Earlier this week I checked in on an extensive “Best of Daria” fanfiction list on the central message board for Daria fandom. I was on it, and more than five of my stories were listed – the person who composed the list also told me that upon further reading, he felt a few more than that belonged on the list as well. It was flattering, and did give me one of those psychological boosts I need to keep writing some days.
Fanfic is kind of like a “through the looking glass” version of original writing. In original writing, once you’re past editing, rewriting, re-editing, re-writing, drafting proposals, etc. – which takes a very long time if you want to do well – you avoid your reviews like the plague. Reading reviews of your work just isn’t good for you. Nothing is worse, and few things have produced writer’s block for myself moreso than has the pressure of living up to myself. ((This does seem to be one of my karmic themes.)) So for people whose work I’ve criticized: don’t read my reviews of your work. Even the good reviews. Really, they’ll rot your teeth. But if you want notes from me pre-publishing in exchange for giving me notes when my time comes, let me know.
Fanfiction, on the other hand, is all about the reviews. It’s the only payment you get. You live and die by those emails of encouragement and by that notice in your box that someone on ff.net actually had something to say about your work. You also spend a lot of time wanting to choke people who get unhappy that your writing does not reflect their projections or assumptions about the source material. This was actually a running problem throughout my first days fanficting, especially since most of it revolved around Daria.
I was never a BNF for Daria, though I’m likely one of the most vocal nowadays (just not so much on the core message board.) It just strikes me as strange and odd that stories that were at the time kind of dismissed by other fans are now being marked on “best of” lists on a regular basis. Almost a decade later, my work is getting the recognition I secretly and not-so-secretly craved at the time. Perhaps it’s because people have forgotten their old fandom wishlists now that the show’s over. There was a certain groupthink in Daria fandom around 2000 that is just gone now, and maybe that’s why what I write is finally getting met with appreciation. The very things I was criticized for either wound up actually part of the last season of the show (Giving a Damn had Daria and Quinn bonding over Gone with the Wind, which is what the show writers opted for in Aunt Nauseum.) And I also think that, as rabid Daria fans have gotten a decade of distance, they’ve finally stopped seeing Daria as a projection of themselves, their voices or their intellectual criticisms. I’m not going to have Daria, for instance, make comments about the racial stereotypes in Gone with the Wind – she’s a white girl in a predominantly white upper middle class suburb who seems to know exactly two African Americans who were both raised in the same atmosphere of privilege that she has. What racial comment there was on the show only came from those characters for reasons both PC and realistic: Daria was focused on her experience, not theirs. You can bet your ass a real world O’Neil wouldn’t touch the subject, nor would Lawndale school system as a general rule. Maybe a college-age Daria would touch it, but for all her smarts and intellectual pursuit within the context of the show she’s still a teenage American white girl. That’s certainly how I wrote her, based as much as I could on how the original show wrote her.
The projections of fans onto the source material until fanworks no longer demonstrate respect for said source material is another subject for another time. This is about delayed gratification, in a way. I guess when it comes to my own life and work sometimes time and distance are the only way I can be appreciated. I’m not sure what this means in my day-to-day ethos; forgiveness belongs to those who apologize immediately and the rest can fuck off in my world. But in fandomland it’s an interesting and peculiar development where perhaps it’s just a matter of being read by people who were not wrapped up in fan cliques and thus had a more objective view about my writing. ((And fan cliques, again, for another time.))