Thursday, August 20, 2015

I Feel Like My Childhood Has Been Defiled

Have you ever seen something that, no matter how hard you try, you can't forget? Oh, there are times when you forget for a while, happy to have it pushed out of mind.  There are also times when it seems as if the universe is conspiring against you, oblique references to it dragging the memory back into your brain.

I'm talking about fan fiction, people.  Get your minds out of the gutter....well, not too far as this story is going to spiral it right back down in that general direction.

This is not intended to bash people who write or read fan fiction.  I think fan fiction is a great creative outlet for people to express themselves and an excellent way to improve their writing skills. Anything that helps to improve literacy is a plus, in my opinion.  I can understand becoming attached to a book, movie, or television show that you love and wanting to take those characters and explore other adventures.  Imagination is a beautiful thing and should be embraced.

I actually ended up in a conversation with someone about the whole fan fiction phenomenon back when 50 Shades of Grey was first published .  I didn't realize quite how popular fan fiction was.  I had just assumed that the stories all sort of continued from the way they were in the original source.  I had no clue how far afield people had taken it.  That conversation was the first time I heard that 50 Shades of Grey had started off as a fan fiction story based on Twilight.  I was also informed that back in the pre-internet days, there used to be mailing lists where people could submit stories and have them sent out to other like-minded individuals.  Interesting little bit of fan fiction history.  I had assumed it was a more recent  development.  My point, and I do have one, is that there is all kinds of fan fiction out there.  Take a look at all of the terminology for categorizing fan fiction.  If you can dream it, you can probably find it somewhere on the internet.

Until a few months ago, I thought there were really only two things about fan fiction that bothered me:

1) Some of it borders a little too closely on plagiarism to me. It's just wrong to steal someone's work. If you're just writing for fun with no intention of making money, that's a little different.  It's a fine line between wanting fans to be active and engaged with a world they love and theft of creative property.

2) The stories that are not about the characters, but about the actual people portraying the characters -- the actors and actresses.  I had no idea that people had even gone there until I looked at that terminology list.  I can't imagine what it must be like to find out that people are writing stories about you yourself, not the character you are embodying.  That's got to be a trippy mix of both flattering and slightly creepy.

Recently, I was introduced to another kind of fan fiction that I don't like:  the kind that makes me feel like my childhood just got defiled.

I was at work, and a patron asked for help with their computer.  I assumed that they meant the public computers, but it was a problem with their own laptop.  I'm by no means a tech expert, but I was willing to give it a try.

The patron said he was having trouble getting a website to load properly. There was no way to really help the person without having to look at what website he is on: Okay, seems easy enough.  Let's try just refreshing the page.  Maybe the connection timed out or something.  It looks exactly the same to me.  He scrolls down and tells me that it still doesn't seem right.  I have no idea what it's supposed to look like, but now I am obviously going to have to look more closely at the screen.

I don't know how familiar you are with that website.  They give you the title and all sorts of other information right at the top of the page, categorizing it so people can easily search for the stories they want to read.  I glanced at the information long enough to see that he was reading a story about Alvin and the Chipmunks.  Aw, that's so cute!  I remember watching the cartoon when I was little, and I still love the Christmas Song.  He must be having a bad day and needs a little nostalgia to cheer up.  Maybe he has kids, or is a teacher, and he is finding more stories for them to read.

I asked him why he thought it wasn't right, and he said the story just stopped.  It was written like there was supposed to be more, but then the page just ended.

Huh.  Well, reloading should have solved that problem.  Now I have to really look at this and....

What the hell kind of story is this?

Why am I reading a sentence about Simon jerking off in the shower and Alvin getting turned on by it?

I scrolled back up to the top of the page with a quickness.  Time to actually look at all of the freaking information there.  This is not the kind of story I had assumed, that much is obvious.

It's a romance.  Between Alvin and Simon.  Rated M for Mature.

And now I feel like my childhood has been defiled. 

Beloved characters from days of yore are not supposed to be in smut stories!  They are innocent little chipmunks who are supposed to cause tomfoolery that is all resolved at the end of the episode.  It wouldn't make a difference if it was Alvin and one of the Chipettes -- just, no. The Chipmunks from my childhood memories do not get involved in such activities!  At least they seem to have left poor little Theodore out of it.

I tried to explain to the gentleman that the story was only two chapters long, that it said so right at the top of the page.  Nothing else was written, so there was no more to load.  He didn't seem to believe me, like I had some sort of secret control over the website and was purposefully keeping the story from his eyes.  I wish I had such computer skills, but sadly I do not.  It ends where the author stopped. 

Then he wanted to know when it was going to be finished.  I pointed out that the story hadn't been updated in about a year -- also information that was easily visible right on the top of the page.  It was probably as finished as it was ever going to be.  

He wasn't pleased.  Didn't I know how he could make the author finish it?  Uh, no.  I know this is a library, but we cannot make authors write whatever we want, whenever we want it.  We are awesome and all, but we do not have the power to control other people's minds.  I suggested that he use the review box at the bottom of the screen to tell the author how much he enjoyed the story, and that he hoped they continued writing it.

And then I excused myself as quickly as possible, as he said he would just go read some of his other stories.  I don't even want to know.  I don't need to find out that Strawberry Shortcake or the Care Bears have been given the same treatment.

I've been trying to forget I ever read that sentence since the moment it happened. Trying to forget is harder than you might think.  I heard more references to chipmunks in the next few days than I have heard in years, I swear.  I listened to a woman in the grocery store yelling at her son whose name was Alvin.  It's like the universe does not want me to be able to wipe the memory from my brain.  

I just want to be able to listen to the Christmas Song this December without having it pop into my head.  Is that really too much to ask?


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