When my nineteen-year-old daughter, Sioned, approached me last year saying she felt there was unexplored subtext in the relationship between Draco and Hermione (of Harry Potter fame, for those who have been hiding in a galaxy far, far away) I jumped at the chance to introduce her to the wide world of fan fiction, or fanfic, as it’s more commonly known.
I began reading and writing fanfic just a year or so ago. I had always known it was there, but in its early days it seemed to be badly written and boring — I would rather read a proper book, thank-you very much. Then my obsession with Doctor Who began, and along with it, the search to find the whys and hows and what ifs. Fanfic exists to fill in those gaps between episodes — to make plots make more sense, to carry on a beloved series of books after the author has abandoned it. And, let’s be honest here: to let the characters do what their creators never would — have sex. Lots and lots of sex.
Together, we scoured the internet, pouring over the most popular fanfic sites; AO3, fanfic.net and livejournal. While I wasn’t terribly interested in reading Draco and Hermione pairing stories, and Sioned had no interest in writing them, I loved that I could introduce her to something entirely outside her realm of experience.
Sioned quickly grew frustrated, as Draco/Hermione was not one of the more popular pairings — or “ships,” as they are known in the fanfic world, short for relationships — and most of the writing she was finding was sub-par. Despite not having read the Potter books in years, I told her I’d write her something to satisfy the hunger for now, if she would give me a prompt to get me started. What resulted was a silly little ficlet (a short fic with no real back story) based around the words she gave me, “blue, cake, and (professor) Umbridge.” Draco was annoying, Hermione was utterly confused for once in her life, and a cake was eaten on the Hogwart’s kitchen floor by candlelight. There may even have been a kiss. But first there was me staring at my computer thinking “I can’t write smut for my daughter. Can I even write a sexy kiss? Oh, for fuck’s sake, she’s nineteen, it’s not like she hasn’t seen the internet!”
I don’t think I’ve ever been as proud of a piece of writing as I was when I received her emailed response the next day.
My daughter is generally fairly reserved and a bit of a skeptic. I expected at best an “um, okay, that was… interesting.” And at worst an “OMG that is weird.” Effusive enthusiasm and the demand that I drop my boring job and write a book, because she loved it, loved it, floored me.
Thus began the cycle that all fanfic enthusiasts fall into at first. Forgetting that books exist for a while, staying up reading until five a.m. when she had to be at her barista job at six. I would text her at midnight; “Stop reading fic and go to bed.” (I should mention that she lives on her own, a town over from me; we were not texting from the next bedroom — although we had been known to do that.) She would jokingly reply that no, she was going to finish the fic she was reading even if her eyes started bleeding.
Her renewed interest in the Harry Potter fandom and the dynamics of the Draco/Hermione (or Dramione, as they are known in fandom — we love to smush names) ship had more practical effects. She started a Tumblr and began creating graphics, teaching herself techniques in between school, work, and reading until her eyes bled. She developed a following of three thousand people within a few months. I can’t say for certain that she’ll apply all of the coding and graphic design work to her chosen career, but I applaud anyone who takes the initiative to learn something new based simply on her passion for the subject matter.
So here we are a year later. Sioned is still searching for and recommending fics to her thousands of followers, while also, I’m pleased to say, reading books again and going to bed at a reasonable hour. She has finally conceded to watch Doctor Who, which had less to do with my pleading and more to do with her envy of the beautiful graphics on Tumblr that Who fandom was creating.
As for me; last month I started up a fanfic community based on the newest incarnation of the Doctor, which has received an overwhelmingly positive response. Next week, as this season of Doctor Who draws to a close, I suspect people will have more questions than answers, and writers will come out of the woodwork. To that end, the community is hosting a “first time writer’s ficathon.” My goal is draw out all writers, of course, but I’m especially hoping to bring out teen writers that may be less than confident in their skills. We have beta readers standing by to edit their stories for them and offer them some guidance and constructive criticism.
Oh, and I finally started writing that book. So, thanks, kid.