Ah, water lilies, you made last week’s femslash author profiles such a success that I think we should start incorporating them into every column — and still do profile round-ups every few months too! And so I’ve got a very special treat for you today, and that treat is eight Carmilla fanfics and a profile with series creator Ellen Simpson, who is super active in the femslash community, which makes sense because Carmilla is one of the most active and creative fandom communities on the whole internet.
It doesn’t matter what fandom you’re looking in, you’re going to find Carmilla fan fiction there. From vampiric fandoms like Buffy to procedural fandoms like Rizzoli & Isles to book fandoms like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, there’s a Carmilla crossover fanfic set in that universe. But there are also a gazillion canon fics. And a gazillion AU! fics where the characters are super in-character, but they’re not college students. They’re shop owners and plague survivors and professional wrestlers and acrobats and teachers and business women in town on business.
If you don’t know Carmilla yet, you can start right here with the first episode of the enormously successful web series. You won’t be sorry.
Plot: AU! High school fic where Laura falls hard for the broody Carmilla.
Length: 210,000 words
Carmilla tilts her head up, giving Laura a once-over, “Didn’t take you to be into lady-loving.”
Carmilla looks up fully now and smirks, nodding her head in Kirsch’s direction, “You turned down the chance to make fake babies with jock boy for the more sapphic route. I’m surprised.”
She opens her mouth to say something but all she can manage is a choked sputter of, “No, I didn’t…wait-”
Carmilla laughs and goes back to her drawing, “Relax, Cutie, it was a joke.”
Laura furrows her brows and scrunches her lips, “You could have been more clear.”
Carmilla shrugs, looking up at her with faux innocence, “But where’s the fun in that?”
She huffs, “Listen, if you didn’t want to be my partner you could have just said so.”
Carmilla doodles for a few seconds, Laura feeling the skin on her cheeks warm. She sighs and goes to leave but there’s a soft grasp around her wrist, “Beckett said if I don’t do this project he’ll fail me, so, yeah, I’ll be your partner or whatever.”
Plot: Carmilla is cool with Laura dating Danny. Okay, that’s a lie. She’s waiting for one small crack in their relationship so she can swoop in there and get her girl.
Length: 51,000 words
She’s in the middle of a lit assignment when the door swings open. She jumps and her head swivels. Standing in her doorway, doused completely in bright orange light from the weird hallway light show happening, is a girl just a few inches taller than herself. She’s carrying a duffel bag across her shoulder, which she drops almost immediately after she crosses the threshold of the room. She’s got a scowl on her face and her only greeting is a casual eyebrow raise in Laura’s direction. She walks to the empty bed and sits. She bounces up and down a few times, a semi-satisfied look crossing her face. Laura stares.
The girl is paying no attention to Laura. So she clears her throat and the girl’s eyes finally meet hers. They’re dark – like the rest of her. She’s wearing all black. From her tied t-shirt down to her ridiculously impractical leather pants. Laura raises an eyebrow. “And you are?” It comes out harsher than she intends and the girls own eyebrows raise in surprise. Her arms are at her sides, palms face down on the bed. Her shoulders push together as she leans forward. She tilts her head toward Laura. She licks her lips, her eyes traveling the length of Laura’s body. Laura shifts. She’s wearing only a loose green tank top, her bra off after a long day and flung somewhere across the room, and short athletic shorts. Her hair is piled up on top of her head in a bun, leaving most of her skin exposed. Every inch of it feels the intense heat of the girls stare. Her eyes finally return to Laura’s.
“Carmilla. I’m your new roommate, sweetheart.” Her mouth curls around the word sweetheart and the last syllable is dragged. It sounds filthy, like it’s been dragged through dirt before landing on her tongue. Her voice is low and guttural, raspy in the best way. Laura gives her a tight smile and a nod, her curiosity satisfied for the time being, before turning back to her computer.
Plot: An AU! set in a zoo! Carmilla does big cats and Laura does little furry animals, because they’re both zoologists!
Length: 30,000 words
“Sheridan, up,” Carmilla said. The elegant black panther jumped onto the bars of the holding cage, towering above her. In response, Carmilla clicked the small metal clicker in her hand.
“Good boy. Sheridan, tail.” The panther turned and backed up against the holding cage, carefully flicking his tail between the bars and sticking it out for Carmilla.
Next to her stood a redhead in scrubs, holding a small syringe and a vial. “Thank you. I just need a few samples.”
“No problem, Dr. LaFontaine. Sheridan’s been getting better at blood draw training, so I guess this was good timing. What all are you testing for, again?”
Dr. LaFontaine inserted the needle, causing a slight hiss from the panther. “We got the necropsy results back from the cougar that died, and she had a virus. So we’re testing all the cats in the building. It’s highly unlikely that anyone else got it, but it’s better to be safe.”
Carmilla nodded, absentmindedly stroking Sheridan’s tail. He had always been her favorite in the Big Cat building. On her first day three years ago, she got to feed him, and he let out an appreciative kitten-purr for her. She was still the only one who could get him to stick his tail out – he knew it was for blood draws, and he didn’t like it very much. But he trusted Carmilla.
Plot: Oh, it’s a Harry Potter AU!, all right.
Length: 117,000 words
“This year is going to be better than last year,” Laura whispered under her breath as she stood between platform 9 and 10 of Kings Cross Station in London. “This year is going to be better than last year.”
“Laura, honey, are you okay?” Her dad looked at her with a worried expression and she could mentally see him trying to calculate if he’d packed her enough bear spray.
Laura wiped her face clear and gave her dad the biggest smile she could muster. He’d adjusted fairly well over the last few years, or as well as any normal muggle whose favourite pastimes were football and beer. After her mother had passed away when she was young he’d struggled with the single parent thing, then magic was just another thing that made things harder for him. But he was trying, really hard. He always dropped her off and picked her up at Kings Cross, and he tried to be up to date on all the magic news and famous people – even if it sometimes ended up with him making a mess of things.
He didn’t look convinced by her smile so she pulled him into a hug and gave him a tight squeeze. “I’m fine Dad, I promise. Just nervous.”
“Well hey, you’re a prefect now so I can see why.” They separated and his face softened. “You’ll be great, L Bear. You’re a natural leader.” Then something else occurred to him and he nudged her on the shoulder. “And you’ll do great in your O.W.L.s.”
Plot: Carmilla and Laura meet on an airplane on Christmas eve.
Length: 5,000 words
Twenty minutes up in the air and her seatmate had been pleasant so far. She flipped through the inflight magazine, nodding and humming occasionally, before clamping a pair of headphones over her head and turning on her iPod. Carmilla noticed how much the woman made an effort to make herself physically scarce without impinging on her comfort, and really, Carmilla was relieved.
The flight attendants walked down the aisles with trays of small cups of orange juice and packets of peanuts. Carmilla helped herself to the cool beverage, the smell and taste of which was refreshing, especially against the artificially sterile scent of plane oxygen. Her seatmate, on the other hand, immediately got into her peanut packet.
She must have felt the amused look that Carmilla was giving her, because she removed her headphones and grinned sheepishly. “I’ve been on so many flights that I’ve learned to treat the whole deal as something to be excited about,” she said. The sound of crunching peanuts punctuated her words. “Fake it until you make it.”
“I have to commend you on being able to keep it up even on a day like this,” Carmilla said.
“On a day like what?”
“Ah,” the woman smirked, “you’re a grinch.”
Plot: An apocalyptic plague fic that mercifully does not involve zombies.
Length: 40,000 words
Hesitantly, Laura tapped LaFontaine’s shoulder. “Hey, uh, do you know who that girl sitting by herself was? The one who kept reading while everyone else was leaving?”
LaFontaine grinned as they began the long ascent up the stairwell. “Pale, wears all black, kind of broody and mysterious looking?”
Laura nodded eagerly.
“That’d be Carmilla.” LaFontaine answered before giving Laura a sly look. “I get it now.”
“Get what?” She asked, checking behind them to see if the girl named Carmilla was anywhere in sight. Unfortunately, she wasn’t.
“Why Betty introduced us.” They explained.
“I’m lost.” Laura admitted. In front of them Danny and Kirsch began taking the stairs two at a time in a race to see which of them could make it to the fifth floor first.
LaFontaine chuckled at the pair of goofballs bounding up the stairs, or possibly just at Laura’s naivety. Maybe even both. Laura couldn’t really tell. “Betty wanted to make sure that you met the other queers. That woman truly has a sixth sense when it comes to spotting us.”
“Wait, what—“ Laura nearly tripped over her own feet. Luckily, she was able to grab the railing and keep herself steady. “So all of you are gay?”
Plot: Laura owns a florist shop. Carmilla owns a tattoo parlor. They’re right next to each other.
Length: 28,000 words
She opened the door and stepped into the shop. The smell of varnish and paint assaulted her nostrils. Five burly men were lugging about chairs and playing awful country music much too loud, but the sound of the offensive drilling was nowhere to be seen.
“Excuse me?” Carmilla asked. When no one took any notice of her, she raised her voice. “Excuse me?!”
There was once again no reaction. Boiling with anger, she stormed over to the radio and pulled the plug out of the wall, causing a sudden silence that had her ears ringing. Unfortunately, the quiet was short lived as the construction noises started up again and seemed to be getting even louder. Everybody in the room turned to stare at her, annoyed. She put on a sickly sweet smile and tilted her head to the side.
“Now,” she began in a dangerously soft tone, “who here is going to tell me who’s making that god forsaken din, or am I going to have to kill everyone here, instead of just them?”
It would have been comical, the slim young girl threatening five large men, if she hadn’t been so utterly furious. One of them slowly pointed to a door at the back of the shop, and Carmilla nodded her head, walking over and pushing her way inside.
“Can you please do everyone in this neighbourhood a favour and shut the fuck-“
Carmilla stopped in her tracks as a tiny girl squealed and fell off the chair she was standing on.
Plot: Laura is a vampire slayer and Carmilla is an assassin.
Length: 15,000 words
With continuous glances at her watch, Carmilla could feel the heat rise from her spine, the worry setting in that this job had been a total mistake. She was debating whether or not to just leave right then and there.
“Waiting for someone?” A voice asked in a dead tone from behind. It was a voice that Carmilla would know anywhere, even with the unusual tone. As sad as it sounded, there was still a hint of eternal optimism and sunshine that could only belong to one human.
“God damn,’ Carmilla laughed hollowly, closing her eyes tight as she dropped her head. She gave her head a small shake before turning to face the girl that had been haunting her thoughts just moments ago. It was an ingenious plan, Carmilla had to give Laura credit for that.
The idea had been to turn and launch herself at Laura but Carmilla faulted the second she caught sight of the other. Laura looked smaller standing under a large black umbrella. Carmilla’s eyes narrowed on her, detecting that something was off. Even in a thunderstorm, Laura had the effect of radiating like a little personal sunshine, but that was missing right now. The happiness seemed vacant, the warmth completely gone. It just wasn’t the Laura that Carmilla knew.
“Relax.” Laura said in the same flat tone, her hand leaving her coat pocket to indicate for Carmilla to stay. “It’s not a trap, it’s a job.” There was almost a smile on her hard lips as she moved over to the railing, leaning against it to look out at the water.
7 Questions With Ellen (anamatics)
How did you discover femslash fan fiction?
Femslash and fandom have always gone hand in hand with me. Save for when I was very young and very into The Scarlet Pimpernel (and subsequent books), I’ve always been drawn to the stories that place high value on female characters and female-centric storylines. I’m a child of the ’90s; Buffy, Sailor Moon and Utena are all in my blood. They are the stories that I cut my teeth on as a reader and then again as a writer of fan fiction. Sailor Moon was my first true venture into fanfic, and to this day I draw inspiration from those stories.
Why did you decide to get actively involved in writing femslash fan fiction?
I’ve always liked to tell stories. I think that, as a young writer still struggling to find my own voice, I was drawn to fan fiction because it was a short hand for everything that I wanted to be as writer. I could see myself as writing compelling characters like the ones I adored, but with relationships of people like me. As I started to write more and more, I found myself really enjoying playing in other people’s universes. It wasn’t until I started getting really into Buffy that I started to write more actively within a fandom, when I was about fourteen, that I started to gain a great deal of interest the way that fandom worked and starting to actively participate in the community.
Which pairings do you write about?
I write about Carmilla and Laura – but that doesn’t really count.
Recently, I’ve been writing a lot of Elementary fanfics. I enjoy the dynamic between Watson and Moriarty as it’s developed in the show and I’ve found that I like the mental gymnastics that a pairing that is so unhealthy takes to work on any level while still remaining true to the character. I’ve written my fair share of Once Upon a Time fanfics, as well as Warehouse 13 and Rizzoli & Isles. I tend to multi-ship, or at least be pretty open to writing multiple different pairings within a fandom.
What about that couple/those couples appeals to you as a writer and as a queer woman?
I really enjoy writing about adults. As a kid, I tended to be a lot more attracted to characters who I related to as an angst-ridden teenager. I liked the struggle of being queer in the characters I wrote about that. I wrote a lot of Mai HiME fanfic back in the day, which was a show that really captured the struggle of being queer and the emotional drain of unrequited love really well. As a kid, I never really felt the struggle of being closeted — my coming out was inevitable and expected in my family — and I tried to write stories where the characters’ coming out was easy. All the queer stories that I’d read in published fiction were obsessed with how horrible it was to be queer, and how you would be rejected by everyone you loved. I wanted to try and convey that it didn’t have to be that way.
Now, as an adult, I’ve found myself more drawn to writing characters as established queer — avoiding the coming out stories — and instead trying to convey how being queer is entirely normal. And that women can have relationships with other women no matter if they’ve been with guys in the past. I think it’s important to represent how fluid sexuality can be, and how complex human relationships are. We love these characters and being able to write them to share our experiences is fantastic.
How have you seen femslash fandom change since you’ve been involved in it?
When I first started to really read femslash, I was obsessed with Haruka and Michiru from Sailor Moon. Now, back in ’90s, most of the fic that talked about them on any level usually involved some sort of catastrophic event in either Haruka or Michiru’s lives regarding them being lesbians. Their queerness was presented in much the same way it was presented in popular media aimed at young lesbians at the time. What is fascinating now, looking back on the interpretations of Haruka’s character especially, is how regimented and gender-coded it was. Haruka is presented as gender fluid in the Sailor Moon comics, and the anime definitely shifted her character to more of a masculine role. Despite her more masculine demeanor and interests, she was still very obviously not wearing the pants in that relationship. This was largely ignored in a lot of the early fanfic that I read about these two.
Now though, as with so many other fandoms, there’s this shift towards understanding that gender and sexuality are fluid. People’s writing tends to reflect that. It doesn’t focus so much on the horribleness of being young and queer, and it focuses more making queer people normal. That’s all I’ve ever wanted in books and stories, to read about people who are normal and just happen to be queer — and I think that it’s starting to get reflected in fandom now as well.
Do you feel like TV show creators respond to femslash fandom in a visible way, on-screen? Or do you not care about what’s happening on-screen because fan fiction fills your needs?
I tend to like to stick to canon as much as possible in my own writing, and because of that I tend to prefer the canon show over a fic version, if at all possible. I don’t mind the little nods to femslash here and there, but I have a big issue with queerbaiting and I think showrunners have to tread very lightly around giving nods to femslash or else they’ll run into problems with the appearance of pandering. I really wish that, instead of giving little nods to femslash, just embrace the gay and go for it. Everyone would be happier to for it.
What’s your favorite fan fiction you’ve written?
Probably “A Gentleman’s Dilemma” – it was the first time that I’d tackled something really big in a fanfic and tried to make a headcanon that I’d had for some time into a reality. It’s either that or “The Twisted Turbine,” which was my first foray into writing the 1920s into a fic (it’s an AU) and god, I loved researching for it and it so much.
More recently, I’ve felt very proud of the “Don’t Blink” series that I wrote for Elementary. Mostly because I wanted to really force myself to capture the feel of the show on top of the intricacy of the cases that Joan and Sherlock work, as well as the complex relationship between Joan and Moriarty.
Senior editor Yvonne put in her vote for Ruth and Idgie fan fic next Friday. What do you think?