny, and the kids. It was happy and I was hooked.
And this is where fanworks came in.
I wrote my first fanfic, a Land Before Time piece taking place after the seventh film with Petrie, his uncle Pterano, and my very first fandom OC, Amber, who I wrote as Petrie's cousin. With the discovery of the Harry Potter archive, I began to write more. I read a story about Sirius having a daughter, so I had to write my own (Anna Black). I read a story about marriage laws and had a duh moment, putting Percy and Hermione together (For the Love of Two Bookworms). I read about time travel fics and Hermione and Sirius, or Hermione and Remiss, and Remus was my favorite, is still my favorite character, so I wrote my only completed novel: Elizabeth Carter, a cousin of Sirius' who falls in love with Remus. There were so many things wrong with it, but it was mine.
I also tried to write a few Star Wars and Penguins of Madagascar fics after this, but they weren't ever really serious, drawn out things. Just scripts, basically.
I never actually published any of these, though I did have a FFN account (different from the one I have now). My biggest piece (that I did post) was The Adventures of Violet and Kowalski.
"What! You're that person?" screams no one but me.
"Yes, me, I still can't believe it myself."
So at thirteen, I'd read The Hobbit again and liked it so much more than I did when I was eight. I then watched Lord of the Rings and fell headband over socks in love with Legolas. At the time, I was scribbling another fanfic, the aforementioned Adventures of Violet and Kowalski. In each chapter, they basically had a mini crossover. That was until I sent them to Middle-earth, wrote a Legomance in script format, and made Kowalski look stupid. My poor penguin...
Oh gosh, this is more embarrassing than I thought it would be.
I was the world's biggest Lord of the Rings fan, or so I thought, so when The Hobbit came out, I was hooked by my imaginary mermaid fin and drug down down down to Goblin Town. And I learned out flippant an adolescent girl's heart can be when I moved on from Legolas to Thorin Oakenshield with the drop of a hat (or the knocking on a door, as the case was). That was when I began what I once thought would be the greatest gift to fans everywhere:
The Tale of Valaina Divinesword.
(I'm writing another thing that talks about it and what I'd have liked to change.)
Oh. My. GOSH. Valaina was a self insert moreso than even Elizabeth Carter had been. She was perfect, a little short, mane-e-ak-ool, OP as crap, and...the daughter of Elrond.
Oh, I'm so sorry Second Favorite Character ™. I gave you a strange child OC.
Ahem, and she also married Thorin Oakenshield. (Wait, what? Don't ask, I was fourteen.)
But no matter how bad and lore breaking and forever incomplete The Tale of Valaina Divinesword is, it was nearly fifty chapters in length, some 60k words, over 150 pages, and a milestone. I knew I could write big. I wanted to write big. I'm going to write big!
(This is going long...I was always told I talked too much. Oh well, we might as well keep going!)
So, to move forward, we need to step back a moment. When I was twelve, we got an Xbox 360 and soon after Oblivion. I played the game so much, but most of the time I didn't know what I was doing, so got little to nothing actually done. And I died. A lot. But, it did help me to develop better characters than Elizabeth Carter and Valaina Divinesword. That's when I first created Averin Peredhil, my oldest still working OC. Well, I wrote a little fanfiction for Oblivion (read: Averin/Martin), and then I got Skyrim and joined deviantART.
It's weird to credit Skyrim with anything not money grabbing or glitchy, but the Skyrim fan community on dA helped me blossom in writing in ways I'd never known before. I participated in contests, mostly with The-Bards-College, and wrote Recollections, The Midnight Ordeal, and later after struggling with a learning curve concerning Writing ™ and Storytelling ™, I wrote about Artanis. My greatest failing, aside from Valaina and an early attempt to mesh Oblivion, Morrowind, and Skyrim all together in The Mortality of Moraine Carvain, is the unrealized potential in Infamy's Daughter, which is, I hate to say it, on indefinite hiatus. I will au it did help me to think longer, broader, and with more depth in the areas of world building and storytelling. After that, I wrote a lot of one shots and drabbles, things that have helped me with description and character building.
But I digress. Most of this has been about how fandoms have grown my own fanworks and a partial recantation of my journey as a writer. But that's only half of it. Fanfiction, good and bad, long and short, has been such a huge part of my life since before I was a teenager. It got my mind off of some dark times and hard times. It's helped me to laugh, to cry, to feel. Sometimes j think it's taught me more than I wanted to know about certain things, but I think that just adds to it. Our best memories have some shadow looming at the corner of the frame, or remind us of something else we'd rather not remember. There are very few fanfics I regret reading. There are plenty I didn't continue with, either because they didn't hook me or the writing was just too bad, but I don't regret them. They each represent a point in a journey made by other people, like me and probably like you but oh so very different in many wonderful and terrible, light and dark and grey ways.
Fanworks have, as a collective, been a near constant companion, a friend and a teacher, an inspiration for nearly half my life. Without the works of fans, made without pay for other fans, I wouldn't be me. Oh, I'd probably be a better student, but remember, Tolkien was a Professor and the creator of Middle-earth. Heck, his works are basically fanworks themselves, based on Norse sagas and Anglo-Saxon tales and ancient epics. But I say that to say that there's room for a little creativity, that of others and of yourself, in everyone's life.
I could probably go on and on about this, but I've been typing this for an hour and need to do laundry. But here, as a footnote, I want to add that fanart, though not my primary love, is still near and dear to my art. It was a fanartist who helped me learn to draw properly and it was fanart that I originally learned to draw. Fanart is beautiful and satisfying to make and to see.
And that's what fanworks mean to me.And I'm...not going to bother tagging everything in here because, like I said, laundry.