Fan fiction has never been, so to speak, my jam. I don’t read it, and I don’t write it, though with all of that said I do like a good short story. This post is about two pieces of fan fiction I have read, and they are two of the best short stories I have ever come across, period. They are “The Doctor’s Case” by Stephen King, and “Lacero” by Andy Weir. And since you probably know both of those authors, it’s fair to say these aren’t normal pieces of fan fiction, and I’ll give you that. So if you’re a huge fan fiction fan you might be grumbling, but if you’re like me and fan fiction also isn’t your jam, maybe these are two stories worth checking out.
“The Doctor’s Case” was published in 1987. You can find it in King’s short story collection Nightmares & Dreamscapes. “Case” was written while King was binging Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It’s Sherlock Holmes fan fiction, or perhaps, technically, pastiche, in the vein of The Seven-Per-Cent Solution. Regardless of how you classify, however, the story is about a crime which Dr. Watson solves instead of Holmes. Also, it’s a classic locked room murder story. Though I first read “Case” ten years ago I still come back to it from time to time, and King’s ability to imitate Doyle’s style, as well as create a good mystery, is superb.
I truly think that King is the best living short story author right now. Not the best short story writer ever, mind you, but there’s a reason King has won the O. Henry Award, plus pretty much every other short story award there is. King’s short fiction is now regularly published in The New Yorker, Esquire, Tin House, The Atlantic—all of the high-brow literary publications. But his work, including “Case,” is not hard to understand. Two good illustrations of King’s ability, for the uninitiated and for those scared of horror, are the short stories the films Stand By Me and The Shawshank Redemption are based on. So if you didn’t know, King can be pretty varied.
The second piece of fan fiction I’ve really enjoyed is fan fiction in the truest sense. “Lacero” by Andy Weir is a companion piece to Ready Player One. You might recognize Weir for writing The Martian, as well as the newly-released Artemis. And apparently he enjoyed Ready Player One so much that he created a supplemental story to the novel, available on his website. And Ernest Cline, author of Player, enjoyed Weir’s work so much that “Lacero” was included in Player’s 2016 edition. “Lacero” adds an incredible angle to the main novel, without taking anything away from the central Cline narrative. Probably, this is fan fiction at its best.
I actually don’t want to get into what “Lacero” is about, except to say you do need to have read Player to understand it. Or, I guess, you could watch the movie. Also, though Weir wrote the story a few years ago, “Lacero” is not about the connections that form as a result of social media, but rather about the problems that online interactions can cause. With Facebook being in the news quite a bit recently for the very same thing, Weir’s work is extremely timely. Since I really enjoyed it, and “The Doctor’s Case,” too, I guess I’ll have to check out some more fan fiction in the future as a result. Tell me if you have any suggestions!
–Jeff and Leah