Fan fiction: It’s no longer relegated to newsgroups and Livejournal.
Some of our favorite professional writers got their starts writing “fanfic.” “Doctor Who’”s Paul Cornell started out writing unlicensed tales of the Time Lord, while Minnesota author Lyda Morehouse’s first novel evolved from “X-Files” fanfic. The “50 Shades of Grey” phenomenon began life online as “Twilight” fan fiction. Aspiring fanfickers (I’m coining that) can even earn royalties now, writing licensed fanfic for “The Vampire Diaries,” “Pretty Little Liars” and “Gossip Girl,” to name a few.
So in honor of the rise of fan-made media, Vita.mn called out for readers’ best fan fiction in 600 words or less for the sixth annual Summer Story Contest. And you responded.
This year’s submissions featured many fresh new voices from the various local writing scenes. In all, we took in 168 stories inspired by “Harry Potter,” “Star Wars,” “Star Trek,” pretty much anything else with “Star” in its title, “Batman” and a surprisingly large number of more eclectic inspirations ranging from “Full House” to “The Great Gatsby” to “Animorphs.”
After weeding out the slashfic (which is to regular fan fiction what “50 Shades” is to “Twilight”), I sent 20 of my favorites to Vita.mn’s panel of judges. They selected Megan Steil’s “Second Player” to receive the $1,000 grand prize. “Second Player” tells the tale of the Mario Bros. from Luigi’s perspective — only they’re not actually brothers in this otherwise spot-on continuity nod. They’re a couple who fell in love in the days before Pride Parades and Rainbow Road Races, and had no choice but to disguise the true nature of their relationship or face the scorn of the Mushroom Kingdom.
If you’re worried that this sounds like slashfic, don’t be. It’s a well-crafted original take on a beloved video-game icon and his less celebrated brother, and it traces their lives together in a way that leaves you rethinking every Mario-branded game you’ve ever button-mashed your way through. The goal of any great piece of fanfic is to enhance the original work, so read “Second Player,” then go back and play “Super Mario Bros.” and see if you don’t find it a little more interesting and far more tragic.
Summer Story Contest judges: Jay Boller, Simon Peter Groebner, Tom Horgen, Clare Jensen, Tim Ikeman, Alexis McKinnis, Jenna Ross, Caroline Royce. To reduce any bias, story submissions were read with the authors’ names removed.
Twenty finalists were invited to read at the Summer Story Contest event Aug. 6. One author was voted the fan favorite and won a $250 literary prize pack. Read his story here.
Summer Story Contest coordinator Rob Callahan is an award-winning journalist, author of “A Wish Upon a Fallen Sky” and “Hellbound Snowballs,” and a contributor to Vita.mn’s Crawl blog.