Couple weeks ago, I was discussing the fanfic I used to write back in college with a friend. She asked me was I ever going to do anything with the first novel-length piece I’d ever written. I said:
I was only half kidding. The piece is a hot mess. It has almost everything bad you’d expect to see in a fanfic, with the exception of weird, awkwardly worded sex scenes (because it was a Doctor Who fic, and according to series canon at the time, the Doctor was asexual). It still had excessive adjectives, the female protagonist crushing stupidly on the hero, random pop culture quotes that only I could understand, and cameo appearances by characters from every nerdy fiction series set in New York City. Well, maybe not the Ninja Turtles, I don’t remember. Currently, it only exists as a photocopy of a dot-matrix print-out, and a match would certainly rid the world of its dreadfulness.
But it’s not bad because it’s fan fiction.
It’s bad because I’d never written anything that long before. I was learning. Everyone starts out learning. Even Tolkien had to start. Sure, he wrote The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, which are genius, but he wrote a lot of other things beforehand. After his death, his heirs published a lot of his drafts. Some of them made it into The Silmarillion, which reads like an elf-infused remake of the King James Bible. Others were collected into books of “lost tales,” some of which tales might have been better left lost. My first point is, no one starts out writing an epic.
My second point is, almost everyone starts out writing fanfic. Some people are even best-known for fanfic. Shakespeare rarely used an original plot when he could re-tell someone else’s. I could make a pretty good case for Vergil’s Aeneid being Illiad/Oddysey fanfic. I’ve read someone describe Milton’s Paradise Lost as a Genesis fanfic. C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series? It’s a straight-up Jesus-AU-Fursonna-fic *. (I’ll pause for a moment while y’all reach for the brain bleach.)
Now that I work in a public library, I am flat staggered to see how many published books out there are derived from earlier works. I think the top two works for inspiring novels would be the Sherlock Holmes mysteries and Pride and Prejudice. And then we get into the whole area of tie-in novels based on TV and film series. That’s fanfic that went pro—presumably because someone was writing fanfic long enough, and working diligently enough on improving their craft, that what they were putting out no longer sucked dead bear fat through a crazy straw.
Which brings me back around to the title of this piece: Wookiepedia. It’s a real thing, a Star Wars wiki website. I wrote Doctor Who fanfic for so long that I was good enough to be included in a juried in-print fanzine. The fact that I did that allowed the editor of the Star Wars Adventure Journal to hire me to write short stories for pay, and that’s why if you go to the Wookiepedia site and type in my old name, Angela Phillips, you’ll find a mention of me and summaries of my work. Oh, and if you feel like going to fanfiction.net and search for Angela P. Wade, you might even find some of my Doctor Who stories.
Just not that first one.
*For those of you who don’t spend your internet time reading the Tumblr posts of teenaged girls the way I do, “AU”= “alternate universe” and “Fursonna” = “Furry Personna.” So the Narnia books are an alternate universe where Jesus is a furry. If you read The Magician’s Nephew, it’s pretty much spelled out in canon