Starlog Log #11

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I don’t know if I should be surprised how many times you see an interview subject in Starlog spout about how their latest sci-fi project is “about characters”, not just technology/alien monsters/special effects/etc.—it ends up the common method in which people working in genre can convince their potential audience that they aren’t just doing another brainless thrill-a-second, even if that’s exactly what they are doing. I mean, it gets said so many times about so many different things that it’s just basic mathematics to assume a percentage of it is just hype with nothing to back it up. The part that would be surprising is that these directors, writers, actors, or producers would feel the need to address that point at all, why they need to make it seem like their project is more than what it is—who are they trying to impress, exactly? And why do the reporters at Starlog just let it sort of lie there, unquestioned?

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“Hooray I scucceeded at winning the mission”: The Ten Essential Fan Fictions of Peter Chimaera

One could argue that we are currently mired in the age of fan fiction: that the cultural merchants in have given up all pretense of supplying us with fresh new visions and have instead become reliant entirely on taking other peoples’ ideas and rearranging them in such a way that they can pretend that they’re anything other than lukewarm leftovers. This comes after decades of fan fiction that was and is truly by and for fans, people who wrote about their favourite pre-existing characters and settings without any pretense of eventually changing all the names and selling it to a book publisher or being hired into some Hollywood brain trust, but entirely out of love and maybe some other more complex emotional purposes. Those sorts were exploring this charted territory for us, and the Internet age allowed them the kinds of exposure they never would have had in the zine and local convention era, taking fan fiction from the realm of the few to a mass audience.

Among the fan fiction authors in the last two or so decades of the Internet, there stands one out among the masses, one who took the the form in thrilling, provocative, and strange new places: Peter Chimaera. First appearing in the heady days of 2003, Chimaera worked on a sporadic schedule, but in almost every instance he gave us gold, the kinds of flash fiction reinterpretations of well-known franchises and stories (and even some less well-known ones)—video games, animation, comics, and even live action—that could be reread over and over again and provide new enjoyment and new insight every time. These are stories that defy the standard rules of writing, and especially of writing fan fiction, in order to deliver something with a unique, personal vision. There are recurring motifs throughout Chimaera’s oeuvre, where characters often face tragedy and loss; some are consumed by the abyss of violence and despair, while others overcome adversity and demonstrate the true tenacity of the human spirit. By putting these themes into the contexts of well-known series and characters, he makes it clear that these struggles are universal across all times and in all peoples, if you’re a superhero, a space marine, a warrior battling ancient evil, or even a bus driver.

Peter Chimaera, although still writing some fan fiction in more recent times, has seemingly moved on to selling more of his own original fiction, the obvious next step in a literary career. For us, though, his fan fiction tales will remain foremost in our hearts, and so today I have decided to rank what I think are the ten essential Peter Chimaera stories. Many of these have, in their times, become well-known among the denizens of the Internet, who have paid tribute to his works with live readings and even in song, so I’m sure everyone has their own personal favourites; I hope that my selections showcase the variety and the evolution of Chimaera as a writer, and the myriad of ways he has delighted readers for almost fifteen years.

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11. Futures Calendar

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I graduated—for real this time, no going back—the year following my stint as EIC; by then, I had already passed the duty off to my assistant EIC (she was trained and confident, likely due to her own hard work and studiousness and not because I had figured out how to teach people to do my job since my last botched torch-passing), and with my other former newspaper buddies off doing other things, the last of the old guard had shuffled off the stage, letting mostly new voices take over. That’s only somewhat true, at least for a while, as I wrote a small number of things for the paper, nothing that mattered and in at least one instance, under a pseudonym (was it because I was a graduate by then, and thought writing random articles wouldn’t be seen in a great light? I doubt anyone cared), and for the first year when I was gone, I even still participated in the staff meetings, if only just to see how the new staff was doing. I remained a lingering spectre of the past for a little while longer, but eventually my curiosity would be sated and I would leave them to their own devices.

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10. Morgue

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The year my friend and I took over the paper was a special one, and not just because we somehow survived a money crisis in the organization caused by improper handling of finances and records over multiple years (which meant a whole lot of belt tightening and grovelling and getting help from more powerful institutions, things that could only be pulled off by our indefatigable business manager), but because it was the one-hundredth year of the student paper, a major anniversary for any institution I would reckon. Despite the aforementioned money problems, we weren’t going to let this important time pass us by—no, we had plans for our centennial, at least for a little while. For example, we had a presentation at the alumni homecoming that fall, one where we gave out an award to a former editor who had become a major contributor to the community (this was something that had been done in previous years, but like many big ideas the editorial team has had, it’s the kind of thing that happens once, and then every subsequent new team just sort of forgets about), and used it as an opportunity to show all the old, often extremely wealthy folks who make up the alumni organization that we not only still existed, but were worth supporting in whatever way possible (if by “whatever way possible” you mean “financially”.) That didn’t lead to anything, either, but hey, anything’s worth a shot.

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09. Guild

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As is the case for almost every organization (student or faculty) in a university, being part of a student press also invariably meant being part of a nation-wide university press collective, with the seemingly sensible (but not entirely achievable considering it’s mostly being run by twenty-somethings) goal of providing structure and support to like-minded institutions. What this meant for us is that we paid some money and some people in one of the actual big cities whose concerns seemed like those a distant holy leader sent us notifications to us about things that we may or may not care about, in exchange for the newswire service (giving us interesting articles that can fill space we can’t fill ourselves, and may even be slightly relevant to our campus in some obscure way—especially essential in the decadent days when our paper could run for sixteen or more pages), various support services (like legal aid), and national ads. Considering that trying to get local ads for the paper could be like pulling teeth sometimes, ads from the biggest of corporations worth the best money would completely inaccessible to us if not for the national collective; theoretically, that alone would make paying into the co-operative a useful thing for a newspaper not based in one of the country’s major cities.

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08. Rowback

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Can I say that I/we ran a tight ship, having never been in any position of power before (or since)? Well, at least once we figured out our dire financial situation my first year as an editor, I can say that we did our job without any (other) major hurdles. Having learned the history of the student paper, one that included early shutdowns, fired editors, conflicts among the staff, libel suits, and a short time where the editors were locked out of the printer and forced to keep the thing in circulation as as a single sheet they printed themselves, I think our time there could probably be seen as pretty boring. No one really sent us any complaints, let alone shut us down, which must indicate something (depending on how full or empty you want to see the glass.)

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07. Overnight

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My year as the assistant editor-in-chief (not quite the top, but close enough) was supposed to be my final hurrah, the year I got do what I wanted to do with the paper (free from needing to complete a degree, as I graduated the year before and was taking a bare minimum of “fun” courses during my “year off to find myself”) with a little help, and it would be the last year the old gang of two-to-three years would be together; we had a new generation waiting in the wings to take over, and with our financial problems mostly dealt with (mostly), we had laid the groundwork for them so they would hopefully have an easier time than we did. I had applied for a graduate program in another province, one for—you guessed it—journalism, and was making headway into that in the months leading up to our final issues. It seemed that my education and career trajectory was finally reaching its apex, and I was going to be moving on.

It didn’t work out. For anyone.

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