Something I have discovered while writing as much fanfiction as I do is that the community around fic is ENORMOUS. It is wide and vast and deep. Whatever weird, obscure thing you love, there is somebody out there who loves it just like you, or maybe more. Whatever bizarre crossover fills your heart with glee will cause someone else somewhere to die of delight. This has always been true of fandom, and the internet has really opened up the world to expanding the ability of fans to connect and share.
(It’s not all roses. There are trolls everywhere and fandom is absolutely no exception. For everyone person you find who LOVES Thing X, you’ll find someone who HATES it just as much. And for as many long, involved, and fulfilling discussions you can have with the person who loves Thing X, you might also be drawn into an argument or a dissection of Thing X with its opponent. To say nothing of people throwing flames, being asshats, and generally taking Thing That Is Fun and covering it with shit. It happens.)
Now, for as prolific as my writing has become, I’ve never been much of an “active” fan. I never really joined sites or launched into forum discussions or attended meet-ups. Some of this is my natural reticence. But some of it may also be that, as usual, I have managed to slot myself into fandoms where it just doesn’t work — maybe because the fandom is 20 years old and people have moved on, or because the fandom is obscure enough that only 20 people in the whole world share it.
Lack of a community has never kept me from writing, of course. (I can’t imagine much that would, really.) But there is something uniquely satisfying about writing to an audience and KNOWING that they will be interested in what you have to share. It wasn’t something I knew how to seek out, or even necessarily would have tried to, but then a friend introduced me to Yuletide.
In short, Yuletide is a massive exchange of obscure fandoms between fic writers. People sign up in the fall and receive their assignments with several weeks to fulfill them so they can be delivered to their recipients on Dec 25th. In return, if you sign up, you are guaranteed to receive a story in one of your chosen tiny fandoms of at least 1,000 words. You sign up to write in some obscure fandoms and give a gift of your own as well. And you know what? I really, really enjoy it.
The first year I signed up for Yuletide, I was able to draw upon a recent fandom which I had revived in myself to the tune of 4 novels and 400,000+ words for a oneshot over 5,000 words long that I still think helped inform the way I think about that particular fandom even now. The second year I went NUTS and wrote something like 25,000 words in two extremely long chapters (and, yes, I do have a novel sequel idea to follow up with someday; I just haven’t gotten there yet).
Both times, there was something very meaningful about writing a story I hoped would make someone’s season a little brighter. We all have those fandoms we quietly love alone. Yuletide was my chance to add a new breath of life and a new pillar into those tiny corners and hidden loves. And I got to make a person happy at the same time!
Funnily enough, the two Yuletide gifts I received in those years were for the same obscure fandom, which, by the way, is TOTALLY FINE. Both stories were very different and both made me puppy-in-the-first-snow happy to receive. I also know that there are some participants in Yuletide who write extra stories so a few people come away with more gifts than just the one, but I’ve never done it myself. I thought I might this year, and then November exploded. But I have always been happy with receiving my one beautiful gift of writing and fandom love and I can’t wait to see what this year brings.
There’s a privilege in being able to write something to someone, and there is an equal privilege in being gifted a work born of someone’s heart.
My Yuletide 2016 entry was done a while ago, and I won’t say anything about it except that it made my beta-reader REALLY happy. If it makes my recipient even half as happy, I’ll count it a very worthwhile expenditure of my efforts for the season.
There are some people who participate in fandom exchanges not only to give and receive, but also to find new authors and to be found in return — and I can say that I didn’t go into it looking for that, but it’s certainly worked out for me. I’ve pretty much read everything by those who give me stories and liked most of it. I’ve also searched the Yuletide collection for fandoms I know and found more gems to love and more authors to follow. I can’t say if I’ve gained new readers/followers this way, but I’ve certainly gained new stories to enjoy.
And really? When it comes to fic, that’s what it’s about for me. Would it be amazing to get a story read and liked a million times? Sure. Does that part matter? Nope.
I write because I can’t not write. I write in the fandoms I choose not because they will garner accolades and popular status, but because I love the source material too much not to write about it. When I’m trying to publish an original work, THEN I’ll torture myself worrying about whether or not my writing is reaching enough of an audience. For now, I am happy with the 2 or 3 loyal people who leave me such wonderful comments and invest so much effort in appreciating what I could not help but create.
Yuletide 2016 is drawing to a close and, as always, I am so glad to have been part of it. Trolls and flames and drama aside, at its heart this is an exchange of love and kindness. It’s thousands of people working together to create stories that weren’t there before — in order to give them all away to readers who might really need a special gift come Dec 25th. It’s all of us of the obscure fandom world getting to open our minds and our readership just a little bit wider, to spread our joy to each other and relish in being the only 4 fans in the world of Whatever-It-Is.
Collectively gift-giving art? Selflessly and anonymously? And celebrating our tiny fandoms which have won our loyalty and our love forever?
“A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What we can be, we must be.” — Abraham Maslow
“If I have been of service, if I have glimpsed more of the nature and essence of ultimate good, if I am inspired to reach wider horizons of thought and action, if I am at peace with myself, it has been a good day.” — Alex Noble
It has been a good Yuletide. And it’s not even over yet!