Month: February 2015

In Defense of Fanfiction (or, The Nerdiest Thing I Have Ever Written)

There is this Very Popular Book Series that is being turned into what will most likely be an Equally Popular Movie Series. The first of these movies came out yesterday.  I don’t care about these books at all. The little bits that I read I didn’t like very much because I don’t think they were written particularly well.

There is a lot of valid criticism to be made about the Very Popular Book Series. All of it has all been said with varying degrees of eloquence. I understand and agree with most. The hate over the fact that this series started out as “Bad Twilight Fanfiction” is what gets my nerd hackles riled up.

As Carl Sagan would tell you, every story begins at the beginning of the universe. Back at the beginning of when stories were being told, back before we wrote or chiseled or painted, stories belonged to everyone. I mean that once a story was told it would be retold in different ways by everyone who heard it, of course. But I also mean that anyone could come up with and tell their own story. You didn’t have to be a good storyteller. You didn’t have to be clever, or know the right people, or have enough money to become well educated.  You just had to open your mouth.  Whether or not anyone heard you is a different story.

It might have been harder to get your fanfiction read before the internet, when you had to know about fan zines and how to get copies of them. Now all you need is an internet connection, which you can get at the public library. Thirteen year olds write fanfiction, as do adults. A large number of fanfiction writers are women, but there are also men out there. Yes, a lot of it is bad. Yes, a lot of it is as gross as you would expect. But the same can be said for any other type of storytelling. There are plenty of renowned  authors out there who just don’t speak to me. (Some of the students I am tutoring are reading Camus in their AP English class and are incredibly amused by my
response whenever he is brought up.)

But there is a lot of well written, blow-your-socks-off fanfiction out there, even if we call published riffs on someone  else’s work as “homage” and not fanfiction. May I suggest Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality? (YMMV on this one- personally it is too “Textbooky” for me, but lots  of non-fanfiction readers like this one.) There have also been lovely character pieces on Luna Lovegood that left me more satisfied than Rowling’s “let’s give the weird outlier character the same happy ending as everyone else: she grows up, gets over some of her crazier theories and gets married to some dude, idk.” (memo to self: Write “Luna Lovegood: Squatch Hunter.”)

The value we sometimes place on other people’s favored type of storytelling often bothers me. We all can be too exclusionary- I, too, can’t help but scrunch my nose up when ever my mom watches “Real Housewives.” It happens when serious literary types get into “graphic novels” but still stick their  nose up at sweaty nerds reading their non-Watchmen superhero “comic books.”

It is why Anton Ego was so deplorable when he dismissed Gusteau’s cookbook based on it’s title, Anyone Can Cook.

Sure, dismiss a book for having started off as bad fanfiction, but don’t dismiss it just because it started off as fanfiction.

 

TLDR;

people are stuck up, yo

if anyone takes “Luna Lovegood: Squatch Hunter” away from me, I will hunt you down Liam Neeson Style.

 

 

My favorite comics (as a kid and a teen)

My friend Angela wrote about her childhood favorite graphic novels on her blog and it reminded me about the kind of stuff I liked to read when I was little. I’m titling this post “My favorite comics” instead of  “my favorite graphic novels” because: a) I like the term “graphic novel” about as much as I like the term “magical realism” (which is another post for another time.)  and b) the majority of these are going to be comic strips from the Sunday paper.

I took an art class in seventh grade. We spent all of one day on cartooning and I absolutely loved it. I loved the big white board cartoonists worked on, I liked how expressive cartoons could be with very few lines, I loved how well they lend themselves to comedy.  Newspaper Cartoonist became number one with a bullet on my “What I want to be when I grow up” lists, far above astronomer, artist and even writer. I had serious Calvin and Hobbes vs. Peanuts discussions.

Here is what little me looked forward to reading the most.

Cathy

Cathy was genuinely my favorite comic for a while. When reading Cathy I thought “So this is what being an adult woman will be like.” Bikini angst. Shoulder pads. unfulfilling jobs. milquetoast boyfriends. hobbies: shoes, chocolate, nothing else. You lied to me, Cathy. I am so glad you lied to me.

Those apple-slice eyes are the bomb, though.

The Far Side

This comic has everything: an idiosyncratic art style, surrealism, dark humor, and cows.
farside

 

 Bone

On the rare occasions my brother and I could get our mom to buy us copies of Nickelodeon magazine, I would flip straight to the back in order to read Jeff Smith’s Bone. Why did I like it? It is weird.  There are these weird  things with the last name Bone, and a girl, and her grandmother, and they go on adventure, and there are these cows. Bone combines my love of oddball protagonists, humor, and sprawling fantasy epics.

 

Ghost World

I read this on several occasions, huddled up in the back of the library (where they kept the most shameful of books- comics and pulp science fiction novels.) I didn’t know what to think of this then. This book was nothing like my beloved newspaper strips. It makes the list because the narrative was so well done that I kept reading it even after I reached the conclusion that I should probably wait until I’m older to read it.

I still don’t know what to think of this one.

 

Great Lakes Avengers

It does say as a kid and a teen up there, so I guess I will pick a favorite from that strange time in high school when I actually read superhero comics.

I watched the old Adam West and Burt Ward Batman on TVLand with my dad. I grew up with Nipple Suit Batman. My brother and stepdad were reading all the dark, edgy comics like Watchmen and Frank Miller’s anything. My mom picked up Wonder Woman and anything by Gail Simone. I read along with them, but none of these grown ups in spandex taking themselves seriously spoke to me.

The Tick spoke to me. Justice League International spoke to me. The Great Lakes Whatevers spoke to me. It’s like Squirrel Girl opines: “comics are supposed to be fun.” 

Fun doesn’t mean childish. Fun doesn’t mean meaningless.  As much as I love Squirrel Girl,  teenage me related most to Big Bertha. As supermodel Ashley Crawford, all anyone cared about was her looks. As larger than a house, morbidly obese Big Bertha, citizens tell her “why couldn’t I have been saved by a hot superhero?” All she wants in either body  is for people to notice her for what she can do, not what she looks like. What teenage girl can’t relate?

(yes I know about The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. yes I am super excited to check it out. Between that and Lumberjanes I might have to start my first comic subscription.)