Terrouge E-zine Archives
By: tdcpresents (Guest)
“Well, everyone knows Custer died at Little Bighorn. What this book presupposes is…maybe he didn’t.”
-Eli, The Royal Tenenbaums
As a long-time writer of fan-fiction, it should be obvious that I, along with many of my fellow fan-fiction writers, have been afflicted with a kind of horrifying mental pox.
That might need a bit of clarification.
We, the writers of fan-fiction, do our best work when we are not content with a series of established events. This could be for any number of reasons, but the sole reason that fan-fiction exists is because of one thing: dissatisfaction. Perhaps a character we liked in a story was not treated properly? Perhaps the story ended and we felt like it should have continued? The long and short of it is that nobody’s ever written fan-fiction based on a story that they were completely satisfied with.
Until now, you’ve probably been thinking about fan-fiction in terms of established franchises. Redwall of course, Lord of the Rings, even terrible cartoons on Saturday morning TV have fan-fiction (some of which are better than the shows they’re based on), but there is one kind of fan-fiction that I enjoy above all other genres of writing: real fan-fiction.
Real, you ask? What on earth does that mean?
You have no doubt partaken in this superb form of fan-fiction before, either as a consumer of its deliciously unique mass-market products, or as a creator of it yourself. Whether you were aware it was fan-fiction or not is completely irrelevant. What I'm talking about is fan-fiction based on the grandest story of all: history. The story to end all stories. History is hands-down the best source of material for fan-fiction. How can you say no to its siren song? Superbly crafted characters, epic battles, plenty of mystery, treason and treachery…and perhaps the best part? It’s not trademarked. That’s right—anybody can write fan-fiction based on history and major studios and publishers might actually be inclined to publish them!
But of course, you already knew that. You’ve all seen National Treasure, read The Da Vinci Code, or even played Assassin’s Creed over the holiday break; these are all fine examples of historical fan-fiction. Movies like National Treasure, for example, take place in our reality, where our history has played out without difference or alteration save for that one thing that gets the story going: a mysterious note, a cryptic cipher, a mysterious stranger new the established order of things—these are the well-used (some might say over-used) trappings one might find in any fan-fiction story—the history-based MacGuffin if you will, used to give a conventional action adventure story some deeper sense of purpose. The Da Vinci Code and Assassin’s Creed work differently, their historical devices playing a more central role in the story. While National Treasure used history as a wire frame to build its contemporary set-pieces (save for the finales of both films, where the characters finally manage to descend into ancient labyrinths), the latter two works weave the historical fan-fiction into the story as a whole. No longer just MacGuffins, the very antagonists in Da Vinci are fan-fiction versions of their real-life counterparts. The elaborate puzzles, the ancient conspiracies, and the titular code are also the stuff of fan-fiction. However, Da Vinci falls into the same traps as National Treasure, using its historical base as a springboard for contemporary action and adventure. Assassin’s Creed is one of the newest entrants into the realm of historical fan-fiction, and also epitomizes the entire craft. Not only does it base its world and characters on historical events and major players from the Third Crusade, but it uses these characters to tell an interactive story that promises to span through centuries of historical mythology and lore, giving the participants an even greater appreciation of our rich history.
Perhaps most interesting is how the public and the critics react to this unique genre of historical fan-fiction. What do these three works of fan-fiction have in common? To begin with, they were all very well-received by the masses. National Treasure and National Treasure: Books of Secrets have both had their extended stays in the number one spot, Da Vinci Code was a pop culture sensation, and Assassin’s Creed is the most successful original intellectual property in the gaming world since Halo came out in 2001.
However, these historical fan-fictions are also commonly railed against for what is often coined “cheese ball storytelling.” This phrase, when used to describe these types of stories specifically, is just a condescending synonym for complete fabrication. With something like National Treasure, that’s plainly obvious. Da Vinci Code made waves because people began to explore possible truths behind the story (and honestly, Gabriel Knight III: Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned was telling the same story in 1999), and Assassin’s Creed takes the standard conspiracy plot device used in most historical fan-fiction and expands on it to an almost ludicrous degree, not only content to create a fictitious and wholly malevolent version of the Knights Templar, but to also create a contemporary story that plays alongside the historical fan-fiction—essentially telling a science fiction story and a historical epic simultaneously. Some reviewers and players have suggested that perhaps the story is a bit too prevalent. Despite absolutely loving the game, I’d have to agree wholeheartedly.
It is also perhaps worth mentioning that National Treasure, The Da Vinci Code, and Assassin’s Creed all have copious amounts of fan-fiction available to read—clearly created by writers who felt that these historical expansions were lacking something. Fan-fiction based on fan-fiction of history seems to be an interesting sub-genre of possible reading material, regardless!
Whether in the form of films, books, or even video games, historical fan-fiction is unique because it lends itself especially well to authenticity; a feeling one might find lacking in other types of fan-fiction. Anybody can write a story based on a book, or a movie, or a video game, but writing a story based on true history creates a different kind of product altogether. Experiencing a well-crafted historical fan-fiction can open the imagination unlike anything else, as this fan-fiction is closer to reality than any other kind of fiction there is. When one looks at history through the prism of imagination, fantasy edges closer to reality than ever before.