Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Holy Fan Fiction

Okay, I'm always happy to learn new things, especially about the art of storytelling.  And the other day I found out about the religious roots of fan fiction: the Jewish concept of Midrash.  For those, like me, that have never heard the term before, apparently the Jewish religion has a long tradition of filling in the missing parts of the story. 

For example, take Lilith.  She doesn't appear by name in the Bible.  In fact, she came about because the Jews notice there were two very different creation stories in the Bible, and the stories of First Woman were incompatible. 

In the first Creation story, Man and Woman are created together as the final act of creation.  In the second story, The Garden of Eden is created first, then Man.  Then Man was lonely so all the animals are created as possible companions, but none work.  So a rib is taken from Man and used to create Woman. 

Clearly, these two Women are different, one created with Man, the other created from him.  So how to explain this?  The result, the story of Lilith, Man's first wife. 

There are many examples of this throughout antiquity.  But even in modern times we have similar stories, like The Red Tent, the story of Dinah, daughter of Jacob, a woman that was otherwise only really known by name.  And by her rape. 

But what I really found interesting was the idea of recreating stories, filling in the missing pieces, as an act of sacred reverence.  I've never really written fan fiction myself.  Not exactly.

Of course I have had plenty of conversations with friends and family about stories we loved, or hated, and how things could or should have gone differently.  Or tried to figure out the holes in the story, especially the backstory.  Like Harry and the other had gone past the room with the Time Turners, so when Sirius died by tripping through a curtain, why didn't someone just grab one and skip backward to push him the other way? 

I've also played in more than a few RPGs set in famous fictional worlds, from the Marvel Universe to Melnibon√©. 

But I never really thought seriously about writing my own fan fiction.  I guess I looked down on fan fiction, like it's for people that lack the creativity to do something original.  Besides, why put in all that time and effort writing something I could never publish?  Or at least never get paid for. 

So there I was, sitting, listening to this talk about midrash and had a bit of an epiphany.  I was a literary snob.  Okay, not a big epiphany, for those that know me.  But for me, it was fascinating. 

It also made me think about the relationship between fiction and fan fiction.  I know many writers that hate fan fiction, see it as people stealing their work, their characters.  Some are famous for their opposition to fan fiction, especially erotic fan fiction.

But I think I have to side with those who see fan fiction for what it is, a sign of a great fictional world.  If the writer creates characters and a world so vivid that the readers want to play around in it themselves, I think it means the writer has touched them at a very deep level.  I think a writer that generates that kind of following should be happy about it.

So I'm officially announcing, once my books get published and become world famous, I'm willing to let people write fan fic all they want, as long as they don't try selling it.  Well, maybe we can work out terms if they want to publish it.  After all, there are plenty of anthologies out there now of writers, some quite famous, writing in the fictional worlds of other famous writers (like Lovecraft or LeGuin).  

Seriously, maybe when I get some free writing time, I might see what I can come up with.  Not sure what universe would interest me enough to write something for it.  But at least if I come up with the story, this time I might actually try writing it.  After all, it would just make me part of an ancient, sacred tradition.