By MARIE MAGINITY,
author of the Willie Loomis World Series and other DS fanfiction
One of the most prolific of contemporary Dark Shadows fan fiction writers is Osheen Nevoy, whose works are crammed with fascinating historical details, and are consistently produced with care and precision.
No, I did not mean to imply that other authors are comparable to drunken monkeys on keyboards who have no concept of Spellcheck, Grammar Check, finishing a sentence, developing a plot or engaging the services of a Beta. Uh…I never said that. However, it is refreshing to find a writer whose work is so painstakingly crafted. Seriously, in 142,000+ words, I can’t find one typo.
Fan fiction readers and writers alike have their preferred subject matter, whether it’s the eternal love of Barnabas and Julia (or Vicki, or Josette, or Roxanne, whoever), the caddish escapades of Quentin — or even, ahem, Willie Loomis. Ms. Nevoy is no exception, except her main squeeze appeared in only 15 episodes before being unceremoniously thrown off a cliff.
I’m speaking of Bill Malloy, the man who should have married Elizabeth if she hadn’t been such a low-life magnet and distracted by all the wrong people. But Bill missed his opportunity and ends tragically, sporting a seaweed suit.
|Fashions courtesy of Ohrbach's.|
This affords our author an opportunity to share some of her encyclopedic knowledge of the 18th century by employing this clever twist in the storyline. You’re probably wondering, how’d she get to be so smart? So, I asked her.
HOW’D YOU GET TO BE SO SMART?
I grew up in Bloomington, Indiana, born to Californian parents who relocated to attend graduate school at Indiana University. When I was six years old, my mother became the founding director/curator of a fledgling local history museum and, as a result, I grew up surrounded by history. I would hang out at the museum after school, making up names and characters for the display mannequins and creating stories about the unidentified people in vintage photographs.
A LOVE OF HISTORY IS EVIDENT IN YOUR WRITING. WHAT OTHER THINGS INFLUENCED YOU?
From the time I was eight, my parents and I acted together in community theater productions, most frequently Gilbert & Sullivan and Shakespeare.
Another influence that developed early in my life is a fascination with finding other sides of the story for those frequently seen as villains. Even on my first viewing of STAR WARS (which premiered when I was six), my favorite character in the film was Darth Vader.
I vividly remember seeing the comedy film LOVE AT FIRST BITE with my mom, and already being completely in tune with the idea of Dracula as hero rather than villain. At age eight or nine, I first read Fred Saberhagen's "The Dracula Tape," a novel which fully develops the concept that Dracula is a misunderstood hero rather than the monster depicted by Bram Stoker. Sympathy and love for such fictional anti-heroes in turn led me to fascination with (and support for) a number of historical figures who have traditionally been portrayed as villains, including King Richard III, Captain Bligh, and Grigori Rasputin.
In keeping with this love for hero-villains, my academic work focused on the Vikings. I earned a Ph.D. in medieval studies from the University of York in England. Returning to the states, I followed my mother's footsteps and found my way into the museums profession. I've worked in local history museums in Wyoming, Virginia, Massachusetts, and now the redwoods country of far northern California.
OKAY, THAT’S PRETTY SMART. HOW DID YOU STUMBLE ACROSS DARK SHADOWS?
I first encountered Dark Shadows in the form of the 1991 remake. I was in my sophomore year at UCLA when the show aired, and I fell in love with it, particularly with the interactions of Ben Cross' Barnabas and Jim Fyfe's Willie. As probably everyone who watched the revival’s original airing will remember, it was on during the Gulf War, and several episodes were pre-empted due to war coverage. I don't want to admit to the pettiness of feeling that the war's biggest impact on my life was that it led me to miss Dark Shadows episodes, and I did attend several anti-war protest rallies at UCLA, but it's true that my sharpest memories of that conflict are of my outrage at the disruption to Dark Shadows.
|Actually not Bill Malloy.|
HOW DID YOUR LIFE THEN SPIRAL INTO FAN FICTION?
In a way, I suppose I’ve been writing or imagining fan fiction for most of my life. As a very young child, the Robin Hood legend was my favorite story. I remember playing Robin Hood scenario games with my mother (I was Robin to her Little John). Among the relics of my childhood is a story-in-pictures I drew after seeing the original Star Wars, when I hadn’t yet learned to write. The story shows Leia, recognizable by the Mickey-Mouse-ear-like protrusions which were her trademark hairdo, being revealed as Darth Vader’s daughter — years before George Lucas made that revelation. In high school, my particular fandom was Star Trek, and I wrote a short story depicting each of the major characters’ thoughts after the death of Spock.
My first extended foray into fan fiction began in 1997, while in England studying for my Ph.D. That year saw the release of the “special edition” version of the original Star Wars trilogy. This inspired two fellow medievalists and me to begin Star Wars fan fiction projects which quickly took over our lives. These included a novel starring Boba Fett, Darth Vader’s back story and a novella starring Admiral Piett. I wrote an AU novel titled "The Adventures of Darth Vader," in which Vader survives the events of Return of the Jedi and joins the Rebellion, where he faces the challenge of healing the emotional wounds that separate him from his children. I originally intended to write only the first chapter. Instead, the novel became a massive project that I completed four years and 20 chapters later.
The inspiration for my next project came from Peter Jackson’s first LORD OF THE RINGS film. Sean Bean’s Boromir was my favorite character in The Fellowship of the Ring, and I just wasn’t willing to let him stay dead. I suppose the largest amount of fan fiction that I’ve read is connected to Lord of the Rings, but I didn’t find much of it that took Boromir where I wanted to see him go. In January of 2002 I began writing "Boromir’s Return," exploring what the events of The Two Towers and Return of the King might be like had he been alive to take part in them.
This project lasted even longer than the previous one; chapters were posted at Fanfiction.net from February 2002 until its completion June 2011. Real life events such as work ups-and-downs and the birth of our twins led to a multi-year gap in writing and posting. But once Boromir’s tale was told, I intended to focus on writing original fiction. However, in fall 2013, while halfway through the draft of a novel, I was lured back into the realm of fan fiction when fate struck in the form of an honest, ill-fated Maine fisherman by the name of Bill Malloy.
TALK ABOUT YOUR LATEST STORY.
While watching the original series, Dark Shadows grew more and more ingrained our lives, but I suppressed the urge to write DS fan fiction. I was tempted first by an idea involving Willie Loomis, then by one centering on the ghosts of Dr. Woodard and Burke Devlin. Another possibility focused on Quentin. Still I resisted all temptation—until we backtracked to the beginning episodes and were introduced to Bill Malloy.
I was intrigued by Bill’s first appearance, in Episode 3. By his second appearance, in Episode 9, I was hooked after Bill’s speech on why Liz Stoddard is “the greatest woman on the face of this earth.” He tells her it is “Because you plant your feet firm on the deck when a gale blows. Because you hold your head up high and damn the devil. Because you don’t know how to run scared.”
|Courtship rituals in Collinsport frequently involve words like "damn," devil" and "scared."|
When I first fell headlong into Bill Malloy fandom, I made several internet searches for fan fiction focusing on Bill and, to my surprise, found next to nothing. Since championing the Bill Malloy fandom online, I’ve found that Bill does indeed have dedicated fans. But, for whatever reason, I may be the first DS fan fiction writer to choose Bill Malloy as my hero.
Each chapter of the story begins with “My name is Bill Malloy” instead of “My name is Victoria Winters.” As the central character, Bill, not Vicki, time-travels to 1795.
In a series of flashbacks, we are given background on the marriage of Bill Malloy and Liz Stoddard and how our hero avoids being murdered by Mathew Morgan. The majority of the novel focuses on Bill’s journey into 1795 and his adventures there as he seeks to solve the many Collins family mysteries—before it is too late for the Collinses both in 1795 and 1967.
I suppose I have two main purposes in writing Stand Fast and Damn the Devil. The most obvious is to spotlight Bill Malloy, and to give him the romance that I feel should have happened. Just as in my Darth Vader and Boromir novels, in Damn the Devil I take my favorite character, rescue him from death, and then have the fun of exploring what might happen next.
My other main purpose is to create a more accurate version of the 18th century than we see on the original show. As a historian and a museum professional, the anachronisms and inaccuracies of DS’s 1795 drive me a bit up the wall. They don’t stop me from enjoying the show, and I certainly know why they’re there. As a soap opera on a limited budget—a show that no one expected would ever be watched again after its original air date—it stands to reason that the writers and production team never had the goal of creating a scrupulously accurate period piece.
But this story has become an intensely researched historical novel. Online 18th century newspapers, ships’ manifests, a biography of an actual Maine ship-building family, books on Maine cemeteries and Maine slang, are combining with my work experience at a 17th-century historic house museum in Massachusetts to create what I hope is close to a realistic picture of what 1795 Collinsport might actually be like. As Bill thinks sourly in one of my early chapters, “Anybody who talks about the romance of the past needs to give time travel a try.”
Of course that is impossible, but I suppose in each of my fan novels, I’ve been attempting the kind of time travel that Barnabas Collins specializes in—to fix something that has gone wrong, save Vicki Winters or repair the damage caused by Quentin or Gerard. My fan novels, too, fix something I think has gone wrong: the deaths of my favorite characters.
In Dark Shadows Episode 43, Bill Malloy tells Joe Haskell, “It’d be simpler to sit on the sidelines and just watch life go by. But you can’t. Sometimes you have to become involved.” I guess maybe that’s how fandom is for those of us who’ve been bitten by the fan fiction bug. No matter how much we try to just stay on the sidelines and watch, sooner or later we have to get involved. Like our favorite time-traveling vampire, we do what we can to change the past – the show itself – into the present and future that we want to see.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO READ?
As for reading fan fiction these days, I don’t have much time to squeeze that in around writing, work, kids, theater, and all the other stuff described as “real life.” I’m a follower of Mad Margaret’s Willie Loomis World Series, Magical Irish Dolphin’s "Ode to the Witch" (which features a fabulous cast of characters in the form of the many, many ghosts of Collinwood), and Daryl Wor’s radio show and fan novels. Other than that, what reading time I find is more often spent with a variety of research sources for "Stand Fast and Damn the Devil."
THANKS FOR MENTIONING MY FANFIC. YOU DIDN’T HAVE TO DO THAT. JUST KIDDING, YOU ABSOLUTELY DID HAVE TO DO THAT.
The Bill Malloy (Dark Shadows) Fan Club, where there is no shortage of ponderings and pictures of her favorite guy, young Elizabeth (his true love) or recipes from Maine utilized by his faithful housekeeper, Mrs. Johnson. Osheen/Alex also designs fun images of Liz and Bill, and once created Malloy’s business card for a venture he could pursue after retiring.
|The Collinsport Cannery retirement plan involves a lot of whiskey.|
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.