Our focus during week two of my Collective Storytelling class has been fan fiction and the Hourly Comic. Readings focused on the shifting power dynamics of readers, writers and the companies controlling the intellectual property. Some young fans of the Harry Potter series are using the books as a way to express their love of reading and writing. The articles highlight the fact that older fans of tv shows and movies who write fan fiction are mostly women. Many of their stories have homoerotic themes, often with leading male characters also linked romantically. Apparently this trend began in earnest with Kirk and Spock on Star Trek.
One of the things that the readings fail to mention is how incredibly bad all the writing on these fan fiction sites are. This was my first time visiting sites like FanFiction.net. It will also probably be my last. The majority of the stories I read were all based on really cliche story lines and predictable plot twists. While it is easy to support the idea that young writers can use the Harry Potter series to improve their own storytelling skills, it is a bit embarrassing to see what older writers have produced.
As part of our assignment for the week, we were to produce a day’s worth of hourly comics or write a piece of fan fiction. I chose the latter. Here’s my story:
[The scene starts in classic style of Michael Mann with a helicopter filming a night scene over Miami. The camera is pointed straight down, filming the streets below as it flies low over the city. In the background, a Dire Straits song plays.
Eventually the camera stops and holds on a rooftop pool party. We see lots of people in swimsuits having a good time. But slowly it becomes clear that there are no bikini-clad women. All the guests are male.
Detectives “Sonny” Crockett and Ricardo Tubbs are undercover and learning the true meaning of being partners. They are seated close together on one side of a hot tub. On the other side is a blonde haired Icelandic man named Bjornson, his arms around two unnamed young “friends.”
It is the week before Art Basel Miami, the huge international art festival. Our heroes are posing as a couple in order to make a buy from Bjornson, who produces high-quality fakes of Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock paintings.
Just as they are finishing with the small talk and getting to the details of the deal, Crockett sees his emergency mobile phone light up with a text message. This must be big. Maybe headquarters is preparing for a big drug raid. Perhaps it’s another lead on a terrorist plot. They wouldn’t be texting him now unless it was urgent.
Crockett makes some excuses as he and Tubbs make a quick exit.
Next, we see them back at police headquarters, heading straight into their Captain’s office.]
“We came as soon as we could, Captain. What is it, a code 76? Al Qaeda maybe?” asks Crockett.
“Crockett, Tubbs, good God, why the hell are you wearing Speedos?” says the Captain.
“No time to change, sir. We were in the middle of the Bjornson case. About to break it wide open. Figured this must be urgent. Is it the cartels again?”
“No, God damn it. First, put some damn pants on! How many times I told you, those are the rules around here! Especially after that incident with Fernandez last week. Anyway, no, it’s not the cartels. I wish it was that simple. This one comes from up on high. The Mayor. He’s been giving the Commissioner hell about this Occupy Miami thing. It’s an election year and he needs to shut this thing down. The business community is up in arms! But he can’t be seen fighting the common man, especially with the primaries just a month away. Crockett, that’s where you come in. He wants us to set them up, an inside job, make it look like they’re all criminals. That way the Mayor can avoid a big Bloomberg-style raid. I want you to get down there, find out who the leader is, plant some drugs on him and we’ll take care of the rest.”
“But Captain, what about Bjornson?” interupts Tubbs. “He’s dumping millions of dollars of fake art into the city just before Art Basel.”
“Yeah Captain, really bad stuff too. It’s gonna be mayhem if these paintings hit the streets,” warns Crockett. “His color palettes are totally off, sir. Those Icelandic painters, they make all the hues too cold. It’s gonna be mayhem, I tell you!”
“Yeah, sir,” continues Tubbs. “It’s a complete departure from the underlying subtlety of their work…”
“How many martinis have you guys had tonight?” interrupts the Captain. “Did you not just hear me say that this is coming from the Commissioner! Hell, I know better than both of you combined about the abstract expressionist’s influence on this city. I was delving into post-Impressionist styles while you guys were still in diapers. But we got no choice! Crockett, I want you inside Occupy Miami by tomorrow morning. You need to find out who the leader is, plant some methamphetamines on him and get out of there. We’ll take care of the rest. It will be the perfect excuse to take down the whole group.”
[Cut to a crowded scene the next day in a downtown Miami park. Gone is Crockett’s Speedo, replaced with jeans and a t-shirt that reads, “Got Representational Democracy?”
Crockett takes a minute to have a cigarette and survey the scene. A young man walks up to him.]
“Smoking kills, man. You should stop supporting the tobacco multinationals.”
Crockett plays it cool, casually exhaling. Then he snaps, grabbing the man by the throat and lifting him off the ground. “We can do this the easy way or we can do this the hard way. Who’s in charge around here? Who runs this show?”
“Chill, man, peace!” says the protestor. “Displaced anger is not the answer! The 99% need to stay united and focus on the corruption in the system! I… I can’t breathe, man.”
Crockett lowers him gently and decides to take a different approach. “Sorry about that. Sometimes my frustration with the growing income inequality in the world just gets the best of me. You ok?”
“Yeah, I’m fine, brother.” responds the protestor.
“Listen, friend, I’ve got some radical ideas brewin’ up here,” Crockett says as he taps his forehead. “Real radical stuff. I’ve gotta speak to whoever’s the boss around here. I gotta get these thoughts outta my head before it explodes!”
“Now you’re talkin’!” says the protestor. “But don’t you know, you are the boss!”
“What?” asks Crockett.
“You’re the boss, I’m the boss, we’re all the bosses around here! The people are in charge of Occupy Miami,” replies the protestor. “Sounds like you need to talk to the General Assembly!”
With all the commotion and excitement, a small circle of protestors begins to form around the two. Slowly it dawns on Crockett that this will be no normal shakedown. High unemployment, disenfranchised youth, backroom corporate deals, political corruption… it is all starting to made sense. Sure, he longs to be back on that rooftop, back in the hot tub with Tubbs. But how can he go on with that lie any more? And besides, even if he wanted to, how can he frame the leader of the protest when there is no one person in charge?
[Tune in next week for the exciting conclusion of Miami Vice’s Mic Check.]
I decided the only way I could write a piece of fan fiction would be to mock the style of the other writers. I don’t really watch television, so it’s impossible for me to write an earnest and serious story about the plot lines, especially for such popular shows as Star Trek or X-Files.
I am sure that there are some OK stories lost amongst the thousands of entries on these sites. But I certainly didn’t read any of them myself. Lost among all the shifting power dynamics of the writers and fans is some real criticism of lots of poor writing. This is one of the main points in a recent documentary I saw called PressPausePlay. It questions whether the lower technical barriers to producing digital media has resulted in better art or not. I think it is a valuable exploration of one side of the fan fiction debate.