I can pinpoint exactly how I got into reading fanfic. Exactly. It was sometime in 2000 or 2001 (back when the set up of the computers put them in the den on the main floor of the house- back when people in my family had to share two computers, well before it became common to see us all huddled in the living room illuminated by the glow of separate laptop screens).
I was bored, and of all the random stuff in the world, my sister told me to go to bored.com and find something there to do. There was a link to fanfiction.net. And thus my addiction began.
Now, mind you, I was a geek, but I was a superhero
geek. I was delighted with BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES, or whatever they were calling it that season, and I was fairly addicted to a number of other superhero offshoots. I was a Marvel comics reader with a guilty love of a few DC characters, but limited by my suburban surroundings and being several years from my driver's permit, I was shit out of luck finding a comic book shop.
But there was fanfiction
. On the internet. For free
. People were writing stories about characters I liked, and I could get them without ever having to spend money or leave the house! The valkyries had come in the night to take me to my geeky Valhalla. And for a long time, I was content.
For, you see, this was before fanfiction.net stopped hosting NC-17 material. And thus, much of my introduction to fandom was paired with my introduction to porn. And I was happy, happy girl.
I existed like this for a damned long time, actually. I read more Marvel comics fanfic than I read the comics, and I was able to glean canon events and changes from that. Ff.net was still my one and only pit stop on the internet for this sort of thing, however, but it opened my brain up to something completely mind bogglingly different about being a geek.
There were others. Not only were people writing fanfic (and this, for me, was still a shockingly novel concept- authors of books were ephemeral creatures who stepped down from the clouds with completed works in hand. I could love a series to death without having any interest in the author whatsoever- it honestly just did not occur to me at all to care, ) but people reading the same fanfic as me
. And writing comments. And praise. And then the author would respond, and the story would go on, and the cycle would repeat.
[This was pretty shocking to me, actually. I was the weird kid in school who'd moved in late when everyone else was already friends, and my social activities were greatly limited. Either as a cause of this, or just as a result, I read a metric shitload of books at a time. And no one ever read the same thing as me. Never. The Library was a place I went to restock on books, about a half dozen at a time, and other people went to socialize at the little tables together. No one ever read the same stuff as me.
[At least, no one I ever wanted to talk to- certainly none of the other girls. (I have vague recollections of geeky boys at school avidly discussing the logistics involved in the Yeerk invasion of Earth in ANIMORPHS, but I never talked to them because I never spoke to anyone of my own free will during the school day.) I read HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE around the time it came out, not because it was recommended to me, but just because it was in the public library in the scifi/fantasy section, and carried it around with me at school and I was flabbergasted
when another girl wanted to talk to me about it. Befuddled, bewildered and utterly taken aback. Weirdest thing that had ever happened to me, and honestly was probably the point at which I began viewing that series with suspicion. But I digress.]
So there was fanfiction.net, haven of geeks, freaks, and other assorted weirdoes who were better geeks than me
, because they were spending more time and energy thinking about their characters and backgrounds. Seriously. Nowadays I hardly ever visit ff.net because the ratio of awesome to crap is sadly skewed, but I was young and foolish and I didn't judge stories on their bad grammar. I just went with the flow and liked the Mary Sue even if she was unrealistically perky.
But one thing that ff.net did
have going for it, was it was multifandom.
You could find fanfic on just about anything there, and while I was initially too faithful and too fearful to leave my comicbook bailiwick, eventually I began to explore. I ignored Harry Potter because I just didn't like their conception of magic compared to that depicted in the YOUNG WIZARDS series by Diane Duane, but I went out into the world and found Star Wars, and Jane Austen, and more than a few others things.
Which brings us to about 2002, the year when NC-17 material was banned from ff.net. I remember some of the outraged posts about this, but honestly, this was a good thing for me, because it forced me to decentralize my fannish attentions- there was no more smut to be found on ff.net, so I went further afield, and bumped accidentally into really good authors writing really good porn. And honestly, just other really good stories.
Clearly, this marked a turning point. Teland.com became my new favorite place on the internet, and introduced me to a concept that (had I any functional social network) would have occurred to me before: recommendations
. People who wrote good stuff were usually reading
good stuff too. My intake grew exponentially in my given fandoms, and it was all good
. I didn't have to wade through crap anymore to find well-written stories. I didn't have to deal with horrific punctuation. There were good writers making interesting works, and all I had to do was follow one link to another to find what I wanted.
There were even sites where people did nothing but write recommendations for fic, and this was where I came across thefourthvine
. While TFV and I do not interact hardly at all, her recommendations for fandoms I liked were great
. She found really, really good stories. The only problem was, large fandoms tend to produce more authors, and when you get a bigger pool of authors, you get better chances of finding really good stories. And the stuff she was reccing? Not in my fandoms, generally. Some were! And they were great stuff, but many were not, and I was loathe to read fic stories where I did not know anything about the canon.
But going through her TFV's lj looking for my fandoms, I found an older post of hers, where she detailed this shocking truth: she often didn't know the fandoms either
. She often read fic from fandoms where she only had the most basic information about the canon. In fact, she threw another shocking concept my way: she did not even feel guilty about this.
She didn't seem to think that she really needed
the canon. She read the fanfic because she liked the fanfic.
And in that moment, friends, I was set free.
I don't need to know the canon. I don't need to feel like I need to watch the first season of a series before I can read the fic authors I want. I don't have to care about spoilers. I can just read the fanfic because I like the fanfic, and forget about the canon entirely if I want to.
This attitude changed my interaction with fandom entirely. It opened doors into fandoms I never thought I would care about, with shows that had been off the air for years
or things that were only available in languages I don't speak. I became a fan of fandom in and of itself, not merely as a means to worship of canon, but as a concept of shared creative endeavor without any hope of profit.
And here I stand.