Fan Fiction is Fantastic



In my day, fan fiction was relegated to the nerd world. Fans of Star Wars, Star Trek, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and comic books clogged up the internet with short stories or full-length novels about their favorite characters.  Of course if you've ever taken a gander over at Wattpad, you know it's not just for nerds anymore. Nor is it just for teens. The selection of adult fanfiction is vast and caters to every fandom.

Fan fiction gets a bad wrap and some of the criticism is deserved. But even reading the worst of it is great for any writer. More so than any English class I ever took, the hours upon hours I spent reading fan fiction taught me important writing skills, specifically, creating realistic characters and staying true to the characters you create. 

I bring this up because I recently unpacked all of my books and placed them lovingly onto a book shelf in my study. As I unpacked them and categorized them, I came to the realization that the two most beloved books in my collection were X-Men Fatal Attractions (my very first graphic novel) and a printout of the X-men fanfic "Kid Dynamo" by Connie Hirsch.

Connie Hirsch, whoever she may be, created an entirely new character and weaved her seamlessly into the already established characters that comprised the New Mutants in the 1980s (under Magneto's leadership). Her character, Jessica, was not a dreaded Mary-Sue, but rather a complex and authentic young girl who came from difficult circumstances. The well-known character of Magneto was not revamped for the story, although some of his rougher edges were shaved off. In the author's defense, Magneto was a good guy at the time.

So what did those hours and hours of reading fan fiction do for me?

  • They formed the basis of my writing style.
  • They made me understand what a good character and bad character looked like.
  • They helped me realize what real dialogue sounded like versus contrived nonsensical crap.
  • They showed me the anger of an author treating me, the reader, like I was an idiot.

These talented writers (and some really awful ones) who loved the X-Men gave me my best education, not school marms who made me diagram sentences. Now that I'm all grown up, my deep emotional connection to the characters in the Marvel universe have helped me create some characters of my own, real ones with hopes and dreams and annoying personality traits. That kind of inspiration didn't come from reading The Scarlet Letter (curse you, Hawthorne). It came from fan fiction. 

So if you needed permission to spend your weekend on Wattpad... you have it.

Muslims have an Antichrist Too



Debaters and negotiators instruct their students to question the premise of questions they are asked. Messiah's trailer asks us to decide: is this mysterious man a savior? Or is he a fraud? 

However, there is a third option glaringly omitted by the creators which, in hindsight, was intentional. 

The creators (rightly) assumed that we in the secular west would forget that third option, even those of us who were raised Catholic. Even those of us who were planning to become nuns. It's not just me, right?

The preview makes it clear by the scenes it selects that American Christians (or at least cultural Christians) were the target audience, taking special effort to pause on our mysterious protagonist as he says he was sent by "my father."

The reviews of the show, when it was released in January, were wildly different depending on the reviewer's culture. Western reviewers could be divided into three camps: secular media critics, WASPy types with little to no actual knowledge of their self-professed religion of Christianity, and actual Christians. The actual Christians were almost universally critical of the series because it deviated from the book of Revelation, which makes it blasphemous.

Muslims, on the other hand... they knew the plot twist from just watching the preview. None of them needed to watch all the way to the end--as I did--to see this man was neither Christ reborn nor a cynical conman. He was something else, with a mission that none of us will ever get to see to its end, as Messiah was not renewed.

With Ramadan coming to a close with the Eid celebration, Messiah has received renewed attention from many Muslims as they think about the end times and the Dajaal... their antichrist. And with that attention has brought renewed questions about exactly why this show was canceled when it brought in such large viewing numbers.

The show, even with its singular season, is good and I recommend it even knowing there will never be a conclusion. The show and its characters provide a powerful lesson, a reminder of Dr. Malcolm's warning in Jurrasic Park:  "your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should." 

In this case, you can follow a man who performs miracles, who has the power to do the impossible. But should you?

Messiah implores us to look beyond whether a person is "legit" or not.  Don't simply ask if the handsome South Asian man with the French accent really raised that boy from the dead. Ask yourself what it means if he did. Is the ability to raise people from the dead enough to earn your obedience? Your soul? 

For your sake, I hope not. 

HELSTROM: SUCCESSOR TO SUPERNATURAL - CANCELED BEFORE IT BEGAN


 It started off with a whimper. Hulu's latest addition to Marvel TV received almost no fanfare when it dropped. The only reason I watched it is because of a single Instagram ad for the show... one that pinged a memory in my Marvel fangirl brain.

Hmmm... wasn't there a Hellstrom comic book? Could this be the same thing? It was a reasonable question, as the show's title card held no hint of Marvel branding. And the spelling had changed. But I gave it a shot and absolutely loved it. Yes, they had changed the spelling of the Helstrom's sibling's names. Likewise, they didn't mention that Ana's name in the comic book was... Satana. But the show worked. Fantastically.


So why then was it canceled before even one episode aired? In a word... Disney. 

Unlike Marvel movies, Marvel TV had been adult-oriented. Shows like Daredevil and Jessica Jones focused on bloody violence and had themes like vengeance and recovering from sexual trauma. These shows were not for children. Which is why they had to go.


Now Marvel still has TV offering on Disney Plus. Wanda Vision looks good. And I haven't seen the ads for The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, but I will likely watch it too. Family-friendly entertainment can of course be wonderful. It can teach us about ourselves and make our hearts soar. But there are some themes, some emotions that can only be touched on with the honesty and grit of adult-oriented television. Marvel was uniquely suited to offer this, as their comic books offered many darker themes for their adolescent readers. 


Helstrom was originally supposed to kick off a universe of its own wherein the Ghostrider would become a recurring or even main character. And I think it would have been great. It also would have been great to see how the Helstrom siblings progress in their relationship and continue to fight against demonic forces, much like the Winchester Brothers did successfully for... what has it been, 15 years?


This show could have been the logical successor to Supernatural, which sings its swan song this season. But it seems adult fans of the supernatural will have to look elsewhere for their hard-hitting TV shows. Disney made sure of that.

Great Movies About Writing

 Whoever said television rots your brain was surely speaking out of ignorance. Yes, in these modern times of reality television and endless movie sequels, there is a lot of opportunity for terrible cinematic experiences. But then there are truly great movies and television series. For me, there is nothing more gratifying than to find the movies about writing—the ones written to inspire and speak to my crabby, introverted soul. This list of inspirational movies for writers is confined to movies I have actually seen; if you haven't seen them, allow me to recommend that you do.

What are your favorite writing movies?

Stranger Than Fiction



Harold is going about his daily life when suddenly he starts hearing narration in a woman's voice. As it turns out, he is a real person that an author (also real) is writing about, even though the two have never met. If that seems a strange premise, allow me to convince you how wonderful this movie is. In addition to showing a writer in an authentic sense, it also tells a wonderful story of the connection that exists between writers and the characters they create.

Finding Forester



I saw this for the first time while in college, so perhaps that explains how strongly I identified with it. It tells the story of a young boy who, like many underprivileged black students, is smarter than is socially acceptable. He is lucky enough to be accepted on scholarship into a prestigious private school and even luckier to stumble into the apartment of a famous reclusive author. This film is about finding the voice inside of you and having the perseverance to get it out.

Capote



There have already been several film adaptations of Truman Capote's masterpiece In Cold Blood, but this film looks at the man himself, who he was, why he went to that little town in Kansas, and how writing the book changed who he was. As with many writers, he started with a very firm idea of what he was going to write, but as he explored the players involved, the story changed and began to consume his life. This is a little bit darker in theme, but should not be missed.

Sense and Sensibility (Honorable Mention)



Technically, this movie is not about authors or writing. However, Sense and Sensibility is an absolutely wonderful book by Jane Austen (far superior to Pride and Prejudice in my opinion) that has tightly-packed narrative and relatively little dialog. But Emma Thompson, the star of the film, converted the book magnificently into a screenplay that captured precisely Austen's world and voice. It really brought the words to life, and even the most die-hard Austen fan had no harsh words for the movie.

Books, like movies, or another story worth telling, has the potential to change us—who we are and how we think. As writers, I think we all aspire to do that for our readers.