A long time ago, just before I started my sophomore year in high school, I watched the film version of the musical Cats by (now Sir) Andrew Lloyd Webber for the first time. Afterwards, I grabbed PetiteSeour and we "discovered" Cats together in the same way Columbus "discovered" America. We've always been big fans, but I'm the kind of fan who keeps things to herself unless the situation deems it appropriate, and PetiteSeour is the kind who likes to rub it in your face like a mother with a clean cloth and a dirty child. So of course it was Petite Seour who was invited to San Francisco and see the Broadway tour, not me. It wasn't the first or last time someone has done that to me, and yes, I'm still bitter about it.
Anyway, as I found myself an instant Cats fan, I naturally wanted to use my new-fangled modem to make sure I wasn't the only one. And I wasn't, not by a long shot. There are people who dress up on a semi-regular basis, there are some who get together in large groups to watch the movie, and there are some who feel that they need to add to the universe by writing their own stories. In geekdom, we call this fan fiction, or fan fic for short.
I quickly learned that each piece of Cats fan fiction must contain a requisite amount of cheese mixed with a certain portion of unbelievably. The character Mistoffles (who is referred to as Misto in fan fics) is in love with the character Victoria (called Vickie or some such nonsense) and his father happens to be Munkustrap (called Munkie?). Munkustrap's mother is Grizzabella (Grizzie), whose father is Old Deuteronomy (Old D), whose uncle is Misto, so somehow poor Misto ended up being his own great, great, great uncle. It's like each character is required to be in love with somebody, related to somebody, and have a secret ambition to become somebody. The biggest problem with this, though, is that there really isn't enough material within Cats universe that can be used to create more universe. I mean, I've been a fan for seven years and I only figured out the plot last month. I called PetiteSeour about it and we discussed the matter over hot chocolate and Pirrouettes. If an analysis-hungry English major like myself can't even figure out a plot line, there's probably not that much for me to work with. And considering that Cats is really just a bunch of T. S. Elliot poems strung together and put to music, it's incredible that they were able to put a plot together in the first place.
And yet, Cats is continuing to become the basis fan fiction, and it's not alone. I've found stuff for Beauty and the Beast. Beauty and the Beast! As if the Disney sequel, prequel, and what-happened-between-scene-34-and-scene-35 movies weren't enough to leave a permanent stain on the cultural cloak of humanity. Apparently not even this has had the power to dissuade those eager to put their own personal stamp on their favorite piece of musical theater.
Of course, musicals aren't the only art form that attracts the would-be fan writer, in fact, fan fics are pretty much the only thing that Star Trek and musicals have in common. In the realm of science fiction there is more of a writing frenzy, enough to give the musical fans a run for their money. Of course, when it comes to a series that has produced an assortment of episodes, there is an actual universe to play in. That means it's actually possible to create a good story, right? Unfortunately, I have yet to find one that is truly worth the time it takes to read. It probably has to do with the fact that most of these authors are under the age of sixteen. And then, of course, there aren't any editors or publishers to tell them where the sap is.
But I think that the most interesting thing about the whole fan fiction phenomenon is that people actually have the passion and conviction to write it in the first place. What sort of a person tries to get the last word on what happened to Munkustrap or Belle? Perhaps it is someone who is so enraptured, so thrilled by what they see on the stage or the screen that they desperately long to be a part of it in some way or another, and so bold that they are willing to put their attempts in print for an unlimited amount of strangers to look at. It's like their affinity for this fiction is about to burst inside of them, and writing is the only way to let it out, no matter how poorly constructed the story might be. That must speak volumes for the quality of the object of their fandom, don't you think?
And the there's always the chance that one of those kids are the next J. K. Rowling or Stephanie Meyer, just cutting their teeth on the genre before they set off in an adventure. Maybe someday I'll come across that kid's work. In the meantime, I've got my own characters to put on pages, or otherwise they'll never leave me alone.
Regards, best wishes, and a healthy dose of reality,