Data scrolled through files on the Enterprise computer pertaining to the late 20th century and early 21st. There was a project he was going to attempt, and he wanted to read the full history of it. It had a turbulent history, with society's views on it ranging from accepting to derisive. Its participants also ranged, anywhere from ordinary people with it as a hobby to people who lost themselves in it. The contemptuous view of it stemmed from the ones who lost themselves in it, because people would assume all who participated in that activity were like that.
In addition to society's views, there were legal issues. Most of them did not go to courts, because of society's dismissal of it as silly. Data found the study fascinating, for those who went on to do it despite society's misgivings developed a culture, with a terminology accepted by all (like a language), communication forums, leaders, competitions, and many other things that suggested it thrived.
The quality of what was produced varied greatly, which also contributed to the negative view. Data skipped that section of the file, knowing he would try to be good quality. Perhaps Geordi could check his work.
Data concluded that it was acceptable to engage in this activity, as long as he did not neglect his duties and produced quality work. Getting up from his desk, he picked up the 20th century writing materials he had procured for the task, since the writing of this genre had began in the late 20th century.
He sat back down, already writing.
"Fanfiction, Data?" Geordi snorted.
The android's eyebrows raised a little, almost as if he were offended. "I have read about its history, and I have found that it is acceptable if one does not do it to the exclusion of everything else and one maintains quality."
Geordi backpedaled quickly, realizing Data's points as valid. "No, it's not that, it's just interesting that it's you writing."
"Why?" was Data's favorite question, and a question that Geordi had become accustomed to trying to answer. Not that he always managed, though.
"Well, I guess I shouldn't be surprised. From the moment Captain Picard introduced you to Holmes, you were hooked."
"Hooked—? Ah, yes. Into the fandom."
It was Geordi's turn to ask for a definition. "Fandom?"
"Is it not self-explanatory? The Latin suffix –dom means house, place of living, as in domain or kingdom. Therefore, a fandom is a fictional realm with a large fanbase."
"Right," Geordi said, wondering at the amount of research Data had done. Fanfiction was notorious for being written without research. "So what do you want me to do with your fanfiction?"
Data gave Geordi his version of the "well, duh!" look. "Read it. Many fanfiction writers, in the absence of an official editor to keep up quality, have another person read their story and give constructive feedback."
"Well, I'm no writer, Data," Geordi said. "But I'll read it."
Geordi sat down to read Data's fanfic on his next off-duty period. He expected that it would be good. While Data had trouble developing his own style, he could imitate another's style quite well, and since he knew Sherlock Holmes very well, imitating the style would be easy for him. In short, Geordi expected a Sherlock Holmes story that could have been written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
He flipped to the first page. Data had written on the top "I would like your help with a title, please think of it as you read the story."
The engineer chuckled to himself. Data wanted help with his story and a title. He just didn't trust himself.
He sat back and started reading. It began well, with perfect characterization, setting, and a setup for an exciting and compelling mystery. It seemed that Geordi's only feedback would be a title.
Holmes leapt up from his chair. "Ah, yes, I told him to come!"
"Who?" I asked, wondering why Holmes had not told me that we were going to have a visitor.
"A friend of mine, by the name of David. He helped me many years back and I thought his assistance would be valuable in this case."
David stepped into our abode, and I was immediately struck by his resemblance to Holmes. Had I not known that Holmes's only brother was Mycroft, I would have assumed that this man was Holmes's kin. They shared the same strong profile and piercing eyes and were about the same height and build. Striking me most of all of the similarities was the look in his eyes, a look I had seen in Holmes's eyes many times—anticipation of the hunt.
Geordi dropped the stack of papers, and they fluttered across the floor of his quarters. Apparently, Data's research had been incomplete.
"Data, did you read everything in the Enterprise databanks about fanfiction?"
"I read most of it. I skipped certain sections."
"Were they, by any chance, sections about common errors made by fanfiction writers?"
"They were sections about quality. I felt I did not have to read them, since I would make an effort on that account." His eyebrows came together. "Did I make an error?"
Geordi wondered how to put it delicately. Strangely enough, it seemed like Data would be offended. He was taking fanfiction very seriously.
"Yeah, you did. A major one."
Data's eyebrows shot upward. "What sort of error?" he sort-of pleaded.
"You wrote a Mary-Sue fic."
The android's eyebrows descended in confusion. "Mary-Sue?"
It was Geordi's turn to raise his eyebrows. "You researched fanfiction and you didn't find out about the Mary-Sue?"
"Apparently not. Please explain."
Geordi sighed. "It's a character type, where the fanfiction writer fulfills their desire to be part of that fictional world by writing a character very similar to them."
"Why is that a bad thing? I thought writers were supposed to 'put themselves into their writing'." Data obviously didn't want to think he'd done anything wrong.
"Not literally! What happens is that that character is given more attention than the canon characters, and fanfiction readers want to read about the characters they know, not one of their fellow writers."
"I created an intellectual companion for Holmes. Is that…wrong?"
"Yes! Especially since he ended up solving the mystery, instead of Holmes, who is the main character and the one who is supposed to solve the mysteries!"
"I was not aware I made such terrible errors," Data said. His shoulders slumped a bit, and his eyes seemed wistful. "I suppose, as an android, I am not able to write as well as a human."
Geordi, having known Data for so long, detected the subtle changes that indicated something like a blow to the self-esteem. The poor android—no, man—had put a lot on this fanfiction. He thought he could do something humans could do, and do it well.
"Data, don't say that. You made very human mistakes."
"My mistakes were human?" he said, perking up a bit.
"Yeah. The Mary-Sue is a wish fulfillment device. You wrote a character very much like you, but who was human and was friends with Sherlock Holmes. Two of your greatest desires."
"And that is what humans do with fanfiction? They fulfill their desires?"
"Yes, sometimes. Did you enjoy writing it?"
Data considered that. "I did," he decided.
"Then keep it. Don't share it with anyone else, though."
Data nodded. "Perhaps I will write a second version, without the 'Mary-Sue'. That will be fit to share, will it not?"
"Probably," Geordi agreed. "I liked the story at the beginning."
Data perked up a little more. "You liked the mystery?"
"It will be simple to rewrite!" If Geordi hadn't known better, he would have thought Data was excited. It was distinctly Data-ish, though. It was the same expression he got when he was about to go on the holodeck to play Sherlock Holmes.
Data raced to the replicator and replicated more materials. "If you will excuse me Geordi, I believe I just got an 'inspiration'."
"All right. I look forward to reading it!" Geordi said, heading for the door.
Data didn't respond, since he was already writing. Geordi shook his head and wondered if Data really had emotions after all.
A/N A parody of fanfiction writing, obviously. With more than a hint of Data having emotions.