Day 1: What is Fan Fiction?

“Fanfiction is what literature might look like if it were reinvented from scratch after a nuclear apocalypse by a band of brilliant pop-culture junkies trapped in a sealed bunker. They don’t do it for money. That’s not what it’s about. The writers write it and put it up  online just for the satisfaction. They’re fans, but they’re not silent, couchbound consumers of media. The culture talks to them, and they talk back to the culture in its own language.”
—Lev Grossman, TIME, July 18, 2011

I thought I would kick this lightning series off with the basics–we’ll learn about these things together!

According to urban dictionary (the only place that seems like it would know what’s going on when it comes to fan fiction), defines the term as follows:

Fanfiction is when someone takes either the story or characters (or both) of a certain piece of work, whether it be a novel, tv show, movie, etc, and create their own story based on it. Sometimes people will take characters from one movie and put them in another, which is called a cross-over

Fan fiction can also be written as:

Fan fiction

Fan-fiction

Fanfiction

…or, frankly, however you want. It doesn’t appear that anyone cares that much.

From the different articles I’ve read about fanfictions and the history of fanfiction, there doesn’t seem to be a specific work or works that historians/literature geeks can pinpoint as the start of fanfiction, however it has been around since the start of the written word. Stories being built off of other stories, characters modeled off of already established heroes and villains; I guess you could argue (though not very well because it would probably make people mad) that all literature today is, in essence, a fanfiction of previous pieces of written word.

But maybe that’s a stretch.

Toon in tomorrow to discover the typical formation of most modern fanfictions (with a few examples…?) Who knows?! We just gettin’ wild up in here. (Um…yeah…)

Mel

~~~~~

In the Direction of Downton

Part One: The Getting There Part

It was a most egregious mistake that landed her on the outskirts of the London suburbs. One does not confuse the tram and the trolley; it is simply not done. Sliding her finger down the list of contact numbers in her phone, Kara sighed loudly, uncomfortably aware of the odd looks she was receiving from the multitude of passers-by that seemed to be able to tell—as if she smelled of it—that she was an American.

“What, did I suddenly sprout a second head?” she snapped at an elderly woman waddling past her on the right. The blue hue of her hair contrasted drastically with her bright, ruby lipstick—a remnant of her youth in the 30’s no doubt—and the woman smacked her lips in distaste.

“Yes, yes, I know,” Kara grumbled at her back, “kids these days.”

The GPS said three miles to her destination, but there was no way that was right. The train station had been in the dead center of London, nowhere near its outskirts. She gritted her teeth, irritated and slightly panicked. “Seri,” she spoke into the phone, “how do I get back to downtown London?”

I’m sorry,” the small machine responded, “Did you say: ‘how do I get to Downton’?

“Yes, you stupid piece of crap, that’s what I said.”

I’m sorry, I do not understand. Try asking me again.

Kara’s face twisted into a scowl as she exited out of the application. “I hate you.”

“You know, you shouldn’t yell at technology,” a slightly accented voice said from behind her, “next thing you know, you’ll be talking to things that don’t exist. Conversations with inanimate objects is the first sign of lunacy.”

She turned to see a short blonde kid sitting on a bus bench a few feet away. He had headphones shoved into his ears that she highly suspected weren’t plugged into anything—a trick she often used when trying to shut out the idiots of the world—and they were everywhere these days. He had silvery-blue eyes that stared hauntingly at her, as if they could see straight through her, and his hands were shoved into the pockets of a dull, tan leather jacket.

“What, you have never seen a blind person before?”

Blind? She tried not to let her mouth drop open. “I—um…”

“No worries,” he chuckled to himself. “I just guessed you might have been staring. I must have been right. It happens a lot.” He stuck out a hand toward her, though it was turned slightly in the wrong direction.

“Close enough,” she said, hesitantly reaching out to give it a shake. “I’m Kara.”

“Hello, Kara. I’m Claude.”

“Nice to meet you,” she glanced down at her phone, 3:23, there was no way she was going to make it back into the city on time to catch her 3:30 train.

“By the sound of your infinitely irritated sighing, can I guess that you were supposed to be somewhere long ago? I’m guessing, somewhere in the downtown London area?”

“Oh, however did you guess that?” she asked dryly.

“You just said it.” His tone was straightforward, mater-of-fact, and she nearly choked as a laugh bubbled up in her throat. It was half out of desperation, she was sure, the last exam of her study abroad career was the next morning, followed shortly by an endless plane ride home—a test she was sure to fail if she didn’t get back in time to look over the information at least once. British Literature wasn’t the most challenging subject in the world (frankly, she found her statistics class back in the States to be much more painful), but still, Beowulf wasn’t going to decipher itself.

“This bus should take you in the direction you need to go,” Clause continued, completely ignorant of the torrent of thoughts whipping through her mind. “Unless you wanted to do something a bit more interesting before you go.”

Kara’s eyes narrowed. “Is that some kind of weird British pick-up line?”

He smiled, the motion forming crinkles near his eyes that made the pale blue look more…alive. “Not exactly. I’m studying at Uni in Bristol; the plan was to visit Hampshire for the weekend but, as you can see, I may have found my way a bit off course.”

In truth, Kara had no idea where Bristol or Hampshire were located (or why, for that matter, this random kid was travelling between them), but she’d rather talk with someone than stand awkwardly to the side alone, so she made a noise of understanding, and he continued on.

“It’s only an hour or so more to Hampshire, you could come with me if you’d like.”

“No, that’s alright,” she said quickly. “No offense, but I don’t make it a habit to travel around with strangers. Besides, I really have to get back to the college before I’m declared MIA by the university.”

“College—that’s the American word for it, is it?”

That’s what you got out of that? But what she said out loud was: “Yeah.”

“College,” he rolled the word around on his tongue like it tasted strange—like he could taste it at all. “Well, College, would you like to go to Hampshire?”

She really didn’t. As far as she was considered, there was nothing in Hampshire that would interest her at all. In fact, she thought she ought to ask—“What are you travelling to Hampshire for, exactly?”

“There’s a manner home there that has gained a lot of popularity recently. You ever heard of that show, Downton Abbey?”

“Yeah, the reality show on BBC?” She recognized it from the constant loop of reruns that plaid in her university’s sitting room. A modern family with over four thousand acres of land and an entire staff of people they still called servants. She couldn’t imagine working for them—being someone’s servant. Sure, when they interviewed the people, they seemed happy enough, but who really knew? “Is that where it’s filmed, or something?”

Claude nodded. “Yeah, it’s where the family lives. They’re having a memorial service today for the daughter that died—Sybil. It’s been a year or two now, and people are setting up these really pretty displays with pictures and teddy bears and stuff outside of the main gate.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a piece of crumpled paper, smoothing it out over his knee, a small blush creeping over his cheeks.

“What is that?” Kara asked, leaning forward slightly and then a little bit more, before realizing he wouldn’t have been able to see her staring anyway. Did it make her a bad person, you know, because he was blind and all? Well, he wouldn’t have brought it out if he didn’t want her to see it.

In the end it didn’t matter. Small, scattered bumps covered the page, but she couldn’t make out what they were or what they meant. “What is it?” she asked again, leaning back and crossing her arms, staring at the street in front of them that sat there damp and completely absent of a bus.

“It’s a poem,” he said shyly. “I wrote it for the Lady. I thought it would be nice to include it among the other gifts. It might appear to be just like the rest of them, but I doubt anyone has ever written a poem for her in brail before. Do you think she’ll like it?”

Kara resisted the urge to correct the boy that the girl in question was, by his own account, dead as a doornail. (The usage of a Charles Dickens quotation settled her conscience for not studying for her British Literature exam.) “It certainly is unique,” she said with forced interest. She really needed to get back.

“You really should come,” he said suddenly, grabbing her wrist with a tighter grip than she expected. “And, frankly, I’d rather not go alone.”

She was surprised by his sudden honesty, attempting to pry his fingers away from her skin where they were leaving bright white impressions in her skin, the area around his thin, pale hands growing beat red from the trapped blood.

“After all,” he continued, seemingly unaware of her discomfort, “how is a blind guy supposed to break into Downton Abbey?”

“Break in?! You? To Downton Abbey?”

He nodded. “Yup, and I need your help to do it.”

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