I remember the first time I read Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons, sometime in the late 1970s, and that sinking feeling when I read the last words of the author biography. “He died in 1967.” Well that’s poo, I thought; it meant there weren’t going to be any more books. Yes, I know he’d already written twelve, but I was a greedy little brute and wanted more – I was about eight, after all, and therefore horrible.
Then, a few years ago, I discovered the wonderful world of fan fiction. My first experience was of the Harry Potter variety, and most of it was… well, you can imagine. So, wondering if I could do better, I tried. Then, some time after that, I read Ransome’s books again, including the Swallows and Amazons series. Much to my amazement there turned out to be fan fiction for those, too, and I have to say it was generally much better than all those dreadful tales where everyone in Hogwarts speaks American English. Wondering how later life would treat the characters I tried writing some myself. In my opinion it’s not bad.
Constant learner, however, has put me to shame. Her extensive portfolio on Fanfiction.com includes a couple of works that are actually longer than any of Ransome’s original books, and very well plotted indeed. They’re also immaculately researched, and I know that she keeps notes and timelines to plot the characters’ development – it’s all grown a little bit larger than six children sailing on a lake. If you’re a fan of Ransome’s books you should definitely have a look at these worthy successors. Dorothy L Sayers enthusiasts might find some familiar characters appearing, too.