The Fanfic Symposium
Home | Columns | Columns by Year | Columns by Topic | Discussion LJ | Submission Guidelines | Contact

The Curly-Toed Boots of Justice
by McSwain!

"Jim. I'm an elf."

With those four words, all joy and love was banished from my life this morning. Granted, I wasn't in the most splendid of moods to begin with, but I nourished the hard seed of hope within my heart, foolishly thinking that if I just held on a little longer, I might manage to dig myself out of the swampy morass of despair that claimed me last night as I lay weeping and singing along angrily to Aimee Mann songs.

Something you may not know about me is that I'm a sometime writer of fanfic. I write slash fanfic, actually, which has been reviled by fanfic fans and regular fans alike, more than once, but as I will explain, there's worse out there than that.

The "Jim." line comes from a story written in "The Sentinel" fandom. Some of the more... fanciful... of its writers believe that Garrett Maggart-- the actor who played Blair Sandburg on the show-- is elfin in appearance. Consequently, when they're feeling particularly hostile and insane, they sit down and write long, mawkish, incomprehensible stories in which Blair either discovers he's an elf or reveals it to Jim-- his roommate-- who then becomes his lover, if the story is slash. (If it's not, I have no idea what happens to Jim and Blair, but I bet it's pretty stupid.)

I wish I could blame Mr. Maggart's DNA for this problem, but all of fandom is infested with elf stories. If one of the leads doesn't have a vaguely effeminate hairstyle, pale skin, or slightly slanted eyes, elf story writers (or "weirdos") pull an explanation out of their asses. They can't write dialogue, they can't plot, and they can't string words together into a decent sentence, most of the time, but by god, they can tell you why Starsky left Elfwood in 500,000 words or less.

I used to think it was stupid, or scary, or sad, but today, thinking about the scene in which Blair explained his dilemma to Jim, I imagined how it might've gone if it had happened on the show, and for the first time ever when thinking about elf stories, I laughed.

I saw Jim's expression of disgust, and once he realized that Blair really believed this unlikely claim, his pathetic attempts to seem receptive to the idea, even though he was secretly thinking that the kid had finally snapped, and trying to remember the name of that hot cop psychologist. Finally, I saw his retreat to the loft, muttering "Ooookaaaaaaaay, Sandburg," while Blair danced a jig in the living room in a misguided effort to change Jim's mind.

"That 'Riverdance' video is going back tomorrow!" Jim snarled when he caught Blair at it.

How can it be that people with no sense of humor always write the funniest stories?

"Jim." said Blair, clearing his throat painfully. "I'm an elf."

"Aw, so you're a little short," Jim said dismissively. "You got charm."

"Charms," said Blair. "That's what I'm telling you, man. I'm an elf. One of the Old Ones. The fucking fey, man."

Jim eyed him shrewdly. "Is this because of what Rafe said the other day? I keep telling you, Sandburg, if you got a haircut, just one, they'd forget about it."

"I'll prove it."

"Don't dance again," Jim begged. "I'll do anything you say."

Of course, that's my version. In the original, Blair probably magically fills Jim's empty beer bottle with the bad writer's staple, "cool amber liquid," and Jim falls in love with him. He has a moment of doubt when he thinks Blair might've enchanted him with the beer, but then he remembers that he always   falls in love when he's drunk, so together they run away to Blair's magic portal in the forest, where Blair reveals the real reason he used to disappear sometimes whenever
they went camping.

"I wasn't lost, man," he says, eyes twinkling. "I was found ."

In order to prove himself worthy of Blair to the Elf Magic Council, Jim has to perform a series of completely preposterous feats of strength and courage, all of which he must perform naked, because that's how he comes to Blair at the time of their Joining. The panther aids him, and it turns out that this is because Jim himself is part elf, having been healed by elves when he was in Peru all those many years ago.

"What about the Chopec?" he asks.

"They learned our ways long ago."

Why does everybody have to be an elf in fanfic, anyway? Like these people don't have enough problems. First of all there's all the canon stuff they have to face: romantic entanglements, personal demons, domestic strife, career trouble, blood vendettas, and so on and so forth. Then slash gets its gleaming claws in, and suddenly they're gay. They're gay at the precinct, they're gay in space, they're gay on the ranch, whatever. They didn't see it coming, and now they have to try to explain it to everyone.

They just get that sorted out with their wives and children and employers and Klingons and Mafia kingpins, and whammo! She was The Sheriff, but now she's Herself the Elf. That's not what that guy in "Writer's Digest" meant when he said you need a crisis in your story, okay? When was the last time you found out your roommate is an elf? Your roommate drinks your Vanilla Coke without asking, he tries to seduce your girlfriend, he forgets to write down telephone messages. He's an asshat, not an elf. Say it with me.

I didn't know I had an opinion about this until today, but thinking back, I resent the elf people. (Not elves themselves; I have no strong feelings about elves either way, except at Christmas.) People are elves in "The Professionals," people are elves in "The Sentinel," people are elves in "The X-Files"--although that's sort of fitting, maybe-- people are elves in "Queer as Folk UK," I mean, people are elves everywhere, except, I bet, fandoms where people really were elves to begin with.

The "Darby O' Gill" fandom is rife with horrible stories in which characters who you thought were elves are actually grizzled loners in vintage cars who have no friends in Homicide, but Who Get Results. "Harrigan" is full of terrifying A/U opuses in which your friend and mine gives up life in the forest to work as a human man who delivers Hot Steamin' Love for UPS.

The elves of Terry Brooks's beloved "Shannara" novels have been exiled by the fans to a gritty and depressing blue-collar lifestyle in New Jersey, tossing back longnecks, chowing down on White Castles, and beating their spouses while the Game Show Network blares in the background to cover up the noise so they can throw Child Welfare off the scent long enough to sell their kids on the internet.

Maybe it's not that bad, but lord, it isn't good.

Of the few I've been tricked into reading, the elf story I hate the most was written for "Queer as Folk UK." I admit that it's my favorite show ever, and so I'm perhaps a little biased, but when someone takes a brilliant, complex, fantastically flawed character and makes him an elf just because he's Irish, I take exception. Whatever happened to making people drunk just because they're Irish? He was drunk probably eighty percent of the time on the show. But no.

The only explanation I can think of is, he was already gay, so they felt helpless.

I know It's Only Fanfic, and I prefer to encourage people to write, whatever their preferred venue may be, and I know that ultimately fanfic is an expression of their love of their favorite programs, and that's all beautiful and magical and crap, but I'm telling you, man, if you really love the show, you'll use your own characters when you feel like writing about
gay elves who fight crime.

Think of it this way: you know how everyone is always saying Hollywood is out of ideas? Have you noticed that one of the ideas they haven't done to death is gay elves who fight crime? They make movies based on every dumbass, brain-dead, fuckwit idea you could possibly conceive of, even if you were drunk, stoned, crazy, stupid, and whipping a million monkeys with a million typewriters in between shooting up with rat poison and bungee jumping off the Empire State Building, and yet, no gay elves who fight crime.

It's not because Hollywood is too commercial, I swear to god.



Home | Columns | Columns by Year | Columns by Topic | Discussion LJ | Submission Guidelines | Contact