Friday, May 31, 2013

Collinsport Shipping: Fusion and Con-Fusion

It’s not a complicated concept, so why can’t I wrap my tiny brain around the idea of crossover fan fiction? Alright, I get what it’s supposed to be: a story combining one piece of fiction (movie, TV series, book, play, etc.) with an otherwise unrelated piece of fiction, to create a unique story. I believe the roots of this genre can be traced to 1960s television, when the Clampetts would visit Hooterville and Petticoat Junction for no apparent reason. They could not all have come from the same town. Oliver and Lisa Douglas bought a farm, not real estate in the Appalachian Mountains where Jed kept his family fed.

Fusion fiction isn’t as easy as it sounds. Where nature has no problem merging the genetic material of two specimens to form an amalgamated offspring, finding the perfect pairing in fiction writing can quickly go from the sublime to the ridiculous.

There’s a whole article here about the flurry of  DS/Star Trek Photoshops, so here’s just one.
Crossover stories are not wildly popular among Dark Shadows readers. Top scores in that category go to Harry Potter, Dr. Who, Twilight, and that crowd, but they also have the big numbers in non-cross fiction as well, so it makes sense. Obvious choices for a DS combo story would be something of a similar paranormal or gothic nature, like:

  • Supernatural (Sam and Dean hunt down a vampire or a ghost or a phoenix or a werewolf, you choose; there is a real SN/DS crossover, but I’m saving that for my column on slash fic)
  • Batman (I see drag races up the sides of buildings, and Nicolas Blair would be an awesome arch-villain)
  • Danny Phantom (ghost kid Danny meets ghost kid Sarah)
  • Sweeney Todd (the demon barber meets a customer who’s not interested in meat pies, just the sauce)
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer (whatever, I never watched that show) 
  • Addams Family (Count Petrofi’s hand meets Thing)
  • Shaun of the Dead (Shaun and Ed team up with Quentin and transform the Winchester into a zombie club)
  • Bewitched (Angelique can battle it out with Samantha Stevens, and Cassandra might as well have a go at Sabrina while they’re at it, probably fighting over who gets the wig.)

I believe there is even a Dark Shadows/Dark Shadows crossover in which I incorrectly assumed BarnaFrid meets BarnaDepp (credit for these terms goes to my Tumblr friend, Dork Shadows). In fact, the story (titled of Of Vampires and Werewolves by Vila-Restal) is a sequel to a previous TV-series-based story but, in this outing, it is explained how (2012) Carolyn became a werewolf. Sounds interesting; I will check it out, but would still love to see a meeting of two Barnabases. Hell, all the recreated characters, for that matter; Julias, Rogers, Angeliques. What an interesting challenge that would be. I’m sure the two Willies would just stare at each other with WTF looks on their faces.

Vicki 1: I don’t understand.
Vicki 2: Let me explain it to you.

Or there could be same-actor crossovers, Julia Hoffman meets Bellatrix LeStrange, for example, or Roger gets together with Langley Wallingford, or Lorraine’s Dark Shadows/Harvey and Lacey combo platter. In Role Reversals (Peekaboo Fang), which is not a crossover, Jason McGuire and Paul Stoddard share the stage. I keep humming the theme to the Patty Duke Show.

Perhaps more intriguing are the unusual mixes, wherein Barnabas might battle wits with Mr. Spock or Lucy Ricardo, but these scenarios can be difficult to pull off, even if it’s played for laughs.

So I looked at the DS crossovers listed at I didn’t read all 23 of them, because some of the authors seem to share my confusion of how these things are done. Some of the more amusing ones included Star Trek, Pokemon, Ally McBeal, Dallas and The Series of Unfortunate Events. I was partially through the Harry Potter offering when I realized DS does have a troll story on that site. A troll, as you may remember, is an intentionally horrendous story, terribly written with a ridiculous plotline and unbearable grammar and spelling. At least, I think it’s a troll. If you are the author of that story, and were just trying to be humorous, I am heartily sorry for having offended thee. But seriously, use your spell check.

The problem with many of these mixups is that once the author removes a character from its natural environment and places it in a foreign one, it often breaks character. Of course, this is not always the case. Alondra (more about this girl in another article) has a clever retelling of “A Christmas Carol,” wherein Barnabas (Scrooge) is visited by three ghosts who warn him to be nicer to his clerk, Willie (Cratchit).

My favorite all-time crossover fan fiction is a Dark Shadows/Quantum Leap piece titled Leap into the Shadows by TrudiRose. Its premise involves Sam “leaping” into the body of Barnabas in order to prevent the murder of a young woman. Problem is, he doesn’t know he’s a vampire or why his employee is so scared of him.

Quantum Leap, by its nature, is a perfect vehicle for crossovers. Sam Beckett finds himself trapped in time—"leaping" into the body of a different person in a different time period each week, and often does something to change history. At some point in each episode, Sam stares into a mirror to ascertain his identity. Uh, yeah, he’s going to have a problem with that this time.

TrudiRose perfectly captures both casts of characters, from the displaced Barnabas and confused Willie to scientist Sam and his hot-headed hologram pal, Al. The story is very well written; it’s suspenseful, funny and has a perfect ending. The author was nice enough to talk with me about herself and her work.

Madame Rose is a 48-year-old freelance writer/editor and stay-at-home mom. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her husband, daughter (13), who writes "Supernatural" fanfic under the penname AwesomeActress1001, and son (16), who does not write fan fiction.

I’m always interested in how fans got hooked on Dark Shadows. Trudi had a story relating to that.

I started watching Dark Shadows in an unusual way: when I was in my teens and early 20s, I used to watch "General Hospital," and at one point, briefly, ABC ran old "Dark Shadows" episodes right after," so I ended up watching them. It started with Willie opening the coffin until Maggie got rescued, and that was it, but it was enough to get me interested. Then, a few years later, a really obscure TV station started showing it—I can't even remember the station, it was WAY before cable. I remember it was a station that didn't come in too well, so there was sometimes static! But they showed a lot, going all the way through the 1795 storyline. So at that point, I became a big fan, and I got my friends to watch it too, and I started going to conventions and subscribing to fanzines.

I'll tell you a fun story: I met my husband through a personal ad in the newspaper (again, this was before the Internet—no or eHarmony!) In his ad, he mentioned liking '60s TV shows and '60s music. So when I first spoke to him, I asked him if he knew about "Dark Shadows."

He said, "Oh, yes, I love 'Dark Shadows'!" I took that with a grain of salt, thinking that he was just saying that so I'd like him! But then he went on to say, "But you know what I always wondered? What happened to Adam after he left Professor Stokes' house?"

I said "Didn't he fall off a cliff?"

He said, "No, that was earlier! He fell off the cliff, and then he was at Professor Stokes' house, and then..." And he went on and on about it, and recalled the entire plotline much better than I did! So I told him I was going to a "Dark Shadows" convention in a few weeks. He didn't know they had conventions, so he went with me, and we had a great time! Definitely a fun date. And so, a great romance was born, and we've been married over 20 years now.

And that is how Dark Shadows will spice up your love life. How did you go from watching to participating? By the way, I had no idea she was a Willie Loomis fan, swear to God, that is a complete coincidence, and this was the first I heard of it.
I started reading stories in the wonderful fanzines “Inside the Old House” and "The World of Dark Shadows,” put out by Kathleen Resch. My favorite character has always been Willie—I felt so bad for him — so I especially loved the stories of Mary Overstreet, who wrote tons of excellent Willie stories. Mary also put out several volumes of stories about Willie and other John Karlen characters written by herself and others, in a publication called “Karlenzine.” I loved those publications.

I can even tell you my two favorite Willie stories. One was a story by Mary Overstreet about everything that happened to Willie from when he opened the coffin till he showed up at the Collins' house days later. She got into his head SO well. Another favorite is a very poignant story called "Merry Christmas, Willie Loomis" by Virginia Waldron.

"Leap into the Shadows" was my first fanfic, and I wrote it for "The World of Dark Shadows." The idea came to me because, at the time, I was a big fan of "Quantum Leap," and that was a show that REALLY lent itself well to crossovers, because Sam could leap into ANY time or place, and his goal was always to "fix" something that had gone wrong, so it made for an easy plotline. What I enjoyed most about writing it was that Sam was able to understand why Barnabas acted the way he did, and Barnabas and Willie became friends by the end of the story, as well as Barnabas being permanently cured—It was a "healing" kind of story for both of them.
Okay, I wasn’t going to put a spoiler in here, but it’s her story . . . but, while we’re here, Sam’s solution for curing Barnabas is wonderfully done, and the ending is refreshingly happy, but not sappy.
I've only written one other multi-chapter crossover story, and one crossover one-shot. I only write crossovers if an idea comes to me and I think I can blend the two fandoms together in a creative way.

Most of my fanfic is for Disney's "Beauty and the Beast." That's my favorite movie, and for some reason it REALLY inspires me in terms of writing fanfic. I post all of my stories on I wrote "Leap into the Shadows" in the early '90s, but didn't write anything after that until 2004, when I started writing "Beauty and the Beast" stories. Since then I've been writing constantly.

You may wonder why I still have a hard time with crossover fiction — because I can’t do it; it is a talent beyond my abilities. Oh, the ideas are there. I can picture teaming Dark Shadows characters with almost anything. There have been lengthy threads on the Dark Shadows Official Facebook Fan Club page about how each of us would cast various classic films, musicals and Shakespearean plays with DS actors/characters.

Lots of fun but, is that really a crossover? I’m going to call that crossover parody. Now that’s something I know about. Having been raised with Mad Magazine and then graduated to Forbidden Broadway, I can picture our favorite characters bursting into song or parroting famous movie lines, because it would be really funny coming from them. And I have lots and lots of examples, which I will share in Part II of this article, so stay tuned.

Same bat time. Same bat channel.

PS: Happy 80th birthday to Johnny Karlen, the inspiration for so many fan fictions. Love you.

Marie Maginity is the author of the six-part Willie Loomis World Series, and writes under the names Mad Margaret and Lizzie Bathory. She has a BA in Theatre and works as a professional actor, director and drama teacher. She has had many “straight” jobs, including bartender, gas station jockey, graphic artist, website designer, facepainter and film projectionist. Once, she bullshitted her way into a newspaper job as a reporter and, over the next eight years, became a copy editor, feature writer and assistant editor. She lives in the suburbs of Philadelphia with one husband, two daughters and two cats.


Anonymous said...

One crossover I have in mind of writing one day would be DS with House. Barnabas becomes the patient of our favorite physician whose motto is "everybody lies" so he never believes in principle anything that Barnabas tells him. As an addict, he knows every dodge and so warns Barnabas not to try any of those "because I wrote the book" Barnabas learns how to deal with a drug addicted sociopath, and gets to appretiate that at least his addiction does not leave a paper trail (House has him materilazing inside locked offices to steal Vicodin for him). Eventually House turns him into one of his ducklings, when he finds him reasing medical texts. The cure does not work out, but Barnabas has gathered enough knowledge to go to work for Julia AFTER he swears on a stack of Bibles not to pull any House stunts on her. For some reason, he tends to call her "Cuddy"

MM said...

So go ahead and write it. Sound like fun. I'm not too familiar with House, but I could picture Barnabas butting heads with Nurse Jackie (she's another pill popper).

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