Girl in Blue

I’d searched for her, to no avail. Long weeks, chasing down lead after lead. But now the trail had come to an end.

How well I remembered that blue dress. We’d seen it in the shop window that last time I saw her. She’d jumped up and down so excited when I’d said I’d buy it for her. Our mother had refused to, saying it was an unnecessary frivolity, but I’d made her swear on her bible that she’d not sell it – not till Gertie grew out of it anyway.

My father’d been in the service and my mother who was not really suited for life as a serviceman’s wife, well her already fragile emotions had started to crumble after the Shenandoah crash. He’d survived, most of the crew had. But the crash of the Akron had taken him, had taken most of the crew in fact.

By the time the letter from the US Navy reached me, he’d been dead four months. I headed back home the very next day. But there was a new family living there. Of course the Navy had moved them out – my mother and Gertie – you couldn’t stay in Navy quarters when you weren’t Navy no more.

I went in to town, to the boarding house they’d taken rooms in. The old lady there told me things had been bad. My mother’s mind had become addled. She’d lost her religion and turned to drink. It had gotten them thrown out.

I followed the trail from town to town, the boarding houses going from shabby to plain cheap. I finally found her in a flop house. But Gertie was gone. My mother told me she’d taken to putting on her blue dress and going out – she knew not where. In truth, she probably didn’t care.

Someone had found her down by the rail tracks, and the local church had given her a decent burial and some kindly souls had paid for a headstone. I thought about using some of my savings to change the headstone, but I kind of felt Gertie would like the mystery of it. Instead I spoke to a nice lady at the church to arrange for flowers to be put on her grave regularly – my little sister deserved that.


© Debra Carey, 2018

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#secondthoughts: Fanfic

Fanfic has an interesting place in the grand scheme of things.  There are whole communities that have arisen around a book or TV show, that simply exist to share stories that the fans feel should be out there.  These include a way of providing an answer to a question that is too unimportant for the source material to address (but which has taken on significance to the community), or exploring an unlikely situation – a romantic entanglement between characters that are normally enemies is a popular form of fanfic.  It might be a way of filling a gap when the next book of a series is over due, or when a TV show is cancelled.  It might be a way of gently poking fun at the more absurd aspects, whilst saluting the parts that make the source material so worthy of a strong fanbase.

Fanfic has a lot of potential, and numerous writers begin their careers by writing fanfic and then graduating to their own stories.  Some writing courses encourage the writing of fanfic as a way of getting started.  The question though, is when does fanfic become plagiarism or an infringement of intellectual property?    Can fanfic be mainstream?

Fan fiction was originally applied as a pejorative term for (usually science) fiction writing of generally poor quality that was submitted by amateurs to be published in magazines.  If you follow any writers on social media, one of the things that comes across quite strongly is that there is a strong view that a writer is someone who is putting their own words down on paper (electronic or otherwise), whether or not they are paid to do so.  Even some professional writers, by which I mean those that receive financial remuneration for their writing, have other jobs in addition to their writing gigs, or their writing is a form of paid employment e.g. journalists.

With the advent of the internet, it became much easier to discuss shared interests, much easier to achieve critical mass for small niches within a larger setting, and so fan fiction changed its context.  But arguably there are many professional writers who have undertaken fan fiction gigs – if they got paid for their fan fiction, is it still fan fiction?  To illustrate, let me give an example: Sherlock Holmes.  Sherlock Holmes is the IP of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who died in 1930, which means that the copyright on the books expired in 2000 (in the UK at least).

The first pastiche was apparently written by JM Barrie (yes, of Peter Pan fame) in the 1890s  – a contemporary piece, and something of a friendly jibe.  Conan Doyle (and subsequently his estate) seem to have taken a fairly laid back view of the works that have been written – there is a separate page on Wikipedia that lists the (majority of) published works built on the Holmes canon.  This “extended universe”, as it were, includes stories from the perspective of other key characters including Lestrade, Mrs Hudson, Mycroft, The Irregulars, and of course Moriarty.  Many collections of short stories have been written that purport to be from a descendent of Watson who finds a bundle of papers…these usually deal with the stories that it is suggested have been suppressed for political or other reasons in the main stories.  There was also a treatment which had the grandchildren of Holmes and Watson – a very serious Watson who talks of the legacy of the grandfathers and a Holmes who would rather be doing anything else, but of course is prevailed upon to deal with whatever situations arise.

As an aside, one of the least convincing series of stories is by Laurie King, who has Holmes found in retirement by a teenaged American girl; she becomes his apprentice and subsequently his wife.  It feels in rather poor taste, and completely flies in the face of what we know of Holmes.  People do change…but Holmes marrying is improbable, and marrying someone of the order of 30-40 years younger is, I would contend, unlikely in the extreme.  That said, King is a member of the Baker Street Irregulars, and I am not, so what do I know?

In summary, more words in the vein of Conan Doyle have been written of Sherlock Holmes by others than by the man himself, not to mention the parodies and allusions. Are these fanfic?  I would argue, yes, even if the authors got paid for their troubles.

At the other end of the extreme, others have gone to a great deal of trouble to squash anything written about their characters.  Given that there have been law-suits by fanfic writers claiming that the owner of original IP stole anything from a plot-device through to a complete book which forms a part or the whole of a subsequent book in the series, it is not surprising that there are those who steer well clear of fanfic.

So, should I write fanfic?  Should you?  For the most part, I’ve never really felt compelled to write fanfic per se, there are enough of my own stories that I want to write that this doesn’t feel necessary (although I did write a piece off the back of one of our prompts that was very much an homage/parody of an Asimov ‘Union Club Mystery’).  On the other hand, I do have to watch myself, as sometimes things have a much stronger influence than some writers might like.  I don’t think that I’ve ever gone so far as to get someone excited enough to threaten legal action – but a quick smurf of the internet shows that litigation is popular in the field, and some people will suggest plagiarism or some other literary shenanigans at the least provocation.

As a clising thought, the Anglican church says of confession that “all may, some should, none must”, and that actually works quite well with fanfic, I think.

 


© David Jesson, 2018

Smile

You’ll see her, perhaps, if you take the time to look.  She’s there, in the crowd, or perhaps at the edge.  She’s there, in the park, in the cafe, on the bus, at the school gates.  She has a beautiful smile.  She talks to those around her: she engages.  But if you do spot her, if you notice her, you’ll see that whilst she talks, nobody ever really gets close.  Nobody ever gets close.  If they did, they might see that the beautiful smile never reaches the eyes.  Make sure she never notices you noticing, because nobody ever survives that.

 


© David Jesson, 2018

ZotA

David

I can’t comment on the film, but in the book of Fantastic Mr Fox (by Roald Dahl), after Mr Fox gets his tail shot off by the farmers, he spends an uncomfortable couple of days digging hard to try and keep ahead of said farmers. They start digging with spades, and then move on to mechanical diggers. There are moments of respite. Sometimes the foxes get a lead, sometimes it looks like the farmers are going to scoop them up… #AprilA2Z is a bit like that, especially when you think you have a bright idea for a theme to carry you through the month…

But I’m jumping the gun a bit. This is my third time round on the #AtoZChallenge. Less than a year ago, once things had cooled down a bit after the last challenge, I had a bit of an idea. I thought we should put together a writing resources page here on Fiction Can be Fun. Debs thought that was a good idea, and we pooled ideas about what should be included. And then I started thinking about using those resources, especially various prompts and things to help set up a story and populate it with characters. I persuaded Debs that we could write a long form story for the challenge. To be fair, it’s Debs’ fault that I got embroiled into the Challenge in the first place. We batted a few ideas around, agreed that using a different resource everyday was probably a bit much, thought about using the “And they fight crime” generator to come up with our protagonists – and somewhere along the way we forgot all about that and ended up focusing on the NATO phonetic alphabet as a linking theme. I think we’d originally discussed using the Cockney alphabet (A is for ‘orses etc), but for one reason or another that didn’t feel right and we went with Alpha, Bravo, Charlie etc – which worked incredibly well, I feel.

The mechanics of writing the challenge might serve as a #Secondthoughts in due course, so I’ll finish off with a few thoughts on the #AtoZChallenge itself. I seem to be incapable of choosing a simple theme to run with, and also incapable of getting organised to prepare enough in advance: as a ‘planner’ rather than a ‘pantser’ this is quite stressful. April has been incredibly stressful, and I’m going to have to think very careful about whether I do the challenge again next year or not. But…it’s also been a lot of fun! I couldn’t have done this without Debs – the story, the writing, all of it has been a delight and a privilege and I’ve really enjoyed writing this story in partnership: if you can find the right person to work with, I thoroughly recommend a shared project. I haven’t checked in with as many blogs as I would have liked, but it has been brilliant to catch up with old friends and to meet new ones.

Debs

I’d participated in A2Z April for three years previous to 2018, but I’d never set myself an overly demanding challenge in terms of topic or theme. After the first year, I rapidly figured out that the way to manage the challenge best was to prepare as many of my posts in advance as was possible. For me, it was a bit of fun and rather more to do with the taking part. David, on the other hand, took the word ‘Challenge’ to heart and from the word go, jumped in with a corker of a subject. And he’s kept on upping the ante. This year, he took me along for the ride with a joint effort at this – our co-hosted site. I could pretend that there was kicking and screaming on my part but, in all truth, after we’d read and enjoyed Iain Kelly’s splendid series in 2017, we were hugely inspired by it, and I was very excited by the prospect of being able to do something along the same lines. In all honesty, it’s not something I’d have dared to dream about but David provided that courage and here we are – at the end of something which has been challenging, enjoyable, eventful and fun. What’s made it even better is the support and encouragement we’ve had from those who read along.

In a post-April tidy up of desk, I found a little bundle of my notes from our earliest discussions. I have a vague recollection of those early conversations – brought to mind by that pile of scrappy bits of papers, containing our ideas and thoughts. As always happens with the challenge, April rushed up far too quickly and my immediate difficulties with learning Scrivener in the time-frame caused a bout of hysterics. David remained calmness personified – for which my ‘Himself’ takes his hat off to him. Those wide-ranging ideas slowly became whittled down more by a lack of inspiration sparking than anything else – at least that’s how I remember it! And before we knew it, we were frantically writing the first tranche of posts. We started April with a week’s worth of posts written and scheduled, but by the end, it became considerably more frantic and last minute.

But, you know what, it was brilliant. I’ve not enjoyed an April A2Z as much before, despite falling ill in the middle. I enjoyed the way the story and characters developed, and the feedback and comments were even more appreciated than in previous years.

Despite co-hosting a site for a year, one of the major questions was whether our very different writing styles and pools of ideas would meld. But, as David has alluded to, we’ll be producing a joint #secondthoughts piece on the subject of co-writing, so I’ll say no more for now.

Working alongside David has given me the courage to take this huge leap of faith; there is no doubting I’d not be in this position but for his drive and belief. I’ve looked at those who’ve co-authored before and wondered not how, but why. But now I get it. Writing is a lonely old business and having someone to riff with, to bounce ideas off, to hear genuine enthusiasm in their reaction, and then to see the results … that’s why.

*****

To everyone who’s taken a moment out to read, to like or to leave a comment – thank you. It’s made what we’ve done all the more worthwhile.

We’d like to say a particular thank you to Stu, Iain and Alan – who have not only stuck with us the whole month, but have commented everyday, kept us honest, and have definitely played the game, played along at home trying to guess the twists and turns in the story, and were delighted when the villain got his come-uppance. Your support has meant so much to us.

#FF Prompt: Project Gutenberg

After the madness that is the A-Z Challenge, it’s time for one of our favourite prompts here at Fiction Can Be Fun.  Yes, it’s pick a new release of an old (out of copyright) book at Project Gutenberg.

To pick your prompt, pop onto the Project Gutenberg site, feeling free to have a browse while you’re there, before heading over to the Recent Books section. Then pick one that you like the look of. The title of your chosen book forms the title and prompt for your story.

 


Word limit : 500 words (ish)
Deadline for your story : 11th May, 2 pm GMT

 


A reminder to new readers/writers, please post on your own site and add a link in the comments section below.  If you don’t have your own blog or similar outlet, do send us your story via the contact form on the About page and we’ll post for you, with an appropriate by-line.  

Two caveats if you want to go down this route: if you want to retain the copyright, then you will need to state this, and this is a family show, so we reserve the right not to post anything that strays into NSFW or offends against ‘common decency’.