The Plan featured image

Fan fiction. It’s a phrase that carries a surprising amount of baggage, these days – and be it misty-eyed fondness, cautious apprehension or downright apoplectic vitriol, it usually inspires some kind of reaction in just about anyone who’s ever considered themselves part of a fandom.

At some point in the coming weeks, I’m hoping to start examining the ins and outs, the ups and downs, the rare highs and countless painful lows of Dwarf-related fanfic. However, this isn’t it. What I’m posting here – and being, I suppose, a tad hypocritical while also putting my neck on the chopping block of criticism – is a piece of Red Dwarf fic I wrote a few months back. It’s the first piece of fanfic I’ve ever written, and if I’m honest I’m still not quite sure what possessed me to do so. I did, however, and in the interests of widening G&T’s overall remit, I’m sharing it here for the first time…

The Plan

It wasn’t any sort of life, he knew that.

Pushing trolleys. This was the sort of thing you did if you were a kid looking to earn a bit of cash on a Saturday, or a pensioner looking for something to get you out of the house as you whiled away your last days. It wasn’t something you made a living out of.

But what else was there? He had brains, he knew that. Brains he’d never really used. It was why he’d flunked out of school with barely a qualification to his name. And jobs were hard enough to come by in Liverpool these days. The Megamarket had practically rescued the city. Sure, a few religious types had complained about them knocking down the old Cathedral, but most of them hadn’t even been alive when the Church of England was officially denounced anyway. No, if it wasn’t for the Megamarket, he’d be properly smegged, and no mistake.

Still, though, there were better things than this. He knew it. He knew he was worth more than this. And that’s why he had his plan.

He’d been reading up on it. The Space Corps. Astros were the future. People respected them, looked up to them. They were the few, the brave. It didn’t matter that some of them amounted to little more than catering staff. They probably even had people parking trolleys on the ships’ onboard supermarkets. The thought made him chuckle.

But he could do it, he knew he could. You didn’t need any qualifications to get in on the ground floor. You could go in as a technician, work your way up. The sky was the limit. And the things you’d get to see! He’d always found himself tied down, to this little city, on this little planet. He wanted to see things. New places, new people. And it’s not like he had anything back here – no parents. A lousy job. No self-respect. Out there… he could be someone.

He was going to do it. It was his plan. He’d planned it.

Leaning on the trolley, dreaming of the better times to come, his reverie was broken by a voice calling his name. He looked up, and nodded a hello.

It was Dave, the kid from Aigburth. He liked Dave. He was a funny guy, with a chirpy smile for everyone that forced its way out of pudgy cheeks.

“Listen, man, it’s me birthday on Saturday. Few of us are gonna go down to London, have a bit of a pub crawl, like. Go round the Monopoly board, an’ that. You up for it?”

Chris thought about it. What was the worst that could happen? “Yeah, nice one.”

“Brutal.” Dave flashed a grin, just as a wispy moustache made its way out of the store. It was followed by the manager, whom Chris had once worked out as having been in the year below him at school.

“Lister!” he barked. “Are we paying you to sit around outside chatting, or to do some work?”

Dave’s face flashed with false contriteness. “Sorry, sir, right away, sir!” He slapped his forehead with the back of his hand in mock-salute; a gesture, mused Chris, that never failed to raise a smirk. He watched as the dreadlocked figure bounded back inside the shop. Yeah, he thought, he was a nice guy, the Lister kid. Smarter than he let on, too. But he always acted pretty daft, never took anything seriously. Chris couldn’t understand that. Didn’t he want to get anywhere in life? Make something of himself?

He knew it was silly, but Chris had often found himself – on those particularly long shifts, when even the most mundane of brain activity was a necessity – wondering how he’d stand up if he ever found himself as the sole representative of mankind, if someone was going to judge his entire people on his life, and his achievements. He knew that he didn’t measure up particularly well in this department, but it was thoughts such as these that had spurred him on. He was going to be someone, be proud of himself. He knew that people like Dave were all well and good to have around for a laugh, but could you really trust your future in their hands? Could you imagine someone like Dave as – he chuckled at the thought – the last man alive?

He was better than that, though. He knew it. He had his plan.

( Seb Patrick 2006. Characters etc. owned by GNP. )

33 comments on “The Plan

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  • Not bad, that. Not at all bad ^^ .

    I’m of two minds about fanfiction. On the one hand, I don’t necessarily think that anyone save those who created a certain character or brought it to life ought to try to put that character into new situations. After all, nobody really knows that character better than its creators, right? Like, say I have a really great idea for a short story about Arnold Rimmer (or so I think). I’ve seen the shows and read the books, but I wouldn’t say I’m as familiar with the character as, say, Grant Naylor, who made him, or Chris Barrie, who’s lived and breathed the character for a couple of decades now. Most writers of fanfic fall right into that trap. The worst fanfiction, for me, isn’t just horrid spelling and painful grammar and laughable plots; it’s the characters, these complex and intricate creations, subtly distorted or outright mangled to fit the shape of the writer’s often self-serving (read: “Gaah, another sex scene?” =P ) fantasy.

    On the other hand, a decent writer can bring even a part of someone else’s fictive universe to life in ways the original author never dreamt of. The novel Revenge, for instance, is The Count of Monte Cristo Revisited; but it’s written by Stephen Fry, who can do things with the English language that’ll make your knees weak and your stomach go all over butterflies, he’s that good. The man’s a literary genius, and if I’d written fiction that he saw fit to expand on creatively (not that that’s ever going to happen), I’d be downright honored.

    So…I guess whether or not I’m “into” fanfiction depends (well, in part) on who’s writing it. I suppose that sounds wishy-washy, but it makes sense; whether or not you enjoy a meal or a painting depends (again, in part) on who made it, right?

  • I used to be very, very against fan fiction. Then I realised that that was purely because I’d read so much *bad* stuff (*cough*MarieBirch*cough*) – not because it’s a bad idea in itself.

    I’ve got an old story I wrote when I was 13/14 somewhere in a big box of discs in the corner. It was entitled Fire, and was set after Series VI – the crew find Red Dwarf, and then set it on fire and have to leave again. HA HA TEH DRAMATIC IRONY. I’ll drag it out as soon as I can find a dual 5.25″/3.5″ drive for my BBC Master. I’m sure it’s utter shit and the worst thing in the world, but I have a feeling there was *one* really good joke amongst the dross – I just can’t remember what it is.

    I’d just been reading Primoridal Soup, so it’s in proper script format…

  • Guys, can I just say that I’ve been visiting this site for a long time and it’s the best it’s ever been. Bravo.

    Fan fiction is a terribly difficult thing if you’re writing for a comedy series, whereas drama is somewhat easier. Seb, I thought that was really good and very well written.

  • Guys, can I just say that I’ve been visiting this site for a long time and it’s the best it’s ever been. Bravo.

    *blush* Thanks!

    The site benefits from not being inflicted with my writing ALL the time now.

    Fan fiction is a terribly difficult thing if you’re writing for a comedy series, whereas drama is somewhat easier. Seb, I thought that was really good and very well written.

    I think you’re absolutely right. If you try and write funny Red Dwarf fan fiction, you’re essentially trying to be as funny as Rob Grant and Doug Naylor. Which is rather hard. Dramatic stuff is easier.

    (In fact, I’d argue that dramatic stuff is easier than comedy in any medium, not just fanfic. Comedy is severely underrated as an artform sometimes.)

  • I think the difference between comedy and drama, is that the writer’s often have to do a great deal of the work with comedy (especially dialog driven comedy like Dwarf) but when you’re writing drama, especially something simple like fan-fic drama, all you need a nifty idea and the actual execution isn’t quite as important or hard as going proper comedy.

  • Yes, the two comments above are something I’m going to look into when I actually do the article. The problem with writing Dwarf fic is that it isn’t primarily (in my view, at least), a sci-fi show – it’s a sitcom. So if you write a story with a sci-fi bent, it’s probably going to be less interesting than, say, Trek or Galactica; and if you try and make it funny, well, you’ll usually fail, because the majority of people (especially those who aren’t even anywhere near being professional writers) just aren’t as funny as Rob and Doug (hence the myriad stories that simply copy existing gags and alter them slightly). It’s a bit of a lose-lose situation, really.

    The handful of decent Dwarf stories I’ve read were ones that were, instead, thoughtful meditations on – and explorations of – character. The story I posted above (thanks for the comments, btw) isn’t anywhere near as good as, say, The Last Temptation of Kryten, but it is, at least, an attempt to do that sort of thing.

  • Oh, I remember you talking about that. In fact, now I think of it, I think I just wholesale NICKED YOUR OPINIONS.

    The Last Temptation of Kryten is just glorious. It does everything a good fanfic story should do.

  • You know, this has got me thinking about trying to write my own Dwarf fan fiction. Something I never thought I’d do again…

    It’s interesting to note that when I wrote that Dwarf script back in 94/95, I didn’t know what fan fiction was!

  • >You know, this has got me thinking about trying to write my own Dwarf fan fiction.

    You’re not the only one. I’ve had some ideas, but not the nerve to carry it out…maybe I might, however, as I’m among some very good writers who don’t look down on that sort of thing.

    >I’ll be discussing Temptation among other things soon, but in the meantime it’s here :

    Oh, yes. Yes. Sweet God, yes.

  • Just read it. ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT!! Funny, gorgeous prose, great plot and an inspired ending. Does Doug Naylor know stuff like this exists?

  • With Dwarf we’re fortunate in that there are four novels to look at and take pointers from. If you think about it, the Dwarf books are basically fan-fic but written by the creators.

  • I’d love to read some Obs Dome or G&T as it is know written fan-fiction.

    You mean, like the one you just read? ;-)

  • Exactly like the one I just read. Did I not mention I was impressed? It kind of proved my feeling that it would be better than the previous stuff I’ve dabbled with.

    I liked that despite referencing older gags and familiar ideas. These were not the strongest part of your work, the were just little tags that reminded the reader which universe they’re in. The coathanger rather than the Suit.

    Which reminds me the other comment I wanted to make about fan fiction is I’d rather it expanded upon the universe than necessarily featuring Lister, Rimmer & Co. Fleshing out side characters or stories set in the Red Dwarf Universe but away from The Dwarf. Series 3000 mechs on the run concealing their indentities? A Hologram Private Investigator utilising the ability to walk through walls?

    > et al, Karl

    Ahem. That too! Mange tout.

  • Ah Fan-Fiction.

    You mean there is such a thing as good fan-fiction? I’ll check that out later. Infact *yes* It’s just been proved that such a thing exists by Mr Patrick above. Thought that was great, nice twist et al.

    What has always grated me and is the staple of bad fan-fiction is the re-hashing of gags and a characters past history (as Seb pretty much summed up above tbh).

    I think what’s interesting though is that on the one hand we baulk at the idea of ourselves or indeed anyone being as good as Grant/Naylor and likewise Arlene makes a good case for only a character’s creator being able to fully understand them. Yet in criticising Series 7 and 8 – a lot of the bashing was how out-of-character some of the jokes and dialogue were (or was that just me). Sure it fits with episodes written by the additional writers but it also seemed the case on occasion in shows written purely by Doug.

    Also, a lot of complaints levelled at fan-fiction can be equally levelled those latter shows. The “in-jokes”, laughs being dragged kicking and screaming from much better gags from previous episodes. What keeps a sitcom good is growth. New laughs that are completly in-keeping with the character we’ve grown to KNOW and love.

    Funnily enough like Jon I did the thing of writing fan-fiction when I didn’t know what it was. A long-winded Knightmare story and a few scenes of a RD episode. I can’t remember what the story was now but it was effectively a re-hash of Meltdown but with Holograms and fictional characters (Batman featured) replacing Historical ones (it was crap quite, frankly). Allthough I do remember coming up with the episode title “Hollymorph” which I was rather proud of at the time.

    I also had another idea for a Kochanksi focused episode where they went back in time and ended up on some passenger ship which was about to be blown up by terrorists, one of whom turned out to be Kochanski’s dad. There was a deep moral ‘Can I kill my own father to save innocent people’ storyline. I was a cheery child.

    A random thought I’ve had that’s been hovering around since the birth of Observation Dome is that I’d love to read some Obs Dome, or G&T as it is now, written fan-fiction. Simply because I feel you know & love the characters in a way most people who write fan-fiction don’t seem to. Whether this was done through some G&T held writing competition, a mutual dare between regulars or even a group effort (Sort of fan-fiction goes american sitcom writing committee).

    EDIT: Apologies for my awful spelling and grammar. I’ve re-jigged my post so hopefully it should at least be readable now.

  • >EDIT: Apologies for my awful spelling and grammar. I’ve re-jigged my post so hopefully it should at least be readable now.

    You’re a good sport, Karl. Hope you didn’t think I was being nasty, it was just driving me a bit batty, because I’m a pedant.

  • I hate fan fiction.

    John Travolta and that black dude with a perm wandering around shooting people and swearing a lot. Oh no hang on that’s Pulp Fiction sorry…

    The Movie: Yeah no Yeah no is the funniest fan fiction I’ve ever seen.

    I agree with Karl that if it expands on the universe rather that focusing
    on the main characters and trying to emulate the same style as the show
    it can work better.

  • Not at all Tanya. My spelling and use of the english language has become awful! Amazingly I used to top the class in english as a child. Where did it all go wrong? Anytime I make even the most insignificant error I like having it pointed out. How else is there to learn?

  • The Movie: Yeah no Yeah no is the funniest fan fiction I’ve ever seen.

    And yet – I didn’t actually think of that as being fan fiction!

    I do think you’re right though – it counts.

  • > I do think you’re right though – it counts.

    The man’s giving us praise, OF COURSE he’s right.

    Carry on, Jon.

  • Speaking of fanfic, I was Wiki-browsing and came across this article defending the concept of fanfiction–it’s in response to another strongly anti-fanfic piece. I thought it might be relevant to the topic here…

  • Haha, now you two look FOOLISH.

    That’ll teach you to reply to people who aren’t there!

  • …So, you two gonna fight or something?

    ‘Cos if you are, gimme some time to go make popcorn.

    Also, now I read it again, I second the idea that a sort of G&T fanfic competition or round-robin story or something like that would be rather fun if everyone else wanted to/had time for it…

  • >Haha, now you two look FOOLISH.
    >That?ll teach you to reply to people who aren?t there!

    Now now Cappsy, There’s no need to go making me look foolish.

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