When I first started hanging out on the internet, it never occured to me that anyone would write fanfic, although I don't really know why not. Actually, it's not such an odd idea, when you think about it particularly for things like TV shows where there's already the background knowledge that it's not the work of a single person but a shared universe anyway. I came across some (Buffy, I think) but it wasn't very good and so I kind of ignored the idea.
I then came across the writing of a friend of mine (synedochic), and read a bit on a rainy afternoon out of curiosity. And it was really really good. So I revised my original "fanfic, just not as good" position to more of a "fanfic, subject to Sturgeons Law" position and kept on reading my friends stuff but didn't really go out and look for things. Also, her stuff is pretty much all SG1, which I haven't actually watched, so I still wasn't sure about the whole thing where you already know these characters and what they're supposed to sound like.
Then a month or so ago (or whenever it was that Torchwood S2 started), two main things happened. One was I got curious enough from the trailers with Spike in to watch episode 1 on the iPlayer one lunchtime and the other was that someone on my f-list (possibly jennifer?) linked me to The Doctor And Mr Jones which I read on another quite lunchbreak soon after.
Torchwood 2x01 was fun in an incredibly slashy kind of a way but I really enjoyed that fic. And really it was that which gave me the impetus to actually watch the series. (Damn. I have now actually reached the point but realised I don't quite have the right words for it after all). Basically what it seems to be is that Sam pretty much writes the characters better than the script writers do themselves and that gives an added dimension to the show itself. In a way, that becomes the canon and the show feels like the fic, being done by some people who haven't quite got the same touch. He's even re-scripted Out of the Rain into a different, much better episode.
I would have expected it to start having the problems of feeling like a TV serialisation of something that I liked it book form but that hasn't really happened either, probably because the fic writing feels collaborative with the actual series so they stay complimentary instead and it's actually making Torchwood the most fun thing I've watched for a while.
What I find myself wondering is if/how much this collaborative thing is actually feeding both ways. When I saw 2x01, my first thought was that over the break the writers had gone off and read a lot of fic and adjusted their characterisations accordingly, replacing creepy Owen with sarky Owen and playing up Jack/Ianto (and Owen/Tosh, a pairing I'm not really convinced by, but I guess maybe someone out there was writing it so it worked). Is this a potential future for shows like this? If a lot of people out there online are picking up on an angle to your character you haven't though about, will that become a sign that you might want to develop that angle or at least think about it when you're arranging your next season scripts? It's certainly got potential - after all, most shows aren't Buffy, Veronica Mars or West Wing and could actually use a bit of help with some of this stuff.
All this has lead me on into reading quite a bit more fic, and the other thing I have started noticing is that a lot of the writers who's work I enjoy are writing in fandoms where the source material isn't what I would call fantastic. I haven't seen any WW I like, or any Buffy stuff longer than say drabble lenght, but there's good Potterfic out there (mostly AU) and plenty of enjoyable SG1 and Whofic and so on and I find myself thinking that perhaps it's when the base isn't that great that the fan writers really get into it because it gives them more space to express themselves. When you're seeing missed opportunities left right and centre, maybe that's when you get inspired?
* yes, alright, you can all just pull faces and move on if you like, but I'm enjoying it
** see *