My Name Is Damien, I Write Fanfic

I have two events this evening and, much as I’m looking forward to them, I’m also a bit bummed out about them. I’ve been working all day, now I’m going to work all evening. Work seems to be stretching out before like an endless chasm, exacerbated by this weeks debt owed to the bank of sleep.

So I’m taking a breather to talk about fanfic, prompted by Cory Doctorow’s commentary on the subject. Fanfic is Fan Fiction. There are twokinds – those based on literary forbears such as Tolkien. And those boased on Multimedia franchises like StarTrek / StarWars. Read the Wikipedia definition for more details.

Theres a great series of essays by Timothy Leary, pretty much the last things he wrote ibefore he popped off in the 90’s, that are all about the democratization effect of ‘cyberculture’. People, Leary reckoned, were getting bored of consuming culture. The next revolution was going to be one of creativity. In what was then the future and is now the present, more people would make culture than would consume it. Through our screens we would make music, films, games, writing, pictures and share them with other people also making their own culture. Low and behold, Leary was right.

Fanfic is the literary tip of the democritised culture iceberg. Fanfic has a pre technological history, but its huge growth in the past 10 years has really been driven by the lure of sharing the fanfic you write with other people, an audience, even if small in number. generaly when someone reacts very badly to the idea of fanfic, its because it threatens their aspirations to be part of an artistic elite – elites don’t do well with democracy.

And here is that nasty truth no one wants to admit about fanfic. A lot of it (not all, but much) is a great deal better than its source material. Some fanfic is a good as anything you’ve ever read. Theres a good reason for this. Writing fanfic is fun! It can bring out qualities in someones writing that the pressure of original work will totally obscure. And its also a fundamentally generous and positive activity. So much writing is driven by the ambition of the writer, the need for status, cachet, kudos. Fanfic by definition won’t bring you those things, the only reason to write it is because you love the world you are writing in and want to share it with other people.

So, here for the first time in public I present my own fanfic masterpiece, penned around the events and character’s of Games Workshops Warhammer 40,000 universe and called ‘The Emperors Sacrifice’. Its the last piece of fanfic I wrote. I had almost stopped writing altogether after finishing my MA, and getting back to writing something purely fun completely rejuvenated me. If you are ever struggling to find the passion for writing, then pick something you really enjoy (not admire, enjoy) and spend some time messing around in the world of fanfic. I highly recommend it.

The Emperor’s Sacrifice.pdf

Published by Damien Walter

Writer and storyteller. Contributor to The Guardian, Independent, BBC, Wired, Buzzfeed and Aeon magazine. Special forces librarian (retired). Teaches the Rhetoric of Story to over 35,000 students worldwide.

2 thoughts on “My Name Is Damien, I Write Fanfic

  1. “A lot of it (not all, but much) is a great deal better than its source material.”

    Oh, absolutely!
    It’s been hushed up, but did you know that Philip K. Dick died of embarrassment when he realized that UBIK and VALIS fanfic was waaay superior to his feeble efforts?


  2. That’s only the tip of the iceberg. It s a well kept secret but I can exclusively reveal that PKD himself wrote ‘Lost In Space’, ‘Land of the Giants’ and ‘The Invaders’ fanfic long before the term had been coined. His estate have been sitting on the evidence, fearful of its effect on his reputation as a post-modern literary genius.



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