Friday, October 7, 2005



My name is Toby.

And I'm a fanfic enabler.

"Fanfic" refers to stories written by devotees of certain books, movies, and TV shows, who feel a need to continue the adventures of their favorite characters. These aren't professional stories (although I've heard that some professional writers got their start by writing fanfic), and by copyright laws, they're not legal either.

In the old days, such fans would mimeograph their stories and just pass them out to friends and like-minded disciples of the original. Even when these groups of fanboys began organizing, charging dues, publishing small magazines, it still was pretty low-tech.

And then the Internet opened the floodgates.

You can find fanfic online for just about every show that has ever been broadcast. Well... I don't know if there's anything out there for 'Far Out Space Nuts', but I have seen fanfic for Bob Denver's best-known series, 'Gilligan's Island'. (And with characters like Ginger and Mary Ann, you can get a sense of which direction those stories took!)

(Sorry if you already knew all of that. If I'm not mistaken, the term "fanfic" has already been accepted into the
dictionary. It's just that I never know if a complete neophyte has stumbled across Toobworld, or if I'm preaching to the choir, those who understand the concept and my wacked-out ideas.)

Some of the companies who own the rights to the original material have embraced the fanfic writers. Paramount's publishing arm even bought up a lot of it to publish as part of their massive line of tie-ins. Still others have sicced the Man on fanfic, threatening legal action if their sites were not shut down.

Over at Lee Goldberg's blog, he's in the vanguard for the crusade against fanfic, and he takes a lot of flak from the more fanatical adherents to the form. Now, me.... I've got nothing against the basics of fanfic, but I don't go searching for it either. (A caveat: I do list Martin Ross' 'Columbo' fanfic site to the left, as well as a more general site as well.)

It's just that I want to steer clear of other people's ideas in their stories, so as not to taint the theories I come up with for keeping the TV Universe cohesive. And I don't want to influence the splainins I dream up for discrepancies.

I used to read a ton of the official 'Star Trek' tie-ins, and never had a problem in keeping those separate from what was actually broadcast. (It's practically impossible, but ideally I would like to keep the Toobworld theories limited to what was shown on TV.)

But then I read Barbara Hambly's "Ishmael", a tale in which Spock found himself back in the Seattle territories of the 1870s... among the actual characters from 'Here Come The Brides'. And although they remained un-named, he also met other characters from classic TV Westerns.

I think the book has since been disowned by the parent company (who may have themselves neglected to address the rights of others whose works were invoked for it). But don't quote me on that.....

Anyway, I liked it a lot, but now I can't get my noggin past the idea that Spock's human mother, Amanda Grayson, was - will be! - descended from Aaron Stemple and Biddie Cloomb. (Which means that Spock has a Mark Lenard character on both sides of his family.)

I suppose what I do could be considered fanfic. I devise some pretty outlandish theories to link TV shows together. In a way, those could be regarded as stories. But I look at my work as more of a technical guidebook in much the same way as those who dabble in the Wold Newton concept do. Sometimes the Toobworld Dyamic can be looked upon as more of a philosophical tract.

But when it comes to playing in someone else's sandbox, I'm not really using their action figures; I'm just pointing out why they were left in a particular pile of sand.

Still, I guess some of the stuff I've come up with can inspire "fanficcers". And in a past blog entry I even suggested that they should look for old photos which featured the same actors; in that way they might find inspiration for new directions to take in their stories.

(The best example I used was a scene from 'The Racket', in which Ray Collins as a crooked judge was on the phone while an equally crooked cop played by William Conrad stood in the background. Freeze that shot and it could be claimed that instead it featured Lt. Arthur Tragg and Frank Cannon when he was still in the L.A. Police Department. That way, you could then launch into a crossover story between 'Perry Mason' and 'Cannon'.)

If you could find a screen capture in there of those two actors plus William Tallman (who went on to play Hamilton Burger on 'Perry Mason'), even better!

But while I was watching 'Bones' last week, I realized that my suggestion to use frame grabs was woefully behind the times. Why use a still photo when you can illustrate your fanfic with a quick video clip?

In that episode of 'Bones', Zack Addy - an assistant at the Jeffersonian Institute, - walked up to FBI Agent Seely Booth and said, "I need to have a conversation with you about sexual positions." Booth then informed the twink that if Zack ever tried that, Booth would shoot him right between the eyes.

Okay, I apologize. I shouldn't have called Zack a "twink". But you should see Eric Millegan, the kid who's playing the role! And not that I give credence to everything I read in the, but they did say in Millegan's bio that he was named "Hottest Up and Coming Openly Gay Actor of 2003" by OUT Magazine.

Not that there's anything wrong with that!

But drop Millegan's Zack into the middle of 'Prison Break' and he'd be holding onto T-Bag's pocket lining by the commercial break!

Oops - I probably just gave some fanficcer an idea. See what I mean about me being an enabler?

That type of fanfic is called "slash", and I do have problems with it. Stories that continue the type of adventures that were seen in the original programs, fine. Even crossovers with characters from other shows would be acceptable so long as they remained believable or at least splainable. (I did see a story once that combined characters from 'Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea' with those from 'Bonanza'. Needless to say, it was quite a stretch!)

But writing up stories that change a character's personality or sexual preference, or just veer off in directions that have no established basis in the original TV shows? Nah, that's just wrong.

And yet it's probably the most popular form of fanfic out there. Kirk and Spock, Solo and Kuryakin, James West and Artemus Gordon? Characters who were only ever seen romancing the ladies on their shows now falling into the arms of their partners and co-workers of the same sex?

Don't get me wrong. I'll pull the Seinfeldian defense that there's nothing wrong with the basic situation. My complaint is towards who is involved. You want to have Robin slide down the "Batpole", fine. I think you could make a case for that. (Although I'd like to think Dick Grayson would be the ancestor to Amanda Grayson!)

But 'The X-Files' ended with Fox Mulder finally "shipped" with Dana Scully. So why would anybody want to write a story in which he creates the Beast With Two Backs with Deputy Director Skinner?

The Truth is not outed!

Still and all, I can see how easy it would be to start thinking in that direction. While I was mulling this essay over in my head, I was watching a 'Doctor Who' story from the Pertwee era, "Inferno". (The Third Doctor found himself in the evil mirror universe with variants of the friends he left behind in the main TV dimension.)

In the sixth episode of the story, Petra Williams and Liz Shaw tried to re-activate a computer that might be their salvation, but when it failed, they shared a glance that lasted but for a split-second. And yet just from that, I could picture them tossing all their cares aside and stripping off all their clothes to indulge in their passions.

Hey! They were going to be consumed by lava at any moment; might as well go out with a bang!

And since it was an alternate universe in which their characters were markedly different, who's to say Petra and Liz weren't already in sweet, sapphic love? (Sounds like the title for a bodice-ripper!) Besides, who can say no to a bit o' girl-on-girl fun?

How do I type one of those Bob Hope growls......?

Anyway, if you are a reader of fanfic, and slash fic in particular, I'd appreciate it if you'd let me know if you ever come across a story dealing with Zack and Booth of 'Bones'. I want to see if anybody really did find inspiration in that snippet of dialogue.

I get the feeling it won't be too long into the season before they start showing up online......


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