Ten months ago I wrote a post about Romance that was my personal love letter to the genre, and now I want to do the same for fan fiction.
Fan fiction (or fanfiction) is another type of writing that, like Romance, is condemned and vilified by those who believe they have the intellectual higher ground. Given that most fanfics also depict a romantic or sexual relationship between two or more characters, I believe many of those who deride fanfiction are the same who look down on Romance.
Of course, we all know that some people have different issues with fan fiction, mainly ones that stem from legal concerns. Many are scared of plagiarism, which —for the record— is very different from fan fiction. Others don’t want to share their own characters and ideas with random people from the Internet. But I think there are some issues that may be caused by people not being familiar with fanfiction; they don’t understand what fanfiction really is about and where it comes from.
Fanfiction is not something new created by the weird people of the Internet. The term fanfiction predates the creation of the world wide web by half a century. The name first appeared in 1939 and fan fiction became an important part of fandom culture in the 60s thanks to Star Trek, but derivative fiction written with characters and settings established by a previous author or based on a non-fictional subject that attracted many followers has been an important part of mankind’s literature since the beginning of the written word. Think about Shakespeare, the fake sequel to Don Quixote, the Arthurian cycle, and even the apocryphal gospels. When the novels published in installments were popular, people used to write their own additions and endings as they waited for the following chapter to arrive; sometimes they would send them to friends and family, and that is how the Brontë sisters got published. So we admire writers who have composed fanfiction and we call some derivative works “classics”, but still the mention of the term fanfic makes people sneer.
And nevertheless, we keep writing fan fiction.
Like many of us, I started reading fan fiction because the canon was not enough. Not satisfactory enough, not happy enough, not gay enough… And, somehow, I ended up discovering a community of people who wrote both fanfics and Romance novels that covered all my needs. I made new friends, read fanfics whenever I was too stressed for anything else, went back to writing… discovered that what I used to write for my school friends was basically fan fiction… then started to write in English and, eventually, decided to write my own original stories. And here we are.
Fanfiction is an important part of fandom, of literature, and of our lives. And that is why AO3 winning a well-deserved Hugo Award made me so happy and emotional this week. The fact that people have started to notice and appreciate fan fiction globally, and that they’ve awarded a site that was created to fight against censorship and other limitations is a huge step. But don’t just take my word for it. You can read some cool articles about this on Polygon, Vox and The Mary Sue.
So… have you ever read or written fanfiction? Has it helped you in any way?