By REBEKAH KRAUSE
Blast Chicago Bureau
It is a realm visited mostly by net geeks, horny teenagers, and computer users who are TV fanatics to the Nth degree.
It is the eerie world of fan fiction, where FBI agents Dana Scully and Fox Mulder are bisexual swingers who dabble in leather; where Xena and her perky sidekick Gabrielle frolic nude in fields of wild flowers and always have massage oil handy; where Dr. Beverly Crusher can be found punishing Counselor Deanna Troi for practicing medicine without a license, her phaser set on "sting"; where agent Scully can be found doing a
rap cover of a Puff Daddy song with the Cigarette Smoking Man.
It's enough to make me wish for a sharp amnesia-inflicting blow to my head.
Thankfully, not all fan fiction being farmed out on the Internet is this terrible, some of it is actually good. When I say good I mean worthy of publication good. During a recent intensive study through fan-generated stories, I actually read a few stories that kept me glued to my monitor from dusk 'til dawn. One of the more entertaining stories featured Agent Scully going undercover as a prostitute.
Even bad fan fiction is sprinkled with helpful tidbits of information. One author helpfully advised in his foreword "if you do this with soap in real life it stings a lot." Another felt obligated to note he is well aware many of the activities mentioned in his fiction are unlawful and suggested that they not be tried at homes.
Historically, fan fiction has been around for ages. One website suggested it began in ancient Greece when scores of stories of the antics of the gods were circulated. In it's modern form, it has been around at least as long as the original "Star Trek."
There are a seemingly infinite number of Internet fan fiction sites replete with thousands of stories generated by fans, with a wide range of mostly TV shows represented. My personal investigation focused on "X-Files" stories although I sampled fan fiction based on TV shows such as "Xena: Warrior Princess," "Hercules," "Star Trek" (Classic through Voyager), "Sliders," "Babylon 5," "Lois and Clark," "SeaQuest DSV," and even obscure favorites like "Due South."
After trolling 150 pieces of fan fiction in The Gossamer Project: X-Files Fan Fiction Archive (http://gossamer.simplenet.com/), I came to this conclusion: Nothing makes fan fiction worth your time less than a story with people named Scully and Mulder who bear absolutely NO resemblance to the people we see on TV every week. Unless you are looking for porn. In that case, you have just won the porn lottery.
My interest led me to direct discussions with the authors, where things took a slight turn for the strange. Of the online authors I contacted, virtually all of the truly awful ones didn't want their names used (Big surprise there). Most of the writers I contacted were more than willing to talk but it was almost exclusively the good writers who wanted their pen name used so fans could recognize them. Other writers, perhaps playing out their
own Deep Throat fantasies, requested pseudonyms like Agent X and John Doe so friends and family could not recognize them.
The reason behind the anonymity is pretty obvious: Most stories involve explicit sexual acts.
One author simply identified himself as "Grover" so his identity would only be known to his girlfriend. He admitted he was still in high school, which seemed obvious because of his propensity for using "boobs" and "titties" in his stories.
Grover said he began writing fan fiction to sell it to his friends, believe it or not. Asked why he uses "X-Files" characters, he explained that he feels he is enriching the vision of Chris Carter.
"I know a lot of women want to see Scully and Mulder get together and I know a lot of men want to see Scully and Mulder get it on," Grover said. "I think I give them an example of how that could happen."
Call me a cynic but I believe if Scully and Mulder ever actually do collapse lovingly into each other's arms, I don't think a sexy nurse will be there to coach them both in "the art of pleasure."
Next, I sought out fan fiction readers. After starting an America Online chat room I called "XFFanFictionfans," I was shocked at how quickly I attracted a small crowd. Some readers of fan fiction appeared more ashamed of their hobby than if they were readers of Internet child pornography.
Suzie, a 37-year-old lithographer, begged me not to use her screenname after she admitted every single sick day she had taken off work in the last year was because she could not tear herself away from the Gossamer Archive. Lisa, a 20-year-old student, confessed when she discovered incredibly popular fan fiction writer Paula Graves (http://members.aol.com/gravespa2/reviews.htm) she did not leave the house until she had read every single story available at the time.
Graves appeared to be a constant favorite in the world of fan fiction, with several readers and writers dropping her name. One young writer of fan fiction writer actually referred to her as the "goddess" of "X-Files" fan fiction.
So I did the obvious: I read every single story she has posted at her website. It is good. It is really good. Granted, it is blatant romance novel fodder but it is engrossing, enjoyable, entertaining. Graves' narrative often dips into the gutter but it is no more hard-core than a typical Harlequin novel. If she changed the names of her characters and sold it to a publisher, it's certain she could become at least as popular as Penny Jordan or LeVry
Even more amazing is her devotion to a hobby she's not being financially compensated for. In fact, if "X-Files" creator Carter ever becomes especially crabby she could actually get into a fair amount of legal trouble.
"Xf Stew" also has some great fan fiction. Sure, he usually portrays Scully as a bisexual but Stew writes sensitive love stories. Scully and Mulder more strongly resemble the way they are portrayed on TV than they do in other writers' fan fiction. The writer has, in her own words, "lightened the tone of both Mulder and Scully's characters" but she correctly points out there are many episodes where Mulder and Scully are more humorous and playful. So what if Scully is living an alternate lifestyle? Stew made me believe.
The authors of fan fiction all seem to agree why it is written in the first place: because writers of the shows do not give much time and attention to the personal lives of the characters.
In the words of teenage fan fiction writer Julie Burnham: "There are too many loose ends and ideas that get started from the show that the loyal fans pick up on and have to express, and (fan fiction) is one expression of that."
The writers, in their attempt to tie up those loose ends create their own
universes, where Scully and Mulder have been in a long-term relationship
since the first seaso, where they are married, even where they have known each other
Fan fiction is like an iceberg the size of Antarctica and I have only
explored an ice cube. There is no foreseeable end to the rapid production of fan narrative, and the growing Internet community has certainly fed the demand. Canceled series are kept alive, bit characters are given their voice, and Scully and Mulder finally get laid. Some fan fiction sites receive well over a thousand hits a month and new stories are being written every day it is just the beginning.
Overall, fan fiction is like escargot: Even when it's really good I'd rather
have a pizza.