Tuesday, 20 February 2018

500 Writers Who Started Out In Fanfiction

500 Authors Who Started Out In Fanfiction

While researching my International Fanworks Day post on creators and their thoughts on fanfiction - cue obligatory pimping of that article - I kept running into listicles of authors who started out in fandom. It quickly became clear to me that these represented only the tip of the iceberg, especially as many of them struggled to actually name writers who had been in fic fandom rather than who wrote stories independently for their own amusement, or who are known to be okay with fandom like, say, John Scalzi or Neil Gaiman. I figured I could do better, so here I am putting my money where my mouth is.

You'll find huge household names in this post, rubbing shoulders with obscure writers with a single self-published book to their name. And every possible permutation in between. It's just not the oddity the newspaper articles would have you believe.

Fanfiction is absolutely everywhere in published fiction. For the most part it is not labelled as such, and the authors probably wouldn't consider it so either. But, to my mind, getting paid to write a tie-in novel or writing about a character now in the public domain doesn't make the work any less derivative. If you're playing in somebody else's sandpit, be that setting, character, or concept, chances are you're producing fanfiction. That, however, is an argument for another day! This post will look at the still plenty sizeable number of pro-authors who have admitted to writing or are well known to have written fanfiction, as well as fanfiction which has been picked up or 'pulled' for publication.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Man Who Has It All + Giveaway

The Man Who Has It All changed my life. Because it didn't matter how many trashy tips or bullshit lifestyle advice I read in the women's mags, there was always a nagging little voice inside of me insisting that if I was just better at making home made face masks and packing creative lunch boxes the rest of my life would all surely fall into place.

What the @manwhohasitall Twitter account highlights is how dumb that notion is. Simply by switching the gender this advice is aimed at it becomes ridiculous - something you can't imagine anybody taking seriously. In fact, it's really kind of hilarious!

Man Who Has It All Book
The Man Who Has It All: From Frazzled To Fabulous brings all that spoof advice together to produce a read that will bring a smile to your face - but also make you think about the kind of messages we are bombarded with every day, and whether or not we give them too much credence.

For your chance to win a copy of the book, fill out the Gleam widget below - it's perfect for the working father in your life! :)

Man Who Has It All

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Friday, 16 February 2018

30 Days of Thinky Thoughts

30 Days of Thinky Thoughts

1. How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?

As old as you wanted to be.

2. Which is worse, failing or never trying?

Never trying, for sure.

3. When it’s all said and done, will you have said more than you’ve done?

I do like talking, so quite possibly.

4. Are you doing what you believe in, or are you settling for what you are doing?

Somewhere in the middle, I'd say.

5. If the average human life span was 40 years, how would you live your life differently?

I'd be way more picky about the things I'm willing to put up with.

6. To what degree have you actually controlled the course your life has taken?

Limited, really. I've kind of fallen into things more than actively chosen them.

7. Are you more worried about doing things right, or doing the right things?

Doing the right things.

8. If you could offer a newborn child only one piece of advice, what would it be?

Don't let anybody tell you that you can't achieve your dreams. Even if, like my own daughter, they're to be a princess and live on the moon with a herd of unicorns.

9. Would you break the law to save a loved one? 

I mean, it depends on the circumstances, but yes.

10. What one thing have you not done that you really want to do? What’s holding you back?

I'd love to do all kinds of things I don't have the money for. Travelling in style is at the top of the list!

11. Are you holding onto something you need to let go of?

Yes, no matter how often we declutter our hearts, minds, and homes.

12. Would you rather be a worried genius or a joyful simpleton?

A joyful simpleton.

Bertie Wooster

13. Have you been the kind of friend you want as a friend?

Not always. :(

14. Which is worse, when a good friend moves away, or losing touch with a good friend who lives right near you?

Losing touch with a friend who lives close by. You don't even have the distance as an excuse.

15. Would you rather lose all of your old memories, or never be able to make new ones?

Okay, now this one is just cruel! Lose my old ones, I guess.

16. Has your greatest fear ever come true?

No, but every time I see one of those news stories about giant spiders I remember that the potential is still there...

17. Do you remember that time 5 years ago when you were extremely upset? Does it really matter now? 

No. That's actually a really cheering thought!

18. What is your happiest childhood memory? What makes it so special?

Just playing games and having fun. It's the little things.

19. At what time in your recent past have you felt most passionate and alive?

Er, pass.

20. Is it possible to know, without a doubt, what is good and what is evil?


Good vs Evil

21. If you just won a million dollars, would you quit your job? 

Hell yes.

22. Would you rather have less work to do, or more work you actually enjoy doing?

More work I enjoy.

23. Do you feel like you’ve lived this day a hundred times before?

No, but today was awful. 100 more like it don't really bear thinking about.

24. If you knew that everyone you know was going to die tomorrow, who would you visit today?

My family. <3

25. Would you be willing to reduce your life expectancy by 10 years to become extremely attractive or famous?

Hmm, famous maybe. With fame comes money, and with money comes knowing that Marianna would be set for life even after I was gone.

26. What is the difference between being alive and truly living?


27. When is it time to stop calculating risk and rewards, and just go ahead and do what you know is right?

When it feels right...

Carpe Diem

28. If we learn from our mistakes, why are we always so afraid to make a mistake?

Because they're not easy lessons to learn.

29. What would you do differently if you knew nobody would judge you?

Lots of things, probably. I'd definitely dance more!

30. Have you learned more about yourself by answering these questions the past 30 days?

Not really.

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Thursday, 15 February 2018

Fanfiction and TPTB

Fanfiction and TPTB

Today is International Fanworks Day, aka the day to celebrate fandom in all its geekish finery. So I'm going to talk about fanfiction and, more specifically, its relationship with TPTB - The Powers That Be. Those who create or own the work can often feel threatened by the existence of fanfiction, and over the years many have attempted to ban transformative works based on their creations. Of course, that's a thankless and nigh impossible task, so these days more and more creators are embracing fandom.

For one thing they're more likely to know what fandom is and what it's all about and, correspondingly, they're also much more aware of how an active fandom can benefit their brand and their own ability to make money from their creative work. Because fanfiction has come a long way since I first stumbled across it some 20 years ago. Back then there was real fear - justified fear, at that - that your uncool hobby could bring the legal might of big name authors, TV companies, and more down upon your broke ass self.

Today fan loyalty is rightly recognised as the vital ingredient for success that money just can't buy.

(Note: this post focuses on authors and actors portraying characters - rather than the subjects of RPF (Real Person Fiction) because it's one thing for people to be writing about something you created, and another for people to just be writing about you.)

Let's just say it - some creators are against fanfic. Really really against it.

Anne Rice on fanfiction

Anne Rice, author of the Vampire Chronicles series, is renowned in fandom circles for her, er, enthusiastic insistence that there is only one way to interpret her work: her way. Not content with formal cease and desist letters, Rice personally harassed fan authors to get work taken down in the early 2000s, and infamously attacked those who dared to leave negative reviews of the Blood Canticle on Amazon, claiming that they had used the site as a 'public urinal' and, still worse, were 'interrogating the text from the wrong perspective.'

Diana Gabaldon on fanfiction

Diana Gabaldon, known for the Outlander book series, is perhaps even more zealous about ensuring that nobody tampers with her creative vision. In 2008 Gabaldon wrote: "A good bit of my objection to fanfic ... is that 99% of it is Just Awful, and it's revolting to see your characters being made to do and say idiotic things, or be forced to enact simple-minded sex fantasies (which is what most fan-fic that comes to my unwilling attention is). Like someone selling your children into white slavery." Seeing as she willingly admits that the main male character of her book, forced to enact multiple simple-minded sex fantasies, is basically poor Jamie McCrimmon from Dr. Who it's hard not to see this as one of those cases of pot, kettle, and black...

Although few take it to such extremes, plenty of authors are explicitly against fanfiction - either from a moral standpoint or because they believe it invalidates their copyright. These range from big names like G.R.R. Martin to people who probably ought to know better - e.g. a writer of tie-in novels who believes fanfic is 'the equivalent of stealing someone else's work and putting your own name on it' while making a living writing tie-in novels for TV shows. However as times change increasing numbers of authors are actively embracing transformative fandom.

JK Rowling on fanfiction

As the creator of one of the biggest fandoms of all time, it would be impossible for JKR to avoid fanfiction based on her work completely. By publicly embracing fic in 2004 Rowling really paved the way for acceptance. Nobody seriously tried to claim Rowling had relinquished her copyright because teenagers were publishing short stories about Harry and Hermione going to Yule Ball together - or even because adults were writing multi-volume epics about the love-hate relationship between Snape and Lupin. Regardless of her own personal feelings, possibly ambivalent based on previous attempts by Warner Bros to suppress HP fic, by supporting the fandom Rowling really cemented the support of the fanbase that has made her one of the richest women in the world.

Neil Gaiman has long been openly supportive of fanfiction and here addresses a growing phenomenon in the world of published fiction: many authors wrote or are still writing fic. Big names like Cassandra Clare and Naomi Novik first made their names in fandom - Novik was the founding board member of Archive of Our Own, the go to website for fanfiction based on western media, and her fanfic pen name is an open secret in fandom circles - while others made the bestseller lists by 'filing off the serial numbers' (i.e. switching out names and identifying features) and publishing the fanfiction they had written based on other works. E.L. James' Fifty Shades of Grey was originally Twilight fic, for instance, while Jen Archer Wood's Point Pleasant started out as Supernatural fanfiction.

These authors come into the professional publishing world already knowing what a lot of writers are only now waking up to - fandom can make or break you. Nowhere is this more evident than with film and television. Long gone are the days when 20th Century Fox aggressively demanded the removal of every piece of X-Files fic they could find on the internet; today Fox, and all its rivals, pour a lot of time, effort and money into encouraging that kind of fan engagement.

Joss Whedon on fanfiction
John Rogers on fanfiction

When I discovered fanfiction the first rule of fic fandom was that you didn't talk about fic fandom. In the early 2000s people still genuinely feared being sued for writing fic, and were almost universally mortified at the idea of TPTB or anyone connected with them finding out about it. These days that seems so quaint because, well, in this age of personal branding and digital literacy it is almost unthinkable that writers, showrunners, actors, etc, don't know about the fandoms based on their work. Now TV is courting it: official social media channels encourage discussion of fanon (as opposed to canon, i.e. what is actually on screen) pairings and share fanart, while Viacom held an official Teen Wolf fic contest. There is an incredibly interesting interview on The New York Times with Sarah Barnett, president of BBC America, talking about how Orphan Black fandom turned a relatively unpopular show in terms of ratings into a success.

Sarah Barnett on fandom

Orphan Black provides an example of how interaction between fandom and TPTB might look in the future. Going forward it will be particularly interesting to see how this impacts on not just the showrunners and the PR team, but those at front of house - the actors portraying the characters. In the past the first encounter with fandom for these people was usually when an overeager fan brought it to their attention. Because for all that fandom as a collective was obsessed with not breaking the 'fourth wall', not outing themselves to TPTB, individual fandoms had good relationships with actors and creators, and there were always members of any fandom who didn't know or disregarded the accepted etiquette. How people reacted depended in large part on what aspect of fandom they were exposed to, and their own personal sensibilities.

William Shatner on fanfiction

Some stars were shocked and dismayed at the concept, but many strove to be accepting and supportive. Star Trek, as the granddaddy of modern fandom, lead the way on this too. 'Slash' - derived from the '/' symbol used to denote romantic pairings (i.e. Kirk/Spock) and now a catch all term for male/male pairings in fandom - was particularly controversial and some of those working behind the scenes on the show made no attempt to hide their disgust and derision. Shatner and Nimoy, on the other hand, chose to maintain the so-called fourth wall in deference to fans' wishes, unless specifically asked about it. There's a lovely story on Fanlore about Leonard Nimoy being asked his views on slash at a convention Q&A in the early 1980s, to which he simply responded that he thought Star Trek fans had great imaginations.

Tyler Posey on fanfiction

The difference between then and now, of course, is that in 1982 that kind of support was a sign of liberal understanding. Today, outrage at the idea of two male characters getting together just comes across as more than a little homophobic. Tyler Posey, star of MTV show Teen Wolf, caused a stir in fandom in 2014 when he said in an interview that Sterek - the smushname given to the most popular slash ship (i.e. romantic pairing) involving his character - was bizarre, weird and twisted. Fan backlash was swift and widespread. Similarly, in 2017 the cast of Supergirl felt their fandom's wrath after they made fun of Supercorp (Kara/Lena) shipping, mocking the idea that the pairing could ever become canon. Feelings were hurt, apologies were made, but formerly hardcore fans still chose not to continue watching amid a slew of bad publicity. Your fandom can be your biggest cheerleaders and will forgive you a lot, but nobody likes to be singled out for mockery.

Orlando Jones on fanfiction

In 2014 The New Statesman used the above quote from Orlando Jones, an actor who actively engages with the fandoms based on his work, to contrast his positive approach to fanfiction with that of Benedict Cumberbatch, star of BBC drama Sherlock, who admitted to being somewhat bemused by the whole thing. Sherlock is a fascinating case study of what happens when fans get over invested and showrunners don't always balance the fine line between engagement and promising things they can't deliver. It's particularly interesting because Sherlock's writers, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, are solidly pro-fandom. They are both open about their love of the cult and the geeky, and have sought to be inclusive of themes close to fandom's heart, like depictions of LGBT+ characters. But. Some feel they could be better, they could do more, and, when Holmes and Watson ('Johnlock') didn't become more than just good friends, fans complained, vented, and some even sent death threats.

Steven Moffat on fanfiction

Because fandom is no longer a niche interest. Fanfiction is no longer confined to paper zines circulated on a need to know basis. As creators attempt to harness the power of fandom, they have to recognise that, as with any community, fandom has its good eggs and its bad. Some see the involvement of TPTB as validation - as a sign that if they only lobby hard enough their preferred ship or plot points will become canon. Others resent the outside interference - fandom is for the fans, the argument goes, not the creator who left the glaring plot hole or unresolved tension fanfiction is seeking to resolve. Both sides need to learn how to work together as the dividing line between the two worlds, the fabled 'fourth wall', is worn away. Fandom sometimes needs to reign in the enthusiasm, while creators need to do their homework if they want to make best use of their fanbase. It can be difficult to predict which ship will become the 'juggernaut' (the most popular), and impossible to ensure all the fanwork produced will match your vision, although you can certainly set parameters for content that can be officially engaged with. Just make sure everybody's singing from the same hymn sheet; it's no good basing your marketing on fan engagement if your top star is going to turn around and say fan activity is weird and twisted.

Keep it positive, be respectful, but don't make any promises you might not be able to keep. If creators follow those three golden rules, they won't go far wrong. I leave you with this excellent response from Ben McKenzie's 2016 Reddit AMA...

Ben Mckenzie on fanfiction

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Fandom - my life as a fan

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Happy Birthday Mum!

Happy Birthday Mum!

It's my mum's birthday today - I won't say which it is! - so to celebrate here are all the childhood photos I've scanned of Wendy Powell née Reeves. There was clearly some stellar camera work going on in this first pic... ;)

Wendy Reeves as a bridesmaid
Jane Reeves WeddingWendy and Lee
Caravan HolidayReeves Family
Beach Holiday
Little Kevin and WendyWendy Powell woz Reeves
Maendy Primary School Photo
WendyWendy Reeves
School Photo Music

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Family History

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Mayoral Office - The End of an Era

Cabinet approved the budget for the coming financial year today, and it has been another year of difficult cuts. At the end of the day there just isn't enough money and ever increasing pressure from those areas which absolutely need money to be spent on them - education and social care. You can watch the webcast of Cabinet HERE to see the details.

Anyway, the relevant point for this post is the imminent removal of the role of Mayor to save £52,000. (To put that figure into some kind of context, stopping the provision of free liners for kitchen recycling caddies will save us £35,000. It's not the huge money sink people sometimes think it is! ETA: some of the comments online said that the £52k was my wage - sadly I can confirm that it is not! The Mayor gets paid about £6k extra for the year, so a bit less than the chair of the other committees.) I've stayed out of the decision to be honest because, obviously, it's very hard to be unbiased when you're actually in the role.

Suffice to say, I'm sad that I will be the last Mayor of Torfaen, but of course I understand why it has to be the case.

Mayor and Mayor's Consort of Torfaen
Wearing all the bling!

The important thing for me going forward, between now and the AGM in May, is to try and make sure anybody who is interested in the role of Mayor, who wants to come to the civic centre and visit the Mayor's Parlour, try on the robes and the chains, etc, has the chance to do so.

How the Mayor's engagements usually work is that the Mayor is invited to attend an event via Chris Slade in the office on 01495 742578 or at chris.slade@torfaen.gov.uk - it's rare for the Mayor to just turn up to something uninvited. I mean, there might be a good reason why they weren't asked! Don't be shy or worry that the event is not official enough, etc. The whole purpose of the role is community engagement. I've been to about 175 events / meetings / etc so far this civic year, and hope to get in as many more as possible.

Mayor of Torfaen
Officially opening a toilet back in the summer!

Alternatively you might want us to come out to your school, club, meeting, etc, and bring along the regalia to talk about what being a Mayor entails, let you check out the chains and robes of office, and so on. We can do talks on the history of the role in Torfaen, or fun stuff with children on what it's all about.

The other thing you can do is come up to the civic centre. If you're part of a group - a hobby club, workplace, school, organisation, etc, etc - you can book to come along to the Mayor's Parlour for tea and welsh cakes and have a look around. I can't promise it's the most exciting thing you'll ever do, but there is a lot of history crammed within those four walls and we'll give you a little tour of the Chamber if it's free and let you bang the gavel and so on. (Schools in particular are welcome to hold school council meetings in the chamber, or have Q&A sessions.)

Torfaen Deputy Mayoral Chains
The Deputy Mayoral chains - designed and made by apprentices back in the 1970s.

If you're an individual interested in coming up and having a look, please get in touch with Chris or me (07532 831078 or jessica.powell@torfaen.gov.uk / jess@babiafi.co.uk - I'm on social media but I might not see it for a few days). Hopefully the regalia will go to Pontypool Museum eventually, but I'd hate to think anyone who wanted to see it all in situ - as it were! - didn't get the chance.

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Out and About in Torfaen

Monday, 12 February 2018

Mini Mart: Les Fleurs De Mo

Les Fleurs De Mo

Supplier: Les Fleurs De Mo
Website: Etsy store.

Products: I was browsing Etsy, as you do, and stumbled across some awesome 1/6 scale magazines. (4cm by 5cm) They're printed double sided on thin paper, with thicker covers and really neat binding.

Miniature magazine from lesfleursdemo on etsy

Instead of just a few pages, these are reproductions of the entire magazine - 52 pages. For 92p! Seriously, these are some of the best mini magazines I've come across so I was a very happy shopper. The seller also offers selections of other smaller magazines (2.7cm x 3.5cm) in both French and English. I'll definitely be ordering more!

Here is Poppy Parker brushing up on her French:

Poppy Parker doll and LesFleursDeMo magazine

Post and Packing: Was free! It doesn't get better than that. :)

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Mini Mart - Reviews of Dolls and Scale Miniatures

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