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The title is more epic than it actually sounds, but when I think about it the entire thing had been a story long in the making.
Some writers believe that fanfiction is a waste of time. Certainly, you can’t really profit off of it unless you have the original writer or creator’s permission, and you do not want to run afoul of copyright infringement. But that’s not what I’m here to talk about today. I’m partly here because it’s been a while since I’ve put anything on this Blog, my Writer’s Blog, that hasn’t been a repost from my Sequart work, or elsewhere.
I suppose I’d … always written fanfiction. In fact, I did it ever since I even learned how to write. Often I’d watch the 1990s Peter Pan cartoons and attempt to write the further stories of Captain Hook, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and more. In the eighties and nineties though, as a young child, I was mostly interested in horror stories and mostly rehashing the old urban legends and Hammer film derivatives of horror classics more than anything else.
I don’t know if I remember it properly, but I think it really began in Fine Arts Camp. It was at the MacDonald House in Thornhill, once owned by the Canadian Group of Seven artist James Edward Harvey MacDonald. At the time, in the 1990s, I fancied myself something of a graphic artist. I was really passionate about drawing and creating cartoons. It made sense given my interests and my immersion into old DC and Marvel comics and a lot of the stuff coming out in the nineties. Certainly, I wasn’t all that interested in landscapes or other forms of graphic art. Just cartoons. Just comic books.
To be honest, Fine Arts Camp for all its fascinating old MacDonald House that was a good place to tell children urban legends and horror stories near a church and a community swimming pool, wasn’t always so ideal for me. For one, I had terrible allergies and being almost always in the middle of a woodland, surrounded by many trees, did not do me or my lungs that felt like they were getting kicked by horse hooves at night any favours. Also, well, when you are a child and generally an indoors one you have to understand that for all a camp will call itself a Fine Arts Camp, they will still force you go outside in various temperatures and play sports more than you will want. It was the same in the Computer Camp I went to, thinking I’d learn about animation and programming, and it was the same here before it.
Also, when you are extremely introverted like I was, you don’t tend to make a lot of friends: especially not from children your age or, worse, older. To make a long story short, aside from arts and crafts, and even some walks, I didn’t really always like being at Fine Arts Camp. But, I did discover something there that has sat in my head, with me, for the rest of my life.
I don’t remember his name. I’m not even sure he was the same person. But I knew a kid there, a few years older than me. He had in his hands, at the time, something I coveted the most. It was the Wizard Magazine: X-Men 30th Anniversary Special. In that magazine was all the information I’d been looking for about the X-Men and more, so much more than the Marvel cards and their lore that I had been collecting then.
For all the little squabbles we all had there, being kids, this guy was generous and he let me actually read parts of the Magazine. And, even though the other campers really thought I was weird for doing this and it probably gave them more fuel to push me around later, I was actually taking notes on all the information I could find. It wasn’t enough and eventually, after much pleading on my part and my grandmother’s reluctance to spend or let me spend all of twenty dollars, I got my own copy: which is still somewhere down in my basement somewhere.
But the important thing I want to note here is that this same guy, and may not necessarily be the same guy, liked to write. He told us that he would type up his stories on an old computer. Somehow, I remember him saying he had the Internet and frequented BBSes looking at stories based on franchises like Star Trek and Star Wars. I might just be projecting that, as I had no idea what the Internet beyond school was or what a BBS even was at the time. But I remember him saying that he liked to write stories where Star Trek and Star Wars crossed over, and perhaps something about Locutus of Borg meeting the Empire.
It blew my mind.
I don’t remember all the details, but I recall the way he described his ideas and his stories. I think he even brought in some old computer paper with rings on the sides and clunky font. And I definitely remember wanting to write franchise stories.
I wanted to make those crossovers. I wanted to write Star Wars. I wanted to write comics and all the things.
That’s how it really started. There was an attempt at a Star Wars expanded universe story in my Seventh or Eighth Grade Writer’s Club anthology: where Luke Skywalker and the others meet a Dark Jedi fighting against the Empire and the Phantom Fleet. But you can imagine how well that was written at the time, and even more so how it aged since.
But I roleplayed out original Star Wars, X-Men, and Power Rangers episodes with my best friend Sean, and I kept writing. I still attempted to write my own works, but they were derivative of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps and Fear Street, along with some Christopher Pike, so you can imagine what those might have been like.
I think my writing skills started to be honed after high school, after reading more and writing an original short story in which I won a Senior Literary Award in 1999. I joined TheForce.Net again in 2005 and wrote what I thought were clearer iterations of Prequel stories. Unfortunately, despite all their assurances that everything would be saved, a lot of my works were lost when the Board attempted to transfer its data to a new server and most of my old works were heavily truncated. It’s something I never really got over, after all this time and, frankly, it’s kept me from really writing there as much anymore.
But I learned a lot out of writing in different pre-made worlds.. I learned about what writing I liked and what I didn’t. They gave me ideas and frameworks for them. And sometimes they gave me an outlet to tell stories I wasn’t prepared to tell when I didn’t have a voice for them. Yet I think, most of all, fanfiction keeps me writing when I don’t feel inspired to write my own work, or when I’m getting overly critical and analytical.
Recently, I’ve joined AO3 to give some of my fanfic pieces a broader audience. I didn’t really like the freeform administrative style of Fanfic.Net, and TheForce.Net’s administration can be … sporadic and highly dogmatic in terms of poster interaction at best. But AO3 has a lot of variety and also maturity at times with regards to their work. So far I am liking it. And I cross-post all the time. Right now, in-between writing critical and opinion pieces for Sequart and thinking of some of my own original pieces, I’ve been writing a Fate/Stay Night fanfic I’ve been pondering over for a while and a few other shorter vignettes as well.
They keep me going, and I don’t think I realized how I missed it until I stopped. In addition, they also keep me writing new things and attempting stuff I hadn’t thought of or had the metaphorical balls to dare try. At the moment, this variance helps keep my mind fresh: and, who knows, I might have some of my own creative breakthroughs.
Some might even say that this how literature itself continues, minus all of these labels and copyright issues. Someone creates something and others want to emulate it: with perhaps reading and interacting with the materials that the original creator made to understand it better and eventually find their own voice.
Even so, fanfiction allows me to interact with the material that I love on a creative level without the pressure of feeling like I have do it professionally or for a need for money. I think there is a lot to be said about it, if you learn and grow from the experience, and even just have fun. I don’t know. I do know that I have come a long way from coveting wanting to write a Star Wars story, which I thought was beyond my ken at the time. With time, research, and will I can write almost anything now.
I guess that, in the end, I just need to remember that. After all, I think it is always useful to pursue inspiration: wherever you can find it.
Written as something of a follow-up to Black Mirror’s “The Entire History of You” episode, Liam Foxwell deals with the consequences of his actions during a therapy meeting: in which we learn that going “grainless” isn’t always so merciful. NSFW, but it is Black Mirror after all, so you should know better.
Hi, my name is Liam. Liam Foxwell.
My name is Liam Foxwell. Foxwell …
Hah. Fancy, aren’t they? Worms. We’re all kind of guinea pigs here. Uncharted territory and all that. A bit of work on that volume quality control issue though, huh mates? Nah. I’m rambling. Just like I did in my bachelor days, before I met Ffion at that dive bar back in … Cardiff was it?
Heh. Yeah. Can’t very well have a re-do now, can I?
Can’t very well have a re-do …
Anyway, I’m … actually doing a lot better these days. You know, ever since I cut myself and housekeeping found me near the bloody bathroom mirror. Literally. They actually called my ex and whatever else happened between us, she got the authorities there. Been here ever since. Hell, she even visits and brings Jods. Jodie. She’s my daughter. At least, I thought …
Right. Funny how hard it is to tell a story in order without a grain. Kind of hard to, well, see your reactions too. Guess that ends any career in stand-up. But I guess that’s the point.
… without a grain … kind of hard to … see your reactions …
That damned whispering. Colleen, a friend me and my ex-wife’s, told me they’re still working on these worms. Just slithers right into your brain. But is that really different? But Colleen, I always thought she was a bit of a know-it-all, you know? Kind of stuck-up? Well, she’s a grain specialist. They’re still working on trying to fix mine. Yeah. She really stepped up after Ffion asked her. Even after everything, you know? She’s been nothing but good to me, even after what a right passive-aggressive prat I was.
But right. I was a barrister, you know? I could be pretty direct. Before I … well, gouged myself, the firm I was at said they thought of having me handle some cases. Stuff about suing parents based on the memories of their kids. I thought it was bollocks. The whole appraisal was so insincere. But barristers are, by our nature, full of bullshit. That was one thing I hated about grains. Keeping score. Dwelling in the past. Living there. I did it all the time. At work. During travel. And … at home. Seeing as I will never be able to practice, at least for a long while, you’re probably wondering.
If I hate grains so much, to the point of mutilating mine, why is Colleen trying to get mine fixed while we’re working on this worm sub?
I hate grains so much …
Well, there’s a bit of background to go over. Jonas, my ex’s friend, Jods’ … Jonas and my ex had an affair. Doesn’t excuse anything I did, mind you. Not one bit. You see, I was a mean drunk. That’s one part of my therapy here. Haven’t had a drink in ages. And you know what? I’m glad. I don’t like the person I was when I drank. I said ugly things when I got drunk. Went on about my ex’s, well, ex Dan and I stormed off for a few days. I guess you can say that’s where it all began. Alcohol’s just as bad as grains, really. My wife … my ex, got drunk with Jonas. Knob-head didn’t take advantage of her, I saw that much. They were both knackered and they had their history — especially their histories — and, well …
Grains. Heh. Here I am rambling like I’m on my fifth bourbon. No, you know what grains remind me of? The thing that keeps repeating, like the whispers of these worms in the air, in my head, is the Sandman. You know. My mam used to tell me that every night the Sandman would visit you and sprinkle some fairy dust right into your eyes. Every time you wake up, next morning, there’s that dirt in the corner of your eye. Mucus membrane. Mam called it grains of sand. Like in a glass. Like that ear-worm “Mr. Sandman, bring me a dream …”
I’ve been listening to audios. The Classics. Don’t have much to do and I have enough insurance to keep at this program. What I can say, had a good barrister and some Worker’s Comp. Nervous breakdown a hazard of the job now. Been listening up on The Aeneid. Vergil. Talks about Aeneas, the hero who makes Rome, going to the Afterlife while he’s still kicking. He finds out about Rome’s glorious future and tragedies. Like he’s remembering something that didn’t happen yet. Talk about an idea for a grain. Maybe I should patent that. Anyway, Aeneas has to leave. And he’s told about two doors. Gate of Horn and Ivory. Gate of Horn’s all about Prophecy. Truth, right? And Ivory, well, you can see what I’m getting at. It’s where dreams come from. It’s what you see when you sleep, but instead of visions, it’s all pretty much lies.
… instead of visions, it’s all … lies.
So what does any of this have to do with anything? Well ladies, gentlemen, and other human beings of the jury, grains are supposed to be truths. Little bits of truth embedded in our necks. They keep us honest and there’s only so much you can erase until people can see the gaps in the grains. But they’re also like breadcrumbs. They pointed the way to my wife’s … indiscretion. Her lies. And here I had the perfect life, almost. I was a barrister, well-off, in a good country, with a beautiful wife, good social scene, nice house, and little charming dirty pumpkin of a baby daughter. And that was the lie. One of them.
It was all Ivory. And the grains made it. We kept living in those grains. I’d slip my cock into my wife’s pussy and we’d dream about better times, convulsing against each other, as I got one off in her. Our eyes getting into that diluted grey. Colour of spoiling milk. I used to hate talking like this, like Jonas talking about his wanking to my wife at that last dinner party, but it’s so intoxicating. You know, at first it was just a kinky thing we did. A little bit of fun. But then it was all the fun. Something to numb the arguments, and the hollowness.
I was angry at the dream. At the lie. At that feeling that I wasn’t good enough. It’d been burning for a while, long before the appraisal, or meeting Jonas, or suspecting Ffion of being with him. It all seemed so fake. So insincere. I hated it. I hated myself.
What I did to Jonas … even after all that, wasn’t acceptable. He should’ve called the cops. Like I said, I was a mean, angry drunk but before Jonas I didn’t think I could be a violent one. It was the least I deserved. I apologized to him. Part of the therapy, right? I definitely apologized to Ffion. She lied to me, but I hurt her first. Following every breadcrumb and grain of sand …
Liquor and grains. Spirits and sandmen …
It’s a work in progress. I even got to see Jods again. She’s probably not my biological daughter. Ffion didn’t have to take her here, to me. She barely even knows me. It would’ve been easier for Jodie to forget me.
… forget me …
Jonas is actually paying support for her. Helping. And Hallam. Poor girl. She was with him … when I snapped. She’s grainless too. We talk more now. I told her I was sorry. Can’t imagine what it was like, seeing me and not being able to call the police, to show them what was happening. I was a right bastard. I think, maybe, she visits out of guilt. It was that party where she talked about getting attacked and having her grain removed. She said she liked being grainless now. Maybe she thinks that’s where I got the idea, instead being the purely desperate bastard that I was. She kept her vision and me …
Well. Here I am, right?
Except, that’s not entirely true now, is it? You see, I did try to gouge out my grain. But, what I didn’t say is, I didn’t get all of it out.
Not everything that isn’t true is a lie …
I still see it. I still see Ffion the day we moved into our place. I still see us by Jodie’s crib. I keep seeing us making love. Or at that dive bar. I tried to take my grain out to make them stop: to take my re-do ability away. Like looking at old photos from your exes. But I also see me threatening Jonas’ life. I see my crashed car. I see me being an asshole to our babysitter. And that shattered look on Ffion’s face. Over and over and over again.
But somehow I still see blackness.
I can’t control them. And when I don’t see them, I hear them whispering, whispering into my brain. You’ve told me that they are just echoes, psychological trauma. Like a phantom limb. Phantom vision. It’s black and I can’t see and I know that my ex and Colleen and Hallam tell me that my eyes are still grey as all fuck: like I’m redoing, but I’m not. We’re hoping that it can be fixed and I’ll be able to turn the damn thing off. To move on. That’s what I wanted, you know? To move on with whatever this is. And the worm, in the meantime, is there to help me record information, to adapt to this as much as possible.
And then there are these therapy sessions. Just in case the fix, the process, whatever it is is in my head. I guess, all I want now, is to make these flashbacks stop. I don’t care about Aeneas’ Horn or Ivory. Dreams or lies. I just want to wake up, you know. That would be nice. To be able to see or be silent. To live again. In the present.
I just want to wake up, you know.
I just want to wake up …
A very fascinating parallel between Lovecraft’s work and life and that if Robert Black from Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows’ Providence. Also, Terrence Blake was kind enough to name drop me and my work here along with my Sequart colleague David Whittaker.
PROVIDENCE is a densely layered graphic novel devoted to re-imagining Lovecraft’s life and work in terms of the mythos that emerges from and subtends his creations.
These are not my “annotations” to the graphic novel, the people at the blog “Facts in the Case of Alan Moore’s Providence” have done an excellent job, and I am indebted to their work. I have also read with profit the discussions of PROVIDENCE on Sequart, by David Whittaker and by Matthew Kirshenblatt.
This is rather a set of “notes” in my digital Commonplace Book, recording my reveries or waking dreams as I re-read it. I am envisaging Moore’s work as a set of nested dreams, and adding my own to the already complex layering, dreaming the dream on.
The title PROVIDENCE is rich with multiple meanings when it is envisioned with respect to Lovecraft’s life and thought. One thinks first of…
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