Caitlin Moran, a woman who I’d try to like in normal circumstances, has pissed me off. No, she has enraged me.
As you may or may not know, I started out as a fan fiction writer. I’m very proud of my fan fiction; it’s amongst the best stuff I’ve written. A lot of people read it. A lot of people really love it.
But more than anything, fan fiction is an intensely private communion between people who share, or have the willingness to try, a particular idea or fantasy.
By forcing Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman to read aloud Sherlock slash fiction live at a Q and A session, Moran has shown gross disregard, disrespect and ignorance for, not only a huge fandom (of which, incidentally, I am not part of), but for the creativity and generosity of women who choose to write fan fiction. And she calls herself a feminist? Seems to me she doesn’t understand the half of what makes her sex tick.
Fan fiction is not aimed at the actors or writers of canon stories or shows. It’s not necessarily even aimed at most fans. To be honest, it’s not aimed at anyone. I warrant most fan fiction stories are written simply because they can be written, because they are itching to come out. They are the manifestation of a spark: something you may have noticed between two characters but you know will never emerge in canon; something which ticks away inside and makes you think of a story; something which takes your mind off the drain of your daily grind.
You may well say – That’s all good and fine, but why put it online? Why not simply tuck it away in a bedside cabinet to take out when you need? Perhaps you could, but who are we to deny anyone the chance for feedback for something they have created. Once created, our works, our babies, demand a need to share, even if that wasn’t the driving force behind it.
I know people will say the internet is a public space. If you put things on the internet you have to live with the consequences of that. Of course you do. But, for goodness sake, the internet is a vast place. Let’s face it, unless you go looking for ‘John/Sherlock slash fic’ you’re not going to just stumble across it on your BBC home page. Most fan fiction writers can safely assume that people who find their work have wanted to find it. And if you don’t want it, don’t read it. The fan fiction writer in the Moran case had her work, the fruit of her imagination and hard work, plucked, taken entirely out of context, and placed into a situation which she would never have envisaged or allowed. It was offensive to her, to her writing, and to the actors and creators of Sherlock. Luckily, it has backfired. The person looking worst out of all this is Moran herself. What a phenomenal misjudgement on her part.
Of course, it has led to the inevitable debate about the merits and myths of fan fiction, with the usual comments about most fan fiction being crap written by teenagers who warp the characters beyond any recognition.
A lot of fan fiction fits that bill, yes (and so what if it does, anyway?). A lot of it doesn’t. Considering that there are millions of fan fiction stories out there, like anything else in life, 90% of it will be crap, 10% of it will be decent, if not brilliant. 10% of 2 million is 200,000. That’s a hell of a lot of wonderful, worthy fan fiction.
And, anyway, how dare we turn to a young writer and say: Don’t write anymore. You don’t know how to write and it’s so bad that you need to stop now.
I’m sorry, but WTF!?
How dare we be so conceited and snobbish that we would deny ANYBODY the chance to write and express themselves creatively? So what if it has John and Sherlock as roommates at a US college, and John gets Sherlock pregnant? Don’t fucking read the thing if you don’t like it, but don’t you bloody dare deny the person the right to form it into words (of whatever quality) if they want to. It’s not exploiting or hurting anyone and they are not demanding that you read it.
Any creativity should be commended and encouraged. We all have to start somewhere. And we can all improve and develop.
The fan fiction extract read out at the Q and A session sounded like a decent piece of writing to me, and it has since emerged that it was written by a mother of young children who, like all of us in that situation, took a moment or two to let her fancy fly and was generous enough to share it with those of a like mind. But it was taken out of context and by doing so it broke the fourth wall between fandom and canon. Big no no. Shame, shame on you Caitlin Moran for taking somebody’s baby, holding it up for derision and trampling on it.
Ultimately though, the joke’s on her. And at this moment, I for one am only too happy to point and laugh.