I’ve reading fanfiction since I was 11 years old, my two index fingers punching over the keyboard trying to find a different version of how Sirius Black got murdered, a different version where preferably, he didn’t.
To me, the appeal of fanfiction lies in the filling in the gaps.
Maybe that’s the appeal of all fiction: someone on Twitter recently argued that maybe fiction fulfills us more when it’s mediocre — we are more drawn to things that we can fill in the gaps of.
There’s no real discussion about a perfect movie.
There’s plenty of discussion about a Marvel movie.
I don’t know if I buy this, but filling in the gaps is certainly what drives fanfiction.
Mistakes, flaws, things that make no sense in the “real story” almost always can be explained by something else, maybe something more real.
As I get older and arguably, less repressed, I realize that almost always the things filling in the gaps of a story, making things that don’t make any sense make sense, are feelings.
“Feelings” is a nebulous complex umbrella term for a lot of very strange things that happen to you without explanation, often without warning.
Fanfiction, even the weird stuff, the stuff I’ve never quite understood like coffee shop AUs, is about turning “feelings” into a starting point, a beginning rather than an end, filling an unexplainable gap.
Because I’ve been reading fanfiction since I was 11, so there are people I’ve been reading for 20 years.
People who have been writing the same feelings, in the same ships or not, for as long as I can remember.
Anonymous as the Internet can be, even now, I’ve never spoken to them, but I have thought about them for decades.
I have my own stories about these people, my own explanations for why they do what they do, beyond of course, feelings.
In some ways, I have fanfiction about fan fiction writers, designed to fill in the gaps, to unpack their motivations beyond “feelings,” like —
The person who has written one fantasy ship in different twisted ways for decades is extremely happy, in a stable not self hating gay relationship where all of her demons have been exorcised ala Gillian Flynn.
The person who wrote really one intense ship then abruptly switched to writing intense shit about sexual abuse stopped writing because they finally felt ready for therapy.
The person who wrote one story about an obscure ship 10 years ago, one of the best pieces of writing I’ve ever read, then never logged in again, is someone extremely famous who had to get their feelings out anonymously. When they finished that story, they were free.
Secret feelings, undetected to the naked canonical eye, can illuminate everything else when they’re revealed. Feelings explain the unexplainable, add depth, connect.
But of course, feelings are highly subjective — part of why having them is such a mindfuck. And so what I notice when I think about my fanfiction about fan fiction writers, it’s maybe more about wish fulfillment, more escapist, than any of the other stories that I read on AO3.
because all of the stories about feelings that I tell about fanfiction writers, about their motivations, their feelings: they all have happy endings.