Many thanks to Sheri Morrison for the following transcript

Character Out of Character
by Elissa Klotz

Online Fan Fiction lets devotees of movies and TV shows boldly go
where Hollywood fears to tread.

"I don't know why in the world you think this is hot, Mulder," Walter
Skinner laughed mockingly, "This is not hot, this is pathetic." He
wrapped his arms tighter around Fox Mulder, pulling him closer and
lightly nuzzled the back of his neck. - from "Harder Than it Looks," J

No that little scenario wasn't on the Fox network last Sunday. It's on
the Web - and welcome to the world of "fan fiction." Hovering online,
just out of sight of the mainstream, stores written by die hard
aficionados of TV shows, movies even musicians, have grown into an
ongoing online wonderland, one in which T.J. Hooker has coffee with
Captain Kirk, Agents Mulder and Scully investigate strange happenings in
Sunnydale, and Buffy and the gang solve a mystery with Scooby-Doo.

Is it illegal? Yes - but most TV networks ignore the fictional
happenings of their characters as long as the writers credit the
proper sources and don't ask for money. For instance, while the studio
may own the copyright on Buffy and her pals- and your story about her
running for President is technically an infringement - in reality, the
rule is hardly ever enforced. Is fan fiction immoral? Well...sometimes;
the sub-subculture known as "slash" specializes in graphic sexual
encounters (usually gay often written - as is most of fanfic - by women)
between characters that are officially "just friends." [transcriber's
note: that would mean all MSR is slash! Sorry, two points for trying

The majority of fan fiction is far less steamy, though. Most of the
stories written about the musical group Hanson, for example fall into the
genre informally known as "Mary Sue," in which the author, a teenybopper,
happens to meet the boys and starts a Disney-like innocent romance. Even
stories at The Princess Diana Memorial Fiction Library
( have a romantic feel to them.

In a world in which entertainment conglomerates often treat audiences as
after-thoughts, fan fiction is about regaining control. "people love to
fill in the blanks," says Babylon 5 fan-fiction writer Pam Buck, "or if a
show goes in a direction they don't approve of, they'll write stories
about what they wish would happen." In some cases, fanfic keeps the
soundstage lit well after the network has pulled the plug. How else do
you explain healthy sites for moribund television shows like Quantum Leap
( and Highlander
( And some groups, like the folks at
the Forever Knight Fan Fiction page (, keep writing
stories in hopes that they'll convince the network to resurrect the show.

How popular has fan fiction become? There are fanfic sites devoted to
such hit shows as ER ( and The Nanny
(www., and ones that continue
the plots of movies like Titantic ( and
Star Wars ( There are even some Jane Austen sequels out
there (www. But
the royal family of the medium is Star Trek: The Definitive Guide to Star
Trek Fan Fiction on the Web ( lists more
than 100 fan-fiction websites based on Gene Roddenberry's original series
and its endless permutations. It's not surprising that frustration over
Trek's 1969 cancellation was the seed from which all fanfic ultimately
grew. Whereas writers first explored bizarre plot twists in original
stories printed in fanzines, the rise of the internet allowed fans to
post their efforts on bulletin boards and to a devoted Usenet group

As the Web widens, fan fiction is slowly leaking into the mainstream -
and into mainstream television itself. Last season, a fan-fiction-like
comic book was used as a plot device in an X-files episode, and ongoing
Homicide and Pretender "webisodes" on NBC's official site ( are
an intriguing corporate response to the alternate-narrative concept.

As sad as it is to report, they're also better written than the
majority of fan fiction. Passion is the motivating factor in this
medium, not grammar, spelling or scintillating banter. Here's Dawson
Leery entering a jewelry store in a typical Dawson's Creek fan tale:
"Looking around everything costed a bundle of money, which he didn't
have, looking through the glass casing he spotted something that stood
out a thin necklace with a heart hanging off it." At least the author
didn't break the three most important rules of fan fiction: spell-check,
spell-check, and spell-check.

Most fanfic authors write for one reason: feedback. But there are
those who, dreaming of going legit, submit their work to publishers or to
their favorite television shows. There efforts aren't well received. "we
get tons of terrible stuff," says John Ordover, editor of Pocket Books'
lucrative Star Trek novelization series. "Fan writing is not the farm
team for the legit novels, and should be abandoned at once by anyone who
wants to be a pro writer of any kind."

Ordover may be missing the point though: As with so much about the
Net, fanfic is about community. Jacque Whitworth, a student at Ball
State University, describes the people who write the stories for her
Tommy Lee Jones Fan Fiction website
( as "the most
creative, hardworking, intelligent, and friendly bunch of people I've
ever had the pleasure of working with." Over at The X-Men obsessed
Subreality Cafe (,
members use a chat room for 24-hour support in times of personal crises.
Site creator Kelly Newcomb testifies to the notion that "for some,
fanficdom can become almost a surrogate family." Now, why can't someone
in Hollywood make a TV series about that?

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