It occurred to me some years back that if you were a devoted fan of something – might be anything: music, science fiction, art – it could open the door to a career doing something you loved.
So if you were a huge fan of science fiction, you could become an editor or publisher or critic or collector. If you loved folk music, you could travel around collecting recordings from obscure musicians deep in the back woods. If it was painting, you could become a curator for a museum or open a gallery.
Some of this work is easier to get than others, of course, but there are also paths for amateur love – the running of conventions, for example.
It has struck me more than a few times that building a career around something you truly love is a good way to go.
But I’ve never been able to do that.
This is not to say that there aren’t authors whose books I will always buy (Karen Joy Fowler or Andrea Hairston, for example) or series of books that I will read over and over (Laurie J. Marks’s Elemental Logic series or Madeleine E. Robins’s Sarah Tolerance books).
There are musicians I always try to see – Ruthie Foster, Butch Hancock. Photographers or painters I check out. Movies that go on my “must see” list because of a director or actor.
I mean, I’ve watched every episode of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer and Firefly multiple times.
All that work matters to me, makes my life better, gives me insight into what’s important.
But there is no person’s work that builds such a passion in me that I would do anything to make it live and thrive. Except my own.
Now I’m not saying that my work is better than all the stuff out there. I don’t have that kind of ego and anyway that’s not what I’m getting at. Nor am I saying there’s anything wrong with being a passionate fan.
All I mean that the only thing I’m willing to devote my time and energy to is my own work, not someone else’s.
I can’t get into all these debates about how a work should have gone, because when a movie or story disappoints me, that disappointment inspires me to make a story of my own that doesn’t do that.
For example, my novel For the Good of the Realm, which I just sold to Aqueduct Press, came about because I went through of a period of reading The Three Musketeers and its sequels. I love adventure stories, but those books never let women have the kind of adventures I wanted.
In Realm I have swordswomen and magic, so the plot goes in different directions, but the connection is obvious.
In Ardent Forest, I riffed off of Will Shakespeare’s As You Like It. I love Shakespeare, especially on stage, but I want things to come out differently for the women. (Read my version to find out who I think should have married whom.)
That’s the one thing I can do that no one else can do: write the stories I really want to tell. And that’s where my passion lies.
There are a lot of times when I read something wonderful and stunning and think, “I’ll never write anything as good as this.” But even that doesn’t make me want to give up my own writing and go spend my time being a fan of that work.
I’m glad some people are passionate fans. Unless there are a lot of people who care about art, it won’t exist. I don’t want to be a critic or a scholar either, but I’m very glad some people do.
It’s just that nothing else makes me as happy as telling my own stories. I hope a few of them find fans.