I’m a shipper, and I’ll proudly die as one. Even though I don’t hang around as many fellow shippers as I did before—the fact that I live with one helps—being a shipper is actually a notable part of my identity. I’m a hopeless romantic who multiships and rates a lot of books on a scale of 0 to Mark and Kareen.
Some of my favourite romance stories of All Time are fics. (The others are movies and Think of England). I read a lot of romance and mystery, and I’m pretty picky reader who’s also a librarian and a writer—and still, after all these years, I feel that my favourite fanfics are written a lot better than a vast amount of regular fiction. The only problem is, well, that I’ve only found so few ‘perfect’ ones, so far.
My favourite fics have extremely high re-read value, a bit higher than most regular fiction I read these days. Among other reasons, I feel this might be due to the fact that they’re, in a way, ‘distilled’ romance—narratives focused solely and strongly on the characters and their relationship. (The oldest fic I stil regularly re-read was written in the early Naughts, and my favourite one in 2010 or 2011…)
‘Familiar’ is a great comfort in hard times. Oh, did you mean 2020?
Some of the best writers I’ve ever read I only know under their pseuds. Thus, I simply can’t shove all my fiction buying money at them and see what they come up with when playing in their own playgrounds. (One I love, in particular, writes with such skill and precision that they cannot not be a published writer. We’re only lucky that their fanfic writing is prolific, too.)
High quality narration and high quality niche kink is an incredibly hard combo to find in published original fiction. (Those of us who require a healthy dose of plot in their porn are always in trouble.) I think I might’ve found two writers in total who write what I want to read, so far. Way more fic authors, though…
I like dark and female friendly at the same time. The fics I read have the least possibility, of all fiction, of encountering sexual violence against women in the prose even when the stories deal with extremely heavy themes. (If it’s hard to imagine what I’m talking about, try the TV show Hannibal, the best known example I can think of for this exact peculiarity. Apart from, you know, actual dead women.)
Fanfics are endlessly more searchable than regular fiction. The librarian in me appreciates it almost as much as my inner reader! The issue of crowdsourcing tags is still present—some writers don’t tag at all, and a lot of people use different terms for the same things—but, to me, the Ao3 is still the most search-friendly fiction database I’ve ever seen in my whole life. I can’t sing enough praise for the site, nor could I, in a thousand lifetimes.
+1 I’m part of more target audiences in the fanfiction universe than all the original fiction world combined. I’d like to see someone try to put that in a chart. (Some wonderful people probably do!)
But what about writing, you ask…?
Being a shipper of irregular ships (oh, hello, weird dynamics unpopular with the post-Twilight audience), I often find myself scrolling the Ao3 in the middle of the night, after a particularly good TV show episode or a movie, only to find myself short of reading material. Being a writer, I tend to imagine, almost as often, stories for those ships and those characters and test them out to see whether I want to invest my time into writing them.
The trouble is that, more often than not, I end up leaving the ship (raft) to its own inevitable demise before I find the time and motivation to write in it. (In one particular example, the TV show in question destroyed a character’s narrative for me, so I never managed to get back into it anyhow.)
On other occasions, the tiny ships in huge fandoms (Supernatural, DC or anything Avengers related, most notably) do manage to float, even if we have to wait a bit for them, and the generous fic writers out there create enough material for me to enjoy, too, without having to actually write the pairings. Which I’m endlessly grateful for.
Now excuse me—I’m taking a mental health day and reading nothing but fanfiction all day long (I tried reading a novel earlier in the day; it just didn’t work), and I need to go back to rereading one of my favourite stories, mentioned above. It’s incredible how much I enjoy it even all these years later.
Today’s a good day. Even in the middle of the shitstorm that is this neverending year. Mostly due to fics. Which is why I took the opportunity to note how grateful I am to be able to be a part of this global fandom thing. Who knows what awesomeness will get to read next?