How to Write a Shippy Futurama Fanfic
By Tongue Luck
You may start your shipfic in one of three key places: Planet Express, Fry and Bender's apartment, or Leela's apartment. No matter where it starts, it is highly recommended to give each of these locations at least one scene somewhere in your fic. For the sake of convenience, let's start this one at Planet Express. That way, we can account for the supporting characters and put Fry and Leela in the same place at the same time.
(establishing shot: Inside the Planet Express building. Fry and Bender are watching All My Circuits. Bender is drinking beer. Leela is sitting at the conference table in the next room, doing a crossword)
(cut to the TV)
Calculon: Oh, Monique. I can't hide my feelings any longer. I love you!
Monique: Oh, Calculon. You don't have to tell me that. After all, we're married!
Calculon: Oh, Monique. That was just so I could fool the government. For, you see, I have been living here illegally! You started out as my ticket to a green card, but you've become much, much more.
Monique: Oh, Calculon! I'm so glad to hear that. I love you, too! But you may have to find a new wife, for I have only one week to live.
Calculon: Oh, God. Why? WHYYY?
(cut to Fry and Bender on the couch)
Bender: Bwahahaha! Take that, Calculon! Good luck loving her when she's a zombie! (pause) Hey, Fry, what's wrong? You usually love All My Circuits!
Fry: Oh, nothing. I've just got a lot on my mind.
Funny that Fry should mention his mind. In fanficland, Fry and Leela seem to be thinking all the time, and the lucky reader is privy to quite a few of their thoughts. It's a very handy trick. You can force character development without having to resort to subtlety!
Fry's mind: Leela and I were married once. For about five seconds. What I wouldn't give to be married to her for good, or even just dating her, or even for some indication that she might love me back! Well, I might as well give it another try.
Like his counterpart in the show, Fanfic Fry should ask Leela out pretty early in the chronology of the story. The exchange can be cheesy as mozzarella, as long as it gets the desired effect. Fry needs to feel sad, and Leela... Well, she's enigmatic, but we'll get to that later.
Fry: Hey, Leela! You want to go see a movie or something?
Leela: No, I can't tonight. I need to take Nibbler to the vet.
Fry: Aww... Then how about tomorrow night?
Leela: Sorry. I think I'm busy all week. (turns her attention back to her crossword) Hey, guys. What's an eight letter word for "bereft of one's love"?
Fry (quietly): Me. (leaves the room sullenly)
Bender: Ooh! Ooh! I know! Bender knows! Ooh! Stupid skintube who doesn't know how to take no for an answer and mopes around the apartment all the time like a loser!
Leela: That's not eight letters. (the rest of it sinks in, she sighs) Oh. Poor Fry!
The word was "lovelorn," by the way. Crossword puzzles will be just as lame in a thousand years as they are today. Now, to business! If you're writing a shippy fanfic, Hermes and Amy must immediately be converted from their usual selves into wise, benevolent romantics who want nothing more than to see Fry and Leela finally hook up. This may be counterintuitive, since Hermes has never given any indication of caring one way or another about the ship, and Amy is generally passive aggressive toward Leela and just as indifferent about all that shippy fun. However, if you're going to the trouble of including these supporting characters in your fic, you might as well use them to your advantage! I mean, deep down, all the characters are dying to see Fry and Leela ride off into the sunset, right? Of course they are. Canon be damned!
(new scene: Fry is pacing up and down a hallway, which happens to be the hallway outside of Hermes's office, muttering to himself)
Fry: Why do I have to be so stupid? She'll never go out with me. But what if she did? If I could just have a chance, I'd--
Hermes (opens office door): Great swan of Milan! What are you doing out here? Go stomp around somewhere else! Some of us have paperwork to do.
Fry: Okay. Sorry, Hermes. (starts to walk off)
Hermes: (expression softens) It's about Leela, isn't it?
Fry: What? Who told you?
Hermes: Nobody has to tell me! It's obvious. I've been in love, too, you know. I can tell from the way you look at her!
Fry: Well, maybe. She doesn't love me back, though.
Hermes: Maybe not when you two started working here, but I think she's been coming around lately. I don't think she even realizes it herself, but she definitely has feelings for you. Sometimes I see her giving you that same look you give her.
Note how Hermes starts the scene painstakingly in character. He acts cranky, whips out a "sweet something of someplace," and mentions paperwork. Once this is established, he can spend the rest of the scene as Bland Supportive Man, riding the impression his first few lines have given the reader. If used well, this trick allows you to be completely out of character without getting angry E-mails about it. Now for the Amy interaction. You should go about this one a little differently. She can be out of character from the start, as long as you include a few key details. She needs to mention Kif, she should discuss or at least allude to having dated Fry for a short time, and there absolutely must be at least one utterance of her slang ("spluh!" seems to be a fan favorite, so we'll go with that one).
(cut to Leela, sitting on the couch with a mug of coffee. Bender has left and the TV is off. She is absentmindedly tracing the top of the mug with her finger, staring into space, deep in thought)
Leela's mind: Maybe I should've agreed to go to a movie with him. I've used that "taking Nibbler to the vet" excuse three times in the last two weeks. Fry must think Nibbler is the sickliest animal ever. No, he probably hasn't noticed. He's not the most perceptive guy in the universe. He is sweet, though.
(enter Amy. She sits on the couch next to Leela and stares into space with her for a few moments.)
Amy: Hey, Leela. Having fun watching the blank TV screen?
Leela: (sighs) Fry asked me out again.
Amy: Oh. What did you say?
Leela: What do you think?
Amy: You know, you really should give him a chance. I think he feels the same way about you as Kif does about me. If I hadn't given Kif a chance, I'd still be a serial dater.
Leela: I thought you liked that.
Amy: I did. But I like this better. It's nice to date someone who's sweet and dependable and cares more about me than getting lucky.
Leela: I don't think Fry would be like that.
Amy: I think he would.
Leela: Well, he got sick of you pretty quickly! (pause) Sorry. That came out wrong.
Amy: No, you're right. He did. But he spends more time with you than he ever did with me, and he still worships the ground you walk on!
Leela: Do you think he's... in love... with me? Not as a passing infatuation or just being attracted to my body?
Amy: Spluh! If it was just physical, he'd still be with me!
Leela: (laughs halfheartedly)
Amy: Look, at least think about it, okay? He's totally devoted to you, and he deserves a chance.
So, Hermes has given Fry a vote of confidence and Amy has made some progress convincing Leela to give Fry a chance. The next logical course of action would be to get them to talk, right? Wrong! If they hash things out this early, you won't have nearly enough room for all the requisite melodrama. Plus, that amount of setup would probably only lead to a sweet, if slightly ambiguous, 4ACV-ish ending at best. And that's the last thing you want. When you start shipping Fry and Leela, you automatically enter a binding contract agreeing to throw all ambiguity and nuance out the window. So, it's time to send them home to second guess themselves for a while. You can either transport them there with no explanation whatsoever, or you can cram in a quick and random one. Let's go with the latter, shall we?
(Time lapse. Amy and Leela are still on the couch, but now the TV is on)
Linda (voice from TV): Thanks to the power of love, the peaceful inhabitants of Granola 6 are engaged in brutal guerilla warfare.
(Fry enters looking anxious, walks over to the couch)
Fry: Hey Leela. I was wondering... Well... The vet's office is kind of boring... And you go there so often, you've probably read all the magazines in the waiting room by now... So maybe I could keep you company?
(Amy elbows Leela)
Farnsworth: Mediocre news everyone. I've just remembered that today is No-Package Day, an intergalactic holiday. Everybody hurry home so I don't have to pay you.
(Leela quickly leaves, Amy gives Fry a look of understanding and pity and then leaves)
Morbo (voice from TV): Foolish Granolians, crippled by their dependence on love. I will destroy them!
Linda (voice from TV): (giggles) They're destroying themselves just fine without your help.
(Fry slumps over, miserable)
Farnsworth: When I say hurry home, I mean now, not next week! (shuffles off, muttering unintelligibly. Occasionally, a phrase like "nuclear radiation" or "tax exempt" is audible)
Now that you've sent your characters home, you can fit in those obligatory apartment scenes. These are a godsend. They're perfect for stalling the narrative when the plot is threatening to rear its ugly head. If you're writing a shipfic, you should strive to do this for as long as humanly possible. You mustn't let the reader forget what's important. The plot is merely set dressing for Fry and Leela's moping and mental gymnastics. Hell, it gets in the way more often than not. So, we'll put the storyline progress on hold for the moment and follow Fry home.
(establishing shot: Robot Arms Apartments)
(cut to Fry's messy closet-room. Fry is laying on the bed, surrounded by various unsanitary props)
An apartment scene is a hotbed of internal monologue, so let's make the most of this opportunity to study some subsets of mindspeak convention. First and foremost, as far as his mind is concerned, Fry is not Fry but Phil (or Philip if you like to be formal). This may seem weird initially, but it actually makes perfect sense. After all, everyone thinks in the second person using a name that hardly anybody calls them. If you don't, there's something wrong with you, and there's no reason to bring your abnormality into your fanfic.
Fry's mind: Dammit, Phil, why do you even bother? Did you see how fast she left? She was thrilled to get away from you.
Sometimes he suffers from the sort of deep depression that can only be fully comprehended by teenagers with raccoon eyeliner and Winamp playlists that're two-thirds Dashboard Confessional. You should take this route if you want your fic deemed "meaningful".
And who can blame her? Look at yourself, Phil. You're pathetic. Your life is such a mess that it sometimes gets hard to breathe. Maybe you should succumb to the sweet embrace of death. Who would miss you? Ten bucks says it'd be a week before anyone noticed you were gone. Leela probably wouldn't even come to your funeral. (sigh) But no life means no Leela. Better stick it out. She's worth it.
Sometimes he's resentful. You should take this route if you want to acknowledge the antishippers' concerns.
But is she really? Yes. She is. But why should she keep turning you down? Zapp, Alkazar, Adlai, Chaz... It's not like she has the highest standards. Why should you be a special case?
Sometimes he momentarily finds hope. You should take this route if you think Fanfic Fry is toeing the line between sympathetic and insufferable, as he tends to do when left unchecked.
Maybe because you're the one she's going to end up with. Remember what Hermes said? Maybe she's scared of how much you mean to her.
Whatever route you take, it'll eventually lead to self-pity. Strangely articulate self-pity.
No. You mean nothing to her. She barely puts up with your friendship. She wouldn't want anything more. You're doomed to torture yourself, pining for someone you can never have. The only place where she'll return your affections is in your dreams.
(sighs, turns off the light, goes to bed)
(new scene: apartment 1BDI. Leela is sitting on the edge of her bed, thinking up a storm)
Leela's prolonged internal monologues are far less open-ended than Fry's. For starters, they're not so much internal monologues as internal dialogues. A diagnosis of borderline Multiple Personality Disorder is the key to proper mindspeak technique.
Leela's mind: What was Fry thinking, trying to get me to go out with him after I'd already turned him down?
Leela's mind: Don't pretend you didn't want to say yes, at least a little bit.
Leela's mind: Of course not! I was thrilled when the Professor came in and kicked us all out.
Leela's mind: Because you were so nervous! Your heart was pounding so loudly, you could barely hear what he was saying!
Leela's mind: It's just as well. It was probably something idiotic.
Leela's mind: Come on, Turanga! Oh, yeah. Follow the Phil(ip) Rule with Leela, as well. In her mind, she's Turanga (or Toronga if you like to be wrong). Why don't you give him a chance?
Why indeed? Shippers and antishippers have debated this question for eons, attempting to make sense of a canon where characters don't wear their thought processes on their sleeves. Your shipfic ought to provide some sort of answer to this eternal question. Leela's oscillating mindspeak is an ideal place to get it out of the way, especially if you've squeezed some setup into Fry's internal monologue.
Leela's mind: Well... Maybe I'm afraid of getting hurt. Zapp, Alkazar, Adlai, Chaz. Every guy I date ends up making me feel terrible about myself.
Leela's mind: Fry won't do that. He's special.
Leela's mind: But that's the thing. He is special. What if it doesn't work out? I'm no good at staying friends with my exes, and I don't think I could stand to lose his friendship.
Leela's mind: It will work out. You guys are meant for each other.
Leela's mind: But--
Leela's mind: He loves you.
Leela's mind: But--
Leela's mind: And you love him!
Since Leela never pulled an L word during the series, and since so much of shipfic is an outlet for fans' frustration over what they consider unfinished business, you should drag as many declarations of love out of Leela as possible. How about we try for four? One to her own psyche, one to some third party, and two to Fry himself. We're in the middle of #1 right now. Time to get back to it.
Leela's mind: No I don't. He's just... Fry.
Leela's mind: Turanga! Be honest with yourself. You think about him all the time, he brightens your day just by being there, and you wouldn't be able to bear losing him. If that's not love, I don't know what is.
Leela's mind: Okay. Maybe I love him. But what should I do about it?
Leela's mind: Aks him out next time you see him.
Leela's mind: No! I couldn't!
Leela's mind: Yes. You can.
Leela's mind: Okay. I will.
Of course, she won't. Now's the time to incorporate something that we'll call Sitcom Dramatic Irony. Since you've crammed this many shipfic hallmarks into such a small space, you can afford to make your new fanbase sweat a little. "Oh, if they could only read each other's minds," your readers should moan, "everything would be so so simple!" It's sort of like a fairy tale. Everybody knows that Snow White and Prince Charming are going to hook up eventually, but it'd be boring not to let the evil witch get in a blow or two. And in this case, the witch's name is miscommunication.
(establishing shot: exterior of the Planet Express building)
(cut to everyone sitting at the meeting table. Fry and Leela are, of course, next to each other)
Leela's mind: Okay. Just invite him to an ape fight or something. No big deal. Quick, do it now before you lose your nerve. Now, Turanga!
Fry's mind: She's so perfect. She's probably sick of you. If you don't want to lose her, you should pretend to be over her.
Leela (simultaneously): Fry...
Fry (simultaneously): Leela...
Leela (relieved that some of the pressure is off): Yes?
Fry: I'm sorry about yesterday. I promise I'll stop hitting on you from now on.
Leela (flabbergasted): Oh, Fry...
Farnsworth: Good news everyone! You'll be delivering this package of bazookas to Granola 6, the hippy planet.
Amy: What would hippies want with bazookas?
And we've got our premise. Or, we're about to. The best way to deal with exposition like this is to get it all out of the way in one long, dull monologue. Many of your readers will probably only skim this part, but no matter. As we discussed earlier, the storyline is of secondary importance in shipfic. Few people care to read those boring parts, so why bother intricately weaving them in with the good parts? Another tip: since the bulk of your attention is already dedicated to more important matters, go ahead and thoughtlessly crank out as silly and ridiculous a premise as humanly possible. Something nobody would want to copy. That way, you can follow formula down to the letter but still feel like you have something unique to your name.
Farnsworth: That's an excellent question, Amy. You see, up until recently, the Granolians have lived pleasant lives governed by their three pillars of happiness: pacifism, drugs, and free love. This all changed when missionaries from the neighboring planet of Ophelia 4 arrived to teach the Granolians the concept of romantic love. All hell broke loose. Used to their no-strings-attached approach to dating, the Granolians were not prepared for the heartbreak that all spurned lovers know only too well. Then, to make matters worse, the Ophelians stole all their drugs and ran off to Tijuana 7. Left with nothing to soothe their pain, the Granolians' only recourse was to use bazookas to blow holes in one another to mirror the holes in their own hearts.
(suddenly, there is a loud noise and a smoking hole in the table. Fry has apparently gotten bored and decided to give one of the bazookas a try)
Sitcom Dramatic Irony can only get you so far. If you really want to create tension, get Fry and Leela to scream at each other for a while. This is good for two reasons. Firstly, it will give them something new to brood about until they resolve it in the most saccharine manner imaginable. Secondly, and more importantly, arguing--like such things as sitting next to each other, looking at each other, not looking at each other, smiling in each other's presence, disregarding each other's feelings, eating, sleeping, breathing, and wearing shoes--is a sure sign of barely concealed love.
Leela: Fry! This is why you're not supposed to touch the packages! You are such a child sometimes!
Fry: Oh yeah? Well, at least I'm not too uptight to take a chance every once in a while. Why don't you learn to live a little?
Leela: What chance? You fire a bazooka at the table, you should be pretty certain about what's going to happen! There's "living a little" and then there's risking lives!
Fry: What about breaking hearts?
Leela: How dare you bring that up right now? I'm sorry if I've hurt you, but that is no excuse for such reckless idiocy!
Fry: Oh, stop being so damn superior all the time! Maybe I'm dumb, but you're a heartless, manipulative slut! Now, if you'll excuse me, we've got a package to deliver.
(Fry stomps off in the direction of the hangar. Leela, Amy, Hermes, and Bender hesitantly follow, Amy and Hermes holding the package between them and exchanging knowing glances)
(new scene: Planet Express ship. Leela is piloting, but her mind is elsewhere)
In a fanfic argument, both parties say some hurtful things, but one person--namely, Fry--invariably comes off worse. The other person--by process of elimination, Leela--then feels that she is to blame. Why? Well, look at our example in chronological order. Fry endangers everyone's life and damages company property, Leela chastises and criticizes him, he tries a little criticism of his own, she shoots down his attack, he uses the ship against her, she rightly tells him that was uncalled for and offers up some bizarre apology/insult hybrid, and he calls her a heartless, manipulative slut and stomps off. Then she feels guilty. Yes. If you find yourself under attack for this turn of events, go with the old standby. Leela's a complex character! She doesn't have to make sense!
Leela's mind: Dammit, Turanga. Why are you always so hard on Fry?
Leela's mind: I don't know. I wish I had the courage to tell him how I really feel. He must be so hurt right now.
(enter Hermes and Bender)
Having some trouble writing Hermes and Bender? There's a marvelously easy solution. Each comes standard with a word (though I'm using the term "word" loosely) to include in just about every sentence. Drop the g's at the ends of -ing words on top of that, and voila! Instant characterization! For Hermes, the word is mon.
Hermes: Leela, mon, we need to talk about Fry.
Leela: Yeah. I know.
Hermes: He's sittin' in his quarters--where Fanfic Fry spends entirely too much of his time--right now, mon, angry and hurt. I can tell you care about him, mon, so why are you rippin' his head off?
Leela: I'm not sure. (puts her head in her hands, defeated) I don't mean to yell at him, but sometimes I can't help it. I do care about him, but--
And with Bender, the word is ain't. Yes, Bender's canon uses of the word were few and far between. But, well, he's rakish and low class. Why put extra effort into accurately writing a supporting character (and there's no denying that Bender is doomed to be reduced to that role for the sake of optimal ship factor) when a single word will get you into the ballpark automatically?
Bender: But you sure ain't showin' it!
Leela: I mean to--
Bender: Well, why ain't you?
Hermes: It's no good to hide your true feelin's like that, mon.
Time for declaration of love #2!
Leela: My true feelings? (sighs deeply) Okay. I... love him. But I'm scared!
Bender: There ain't nothin' to be scared of.
Hermes: Bender's right; he obviously loves you, too, mon.
Leela: Really? You think I should talk to him about how I feel?
Hermes: Yeah, mon!
Bender: Fry ain't some kind of genius! He ain't goin' to get it without you spellin' it out for him.
Leela: I'll think about it. (turns her attention to the window) It looks like we're just about there. (yells) Hey, Amy!
Leela: Go to Fry's quarters and tell him we're about to land.
Amy (significantly): Why don't you talk to him?
Leela: I need to land the ship.
Bender: She ain't ready yet.
Hermes: Definitely not, mon.
(Leela pretends not to have heard. Amy ambles over to Fry's quarters.)
(cut to Fry, sitting on the bottom bunk of a bunk bed)
To recap, Fry said some incredibly cruel things, and Leela was slightly snippy. Thus, Leela was overcome with guilt. Fry, on the other hand, should feel wronged and hurt. If you find yourself under attack for this turn of events, go with the old standby. Fry's dumb! He doesn't have to make sense!
Fry's mind: Why does she have to do this to me? She knows just what to do to make me feel terrible. I thought maybe if I fought back, my feelings wouldn't be so crushed, but now I feel worse than ever. It's this unrequited stuff. I'm so tired of it! Why does everyone else get to requite things when I'm stuck here, all alone?
Amy: Hey, Fry.
Fry: What do you want?
Amy: Wow, touchy. I just came here to tell you we'll be landing soon.
Fry: Sorry. I guess I'm not in the best mood right now.
You know what that means! Another heart to heart. By now, even you and your readers are probably running out of patience with these things, so you're allowed to cut this one mercifully short.
Amy: Yeah. Neither is Leela.
Amy: She has very strong feelings for you, but she hasn't quite come to terms with them. Give her some time and space. She needs it. Then she'll realize that she needs you. Oh look. We've landed. Let's get going.
At one point or another while reading this, you must have furrowed your brow, thinking, "This feels nothing like Futurama!" If this bothers you, be aware that there is an easy way to take care of it. So, how do you maintain your ties to the canon when you've warped the characters, interactions, pacing, and tone? You mention it. Constantly. Make Fry obsess over every shippy moment in the series until he resembles one of those 5 o'clock shadow sporting sadsacks who spend all their time in dingy pubs knocking back pints and lamenting past failures until they're called upon by some former friends to pull off one last heist. Though, come to think of it, those fellows only seem to exist in bad action movies... Random digression aside, boundless episode-related chatter is not only a cheap way to tie your fic to the series. It also ups your ship quotient considerably. And you can never do enough of that. If you want to feel creative, try mixing in an episode with little to no ship content and twisting it until it's useful to you.
(cut to the surface of Granola 6. The crew is heading towards a big building in the distance. Everyone is silent. Fry is carrying the package and bringing up the rear)
Fry's mind: Is she still angry? I bet she is. Remember when that guy was going to sell the company? She was disappointed when he didn't. I said you can't put a price on people you love, but she obviously disagreed. I all but told a whole roomful of people that I loved her, and she responded with anger.
But don't get too clever. Make sure to include a generous helping of actual shippy episodes in Fry's meandering train of thought. Bonus points for squeezing all of them in there!
But she did kiss me after I gave her that flower. And we were married in that other universe. We went on a date after meeting ourselves, and that other time, when we were teenagers. We kind of spent a romantic Valentine's Day together after we dumped those candy hearts overboard. That night on the Titanic was pretty romantic, too. But whenever something like that happens, we somehow reset to zero. Everything's the same, only my heart is a little more broken. Even after I talked her out of that coma, we were stuck being friends. The only times I had a chance with her--when I had the worms and when I wrote her a love note in the sky--cruel fate and my foolish ideas of nobility intervened.
Then immediately and abruptly switch back to your universe, to complete the illusion that your story meshes with the canon.
Amy said give her time to figure out how she feels. Hermes said she's been coming around. Maybe. As much as it kills me inside, the only thing I can do is wait.
Give Sitcom Dramatic Irony one last gasp before the action starts. If you're confident enough, try for some hamfisted foreshadowing as well.
Leela's mind: What is he waiting for? If he'd come walk with me, and strike up a conversation, maybe I'd have the courage to tell him how I feel.
Leela's mind: Well, Turanga, you could always initiate the conversation.
Leela's mind: No! I'm too nervous.
Leela's mind: Life's too short for that stuff, Turanga. You're taking him for granted. Talk to him now before it's too late.
Leela's mind: Too late. We're there.
(and, lo and behold, they've arrived at the big building. The sign in front of it once read Communal Love Hut, but has been crossed out to say Military Fortress. The characters exchange uneasy glances.)
Bender: Standin' around like this ain't goin' to accomplish nothin'!
Leela: You're right. Let's go.
(they approach the door, Leela in the lead. She tries knocking, but no one answers. She turns the knob to find it is unlocked. They all enter.)
Uh-oh, time to invent an alien race. Without armies of underpaid animators at your disposal, character design is a huge hassle that is worth neither your time nor your energy. Aliens are especially worthless. With a fan-created human character, you at least have the opportunity to turn them into a smarter, stronger, richer, more popular, talented, and attractive (but still completely accurate, of course) representation of yourself who gets all the good lines, becomes the object of a favorite character's affections, and ultimately saves the day. But who wants to project themselves onto a mass of identical aliens (don't bother distinguishing between or naming these buggers, by the way)? Not you, that's who. Luckily, it's easy to get away with varying degrees of laziness when it comes to these new species. You can be extremely lazy and not describe them at all. Many of your readers won't notice or particularly care. Case in point, did it bother you that there was absolutely no description of planet Granola 6 before you read this sentence? Be honest. If you swear it did, you can always upgrade to very lazy. Obscure your new characters somehow. Keep them in the shadows, hide them under robes. Anything to avoid that two-headed dragon of imagination and adjectives. Very lazy carries the added bonus of creating an automatic sense of mystery. If you're someone who fears the unknown, however, you might as well go for just plain lazy. Pick something from Futurama's repertoire and change a feature or two. After all, a polka dotted Trisolian is no longer a Trisolian. Since we tried extremely lazy with regard to the planet itself, we'll do very lazy for its inhabitants. We'll get to just plain lazy soon enough.
Mysterious voice: You must be the delivery boys. Nice of you to show up.
Leela: (narrows eye) Who said that?
Mysterious voice: (annoyed pause) To your left.
(everyone turns around accordingly, only to see a big cloud of smoke)
Amy: Where... are you?
Mysterious voice (even more annoyed): When Granolians spend too much time without drugs, smoke seeps from our pores.
Irrefutable! Now to quickly move on before anyone thinks too hard about that. As any good shipper knows, Futurama is primarily a bittersweet romance. Yet its fanbase includes this crazy faction that insists that the occasional joke has some value, as well. Utter nonsense, yes, but it might be wise to indulge the poor delusional bastards. These "sense of humor" types are a strange and often dangerous breed. Keep them happy or end up on the wrong side of a cream pie. But calm down. There's no need to go to the trouble of writing your own jokes. Instead, turn to the episodes, pick some gags at random, and use them for your purposes. Don't bother with the kind of high class callbacks you encounter within the confines of the series. Too much effort for something of such minimal importance. Instead, simply snatch the joke in its entirety and repeat it in a new context. Mix up who said what every so often to throw naysayers off the scent. If these hardened anti-emotion people think the show is so funny, rehash should be more than sufficient.
Fry: It's like that drug trip I saw in that movie when I was on that drug trip.
Bender: Why'd you open your bong hole, you smelly hippy?
Granolian #1: We want the bazookas, mechano man.
Granolian #2: Now there's something we can all enjoy!
Leela: But you might be invaders! Possibly from space!
Granolian #3: I find that offensive!
Leela: What if you try to attack us? I wouldn't trust you with the Professor's dentures.
Granolian #2: You're not nice!
Bender: Raise middle finger.
Granolian #4: Enough of this! Agreed. As with shipper episode recaps, these borrowed jokes should occur every so often throughout a comedic shipfic, but that worked well enough for the sake of example. If they won't willingly give us the package, we'll take it by force! And take the cyclops, too! That should teach them a lesson!
(clouds of smoke descend upon the PE crew. One hits Fry over the head with a club and the screen fades to black)
While we wait for Fry to come to, we'll briefly provide some context for what just happened. Leela is a physically and emotionally strong character who has rescued Fry innumerable times. In the later, shippier, seasons, Fry has been able to return the favor and inch close to winning her affection in the process. Fanfic writers take note of this development and respond by reducing Leela to the role of damsel in distress. The more saving she needs, the more malleable her emotions are, the sappier you can make your ending. In addition to that, Leela is significantly more difficult to write than Fry--if only because the chasm between fanon and canon is wider in her case--so it's hard to pass up an opportunity to get rid of her for a while.
(fade back in. We are now back at Planet Express. Fry is laying on the couch. He suddenly regains consciousness)
Fry: Leela? Are you okay? Leela!
Amy: (walks in from the next room) Morning, sunshine.
Fry: Amy! Where's Leela?
Amy: (awkward pause) Still on Granola 6.
Amy: They captured her and threw us out. It was all we could do to get ourselves back safely. Not to mention you! We thought you had a concussion or something.
Fry: Well, let's go get her!
Amy: We can't. There are lots of Granolians, they're really good at camouflage, and they're heavily armed.
Fry: There's got to be a way to save her!
He's right. You can't go ending a shipfic without Fry proving himself and Leela swooning. But how to get from here to there? If you haven't planned ahead, you're probably feeling a wee bit panicked right now. Never fear! There's a trick that shipfic swears by. When the going gets tough, introduce an incredibly convenient invention, and all will be well again.
(cut to Farnsworth in his lab. Fry comes running in)
Fry: Professor! Leela's been kidnapped by renegade hippies! Do you have any new inventions that could save her?
Farnsworth: Why, yes! My new Deus X Machine should be perfect for the job.
Your incredibly convenient invention should bear a striking resemblance to a canon invention, in both form and function, and you should not be subtle about telling your readers as much.
(picks up the Deus X Machine from his lab table. The device looks exactly like the Cool-o-meter from Bender Should Not Be Allowed on TV, only in tie dye colors) It's a device that measures how peaceful you are, much like my Cool-o-meter. The Granolians are a very image conscious race and will likely revert to their pacifist ways once they realize how brutal they look.
Fry: Wow, thanks Professor! I don't know what I'd do without you! So... We're ready to go, right? Let's go save Leela!
Armed with a handful of plot contrivance, Fry is about ready to lead this ragtag bunch of misfits to a predictable, sap-drenched conclusion. But what of the misfits the author personally dislikes? If there's a major supporting character you'd rather not write, don't bother. Until it's time to bother. Then bother a little. In other words, be sure to include a cameo to acknowledge this otherwise forgotten character, no matter how forced and unnatural it feels.
Farnsworth: Where have you been, Zoidberg? I haven't seen you in days.
Zoidberg: My home planet's embassy is having a week-long potluck dinner! A marvelous celebration with balloons and streamers and other great things to eat! I'm only here to search the kitchen for a covered dish. Farewell friends! (exits)
Fry: Let's go save Leela!
(cut to the PE ship. Fry is piloting with a determined look on his face. Amy, Bender, Hermes, and Farnsworth are there, doing nothing of interest. Everyone is silent.)
Now's as good a time as any to mine some more angst out of that ludicrous bazooka argument. You may skip this if you like. It will most definitely come up when Fry and Leela are reunited, whether or not you go to the trouble of threading it throughout the narrative. Normally, it would be better to sacrifice subplot continuity in favor of a quicker route to the final shippy resolution, but it's hard to pass up an opportunity to give Fry's mind something to whine about.
Fry's mind: I hope Leela's okay. What if she's not? What if she's... No! She's alive! She has to be. We never got a chance to make up after that fight we had. God, Phil, imagine if your last words to her were spoken in anger. You should have swallowed your pride and forgiven her.
Now that Leela isn't around, Fry can go ahead and feel guilty about the argument. That does not, however, mean you should let go of the illusion that he was in the right. Momentarily throwing aside broad strokes of obvious characterization to dabble in subtext, this device will help you to create the impression that Leela is redeeming herself when she finally accepts Fry. She's been wrong to stubbornly reject his clumsy advances all these years, so she ought to be wrong in some other aspect of your fic as well. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. We haven't even made it back to Granola 6 yet. Unless...
Fry: Well, looks like we're there. You guys wait here. I'll go alone.
Hermes: No, mon! It's too risky!
Farnsworth: You'll be killed!
Amy: Let him go. He needs to prove himself. Indeed he does. Similar to Leela needing to see the light, Fry needs to go all out to impress Leela and finally win her love. Just like... all those other times, when he didn't win her love.
Farnsworth: No! It's suicide! I'm not hiring a new delivery boy!
Amy: But he's in love!
Farnsworth: Oh, okay.
Bender: Go get 'er, meatbag!
Fry: I will. Thanks, guys.
(cut to the outside of the Granolian Military Fortress. Fry is banging on the door. Apparently, they've locked it this time.)
Fry: Let me in, you creeps! The girl of my dreams is in there, and I'm going to get her!
Voice from Within (exasperated): I'm coming, I'm coming!
Granolian: What do you want?
Fry: I want to see the prisoner!
Granolian: The cyclops? Never!
Fry: But I'm in love!
Granolian: Oh, okay. Follow me.
(Fry follows the Granolian down a series of hallways into a room containing a caged Leela. Granolian guards are stationed on either side of the door, in front of her cage, and scattered in other random places in the room. All are armed. Some are wielding the newly-acquired bazookas, some have laser guns, one has a sword.)
Fry: Well, I'll just be... taking Leela and going. Nice seeing you again.
Guard #1: Not so fast. You think we're going to let you go twice? If you're so determined to see this captive, perhaps we should imprison you as well. Get him!
(the sentient puffs of smoke descend on Fry, who, panicking slightly, fumbles in his pocket for the Deus X Machine)
Leela: Fry, no!
Guard #2: He's got a gun! Shoot him!
(Guard #2 shoots him. None of the other guards follow suit. The laser blast hits Fry in the chest. Leela gasps like a good piece of helpless damsel set dressing.)
Fry: (staggers slightly from the pain and impact but successfully finishes fishing the Deus X Machine from his pocket) Does this look like a gun to you?
Guard #2: Maybe.
Fry: Well, it's not! It's a gizmo that measures how peaceful you are! I think it's time I gave it a try. (He turns on the machine and points it at each of the guards in turn. It beeps infrequently and the arrow hovers around the lowest value.)
Guard #3: What fools we've been! (beeping speeds up, arrow starts to climb) Who cares what the Ophelian missionaries did? We can't let the man bring us down, man. Let's free the woman and have a hemp-growing festival!
Other Guards: Yay!
(Deus X Machine beeps furiously. An oversized white hand pops out of the side, making a peace sign. A voice vaguely similar to Tommy Chong's says, "Righteous." The guards all exit, one of them pressing a heretofore unnoticed red button on the wall as he leaves, unlocking Leela's cage.)
That was easy, eh? Once your incredibly convenient invention has been activated, everything must work exactly according to plan. Your readers will love being lulled into a false sense of security by a cheap knockoff of canon technobabble, only to be shocked when--at the moment of truth--the machine works exactly as they expected. If the guilt pangs brought on by the foul stench of lazy writing start to get to you, just repeat to yourself a mantra of, "irony is no longer ironic," until you've forgiven yourself. Or transcended reality to achieve a state of total Zen-like serenity. Whichever comes first. While you're working on that, take note of this. Before the machine is used, your characters are fair game for calamity. For instance, didn't Fry get shot?
Leela: Fry! You saved me! (opens cage door and runs to him... just as he collapses on the ground, unconscious) Fry? (gently peels back his jacket to reveal an ominous growing red stain on his shirt) Oh god! The laser... It must've... No! And... he used his last ounce of strength to save me!
Once again taking cues from the series, you must make sure that Fry's heroics lead him to a near death experience, with Leela being the one to revive him. But how? First aid? The surprise unveiling of Deus X Puff Senior? Ha! Looks like someone's forgotten their cheesy Disney movies. The only surefire awakening technique is Declaration of Love #3.
Fry, no! You can't die! I won't let you! I can't go on without you! Please, please, please live! I love you!
And maybe a kiss for good measure.
(She leans over and plants a gentle kiss on his lips. As she gets back up, a tear rolls down her cheek.)
Fry (weak): Got anymore where that came from?
Leela: Oh, Fry! I'm so glad you're alive!
Fry: Me too!
Leela: I don't know what I would've done if you... hadn't made it.
Fry: That's how I felt the whole flight over here.
Leela: Listen, Fry, I'm so sorry about earlier. I was being overly harsh.
Fry: It's okay, believe me. I could never stay mad at you. I promise.
Leela: (slightly watery smile) Promise me one other thing.
Fry: What's that?
Leela: That you'll never die on me.
Fry: (smiles back) I promise.
Or is it? This is a decent way to end your fic. Not quite up to par, but acceptable. The enemy has been deterred, love has been declared, the argument has been resolved, blood and tears have been shed, lines mushy enough to have been left on Jerry Maguire's cutting room floor have been spoken, and the reader is free to imagine a storybook continuation of this saccharine mass of cliches. Ah, but therein lies the problem. If you learn one thing from this guide, let it be this: never trust your reader to imagine anything. Who knows what equivocal places their simple little minds could wander without you leading the way? So, let's see a more concrete ending.
(cut to Fry's quarters on the PE ship. Fry has been bandaged up, and he is sitting alone on his bunk, looking sullen. Leela enters. Fry looks at the floor.)
Leela: Hey. Feeling any better?
Fry: A little. I was just lucky that laser blast didn't hit any vital organs.
Leela: I'll say. Chests are pretty vital places.
(they both laugh awkwardly)
Fry: Look, I know why you're here.
Leela: What are you talking about?
Fry: You're here to tell me not to read too much into how you said you loved me. That you were saying all sorts of crazy things to try to bring me back. I already know. I'm not mad. I'm not deluding myself. I'm happy it worked. So, there's no need to confront me about it, okay?
Declaration of Love #3 was delivered under stressful circumstances, leading Fry to jump to strange conclusions. He chooses to believe she was speaking out of cunning, ignoring the obvious fact that the words were forcefully squeezed out of her by an overzealous writer who values disingenuous emotion over consistent characterization. Er, the obvious fact that she was speaking out of love, I mean. Don't know how that other bit got in there. Anyway, this contrived display of pessimism can be put to good use, as it brings us to Declaration of Love #4.
Leela: No, Fry. That's not it at all. I do love you. I've always loved you. I've only recently been able to admit it to myself, but I now realize that you're the only one for me.
Fry: Really? You're not... You didn't... This is great! I love you too, Leela!
Leela: I know. And I never get sick of hearing it. (she takes a seat next to him on the bed and holds his hand) So... Now what?
Fry: Let's set a date. Tomorrow night at Elzar's. And an ape fight the next day. And then dancing the day after. And then maybe a movie after that...
Leela: Plans for the rest of our lives together, then? (smiles) Sounds great.
Or is it? This sort of ending is like a more conclusive version of certain 4ACV endings. Instead of the promise of a date, there's the promise of a relationship. Instead of a confused moment of awkward sweetness, there's a moment of confusion followed by intense, overdone sweetness. But the episode endings always reversed themselves by the start of the next show. What if your ending were to do the same? With that in mind, you may want to either besmirch an existing canon ending or take the lovebirds far beyond the realms explored by said inconclusive conclusions. Let's take a look at both.
(establishing shot of the PE ship pulling into the hangar)
(cut to Fry's quarters. He and Leela are still on his bed, now engaged in some heavy petting. The door opens and Farnsworth enters.)
Farnsworth: Get a room, you two! There's to be no canoodling on my ship!
(Fry and Leela both quickly get up, embarrassed. They follow Farnsworth into the ship's cabin, where Amy, Hermes, and Bender sit, all looking extraordinarily amused.)
Bender: It's about time you flesh piles hooked up!
Amy: Ooh, when's the wedding?
Hermes: What'd I tell you, mon? I knew she was about ready to fall for you.
Leela: Ugh... Fry, you want to get out of here?
Leela: Good. Walk me home?
(cut to Fry and Leela walking the pavement as the sun sets on the futuristic cityscape. Their hands are clasped tightly, their smiles unwavering, their eyes misty.)
Fry: Some day we've had.
Leela: (nods fervently) I wouldn't want it any other way.
Fry: Me neither. I still can't believe this is actually happening. I keep thinking it's some wonderful dream.
Leela: (clutches his hand tighter) A dream come true maybe. (leads Fry to the front door of an apartment building) I'm in this building here. Don't you remember the way?
Fry (suddenly melancholy): How could I forget?
Leela: What do you mean?
(they sit down on the front steps)
Fry: The only other time I was here... It didn't end so well.
Leela: Oh. That. Fry, I'm so sorry about that night. I was stupid. You caught me off guard, and I was in an emotional state, and... (looks down, ashamed) Those aren't excuses. I'm sorry for the way I acted.
Fry: It's fine.
Leela: How did you even manage it? Getting rid of the worms, I mean.
Fry: I never told you, did I? (Leela shakes her head) Well, I needed to know if you loved the real Fry, or just the worm-induced SuperFry. Hmm... Is it just me, or does that name sound familiar? If you want to feel fiendishly clever, find a way to work in the name or pseudonym of a prominent member of the Futurama fan community. If you want to feel fiendishly elitist, make sure the name belongs to someone completely obscure to those unfamiliar with the history, culture, and in-jokes of peelified.com. Take that, half of TLZ's readership! Anyway, back to Fry's episode-ruining divulgence. Ends up it was the second one you loved.
Leela: SuperFry, you mean?
Fry: Right, him. I was crushed, but it was worth it. It was worth dueling an army of those disgusting worms. It was worth making a mess of my own brain. It was worth threatening to chop off my medusa enchilada if they didn't leave, even though I would've died in the process.
Leela: (gasps) I had no idea! That's so noble of you.
And, with that, a little piece of Parasites Lost dies forever. As a shipfic writer, it is your duty to feel personally affronted by the bittersweet endings of 3ACV's shipper episodes. Luckily, this duty is accompanied by a privilege. If you wish, you may go to great lengths to undo these endings. In this example, Fry simply told Leela the story, but feel free to include heaps of crazy plot twists in your own ending negation. The unlikelier the circumstances, the better! On another note, don't go reversing one ending without the other. If you're going to be killing episodes, you might as well go for the double homicide.
(Leela opens the front door and the two of them begin to walk up the stairs. The camera stays focused on one place, showing their backs as they exit the shot.)
Fry (voice over): Oh, also, I used some stars to write you a love note in the sky when we were trying to fix the time skips, but then time skipped over it, and then, later, I saw the message, but it imploded before you could.
(cut to apartment 1I's front door. She unlocks it. Fry shuffles his feet, visibly uncomfortable.)
Fry: Well, I'll see you tomorrow. Elzar's at seven, right?
Leela: Right. (awkward pause) Good night! (closes the door. Fry stands there in the hallway, gazing wistfully off into the distance. The door opens again.) Oh, get in here! (Leela drags Fry into her apartment, through the living room, and into her bedroom. She closes this door as well, but this time it stays shut. The camera lingers on the door as moans of ecstasy and creaking bedsprings become suddenly audible.)
Or is it? Funny thing about Leela's apartment. It spurs a sex scene like no other place in the known universe. Guess the underfurnished state of the place doesn't leave them much else to do. This is a fine way to end your fic. PG rated romantic comedy style sex implications are sure to be enjoyed by giggling twelve year olds around the world. But if you really want to wow your readership, you'll have to take that extra step to move this already rushed relationship to the speed of light.
(new scene: Leela's bedroom, the next morning. Leela is asleep, her head nestled in the crook of Fry's arm. He is awake, watching her.)
Fry's mind: Wow, Phil, can you believe your luck? She's so beautiful, and now she finally loves you back. It doesn't get any better than this.
Leela: (stirs slightly, blearily opens her eye) Good morning.
Fry: Good morning, Leela.
Leela: Have you been awake for long?
Fry: Not too long. As if it matters. I could lie here forever, watching you sleep peacefully and letting my mind wander.
Leela: You really mean that?
Fry: I do.
Leela: So, what were you thinking about?
Fry: All sorts of things. You, mostly.
Fry: And... That thing Amy said. "When's the wedding?"
Leela: (smiles) As soon as possible.
No, really. So, as this friendly guide draws to a close, you should feel confident enough to write a shipfic of your own. You'll be fine, so long as you remember to change the characters almost beyond recognition, utilize internal monologues and dialogues to the point of mental anguish, liberally borrow from canon even as you mangle it to suit your fancy, and always, always underestimate the intelligence of your readers. They'll love you for it.