So, for the past month or so, I've been working my butt off to write a 110,000 word long epic involving alien invasions, men in suits, and a paramilitary organization that secretly fights to free humanity from the clutches of an insidious, unknowable alien force.
Sadly, I have to admit I'm not writing the X-Com: Enemy Unknown novelization. But I am writing the next best thing: Invasion 2071 is an upcoming Traveller supplement released by some very nice German gents, who have been working with me to try and make this book the best representation of their world as can be.
I was a tad nervous when I started, as Rouven - my editor - sent me a 600 page backstory and history supplement that, unfortunately, was entirely written out in German. But thanks to some skilled translators - both biological and technological - I have gotten a good handle on this realistic, intricate world. And, thankfully, the initial notes have been more than good, leaving me nicely confident...
But, really, what am I doing...if not being paid to write fan-fiction?
That is EXACTLY what I'm doing.
And it is glorious.
There is something oddly liberating about writing fan-fiction, especially when writing about a setting rather than a character. Writing about a character strikes me as downright terrifying, like trying to write an autobiography of someone who is still alive and popular and beloved by millions. I have no idea how fanficers and slashers and other awesome writers (and make no mistake, despite the countless examples of terrible fan-fiction and terribler - that's a real word, by the way - slash fiction, there are plenty of highly talented authors out there in the fandom) manage it.
But writing about a setting frees the author from the most awesome part of their job. And I mean that "awesome" in the Biblical sense. Awesome as in watching Sodom get nuked by space aliens. Awesome as in watching Lot's wife desperately fight a huge walking pillar of salt, only to be crushed by it's weight.
...wait, this isn't a Bible...
Creating a setting is terrifying. Each tiny detail brings forth a billion questions. Even something as simple as, "They use forks" brings to mind queries like: Why? Is there a custom for forks? How did this develop? Are they modern forks or old timey forks? Is someone in the world developing this new fangled multi-pronged fork? How did they smelt the metal to make the fork? Was it molded, or bashed out? Mass produced, or made by solitary craftsmen? Is it a mark of status?
Suddenly, the issue of a fork explodes into details about people, history, economics, smiting, whether or not dragons steal said forks to get at the scale fungus without needing to use their claws...everything!
Meanwhile, writing fan-fiction is like someone handing you a piece of paper that says: The gnomes make forks, stupid.
And suddenly...all your awesome responsibility is lifted from your shoulders and you can begin writing the scene where a dude stabs another dude in the throat with a fork and says, "Fork got your tongue?"
(Editor: David, that's a terrible pun, re-write it and try again.)
And that is why I've been having such fun writing Invasion 2071's fanfiction, and Warhammer 40,000 fan-fiction, though the latter has to wait until the opening of the Black Library before I can try and turn it from 'fan-fiction' to 'published in Hammer and Bolter'
Still, the next time you hear about someone writing some awful crossover story where Captain Picard teams up with Treebeard the Ent and they fight crime in Gotham City...and you feel the urge to roll your eyes and go, "Well, that's stupid."
Stop. And take a moment to remember, that out there, there is an author who has found the freedom in being constrained.
...that...sounded way less kinky in my head.
DAVID'S FAN FICTIONS
Homeworld: A sprawling, 100,000 word long epic covering 60 years before the game to the end of Homeworld: Catacylism. Every time David got bored, he added a pointless, extraneous sex scene that he should really edit out.
The Various Adventures of Commander Vyn: A series of Warhammer 40,000 short stories including Tempis Fugit, Teef, The Dark Sector, Pax Imperialis, Vortex, the Bloodpits of Charnel, and Strike the Colors which are all about Commander Vyn, an iconoclastic death-worlder cum bodyguard and astrogator for a Rogue Trader cum Commander in the Imperial Navy, and her plucky starship the Pax Imperialis as they are run through a series of ripped off Star Trek plots.
Arcanum (of Steamworks and Magic Obscura): Based on the video game of the same name, it was awful. I mean, I wrote it when I was 14 and figuring out I could use the f-word without repercussion.