LA BELLE ET LA BÊTE
FANZINES AND FANFICTION
Catherine is alive and well!
Photomontage by S
She and Vincent are living a happy, if not always peaceful, life, in the Tunnels or maybe a Manhattan townhouse, with their children. They went through many trials, came more than once close to losing each other, but finally their dream came true.
Over the last two decades, dozens of mostly amateur writers have taken their pen (or their keyboard) to rewrite the story in their own way.
The hundreds of stories available online are but the visible part of a huge iceberg. Though many authors now write directly for the Web, a great part of the existing stories were originally published in paper fanzines. And even if quite a lot of them are now posted on websites, with their authors' permission, a number of others, whose authors dropped out of sight or simply don't wish to share their work that way, still exist only in printed form.
Those home-made books, most often photocopied and hand-bound, were sold to fans at the cons and through mail-order, by fan-clubs or by the authors themselves, and rarely more than a few dozen copies of each were issued. A zine can contain either a full novel or a collection of short stories by one or several authors, and is generally illustrated with original artwork. Many of them were works of art by themselves, beautifully and lovingly put together.
Among the most celebrated zines in fandom, the three "Kaleidoscope" by Cynthia Hatch
Since the great majority of fandom is now online, very few new ones are ever issued nowadays, with the exception of the yearly "conzine" put together for the US conventions. But the second-hand market is flourishing, whether at cons or on auction sites like e-bay, where some very sought-for "cult" zines have been known to reach well over a hundred dollars.
There are about all kinds of stories, from the 100-line humorous or tender vignette to the 300-page family saga, from romance to mystery to fantasy, from speculations about Vincent's origins to cross-overs with other shows like Quantum Leap or Lois and Clark
Rewriting or extending the episodes, creating new plots, or giving the story a different start, everything is possible, so long as the show's universe and characterization are respected. The literary quality is variable, but the general level is quite good. The B&B fandom even has a more than average share of really talented writers.
To sort out those thousands of stories, the fans have come up with -admittedly rough- categories.
V&C stories that take place during the first two seasons, or those that either refute or ignore Third Season.
"First Time" stories
The CBS producers' and censors' fears about possible accusations of "bestiality" (!) long precluded even a simple kiss between Vincent and Catherine. When the consummation finally takes place in the show, it's during Vincent's madness, and that transgression will be "punished" by Catherine's demise.
But for the fans, there's no question that Vincent is a man, even though he sometimes doubts it, and there's no reason, except in his head, for his relationship with Catherine to remain eternally platonic.
What circumstances or arguments would be likely to overcome Vincent's inhibitions and make him "move toward love", at last? The authors show a great deal of imagination, and often also a lot of psychological subtlety in analyzing a complex and tormented relationship.
All kinds of plot devices are used to
trigger that resolution, and the resulting consummation comes in all
"flavors" and ratings, from candy-pink romantic ellipse to sweetly
erotic allusions to steamy explicit sex scenes. Some zines, stories and
websites have an "adult material" warning.
"Continuing Classic" (Happy ever after)
So, they've "done it", at last. Now what?
Are they going to get married? Where will they live?
Will they have children? Grandchildren? What will the kids look like?
Is it the end of their adventures?
What will become of the world Below and its inhabitants?
The "SND" stories" (She's Not Dead!)
Stories meant to "right the wrongs" of Season 3. Different stratagems are used to keep Catherine alive.
It was all a dream. After his descent into madness at the end of season 2, and the illness that followed, Vincent wakes up to find Catherine at his side. The season 3 events were nothing but an awful nightmare! Sometimes used as a trigger for a "first time": he's been so afraid to lose her!
Rescued "in extremis". Catherine is saved just in time from Gabriel's clutches, or prevented earlier on from being abducted.
She's only supposed to be dead. In fact she's prisoner/amnesic/in a coma/on the run/under witness protection and will reappear after some months/years.
She's also been known to come back as a ghost or even ressuscitate, but that's kind of stretching the 'she's not dead' category...
Accepting Catherine's death as a fact, they explore themes such as mourning, little Jacob, or the Vincent/Diana relationship. Can't tell you much about those since they're not at all my cup of tea, but I've been told there are some very beautiful ones.
There are also:
"Alternate Beginning" stories: The story's universe remains the same, but V&C meet in a different way.
And "Alternate Universe" stories, in which V&C, and sometimes other characters, are set into a different universe: science-fiction, fantasy, fairytale...
Photomontage by Lynn Wright (on CABB)
'Canon' and 'Fanon'
Catherine and 'Caroline' Chandler
Most other 'fanfic canons' concern the tunnels' daily life. The show isn't very detailed about that, there are even a few contradictions, and the authors were forced to build a consistency of their own. It's generally agreed on that the tunnels have a common kitchen (since there's a cook, William), and a community dining hall. But, since the show doesn't say a word about the admittedly unromantic plumbing matters (seems the ubiquitous pipes are only used for communication purpose), one of the most unanimous points among fic authors is the existence Below of hot springs, complete with bathing pools. A truly handy commodity... in more ways than one!
Photomontage by Lynn Wright (on CABB)
Another, rather curious, but apparently widely adopted fanfic canon is the Tunnel custom of putting an unlit lantern in front of a door as a 'do not disturb' sign. With those doorless chambers, particularly Vincent's (Grand Central Chamber!), the invention can indeed prove useful. But I do wonder where the idea came from...
After twenty years and thousands of stories, one could think the subject has been explored to death. Not so! New writers appear, new stories are written even now. To renew the topic, authors sometimes explore paths and possibilities that make the die-hard 'classic' fans cringe, but it takes all kinds. The tunnels are (most of the time) a place of great tolerance, where everyone is free to write what they want, provided the readers get a warning so they can freely choose to read... or not. That somewhat touchy matter of labelling still occasions some very.. lively online discussions, a proof that fandom is alive and healthy! And meanwhile, the classic authors go on exploring, with constantly renewed imagination, the more traditional themes that the readers never tire of rediscovering again and again under a new, fresh light.
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