I was making up stories about my favorite book, television, and film characters long before I ever thought about writing them down. Writers have a tendency to fall in love with characters and stories, and many hone their skills by practicing on others’ characters before playing with their own.
There is a somewhat mean-spirited saying in the writing world about “playing in someone else’s sandbox.” Not all creators feel this way; some are flattered that other writers want to play along. (I, for one, am delighted when I see fanfic or fan art of my work.) But there has long been a stigma regarding fan fiction that I think is finally fading. This idea that fanfic authors have no original ideas, or are somehow incapable of being “real” writers (whatever counts as “real”… which is another topic altogether).
I didn’t know fan fiction was a thing until I was in college. I mean, I wrote stories based on my favorite show, etc., but I had no idea there was an entire community of people who did this. Keep in mind that the Internet wasn’t a whole big thing yet at the time, so my revelation came in the guise of a class regarding fan psychology, in which we read Henry Jenkins’ Textual Poachers. That text blew my mind. Not long after, I found fanzines and began submitting my work.
Not all of it, of course. The first piece of fanfic I can recall writing—like, literally writing down—was something called “Mac’s Night Out.” It was MacGyver and Murdoc getting drunk, I think? I probably still have a copy of it somewhere, but it never got published in a zine.
Also never published was my series The Bay Chronicles. That series is an utter disaster that only exists in a handful of printed copies since the disks that contained it can no longer be accessed (nor does anyone still use Microsoft Works). I will say that I’m retyping this series [on unlinked pages], if only to have it in electronic form. But I promise you, it’s not worth reading. It makes almost no sense at all, is a total mishmash of… Gah, everything I liked at the time plus some original stuff I was working on… It’s dreadful in a million ways, and even as I retype it, which of course requires me to re-read it, I see what a child I was at the time I wrote it and hate myself a bit.
That aside, I did have a moderately good run as a fanfic author back when zines were still a thing. I used to be invited to cons as a guest fanfic author, which was always flattering, and then also very funny because organizers would be so surprised at how young I was when I turned up. Sometimes I was too young to go into the “adult” rooms at the cons!
I’ve slowly been reposting those old zine stories on Archive of Our Own (AO3) under the name zmethos. (Short for “Zeistmeister Methos,” a nickname from my college days, which is, again, another story.) My best and longest work, though, came in the post-zine era: the Sherlock series known as A Game of Hearts, which consists of seven stories based on BBC’s Sherlock. They were all written after the first series and before the second, so reading them now is like reading an alternative timeline for the show. My other favorite fic that I’ve written is the Highlander story “Setting Love Free.”
I used to want to hide my fanfic. I used to think that, if I wanted to be taken seriously as an author or screenwriter, I couldn’t be associated with that stuff. But as I’ve mentioned, times seem to be changing. More and more people acknowledge fanfic writing as a valid way of starting out. I think I have more fans of my fics than I do of my original work anyway. I hope that won’t always be true, but it makes me happy to know people like something I’ve written, even if it’s fan fiction.
P.S. This one was mine. “The Bane” was actually my undergraduate screenwriting thesis, which I wrote based on the fic that had already been published in Texas Extra: Special Langlinais Edition. The comments on the Fanlore page came from my old author Web site. The story version is up at AO3 now.