Liz Barr is a 19 year old university student who sometimes squeezes a little study between fanfic. She lives in Brisbane, Australia and has way too much fun describing herself in the third person.
LOONY ARCHIVIST: How long have you been writing fan fiction?
LIZ BARR: This is a tricky one. I started coming up with new stories for my favourite TV characters before I could write. I tried writing a Star Trek: The Next Generation "novel" when I was 12. But I was 15 when I wrote fanfic, knowing what it was. So I've been at it for 4 years.
What do you see as the unique challenges of writing fan fiction? How do you cope with the often widespread view that writing in an established universebe that a television series, graphic novel series, fan fiction, or other shared worlds and collaborationsis easier than creating original characters and settings?
It is easier. I recently tried my hand at something original, but you could have changed the main character's name to Kathryn Janeway and called it a Voyager story.
The challenge comes in writing characters which are known to others. They have to be true to the canon character (although we have a lot of scope with Janeway, since she varied a lot over the years) or at least, we have to be able to account for wild divergences from accepted reality. And yet, "accepted reality" is a highly subjective concept, which gives a fanfic writer a lot of room to move.
What was the first piece of fan fiction you ever read?
I read about a dozen in one night with my best friend we were 15, so naturally, there was a strong leaning to NC-17 material (grin). It was all Janeway/ChakotayI remember reading Marden and Micbo's "Mirror Mirror" retelling, a Janeway/Chakotay story where Q rapes Janeway, a bondage fic which apparently still haunts my friend.
The one which left me in a daze, which made me want to write, was "Captain's Log" by Sharon Nuttycomb. It was very powerfulJaneway allows herself to be abandoned on a planet so that Voyager gets home. It ends with her injured and believing that she'll dieit was quite extraordinary, and I think the notion of sacrifice has spilled over into my own fanfic.
I was deeply disappointed when I discovered a sequel (with a happy ending) a year later.
What was the first piece of fan fiction you ever wrote?
Going with the stuff I wrote when I was 15, rather than anything earlierit was an "epic" about Voyager discovering a race which creates wormholes. They send Voyager home, but send a Garak-like ambassador with them. I never finished it, but I reread the draft last year, and was surprised to find a lot more sex and slash than I write now.
My first completed story was a J/C songfic (based on a Savage Garden B-side, complete with quoted lyrics) called "Carry on Dancing". It had a decent mood and some nice imagery, but it wasn't exactly stand-out material.
What is it about Star Trek: Voyager that inspires you to write?
Janeway. When I was a 13 year old fangirl, I thought she'd been created just for my entertainment. I was very cynical about the notion of role models, but there was something about her which sucked me in. I've discovered that this was a fairly common reaction among female fanfic writers of all ages.
Who is your favourite Star Trek: Voyager lower decks character to write?
My favourite to write is Nicoletti, with her tragi-comic infatuation with Janeway. And my least favourites... well, Mortimer Harren keeps demanding complex mathematical jokes, which isn't going to happen on account of my failing maths. And I sometimes have trouble distinguishing Mitchell and Mulcahey. They're both a little genericthey became confused in my mind at one point, and I haven't been able to disentangle them.
What do you believe are Star Trek: Voyager's greatest strengths, and greatest weaknesses, as a series?
The greatest strength is the epic quality. The journey, the redemptions, the relationships which could have been great love affairs. Endgame tried to capture this, but only got halfway there. Which brings me to the greatest weaknessessmall minded thinking, a reliance on old ideas, old storytelling styles and a general unwillingness to exploit the full potential of the characters and situations.
Which of the four Trek series is your favourite, and why? Which of the four Trek series do you believe to be of the highest calibre?
My favourite is Voyager, because it came into my life when I was 13, and dominated my teenage years. It was just the right series at the right time.
The best series is Deep Space Nine, which did take risks, and which did tell its epic stories in a creative fashion. Unfortunately, the characters didn't grab me until too late, which is why it's not my favourite series.
What is your favourite Star Trek: Voyager episode, and why?
Counterpoint. Because not only does it have a sexual, romantic element which Voyager too-often lacked, but it was a cerebral, intellectual story which relied on the characters to work. I also liked Living Witness, Endgame, Maneuvers and Resistance... many others. But it's Counterpoint that stands out.
If you had been given the opportunity to write an episode of Star Trek: Voyager, what story would you have liked to tell?
Hooo boy. I'd like to say a sequel to Counterpoint, but there was no need... I think I would have told a Borg story, dealing with the intellectual threat of the Hive. Because I always saw the Borg as sexual and addictive and beautiful and terrifying all at once, and Voyager didn't use those qualities to their full potential.
Something involving genetic engineering, or the technological enhancement of humanoids would have been cool.
Or maybe just the story that was promised for Buffy's 5th seasonthe all naked, all gay episode.
You know, maybe it's a good thing they didn't put me in charge...
How do you see stories being shaped by their medium? For example, what do you think makes a good episode, as opposed to a novel or short story? What do you see as the benefits and drawbacks unique to the separate mediums (teleplays versus prose)?
A teleplay or script can deal with more elementsit can use visuals to manipulate the audience, it can use music, clothing. It's harder to do this with a novel or short story and make it seem natural. The prevalence of songfic suggests that music is a significant part of a television experience, one which is lacking in prose.
On the other hand, prose can delve further into a character's mind without the use of clumsy monologues or character stories which an audience might decry as "soapy". A novel is less likely to be tampered with to fit a target audience, it's certainly created by an individual or individuals, rather than a faceless (and therefore malevolent (grin)) group labelled The Powers That Be.
They both have their strengths and weaknesses. I have more experience writing prose, but I do like screenplays.
What do you think sets Star Trek: Voyager apart from the other Trek series?
The women. There are a lot of women in genre series at the moment, including Trek, but none of them had the same click as the women of Voyager. Janeway, obviously, is the key figure, but Seven, B'Elanna and Kes were all special in their ways. It would have been nice to see their characters in more detail (except for Seven, whose development was largely satisfying), but I do think this is what sets Voyager apart from the rest.
Who is your favourite professional Trek author or authors?
I don't read many Trek novels... Christie Golden is quite good, but her characters are sometimes off just a little. Diane Carey's "Fire Ship" was fun, but her view of Janeway didn't quite mesh with mine. I love Peter David's Q novelsI'm sorry that he didn't like Voyager enough to write for that.
Who is your favourite fan Trek author or authors?
Oh wow, that's quite a list. The archipelago writers especially August herself, Boadicea, Kelly, and ChristineCGB, who's a good friend. I love m. c. moose's Janeway stories. Ellen M has left Trek fandom, but I still enjoy her work. Penny Proctor writes some lovely J/C. I enjoy Seema's work. There are others, but these are the ones I come back to regularly.
If you could change three things about Star Trek: Voyager, what would they be? I.e., what three things would you like to see on Star Trek: Voyager?
Only 3? (grin) Firstly, I would have reduced Seven's presence a little. I liked her, but I got sick of her quickly. I would have changed the way the Borg were usedI would have used them as a psychological threat, rather than just an excuse for big explosions. Not that I don't like big explosions... For my final change, I would have changed the format of the dialogue a littleincreased the pace, made it a little less formal. There's a certain formula in the way Starfleet officers speak, but it shouldn't carry to their off-duty conversations.
What would you like to see change in the fan fiction written about the series? What trends would you like to see make a comeback or fade away never to be seen again?
That's a tough one, since someone will invariably be offended... I hate seeing weepy, wishy washy Janeways, B'Elannas and Sevens. Babyfic should be handled very carefully. And I recently read an entry in a fairly prominent Voyager series where Chakotay spends an inordinate amount of time talking to himself.
I think that writers should look at the behaviour of their characters and ask themselves, would real people do this? Would [insert character here] do this? Would someone really say this?
If you had to pick just one Star Trek: Voyager story you have written that you would want to be remembered for, which story would it be?
I'm only allowed to pick one? That's really unfair. Um... I'm rather proud of my J/Nicoletti, "Cold Hands, Cold Heart". There are others which I consider excellent, but that's one of my best. Andooh, since that was angsty, I'm also going to pick a humourous story"Matchmaker", the lower decks story which kicked off the shole J/Nicoletti thing anyway.
Conversely, what one story do you think people will always remember you for?
"Book of the Dead" was my first post to ASC, and it won the Best J/C Story award. It didn't get much attention from the rest of the fanfic community, though. Conversely, my drabble "At it like Tribbles" didn't get much attention on ASC, but has had over 1000 hits from the J/C Index. Only 4 pieces of feedback, unfortunately, but I'm guessing that it was popular. I guess those two are the stories I'm associated with.
Now that the series has ended, and with very little closure for many characters, what do you see as the future of these characters?
I think that the absence of closure was actually a positive for fic writers, since it gives us free reign with the character's futures. Personally, I tend to change a little with every ficI never tie myself down to one timeline.
The most likely futures are happy endingsJaneway gets promoted, Chakotay and Seven live happily ever after on some planet somewhere, where he can build bathtubs and she can study stellar phenomenae. They'll scatter, but reunite often... I can't really see TPTB giving us any other kind of future, so it's easy to believe that this one is true.
Are you planning on continuing to write Voyager stories, and if so, set in the Delta Quadrant? Or the Alpha Quadrant?
Whatever I'm in the mood for. I wrote a fair few alpha quad fics before they got homeI like having the familiar settings. But if I'm in the mood for a DQ fic, then I'll write it.
I do expect to keep going with Voyager, at least until something catches my fancy to the same extent. I love Buffy and The West Wing, but my attention is divided, so I don't give either of them the same dedication I gave to Voyager. I got a lot from Voyager fandom, especially fanfic and the associated communities. I don't want to walk away, no matter how petty or stifling it may seem some days. It gets better. It gets worse. And at the end of the day, I can turn off the computer and think about something else until I'm ready to go back.
Liz Barr's fan fiction can be found on her website, Elizabeth's corner of the web
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