Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Collinsport Shipping: TWO SECRET LIVES

Let us assume it is safe to say that we all have dirty little secrets. Or we used to, before we started broadcasting them all over Facebook. Still, there are those who will park outside 7 Eleven, clandestinely indulging in a pint of Ben & Jerry’s before going home to dinner. Some people hide behind the bushes in the backyard to smoke a cigarette (or something else), away from the prying eyes of their parents (or children). Some people write fanfiction.

What’s wrong with fanfiction? Why are many people mortified at the prospect of their family or coworkers finding out that they post flights of fancy on the Internet? Surely there are worse things one could be caught doing online. Perhaps some of us are writing scenarios with a mature theme or enacting a fantasy role play that’s just too intimate to share with anyone but complete strangers.

This was my family’s reaction:
Extra! Extra! Read all about your favorite pairings!

Don’t tell me. I don’t want to know. By the way, is this why you still don’t have a job?

Teenage Daughter: I told all my friends that my mom is so cool, she literally writes fanfiction. They thought it was awesome. And weird.

Grown Daughter: I prefer Harry Potter/Avengers crossovers, but I’ll be your Beta, if you want. 

Mother: That’s nice, dear. Does it pay anything?

After my first blog, I sent inquiries out to several writers to ask if they would like to be profiled in upcoming columns. The response was almost invariably, “I would love to but, for God’s sake, don’t use my real name.”
One of these closet contributors is Peekaboo Fang. She writes a wildly popular serial on Fanfiction.net called Role Reversals. The only negative thing I can say about it is that chapters have been posted infrequently for almost a year now. She must have a real life or something. Peekaboo agreed to tell me about her fanfic writing career if I maintain her anonymity. She revealed only that she is “closing in on 30” and comes from a creative family obsessed with old-school horror and comics.

She was first introduced to Dark Shadows as a child, thanks to the aforementioned family members and their VHS collection.

“I was hooked right away. Those early episodes with Victoria and Barnabas were like Alice in Wonderland meets Dracula to me. [They] captured my imagination right away.

“I started reading DS pieces occasionally when I first discovered Fanfiction.net and Livejournal years ago, but went through a long period where I was consumed by other fic obsessions. I didn't get seriously into reading DSFF until more recently, when I heard that Burton was making a movie, and that re-sparked my interest.

“My favorite character is definitely Willie. I find his arc so fascinating, how he runs the gamut from scumbag to tortured slave to underdog hero. I'm also quite fond of Barnabas, Vicki, Josette, and I harbor a special soft spot for Nicholas Blair, so I naturally gravitate towards stories which showcase any of those guys. The Globetrotters and the Willie Loomis series is amazing; I'm a big fan of those.”
(The interviewee may be sucking up to me there.)

Zombie Josette is another one of my favorite DSFF authors. Her Roger/Victoria one-shots, in particular, tickle my fancy. For some reason, I like exploring unexpected pairings in DS fics (such as Willie/Carolyn in my current story). This only works if the author is competent, though, and Zombie makes the romantic tension between Roger and Vicki believable.

“I'm usually not a fan of modern retellings, but Joriki's Resurgam is a page-turner, figuratively speaking. It is unbelievably well written with unique twists and turns. My new favorite is A Gift From Above by Val76. It's about Willie/Maggie, my original favorite pairing, and it's still capable of tugging at my heartstrings, especially when it's done so sweetly and honestly. I'm a romantic at heart.”

This is not what they meant by closet writers
I asked Ms. Fang what inspired her to start writing her own fanfiction.

“Crossovers,” she replied. “One of the great things about fanfic is the idea of combining my favorite fandoms. You'll see a few on my page at Fanfiction.net. My first story came about when I became obsessed with combining two TV shows I love, Star Trek and Mystery Science Theater 3000. Even though they're both sci-fi, they're still such different products. For example, one is a drama, the other is a comedy. I liked exploring the possibilities to see how these very different sci-fi characters would relate to each other if forced to interact.

"Unfortunately, the Star Trek category at that time on FF.net was being bombarded by trolls and flamers, and so my crossover was infiltrated by really nasty reviews. I was young enough then to take it too much to heart. By the time I'd gained enough courage to try again, the well had run dry, idea-wise, for that particular story, so I moved on to other genres/categories.”

Trolling and flaming, for the uninitiated, are common occurrences in some of the more popular fandoms, like Harry Potter and Star Trek. A troll posts intentionally dreadful stories with horrendous grammar and absurd plots often involving sudden, unexplained sex scenes. A flamer is a bully who writes degrading reviews for the fun of it. Often, these twisted individuals harass their victim to the point of distraction, and the author will delete the story just to end the abuse. These rants are usually full of obscenities, misspelled and in all caps. I am pleased to say that I have never seen evidence of either activity in the (TV) Dark Shadows forum.
I asked Peekaboo about the stories she went on to create.

"I'm pretty eclectic in my tastes, so it's hard to pinpoint just what kind of stuff I write. I don't write for Dark Shadows only. On my FF.net page I've posted everything from multi-chapter adventures, most of which explore the tragic origins of various villains (Jackie, Role Reversals), angsty, romantic one-shots (Remember, Life Upon Her Yellow Hair But Not Within Her Eyes), goofy comedy crossovers (In The Very Distant Future, Jeeves and the Opera Ghost), to even a little femme-slash (She Knows), though that's not something I'll probably write again—mostly because I felt like it turned out kind of offensive and weird.

“Aside from Dark Shadows, I'm a sucker for Batman, Star Trek, Phantom of the Opera, and DC comics in general. And those are only the fandoms I've written fics for! There are tons of others I obsess over. I don't know if I'll actually write too many more fics after finishing Role Reversals (it's an awesome process but exhausting). But if I do, I've had a few plot bunnies for the show Once Upon A Time and Phantom. So who knows what the future holds!”

Let’s talk about Role Reversals, which has more “likes” and “follows” than any other story in my field of vision.

“Role Reversals. Hmm. Where to begin? One day, I started thinking about how things would have played out had Josette been the one cursed, not Barnabas. The switch in gender dynamics opened up all sorts of juicy possibilities, allowing me to explore in flashback how Josette would reconcile the gentle, well-bred young lady we know from the show to the powerful vampire she becomes in my story. And by swapping the roles completely, for instance, Nicholas hooks up with her—instead of Angelique with Barnabas—I could also delve into the ways men left their marks on women they would  ‘ruin’ back then. In effect, Nicholas punishing Josette with vampirism came to stand for men punishing women for expressing their sexuality.

“There comes a moment in a chapter I'm working on where Josette actively rebels against this punishment and decides, once she awakens in 1967, that she'll fight back. Unfortunately, the two centuries that pass really sour her outlook, and she commits vengeful, violent acts, obsessing over getting back what was cheated her (a happy life with Barnabas) in what she hopes is a more forgiving and independent time to women (1967 certainly wasn't perfect, but compared to 1795, it is better).”

Peekaboo didn’t mention it here but there are other clever switch offs in the story. It begins with an orphan Barnabas Collins who arrives at his cousins’ estate to become tutor to young David. The vampire Josette, of course, sees him as the reincarnation of her 18th century beloved. Her brother is a little boy named Stefan and Elliot Stokes is the doctor who discovers her secret. You would think Willie would have more fun living with Josette in the Old House than he did with Barnabas, but the guy still can’t cut a break. There are other twists and turns, but I don’t want to reveal them here. Read the story.

What happened with the crossover, Victoria Phibes?

“I'm a big fan of horror movies, and my earlier DS story, My Name is Victoria Phibes, is a crossover with the Vincent Price Abominable Dr. Phibes movies. Unfortunately, unlike with Role Reversals, I sort of charged headlong into that one without any sort of outline, and I quickly ran out of plot ideas. So, yeah, it's just dangling there, and darned if I know what to do with it, which is too bad, because I actually like what I came up with. Basically, Dr. Phibes's chief motivation throughout the movies is both to avenge his wife Victoria's death and revive her, and at the end of the second movie, (*SPOILER!*) he's heading toward the River of Life in Egypt to do just that. Unfortunately, thanks to Angelique’s and Nicholas's meddling, everything goes kerflooey and Victoria ends up a baby. To protect her, Phibes and his goddess aunt (this is very convoluted) decide to send her 40 years into the future where she'll be safe. Thus, she's Victoria Winters. And Phibes returns for his grown-up bride.

“And then I ran out of ideas. It worked wonderfully in my head, but on paper it just got too out of hand. However, it's an interesting read if you don't get too invested in what happens next. I promise that won't happen with Role Reversals. I definitely have to work out some kinks in the ending, but other than that, I've been following my outline and I'm only a few chapters away from being done. It may take a little while, but I'll get there.”

What are her readers like?

“I've gotten FANTASTIC feedback. I first posted Reversals only a few days after the Burton movie came out, before the movie had a category of its own on Fanfiction.net. So I think a few reviewers were new fans who hadn't seen as much original DS. They were receptive and curious, and I got to introduce one reader to Jason McGuire, and sent him a few clips from YouTube. It made me feel very knowledgeable and full of myself, emotions every author likes. Mostly, though, I believe I've drawn in original fans, especially once the movie got its own category and I got less traffic from that direction.

“I'm not too sure about what age group everyone falls into, so I'm guessing from all over the spectrum. But what I can say is the reviews have been some of the most thoughtful and helpful I've ever had. People are paying close attention and are incredibly well-educated about the settings and time periods. Someone pointed out the proper channels Barnabas would have taken to get from England to Maine in the 1960s, and someone noted when I said Collinwood when I meant to say Old House. I've had predictions, encouragement, and overall great excitement. As an author, there's nothing better than people who want more.”

Mine was not one of the helpful reviews. I believe I pointed out the impracticality of bringing cows into the Old House and leading them into the basement. I’m pretty sure cows are physically incapable of going down stairs. And what’s happening to the carcasses? I lie awake at night pondering these issues. Peekaboo graciously responded to my comment and explained the scenario in greater detail.

So, if she wants more readers, why doesn’t she tell her friends?

“Nah, I don’t want too many people to know. I like to think of FF.net as my way to share interests outside of my social circle. I'm sure they'd be supportive—in fact, I have a few family members/friends who write fanfic of their own—so maybe someday I'll let them know. But for now, I'm enjoying my anonymity. I feel like it's more freeing.

“Wow, how dumb am I? I just remembered my real name shows up in emails to you, duh.”

No worries, Ms. Fang. You will receive my blackmail instructions in due time. See Mom, I can make money from fanfiction.

Marie Maginity 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...

This is PeekabooFang! Many thanks to Marie for this awesome honor! I had a lot of fun answering questions like a real fancy-pants author. This turned out great. Though I assure all of you as I did Marie, I actually have no real life. But I'm flattered by the implication!

Unknown said...

I'm loving this blog! So insightful with generous dose of humor. A lot of fun to read!

D.W. said...

Man! I've been laughing til the tears fall! Too incredible. Totally true about dirty little secrets once upon a time and now with facebook everyone let's it ALL hang out. Not the greatest deal when one thinks of the substances we can venture in the "privacy" of our own homes, only to basically through it into a way too public view. Let me know how the blackmailing goes. I have a certain butler pal who knows all about that! ;)

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