The first fan fiction I ever read was Defending Bjork. Written by then-prominent Gilmore Girls fan fiction author MahliaLily on the then-number-one resource for all things fan fiction, Fanfiction.Net, Defending Bjork sought to reimagine season two of Gilmore Girls. From the author’s summary:
What if Rory and Jess had destroyed the snowman in “Bracebridge Dinner”? What if everything had been different? What if Season 2 had gone my way?
I don’t remember how I found this fan fiction. I imagine it must have been on Fanforum, a message board where I was highly active in 2004—2005. I didn’t participate in the Literati (Jess and Rory) appreciation threads nearly as much as I participated in the threads for couples from One Tree Hill and The O.C., but I lurked. I felt intimidated by Literati fans’ intelligence, specifically their knowledge of books and pop culture. Anything they thought was interesting or cool, I wanted to know more about. I think that must be why I clicked the link for Defending Bjork, despite not knowing what fan fiction was or why I should care about it.
Defending Bjork was eye-opening. At 25 chapters and nearly 150,000 words, the story takes all of the best elements of Gilmore Girls’ second season and flips them on their head. Rory’s irascible boyfriend Dean is dumped far sooner than in the actual TV series, and for good reason. Jess’ vulnerability and obvious interest in Rory is shown with significantly more attention to detail than on the show. Rory herself is written with more sympathy than her TV counterpart, and Lorelai’s story is better integrated as well.
Reading this fan fiction felt like entering a world wherein all of my wildest dreams about one of my favorite shows had come true. I never liked Dean, fell almost immediately in love with Jess, and wanted so badly for Lorelai to realize Luke had feelings for her that it physically ached to watch their scenes.
I watched Gilmore Girls with a constant and impending sense of doom, especially that year. It was winter 2004, maybe a month before Christmas. The drafty corner of the upstairs common space where we kept the family computer was especially cold. I remember watching frost gather in the plastic-encased window, seeing the snow fall outside, and absolutely hating where season four of Gilmore Girls had gone.
Defending Bjork felt like a salve on open wounds. Once I read it (which took me days, the story quickly replacing the novel I’d been reading as my go-to during down time), I couldn’t stop. All I wanted to do was read fan fiction. The Fanfiction.Net archive, back then, was overflowing with stories begging to be devoured. I chewed my way through novel-length fan fiction as if the website were an all you can eat buffet and loved every minute of it.
What fascinated me most was the range of content provided in fan fiction. I wasn’t yet familiar with “AUs” — alternate universes — but once I learned what the term meant, I was all over it. Seeing these characters I’d grown to love placed in brand new situations was even more fun than the “fix-it” fan fiction I started off reading. It was inspiring. I wanted, desperately, to partake in this fascinating new world.
It would be several months before I wrote my own fan fiction. I began with the One Tree Hill fandom, because it was less intimidating, and because my main ship in that fandom gave me the space to explore my sexuality. Plus, the intelligence of Literati shippers still scared me. I worried I wasn’t a strong enough writer to present Jess and Rory in the same tangible, beautiful way as authors like MahliaLily. But I kept reading, and bought the books that these authors recommended via their fan fiction, and made notes in the margins just like Jess. I re-watched Gilmore Girls on DVD and made notes about the things I wanted to change, or see more of, or explore.
I published my first Jess and Rory fan fiction on July 18, 2005. It wasn’t good. It was experimental writing from a 15 year-old who was depressed and clinging to the one thing that made her happy. Eventually, I got better. And better. And better. I may not have always known about fan fiction, or the potential it offered, but now I’m forever grateful for its presence in my life.
I have Gilmore Girls to thank for that, sure, but mostly? I have Defending Bjork. It will always have a piece of my heart, even when I’m old, withered, and shouting about how horrible all of Rory’s boyfriends were. •
Samantha Pearson is a freelance writer, editor, and social media manager who currently writes for Rogues Portal and Culturess. Her work has also appeared on Femsplain. She occasionally blogs about vegan food and her life as a cat parent on her personal website, The Verbal Thing. Samantha likes comics, Shakespeare, cephalopods, space babes, MLPCCG, and dismantling the patriarchy. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.