NorWesCon, Dragonlance, and the Awesomeness of Fan-generated Media

I wasn’t much of a reader, nor was I really excited about anything until Dragonlance came into my life. Growing up in Kentucky, and with an elementary school where more than half of the books in the library were off-limits (non-fiction, all because they had to be properly sorted, apparently this was a multi-year issue.) I found Dragonlance in the seventh grade thanks to a new kid in my class, who for whatever reason, I thought was cool.

Apparently, my definition of cool was someone with an allegedly high IQ, read Dragonlance, and played Dungeons and Dragons.

I devoured every single book, reading cover to cover in a week or less (this was impressive for me.) I fell in love with characters (Raistlin Majere, mostly.) I started reading Forgotten Realms in addition, and fell for Drizzt Do’ Urden. I look back with cringing pride at my early, nerdy self. Because the cool kid was writing a book (of course, in a spiral bound notebook), I wanted to as well, and I wanted to write about my favorite characters.

I had grown up with the idea that rules were important to follow, and I knew that copyright meant you couldn’t just go using another person’s character for your own stories and publish them (and make the big bucks, duh!) You had to seek permission, and so I did on at least two occasions send letters to TSR asking if I could write about my favorite characters and have them published. I appreciate Marlys Heeszel humoring me, letting me know that it just wasn’t going to happen. My dreams were crushed, and I never knew that there was an entire genre of writing (and readers!) waiting for me in the fan fiction community.

While Ms. Heeszel shot down my lucrative (hah) prospects as another Dragonlance author, what I really wanted was less the remuneration, but the readers. I didn’t simply want to write, I wanted someone else to read and fall in love the way I had fallen in love. At this same time, another friend was telling me about a mysterious world that you accessed through a computer, linking you to people geographically distant, but the similar interests, such as gaming and fantasy. Unfortunately, it required a modem, which I begged my mom for, but never received.

Today, kids not only have access to officially produced fantasy and science fiction, but many American kids also have access to the Internet, allowing them to connect with fan communities in a way that I never knew how in Kentucky. If there’s one thing that I have taken away from NorWesCon this weekend, it is that fan fiction and fan art is legitimate and important, and should not be minimized. Sure, there’s a lot of crap, but I let myself be stifled because I figured there was no reason to write if there was never going to be an audience.

I ask myself, what’s stopping me now? I’ve let myself become creatively stagnate because I feel out of practice, and at a loss to generate entire worlds and characters (not that I don’t have some percolating.) Maybe it’s time to revisit fan fiction and fan art to rekindle my own creative fire? I think I can do it, now it’s all about space and time. Where’s my TARDIS?