My first work of fanfiction: A Review of Collared by Kari Gregg
So back in September I read this amazing book, Collared by Kari Gregg. It’s an erotic fantasy set in the near future where an unexplained disaster involving agricultural products has made the entire world population far more dominant and aggressive—except for .1%. That .1%, called anomalies, have become far more submissive. In this new society, anomalies are like bleeding seals in a sea of sharks: the more aggressive predators are instinctively drawn to them, and they have no choice but to seek out protectors, praying that protection will not come at too high a price.
The story focuses on one anomaly, Connor Witt, a gay IT Director at “Trans-Global,” who is preyed on by his co-workers, friends, and ex-boyfriends, until the CEO of his company, David Martin, finally takes pity on him and claims or “collars” him. David, however, is straight and engaged and so won't have sex with him. Complicating matters, another executive in the building, Emmet Drake, who is gay, has also set his sights on Connor. The story focuses on the two dominant men's conflict over Connor, as well as Connor's own struggles with how to come to terms with his new status and personality, the ways he tries to hang on to the man he used to be and his confusion and loss when the world refuses him permission to do that.
I found it really brilliant, memorable, and scaldingly hot. My only issue was that it was short--roughly 140 pages. That's fine for the story, but I wanted more: more world-building, more intrigue, much more on the politics. Gregg drops tantalizing hints--as the story unfolds, Congress is debating revoking citizenship and most rights for anomalies, leaving them as virtual property of their masters--but those hints are not her main focus.
And therein lay the problem. The premise just had too many unexploited possibilities. A surprisingly complete alternative plot-line sprang into my head and would not leave--and I really liked it. I wanted it to come into being as fiction; I wanted to see where it would go.
Now, I am not someone who "does" fan fiction. Until the talk about Fifty Shades of Grey and Twilight, I’d never heard of such a thing. I've since learned that it’s a vast galaxy, full of its own rules, websites, acronyms, legalities, and even scholars who are studying the phenomenon. But none of that means that I am prepared to actually write it! I can't make money off of it--I have better things to do with my time--and E. L. James notwithstanding, the whole idea is embarrassing. It's fan fiction, people!
But! but! but! This damn book would not leave me alone. Sooooooo I started writing Kari Gregg fan fiction--defined here as a novel set in the world she imagined in Collared. At the current count it is over 16,000 words, and I will probably try to finish it, despite its bastard status in the Lilia Ford canon.
I do not consider it a waste of time. I’ve learned a lot through the process--about a book and author I greatly admire and about my own fixations.
First off: I am neither interested in nor capable of writing a Kari Gregg novel. I poached her premise, but otherwise, there isn’t much similarity. My story is set twenty years after the events in hers and is MF, i.e. about a straight couple. Unsurprisingly, I spend a lot of time imagining the political and medical decisions that first denied anomalies (I call them omegas) their rights and then (in my book) saw them gradually restored.
More subtly, my notion of a submissive character is very different than Gregg’s. Gregg, at least in her long fiction, tends to focus on intensely and eagerly submissive characters. I wouldn’t call them cringing or abject, and they are definitely sexy, but I don’t think I could ever seriously write a main character as submissive as Connor Witt, and certainly not a female character. (For reasons I hope to explore in a later post, in D/s stories, I can tolerate a much more thorough domination if the submissive is male.)
Janie, my heroine, is unable to assert herself because of her “omega” condition, but otherwise she is not particularly submissive. It is the “Alpha” world around her that demands it--indeed, makes it dangerous for her to do anything else. She has a genuine love/hate with the man claiming her, and since she’s totally inexperienced, her story is also very focused on her fears and ambivalence about sex itself (which is very much a female story line). Basically, she is a lot more like the heroine of The Heartwood Box than she is like the hero of Collared.
As I hope is clear by now, I strongly recommend Collared. I’ve read more than 600 books over the last four years, and this is the only one that aroused a desire to fan-fictionalize. I’ll even go so far as to say I consider it infinitely more deserving of fan fiction than Twilight. I hope that Kari Gregg wherever she is takes this as a compliment--it is intended as such. Either way, I owe her thanks for writing such a provocative, inspiring story.