Lisa Nicholas wears many hats: pro author, freelance web designer, crazy cat lady. When she’s not doing all of that, she fangirls as roane and roane72: recently Marvel and Star Wars (again, still, and always), but she’s also been active in the Sherlock and Doctor Who fandoms. At one point she’d hoped she’d be over her lifetime crush on Mark Hamill, but has now just given in and accepted it.
Fandom changed my life. That is the absolute, literal truth.
I have been a geek since I was five years old, when I saw Star Wars at a drive-in theater in 1977. The movie turned me into a lifelong fan of pretty much anything science fiction or fantasy. In my teenage years, there were bands, of course. Growing up in the 80s meant I had a wealth of bands to adore and I hung their posters on my bedroom wall. So I’ve always been a passionate fan of things, but I tended to give transformative fandom a wide berth. I didn’t understand fanfic—never mind that the very first story I wrote, at the age of 11, was Mary Sue self-insert fanfic about the band Journey. (It was 1983, cut me some slack here.)
After that story, I kept writing. I spent several years in my late 20s trying to get published. I managed to sell a couple of short stories and wrote a couple of (terrible) novels. And I was a horrible, horrible snob about fanfic. I mean, awful. I did not understand the idea of writing something you could never sell, and why on earth would you write something that deviated so far from what the creators intended? Every argument you’ve heard against fanfic, I made it. Fanfic writers were “wasting their time”, slash was weird, etc.
Thanks to a variety of personal crises (primarily dealing with my mother’s long bout with cancer), I stopped writing. Believe me when I tell you, the world was not poorer for lack of my mediocre science fiction and fantasy. But when my life settled down, I found that I missed writing. And no matter what I did, I couldn’t seem to get back into it.
Then, in 2011, I found Tumblr. I’d just finished watching season one of Sherlock on Netflix, and season two was a few months away. I was delighted at the sheer imagination of other fans and got caught up in the excitement. I ended up watching season two live, and got sucked into the fandom. And—out of curiosity—I started reading fanfic. One of the very first things I read was abundantlyqueer’s infamous John/Sherlock fic: Two Two One Bravo Baker.
I have, only half-jokingly, referred to this as my “road to Damascus” moment. Talk about transformative! I stayed up nearly all night reading, slept for a few hours, then grabbed my Kindle and finished reading it before I got out of bed. I suddenly got it. I got fanfic, I got slash, and oh hell I definitely got John/Sherlock.
I started writing my own fic. Gen at first, because I had never written anything explicit before, but it didn’t take me long to move on to explicit slash. After ten years of not writing and missing it desperately, I was writing. And more than that, I was getting feedback. Enthusiastic, lovely, encouraging feedback.
Writing as a career looked like a possibility again. Even more so when one of the fans who got in touch with me to compliment my fic turned out to be a literary agent. (I think I hyperventilated for the rest of the day. In my old writing life, I’d never gotten to the agent-hunting stage.) She told me if I ever had any original fiction I wanted to show her, she’d love to see it.
That lit a fire under my ass. Within a year, I sent her a romance novel, and she agreed to represent me. Less than six months after that, she’d sold two of my books to Penguin. The Farther I Fall and As Lost As I Get both came out in 2015. I also started self-publishing under a variety of pennames.
A few months before Farther came out, I was laid off from my web development job. It seemed like a sign. I started my own business, doing freelance web development part-time and writing the rest of the time.
Without fandom, I probably wouldn’t have started writing again. I wouldn’t have found the world’s best agent. Without her, I wouldn’t have gotten published. And I wouldn’t be working for myself. That’s a hell of a lot of change, and it all started thanks to fandom. My life is on a path I never thought possible, but always wanted. I’ve since moved on to other fandoms, but nothing will likely have a greater effect on me than that glorious hiatus between season two and season three of Sherlock.
So in celebration of International Fanworks Day, I’d like to say thanks. Thanks to all the fic writers and artists and podficcers and gif makers and knitters and podcasters and—everything else we create out of love. You reminded me what it is to love the act of creation and now? Now I feel sorry for the fans like I used to be, who don’t get fanworks in all their messy, imaginative glory. They’re missing out.