Please consider this post the internet version of me throwing my hat in the ring. (I look pretty dumb in hats, so I really just store them in my bag for this exact situation; I go through a lot of beanies but it is so worth it.)
At first, I wasn’t sure
if fanfiction had a place here.
But this is exactly what
M. Grace is about! Spreading the good word of fanfiction for all to hear. Proving
that fanfiction has a space amongst the literary genres.
And this is exactly what
M. Grace does. We write articles to inspire discussion around the issues
relevant to the fanfiction community. We seek to promote a conversation in a
space dedicated to representing the world of fanfiction, and all its contributions
to the mainstream culture.
So if you are new to M. Grace, I encourage you to check out our news section and help us frame the discussion. Together we will explore the world of fanfiction and collaborate to advance the idea of fanfiction as an art form to the public.
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Like, the biggest. I can’t function until I write about this.
Is it even a real fandom site until I dive into the mess that is this subject?
J.K. Rowling: toot or boot?
Harry Potter shaped my childhood. It shaped many of my first experiences of the fandom world. J.K. Rowling inspired me as a woman, as a writer, and as an activist.
Is she the role model that I need now though? Or should her actions, and inaction, place her firmly in the past?
Can actions today affect the legacy that she has created?
Do we, as fans, move forward with or without J.K. Rowling?
In 2007, the author J.K. Rowling revealed to fans that her character, famous wizard Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, was gay.
The thought? A-MAZE-ING.
However, the problem with that statement was that there was literally no mention of this in the books or in the movies. No hint. No indication.
Trust me, if there was, ficfans would have found it and spread it.
But it was 2007, and even earlier when she wrote the books. Maybe it was simply to early for that story to be told, I thought to myself.
Come 2016, and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was released.
2018, and Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald was released.
Was Dumbledore depicted as a gay man? The answer is complicated.
What level of representation do we need?
Do I believe that every queer story has to look the same? No, obviously.
I was variety and diversity. I want stories that are all about a person’s gender and sexual identities, and I want stories about queer people that hardly touch on those things because they are to busy telling other aspects of their lives.
I am really sensitive, however, when it comes to the way mainstream media represents us. I think it is to easy for an author to say they are inclusive by commenting, after seven books, that a character was gay the whole time, even when every single relationship in her books to date appeared to be heterosexual.
With seven books and eight movies, I think we as fans are very right to demand a lot from J.K. Rowling when she says that one of her characters is gay.
I was certainly the first to applaud her, I think it is a boss-ally move to make that announcement about the most powerful wizard of all time, but actions speak louder than words. J.K. Rowling had the chance to show the queer community that we would be represented in the Harry Potter world, but did she?
Certainly there are some queer vibes. Dumbledore sees Grindelwald in the Mirror of Erised so like, you’ve got some desire there. Of course Harry saw his parents, so the desire does not have to be sexual (back down all you AO3 incest taggers, this is not a space for you). So really, we are still left to make that leap ourselves.
Dumbledore is gay. It is cannon. We know it, the director knows it. It really comes down to what they are willing to put in the movie.
Some say they aren’t explicitly addressing the relationship that Dumbledore and Grindelwald had because that isn’t what the story is about.
Others say that they are hiding the nature of the relationship to make the store more palatable for a larger audience.
One thing is for sure though. Eventually, Dumbledore and Grindelwald will have to meet, and then their past will be exactly what this story is about. It will be interesting, I think, to see what the franchize chooses to represent in that moment.
Will they stay true to Dumbledore’s identity as a gay man? Or will they leave just enough induendo in there to throw at fans when they raise questions over this exact issue, while still leaving their films bland enough that even the most homophobic of movie-goers will enjoy the film?
In my opinion, doing so would be a huge cop out, and a letdown to the fans that do believe in J.K. Rowling’s promise to bring more diversity into her stories. Cause on the surface, her stories are filled with straight, white, and cisgendered characters.
As fans, I think we demand more from our mainstream media now, so this story line should be handled with the utmost delicacy if the franchise wants to avoid losing the support of its LGBTQ+ fans and their wonderful allies.
But wait, there’s s’more!
While the debate about J.K. Rowling and the Harry Potter universe will doubtlessly rage forever, there are tons of other books that will give us the representation we crave.
We can demand better from the people who say they want to support us, but we can also do our best to support those who are already doing a stellar job of supporting us!
Fanfiction, of course, is my go-to. If you haven’t tried it, you’re missing out <3.
However, here are three of my fav books that do a really lovely job of showcasing queer stories and capturing a bit of the complexities of the queer experience. I flew through these books, and am currently obsessed with Gentleman Jack on HBO.
I came for the GOT and stayed for the queer representation: story of my life.
Heads up: I do believe I will get a percentage of the sale if you buy through this link.
If that makes you uncomfortable, then I encourage you to buy these titles through your town's
locally owned bookstore.
Of course there was the residual awkwardness, at least on John’s end, that came from moving into a space that felt like it belonged so entirely to someone else.
John didn’t know very much about Sherlock Holmes yet, but this flat seemed to him like a perfect reflection of the man’s soul. Parts of it were organized extensively. There were beakers in the cupboard that seemed to be arranged both by size and glass thickness, impeccably clean, yet there were dishes in the sink and sprawling all over the counter, most with dried chunks of food and many that were busy cultivating colonies of mold.
A final look around the room confirmed to John that there was not a single place in this flat for any of his personal affects. It was probably for the best, he thought to himself. A lifetime of army life had left him with sparse few belongings, and he doubted he would really be staying here long enough to settle anyway.
However there was something about Sherlock Holmes. A magnitude. An electrifying excitement that, when he was truely animated, John felt like a small planet being swept into the orbit of a larger star.
John shook his head crossly, as if clearing the clouds from his mind. Such folly. He was no young boy, staring star struck at the tall shadow of an imposing general standing in his parent’s entryway. He was a grown man, a veteran of wars, a hero according to some.
Mr. Holmes may be an oddity, but he was hardly captivating.
Sherlock himself was currently sprawled across the sofa, clothes rumpled and hair falling down to cover his face.
John had come downstairs from unpacking his room to find the man like this, and to be honest, he was a little concerned that the way the man had his face shoved into the cushion would result in his slow, embarrassing death.
The rise and fall of the man’s back was slow. Too slow. Was he getting any air?
“Mr. Holmes?” John inquired somewhat nervously, a childish quake in his voice that had him clearing his throat abruptly.
“Sherlock?” He said again, more firmly.
He supposed this was one way to get a flat to himself.
Walking over a little to quickly from the kitchen – he was not nervous – John reached the other side of the couch and crouched down, shaking the man’s shoulder with the intent to wake him.
A muffled groan and Sherlock tossed his head so that he was facing towards John. He was clearly still passed out, eyes moving below thin lids covered with spidery blue veins.
John was frozen.
This man, this strange man, was incredible to look at. His face was slightly lined with age, the indents on his forehead indicating a life spent deep in thought. His skin appeared very fine though, and his features delicate. John knew that he himself might be called rugged, if someone was being kind, but Sherlock was the epitome of aristocratic English beauty.
Hair laid across the man’s face, covering half an eye and part of his nose. Unbidden, John’s had swept it back behind an ear. Sherlock’s hair was thick and possessed a slight wave that, were it wet, John thought the man might be able to get it tied back.
When his hand had returned to his side, John flushed.
He couldn’t believe what he had done. How… improper.
Jumping away from the couch, he gathered up his hat and coat, abandoning his walking stick in his haste to leave the flat.
The soles of his shoes hit the stairs with some large measure of force. Really, it was a miracle he didn’t fall down them hat over expertly shined heel.
The front door took but a moment for his hand – his damnable hand – to open, and he was out.
As John rushed down the street in search of a nearby ale, he missed entirely the large shadow that now stood in the window of 221B Baker Street.
The first time that John and Sherlock met, neither of them really noted the other. In fact, if you asked them today, they would have a completely different story of their first encounter.
The truth however, is usually not what either party thinks it is. In this case, the truth involves a particularly rainy night, a single coach, and an inadequate overcoat.
John Watson was walking rather quickly down the street, broad shoulders hunched inward in a way that made the usually imposing gentleman look like he was in possession of a much smaller stature than he had. His brow was furrowed in frustration and his hat was pulled down low.
It was scarcely eleven, and already the establishment he had been at had asked him to leave. His buddies had jeered for a moment, but quickly settled back into their cups when the owner had turned to them, ready to throw more men out.
It was true that John was the most rambunctious man in the place, but wasn’t it just his luck that he should have been singled out amongst his peers, who had been nearly as loud and disruptive as he. It seemed like ever since he has gotten back to England, he has had nothing but poor luck.
To top off the night, the weather had taken a turn and he found himself in a simple overcoat, ill prepared for the rain and bone-numbing chill of a London night.
He shook violently, drawing his coat even tighter around himself. Little good it did him, the wool was soaked through and heavy, clinging in all the wrong places. The damn thing would doubtlessly shrink, and be entirely useless to him.
The alcohol he has so joyfully imbibed so excessively just a little while ago now left him feeling cold, dizzy, and very down in spirits.
Truly, there could be no man in the whole of England who was more miserable tonight than he.
Speaking of more miserable men, there was in fact one such soul. Sherlock Holmes, who found himself once again in an unknown part of the city, was striding through the lamplit streets, eating up the blocks rapidly with his long legs and drug fueled vigor.
The last few days were a blur, and Sherlock felt as terrible as he looked. His dark hair was matted and much to long, falling about his face in wet strands. A thick black coat was wrapped around him firmly, his only solace on the nights he was unable to return to his flat and ended up sleeping it off in an alley.
Tonight though, he had a single thought. He needed to return home. He didn’t know what drove him so. Perhaps it was the drugs – an obsessive thought that had wormed its way into his skull and proceeded to push through piles of grey matter to the front of his brain, squashing any other impulses that arose.
He felt violently ill, the high receding along with his boundless energy. He wasn’t quite sure where he was headed, but he was sure that he didn’t have the money for a coach. It grew more and more likely that tonight he would stay in this unknown neighborhood, and wake to the light of day just as lost and penniless as before.
He passed a lone man walking rather aimlessly, and was quick to go around him. This hour of the night saw all sorts of undesirables, of which he readily recognized himself as one of them. However, Sherlock had never needed the rob another person, nor felt the need to harm another. The same could not be said for everyone else out on these streets.
A driver sat upon the front of his coach, nearly asleep. The steady rain and late hour left him wishing for hearth and home. While his attire kept him warm enough, his horse looked damn near frozen and there hadn’t been a single person yet who found themselves in need of a ride. Perhaps in a few hours he would make his way down the seedier parts of town to try and catch the drunks who still had money in their pockets and were in need of a quick drive home, but for now it was to risky to sit and wait in that area.
Gregory, the driver, considered himself a godly man. He was an honest soul who had never had real cause to fear the things that haunted the imaginations of more sinful men, but he shivered to his very bones when a tall figure pushed through the dense fog not more than ten strides from his carriage, and made towards him.
The gaunt man was wrapped in a thick black coat, falling well below his knees. His face was drawn, pale and dirty. His face was clearly fine boned, but had strayed towards the skeletal. Cheekbones stuck out like knives, and his eyes appeared dull and sunken.
He was shivering slightly, but Gregory chalked that up to the cold night.
No longer in motion, the figure was no less imposing but slightly more pitiful. He has stopped by the driver, just slightly in front of the carriage but not yet close enough that Gregory was worried that he would grab him. The man swayed where he stood, uncertain what to do with his hands as they fiddled with the sleeves of his coat.
“Never expected to find a driver at this hour,” The man rasped.
Gregory pulled himself up straighter, now entirely awake.
“Yes well, ‘er I am. Are you in need of a ride sir?”
The man’s hands continued to pull pointlessly at his sleeves.
“I was hoping to get a ride towards the tower,” His eyes darted left, no longer holding Gregory’s gaze. “Only thing is, I haven’t any money on me.”
Gregory gave a long suffering sigh. Of course.
“But Detective Lestrade is an colleague of mine, and were you to deliver me to the yard I am sure he would pay you.”
Certainly, Gregory thought to himself, a detective would pay for this bums travel fare. That seemed as believable as the Queen emerging from the fog next.
Before the weary driver could tell this man to shove off, another figure appeared from the fog.
This man seemed the direct opposite of the wraith currently hovering near his coach. This man was considerable shorter and broader, and walked with none of the violent sure-footedness the first man had possessed. This man was slowly winding his way towards the pair, hat pulled low, and breath doubtlessly foul with drink.
“What is going on here sirs?” He mumbled, in a very amenable way if you’d ask him, still a distance from the pair.
Then, a bit louder, “Has this carriage been spoken for?”
Finally. Drunks paid well, had they the ability, and Gregory would be sure to get his money up front.
“Not at all friend. Where are you heading?”
The tall man was staring only at the ground now, beginning to shuffle his way backwards. The driver had completely dismissed him now, focused on the friendly customer who would no doubt pay. It was hopeless.
Turning, the man stared up into the sky for a moment, letting the cold droplets clear his mind and wash his tangled hair off of his face.
The voice of the approaching man carried through the fog, chatting with the driver about the many injustices he had faced this night, and how fortunate he was to find a coach at this hour.
He heard the slightly slurred voice call out to him as he walked away. Something about sharing the carriage ride, but it was all to easy to simply let his mind get washed away with the rainwater swirling down the street as he wandered off again into the night, following the swirling pools of water as they too rushed down the street in search of a gutter.
There are moments in life where you discover something, and are for a time unware of how profoundly it will affect you.
For me, fanfiction was one of those discoveries. (Some things that didn’t even come close to making the list were crossfit, ice fishing, and rollerblading. Ew)
A fun discovery slowly became an irreplaceable part of my world. At first, the lingo was confusing, site navigation baffling, and the smut shocked me. I struggled to find my way, but once I found it I never looked back.
Now I am a veteran of thousands of fics read, hundreds of authors followed, and dozens of my own baby-content out there for others to enjoy.
Smut doesn’t really shock me anymore either. Good? Bad? Who can say.
But what is fanfiction, Auntie M?
If that is what you are thinking then I just have one question for you… how did you find this website? No really, I am wondering. Email me.
Fanfiction is where a creator takes the characters or the story from a piece of work that they love – maybe it is a TV show, a movie, a book, a play, etc. – and makes their own world.
Occasionally, people will take inspiration from more than one world, and that lovely unicorn is called a cross-over.
Of course, most everything that can be written already has been. Vampires? Been done. Does that mean that every book written about them since Bran Stokers’ Dracula is worthless? Of COURSE not.
Fanfiction is taking elements from someone’s story and making them your own.
Every creator brings their own wonderful interpretation or world view to a work, which refreshes old stories and re-inspires the public to love them.
It is really beautiful, when you think about it.
After all, what young teen cared about Dracula before Stephanie Meyer brought us the breakthrough hit Twilight? (Oh, there will be more on this subject later -_-) After that craze, the market was flooded with vampire books. The success of Twilight, inspired by Stoker’s universe, brought back the excitement of vampires.
Essentially, I am a passionate supporter of fanfiction being far more widespread than most people give it credit for. It is not a small niche interest group on the internet; it is a cultural phenomenon that shapes the trends we see in our movies, TV shows, books, etc.
Consuming Fanfiction: A Guide
I could write a really detailed dictionary of fanfiction terms, but that would bore everyone except me. So if you have questions, I encourage you to email me, or just head on over to AO3 or Fanfiction.net and start exploring!
The only advice I would give is to be watchful of the tags on each fic. If you aren’t looking to read something violent, sad, or otherwise potentially harmful to your well-being you can steer clear of those works. There is something (thousands of somethings) for everyone.
Fanfiction and Me: A Love Story
To me, fanfics do an amazing job of capturing the essence of our society. They lack the generic appeal of mass-marketed media, and represent the wonderful diversity of our world.
Fanfics are written by anyone for anyone.
They are written by all sorts of folks with a myriad of different experiences and identities. These intersectionalities provide readers with a truly endless glimpse at the breadth of human existence.
Something that I have always valued is how fanfics represent queer culture more completely than I have ever seen before. The fanfics that I read as a baby gay were the first positive representation and community that I had experienced. Seeing my favorite characters re-imagined as people that reflected my own identity was unbelievably impactful. They showed me that my experiences were not odd, or unusual.
Take Harry Potter for example. The fandom of fandoms. A book series that overtook my generations’ imaginations. Through fanfiction, we can see these classic characters firmly represented as people of color, queer individuals, and so much more.
So, if you are a person who finds yourself in need of an ally, fanfiction can provide that for you.
When I needed a space to find myself, fanfiction allowed me to do that.
It has unequivocally made me a stronger person. It gave me the language to describe what I was feeling as a young queer person and gave me a community of people to reach out to. This level of representation does not yet exist in the mainstream, but damn it folks, we will create our own representation.
The more time I spend thinking about this, the better I feel about that thought. It’s more accurate that way, don’t you think? This beautiful grassroots movement of people creating and connecting, providing spaces where people can feel affirmed?
We don’t need a boardroom full of Hollywood shot-callers to approve our stories. WE approve our stories, and we will never stop telling them.