Fan Fiction Oral History Project with Starlady

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Interviews by Fans
Title: Fan Fiction Oral History Project with Starlady
Interviewer: Abigail De Kosnik
Interviewee: Starlady
Date(s): June 18, 2012
Medium: audio, print transcript
Fandom(s):
External Links: Fiction Oral History Project with Starlady
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Fan Fiction Oral History Project with Starlady was conducted in 2012 by Abigail De Kosnik and archived at the University of Iowa Libraries.

This interview's medium is audio (length: 1:39:54), and it has a written 46-page transcript.

It was part of the series: Fan Fiction Oral History Project also referred to as "a Fiction and Internet Memory Research Project," "the Fiction and Internet Memory Program," and "Fan Fiction and Internet Memory."

The interviews conducted for this project were used for the book by Abigail De Kosnik called Rogue Archives: Digital Cultural Memory and Media Fandom.

Some Topics Discussed

Excerpts

One of the things that I have tended to notice when fic writers have turned pro is that they are frequently really good at characterization and frequently really terrible at plotting, to varying degrees. But I do think I've seen that fairly commonly. I actually sort of feel like I am something of an outlier in this respect, in that I feel like my plots are not terrible and the longer fic that I've written that I've liked does have plot. The other thing about fic, I think, is that you can do things with it and with plots that you couldn't do with published works, just because you're breaking various narrative structure conventions or whatever, or trying to mess with them—which I have done to, I think, varying success. I definitely do think that characters are ... Characters are what drive it, and then relationships, a very large number too, as well.

I wrote a story for the Sherlock Holmes Big Bang in the summer of 2009 that was a steampunk AU. I was doing a number of things ... I am a historian-in-training in my professional life, so there are a number of things that happened, one of which was that Ada Lovelace didn't die and she and Babbage went on to actually make a difference engine. So I was sort of trying ... Some of what was going on was trying—oh, and the other thing was that Princess Charlotte didn't die in childbirth in 1819, so this is part of how I know way to much about the British monarchy. I was trying to ... I wrote a story in which there's an airship service that's staffed by women, and so Mary Morstan in this story was an airship executive officer, second-in- command of an airship, and her commanding officer goes rogue and tries to —It's not entirely clear, what she's trying to do deliberately, but Holmes and Watson figure out that she is going to try to assassinate the king or something, to that effect.

[snipped]

I wanted [Mary Morstan] to be sort of sympathetic but also opaque and also obviously not doing the right thing. I think Holmes ... One of the things I like about him is the way he, himself, is pretty far up against the bounds of Victorian acceptable social conventions but always is sort of—he, despite this, he acts for society. I read it again, I don't know, a couple months ago, and I still really like it, but it's not really ... I don't think I could have sold that storyline to an editor. I think they would have made me change it and fill things in, make it more conventional. I think plot is like a curve, or the conventional plot diagram ...
I was actually in a Barnes & Noble in Minnesota with a friend of mine a couple weeks ago, and we walked through the Young Adult section, and I pointed out the latest Cassie Claire book, and I was like, Aw, see! Hermione has gotten a dye job since the latest book. It was originally a Hermione/Draco fanfic. And then my friend asked—because I actually had a couple more comments of that nature—like, "Do you think that more fannish authors are going pro now?" And I actually feel like—knowing a little bit about early Star Trek fandom and stuff like that—I actually think the only thing that's changed is people being more open about it somewhat, and also the Internet making it easier to know these things.... There's definitely still authors who write fanfic; like Diane Duane every so often, on her Tumblr, will post random bits of fic. She wrote a funny Sherlock BBC [fic] about six months ago, maybe, like a series. I don't think that connection is new, I guess.
Well, my thing with [Fifty Shades of Grey], I was at a guerrilla Twilight panel at WisCon thirty-six last month, and one of the panelists said, "Well, I've read that and I was like, This is totally wrong! Bella is the kinky one!" Which I think is true, so that one's interesting because they were so open about it. Also, I think it's introducing BDSM to the masses in a way.
And I never actually had time to sit down and read [Fifty Shades of Grey].... when I opened the New York Times last month, and the social Q&A question column, the first one was some woman writing and being like, "My friend likes Fifty Shades of Grey but I don't think it's feminist. What do I do?" I didn't even read the answer because the answer was irrelevant to me. I was just like, Okay, so this has arrived. I feel like the media has to perpetually just rediscover the fact that women are interested in sex every so often, and this is sort of another iteration of that part.
I think that [transformative fandom] has become more visible lately. And I think the other thing is that for a lot of long-running media properties—Doctor Who, comics, anytime anyone does anything with Sherlock Holmes, Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek the new movies—I think all of those are now—The people who are rebooting them professionally define themselves as fans of that, and they came out of being science fiction or comics fans; so that doesn't mean that they aren't beholden to the corporate people with the spreadsheets and the bottom lines, but I do think that does change what you see on the screen. As opposed to just when these things were starting out and people were just writing them for the money, and for being whatever the hell they wanted to, to not caring; now, people care.
Like I said, my family was really into Harry Potter, like my mother was a huge Harry Potter fan, so she had all the spoilery guides, the unofficial guides to Harry Potter and whatnot, and we read the books aloud to each other when they came out, midnight parties and stuff. When I remember MuggleNet, I guess especially for the sixth book—the fifth and sixth books especially—I remember refreshing the site for stuff about spoilers and then when JKR would be updating her website and then there'd be these long spoilery comments, speculation threads and people would be like, JKR is here, because at one point she had said that she read MuggleNet. And I think she did wind up getting to know the people around the site fairly well; that and the Leaky Cauldron were the two big ones. I recall Harry Potter as a very happy place, fannishly. That's also since I've predominately liked the books. I think [book] four is still my favorite in the series. [Books] five and seven needed an editor, but I didn't hate everything she did. Actually now that I've got gotten older and have gotten more into fandom, now I actually disagree with some of what she did in the later books more, but at the time, I wasn't one of those people who had gotten heavily invested in—. You know, I think if I had been in fandom, in Harry Potter fandom—especially since there was the long hiatus between books four and five, when a lot of people wrote a lot of stuff that then went, was like way off the rails, after she finished the books. I think a lot of those people sort of couldn't accept what she did with the characters. I think if I had been in that world, I think I would have had a different reaction, but at the time, I really liked, I was predominantly on board with everything that she did.
I think in the aspect of "I like problematic texts" discussion, I've seen ... I think a lot of people do realize that your mileage may vary. I also think too, that there's some things you sort of make the choice not to go back and reread because they'll have been visited by the The Suck Fairy. Or they'll just sort of ruin—like, reading it with adult eyes will ruin your happy childhood memories of really liking it, you know? But on the other hand, I don't know. I was at WisCon on this panel, at this panel, on gender-variant characters in science fiction and fantasy, and someone said that Todd McCaffrey's Pern books are actually really good, and they're queering it up, and there's like poly-things going on. All of which were things Anne McCaffrey, his mother? Hell, no! She hated that. And I think most people fell out of Pern, because they couldn't take all the near-rape and the total denial of queer relationships, even though if you read the books, they're like, Well, it's clearly something has to be going on with the greenriders. So now apparently Todd McCaffrey's gotten back into that, so I think some people are like, Oh, maybe I should read them. Maybe Pern doesn't totally suck anymore!

References