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SHERLOCKED: Steven Moffat talks fan art and fan fiction * 03 June 2015

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Fan fiction and fan art is arguably the lifeblood of most fandoms. Whether it is a long established fandom such as Star Trek - which first saw fans put pen to paper to be published in fanzines decades before the birth of the World Wide Web - or more recent fandoms such as Glee or Supernatural, all have dedicated fans who express their love of a particular film, TV series or novel through reading or creating fan works based on them.

BBC Sherlock, while only being five years old, will return results of well over 120,000 entries on and alone! But the truth is, Sherlock itself is a work of fan fiction. Many published Doctor Who stories are written without the series creators direction and thus are technically fan fiction, as is the case with numerous Star Wars novels, and although Steven Moffat, Mark Gatiss and Stephen Thompson are professional writers in their own right, the late Sir Arthur Conan Doyle obviously had no hand in where the Sherlock writers take the series.

When it comes to fan creations however, the original creators the works are based upon appear to be split. According to where the likes of Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly and the writer/director of the recent Avengers: Age of Ultron movie, have given the thumbs up by saying, "That's why I made these shows. I didn't make them so that people would enjoy them and forget them; I made them so they would never be able to shake them. It's the way I am as a fan. I create the shows that would make me do that", other writers such as The Vampire Chronicles author Anne Rice have gone on the record as being a little less pro the pastime, remarking in 2000, "It upsets me terribly to even think about fan fiction with my characters. I advise my readers to write your own original stories with your own characters. It is absolutely essential that you respect my wishes."  In fact, even has a restrictions page listing what fiction subjects may not be published on the site in accordance to German law.

But the Sherlock fandom need not fear. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle could be considered one of the first advocates of fan fiction, as when American actor and playwright William Gillette wrote Sherlock Holmes, the four-act play which opened in New York City on November 6, 1899, Gillett famously asked Doyle, "May I marry Holmes?" to which he received the infamous reply, "You may marry him, murder him, or do anything you like to him." And it would seem that Sherlock series co-creator Steven Moffat has no problem with fans of the series writing their own adventures for their incarnations of the modern day Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson.

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During 'Sherlocked: The Official Sherlock Convention', Steven was asked what advice he would give to budding authors.

"The advice I generally give about writing is there is one thing that all good writing has in common, whether it's an email, or a poem, or a text, or a song, or a play, or a novel. The one thing that every good piece of writing has in common is that every sentence makes you want to read the next sentence. All good writing is about that. And use every single trick to keep people reading. That means being poetic and brilliant; you might say there'll be nudity in four lines. Whatever it takes to get people past every full stop, that's my best advice."

When it comes to being a writer himself, Steven admitted, "It was the only thing I ever wanted to be. I love writing," and then added, "Especially when it's over and I don't have to do it." He went on to describe how as a child his first screenplay, filmed on 8mm Cine Film, was 'Sherlock meets The Doctor', with his sister playing both Holmes and Tom Baker's Doctor.

After being asked what his opinion of fan fiction was and if he has read any based on his series, his answer was very clear, "I haven't read an awful lot, otherwise I would sort of go mad. Sometimes I get to see artwork or stories that people have sent me. And sometimes as a recreation, people put words into my mouth about what I think about this. So lets be clear here about what I think.

"I think fan fiction, or as it should be called, 'Fiction', is a wonderful thing and a brilliant way to start and continue writing, because it's not self indulgent in any way. Oddly enough, it's the opposite of self-indulgent. You're writing this, generally speaking, fan fiction for other people. You're trying to entertain someone. You're actively engaging in the business of storytelling. You will learn more from writing fan fiction or doing fan art, any of those things; you will learn more from doing that well, than you will from any writing course you go on. Because writing fiction of that kind is the job. It's not like the job; it IS the job.

"Writing is not defined by whether or not you have successfully monetised it, although successfully monetising it is ace, it's defined by whether or not you've written or created something people want and like. It is a brilliant and wonderful thing, and it is a joy to be involved in something that promotes and creates so much of it."

So like Joss Whedon, can we assume that Steven Moffat views fan fiction as a worthwhile pastime for fans?

"I take it very seriously and I get very cross when people say I've mocked it. I would never do that as of anyone who has ever lived, I am the man who writes fan fiction for a living!"


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