Backstreet’s Back (Alright): A Safe Space for Fic
I can remember the first time I really fell in love with something in a way that echoes the way I love things now.
It was 1996. I was visiting my French-Canadian cousins, and one of them popped a CD into her boombox. This in itself felt deliciously forbidden; we always listened to what my parents enjoyed—talk radio if my dad was around, and really cheesy ’80s and ’90s easy listening if my mum was driving.
But what my cousin Annie pushed play on was neither of these horrible things. Instead, it was the Backstreet Boys’ self-titled debut, and I fell hard, y’all.
The BSB exploded in Europe and Canada before the States, and I brought the CD back with me. I was briefly the most popular girl in my middle school. (That might be a slight exaggeration.)
My close friends and I all adored A.J., Nick, Brian, Kevin, and Howie. We picked different crushes, though, so there would be no fighting. We would race home from school to watch “TRL” in the hopes that whatever latest music video from the BSB would make the top 10.
BSB was my first concert, too—a three-hour scream fest that left my friend and I with no voice for days afterwards.
But the biggest thing the Backstreet Boys did for me was introduce me to the world of fan fiction. That’s right: I was a teenage fic writer. I wrote the most blatant self-insert fic for my friends and me. (I think in the fic we were in a girl gang—which, honestly, sounds pretty great.) I remember we were on a listserv that was just Backstreet Boys fic being passed back and forth.
The best part of that was it was a safe space for young girls to write, to read, to love something unabashedly. We read and wrote smut. We created sprawling works with hundreds of chapters. We sent each other critique. All of this in a space that was separate from the wider internet. This was crucial; we all know how brutal the internet can be about the things tween and teen girls love. We carved out a space that was just for us. If nothing else, I’m grateful for that because it built up my confidence as a writer, as an editor, as a woman who likes things.
Plus, I don’t care what anyone says: The music video for “Everybody” is amazing, and I will fight you.