Are you familiar with the term fanfiction? Fanfics, also referred to as FF, are literary works that are based on existing works. The source can be a book, a movie, a series … The fanfiction author is usually a fan of the work. A big fan. Fanfiction usually has no commercial ambitions and its main birthplace is the internet. It is damned by many as offence and destruction of the original source. This is very easy to understand. Fanfictions rarely achieve at least some quality. They are often terrible, rough, and clumsy offspring of teenagers. Yes, full of those things that usually occupy the adolescent mind. And these teenagers usually force the main character and the villain to do the mentioned activities … Huge age difference? Not a problem. Can an animal participate? Sure! Well… Yes, it is a mess. So, what’s so good about fanfiction and its authors shouldn’t burn in hell?
The author of the original work can say no
Most fanfiction sites have a publicly available list of authors and works that are protected from the muddy FF waters. Strictly protected. Many authors have an allergic reaction to the idea that someone else is working with their characters or their world. Of course, they have every right to feel like this. Whenever a new author declares they are against fanfiction based on their hard work, all admins of the FF sites will usually take down the existing fanfictions and add a new author name to the forbidden list.
It is not just a matter of decency. The main motivation is the fear of ugly words like a lawyer and a lawsuit. You say you don’t post in an archive or forum, but have your own blog? Your fanfiction is not safe there. You can only hope that if you are caught, you will first receive a pull-down request and not a greeting from the court.
Fans have the right to love and express their love through fanfiction. The authors have the right to resist this pressure.
It must also be said that the opinion of the authors themselves on fanfiction is changing. Anne Rice, for example, refused it for years. Later, in 2012, however, she expressed her understanding of fanfiction as a transit element that can help new authors work towards originality.
Neil Gaiman shares the same opinion. He claims that if no one makes money on FF, everything is fine. He also noted that the existence of fanfiction is actually a good sign. If you get FF as an author, you’re probably writing well.
Authors who strictly reject fanfiction include Dennis L. McKiernan, Irene Radford, JR Ward, Laurell K. Hamilton, Nora Roberts, PN Elrod, Raymond Feist, Robin Hobb, Robin McKinley, and Terry Goodkind.
A supportive community
Fanfiction is mainly about the fans of the work. About the people who are so passionate about a given story and characters that they simply don’t have enough. The author of the original source is only one person. What takes several months or years to write is read in a few hours. The blockbuster movies are in production for many months as well. And no, it’s not enough, readers want more! And the author often decides to pair the characters differently than some of the fans want or omits a character from the story. A beloved character is cruelly murdered. Or the villain gets away easily. The popular series simply doesn’t have room for all possible side storylines and different endings. The Remedy? Easy. People write their own versions and share them. What’s good about this? Fanfiction is often a refuge for wounded and lost souls. No, this is not a dramatic exaggeration. The biggest stars of FF forums were often bullied gray mice with a difficult life. For them, creation is an escape from reality. And their stories brought them encouragement and kind words from their readers. Imagine a bullied girl in a worn and not exactly fitting dress. Not popular at school. At home, she hears only quarrels, one of the parents may be gone … And so she writes. And she spends the beautiful hours reading FFs of others. Or turn your attention to a single father. Exhausted from work, he does homework with the children. And in the evening, he releases steam by writing a very action-packed scene. His heroine will survive this time and live happily ever after. The mother of a disabled child may be telling goodnight fairy tales and does not have so much creativity herself. But the child loves their favorite book. And so the mom bases her stories on it and together they fly to a better place for a while. Over time, she may start a blog and put these new versions there.
Fanfiction is a place where you can pour out your heart and get understanding. The discussions are lengthy, you will meet many kindred spirits … You will also find opponents who can argue to blood whether Triss or Yennefer is good enough for Geralt. Or why Harry should have dated Luna. But understanding, support, and shared enthusiasm usually prevail. And that’s good. Story archives have many search options to choose from. You can choose exactly which characters you want to meet in the story, what relationship they should be in. Whether you want it bloody or covered with sugar. There are often age recommendations or trigger warnings. People usually respect and help each other.
The shady side may be the huge popularity of the authors of the fanfiction. Many are responsible for long, even book-long, fanfictions and have gained a large fan base. However, it often happens that the author ceases to be fulfilled with fanfiction. Interest shifts elsewhere, the person matures, something else happens in life… and they disappear from the waters of the FF world. Sometimes they come back, drop the long-awaited new chapter. And gradually disappear completely without explanation. Maybe they post a farewell article. It often happens that such abandoned blogs have high traffic even years after the author’s disappearance. Fans appear in the comments and sigh that they come here several times a year. Sadly, they find that nothing has changed yet. And they’ll wait a few more months. They even try to contact the author and require fanfic sequels.
Fanfiction writers start with solid basics. They have the whole finished world and characters at their disposal. They thus avoid the huge part of the work, when the author has to build their fictional world from scratch. This nutritious foundation provides plenty of room to create. As fanfiction is primarily expected to be of no quality, crazy ideas are accepted smoothly and you can afford to experiment with anything. Time-travel? Secret twin? Love between the protagonist and the enemy? Yes, fanfiction is often full of clichés. It is farfetched, too long, repeated, overdramatic, illogical … But the light of hope and inspiration always shines. In an already created world, the FF writer can create their own side character. Or their own place. And this, a new and fresh idea, can later be used to build something completely different. In a fit of creativity, a writer can create large pieces of their own world full of their own ideas.
An original book may be a final result years later. And then the second book may come. And maybe the new writer will become so popular that they will become afraid of the FF that would destroy their own work.
2 thoughts on “The Blessings of Fanfiction”
Anyone who wants to write fan fiction about my characters is welcome to do so 😀
I have written fan fiction proudly for years. I started off as the awkward teen Mary Sue writer (so shame me for it but it was that or self harming to deal with some pretty shitty emotional baggage so I prefer words on the page) and I’m now in my 30s and still writing.
We’re my first pieces utter drivel? Yes. Did I learn and grow and mature? Yes. Did I learn to craft stories on FFN and AO3? Yes. Am I a published author in my own right now? Yes.
Fan fiction is love and celebration. There is so much more to it than people think but all that gets on the news is the ‘weird, fetish, fantasy’ stories. Such a small percentage. The rest is creative, beautiful and rounds off stories, gives us the past and the future of beloved characters.
If anything original I wrote became popular enough to have fan fiction written about it, I would be so excited! What an honour that my characters inspired something else and, hell, even if someone decides they want to do some slash alien fetish story with it, then baby you do you! Let’s be happy. You aren’t hurting me, you’re playing with fictional characters.
Transformative works produced not for profit are glorious and the community is even better.
Now I’m off to write some more of my fan fiction for The Untamed and add that to my 1.7 million words I’ve already given away for free to multiple fandoms.
Oh and Anne Rice (ha ha!) I was in fandom when she did her thing and I have never ever on principle read a word she has ever written because of it. I may only be one reader but it’s one reader she’ll never have.