Part of our mission at FAN/FIC Magazine is to highlight amazing fan creators and pull back the curtain on their creative processes. For our third interview, I talked to Alexander (or Mr_Picard), a dedicated fanfiction writer and fan blogger who runs Patrick Stewart News. In the following interview, we discussed the Star Trek fandom, “low key homophobia” in comment sections, and falling in love with a fictional character.
Get To Know Yous
Malory Beazley: First of all, you refer to yourself as “Jean-Luc Picard’s loving husband.” If you could go anywhere on the holodeck with Jean-Luc, where would you go?
Alexander: Since we are both from Earth… and Europe… and neighbouring countries, it stands to reason that I’d pick a place in either France or Germany (maybe the border region, where I actually live). I’d enjoy walking around with Jean-Luc, talking about the history of our respective countries and their special relationship and how it came to be and how it still is in the 24th century. This would give me a chance to try to impress Jean-Luc with my very basic French language skills. My grammar leaves a lot to be desired, but hey, it would be the effort that counts. I’m sure he’d be thrilled, given how proud he is to be French. I’d just have to make sure to not unintentionally butcher the language too much. I wouldn’t want to insult him.
MB: How did you become involved with the Star Trek fandom and what is it about The Next Generation in particular that holds your interest?
AL: I have my ex-boyfriend to thank for this. I had just turned 18 when we got together, and one day he told me why he had chosen to become a pilot: his role model was a man named Jean-Luc Picard from Star Trek. I remember rolling my eyes and thinking “leave me alone with this Star Trek crap and that bald dude in pyjamas.” Liking Star Trek was not cool, at least not from my viewpoint. It was something only nerds watched. My ex didn’t give up, however. He nagged at me almost every day, telling me how certain he was that I’d like TNG and how much I’d appreciate the show if I gave it a chance. One day I had enough and we agreed that I’d watch one episode and then, if I disliked it, he’d never bring it up again.
I remember watching my first episode, “Cause and Effect,” (re-runs of TNG were aired on TV here back then) and finding myself drawn to the story, the plot, and the characters. They were so friendly. No one was screaming, no one was sneaky or vicious, and it was clear that these officers were a true family. I had never seen such a world before, and my personal life until then hadn’t had anything like this either, so it was very new and appealing to me. It took about a year to reach a level where I felt I was fit to interact with other fans (I didn’t want to be the token newbie). The internet was just getting mega popular and the glorious days of message boards had just started, so, the fandom welcomed me with open arms. Even then I already had a rather intense crush on Jean-Luc, and, unlike people in real life, the fandom just understood. I didn’t have to justify it, it was immediately accepted.
My love for Jean-Luc is also still the biggest reason for my continued interest in TNG. Sometimes I really need those 41 minutes of escape into the 24th century. Another factor that holds my interest is, of course, the continued relevance of episodes like “The Drumhead.” The social commentary. The questioning of morals and ethics. What it is that makes us human.
MB: Are you involved in any other fandoms? Do you have an affinity for other space-based series like Star Wars or Firefly?
AL: I’m not active in any other fandoms. TNG and my Sir Patrick keep me so busy… I wouldn’t have time for another fandom, even if I wanted to! The shocking truth here is that I’m not a fan of science fiction unless it’s combined with a genre I like, such as horror. (I have to admit that I have never even seen Star Wars or Firefly.) Generally, I’m mostly a fan of 80s television, particularly the original Dallas series, or more contemporary entertainment like The Walking Dead or Breaking Bad. I seem to prefer series’ set in the “real world” instead of starships. I’m not really involved in any of these fandoms, however. I just watch the shows and read the occasional Walt/Jesse fanfic. All in all, TNG really is an absolute anomaly compared to my usual TV tastes.
MB: You’re very active on AO3. So far you’ve published 41 works, mostly in the TNG fandom. When did you first start writing TNG fic? What motivates your writing?
AL: I started writing TNG fanfic about a year after I had stepped into the fandom, sometime around 2004. My main motivation is the character of Jean-Luc Picard, which is why all my stories feature him heavily. There are so many misconceptions about him out there, and I love using my writing to show people that some things aren’t as they are made to believe. I also love to explore Jean-Luc’s life in general – how did he become the man he is now? What happened to him during the “lost years” between the Stargazer and the Enterprise-D? What was his childhood really like? I love to explore these questions in my “Starship Captain” arc, a compilation of ficlets that deal with different eras of his life.
Another factor that motivates me is the fact that, these days, there simply isn’t that much TNG fanfic anymore, and much less that focuses on Jean-Luc. I do realize that focusing on one character so much costs me a lot of readers who would like to read about the other TNG characters, but I can’t help but wanting to fill this little gap. And then there’s the slash aspect. I absolutely love to play around with Jean-Luc’s sexuality – I happen to think his character is perfect for pansexuality. He is so open-minded, so much into embracing new things, new ideas, new possibilities. It just doesn’t make sense for me to try and push him into being a 100% heterosexual male. However, I don’t “make him gay” in my stories… because he isn’t. He’s simply open towards things, he falls in love with people, not their gender. I can just as well write him with a female partner (and I sometimes do), but I want to have all possibilities, because, like I said, Jean-Luc Picard does not belong in a “straight jacket”.
Lastly, another very important motivation is, of course, the fact that I’m madly in love with Jean-Luc and that writing about him brings me as close to him as possible. Without this love I’m not sure I could write him the way I do.
MB: In your “In These Arms” series, which is a post-Nemesis continuation of TNG, you pair Jean-Luc Picard with an original male character named Alexander. How much of yourself do you put into this character (if any)?
AL: I’m not ashamed to admit that, at first – and second – glance, Alex is me. I don’t even bother to hide it, we do have the same name and we look very much alike and we’re both German. Generally, Alex is what I would be like if I had been raised in the 24th century instead of the late 20th. His general behaviour, his absolute love for Jean-Luc, his (usually carefully controlled) temper, his tendency to view things from a purely logical viewpoint, this is all very much me.
I also deliberately decided to make Alex the bartender of the ship. Neither he nor I have any interest in serving in Starfleet, which is very important for the whole relationship with Jean-Luc. He needs someone who is not an officer (TNG established quite brutally why that is so), but someone who still understands, respects and supports his dedication to Starfleet. Alex certainly does so, but since he doesn’t have to follow any orders from Jean-Luc, their entire relationship is put on an equal level. There is no “commanding officer” issue involved. If they argue, they argue, but they don’t have to sit next to each other on the bridge and pretend nothing is wrong.
MB: What is the biggest obstacle you’ve encountered when writing fanfiction? How did you overcome it?
AL: I don’t really have one big obstacle, I have a few “smaller” ones that pile up. I have to overcome them every time I sit down and write. The first one is my writing mood. I have very annoying mood swings and I need to be in a specific mood for long enough to write. This doesn’t happen very often – I have to wait for the mood and when it strikes I have to immediately sit down and write, no matter where I am or what I’m doing. I envy writers who can simply sit down and write whenever they have an idea. The second obstacle is my lack of self-confidence. I always think my writing is bad, that no one will read it, and that those who will read it will tell me how much it all sucks. It’s a constant battle that I’m fighting with myself, one part of me tells me “you suck, your writing sucks, everything you do sucks, why are you bothering with this,” and the other tells me “come on, edit and publish this, there are definitely people who like your writing and are waiting for a new fan fic/chapter/ficlet.” This is also why I do all my writing on my own. I don’t have a beta reader (I couldn’t work with anyone else, it would add another level of anxiety for me), which is why editing usually takes me much longer than writing. This battle is definitely the hardest.
The third obstacle has more to do with the content of my stories. The Star Trek fandom, as open as most people are, does have a problem with homophobia. I do fear negative comments, especially since I have run into homophobic Trek fans who have thrown insults at me for loving Jean-Luc. What I’m even more afraid of, however, is “low key homophobic” fans who will tell me “I liked your story, but did you have to be so graphic about the gay sex?” I have had feedback like this from straight male readers, and I honestly didn’t know what to say: “I’m glad you liked my story, but did you have to be so homophobic about it?” My stories are all clearly marked: explicit means explicit, and M/M means M/M. There have been a few moments when I felt “safer” writing a Picard/Troi scene than a Picard/Riker one, and that is not how things should be at all.
Patrick Stewart News Questions
MB: You run Patrick Stewart News, a site including “news, pictures, and whatever else there might be.” What is it about Sir Patrick that you love so much?
AL: I have three social media pages that deal with Sir Patrick: on Twitter, Tumblr and Google+. It all started out with topics I ran in message boards. So, when social media took over, I wanted to do something on there as well. It’s basically a 24/7 job (a job I do on top of my “real” job). Keeping up with news about Sir Patrick requires looking at news sources all the time (including at night) and putting new news or pics up immediately. It’s not something that can be done “when you feel like it.” If you want to do this kind of thing right, you have to be right there when things happen. You also have to be a walking encyclopedia: you have to know immediately what he is talking about and what is happening. You have to be 100% up to date with his career.
People frequently message me and ask me if I’m working for Sir Patrick. No, I’m not. (I wish I was!) I’m really doing all this because I adore him so much. My (platonic) love for him is what keeps me going. He is such a wonderful man, such an amazing actor, and I just feel the need to express this love of mine by running those pages about him. I do what I do because I adore Sir Patrick so much.
MB: Other than TNG, what is your favourite Patrick Stewart role?
AL: I have to reveal here that Jean-Luc is not my favourite Sir Patrick character. Or my second-favourite. In fact, he’s not even on the list. My love for Sir Patrick is completely different from the love I have for Jean-Luc. The Sir Patrick love is intense but ultimately platonic, whereas the Jean-Luc love is not platonic at all. Because of this, I don’t view Jean-Luc as “a character Sir Patrick played.” In my mind, he is so, so, so much more.
Now, the answer. My favourite Sir Patrick character is Lucius Aelius Sejanus, from the series “I, Claudius.” I prefer Sir Patrick as the “bad guy,” and Sejanus really delivers in this regard. He’s a sneaky, arrogant and incredibly ambitious Roman soldier who tries to take over Rome by ruthlessly eradicating anyone who might stand in his way. It’s an absolute delight to see. It’s not a major role, and the series “I, Claudius” is filled with incredible British actors, but Sir Patrick still stands out.
MB: Finally, is it true that Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan have the most adorable friendship in the history of friendships?
AL: From what I know, yes, it is absolutely true. I’ve seen interviews with the two of them in which the reporters were smart enough to just let them talk to each other and it’s absolutely adorable to see how these two interact. They’re the best of friends, and I think that’s just wonderful, especially since they have not known each other like this for very long. They only became friends on the set of the first X-Men movie. Sir Patrick recently stated that he knows he’s “in a love affair with Ian”… and I think this statement describes it much better than I ever could.
MB: Be still my beating heart! Thank you for sharing your love for Jean-Luc and Sir Patrick with us.
Stay up to date with Patrick Stewart News at fuckyeahsirpatrickstewart.tumblr.com and @PatStewartNews. Follow Alexander on Twitter @Mr_Picard. A big thank you to Alexander for speaking with FAN/FIC Magazine.
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