Fan fiction.

A very loaded phrase, isn’t it? Often used as shorthand for “bad wish-fulfillment writing by subliterate teenage girls” by those without respect or understanding for the form. It is indeed a form, and not a genre; fanfiction (or “fanfic”, or “fic” for short-short) comes in all genres, hundreds of approaches, millions of thoughts. Much maligned as plagiarism, outright theft, the result of a lack of imagination/creativity/originality/a writer’s own ideas. There is often a sexist bias present in this disparagement, but I’m not interested in getting into that here (I’d love to go to grad school and study it officially, though; anybody got a spare $90K they’d be willing to donate?…); I’m much more interested in how ideas take root, grow, and sometimes bloom into something that surprises even the creator.

Fan fiction provides a space for exploring taboos (and certainly, that’s where a lot of my own interest lies, both as a reader and writer). Taboos of ownership and permission (“Am I allowed to write my own stories in this pre-existing, copyrighted-up-the-wazoo ‘reality’?”); taboos of sexuality and gender (a fun challenge is to think up the most unlikely or outré “pairing” and then look on the internet to see if it exists – and I have never once been disappointed); even taboos of respecting the “reality” of the source material, or even of reality in general as we understand it.

I write fanfic. I have done since I was twelve or so. Indeed, that is really how I got started writing in the first place. I wrote it as an adolescent and I have never stopped, and I have no intention of ever stopping. I consider some of it amongst the very best writing I have ever done, and it makes me sad that most of it will go unread – not because it’s fanfic (one of my favorite authors, Steven Brust, wrote a brilliant fanfic Firefly novel, posted it for free on this website, and hasn’t gotten into any trouble as far as I know) but because for most people, if they’re not interested in the subject matter, they won’t read it. (Why aren’t more people as interested in reading about gay sex as I am? Am I peculiar in some way? 😉 … ah, so be it.)

However, if there’s any interest in reading it, I’m more than happy to share it. And hell, thanks to the vagaries of copyright, it’s all free; I don’t make any money from it. The funny thing is, fanfic is still some of my very favorite writing to do; I only write about characters who can take up residence in my head, so that I don’t have to make much of an effort to depict their “voices” on the page (true for fanfic AND original fic, for that matter). It’s really all the same to me; it’s just whether or not I get paid, have to hustle and pimp it, play by someone else’s rules, negotiate commerce and expectation instead of negotiating a pre-existing fictive space and doing the pleasurable research of (usually) watching an episode of TV with an eye for freeze-frame minutiae (“Where is the couch in position to the chest of drawers, the sideboard, and the mantelpiece? And IS THERE A RUG?! And what kind of rug is it? Does it look comfy?”). When I’m writing original fiction, I’ve got all this detail already in my mind; I just transcribe it. It’s really not any less work to write fanfic; not really. And as much as I’d love to get paid for all the writing I do, when it comes to fic, I just want to, as I say, “Rock worlds.”

I’d like to get paid as a writer so that I could devote myself entire to the craft, instead of worrying about what I’m going to pack for lunch and if the upcoming staff meeting promises to be stressful; but really, I’m here to Rock Worlds. I want to entertain the hell out of you. I want you to see a reflection of yourself in me, and I want a knowing laugh, a tear, and a feeling of not-displeasurable tightness in your trouser area. I want you to have fun in my world, as I’ve had fun in the worlds of leGuin, Brite, Gaiman, Speed McNeil, Whedon, Baker (Nicholson and James Robert), Parker, Conan Doyle (and Moffat and Gatiss), Straczynski, Watterson, Thompson (Jim and Hunter and Jill, too), and you too, Mr. Brust. I write to reflect my love out to the world, and if you inspire me in just the right way, I will pick up the loose thread and start knitting my own sweater.

And I encourage you to do the same with my works. Please, please, please, write fanfic (and create fan art!) based on my works. It’s the greatest compliment I could ever receive (that, and a nice fat check, but first things first).

the creator/fan schism

May 19, 2011

I’m kind of right in the middle of it…

For the last 10 years or so, my life has been a struggle to reconcile the two major parts of my personality – that which longs to create, and that which longs to enjoy and obsess over that which others have created. In other words, I am both a creator and a fan. Oddly enough, the two make for uneasy bedfellows, at least in my life. Every day brings the decision – “Shall I write? Or shall I read some of these books I’ve got piled up, or watch some of these movies I own or have on loan, or listen to music with my full mind, or…”

I have no particular solution to this problem.

Current viewing crack:
Torchwood. I’m in the middle of series 2. It’s become incredibly brilliant and hard-hitting. Too much love.
Game of Thrones. I was a supporter/curious as soon as this series was announced, and caught up with all the episodes within two weeks. So far, I am pro- pretty much all the ladies, except for that whiny, pretty bitchface Stark daughter. I do believe that eventually she’ll come into her own – hopefully with the help of some hot lady-on-lady sex scenes.
Doctor Who, current series (season 6 by our US reckoning). Good stuff. Frequently wet-yourself scary.
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. I’m going to probably have to cut this short; it’s from the library, and it’s due back in 2 days. Love it, but ultimately inessential; as brilliant as Jeremy Brett is, I’m a Cumberbatch loyalist through and through. It’s called imprinting.
Glee. Because I’m one of those people.

Current reading crack:
Sherlock fan fiction. Don’t judge me; the writing is brilliant.
Torchwood fan fiction. OK, you can judge me for that. Itches must be scratched.
Echo, a comics series by Terry Moore. I have been a fan of Moore’s for a long time, but I can still forget how brilliant he is as a writer, artist, and character designer. This series is blowing me away – great characters across the board, and some of them are women. Amazing, right?
Chew, a comics series by John Laymon and Rob Guillory. I was curious; I bought Volume 1; that was all it took. Demented and fun.
Various other single-issues of this and that – Superman, Hellboy and BPRD, Scarlet, the Ring of the Niebelung miniseries from P.Craig Russell (exquisite!!). I’ve got a thick stack of American Splendor comics I liberated from work, too, but I haven’t started on them.

This is too much to do already, let alone the actual work of editing and writing that should be happening now. I get to it when I can, but I’ve been a bit sick and a lot tired lately, and all I can do is slump on the couch and watch TV shows on DVD. I’ll get back on the horse, but sometimes, my creative juice just runs dry, and I have to prime the pump with other people’s creations. It makes me just as happy, generally speaking. And I guess therein lies the problem – I don’t know any other writers who are also just big slobbering fans of stuff. I know other writers with enthusiasms, and obsessions, certainly, but they aren’t the type to want to seriously consider buying a Cumberbitches T-shirt, getting Deep Space 9 themed tattoos, or running out of money by the end of the month because they bought comic books. Maybe they’re out there, and I just haven’t met them yet.

All about Lovely

May 17, 2011

(This is crossposted from the Dorchester Publishing page. And there will be more of these musings to come.)

One of the most common questions that any writer gets is “Where do you get your ideas?” In many cases, I can truthfully answer that the ideas were shaped by my own life experiences – not that I’ve know many vampires, but I have known some people who came close, even if they weren’t truly undead, super-powered blood drinkers. In one particular case, however, a character occurred to me as if out of nowhere, and demanded that I depict him.

After I graduated from college in 1994, I moved from Portland to San Francisco to try and find some kind of gainful employment better than working the swing shift at a convenience store. I got a job with reassuring swiftness at a company that no longer exists (oddly enough, most of the places I’ve ever worked no longer exist), handling data entry and library database research. It was a decent place to work, and after a terrible spring and an even worse, underemployed, desperate, rootless summer, I felt as though I might be able to make it in the world somehow.

At that point I wasn’t writing. Part of the unpleasantness of the spring came from the humiliation suffered as I tried to defend a novel that I’d presented as my senior thesis; my overblown, overheated style made for an easy target, and my relative ignorance of what a novel was, and its place in a literary canon, even at the point where I was ready to receive a degree in English, earned me some well-deserved sharp blows from my professors. The message that I received, loud and clear, was that my writing wasn’t good enough, and I didn’t know what I was talking about (which was more or less true). All I really had to offer were stories, and characters, and conflict, and mood; if this was not enough, I had no business calling myself a novelist.

I’d moved to San Francisco hoping that the city’s rich literary heritage might seep into me. I hoped that being in the same environment that spawned such greats as Shirley Jackson, Armistead Maupin, and Lemony Snicket might have a beneficial effect on me. Walking the endless stretch of Market Street, drinking in bars in the Castro, loitering outside the shops at the corner of Haight and Ashbury, and being kicked out of the first place I lived within two weeks of moving in had to have some kind of educational value, didn’t it?

When I was eighteen, I wrote a seventy-page draft of a vampire novel that I felt had some potential, but it certainly wasn’t there yet. I’d been thinking it over occasionally ever since, wondering if there was any way to make it better, to make it really work as a narrative and not just a collection of vignettes and one-liners between two vampires, old lovers, come to the point of their relationship when most of their interactions are fights and quarrels. I hadn’t actually worked any more on the novel since its second draft, written out longhand in a spiral notebook, but the two central characters refused to leave my mind, and increasingly, I saw a third character, a woman and a shared lover, as a bridge between them. And yet, that wasn’t enough, either; I needed more than a standard love triangle. These characters would require more than a bedroom farce. Even Noel Coward’s Design for Living has more than three characters.

One early afternoon, I was at work, and on the phone. I had a red pen and a lined spiral notebook (or maybe it was a pad of Post-Its?…) so that I could take notes and mark up the printouts of the documents I had been tasked to find. The margins of that notebook had been used for many a phone doodle; I tended towards geometric designs, hands, and anime-style eyes. When I was little, I considered becoming a visual artist, and drew constantly, but at a certain point, I hit a wall of skill and expression that I just couldn’t scale, and my family lacked the money to invest in supplies to take further art classes. Spiral notebooks and ballpoint pens, however, were cheap, and as I had always narrated a story to myself with every drawing I created, I determined to just write the stories alone. On that work day, on the phone, I sketched the outline of a face, the curve of a neck flaring out to narrow shoulders and an arched collarbone. Almost as if out of nowhere, the eyes appeared – big, dark, soft, haunted eyes. No eyebrows. That was important.

The phone call ended, and I continued the drawing, adding a small, full, shy mouth; a slender, bare male torso, some vague drapery around the hips, and a couple of protruding, mouse-like ears. For hair, I dashed a couple of vertical lines sprouting from the center of the forehead, and stippled the sides of the head, suggesting a sort of fleecy stubble. I paused for a moment and considered the drawing. Despite the sadness of the eyes, this creature seemed to have a wonderful, wicked sense of humor. And he’d be a teenage runaway, from Oklahoma. A mutant freak in his native environment, he’d have to run away to find a place to call home; and perhaps it wouldn’t be a place; it’d be a person. An eternal person. A vampire. Of course.

I wrote, beside the figure, Lovely.

Then I gave him some tattoos. And pierced nipples. This was 1994, after all. He was beautiful; he was tragic in origin; he was fearless, sexual, sentimental, earthy and ethereal at once. He reminded me of the characters from Francesca Lia Bloch’s Weetzie Bat novels, which meant that he wouldn’t end up in San Francisco; it would have to be Los Angeles, the L.A. of punk clubs, bougainvillea, Oki Dog, Hollywood glamorous sleaze. He pulled the story along with him. He sprung from my head fully formed, and the novel where he would live shaped itself around him.

With shaking hands, I tore the drawing out of the notebook and put it in whatever book happened to be in my purse at the time, and got back to work. During the tumultuous months afterward, I would look at the drawing again from time to time, further details about this new fictitious person expanding in my mind. I found my original notebook draft of the vampire novel, and re-read it. Shortly after acquiring a bare-bones PC, I opened a new document and began writing a scene between Daniel, the more forceful of the two vampire characters, and Lovely, as told by the teenage runaway himself to an unseen narrator. As Lovely told his story, the unseen narrator, the intermediary, also began to take shape in my mind; her loves, desires, and frustrations.

Keep in mind that, as far as I was concerned, I’d given up on writing. This was just fun, like an expansion of “rolling up” characters for a role-playing game. I began to do that, too; in the occasional sessions of Vampire: the Masquerade I had with my only friends in the whole Bay Area, I created Ariane as a player character. Quickly, though, I realized that she wasn’t an RPG character; I needed more control and more detail than would ever be useful around the gaming table. Still, playing her brought her voice to my mind, and I wrote more scenes between her and Lovely, with other characters in her life, with her own story. Throughout all of this, Lovely remained strongly at the forefront of my mind; I wanted to write something worthy of him.

Lovely, seventeen years old and as childish and silly as a puppy, became the mortal companion of the vampire Daniel Blum. As ward, as lover, as good-natured heir to the immortal power of vampirism, Lovely bears many similarities to some young men I have known (and loved, and been vexed by), and yet he is as individual as anyone I’ve ever met. His realism and spontaneity helped the novel Voice of the Blood come into being. I don’t feel that I crafted him; he just showed up and told me how things were going to go.

I still have the drawing. See?

"Lovely" drawn by Jemiah Jefferson

The drawing - not on lined paper at all!

is it really real?

May 3, 2011

According to Amazon (and the Dorchester web page) it is.

The “Vampire Quartet” books are now available again – all four are available in Kindle editions right this very minute.

Other e-book formats are coming, as are the trade paperback versions, an an audiobook of Voice of the Blood (alas, not read by me).

Buy now from the publisher’s website. And tell me what you think – I love me some feedback.

Portland, Oregon, springtime. When it rains, it frequently hails, and it can get violent. Last year brought a hailstorm so insistent that, by the time it was done, the streets were piled so high with small hailstones that it looked like snow. That was an awesome day; the power went out at work, and we went home early. And then later I went and had coffee with the wonderfulZane Grant .

Today, I’m hard at work a personally-staggering amount of very cool projects. In addition to my editorial duties at Dark Horse, I am:
• working on organizing a loose coalition of friends and minions to help me self-publish a novel (which will be retitled, but the working title is My Little Golden Book of the Apocalypse… yeah, have to change that) that I wrote all the way back in 1998, but still believe in
• still working on finishing the first draft of the novel still known as Plums, as well as thinking over potential angles for using social media marketing and reader interaction
• preparing for the Vampire Quartet re-release, which looks like it’s going to happen in mid-May (a specific date is still unknown at this time)
• being a guest on a KBOO-FM radio show, the Eavesdrop, on Thursday, May 5th, at 7pm. If you’re a Portland local, you can hear KBOO at 90.7 FM. If not, you can listen to a live stream of the broadcast at kboo.fm. It’s during Pledge Drive, so… y’know. 🙂

Springtime brings pollen. It’s been a rough year for the Pacific Northwest – people who are usually free from allergy symptoms are feeling them, and people WITH allergies are in hell. For those happy shiny people like me, with autoimmune disorders, it’s been even rougher. I’m just lucky and grateful that my only problems have been blazed-out eyes and achy legs. Everyone’s cranky because they want summer to get here. I’m fine with a few more weeks of reprieve so that I can acquire some cute summer dresses.

In the meantime, the new season of Doctor Who is almost overwhelmingly good. Expect some gushing about it.

Happy spring, everyone.

chaos reigns

March 31, 2011

I’ve been saying that a lot recently. (I really should watch ANTICHRIST so I can actually place that quote into context.)

For an update on what’s been on my mind, I encourage you to read this:
http://www.stacydittrich.com/blog/2011/03/guess-what-dorchester-its-on/

And what does that mean for me?

To be honest, I have no idea. The Vampire Quartet (so-named) is still on track for re-release. I cannot get my rights back. I have no money to get the law involved.

So… act in conscience. Buy or do not. And in the future – I will continue writing, and sharing my work, through self-publishing if necessary, and I hope that my readers will continue to be interested.

In the meantime, I has a sad.

Watching The Pied Piper, a fluffy 1973 lark with Donovan acting in it. I don’t have much hope that this movie will actually be much good (It’s a “Goodtimes Enterprises Film” – oy vey) though it does have John Hurt and Donald Pleasance in… wait, that’s no guarantee of anything. Diana Dors as “Frau Poppendick”? Good lord, what have I gotten myself into?

Well, I count Donovan as one of my muses (along with such notables as John Taylor, Peter Murphy, Montgomery Clift, Alex Colby, and that cute little skank Jeremy from high school) and have been inspired by him to write much material. I am now in the process of revising the novel-sized chunk of said material, originally written when I was 19 and a college sophomore and had a single room. I’ve been off the Donovan crack pipe for quite some time now – one bad LSD trip will do that to you – actually, no, it was because Nick Cave took over and blotted out the sun – and I lost all my original Donovan vinyl – but I want to recall that sweet mania that drove me to write that novel in the first place.

To that end I will re-educate myself about the sound of his voice, for that was the conduit that the holy madness was first transmitted to me. I had barely ever seen a photograph of him until years after I had obsessively collected all his records and spent my first summer home from college being soothed by the songs, nostalgic for soft Portland rain and not the violence of Denver sunshine. Donovan is one of those fellows whose voice is substantially more beautiful than his face – though, I could be mistaken. I’ve never seen Donovan in a movie before.

Hell, I watched The Magic Christian just because Ringo Starr was in it, and I don’t even fancy Ringo.

Wish me luck. Frau Poppendick. I swear.

new mind detritus

February 13, 2011

I will blog more often.

Recent distractions/lifesavers:
• Sherlock, and all things Benedict Cumberbatch.
• Small Craft on a Milk Sea, the new Brian Eno release. It’s excellent.
• The second half of the fourth season of Doctor Who.
• Frankenstein, the new production in the West End, directed by Danny Boyle, music by Underworld, and starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller as Dr. Frankenstein and the Monster, trading roles every night. They will be broadcasting it to theaters in the US shortly; I will be at the Portland screenings at least twice – more details on this in the near future.
• A weekly cooking experiment. So far I’ve succeeded at coconut dal, coq au vin, and a brined pork loin roast. I’m pretty good at this.

Current projects:
Plums (massive sexy three-way gay male love story) – working towards a complete first draft
The Legend of a Lucy Willow (a tough/tender YA-ish romance set in the world of British pop music in 1967) – reading through the first draft, which was written in 1992
FirstWorld (cyberpunk/cyber-real story, as serialized at Underland Press website) – revised and improved, it’s being looked at by a professional at the moment
• a piece of Sherlock fan fiction, which shall not be named here; when it’s done, I may say so here, but you will have to find it yourself. It’s the kind of thing that could get me in trouble. 😉

Oh yeah, and Dark Horse, where I’ll be tomorrow. I am working on a lot of projects there right now, some of which I’m not allowed to talk about yet. More details to come as things get worked out and I have time.

Coming soon: Emerald City Comic Con.

I have been caffeine-free today. My headache tells me so.

nice weather for books

November 1, 2010

“November has come.” Not just a great Gorillaz song, but today’s reality in spades. It’s turtleneck weather, children, and I couldn’t be happier. Got my snow boots in the mail and now feel prepared for anything. Of course, I’m sure I’ll get some surprises any damn way, life being like that and all.

Interesting day for books. From library, current reading list consists of Teleny (which, in my opinion, is not written by Oscar Wilde at all, though maybe he thought up some of the set pieces), Cities of the Interior by Anais Nin (haven’t started yet), In Search of a Master by John Preston (a semi-legendary dirty book held in high enough esteem that it’s in the library – a position I hope to someday hold), and Collected Plays of Noel Coward, out of which I am reading Design for Living.

Meanwhile, I am in good health and good spirits. I may even write tonight, which would be divine. It’s once again been too long.

e-book editions

October 16, 2010

The e-book editions of the Vampire Quartet will be available on Amazon starting on December 28th, 2010. In the meantime, if you’ve got a Kindle-enabled device, A Drop of Scarlet is actually available now. I downloaded it myself (yes, and bought it, because… well, yeah) just this morning, and I am pleased to report that it works. It’s basically an electronic version of the mass-market book, complete with the same typefaces and margins, and it reads great.

If you’ve got a Kindle-enabled device and six bucks, give it a try.

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B001KIG19U

A Drop Of Scarlet - front cover

ADOS original cover

In the meantime, today I am going to be working on the newest novel, which I have entitled Plums. It has nothing to do with vampires, and everything to do with love and lust
.