Ten years ago, we got our first computer (well, if you don't count various VIC-20s and Spectrums and ZX-81s from two mis-spent youths). A few weeks later, we got Internet access. The first thing I wanted to do was seek out X-Files newsgroups, since I was in the first flush of an enormous X-Files obsession. I duly discovered the alt.tv.x-files newsgroup, and read through it - not a wise thing to do, actually, since they were all discussing episodes that wouldn't air on the BBC for a whole year. Adjacent to it in the listing, though, was something called alt.tv.x-files.creative. What's that? I wondered.
"That" turned out to be a place full of - gasp! - stories about the X-Files characters, written by normal people like me! I read through the first few stories in mingled fascination and horror. The thing is, I expected that a story written by a fan would be just like an episode of the show. I thought it would consist of "an X-File" - i.e. a case. Instead, 90 percent of the stories consisted of Mulder turning up on Scully's doorstep with flowers, and... er... romance happening.
I ran away in horror, my purist little heart outraged, but I couldn't resist going back. Fortunately, things changed somewhat once the immediate aftermath of St Valentine's Day passed. I soon discovered that there were longer case-files in there, too, that read rather like episodes. I even discovered this magic little world called "angst"...
The thing is, I have always made up stories about my favourite books and TV series and films. At the age of 8, I was so deeply obsessed with "Swallows and Amazons" that I drew pictures, dressed up, wrote songs, took up hobbies, and generally immersed myself in it for months on end. When I was 11, I read "The Three Musketeers" and started making up stories about the characters in my head. I did the same with all the other nineteenth-century historical novels I read through my teenage years, as well as the original series of "Star Trek", and others.
So that was the magic of fanfic for me. It was just so incredible to know that other people existed who did the same as I did. My made-up stories had always involved my favourite characters getting wounded and distressed (but overcoming it all with wonderful heroism), so it was especially wonderful to discover angst writing, and learn that I wasn't totally warped. (Or, if I was, that at least others were warped alongside me.)
I can't remember when I started writing fanfic, but it can't have been more than a month or two after I first started to read it. My first effort was awful, and I stopped it half way through. My second - a long case-file riddled with Mulder-angst - was better, and I posted it with great trembling and dread on the August Bank Holiday weekend, 1996. I thought hardly anyone had noticed it, but only a two months later I found myself winning third place in the "best angst writer" category in the fanfic awards, which was a lovely justification.
I wrote X-Files fanfic for nearly three years, before I realised that there was very little left that I wanted to say. I posted a retirement notice, and only yesterday I realised that I'd kept all the emails people sent me in response to that. I had a nostalgic little cry yesterday. I'd spent three years feeling like the new kid on the block, in awe of all the mighty giants of fanfic who had been there before me. I remember those responses finally making me realise that I had become something of a mighty giant myself, without ever realising it.
(Ending abruptly because I've just noticed the time. I'll wrap it up into some sort of conclusion tonight.)