It was a class assigment for Cowell College at UCSC. We were reading ‘Death in Venice’, by Thomas Mann. The novel centers around an elderly German writer called Gustav von Aschenbach. The writer is having health problems, so he goes to vacation in Venice. Once he reaches his destination, Aschenbach falls in love with a beautiful boy, staying in the same hotel as him. The writer and the boy never speak, but the boy’s very presence rekindles the vitality in Aschenbach. He feels passion as he’s never felt before, right before he dies. Even as Aschenbach is taken aback, again and again by his beloved’s beauty, he sees the marks of mortality upon his object of desire. Tadzio, the boy he loves, doesn’t have long to live himself. The signs of poor health leave traces upon his beauty, rendering it all the more precious to Aschenbach. One gets the feeling that the writer and the boy are linked by death, as much as by love.
Our assignment was to write a journal from the perspective of Tadzio. I was already speculating quite a bit about ‘Death in Venice’. Aschenbach was stalked by a menacing red haired man in a nightmare, or a vision before he left Germany. This red haired man seems to reappear in a number of guises on the way to Venice and in Venice itself. It was speculated in class that the redhaired man might represent death itself.
The notion took fire in my imagination that this figure could be stalking Tadzio as well, if lover and beloved were bound by death, as well as romance. I’d been watching ‘Twin Peaks’, plus I’d just read Laura Palmer’s diary. It was only too easy to contemplate how the redhaired man could be similar to BOB in a bogeyman aspect to Tadzio.
I wrote my fanfiction, letting the redhaired man take on an even more menacing light. My professor loved it. I got my first praise ever for a fanfiction in that class.
It deepened my devotion not only to fanfiction, but to reinvention. I’d gotten a taste for linking story ideas, concepts, and character archetypes together, letting one breathe new life into another.
Very little is original. Almost every idea comes from somewhere, or was inspired by something else. The forms that they take on in our imagination can be quite unique. ‘Fairest’ was my attempt to breathe new life not only into old, cherished tales, but the concepts those tales embody. Beauty. A cursed sleep. All the things your reflection in the mirror can be. And of course, love.
What about you, dear reader? What stories or ideas have you breathed new life into via your imagination?