Fanfic Playing

I don’t like Fanfic. Really. I don’t even like the concept. But last weekend made me think about it and my position changed a little bit. The concept is simple: you pick up other people’s characters, other people’s scenarios, other people’s work, life blood, soul, and imitate the feel, and pervert the stories. That’s what I think. Worst still if you twist in those idiotic mash-ups like PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES, or FRANKENSTEIN AND WHATEVER. Completely absurd. I don’t even know if they’re well written, the concepts alone make me sick. But last week I had an experience with something amounting to a kind of fanfic and I’d like to speak about it a little.

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Last weekend I was at the Rolisboa Festival in Marvila, Lisbon, Portugal. Rolisboa 2019 is an annual Lisbon-based tabletop games convention featuring role-playing games, story games and LARPs. It took place on the 28th and 29th of September and I loved it. Beyond the speaking events, the networking and the amazing games, I was there because my friend and Game Maker Sérgio Mascarenhas invited me for the World Premiere of his new game HOT TARGETS – THE DARK SEA WAR CHRONICLES, a game he created based on Universe of my books THE DARK SEA WAR CHRONICLES/A BATALHA DA ESCURIDÃO.

For those of you who don’t know the books they talk about Byllard Iddo, a young man who accidently killed his father in a martial arts training session. He leaves to join the Space Navy when a war breaks between the Webbur Union, its ally the Kingdom of Torrance, and their rival, the Axx Republic. A lieutenant in the powerful Webbur Navy, Byl will serve in different ships and face danger as the war grows in violence. My personal premise, though, is this: what if WWII’s Battle of the Atlantic happened in Space, thousands of light-years from Earth? So in the second volume of this trilogy, Iddo arrives at the Raven dwarf-planet, at the pirate city of Fumu, a destitute place where all kinds of degradation happens. This city is mostly like a dirty favella inside a giant bright cave. Here’s how Byl Iddo himself describes it in the book:

Bruno_Martins_Soares_KVol2.jpg«As we were speeding through the dirty streets in Thalof’s car, I thought I was looking at a giant lump of mold made of aluminum and zinc and dirty grey rocks and white chalk bricks that was slowly growing in an organic unorganized wild fashion inside a monstrous white ceiling cave. Huts after huts after huts.»

So, what Sérgio did was pick up this scenario and imagine a parallel story that happens just before the events in the book happen. Then he invented a few characters, picked up his game system Pentagram and off we went. First of all, I have to say that Sérgio’s effort to make the city of Fumu more complete and interesting while still managing to keep it loyal to the book filled me with humility and pride at the same time. I felt he did a great job and that my story and my books became more vivid and colorful because of it. The story in the game fits very well with my books and if you are able to both play the game and read the books you’ll have a different and richer experience.

He was actually the one who called this a Fanfic of some kind. I’m not sure I agree with it – and if it was he had the good sense and the respect of running everything by me before hand, which I thank him for the bottom of my soul. But the real Fanfic, in my view, was the game-playing itself. I played twice during the Festival: first as character player on Saturday and then as a co-GM on Sunday. The first time I really enjoyed it because I was always trying to understand what came next and discovering what the game had in common with the books. The second time I was thrilled with my first experience as GameMaster and felt it was a lot like writing, and could have done it for many hours – I was creating new problems and difficult challenges for the characters and that’s what I love doing. So in reality, I ended up the one doing the Fanfic myself – in my role as GameMaster. And it was fun as hell!

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So maybe I’m being too strict on this Fanfic thing. Maybe it’s just a game! Maybe that’s what’s supposed to be. I still think that writing is a way of expression: and that you really express yourself when you create your own characters and your own stories.  The closer you are to your own creations the more honest, deep and genuine writer you are. But still, why not play sometimes with other people’s characters? I think I rather do it in RPG’s myself, but maybe other people can practice their writing and creativity when they do it. I guess I’ll think about it some more and stop being so judgmental. See you next time, fellow knights.

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