In Defense Of Fanfiction
I can remember quite clearly the first fanfiction I read. It was back in middle or high school. I would say that is about right. I was inspired to write my first long form story back then as well and over the next year or so I wrote over 50,000 words of this extremely ambitious but ultimately futile fanfiction. I discovered my love of writing through the Internet when I was in the sixth grade on AOL message boards and submitted a short story as a spin off to a V.C. Andrews series as a final project in my sixth grade language arts class. I wrote a short fanfiction story to the Animorphs television show. I’ve been writing fanfiction for as long as I’ve been writing. It always has, and always will, hold a special place in my heart and one that I’ve come to accept much more as I’ve gotten older.
Over the last five years or so fandom has gone from the quiet corners of the Internet to exploding onto the mainstream. There have been court cases made against Harry Potter fanfiction that managed to get picked up by major publishers. There have been series such as Fifty Shades of Grey and City of Bones that began their lives as fan fic only to go on to New York Times Best Sellers. It’s not uncommon now for journalists to pull up fanfiction or fan art and bring it to the actors or actresses that it is portraying at press conferences. The entire concept of fanfiction has a dirty stigma to it that I believe is unfair and also degrades the entire concept of fanfiction as an art form.
Fanfiction is sometimes thought to be a modern invention but fanfiction has been around for as long as people have been writing stories. The ‘Sherlockians’ back when Doyle was publishing the stories basically invented almost all of modern fandom. People have been re-vamping and re-writing Shakespeare for as long as Shakespeare has been around. The Divine Comedy has an author self-insert that goes through the entire story. The only thing that the Internet has done is unite and expand the scope of fanfiction and fandom as a whole. I currently have friends that live halfway across the world that I met through fandom and fanfiction back in the day and some of them are my closess friends to date.
When you tell someone you write fanfiction, though, there is a stigma that goes along with that. There is this idea that all fanfiction is “pervy porn” written by people in their basement that’s horribly written. Now there is plenty of that out there, but the reason why fanfiction varies so wildly in quality is that it’s written by amateurs. These stories are written by people who are just finding their creative voices or who have zero interest in writing as a career. I have a friend that is studying medicine at the moment who has zero interest in writing as a profession but she writes fanfiction. These stories are written for the love of the characters, the series and sometimes even just the love of writing itself.
I’ve read fanfiction that is so wonderfully written I wished I could throw money at the author for giving me such an amazing experience. I’ve read stories that are over 100,000 words long, that have blood, sweat and so much work put into them and the author won’t receive a penny for that work. The authors aren’t the only one’s out there; there are people who dedicate hours of their lives helping people like me edit their stories. There are beta readers out there doing the work of paid editors who are asking for nothing in return. The person that edited a lot of my more recent delves into fandom helped me break one of my worst bad habits in my writing. She helped me improve as an author because she took the time to edit a fan fic I wrote.
Then there are the places these stories are hosted. FanFiction.net has been around since 1998 and the beginning of the mainstream Internet. In recent years a website called Archive of Our Own (known as the AO3 online) has come along and made the experience even better with a tagging system. The AO3 is run entirely on donations from the generous people who decide to support it. The site has recently surpassed over two million works with over 20,000 fandoms represented and nearly 75,000 users. Fanfiction already exists in a strange place of legality, which is why I think it’s so amazing the amount of work authors and artists put in because they won’t make any money, so places like these sites give people a safe haven to host their work.
For a good portion of my life I’ve had to lie or dance around the question when it comes to me writing fanfiction but I’m sick of that. I want to change the way people look at this hobby and see it as something to be encouraged or praised. You should never make fun of someone who spent hours writing hundreds of thousands of words when they have nothing to gain aside from some nice comments from a stranger on the Internet. You shouldn’t make fun of a person who has lost hours of their life reading fanfiction on the Internet. They are reading and that’s important. You should never make fun of someone who decided to pass their time by drawing a character from their favorite movie. These people are making these works with the inclination that they will ever receive anything for it and that isn’t something to mock but something to praise.
I’ve been writing fanfiction since the late 90’s and have worked on projects on and off until the present day. I know I’m never going to get anything for it aside from practice for the original writing I would like to get published some day and also for the fun of it. There is plenty of bad fan fic out there but there are plenty of bad original fiction as well. To judge an entire medium based on the bad would mean the complete dismissal of all creative outlets.
I write fanfiction and I’m not ashamed of it anymore.