In the early 80s, I discovered science fiction fandom, conventions, and fanzines through Star Trek. In the late 90s, after college, marriage, and children, I rediscovered it through Buffy. And I wrote. I wrote fairly copiously in the 80s, and moreso when I had an actual computer instead of longhand. I discovered slash and made it all my own.
Then, in 2004, someone I knew from Star Wars fandom announced "I have this new press, and we need short stories for an anthology." So I tried my hand at original slash-style fiction, and it took off from there.
Every now and then, I look at something like Fifty Shades of Gray and wonder about recycling some of the older fanfiction. I have done it. And I have pirated characters almost wholesale from media properties and dumped them into my own universes.
There are ways to do this that aren't plagaristic and make your readers feel clever instead of making them glare at the book and ask "Did I really need to spend 200 pages on a 'Sons of Anarchy' Mary-Sue fic set in a paranormal universe?"
Let's start with the most obvious: Heart of a Forest is a Robin Hood novel. Now Robin is a semi-historical legendary figure and the set pieces of the story are all public domain. But, when Naomi and I were writing, we had to be careful not to take anything whole cloth from the movies and books. There is homage, and then there is plain old laziness.
One of the more blatant homages is when Bess and Little John are fooling around:
"Oh no! You’ll keep me here, you wicked thing, and have your fierce naughty way with me! Every day!" She turned her face away and bit the knuckle of her index finger. "Every night!" She turned the other direction, pressing the back of her hand to her forehead. "And sometimes right after lunch?" She gave him a wicked grin as she fell giggling across his chest for a kiss.The dialogue comes from Men in Tights, but the behavior is pure Bess.
On the other hand, in the forthcoming space bounty hunter piece, the character of Hevik is clearly written for Harrison Ford. He's not quite Han Solo, despite the whole space thing. He's closer to a fired and displaced Jack Ryan with a side of Rick Deckard. Even as we were writing, his dialogue came through in the trademark growl. But Hevik Montag is his own character for all of that.
Then there are Zora and Talla, in the Adventuresses collection. These two started as original characters in the Star Wars universe, background in a couple of fics. Then, I came up short doing the collection. So I looked over the old fanfiction, took a Han/Luke slash piece that had been a zine fic only, and removed all SW universe references. That meant everything had to go: lightsabers, the Force, Chewbacca, the last chapter rescue by Darth Vader (don't ask). I let the girls take over the roles for the boys, made Talla a cat-girl, kept the primary adventure plot and rewrote the ending. I'm rather pleased with it.
And that brings us to Barbarossa's Bitch. The sources are there and fairly obvious for anyone who wants to look. In fact, Dylan, our narrator, is a big enough geek to hand some to the reader on a silver platter. When the masked leader of the wildpack is looking over the captives, he has a Road Warrior flashback and has to stifle a giggle. The equipment the pack uses is pure SCA camping gear, down to Barbarossa's curule chair. One bit I really like, that made one of my first-readers fall out of her chair laughing, occurs at the Amazon freehold. The pack makes sperm donations, the amazons (all lesbian) centrifuge out the Y sperm and only have daughters.
"But no Barbarossa daughters," I said, looking at him sadly.It's the Wonder Woman origin story in one sentence. I don't explicitly tell the reader that in the narrative. I assume they will either get the reference to Diana Prince, or it will just wash over them.
"One, and only one. But they call her Diana and her mother tells her she made her out of clay and the goddess Hera breathed life into the statue. She's being raised to be the next leader." He glanced up to the walls where General Prince inclined her head at him.
So, if you're looking at your old fanfic, wondering, I would say try it. My best suggestion is put two generic character names in, remove all universe reference and have a friend not in that fandom read it to see if it makes sense. With a good editor, and a good amount of hard work, fanfic can be converted. Not every fic has what it takes, but sometimes it's worth trying.
Barbarossa's Bitch is currently available from Storm Moon Press in ebook format for $5.99.
Angelia Sparrow's work can be found at http://www.brooksandsparrow.com. She can also be found on LiveJournal (valarltd), Facebook (Author Angelia Sparrow), Google+ (Angelia Sparrow), Fetlife (valarltd), Twitter (@asparrow16), and Blogger.
This post is part of the blog tour for Angelia Sparrow & Naomi Brooks' new book Barbarossa's Bitch. To celebrate this new release, they're holding a huge giveaway! You can enter by commenting with your e-mail address on this post or any other on their blog tour throughout this week. Commenting on multiple blogs means multiple entries, so follow along and keep commenting! Entries are open until Midnight EST on Saturday, March 2nd, 2013. There will be three winners. The Grand Prize is Angelia Sparrow's entire backlist (that's 12 novels and over 70 short stories). First runner up will get an ebook copy of Barbarossa's Bitch along with a $10 gift certificate to Angelia's Etsy shop, and the second runner up will get the ebook alone. Amazing prizes are a great way to sweeten the dark themes of this post-apocalyptic gay novel! Thanks for joining us on the blog tour and remember to comment to enter the giveaway!