I got an email from a reader earlier. The sender was a lovely young woman who had just re-read my first published fic and wanted to tell me how much she enjoyed it—how it made her feel, how it made her smile, how it made her cry, how it made her excited to get home each night and curl up in bed with it, how it helped ease the pain of a difficult patch in her life, and how much she misses it now that it’s over. It was a beautiful letter, and my reaction to it must have been visible enough to make my saner half take notice from across the room. He shot me a questioning look, and I turned the laptop around and gestured to the screen.
I followed his eyes as they scanned each line, saw his lips tip up in a smile that grew broader as he read, then braced myself for the good natured snark I’ve come to expect when my little literary hobby comes up in conversation.
“Wow.” He said. “That was kind of amazing. How does it feel to be someone’s favorite author?”
“Don’t be a dick,” I said, slapping him on the shoulder.
“I’m serious,” he replied, gesturing to the screen. "That’s what she said—right there: You’re my favorite author.”
“I think she means favorite fic author. Not real author.”
“Is there a difference?” He asked.
“Yes,” I said, rolling my eyes. ”Of course there is.”
“Because, as someone in this room who isn’t ME is fond of pointing out, self published gay mystery romance novels aren’t exactly eligible for the pulitzer.” I said, turning the computer back around.
“So what?” he shrugged, “Something you wrote inspired a stranger to sit down write what it meant to them and send it to you. A lot of total strangers, as a matter of fact. You write, people read it and react. That makes you an author.”
“Huh.” I said, very eloquently, then got up and went into the kitchen to start dinner.
Hours later, sitting down to reply to the letter in question I find myself writing this post instead. Because here’s the thing: That wonderfully crazy man who lives in my house is right. (But please don’t tell him I said that)
From the moment I realized that letters made up words and words made up sentences and sentences made up worlds that were mine to explore any time I wanted to I’ve been a reader. I have fallen in love with perfect phrases and epic stories and countless characters pressed between the pages of the thousands of books I’ve read in my life so far—and sitting down to string together those same 26 letters into tens of thousands of words of stories I felt needed telling? That makes me an author.
I have adored the work of countless authors in numerous genres, and the world of fan fic is no exception. I have admired and cherished and savored the words of talented writers whose work is no less legitimate for the fact that their names include random keyboard characters and their words don’t live on bound paper on a shelf.
It’s not JUST fan fic. It’s literature. It’s published. It’s read. It’s loved.
Thanks to all of my favorite authors for every word on every page on every screen that I’ve ever loved.