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24 February 2008 @ 09:31 pm
Fanfiction: Crossovers  
For a lot of fen, crossovers are the ugly, red-headed step-children of fandom. Criticism usually runs from that will never work to Oh, ghod! I hate crossovers. Yet, they can be some of the most intriguing stories within fanfic.

For comic-book fandoms, it's fairly easy, even across brands. Both Marvel and DC have made valiant efforts to build their universes. Most of their titles have been retconned so often to tie loose ends that it's impossible for fans not to expect some cross-canon in any series title.

For television fandom, the results have been a little bit spotty. On the one hand, there are spin-offs: Make Room for Daddy - The Andy Griffith Show - Mayberry: RFD; Love American Style - Happy Days - Laverne & Shirley - Mork & Mindy - Joannie Loves Chachi; Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Angel; Star Trek: TOS - Star Trek: TNG - Star Trek: DS9 - Star Trek: Voyager - Star Trek: Enterprise. And on the other hand, there are franchises: CSI, Law & Order, Stargate.

The problem with finding (and writing) a good crossover isn't simply throwing together two universes -- even when the universes overlap in canon. It's finding that point, moment or plot element where two sometimes disparate universes can co-exist.

As an example, many fans have accepted that Adam-12 and Emergency! take place in the same universe; though, canon is contradictory (in one E! episode Adam-12 was a television programme, in another it was an LAPD squad car). Fanon has also brought CHiPs into the mix as well, even though one programme was in syndication and the other was ending its run when CHiPs debuted.

With the number of series set in Los Angeles, there are plenty of other shows that could overlap with these: Charlie's Angels, The Rookies, Rockford Files, Quincy, M.E. -- and those are just contemporaries. Throw a much younger Dr. Mark Sloane (Diagnosis: Murder) or Gil Grissom (CSI: Crime Scene Investigation) into the mix, and you've widened your range.

One of my personal favourite groups to use is UNIT (United Nations Intelligence Taskforce) from classic Doctor Who. Because of UNIT's nebulous status, the organisation can be used across sf, spy or medical genres, making an interesting fit in fandoms as diverse as Time Tunnel, Man from U.N.C.L.E., St. Elsewhere and The West Wing.

Sometimes, all a crossover has to be is a throwaway line: Jim West (Wild Wild West) in a poker game in San Francisco with two of his opponents being Bret Maverick (Maverick) and Paladin (Have Gun Will Travel). Just a wink and a nod to your audience.

The gals who wrote and compiled the ten-volume 'zine series Relativity came up with an interesting idea and ran with it. Taking the physical similarities of four characters -- Murphy Michaels (Remington Steele), Lee Stetson (Scarecrow & Mrs. King), Andy Travis (WKRP in Cincinnati) and Skip Carmichael (Salvage 1) -- they theorized them as cousins, creating a complete backstory and family history. I forget the amount of fandoms that their "Cousins Universe" encompassed, but it was a lot. And because they had found that commonality, their stories are a rich tapestry of intricately weaved fandoms.

Despite some of the butchery and back-flipping that occurs in some crossovers, they still remain a favourite fannish reading pleasure.