Over The Mountain Tops Of The Walking Dead Fanfiction

I visited a midnight showing of the Wizard of Oz with friends during my misspent teenage years. Callow youth that we were, I expect we might have been under the influence of some controlled substance. That’s all a bit vague. What is crystal clear, though, is the memory of sitting in the theater, watching this movie I’d seen so many times previously — watching as it unfolded, yet again.

However, this time, as the munchkins and witches and so forth all went about their well rehearsed business in the foreground, somehow my attention was riveted on the background. These cheesy painted studio backgrounds of distant mountains had me transfixed. I couldn’t help wondering, yes, yes, I know all about the Yellow Brick Road and the Emerald City and all that. But what the heck is on the other side of those mountains?

Herein lies the central inspiration of that phenomenon known as fanfiction. It is the art of providing one’s own spin on the unexplored corners of a world created by another, mainstream art form. This is in fact a very time honored practice, but it was only in the 1960s that it become something of a popular culture craze. Little fanfiction cottage industries arose to explore the unexplored possibilities in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Star Trek. Here the fans could explore in their own fiction the possibilities that the original show couldn’t or wouldn’t: Klingons could conquer the universe or Kirk and Spock could have a torrid homosexual love affair. This was indeed boldly going where no staff writer was about to go.

Initially the fiction was circulated in fanzines. These were mimeographed and collated collections posted out to subscribers composed of enthusiasts, aficionados and conference attendees. In the age of the Internet, and the World Wide Web, the 1990s brought a whole new dimension to fanfiction. There has been a major growth in the availability of video materials from the original shows that the aspiring fan creator can now draw upon, edit and reframe in various ways, to tell their own story. And this can be done in the quiet of your own room, late at night, with nothing more than a laptop and a ham sandwich. This was yet another path to get over the top of those distant mountains.

The shows upon which the fan creators based their efforts always left passages unexplored. There were rooms never seen, alleys next entered, action never taken, hopes never spoken. The original show can only wind through but a single plot line. In doing so, though, countless other portals to new possibilities are left open, unexplored. It is these that the fanfiction creators explore. In the case of The Walking Dead this has been a pretty fertile undertaking. Fanfiction.net to cite just one case has over two thousand stories within the world of the walkers. And that’s just skimming the surface of what is out there.

Probably the most common theme in the Walking Dead fanfiction is the deeper exploration of the biography and psychology of characters. Daryl and Andrea are popular choices for such attention. Others though look out over the mountains from Munchkin Land, as it were, and discover the lives of their own characters, facing the same world as Rick Grimes’ crew, but far from the lenses of the AMC cameras. In some cases, this is purely fictive, though, in others, one suspects, the authors have simply parachuted themselves in, imagining how they would respond to the challenges of the world of The Walking Dead. And then there’s some far out adventures, such as exploring whether the zombies might have thoughts. And if so what they might be like.

The Walking Dead fanfiction is a great resource for exploring the multilayered possibilities of the show’s world. It is a testament to the creativity of the fan base and just a whole lot of fun. But, in closing, there is the question of why there is such fan fascination with the context of the show.

Is it possible that this fascination in fact reveals something in the show that captures the zeitgeist of our time? If you want to know more about that, you need to check out our further thoughts on the topic, at Pretty Much Dead Already.

Mickey Jhonny is lead writer at The Walking Dead celebration site: http://prettymuchdeadalready.com He also writes for the Mad Men celebration cite: http://dondraperhaircut.com http://dondraperhaircut.com/

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