by Kit O'Toole
Paul watched for alien traces: saucers in the sky, hands with swords reaching from the water, giants emerging from a cloud-castle. Thus, he was the first to see two humanoid shapes approaching from the meadow. A shock of fear went through him, but it melted away when one of the figures hoisted a guitar.
"We are not alone," John intoned solemnly, raising his guitar in reply.
preceding passage is not typical of the news Beatlefan reports, but it exemplifies another form of the Beatles
hobby: fan fiction. Although
forms of fanfic have existed for many years, the growth of the Internet has
enabled writers to express their enthusiasm for the band on a larger scale.
Some hard-core collectors may find the world of fan fiction puzzling,
but fanfic writers and readers insist that this form of Beatles-worship is
here to stay. This belief is
strengthened by the fact that this year, for the first time, Beatlefest
sponsored fan fiction panels in New York and Chicago.
According to Susan Ryan, publisher and editor-in-chief of Rooftop
Sessions, a fan fiction meta-site, these writers are “devoted fans who are
capable of entering into musical debates, and the folks who attend
Beatlefest with the same fervor as anyone else…it’s just that they
choose to express their love for the Beatles in this manner.”
no definitive history on the development of fan fiction exists, its
beginnings are commonly traced to 1960s-era television shows such as Star Trek. Fans of the
show began creating their own stories utilizing the characters but devising
their own plots. Before the
Internet, these stories (ranging from short stories to novels) were
published and distributed through fanzines (independent, photocopied
magazines with a smaller readership). According
to Henry Jenkins, author of Textual
Poachers, writing these stories gave Star
Trek fans a sense of community and ownership of the show. Fan fiction soon expanded to other programs such as Quantum
Leap, Xena: Warrior Princess, or Buffy
the Vampire Slayer, and movies such as Star
Wars. No matter the
subject, fan fiction had one element in common: the stories concerned
fictional characters. The
advent of Beatles fanfic, however, added a new dimension to the field:
fictional stories about real people; or, as Susan Ryan terms it,
Ryan estimates that Beatles fan fiction began surfacing in the 70s, although
it was known then as “Beatles stories.”
Written by second-generation fans, these stories were written
longhand in notebooks and passed around within a close circle of friends.
Many writers felt they were the only ones writing Beatles
fiction—until the Internet.
the Internet exploded in the 1990s, more writers decided to post their
stories on the web. Web pages
were easy to design, and many free hosting sites existed throughout
cyberspace. In addition, chat
rooms and listserves made it possible for writers to network and critique
each other’s stories. Now
writers have banded together in virtual communities such as web rings, and
the average reader of fanfic can find stories anywhere on the net: when
entering “Beatles fan fiction” in the Google search engine, one may find
over 35,000 hits. The
prevalence of the web changed the way writers composed and readers read the
stories. “Putting a
story on the web is a great way to get feedback on a piece that needs work,
and the web does a wonderful job of bringing the Beatle fanfic community
closer together, which tends to be even more cause for inspiration,” said
Megan Kline, writer of the Planet McCartney series.
Fan fiction also exists on the big and small screen; James Ryan,
writer of alternate history stories such as “I Read the News Today” and
“Carry That Weight,” points out that the 1970’s film I
Wanna Hold Your Hand and the recent teleplay Two
of Us are essentially works of fiction based on some facts, a perfect
definition of fanfic.
fiction writers range in ages from 19 to 50, are beginners or have written
for over 30 years, and are not necessarily writers by profession.
One of the biggest myths about fanfic writers, Susan Ryan stated, is
that the stories are “sexual fantasies of horny teenagers or frustrated
housewives.” Romance is
indeed a popular genre, but fanfic spans other forms such as science
fiction, fantasy, comedy, alternate history, horror, and erotica.
Although 90 percent of fan fiction is written by women (Jenkins 191),
some men have also emerged as authors.
James Ryan expressed surprise at being one of the few male writers in
the field. “The Beatles was a
quintessential rock act, which means they were involved with lots of sex,
drugs and pure ego rushes and more elements to stroke a man’s pleasure
centers than a Cameron Crowe movie,” he said.
any case, some first and second-generation fans decided to pick up their
pens to express their enthusiasm for the group in a unique way.
“Generally, I think it’s a way for people who are more
comfortable expressing themselves by writing to feel closer to their heroes,
and to express their feelings,” Susan Ryan explained. Science fiction and
fantasy writer Sandra M. Ulbrich, author of “The Movement You Need” and
“Move Over Ms. L,” writes for personal reasons: “writing fanfic is a
way for me to pay tribute to the inspiration [The Beatles] gave me,” she
said. Other authors view fan
fiction as an escape for both writers and readers.
Cheryl Mortensen, author of multi-genre works such as “Fairy
Tales” and “The Lady in White,” stated that although some may view
fanfic as trivial, “it’s fun, an escape from day-to-day reality, and
sometimes an escape is a necessary part of life.
If I chose to escape for 20 minutes by reading or writing fanfic,
that’s my choice to do so. Judging
by the number of hits on the Rooftop Sessions site, other people feel the
does it take to become a Beatles fan fiction writer? According to many authors, there are seven steps.
First, consider the plot: how can it differ from the other 35,000
pages currently on the web? Tina Kukla, author of the comedy/romances “The Beatles:
Live at 12 Cold Creek Street” and “Days in the Life,” states that
writers should try to include twists in conventional plots.
“The storyline itself can be a familiar one--for example, the
Beatles meet a fan and one of the Fabs falls in love with her,” Kukla
said, “but authors have to put their own spin on the story to make it
fresh and original so readers won’t be bored.” Aviva Rothschild, author
of the science fiction/fantasy novel With
Strings Attached, added “a good story explores something different
about the Fabs—one that increases your understanding of them as
knowledge of grammar is essential; readers will not be patient with spelling
and other errors that mar the story. Next,
read books in general. “Don’t
stay in one genre; read classics as well as modern stuff,” said
Rothschild. “Learn what makes a story and what makes it good.”
In addition, research widely; if the story takes place in the 1960s,
know what appliances did and did not exist.
“If you’re unsure if a drive-through McDonalds existed in
Manhattan when the lads were there in 1964, then for God’s sake check it
out, don’t just throw it into the story!” said Mortensen.
know the Beatles themselves—since the band members have been
well-documented in print, readers know their personalities.
Mary Spollen, romance writer and author of the “Shelly Series,”
recommends studying their movies and other videos to capture their
characteristics in print. “Listen
to various interviews to become acquainted with how they talk.
Watch videos to learn the body language.
By doing all of this in advance, a writer can almost capture that
Beatle’s soul in print and make him and the story believable.”
However, mastering the Liverpool accent in print can be a challenge.
“Keep in mind a Liverpool accent and upbringing without making it
an over-the-top caricature,” advised Bonnie Mullen, author of erotica such
as “A Dark and Snowy Nite” and
“Mistress and Maid.”
the Beatles themselves brings up an issue particular to Beatles fan fiction:
the fact that one is writing about real people and possibly their families,
who may actually read the stories. Therefore
writers stress the importance of respecting the real-life “characters”
in their tales. Susan Ryan
stresses that Rooftop Sessions will not accept any stories that may defame
any member of the Beatles or their circle, such as “slash” stories (see
glossary). Lisha Goldberg,
author of comedic stories such as “Terminal Attraction” and
inspirational tales such as “The Writing’s on the Wall” warns
beginning writers not to forget that the Beatles are real people and to
avoid offending anyone at all costs. “How
do you know what might offend them? Research
is one way. Common sense is
another. If you’re not sure
whether a particular scenario is offensive, ask yourself how you would feel
if a total stranger wrote about you in that particular situation.”
drafting the story, find someone to critique it before publication. Goldberg
recommends joining writing groups, finding a mentor, or asking the local
librarian about fiction writing groups.
Learning to take criticism, Rothschild also believes, is the most
important aspect of becoming a writer.
Next—and fanfic authors stress this point most of all—avoid
stories can be easily stolen over the Internet. Plagiarism, writers warn, is
illegal and disrespectful. Another legal issue concerning fan fiction
involves whether writers can be sued for copyright infringement. According to Susan Ryan, it is legal to comment on the
Beatles’s public personae, but a writer can be sued for defamation of
character or libel if he or she misrepresents a band member (making Paul
into a serial killer, for example). Susan
maintains that the remaining Beatles and Yoko probably know about fan
fiction, but if the stories do not call undue attention to themselves, they
at the publication stage, the writer must consider how to attract readers to
the story. Tina Kukla, author
of the comedy/romances “The Beatles: Live at 12 Cold Creek Street” and
“Days in the Life” advises networking.
“Join webrings, submit your page to links lists and search engines.
Be sure to get the word out about your work so you get readers.”
After completing these steps, the writer may post his or her work for
readers to enjoy. “Whether
you post a story to a list or put it on a website, the hardest part is
clicking ‘Send,’” said Leslie Wylie, author of the romance stories
“Incident on Cavendish Avenue” and “Full Circle.”
“The people who will read it are looking for fanfic and will
appreciate the effort.”
Ryan stated that although the genres have not changed since the 1970s, the
“Martin Luther Lennon” story has appeared on the web more frequently in
recent years. Young writers who were not born before he died have learned
about him only through print, which often portrays him as a saint.
“Unfortunately, because he’s dead, the legend has taken on a
greater importance than the life, which is a pity,” Susan said.
“There is so much more that a writer can build upon.”
Rooftop Sessions will not accept any “Martin Luther Lennon”
story, she added.
authors are aware that some consider fan fiction a less serious form of
Beatles collecting and general fandom, they want to express that writers
take their craft seriously and consider it a legitimate art. “Are the writers really much at variance from the other
fans who channel their art?” asks James Ryan.
“How is a writer using the Beatles as subjects any different from
the painter who paints them? How
is the writer trying to capture John’s voice on paper that different from
the musician trying to capture John’s sound when performing his work?”
their critics, writers maintain that this form of fandom can only grow in
creativity and popularity. However, Susan Ryan predicts that the historical
genre will become more popular, since the group broke up over 30 years ago.
“They are definitely a piece of history now, and thus lend
themselves more readily to historical applications in stories,” she said.
Other writers believe that the electronic format lends itself to
greater possibilities for creativity. “The
electronic market gives writes more of a chance to grow and express
themselves,” said Spollen. “In
many ways it is a new and exciting frontier waiting to be explored.”
importantly, writers say, fan fiction is a form of expression and fandom
that will never disappear. “As
long as people with an artistic bent are drawn as fans, whether to a rock
band or a TV show, there will be writers among those fans who will express
their feelings through their fiction,” said James Ryan.
Because Beatles fans tend to possess a particular creativity, he
believes, even more writers will continue expressing their love of the band
through prose and poetry for years to come.
can I find fanfic links?
following pages are good places to find links to quality Beatles fan
fiction: Sunday Night at the Palladium: http://members.tripod.com/lyrical_ladybug/index.htm
Sunday Night at the Palladium: http://members.tripod.com/lyrical_ladybug/index.htm
Beatles Fan Fiction @ beatlefans.com: http://www.beatlefans.com/fiction.htm
Fanfic Terms: A Glossary
come across acronyms and terms you’ve never seen before?
Here is a quick guide to some frequently used terms in the fanfic
History (AltHis): Usually a story using historical facts but using a “what
if’ motif (what if World War II never happened?
What if Germany won?) or mixing in science fiction.
Alternate Universe (A/U): According to scholar Henry Jenkins, the author creates his/her own histories or futures for the characters, thereby “expanding textual boundaries.” The writer therefore designs another world differing from everyday life. (Jenkins, Henry. Textual Poachers. New York: Routledge, 1992. 176.)
A proofreader who looks at the author’s story and critiques it before
publication. The CFAN site (http://www.subreality.com/cfan/terms.htm)
postulates that the term comes from the software term "betatesting."
fic: Any story written as the result of a challenge, or one writer
challenging another to write a story featuring a particular plot
A story that combines two areas of fandom (e.g. Beatles and Star
sexually explicit stories (similar to erotica)
(/): Usually written by women, the story involves characters having
homosexual relationships. Not
all fanfic sites allow these stories, and they are usually marked as
This article first appeared in Issue #133 of Beatlefan Magazine and is reprinted courtesy of William P. King, Editor, and The Goody Press.
For further information about Beatlefan, or for subscription information, go to their website: www.beatlefan.com
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