[Note from Frolic: We’re so happy to welcome author Molly Ringle to the site today! She’s talking all things fanfic. Take it away, Molly!]
“It has the feel of fanfiction, but in a good way.” – That’s a paraphrase, but a sentiment like that is what a few different reviewers have said so far about my newest novel, All the Better Part of Me, a m/m rom-com and coming-of-age story. To which I answer: yep, that’s fair, and in fact is completely accurate. When I was writing the book, I told myself, “Just pretend it’s fanfic.” Why? Because nothing could be more fun and pressure-free to write than fanfic. And when I write in that delicious mood, it’s likelier to carry through to the reader too.
So, yes. I’ve read plenty of fanfic over the decades. I’ve even written some, on rare occasion. I have a totally unverifiable theory that lots of published authors have done the same, writing fanfic under secret names—not just famous examples like E.L. James or Cassandra Clare, but almost certainly loads more that we might never know about. Writing a fic for a show we love is just too fun to resist, and really, what romantically-minded writer hasn’t carried a serious ship torch for some fandom couple?
It’s not just an irrelevant side hobby, either. The burning love I’m lucky enough to feel for a ship is awesome at igniting ideas for my original characters. I mean, look, I wrote a trilogy about the Persephone/Hades myth (Persephone’s Orchard and its sequels), in which I came up with a new version of how they met originally, along with deciding what their modern reincarnations might be up to. I and everyone else who’s written a Greek mythology retelling have essentially been writing big ol’ novel-length fanfic. And, as with the fanfic on Archive of Our Own (AO3, as the regulars call it), there’s a ready-made audience for it, millions of people in the world who are already way into Persephone/Hades or other Greek gods and want to read more about them. Win-win!
Not all my books have been so directly ship-based, nor have all my fan ships evolved directly into novels. But it’s fair to say that the romantic feelings each fandom pair inspired in me helped feed my ever-evolving inspiration as a writer.
So! Here are some of the biggest ships in my fandom life so far, and what fascinates me about each of them. SPOILERS for all the material discussed. You have been warned.
The Lord of the Rings: Frodo and Sam
Sure, I’ve heard the official literary explanations: Tolkien never intended this pair to be homoerotic, they merely have a close friendship, Frodo and Sam’s master/servant relationship was a special thing we modern egalitarian Americans can’t properly grasp, etc. Understood. However, my heart started doing funny things when I first read LOTR (in my 20s) and I got to the part where the tearful Sam begged the apparently-dead Frodo, “Don’t go where I can’t follow.” My symptoms got more serious when I realized fanart and fanfic for the two of them already existed, and that a lot of it was gorgeous. And dang Elijah Wood with his strange ethereal beauty, and the way they keep cuddling each other, and…long story short, I tumbled headlong into Frodo/Sam shipperdom and spent a magical few years there. No regrets.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Spuffy
A couple of years after BtVS wrapped, I started Netflixing the show and got hooked. And in season 5, in the “Fool for Love” episode, when we finally see the vulnerable dork beneath Spike’s tough exterior, I fell in love with him and started shipping that impossible thing called Spuffy. However, IT WASN’T IMPOSSIBLE. It became more canon than I had expected it ever would, and it was glorious—if, uh, deeply toxic during some phases, as one might expect when dealing with a woman who kills bad guys nightly as her destiny, and a man who literally has no soul. Still, we’ve got to hand it to the charismatic actors and the legendary Joss Whedon: they made this pairing sing. (Again, literally. At least in that “Once More, With Feeling” episode.)
Doctor Who: Ten and Rose
Then there’s the complete opposite of toxic: the happy, goofy, poignant, heartbreaking sweetness that is the Tenth Doctor (Ten) and his Earthling companion Rose. I would say it’s G-rated compared to many ships, which canon-wise it basically is, except that I’m not sure David Tennant’s way of looking appreciatively at someone could ever quite be called G-rated. (Swoon!) I haven’t kept up on the Who-verse in the last few years, so it’s possible my pick for favorite Doctor could change if I do catch up, but for now I’d say Ten is my favorite, and therefore the heartbreak of Rose and Ten’s separation (with its cruelly interrupted “I love you”s) was the most unbearably romantic moment of the series for me. (Luckily it got rectified later, in a manner that very much resembled fix-it fic. No complaints from me!)
Avatar: the Last Airbender: Zutara…or Kataang?
So this one’s interesting. A:TLA is one of my favorite shows ever, a master class on how to write a fantasy series that appeals to little kids and grown-ups alike, with depth and lightness and magnificent world-building and—hurray!—shippability as well. Yet when it comes to Katara, the fearless waterbender, I’m not entirely sure who I ship her with. I adore Aang. I wish more world-saving heroes were like him: the Hufflepuff type, sweet and happy and peaceful, an enthusiast of meditation, for goodness’ sake. I love him. But the thing is…he’s twelve. Or a hundred and twelve, if you want, but…really, he seems twelve. I can’t in good conscience ship that. It feels weird. When he grows up: sure, of course, mature Aang should marry mature Katara! As canon indeed has it. But meanwhile, I can’t deny that the several-years-older Prince Zuko is far sexier, all broody and outcast and damaged as he is. (Not to mention a royal.) Zuko also has the best redemption arc in the history of redemption arcs—you can’t not love him by the end—which, all things considered, does make me curious what a canon Zutara pairing might have looked like. To put it another way: I’m happy with Kataang as canon, but when I looked up fanfic for Avatar, I looked up Zutara.
Merlin (BBC): Merthur
Before embarking on the BBC’s Merlin, I never would have guessed I’d ship Arthur with Merlin. I mean, Merlin’s an old wizard with a white beard, and Arthur’s a young king. Right? Not the way the BBC decided to tell it. By making Arthur and Merlin basically the same age—starting around their late teens and advancing to maybe their mid-twenties—and by giving them a bickering master/servant relationship in which each would, despite their banter, die for the other (and they nearly do, every episode), they pretty much guaranteed a ginormous legion of new shippers. The two adorable leads, Colin Morgan and Bradley James, only stirred up the embers by all those long, lingering gazes they exchange (just kiss already!). Plus, this being the BBC, who’s fond of ripping our hearts out (and this being Arthurian legend, which is inherently tragic), the series ends in torrents of tears, a circumstance that demands all kinds of fix-it or alternate-universe fic to give us the HEA we were brutally denied.
In fact, Merthur, as my most recent big ship, has stuck with me to the point of inspiring a novel—or maybe two. (One’s in early stages yet. We’ll see.) So keep an eye out, and if you spot a new release from me featuring a prince or king falling for a lowly but powerful man who can do magic…well, you’ll know who to credit for inspiration.
What are yur favorite ships? Have you ever written fic about them?
About the Author:
Molly Ringle writes love stories for all kinds of people, with some stories paranormal and some real-world. Aside from being a multi-fandom shipper, she’s also a night owl, an introvert, a gardener, a pluviophile, a Britophile (not just England but all the British Isles), and a fragrance fanatic. She lives in Seattle with her family and pets.
Connect with Molly:
All the Better Part of Me by Molly Ringle, out now!
It’s an inconvenient time for Sinter Blackwell to realize he’s bisexual. He’s a twenty-five-year-old American actor working in London, living far away from his disapproving parents in the Pacific Northwest, and enjoying a flirtation with his director Fiona. But he can’t deny that his favorite parts of each day are the messages from his gay best friend Andy in Seattle—whom Sinter once kissed when they were fifteen. Finally he decides to return to America to visit Andy and discover what’s between them, if anything. He isn’t seeking love, and definitely doesn’t want drama. But both love and drama seem determined to find him. Family complications soon force him into the most consequential decisions of his life, threatening all his most important relationships: with Andy, Fiona, his parents, and everyone else who’s counting on him. Choosing the right role to play has never been harder.