Kamis, 10 April 2014

The Walking Dead Fanfiction: Way Over The Rainbow

By Mickey Jhonny

It was many years ago, in the tender years of my misspent teenage youth that I joined some friends for a midnight viewing of the Wizard of Oz. No, there was no Pink Floyd involved. It was just the plain old Wizard of Oz, as I'd seen it in my childhood dozens, if not hundreds of times. Perhaps, being the callow and wanton youth we were, all this may have been under the influence of certain controlled substances. Though I don't recall that clearly, I do recall sitting in that theater watching the film unfold yet again.

This time though had a different quality to it. The munchkins and witches all went about their usual business, as they had all those previous times. But while they did so in the foreground, my attention was preoccupied with the background. There were these cornball, hand painted studio backdrops of distant mountains. And I was totally fixated on them. I just kept wondering, okay, the Yellow Brick Road, the Emerald City, fine, I know about all that. What I want to know though is what in the world is over the top of those mountains.

Herein lies the central inspiration of that phenomenon known as fanfiction. It is the art of providing one's own spin on the unexplored corners of a world created by another, mainstream art form. This is in fact a very time honored practice, but it was only in the 1960s that it become something of a popular culture craze. Little fanfiction cottage industries arose to explore the unexplored possibilities in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Star Trek. Here the fans could explore in their own fiction the possibilities that the original show couldn't or wouldn't: Klingons could conquer the universe or Kirk and Spock could have a torrid homosexual love affair. This was indeed boldly going where no staff writer was about to go.

Initially the fiction was circulated in fanzines. These were mimeographed and collated collections posted out to subscribers composed of enthusiasts, aficionados and conference attendees. In the age of the Internet, and the World Wide Web, the 1990s brought a whole new dimension to fanfiction. There has been a major growth in the availability of video materials from the original shows that the aspiring fan creator can now draw upon, edit and reframe in various ways, to tell their own story. And this can be done in the quiet of your own room, late at night, with nothing more than a laptop and a ham sandwich. This was yet another path to get over the top of those distant mountains.

In any original show, like The Walking Dead, there are always doors not entered, streets not followed, choices not made and thoughts not expressed. The original story follows only one narrative thread; in the process it inevitably opens the possibility of countless others. The writers of fanfiction are the explorers of these tantalizing possibilities which the original story tellers have left dangling. And this is a pretty thriving undertaking in the case of The Walking Dead. The single site alone has over 2000 fanfictions stories inspired by The Walking Dead. And that is very much just scraping the surface of what is available.

There are recurring themes in the Walking Dead fanfiction. One of the most popular is to delve more deeply into the background or makeup of one or more of the characters -- to understand better where they come from and where they're coming from (if you follow the distinction). Andrea and Daryl have been popular topics for this kind of writing. Others are more interested in getting beyond those mountains off in the distance. They look to tell a story of people that Rick Grimes and crew may never meet, but who are dealing with the same challenges of this walker infested world. In some cases it seems likely that the creators in fact are transparently putting themselves into this world of the Walking Dead. Pondering how they would rise to its challenges. How would they respond?

This fanfiction is a great venue for getting deeper still into the exotic world of The Walking Dead. The creativity of the fan creators suggests all kinds of new possibilities and venues of curious pursuit. To say nothing of being loads of fun. A question does come to mind though when we're considering the fascination with this TV show.

Is it possible that this fascination in fact reveals something in the show that captures the zeitgeist of our time? If you want to know more about that, you need to check out our further thoughts on the topic, at Pretty Much Dead Already.

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