There was a -- well, quite a sad fandom!secret about me yesterday, and it sort of opened a floodgate and this came out. It's a lot of ideas I've been having for a long time, tied up together. I want to stress this -- it's not a direct reaction to the secret, it was just inspired by it. I'm not angry at the OP; in fact I feel a lot of sympathy for the OP, and rather apologetic, because I may not have hurt them but I have let them down.
So let's talk about me, and fanfic, and fandom, and novels.
LOL SPOILERS FOR DEATHLY HALLOWS AND TORCHWOOD S3.
I have very few major regrets in fandom, and it is probably ironic that they are all in the Harry Potter fandom. I "came up" in that fandom; it's where I picked up many of the cafe's readers and had it not been for Potter fandom I don't think I would have the cafe. I don't exactly worry anymore that you guys only stick around because of fandom, but I do owe fandom the amazing readership I have, as well as many of my closest friends.
I regret most of the wanks I've been in, some painfully recent, others years in the past. I wish I had been more sensible, more mature, and above all more silent, because most of them were really stupid. Some were avoidable, all were regrettable. C'est la vie.
I regret flaking out on Dungeons, the HP roleplay I was in, and I'm grateful that the people I flaked on don't hate me for it. I just slipped away, and I left responsibilities behind, and for that I'm sorry.
I regret not finishing Legion of Ghosts, because I had some awesome ideas, and because it was going to be a great fixit fic for the end of Harry Potter. In some ways, I regret starting that one.
But most of all I deeply regret that Laocoon's Children has languished for so long. I never meant to abandon it, and I think often of the disappointment of people who were good and supportive readers. I don't like to disappoint people.
There are reasons I've never gone back, but most of them sound like excuses. One reason is the time commitment, the time I could be writing my own fiction instead. This is not to slam fanfic in any way; fanfic is important, transformative works are important, and more than that fanfic has been good to me. It made an otherwise unremarkable young man into a writer. My skill at storytelling didn't bolt out of nowhere; I spent eight years writing fanfic before I wrote my first novel and fifteen before I wrote a good one. My work in fandom since this journal was started in 2003 is the result of years of practice (and occasional failure) before I came to LJ.
If you want to write fanfic and you're good at it or even if you just plain have fun, god bless you, do your thing and be ye unashamed. Fanfic is awesome. I never planned for it to be a training ground for my original fiction. It just worked out that way.
Which in a roundabout way leads me to the real issue: fandom and me.
I didn't really think about it until recently, but I've rarely come into a canon because I loved the canon. Almost always I've had a conduit in, a character that I identify with, a person I like to see in the stories because it's almost like me being in the stories. Immature, perhaps, but all the same true, and if we can't admit our immaturities it's hard to grow out of them.
For BtvS it was Giles, dry and educated and surrounded by people who most of the time didn't care. Welcome to my high school years. In Discworld it was Sam Vimes, because he was a cynical bastard who still tried to do what was right, and that was very much me in undergrad. In Harry Potter I came to the canon as a staggering lonely, underpaid teacher, so I felt a strong resonance with Lupin, who tried to be kind and to educate and still survive. I only really became involved in Torchwood when Ianto took a more central place in the second season, because I was the office-boy with a secret life, and he said all the smartass shit I never have the immediate wit to say.
(The fact that all of these men are also deeply repressed and damaged, usually by a traumatic event in their youth, is another essay for another time.)
I never wanted to be the boss. I wanted to be the terrier, the teacher, the butler. I've always wanted to be the sidekick. Unfortunately, the sidekick usually dies, and never gets as much airtime, because, you know...he's the sidekick.
Perhaps it is fortunate -- because I wouldn't have realised this otherwise -- that my last two conduits, Lupin and Ianto, are dead. I've tried to shrug them both off but they are painful, in part because I'm not sure they actually did serve the story in the way their authors intended, in part because that's me who didn't get a death scene, that's me who died because of a stupid stunt. That's me, and it hurts, and I can't help that. However alive they might be in stories and in my head, they're dead in the canon and that can't mean nothing.
I feel stupid that I'm hurt by deaths that were chosen by their creators for a reason, deaths that are incidentally fictional. But I am. I don't want this to happen again, because maybe they did have a good and legitimate reason for dying and I just can't see it since that's me.
Both of those deaths have made it hard for me to stay on in their respective fandoms, because often I'm not actually all that thrilled with my canon. I'm following it because I want to know more about the me in the TV, the me in the book. You know what? I actually don't like the last four Harry Potter books. Goblet of Fire was boring, Order of the Phoenix was confusing, and Half-Blood Prince was an unmemorable prelude to Deathly Hallows, which was not only backloaded but also (to nick a phrase from Jaida) eight million pages of camping.
I can't and won't say they're ill-written or inherently bad books. I'm not going to sit here and say the books were bullshit or you're bullshit if you like them. I don't think that. But in my subjective experience, I look back and think, why did I read this? I didn't enjoy it. And the answer is: I read it for Remus Lupin.
Who was in them a grand total of perhaps thirty pages, if that. Hardly worth it, given the ultimate end.
So I walked away from a story I loved and that I think other people loved because I didn't want to rewrite the last four books more than I wanted to avoid re-reading them, and I stayed away because I was hurt by canon. Laocoon's Children, I am realising, was my bridge between fanfic and original fiction. When Lupin died and I made the leap to writing The Dead Isle, I left it behind.
I am sorry for that. I loved writing LC. But I don't anymore, and I don't know how to get it back or even if I should.
I've been thinking for some time about what I should do. Should I go back to it, re-read what I've written, maybe do a little rewriting and push on, gritting my teeth through the actual last four books as I go? Should I walk away for good and post the summaries and notes I had for the last four books of Laocoon's Children? Don't be deceived, there are a lot of notes.
This isn't a snap decision; I've been considering this for at least a year. I want to finish these books and tell this story but I also want to devote my time to my own stories. So many of my stories are waiting for me: Valet the perfect servant and Fortune the rebellious photographer and Charles the aspie wizard and Jack the mute forger (I'll have to change that name, mind you, Jack's already been taken by Jack Baker, who also deserves a rewrite).
I'm not flouncing or even leaving fandom. I've no desire to do that. I like fandom. I like writing fanfic and I doubt I'll stop anytime soon. But I have to rethink the way I interact with canon, and the divide between playing in another universe and making one of my own.
I don't think there will be another fandom for me in the way there has been up to now. I don't think there should be. I want to love a canon because it tells good stories, not because this week I might get to hear a little bit more about the character I like. I think that's...growing up, isn't it? Maybe? Maybe not. But it's the next step for me.
So there you have it. That's a lot of words to say "I don't know if I'll ever finish Laocoon's Children and I don't know what to do about it, but I'm sorry, I really am sorry and sad that I haven't finished it."
Soon there has to be some decision, and either way something has to give. It's been too long already.