From time to time, the OTW will be hosting guest posts on our OTW News accounts. These guests will be providing an outside perspective on the OTW or aspects of fandom where our projects may have a presence. The posts express each author’s personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of the OTW or constitute OTW policy. We welcome suggestions from fans for future guest posts, which can be left as a comment here or by contacting us directly.
Foz Meadows is a genderqueer author, blogger, reviewer and poet. Her most recent novels are An Accident of Stars and A Tyranny of Queens, and she also enjoys writing fanfic. You can find her on Twitter and Tumblr.
How did you first get into fandom and fanworks?
It’s somewhat tautological to say that being a fan was what brought me into fandom, but that’s kind of the way it goes: if you love something enough, persistently and vocally enough, then sooner or later, you run into other people who love it, too. In my tweens and teens –- which is to say, in the late nineties/early noughties –- online fan communities were still pretty new, and having the internet at home was still a novelty. I didn’t have any idea that fandom, as a collective thing, existed; I just knew what I liked. My friends and I would co-write Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time fanfic by cramming around a single computer; I’d wait patiently through the interminable load-times of our 56k dialup connection to look at fanart on Elfwood, often getting book recommendations from user profiles in the process; I hunted down more than one Dragons of Pern website to create my own Anne McCaffrey characters and attempt to download tiny, early gifs of collectible dragons; and I definitely wrote a few Quistis x Irvine FFVIII fics on the privacy of my old desktop, but I never had a language for what all that meant beyond “I like this stuff, it’s fun.”
I never stopped loving stories that way, but it wasn’t until I fell into Supernatural that I came into modern fandom proper and realised there were whole communities founded on sharing that passion. Say what you will about Supernatural and its hardcore dedication to pairing the sublime and the ridiculous: it’s so absurdly long-running that the process of creating, consuming and collaborating around it has, I would argue, had an impact on myriad wider fannish practises.
How has your experience writing fanfiction informed your original fiction or vice versa?
I’ve said before that writing fanfic has improved my writing more than anything else I’ve done thus far, and I stand by that. In traditional publishing, where the time between the creation of a piece and its accessibility to the public is often measured in months or years, it’s easy to become detached from your audience; to second-guess yourself about what you’ve written. The immediacy of fanfic strips all that away. Yes, the end product might be messier than if you’d sat back and edited it for another three months, but the trade-off is that you learn to trust your instincts in order to write quickly: to solve plot problems as they occur; to invest more deeply in your characterisation; to play with settings and scenarios you otherwise might not attempt.
In high school, I once had a conversation with my favourite history teacher about my desire to be an author. I told him that I wrote for the love of it, not for money; to which he replied that, well, yes, but as a professional, you’d still want and need to get paid. And he was right, of course: but once you start to look at everything you write in terms of “will I make money and/or receive some other professional benefit from doing this,” it’s surprisingly easy to psych yourself out of taking risks, or to feel pressured by expectations. Fanfiction is the perfect antidote for that, which is why so many professional writers of my acquaintance find it refreshing. It’s writing purely for its own sake, for your own enjoyment, and when you’re stuck on an original project, being able to disappear into something else that’s not only fun, but which reaffirms your ability to actually produce words, is a godsend.
What draws you to a fandom?
I was on the brink of saying that it’s less a case of being drawn to a fandom than being so enamoured of a work that I seek out other fans, but on reflection, that’s not strictly true. In the past few years, I’ve ended up discovering a range of new content -– like, for instance, Teen Wolf, Dragon Age, Check Please! and Welcome to Night Vale -– because of the visibility of their existing fanbases; mostly on social media, like tumblr and Twitter, but also because of the recommendations of friends. When that happens, it’s less a case of thinking, “huh, there’s some cool people here, better get in on that!”, and more along the lines of having my curiosity repeatedly piqued. Knowing there’ll be folks around to share with in the event that I end up liking it is certainly a bonus, but at base, if I’m not drawn in by the actual source material, then I’m not going to force it just for the sake of community.
What is your favorite thing about being involved in fandoms?
Mutually frenzied yelling about the particulars of a shared trashpile. Literally the entire point of stories is that they give you FEELINGS, and it is Very Frustrating when the people around you IRL either aren’t familiar with the material or don’t invest as strongly as you if they are. Enthusiasm demands an outlet, and there’s only so much polite nodding your family, co-workers and loved ones are obliged to provide when you’re on your fifth diatribe about the DCU versus the MCU and if/when either universe is ever going to allow a queer kiss on the big screen. (I’m still SO MAD that I have any kind of dog in this fight, I didn’t care for ages and then I was osmosed into it by a combination of media exposure and treacherous enablers.)
The point at which you realise the personal necessity of fandom is when you offhandedly mention something like Sterek at a normal social gathering and have to back up twelve whole steps in the conversation when you belatedly realise your (straight, male) interlocutor has never heard of shipping, let alone anything beyond that. As someone who spends a lot of time with academics who love and need to talk shop when they hang out socially, I feel like fandom serves a similar purpose for those of us who like to talk critically about the media we consume. Unless you want to have to walk the other person/s through the 101, 201 and 301 information about your favourite show every single time you want to discuss it, having access to a bunch of friends and strangers who already know that stuff and are ready to throw down in the court of opinions –- or, let’s face it, in an ongoing battle of Who Can Find The Hottest Gifset and/or Saddest Headcanon –- is really your best bet.
How did you hear about the OTW and what do you see its role as?
I found out about AO3 –- and, through it, the OTW –- when I first entered the Supernatural fandom, though I don’t yet know much beyond that. I think the Archive itself is invaluable, I’m excited by the forays into fannish academia I’ve seen associated with OTW, and I look forward to seeing how both OTW and fandom generally continues to evolve in the future.
What fandom things have inspired you the most?
Make it queer. Break rules. Use first person and present tense if you want. Make it queer. Raise the dead. Lead with characters, remember the details, and be prepared to throw out whatever it is you’d planned if your protagonists aren’t feeling it. Write like you have an audience, edit like you’re getting paid and submit like rejection costs you nothing, because you can always write something else next time. Be on the lookout for narrative potential in places you didn’t expect to find it. Don’t be afraid of using tropes, because it’s unavoidable; just recognise what they are. Make it queer. And always, for the love of god, research what can be safely used as lube.
Catch up on earlier guest posts