Let’s break that word down, shall we? Fan: “a person who is very enthusiastic about someone or something…” and Fiction: “literature in the form of prose, especially short stories and novels, that describes imaginary events and people.” (Note: These definitions were found and copied from the Google gods themselves.)
So FAN and FICTION, when joined together–when married or slashed or written–becomes FANFICTION, or: “a person who is very enthusiastic about someone or something, who turns to literature or prose, thus creating novels and short stories that describe pre-existing characters in imaginary events, situations and alternate universes.”
I came up with that last one myself, not bad, eh? ANYway.
Fanfiction exists as a huge subculture of fandom and it’s a thing I have been a part of for nearly the entirety of my life. I started writing when I was twelve years old (twenty-one years strong!) and while I didn’t know its official name in those days—the internet was still a toddler in 1995—I knew I was your different breed of fan, since I went so far as to write about what I loved.
My mind longed to expand the universes and see where the characters could go beyond what we had been shown or told or read. I wanted to play with them, lovingly, harmfully, teasingly, etc., and so I penned my pre-teen heart out time and again onto college-ruled copybooks. Copybooks I would stash and hide away for fear of them being found by others.
Wait. Why did I hide my creativity?
Well, I would try to broach the subject with best friends and close family and almost every time, no one had a clue as to what I was talking about. Or, I would get the “you write made-up stories about other made-up stories?” to which I promptly replied: “yes, I create my own worlds based on another author’s core characters. It’s buckets o’fun!”
Typically, the response from people, aside from clueless-blankface, would be little more than squinty, judgement-laden eyes. But… luckily for me, I had an Ace in my pocket: My first and longest best friend, a cousin named D, would encourage me with massive appraise no matter the content I snail-mailed her way. The praise was undue at the time, given that my writing was deplorable, but unconditional familial love is blind, as was my ego, so I took the shining star reviews and ran haphazardly with them.
It was D’s loyal, albeit adorable, praise that fueled the fire from day 1; aside from the act of writing itself, which was a cathartic escape during those bullied, depressed days of my youth, she was my only source of writer-support back then. Dammit, I love that woman! Makes mental note to send D this blog.
I wrote stories based on everything I became obsessed about: The Beatles (yes, RL, or Real Life Fanfic, which is a subculture to fanfic’s subculture), Spider-man, Smallville, Supernatural, Man of Steel, X-Men: First Class/Days of Future Past, TMNT, The Dark Knight Trilogy, and nowadays, Star Wars.
Some of these fandoms had thousands and thousands of words written about them by yours truly, and the others not so much. But the important thing to note here is that these fictions exist because I am a fervent believer in the power of fan-made fiction.
That said, the idea of fanfic on the whole is still taboo in the author’s world and this fact is nothing short of grating to my nerves. Why, you may be asking again? Because the elitists that exist on Planet Earth believe this type of written word doesn’t make a writer …a writer. Which boggles my mind.
Repeat after me:
If you write, you’re a writer.
Simple as that. And yet, the “Elites” who view fanfiction as the theft of another’s genius don’t see how it in itself is genius.
I’m not suggesting all mega-star or small-fry authors think this way, as that would paint an entire group with the same brush. I’m not a fan of speaking for an entire culture or subculture. But to prove that not everyone hates fanfic: A little known woman who goes by the name of J.K. Rowling has been quoted as being “flattered [that] people want[ed] to write their own stories” based on her characters.
That kind of blessing is one in a billion, so thank you J.K! We didn’t need your seal of approval but it works to further our culture’s advantage and so it is much appreciated.
Back to the point: Why is it that fanfiction is frowned upon? Why do these Elites believe it’s nothing more than blatant thievery and a leech to publication in and of itself? I mean, aside from the “you didn’t create the core story or characters” argument, I can’t think of any other valid reason.
Fanfiction is an expression of creativity; some authors go so far as to create their own universes based on these existing characters, forgoing and yet building upon all the hard work done by the original author. It doesn’t mean we want to steal a damn thing, it simply suggests that we’ve fallen so deeply in love that the need to adopt said characters into new fantasies, to allow free reign and wild adventures to befall our favorites, is what makes us tick.
I suppose one could compare fanfic to a TV show spin-off, or a sequel filmed by a different director. There’s little to no difference, and I stand behind this opinion 100%.
And if we take a leap backwards and look at the whole grandiose picture, isn’t that a beautiful thing? To create and be inspired by others? To open our minds and see where it takes us?
Building upon a rock that has existed for eons doesn’t take away from the rock itself, it builds it up, furthers its life and offers a more in-depth glimpse into its past. I see nothing wrong or criminal in this, only a new way of looking at the same thing.
So how about we stop hiding our passions for fanfiction and start encouraging the future generation of writers to come. I love finding and encouraging young authors—kids who are so afraid to share their work for fear of backlash or negative feedback (both online and in real life) that it dampers their talent rather than enhancing it. So yeah, okay. I’ll be that girl who helps and pushes them to keep going.
I was fortunate enough to have had someone like D in my life, otherwise I don’t know where I’d be today.
Discussion: Do you write/read fanfiction? What are your thoughts on it? I’d love to hear and debate (if need be)!
*I digress a lot, don’t I? 😉