Chicks On Anime
Fan Fiction (Part 2)

by B. Dong, C. Brienza, R. Sevakis, Oct 20th 2008

About the contributors:

Bamboo is the managing editor for ANN, and writes the column Shelf Life.
Casey is a freelance journalist, and also writes reviews for ANN.
Robin is an illustrator, and also the creator of Anime News Nina.

Last week, we posted the first half of our discussion with Natalie Baan, a well-respected member of the fan fiction community. This week showcases the remainder of the discussion, and we hope you enjoy it!


Bamboo: So talking about fidelity, if a creator came out and said, “These two characters are not gay and will never be gay. Please do not make them gay.” Would the fan fiction writers say, “Okay, I'll step off because you have adamantly said these people are not slashable?”
Natalie: Some people would, some people wouldn't. And there you get kind of a fuzzy sense of fidelity. Because there is the fidelity of what you can get people to believe is true. It's harder for people to believe, “Hey, I'm here and I'm interacting with these characters.” Because why would I be? There is no reason for it. It has nothing to do with me, I have nothing to do with it. I don't live in their world. But if you can keep the world as a whole consistent, keep the natures and the characters consistent with what we expect, there is still a fidelity there even if you are breaking certain elements of canon. I feel people can write alternate universes that have truth to them, because the characters are still true. For instance, there are basically fan fics that put them in a fantasy world and they don't have any of the back story, and I see no point in that because they are not the same characters. They're not true. But there can be alternate universes where the worlds are just slightly different, but the characters are still themselves. Even though they have different elements and different things have happened.
Bamboo: Is it less satisfying to put together characters who are already together?
Natalie: No. *laugh* I tend to go for ones where there is at least a very strong subtext, if not an actual.
Bamboo: Like Frodo and Sam.
Natalie: Like Frodo and Sam. My tastes tend to be fairly broad. I'll go for stuff where they're together in canon, and I'll think, “Yes, I want to see more of that because it's so cool. I can see that in canon.” Or where they're not in canon, it'll be more like, “Oh, it would have been really cool if they did that in canon, so let's do that.” There are going to be a lot of different stories. It's really hard to make an overall pronouncement about fan fiction because there is so much of the personal in it. What people bring to their own work, what people will bring to other people's work, their expectations, the level of writing expertise, or reading expertise, because reading is a learning experience, too. You read things and you learn what works and what doesn't. What works for you personally, what works with writing, the more you're exposed to fan fic.

Some people can cling to their lowest common denominator that they love and not go beyond that. But if you do read in different areas and different things, like if you read outside your pairing, you can learn stuff. You can realize, “You know, I would have never had said that, but that idea's really cool.” Or, “That person wrote that really well. I'm going to read that other person's stuff.” So I'm in favor of reading outside your comfort zone a bit.

Bamboo: Before we started the conversation, Casey mentioned that you were super popular on the Internet for a story you wrote. Could you give a little backdrop on that?
Natalie: *laugh* I don't know if it's super popular, probably not up there with some of the really big people, but the fandom is CLAMP's Tokyo Babylon. “Shading into X.”
Bamboo: Shading into X?
Natalie: Yeah. With Tokyo Babylon, the characters from that go into X, so it's like there is a continuity error there. There are two different series, but the characters cross over. The story idea was triggered by reading Tokyo Babylon. What I wanted to resolve was the X timeline. Basically, there are two characters. One hurts the other one horribly and dammit, that's just not right. Actually, it wasn't that it was not right. I actually really respect what CLAMP did with that, I thought it was an awesome story. It was a killer ending with a lot of emotional resonance. But it was also one of those things where they left out a couple of things, which is a great place to leave it. But it also opened the door to try to find a resolution for that tension they created, or just a different way than what appeared in canon, I guess. So basically, I took those characters nine years later, and get them back together and worked out the very long and thorny and torturous past of their relationship and it's still ongoing. It's almost done. I'm stuck in the final battle.
Robin: So you've got a following going for this series. Is it a series, or chapters you've been posting at a time?
Natalie: It's chapters. I made the mistake when I started writing it, of how long it would take me to finish it. I think I started writing it in '96.
Bamboo: Oh wow.
Robin: My god.

Natalie: Yes, and I wrote the first 10 or so chapters relatively quickly. Then the pace slowed down tremendously. It's probably been a year or two since my last official release. I have a chapter written that I don't want to release until I finish the whole thing and I'm stuck in this monster chapter from Hell that's something like, 20,000 words. It's huge and I'll have to cut it into three. Are spoilers okay?
Bamboo: Sure. I'll just warn the readers against them.
Natalie: In the actual canon, the two characters anyway are Sumeragi Subaru and Sakurazuka Seishiro and they are opposing members of the onmyoji clan. [Highlight to read]In the actual canon, Seishiro betrays Subaru horribly and Suburu swears he's going to find him, but can't kill him. They're both involved in this battle at the end of the world. One is a dragon, apparently the Dragon of Earth. So they finally meet. And through magical circumstances, Seishiro ends up dying and Suburu ends up living, which Suburu didn't want to happen. He thought Seishiro would kill him, but Seishiro dies.

I have had fangirls write to me and say “Ohmygosh, now your story is my only hope for a happy ending for these characters.” Don't put any pressure on me or anything, jeez! I don't want to undercut CLAMP and the creative decisions they've made, you know. They've done some awesome stuff, and I'm just doing my thing. I went AU (alternate universe) books and books ago in the series because I had gotten to book nine or something, and it was still coming out, and I wrote my thing on a hypothetical alternate future. We diverged long ago. There are people who'd rather read my happy little domestic, you know, slashy story than what CLAMP decided to do with the characters.

Casey: And what she can't tell you, because she's too modest, is that she's also an excellent writer. So the story stands very well on its own. And you wouldn't have this kind of following that she does if you also weren't a very good writer. I've seen it first hand, and I've seen people that I know meet her and just turn into this shrieking ball of goo over her.
Natalie: *laugh* I actually got my freelance assignment from Tokyopop from an editor there who had read “Sakura and Snow,” so that was interesting.
Bamboo: So there is hope for fan fic writers to be in the industry.
Casey: There are also fan fic writers who have gone pro that have been published.
Natalie: Like Naomi Novik. What was her fandom, I don't remember…
Casey: I thought she was Lord of the Rings.
Natalie: But anyway, she now has a whole series of books out. Basically, it's Horatio Hornblower with dragons, and Peter Jackson supposedly optioned to make a movie out of it. Off her fandom. Off her fan fic, There is hope!
Casey: That's nice.
Bamboo: I feel a little bit sad because all the fan fics that I have really ever read are the ones that people link me, saying, “This is the worst thing in the world.”
Natalie: The good fan fics are really good. There is stuff out there that is mind-blowingly amazing that will take canon that is kind of iffy. Like, Weiss Kreuz has terrible, terrible canon. I mean, florists by day, and assassins by night, and there are plot holes big enough to drive a truck though. Terrible stuff, but people write brilliant fan fics for it, and really get into the characters and their minds and emotions and really bring something new to them.

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