How Writing Fanfic Introduced Me To Myself by Karen Onojaife
"It's hardly a unique position but when I was a teenager, I felt seriously uncool. Nerdy, geeky, awkward, whatever you want to call it. It was bad – we probably haven’t even yet discovered the unit of measurement that can sufficiently describe my state back then.
This isn’t one of those and then I became a swan! essays, though – your narrator remains, for the most part, as awkward as ever. Thanks to time and many mishaps, I am managing to stumble my way into that serenity prayer of accepting that which cannot be changed. Science says the average human being is about 60% water but here's how I imagine I break down: 20% affinity for '80s soft rock; 30% devotion to useless facts; and 50% eternal thirst for reading, a solid proportion of which is devoted to the glory that is fan fiction.
Better scholars than me have mounted strenuous defences of fan fiction. To me, the debate (fan fiction versus "proper" books) has always seemed strange – surely there’s space for everything. I’m a writer, so yes, I read a lot of books, but I also think you should take your pleasure (and your learning) where you can find it. If that occasionally/sometimes/frequently happens to be on a website where the collective fangirling is such that it could legitimately serve as an alternative source of renewable energy, then so be it – let’s go live our best lives."
Can The Harry Potter Fandom Survive A New Canon? by Mathilda Gregory
"I found the Harry Potter fandom in 2000. Giddy with the thrill of internet access at home, I googled my way from the official Warner Brothers website – which was promoting the imminent first movie – to the unofficial world of fan-made websites and Yahoo groups. Of course I joined HP4GU (Harry Potter for Grown-Ups), a busy hub of fan theories, but I also joined a Yahoo group dedicated only to the manners and motivations of Lucius Malfoy, because the fandom was already large enough to support niche interests. Nascent but already obsessive, the Harry Potter fandom was on the brink of an unprecedented revolution. It was about to move from mailing lists to LiveJournal and, from there, grow like one of Hagrid’s hatchlings into the beast we see today."
"This is a story about truth, beauty, and freedom, but above all it’s a story about love. It’s also a story about growing up, immersive theatre, art as revolution, and the current Secret Cinema production of Moulin Rouge.
I first watched Moulin Rouge 15 years ago; it was 2002 and I was 15. I was very tall, very ginger, and very awkward, and I grew up as part of a small, fundamentalist Christian church whose views on gender and sexuality would politely be called traditional – I spent all of my Sundays in services where women weren’t allowed to speak. All of this added an intensity to the already thorny mix of contradictory messages that all teenage girls grapple with. I was by no means unhappy and was – and still am – part of a close, loving family. But I was deeply uncomfortable in my own skin, terrified of my own body, and wrangling a lot of internalised sexism in the years before helpful YouTube tutorials or indeed any online communities where I might find another way of being.
And so of course I turned to stories – books in particular. I was not much of a discerning film watcher; our family favourites were George of the Jungle and The Sound of Music, but I read and wrote avidly. But then, one day while home ill from school, I watched a Blockbuster VHS of Moulin Rouge, purely because it was there and I was bored, and I fell in love. I can remember the experience of watching it in intense and specific detail, and I can still easily conjure up the feeling as it ended, watching every moment of the credits, not wanting it to end. I fell for it with the intensity that comes only with the things you first encounter as a teenager."
What SKAM Taught Me About Being a Muslim Girl by Mariam Ansar
"We were sitting in the living room, eating yesterday’s leftover pizza, and grinning like idiots.
“Oh my god,” my housemates kept saying to one another.
“I know!” I’d reply, scrambling forward to turn the volume up.
For the next few hours, we’d have that exact same exchange again and again in various pitches and tones while refusing to tear our eyes away from the TV screen. This show was like a magnet. Or maybe a mirror. We looked into the screen and found Sana Bakkoush, of the cult series Skam, one teenage protagonist for Muslim girls like us."
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How Hermione Granger Became The Big Sister I Never Had by Ellie Bate
"Like so many girls my age, I found myself in Hermione Granger. Even at 5 I was a bookworm, a tiny baby-nerd whose growth into a fully fledged know-it-all was inevitable. I was, of course, far from the first person to latch on to the only female lead in the most popular book series on the planet. I don’t claim to be special among the thousands of girls who idolised her, who crimped their hair and waved plastic wands when Halloween rolled around in an attempt to emulate their hero. Maybe you, dear reader, were one of those girls. But I was 5, and I didn’t know you then (unless I did, in which case – small world, huh?), and anyway, that’s the thing about books: As soon as they are opened, their world and their characters exist entirely for their reader.
It took me years to come up with the perfect term to define my relationship with Hermione. It couldn’t be friendship, because she was slightly too far out of reach: She was older and smarter, and already had friends whose adventures I could only observe, in awe, from a distance. Role model didn’t seem right either. I felt a role model had to be someone established in their wisdom and ready to lead. Albus Dumbledore was a role model (an incredibly flawed one, maybe – but that’s a different essay). Hermione was just a girl trying to navigate adolescence and save the world. And I could relate, at least, to the former."
Crossing Oceans, Cultures, and Fandoms by Alwyn Hamilton
"Games of Thrones came to me just I was running out of YA fantasy and had started to move semi-reluctantly into the realm of adult fantasy, where I was struggling to find the same interesting and badass women I had learned to love in teen books. I have the Amazon “if you liked X you might enjoy Y” recommendations to thank for bringing the epic saga into my life at an inappropriately young age. Game of Thrones might have looked like any other fantasy, with a cover displaying a dark-haired hero astride a horse in the snow, but as anyone who has seen the TV show will know, Game of Thrones ain’t just your average fantasy series. It’s huge and sprawling and desperately clever and incites the sort of ardour that justifies the etymological meaning of “fan”. And it completely hooked me. I came for Arya Stark, who reminded me of the gumption-filled, gender-role-defying, cross-dressing heroines I had loved in YA, and I stayed for, as it turned out, for the online theories.
Much as with Harry Potter, the first three books of the saga were out by the time I came to the series, and I tore through them. And I didn’t flip ahead. Which is a rarity for me. I am not a patient reader. And suddenly I was done and I had an obsession and a multiple-year wait until A Feast for Crows was released. And for the first time I wandered on to the internet looking for somewhere to put that obsession."
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Here's Why I Write About Teen Girls And Witchcraft by Laure Eve
"When I started secondary school aged 11, I was surrounded by girls who liked Take That and fashion magazines and lip gloss. I liked Nirvana and Stephen King. And lip gloss, admittedly. The girls I knew wanted to talk about boys and clothes. I wanted to talk about boys and death.
Of course I wasn't the only one. Of course there were others who didn't quite fit into the normal, popular, friendly mould. Even the ones who did weren't normal, popular, and friendly 24/7 like some sort of robot cheerleader group. They often felt as lost and isolated as everyone else. Weirdly, though, they still didn't like to talk about death quite as much as I did.
I liked things that pushed the boundaries of the known and the safe. I was wildly curious about subjects deemed unacceptable to explore, especially for a young girl, so I explored them in books. I wanted to see for myself the depths of human depravity, the lengths we go to for power."
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Sex, Misery, And Cliffhangers: How I Write Fanfic by Sef Churchill
"I've been writing my own stories since I was 12. But for the last four years, I have been writing many more words – in fan fiction.
My audience has grown since my first forays into creative writing; in 2013, I shared half a million words of fiction across fandoms including Merlin, Sherlock, and The Musketeers.
My best-known story is probably Torchlight, for the Elementary fandom.
Here are some things I've learned about writing – and fandom – since entering the vast and welcoming world of fan fiction."
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How Watching "Skins" Made Me Feel Seen by Sophie Brown
"It’s been just over 10 years since I watched on-demand TV for the first time. I got back from college, went into my dad’s attic office, and logged on to his computer. I tentatively navigated the 4OD website and hit the refresh button until a purple landing page with a photo of seven teenagers draped across each other appeared. There was to be a teaser of Skinsreleased – the first 10 minutes of a programme so widely advertised it literally plagued my dreams.
The advert had been flashing up for weeks. Gossip’s "Standing in the Way of Control" was the soundtrack that kicked in to backdrop a house party that looked all too familiar, because it was exactly what my friends and I had been doing for the past two years.
I – like most of the nation’s under-18s – had had “virgin” written on my forehead and a massive dick drawn on my cheek with a Sharpie. I’d thrown up in many a sink after draining the alcohol cabinet of whoever’s parents were brave enough to go on holiday and leave their 15-year-old in charge. I had, on numerous occasions, worn nothing but a leotard and cat ears to a party."
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How "Friends" Gave Me Unrealistic Expectations Of Friendship by Nicole Burstein
"I was 14 in 1998: peak golden-age Friends. It was when Chandler got stuck in a box to appease Joey, Phoebe was pregnant with her brother’s triplets, and the whole gang (except a real-life pregnant Lisa Kudrow) came to frolic in London. We were all obsessed with the show, except back then it wasn’t obsession, it was just normal. You were weird if you didn’t watch it. I had a Friends calendar hanging up in my room. I'd watch episodes with my parents when they first aired, but would also record them so that I could watch them again and again over the weekend. I wanted my life to be like that show – living in a New York loft, sipping espresso in quirky coffee shops with my best friends.
At the same time, my own friendships were crumbling. Reading back over my diary from this time, I'm amazed at my own perseverance with people who clearly didn't want me around. But I was desperate for the full Friends experience. I was sure that these were my people, and if I just stuck at it, I would find the kind of platonic love that I was craving."
How Falling in Love With Harry Potter Shaped My Life by Chelsey Pippin
"Picture me: scrawny and prone to chewing on my hair, wearing the brand new glasses I was sure were the direct result of having spent the last few years reading after hours with only the muted glow of the streetlight outside my bedroom window to see by. I’m in a bookshop – fully lit, which feels luxurious – and there’s a display obnoxiously blocking my path to the fairy tale retelling section, the sole source of of my adolescent brain’s diet. The display is stuffed with copies of a single book, and beyond being annoyed that it’s in my way, I also think it just looks a bit stupid, to be honest. What’s so interesting about a skinny boy looking a bit dopey on a broomstick while reaching out for a ball anyway?"
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The Most Romantic Thing That Happened To Me As A Teen Was Being Mugged by Becky Barnicoat
"It’s autumn, and it’s dark and damp. I’m happy. I have a massive crush on one of the boys, Pete, who has ginger hair and smells like washing powder. When I go to the shops with my mum, I try to find out which washing powder it is. Maybe Persil?
We’re all mucking about, jumping over bollards. I pretend to be Little Miss Muffet for some reason. We’re stoned already.
I’m much too shy to talk to Pete, let alone flirt with him, but still: We’re walking together as part of the same group on our way to the same spliff. I feel a step closer to my big teenage ambition: getting a boyfriend. Dawson’s Creek, Clueless, Judy Blume, they’ve all made a promise to me – that I’ll meet a boy, that there’ll be a love story, and it will be amazing."