The great escape, walking in a winter wonderland. (It’s actually snowing, too.) The dream is a plot your subconscious makes. And they all fell asleep and forgot to live, happily, ever after.
Lost in fiction. That’s where I am. And not the kind you’d think, either – not watching Miranda, the third series of which has been (and as a huge fan of the earlier series, it pains me to say this) ‘what I call disappointing’. Whereas the first two series teetered tantalisingly on the edge of absurdism but never quite fell over the cliff, the third one has plunged head-first into gag-land and lost the main thing that used to keep me glued to the screen: Miranda as a believable, loveable human being. She used to have quirks; now she is a quirk. I’m still watching, but I don’t seem to be laughing, which is a shame.
I can’t tell you whether Spies of Warsaw is any good because, Tennant or no Tennant, I still haven’t watched it. I have Christmas present DVDs waiting for me, and I haven’t even touched them. I have books to read, but have I turned a page? No. So what is this imaginary retreat of which you speak, I hear none of you ask. I’ll tell you anyway.
If you’re anything like me only a short while back, you’re now thinking of schoolgirls writing Harry Potter stories, and you wouldn’t be wrong – that stuff exists. And I’m not remotely interested in it. I knew there was more to fanfiction than that, though, mainly because in the land of blogs there are sensible, grown-up people who write intelligently about their fanfictive pursuits, and I read those blogs. I got curious. I was (always am) looking for distraction. I had the internet at my fingertips. And so I took the plunge.*
It wasn’t love at first sight. There’s a lot of crap out there, and sifting through it can be disheartening. I decided right away that I was not going to read anything that was written based on works I love, just in case it turned out to be awful. I wouldn’t risk ruining my enjoyment of the original forever. I soon became wary of reading about any characters I already knew, whether I was a fan or not, for much the same reason. Some fandoms I skipped simply because I thought I might at some point want to get to know the original. And all the Harry Potter waffle was out of the question, obviously.
Here we come to an interesting question. If I’m already a fan of the original, I don’t want to read it. If spelling, grammar and even syntax are wobbly (which happens quite often in the non-edited realm of internet writing), I’m not interested. Why reach for fanfiction at all, then – why not read a book? I have no explanation, really. Maybe it’s the flicker of the computer screen that keeps me hooked. Maybe it’s my stubbornness that won’t let me give up. Maybe it’s the adventure of exploration, learning about the way the fan community operates, the possibility of discovering a pearl in the pigsty. Whatever it was, something kept me coming back for a quick look, a sneaky browse of the offerings on the altar of fandom, until something clicked. A fandom I’d never heard of but that intrigued me. A writer that the community held in high esteem and who could put together sentences and, what’s more important, stories, that were not cringeworthy. A long story that caught my imagination and had me clicking for the next chapter, and the next, and left me feeling conflicted about the possibility of looking up the primary source. What if I wouldn’t find it as engaging?
Engaged. That’s the word, for want of a better one. I feel caught up in a fictitious world in a way I remember from childhood but haven’t experienced in a long while. Escapism is a good word as well. Living in denial of the stresses and worries and boredom of my everyday existence. Out of focus, soft around the edges, willing the world to leave me alone to exist in imagination only.
It’s a great feeling and a terrible one at the same time. It will wear off in time, a prospect both welcome and dreaded. Meanwhile I make endless cups of tea and fight a hopeless battle against the daydream that lingers around the corners, dissolving my concentration and distorting any normality I had thought to pursue into an unsolvable tangle of duties. It’s wonderful. And it’s awful.
Escape is on your mind again
I’m still here
*I am aware that I’ve used the word ‘plunge’ twice in a short post. It’s a good word. Miranda got that much right (see episode 4, series 3).