you know what I did last summer
Writing, for me, is kinda like a bodily function. It just happens whether I want it to or not. It’s automatic, it’s systematic. It’s hydromatic. And if I don’t do it regularly it builds up and comes out all on its own till I find myself standing at a sink with my arms elbow deep in dishwater and my mind raging full of people who live in there all the time for some reason, uninvited.
This summer I decided to do something I’ve never done before. I didn’t want to do it, but I almost had to. Because if I didn’t get it out of me, these tiny imaginary terrorists would have taken over my brain by force and demanded that I fly them all to Cuba. So I gave into temptation and did this thing that I swore that I would never, ever do.
I wrote a fan fiction.
Fan fictions are something that I, as a Serious Writer, have long disdained. I have adapted works before, twice to be exact, into television series that were never read by anyone other than myself, but those were not fan fictions, oh no, they were adaptations. They were Serious Writing. Fan fictions are for weirdo freakazoids who think fictional characters are real and that they want to have sex with unemployed acne-ridden loserballs who live in their parents’ attic. And I do NOT live in my parents’ attic. I would have never stooped so low as to write a fan fiction, no, not I, not ever. And especially not a SUPERNATURAL fan fiction, which is the fan fiction that I just so happened to write. That’s the worst fan fiction there is because everyone and their duck writes them. They’re by far and away the most common fan fiction and while I have never actually perused a fan fiction personally I have an inkling that like 99.8% of all Supernatural fan fictions are unreadably bad.
But here’s the thing. I wanted to know how it ended. I really, truly did. I watched that damn show for 10 years before I gave it up as having irredeemably jumped the shark (it wasn’t that they turned Dean into a demon that did it, I thought that was a great plot twist, it was that they turned him back again inside of 3 episodes and it ended up with him and Sam sitting back in the Impala again bemoaning their angst and I thought “My God, I just can’t DO this any more”) and I really wanted to know what happened. I heard that the show was ending this year, the 13th season, and I thought perhaps I should try to play catch up, watch the last two seasons real quick and see how it came out but when I sat down to try I realized that unless the writers managed to somehow pulled a miracle out of their butts, I was gonna be super disappointed.
This travesty has already happened to me twice. Lost and Veronica Mars. I HATED the end of both of those – thinking about the end of Lost causes me actual physical pain and the Veronica Mars movie is on a short list of the worst pieces of crap I’ve ever laid my eyes on. Seriously, in the middle of the Veronica Mars movie, Dax Shepherd, Veronica Mars’ real life husband, comes up to her in a bar and does a dance that lasts like 7 entire minutes and I was screaming “you’re breaking my 4th wall for this???” the whole entire time. It was terrible and what made it worse was that I could see so very easily how they could have fixed it with only a ruthless Daxectomy and the barest minimum of changes (alls they had to do was make Veronica’s dad the one falsely accused of murder and Logan a crooked Neptune City police detective and it all would have fallen into place) and it broke my heart as a true fan of the show. Also, if you know anyone affiliated with that show could you please inform them I’d like my $6 Amazon rental fee back?
I just didn’t want to be let down again. Not when it comes to Supernatural. Supernatural has been a part of my life for so long that it’s practically a member of the family, like an old dog that drools constantly and smells terrible and pees on the floor sometimes but you just can’t imagine your life without it. We actually set a special place for Supernatural at the dinner table on Thanksgiving and give it an extra large serving of pie. 10 whole years – that’s like a fifth of my life practically watching this ridiculous show and I have some of the best memories watching it with my then-teenage-now-adult sons and having very serious discussions afterwards, mostly about how much we hated Charlie. I just couldn’t give it up without a fight to watch some bullshit ending that would only let me down. So I decided what the hell, I’ll write my own, at least I’ll be happy with it. And I did. And I was. So there.
All this got me to thinking about the nature of fan fictions. Maybe I’ve misjudged them. I mean, as a creator you send your work out there into the ether and the fans, if you’re lucky enough to have any I wouldn’t know, receive it and maybe they like it. Maybe they even like it better than YOU. Maybe you’re just some hack writer who is so fricking happy to have a job that you jumped at the chance to write for a big name show like Supernatural but your real passion is that Dawson’s Creek reunion movie you’ve been working on. Or maybe you’re super excited about your Octocobra TV show instead. Whatever, maybe you’re just not that into Supernatural any more, or maybe you never even were, I mean it pays the bills and buys your kombucha and everything but you don’t LOVE it love it, not the way some of those freaky fans do, amirite?
It seems plausible, if not likely, that I, as a person who has watched the show since the beginning, who has watched it start to finish (well, up to the start of Season 10 anyway) at least twice with several dozen extraneous reruns to boot – may actually have just as good a feel for, and significantly more love than, the people who are paid money to pull plots out of their butts. I very well may know the universe better and have a much better understanding of the canon and the continuity. And maybe the same is true for at least some other people out there writing fan fiction. Maybe they just had an awesome idea for a Supernatural tale and just had to get it down on paper, and maybe because they’re devoted fans, Supernatural belongs to them just as much as it does to anyone, maybe even more than it belongs to the writers of the show at this point.
Creators seem to treat fans almost like an afterthought sometimes. I mean, I know they have a lot of things to balance when producing a show – budget, petulant actors, scheduling, run times, ad breaks, product placement, meddling from Hollywood muckety-mucks, but fans are almost an annoyance. True fans are a joke. They’re there to be exploited, to be placated and pandered to in the quickest and easiest way possible, usually the most lame way imaginable – fan service. Tossing a bone to the most extreme, most vocal group of fans, often without even bothering to wrap it into a greater plot or the already existing characterizations of the show. You want Charlie? This is how you get Charlie. Trying to pretend like you’re doing what the fans want when you’re really just trying to buy some of them off without shelling out even the least little bit of creative effort.
Everyone was pissed, and rightfully so, when George Lucas went back and retroactively changed Star Wars so Greedo shot first. I mean seriously WTH was that? Han shooting first was how it WAS. Han shooting first was in character, it was totally what “Han Solo” the character would done in that situation. The story belonged to us at that point. No backsies, dude. Lucas thinks he can tinker with this thing that is ours now? Eff u, man, eff u. That’s the way I feel about the whole last little bit of Supernatural before I quit watching. The writers were messing with the natural order of this thing that I love and it was infuriating. I DON’T WANT TO KNOW CROWLEY’S BACKSTORY. He’s CROWLEY, let him be Crowley!!! And the most egregious example of course, was having Sam and Dean, Dean especially, acting starry-eyed and gaga over Charlie. Dean NEVER ACTS like that. Dean didn’t act like that over his ex-girlfriend Lisa, for cripes’ sake. He didn’t act that way over dearly departed Jo, who he had years of history with and who really was like a kid sister to him. Charlie was a stranger, why would he have ever acted so soft and fuzzy towards her? It was totally out of character. Charlie Bradbury was my “Han shot first” moment.
I seriously thought at some point Charlie was going to be revealed as having cast a Mary Sue spell over our heroes and eventually she’d be vanquished like the soul sucking demon she so obviously is. But apparently, some fans liked Charlie. (wut.) So the writers kept going with her because they obviously don’t love, or even understand Supernatural. They were like “I think this show is about two dudes who sit in a car and have angst, or something” and then as a follow up “some people think this show needs more females, and gay stuff, so how about a lesbian. Two-fer!” and then they high fived each other and knocked off early that day. SPN peeps, if you think they gave you Charlie because they love u and value u so much, think again. Charlie was the result of some half-assed polling that they did that told them your loyalty would be very cheaply purchased. The logic that led to throwing the fans Charlie as some sort of rabid fan chew toy while completely giving up even the barest pretense of any effort at maintaining consistent character development for Dean in particular ruined the show.
Some people may have liked Charlie (and those people are lunatics) but Charlie was not what they really wanted and certainly not what they needed. They needed a great show with a great plot and characters that were believable and grew over time. And they had that! They had that if they wouldn’t have pissed it away on second-rate writing done by people who were obviously phoning it in with all the passion of a 17 year old wiping tables at Burger King and whose bosses were listening too hard to the incessant cries of the Internet. Cacaw! Cacaw! Lookit, I would have been totally fine with Recurring Charlie the Lesbian Computer Programmer if it made sense to the plot and she hadn’t been a total Mary Sue and Dean and Sam had acted, you know, like Dean and Sam act normally, in the episodes she was in. But they didn’t and she WAS a Mary Sue and that was unforgivable.
Shows are best when they stay true to themselves but still surprise us, when they do things that we didn’t even expect but when they happen you realize wow, they completely make sense in the universe. Not when they pander to the worst kind of fan’s momentary whim and betray their own fundamental nature to do that pandering. When you love a show, really love it, getting exactly what you think that you want is bad, mmkay? It’s boring and predictable and when it happens in a way that is contrary to natural order of things in our beloved universe, breaking all the rules of the show’s inherent magic, actively undermining the characters that you purport to like, just so you can get a little rush because you think you got a box to tick off in your game of Marginalized Character Bingo…honestly, I just cannot see any appeal in that whatsoever.
So all things considered I have come to the conclusion that if anything, Supernatural belongs MORE to me than the idiots writing it at present. Why shouldn’t I try my hand at it? Surely I couldn’t do any worse than a lesbian flirtation involving Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz (why must you hurt me by making me discuss this?). If I can fix the stuff I hate, just for myself, and be happy with the end result, why should I hesitate to do so in the privacy of my own home simply because I’m afraid that people will think I’m weird?
Muppet News Flash – writing IS weird. It is an entirely bizarre pursuit done by very strange people like me and my brethren and sistren and in the final analysis, whether one is writing characters off the TV or that one made up inside one’s own mind, it’s really pretty much equally weird either way. So who am I, Serious-Yet-Unpublished-Writer, who makes up people in my abby-normal brain all day long anyways, to sit in judgement of someone who prefers to indulge that proclivity using already existing characters?
No one, that’s who. I have no pride here. I set my pride aside, checked my dignity at the door 37 years ago when I first put pen to paper to write some stupid fantasy story that I don’t even remember any more but it was a Lisa Frank wet dream involving rainbows and unrepentantly bad witches and herds of horses led by unicorns and lots of amazing gowns and dogs that could talk and everything was lavender; even the main character’s name was Lavender. (I actually remember it all with crystal clarity to be honest).
And beyond all that, beyond concerns of muh dignity, it’s true that the show has its problems. Every show does. Supernatural is an imperfect show hamstrung by being on the CW among many other factors. There are elements of Supernatural that people dislike rightfully, and elements that people dislike wrongfully, and if you write a fan fiction you can have the power to fix those things – for yourself – without inflicting your solutions upon other innocent people. Like, just to choose a totally random example here, if you happen to look at Supernatural and think “you know, what this show desperately needs is a lesbian Mary Sue that Sam and Dean fawn over incessantly and inexplicably” you can totally do that and you can enjoy that all on your own without people like me having to suffer through those episodes.
So I guess I’m coming out as a fan fictioner. I fan fictioned. Fan fictioning is a thing that I have done and honestly – I kind of enjoyed it. I’m not saying I’ll do it again, but you know, get a couple drinks into me and next thing you know we’ll be finding out what happens when Moya and Talyn starburst into the Twelve Colonies right when the Cylons are attacking and there’s gonna be two Crichtons and maybe a talking dog and it’s gonna be lit.