With Friends Like These, Who Has Energy for Shame?

This is probably one thing that doesn’t bother me about writing — there is at not point where I’ve been ashamed to admit what I write.

Okay, that’s actually a little bit of a lie, but I didn’t want to talk about fanfiction for, what, the sixth week in a row? I can’t help it; the bulk of my experience in writing fanfiction. It’s just what I did do.

I’ve never been, precisely, ashamed or worried about what I’ve written. I went through a phase in college where I deleted accounts that hosted the most pornographic of the stuff I’d written, worried that it would hurt my chances of becoming a “real” writer. (If only I could have known that 2012 would make a fad out of porn written by emotionally-immature women, I’d’ve kept it up!) And I sometimes sort of hedge around the topic of fandom, though less and less as I realize that I don’t want to fragment my experiences like that.

But when I was 17? Oh man, I was mortified of the very thought of people finding out what I was writing during classes. I used to hedge around it with phrases like “alternative fiction” and “character-building stuff.”

I think this might have even continued, if I hadn’t moved to Madison right out of high school to live/work with a good friend of mine. She’s a poet and very bohemian and all that stuff, so filters were things for other people. She knew I was shy and horrible around new people, and thus introduced me to her friends (and people we had just met) with, “Hi, this is Ashes — she writes gay anime porn!” And I mean ALL THE TIME. A friend of hers from her hometown (who is now published, so, hooray for him!) brought her his manuscript one afternoon, and she’s like, “Ashes wants to be a writer too — she’s writing anime porn right now!” And he’s like, “Cool, fan fiction is pretty rad.”

Or something like that. I was 18 and literally terrified.

But you know what? I realized quickly that no one gave a shit what I was writing. (And in the right hippie circles, it was actually interesting.)

I’m not going to say that I was always proud of fanfiction I did write, or that it was all great and deep. For instance, when I went to the first NaNoWriMo meetup here in Lawrence, I was terrified people would take one look at me and go, “Fanfic writer! Get thee out of here, you will never write anything original worth publishing!” And then publicly shame me out of the coffee shop until I never dared set foot in a writer’s meeting again.

(Don’t ask; I have unhealthy fears. I may still be waiting for this moment.)

And once, I had a friend in college who used to think it was funny to tell people in anime club, “That’s Ashes, she’s a pedophile,” because pretty much every character in anime is a teenager. It was really hard to explain how seriously not cool that was.

[Also: my friends are clearly assholes. (She said, mostly with affection.)]

But that’s it right there. Frankly, after having to frantically explain to strangers, “No, I’m not a pedophile, she’s just being a bitch,” — and then having to explain, “Though, yes, I do write anime porn, that part was true,” literally nothing about content is scary to me. If I have to call my mother right now, it would go like this:

“Hey Mom, I wrote this sci-fi story where people have computers built into their brains. There’s — um — some very lightly implied group sex, if you look at it that way, and some pretty homoerotic scenes involving USB ports.”

She would have this adorable weird laugh that you know if you’ve met her, and go, “Oh. Any word back on publishing it, then?”

Ashley M. Hill found her voice in science fiction when her curiosity about technology coupled with the lifelong urge to tell stories. Her interest in social and feminist issues shapes how she approaches the genre. She's pursuing computer and network repair for her day job.

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