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Whedonesque - a community weblog about Joss Whedon
"I'm an unemployed librarian with a tendency to get knocked on the head."
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January 13 2006

The Siren Song of Fandom. In the post Buffy era, here's five reasons to help you decide if you want to be part of a TV show's fandom.

...That actually almost scares me away from ever becoming part of another TV fandom. I mean, damn, I love getting into good serial storytelling as much as the next fella, but I certainly don't go crazy like that woman.

That said, it was a good, fun article with lots of nice mentions of Buffy. In fact, you know, I think that the Jossverse series are the only ones I've ever been inclined to join in an online community of.
With the notable exception of Roswell, Dawson's Creek, and The OC - I love that woman's taste!
UnpluggedCrazy: Hopefully she was exaggerating for comic effect. It wouldn't be much of an article if she said that she always seems to have a favourite show and spends some time each week checking out information online as well as occasionally reading fanfic.
Well, for some people fandom is, you know, their lives. Which is fine, but not how I'd choose to spend mine. Don't get me wrong - I'm part of the fandom, I'll watch the shows, I'll discuss them to death (and apparently run every website related to them ever)... but not so much with the worrying about finding EW cast covers from 6 months ago. Oh, and fandom wars - my gosh. I can't go on indiviual character websites as I generally find myself wanting to break things.
Fanfic is something I just don't understand the appeal of. But, heck, I don't even like non-canon stuff that's authorized by the franchise's creators (novels, comics, etc.).
I enjoy fan fic, to an extent...I wrote a piece entitled "Dead Leaves" about, know, our dearly departed leaf on the wind. Judging from the comments I've recieved, I made a lot of people cry. (Anyone wants to read it, I'll post the link.)

I'm also writing a post-Serenity's so strange, I've never been inclined to write fan fic before. I guess I just need more of these characters.
I really have to be struck with inspiration to write Buffyverse fanfic which is why I've only ever written one. However, there are some very good fanfic writers out there and they really should be writing official Buffy novels. I seem to remember that a fanfic writer ended up writing for Buffy or Angel but that could be an urban myth.
Okay, I'm slightly disturbed by this article ;-). Fanfic isn't really my thing either and it's clear to me that for most people, the fandom doesn't revolve around fanfic (at least, that's what I think - I may be wrong). I've been in the Buffy/Angel and now Firefly fandoms for, I dunno, 7 or 8 years now, and I guess I've read maybe 10 fanfic stories in that time and wrote maybe 2 or 3 of 'em (for competitions in a group of people who don't normally write fanfic).

Now, what I have done, is run the Dutch fanclub, organise fanclub meetings (which are basically mini-cons without guests), wrote for and edited the Dutch Buffy and Angel fanclub magazine (which had columns, articles, episode discussions, book reviews, stuff like that), and now I moderate at the Dutch official Serenity website and post at several locations like whedonesque. Stuff like that.

So I'm not saying I don't do some stuff non-fandomy types would consider odd choices or disputing anyone's right to over-obsess with a show, but I'm just not into fanfiction. And I certainly don't fandom-hop like this lady seems to do. I love me some Veronica Mars, Lost or BSG, for instance, but I'd never actively "join" another fandom. A fandom takes time. And I like to have an actual life outside of fandoms too ;-).

As for fandom wars - I was never very aware of 'em. They sound scary.
I don't think i've ever even read any fan-fic. Just never sought it out mainly cos like bobtaylor i'm very much a canon fan (not the 70's detective tho' he was good too;). To me fan-fic (or any non-canon work) can create a sensation and even genuine emotion if it's well done but it doesn't bear analysis since it's not really a part of the fictional universe it's set in (and I likes me some analysing;). Gotta respect anyone with the guts to create something then put it out there for public consumption tho'.

Agreed gossi that some folk can take it way too far. Something i've noticed about dedicated fandoms (and to some extent people in general, offline as well as on) is that they have trouble just feeling neutrally about something. If there is any perceived contest between something they like and something else it's like they feel they have to dislike the other thing. Just let it go, you know ? If you don't like something then just don't pursue it and don't automatically assume a) it's crap and b) anyone who likes it is an idiot with zero taste.
Simon, Mere Smith wrote Buffy fanfic back in the day, although she pulled it off line when she got hired by ME.

Julie Fortune (who wrote the fantastic Ice in Crystal based on the abandoned plot mentioned by Tim Minear at the screenwriting workshop) has been published under the name Rachel Caine with original fiction and under the name Julie Fortune for a SG1 tie in novel.

I believe there was another ME staff writer who'd written Buffy fanfic before being hired, but I don't know who it was.
I interviewed Jane Espenson awhile back, and she described fanfic as, “…the wonderful stories created by fans that allow them to play in the same world we play in. I adore fanfic and I think there are times when these stories can surpass the official product. Writing for the joy of creating exists in its purest form in fanfic.”

I thought that was just lovely.
Actually, I do see Jane's point about "the joy of creating." Writing fanfic could also serve as good practice for those planning to set down their own stories to paper. But this evidence leads me to believe that fanfic remains something that is more valuable perhaps for the fanfic writers themselves rather than any potential reader.
I don't understand the attraction to multiple fandoms. As a matter of fact, I don't understand my own attraction to this fandom. All I know is, one day I was doing my usual pseudo-snobby ignoring of the obviously stupid TV show "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", and the next day I was hijacked by one of it's seductively, well written reruns. Who knew? It grabbed me by the heart & won't let go. I really didn't have much control over it. But it has opened up a world of fun to me of global porportions & I don't plan on giving it up any time soon. I have also discovered the joys of good fanfic, which is more rare than one is led to believe. I think it's major attraction is the ability to continue the story we didn't want to end or to create the ones we wanted to see, but didn't get to. (or just for mindless fun;) Did I mention that alot of it is adult rated?

All of this I would never have believed of myself just a few years ago. I don't know why this particular set of stories happened to trip my trigger so powerfully, while no others have before or since. But I never went looking to become part of a fandom & have trouble imagining doing so, especially multiple times.
alot of it is adult rated

You know, maybe I haven't given this fan-fic thing a decent chance ;).
UnpluggedCrazy, I'd like to take a look at "Dead Leaves." Mind posting a link?
But this evidence leads me to believe that fanfic remains something that is more valuable perhaps for the fanfic writers themselves rather than any potential reader.

That's sometimes the case with Mary Sue fic.

"Hi. I was a new student at Sunnydale High. One day I had the most awesomest adventure and saved the world. Buffy and her friends were trapped and I had to save them as well. Then they let me join their Scooby gang. It was great. And Angel fell in love with me too".

But there are a lot of writers out there who write exceedingly well. And they interpret the Buffyverse in such a way that you can hear the characters saying the dialogue in your head and you can believe that they would act in such a way.

Later on today, I'll create a thread at where posters can plug their own fics and recommend fics by other authors that they like.
Well, until that thread, Simon, per binkaboo's request:

Dead Leaves - It's after the final battle, and Zoe takes a look inside Serenity to gauge her emotional damage, and to bid a final farewell to our leaf on the wind.
I have to say that I am almost exactly like the writer of the article. I don't think I'm obsessive about it and generally don't care that much about the actors who portray the characters I've fallen for but I do love fan fiction and think that it provides an extra dimension in enjoying a show. As Simon said, there are some fantastic authors out there and (I believe) some are even better than the actual show writers.

It's often been mentioned that television is a better medium for character development due to the length of time provided, contrasted with a 2 hour film, but nothing beats the written word for being able to delve into a character's mind and heart. Granted, there is a lot of crap out there and loads of smut for the more plebeian among us (let me tell you as one plebeian, it got old pretty quick for me), but there's a lot of good stuff and once in a while you find a real gem and you just wish that it had been an episode of the series.

All of this obviously is my own, long-winded and somewhat defensive sounding opinion. I guess I just felt that I had to defend the "crazy" lady, since we're birds of a feather. I am just grateful that when a particular show sucks, I have another entree into that fantastic alternate universe that I love.
Right seeing as this thread will probably be off the front page by Monday, I've created a thread at so posters can recommend their favourite fanfic.

It's titled *drum roll* "Recommend your favourite fan fiction". I am nothing if not consistent.
Speaking as someone who hated, hated! fanfic with a burning passion until recently, I have to say, some of it is canon-worthy.

BUFFY and ANGEL had so many seasons, I never felt the need to find even more stories, let alone try to wade through some of the truly awful stuff (the first and last BUFFY fic I read was NC-17 and featured Giles/Buffy and bondage--that turned me off fanfic for years!). Since I love Firefly so much, and there is so little of it, I found myself wanting to spend more time with the characters. And I found that many fics, if written well, with tight plots and spot-on dialogue, could meet that need. It's not canon, but with the right fic, it is Firefly.

To the fanfic reluctant (of which I used to be), I suggest checking some out. You might be surprised at how much you enjoy it.

And I identify with the author, but I don't go to such extremes. But I have to say, before BUFFY, I was never involved in any fandom, and before Firefly, I was never such a fangirl.
"To the fanfic reluctant (of which I used to be), I suggest checking some out. You might be surprised at how much you enjoy it."

I whole heartedly agree. The main drawback to fanfic (in my book, anyway), is there is no real way to tell if you what you're going to get is someone's fantasy that includes a Buffy/Giles bondage kink or a story that could easily fit in the canon mold that many want. The best of collection sites will give some attempt at warning you what you'll get, but it can still be a gamble. You also run into those that are more than a Mary Sue, where the writer injects themselves or things they'd like to see into characters we already know, effectively changing Xander, or Buffy or Spike into someone totally new (and usually not in a good way).

Having said all that, I read fanfic, the graphic novels and the tie-in books. I have most definitely encountered some fanfic that was so well written it by far surpassed any of the books out there.

I really like what JE said about it, and I obviously agree with her that sometimes fanfic can bypass the original product.

I've met folks that fall over the scale of fandom, from the passive to the obsessive. I'm the same as Dizzy, "But I have to say, before BUFFY, I was never involved in any fandom..." I don't consider myself to be fanatic, but then again, would most people admit to such a thing? LOL. This is the first time I've followed something like this, this closely and for this long. I mean, all the shows are off the air (except in the form of reruns). That's some staying power.
Can we have a fandom war, please? I'll start. "Alyson Hannigan isn't hot".


p.s. I've never read fanfiction myself, but I'll be checking that thread out to dip my toe in the water. Hopefully it won't be as scarily weird as, say, kittens with switchblades.
Nothing is as scarily weird as kittens with switchblades. Nothing.

[ edited by bobtaylor on 2006-01-13 23:40 ]
I contest that there is something as scarily weird as kittens with switchblades.

Ooh, quick, fandom war, everyone pile on ! ;)

(P.S. I'm not really, I mean what could be ?)
I just posted a couple of links on Simon's page with a couple of fics I've found enjoyable. Like a few others here, BtVS is the only online community I am a part of and the only one for which I've read (and attempted to write) fanfic. For me, the closer to cannon the author writes the better. I've read some slash. Mostly I find it icky, but to each his/her own.
Miss Edith: Some of the posts further up have inspired me to try some fan-fic (despite my previous gibberings) so I went to your second link at and read 'DeNile' and found my first ever fan-fic to be really pretty good. The author really captured Spike's voice quite handily and threw in a couple of funnies too. Think i'm gonna check out some more (tho' hopefully avoiding the Giles/Buffy bondage fic - i'm not sure i'm ever going to be 'adult' enough for that one;).
Help! won't let me in any more. Even though I can find my name in the user lists.
Fanfic is a (relation)'shippers heaven! I've read a ton of it and I have to admit that it's what keeps me in the fandom. There really are some wonderful authors out there that know how to capture the essence of our favorite character(s). I've read a few of the novels but I've got to tell you, they are not nearly as entertaining as half the fanfic I have read. The majority of Btvs stories are 'ship related, so keep that in mind if you are just now venturing into the fanfic world. Oh, and if you need recs for pretty much anything Spuffy.... I know a ton of great ones. :)
Gill, alas I don't have the power (or the wherewithal) to fix your problem. I suggest you e-mail the admins to let them know of the issue. Cheers.
It has been suggested that fanfic is a kind of modern folk art, a means for people to reclaim active participation in our culture's creative life. When you think about it, the whole concept of ownership of characters is a very recent development. Up until very recently story-tellers were expected to embroider and embellish on well-known heros or plots. That's why there are so many tales about Paul Bunyan, or so many different Arthur stories, with variant characters that don't all fit together in the same Camelotverse. Once a hero was invented, he or she became common property of the culture at large.

Shakespeare very rarely came up with his own plots or characters. Almost all of his plays are based on tales in other people's writings. So those of you out there writing fanfic, you are treading in Shakespeare's footsteps.

I've never tried to write fanfic, but once at a session of scary tales I found myself inspired to take a tiny fragment from Tanith Lee's Flat Earth series and spin it into a longer tale. It was way cool fun, because the original story is actually meant humorously, but I tweaked the telling enough to make it scary and I could feel the suspense from the people listening, and afterwards some people told me that it gave them shivers listening. So I really loved that I could take something from that world and weave something of my own out of it. And it did involve kittens, not with switchblades, but with fangs.
I don't read much fanfic, but I did hear of a BSG/Dead Like Me fanfic. Let's just say there were many, many post-its.

Simon, thanks for giving us an opportunity to post fanfic. I'm scared to invest too much time into fanfic because most of it is pretty bad. So, if there is a collection of good stuff, I'm all for it!

This article was great. Thte writer sounds absolutely adorable. I'm a fan of all her shows but the last few seasons of the OC sucked ass. Oh, and once the DC kids went off to college, it totally sucked too. Michelle Williams was the only good thing about that show.
I loved the part about fandom wars. I was in many a argument during Buffy season 6. It gets annoying but I always had something to laugh about and as long as things stay civil(as civil as a fandom war can be) and we all realized we were doing this because of our love(no matter the reason) for the show then things went well.

Edited. I used to read alot of Buffy/Faith, Buffy/Spike, and Cordy/Buffy fic. I don't anymore cause I'm not really inspired to look for it. I wish there was more Lost fic and after Serenity I wanted to write a Mal/River story but I haven't written any stories since high school so not sure if it'd be any good. I guess I could try and see what happens?

[ edited by eddy on 2006-01-14 09:50 ]
It's like looking into a mirror... ;)

But seriously, there's a lot I can identify with in this article. I actually came to fandom via fanfic. I adored the original Star Trek series as a child and teen, but in the '70's there was no fandom to speak of as we now know it, and I was much too young for cons (not that there were ever any close enough to go to in my part of the US).

It was in the mid-'80's (when my X-Files ardor burned fever-hot and I first learned to follow the TV writers who made the worlds I loved) that I stumbled on the WWW through a text-based interface someone forgot to log out of on a terminal in my college library's computer lab. The Gossamer Project was one of the first (and best, as it turned out) fanfic sites I found, through online rec's on fan pages for the show. It was after surfacing from a few hours' immersion in Chris Carter's X-verse that I realized the possibilities of virtual community. As a lifelong geek, it was a revelation to me that message boards and listservs existed where it was possible to discuss the series and characters in depth with other fans without getting a single blank stare or eyeroll, even in emoticon form. (And lurking on Usenet in those days was a real education, lemme tell ya...!)

I tried writing XF fic myself, but never got the sprawling epic I had in mind off the ground. Then I discovered Buffy, and it was a love unlike any other. By the time Angel began, I was hard at work on a B/A crossover, pounding away at the keyboard into the wee hours, pouring on to the screen some of the emotions the show was evoking in me. I found authors online who stirred me to tears and laughter. In corresponding with them, I met and made friends with people from around the country and world, some of whom I've had the opportunity to meet in cities far from home. It was our mutual admiration and respect for Joss's work that formed our initial bonds, but our connections grew and spread beyond those borders into bona fide friendships I think I'll have for years to come. This place is yet another wonderful manifestation of all that :)

I saw some nasty flame wars and faction action up close, but I never chose a side. Both Joss shows meant the world to me and I didn't want bits of my heart chipped away by what felt to me like petty hates. Writing a few fics, editing others and co-authoring a few more was wonderful fun (and damn hard work, especially when my collaborators were scattered across multiple time zones). Getting comfortable with putting my words out there also helped me in my day-job -- building my confidence through honing my voice and editorial expertise -- so there were happy side benefits to this "little obsession" of mine.

All but one of my stories are off the web now (I think -- I lost my hosting place years ago, and the one I think is still archived was my first, and most popular), but I hope to build all of 'em a new home one of these days. Even if it's just to remind myself I did them. I think about writing again, if I ever find the time. I've been easing back into fic through FF recently, and I'll still read Buffy/Angel-verse fic when it comes highly recommended. (Note to self: Check Library thread!) That Ice in Crystal story mentioned above sure is fine, and the Firefly-verse is one that I've been itching to try. Some stuff out there is downright abominable, if well-intentioned, but among the dross there's gold well worth mining for.

Some Whedon-verse-based stories I've read, I'll never forget. They might not be canon, but there's a truth in them that makes my heart ring like crystal.

(I've also saved a fair amount of magazine covers, .wav files, desktops, screen caps and other flotsom in my past, but please, tell me that isn't a bridge too far among friends? ;)

[ edited by Wiseblood on 2006-01-14 10:36 ]
Saje Glad you liked Indri's stuff. I don't recall how I lucked into him/her. As I say, I've sifted through many a story that started strong and devolved into slash, or which was just poorly written. But there is a great deal of good-cannonworthy fanfic out there that fuels my own fire to finish this thing I have stored on my computer and on which I spent many weekends ;-)

I came late to the Buffy party myself, having been one of those who taunted others love (in my case my parents!). I somehow happened into Beneath You during Season 7s initial run and was instantly hooked. My venture into the online community is really very new -- this year in fact. Until I googled for Spike friendly fanfic (please NOT slash!) I had NO idea how much stuff was out there.

MBangel10 If you do have some cannon-worthy Spuffy, please do put it up at the thread. I'd be interested :-)
Thanks, SNT.
Wiseblood, I loved your thoughtful, introspective response. It's too bad your fic has faded away, I hope you get your own site up and running soon. Whatever happened to Usenet? I guess everything splintered into message boards. Thank you Whedonesque, I don't have the patience to search for news all day- you are a gift, indeed!

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