In one way, I see fan fiction taking story-making full circle, from telling stories around the fire, to folktales, to written literature, film, and now electronic mass media, and fan fiction then re-appropriates the mass media to create this proliferating, grass-roots art form that you could see as a new kind of folk art.
And then in this new, unregulated space, things like slash fiction could emerge that rewrote the possibilities of gender and sexuality, adding them into that narrative of the future. That was pretty radical when it started in the 1970s. And it’s interesting that slash began mainly with women writers. I really wanted to fold in the Mary Sue phenomenon, which also rose out of early fan fiction by women, but then turned into a weapon used by fanboys against women writers. Women in fan fiction feels somehow related to the growing numbers of great women’s voices in SSF writing now. I know it’s not a direct line, and that the wave of new women writers may be more of a concurrent phenomenon, but women writing fan fiction could have been a contributing factor. It was liberating, and it still can be.
In a way, The Speed of Clouds is about the difficulty and inevitability of change. All the supporting stories are about this too. But, thinking about this now, I’m seeing the world of sci-fi fandom as a place where you sort of develop a muscle for dealing with change, because with each new story, you have to learn a whole new world, or at least some new twist that makes everything different. Right now, we’re seeing the ugly results of people terrified of change, and trying to turn the clock back, which ultimately never works. Fans and writers in SFF operate in a different arena, and that gives me some hope.