I can’t read Harry Potter anymore. I mean the canon. The Rowling books. I can’t do it. I loved them, the first time I read them, when only the first two had been published. I loved waiting for the next book. (I’m a delayed-gratification kid, no question. The British TV show Cracker has an excellent psychological assessment of people based on how they eat sweets, and I’m definitely a roll the lolly around and suck it sweets-eater. I didn’t mean that as dirty as it sounded.)

So while waiting for the new book, I read the fanfiction. I refer, frequently, to fanfiction as “crack.” I have been sucked down into fanfiction for days. When I go deep into fanfiction, I forget there’s a real world outside. Some fandoms–Harry Potter, say, or West Wing and X-Files years back–lend themselves to the sensation that you could read fanfic for the rest of your life and never read it all. Others, sadly–Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga comes to mind, and The Marketplace books by Laura Antoniou–don’t have nearly enough rabid fanfic scribblers.

A lot of fanfiction is drivel. So is a lot of original fiction. But man, there are incredible, transcendent writers in both camps, and I’ve put in the hours to find them.

These days, I can’t pick up Rowling’s Potter books. And not just because she’s a knucklehead about posthumous reveals and authorial regret. (No credit for gay characters who aren’t actually out, people. Also, you don’t get to rewrite canon because you think you should have shipped your main characters differently. That’s what fanfiction’s for.) The writing’s just not up to my current hoity-toity standards.

I used to read anything. I used to watch anything on television, too. Even the bad stuff. Even the appalling stuff. I watched Seventh Heaven for awhile, man. And I watched its less popular-but-similarly-conceived younger sibling, Promised Land, which was the better of the shows. (I apparently have a kink for lousy Christian programming to the masses. I’m also a bit of a genius with actors; if you ever watched Seventh Heaven, you should go track down the Always Sunny episodes with the dad from it. Hilarious.)

These days, I spend my time playing outside with the kid, or doing knuckle push ups, or working the day job from home, which means it never really feels like I’m done. Thus: less time spent reading and watching TV, so I’m more choosy.

I loved HP fanfiction. Even the bad stuff. Even the kinky-beyond-my-kinks stuff. (Though really, I have no intention of ever reading the trope where Snape and Harry have to get married to save their lives/the wizarding world/Hogwarts/whatever again. Thanks, but no thanks.) I discovered some amazing goddamn writers through fanfiction. (See: Sarah Rees Brennan, who used to write as Maya, and did gorgeous, extraordinary things with Slytherin House. See: AJ Hall, my favorite, whose LoPiverse books are the ones I still re-read when I need a dose of that world. She’s also in the middle of a Sherlock series that blows me the fuck away. I’ve read it all the way through twice and constantly refresh the News page of her site to see when the next one comes out.)

These folks write better than the canon. And not just technically (though, yeah, that too), but with depth. Canon is fine, but leaves a bittersweet taste in my mouth. Dumbledore’s kind of a douche. Snape only has complexity in very specific scenes, but when she was writing the early books, she just wasn’t a good enough writer to make him three dimensional all the time. And hey, I get it. But if I can read better fiction (and it exists, in fanfic), then that’s what I plan to do.

Did I mention AJ Hall? Harry Potter fans should read Lust Over Pendle, and then the rest of that series. Sherlock fans should read…all of the Sherlock stories. They’re all rockin’. She has a novel-length Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow story, which I like, but the short “Metal Fatigue” is all-around tight and delicious. (AJ Hall is not a smut writer, by the way. Not of the explicit variety of sex scenes, but with lovely tension throughout. Also, there’s a bit of a tease in, I think, “The Perilous Point,” with Neville, a pot of chocolate, and Draco handcuffed to a bed…but never mind. Go read it yourself, it’s hilarious.)

Read! Read and be merry! [I’ll go find links to all that stuff now. A blogger’s work is never done.]