Fanfic Book Club

Samantha Glennie  

Have you ever wondered what the world of fanfiction is really like? Ever been tempted to dip your toe into the waters of non-canonical adventures; or are you an experienced member of the fanfic community, looking for some new and exciting stories?

We’ve brought together the artists involved in the Digital Writers Festival’s two fanfiction events – Representation in Fanfiction, and Digital Tour: Fanfiction Spaces – to provide some recommendations, discuss their favourite fanfiction, and chat about what makes the community so special.

First, a brief introduction. Jes, Nalini, Cubbie and Ella – tell us a bit about yourselves.

Jes Layton: Hey, Jes here! I’m a veteran fangirl, been involved in the fannish life since I was eleven. I’m an emerging writer here in Melb, the admin for Voiceworks, and if something is geeky I probably love it. Double goes if it’s edible.

Nalini Haynes: I’m a research candidate at the University of Canberra, studying representations of albinism (fictional albinos) in speculative fiction; I have albinism and people’s misunderstandings of the condition have shaped my life. I hope to influence changes to benefit the next generation growing up with albinism as well as influencing society to become more inclusive and diverse.

Cubbie Mako: I’m a member of West Writers Group and an art student at Footscray Community Art Centre in Melbourne.  My artworks and non-fiction pieces have been published in Australian literary magazines and journals.  I have written some non-fiction pieces about my love for fandom, and my personal fangirling for the 80’s cartoon series Voltron.  In the last two years, I was part of a panel at Melbourne’s Emerging Writers Festival where we had a conversation about fandom and fanfiction.

Ella Donald: I’m a freelance journalist and critic across heaps of areas, but with a particular interest in the shrinking divide between technology. I spent an inordinate amount of nights and lunch breaks particularly in high school reading fanfic.

What is it that you love about fanfiction?

Jes: Fanfiction, and its creators, don’t hold back any punches. It’s a genre not restricted by market, audience or acceptable norms. It’s unfiltered, uninhibited creativity fuelled entirely by passion.

Nalini: I love that there is a vibrant community out there writing and rewriting stories passionately to include different people groups, like putting a queer romance into Harry Potter, or disability into Star Trek.

Cubbie: I love that fanfiction writers are able plug in the gaps between episodes, or create an alternative world based on the show’s iconic characters.  In my case, I wrote an entire AU (alternate universe) prequel about how Voltron was created (long before the new Voltron Legendary Defender series was aired on Netflix in June 2016).

Ella: I think of how it felt to discover those first few stories as a teenager – finally, I could read about someone who felt like me, which is not something I could find elsewhere! It was the only place where I could find queer stories.

Now for the fun part, what fanfiction do you recommend?

Jes: One of my favourite fanfics picks up off from the Supernatural season 6 cliff-hanger; Redemption Road is a fan-generated, large-scale CU (Canon Universe) project created by members of the SPN and Destiel fandoms. It’s a fic near and dear to my heart.

Nalini: I don’t read fanfiction but I’d recommend anything produced in an inclusive, passionate community. I’d like to plug a debut novel, though, the Man Booker longlisted speculative fiction novel The Chimes by Anna Smaill, which is the best representation of albinism that I’ve read.

Cubbie: I need to admit first I only have one fandom – Voltron.  For budgetary/economic reasons. It would be too expensive if I fangirl more than one fandom, one ship. In saying that, I came up with a list of my favourite fanfics written for my OTP (one true pairing).

Ella: Too many! My main fandoms over the years have been Orphan Black and Glee, though. It’s not a fanfic that was formative in terms of having a way to access queer-themed literature, but OBspec is one I’ll always come back to as an example of the sheer scope and artistry fanfiction can have. It was a project undertaken by a couple of Orphan Black fans who wrote their own series of teleplays for a hypothetical season four which, frankly, was better than the actual season.

What advice would you have for those wanting to write fanfiction?

Jes: Write what you want to write/read. Not everything will please everyone, but in the world of fanfiction it will please someone. Especially if you have something full on out there. Experiment, have fun.

Nalini: Write what you know. If you’re a minority voice, adding your experience to something more traditional — something where you don’t see yourself — is important and will help other people see themselves too. Have fun.

Cubbie: Find your community; find kindred writers and enjoy their company, people who help each other improve fanfiction writing.  I was lucky to be part of a small group comprised of beta-readers and editors, we even had an English teacher among the fanfiction writers.

Ella: I haven’t written much myself, so I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on this. In saying that though, don’t be afraid to take just the characters you love and go from there. Some of the best fic I’ve read has nothing in common with the source material except for the character names and a handful of their personality traits. Channel them into your world. Additionally for those more smuttily inclined, read this (NSFW) thread and ban every phrase on it from your writing.

For more from these artists, join us for Digital Tour: Fanfiction Spaces, Friday November 3, 12:30pm AEST; and Representation in Fanfiction, Friday November 3, 3pm AEST.

See the full Digital Writers’ Festival program, and watch back all our events, here.