Fan Fiction

Nov 30, 2012   //   by Christina   //   Thoughts  //  2 Comments

There’s something I must admit.  It’s something I’m ashamed to be ashamed of, something that isn’t a vice but is often treated as one.

I love reading fan fiction.

Fan fiction, the term, is rather self-explanatory.  It is fiction written by fans about their favorite books, movies, and television shows.

But it goes beyond that.  It is a world created by fans with its own language and culture, where one can readily see that the word “fan” is derived from the word “fanatic” but in the most interesting way possible.

When I bring up the subject of fan fiction to the uninitiated, the first reaction is usually derision.  Most people are under the impression that fan fiction are written by people who can’t write proper fiction.  That those who can’t write, write fan fiction.  Of course there are the stories that are tedious to read, headache-inducing drivel full of ridiculous characters, but the percentage of these is equal to the amount of headache-inducing drivel full of ridiculous characters I find on the bookshelves of bookstores that still somehow make money.  More often, in thousands of fan fiction I have read, I find myself amazed by how fantastic the writing is.

Not everyone can write a piece of good fan fiction.  I fancy myself a semi-decent writer but I can not, for the life of me, fashion a decent piece of fan fiction.  Not only does the fan fiction author need to fashion a good plotline with good characters, they often need to work within the constraints of an already-established universe and within the personalities of characters that aren’t their own creations.  These authors need to understand the characters to the point that they can plonk them down into an unknown situation, and have them still believable to the legions of fan-readers that critically pick apart anything less.  They are master remixers, cataloguing the most obscure details of a character, the one that a casual person wouldn’t even notice, and then delve into hidden motivations, thoughts, and relationships , explorations of human nature based on the little information they are given.

When reading fan fiction, I’ve found myself coming to a greater understanding and appreciation of a certain character that is only treated shallowly in the original source material.  Because the original source material has something it’s trying to convey, it can’t spend hundreds of pages trying to extrapolate everything about everyone to its satisfaction.  That’s where fan fiction comes in, it is the hundreds and thousands of pages of fans learning and exploring and understanding these characters that are beloved to them.

Of course, fan fiction is also a form of fantasy fulfillment.  It is an ultimate game of “What if?”  What if that character hadn’t died?  How would that change the relationship dynamics?  What if we had been able to stay longer in that scene?  What could have happened unseen? What if these characters had superpowers?  What if they lived in space?  What if they encountered characters from another television series?  No thought experiment is taboo as long as the author can support it with good writing.

I find that those who write and read fan fiction are some of the most tolerant people since there are so many people who have so many different fantasies and it’s all displayed out in a public forum.  Often, these fantasies wouldn’t pass muster in the greater social setting, but within the world of fan fiction, anything goes.  That’s why it has become good social etiquette to post warnings about any subject matter that might weird others out, so that people who don’t like to read about certain fantasies can steer clear.   The authors of fan fiction accept that others don’t share their fantasies and, in return, the readers accept that the authors can write about whatever fantasies they like, fostering an atmosphere of support and acceptance that is hard to find in the wider world.

Not only is fan fiction a vehicle for fantasy fulfillment, but it’s often used by authors as therapeutic outlets in difficult subject matter.  I’ve read stories where delicate subject matter such as the devastating consequences of rape, child abuse, mental disorders, prostitution, and self-harm have been explored with heart-rending tenderness and understanding.  Stories don’t shy away from homelessness, substance abuse, socioeconomic differences, or differences in human capabilities.  These things we shy away from in our normal life are often dissected in minute detail within a story.  What happens if someone we love has become an alcoholic?  What happens if we fall in love with someone who is autistic?  What happens if we encounter someone who’s homeless?  What do we do?  Using these characters that are familiar, that have been studied so deeply that they’re more familiar than our own selves, we can figure it out for ourselves.  Sometimes, I wish the real world outside could work along the same lines, that we could all seek to understand before we condemn.

So, yes, I believe that fan fiction is a creative endeavor worthy of being considered as “real” writing.  In fact, I told my husband that I am looking forward to the first piece of fan fiction written of the characters in my novels, because then I’d know that someone out there cares for them as much as I do.

2 Comments

  • Good question! I love to write but haven’t wrttien any of my own fanfic. Haven’t been struck by an idea that moves me yet.The fan fiction I like is what they call “alternative universe” stuff – meaning it’s Edward and Bella etc but it’s not within the context of Twilight – they’re human, or it’s the future and Bella’s a vamp, or something like that. If it’s too close to the story, I am afraid I’ll get confused.And I don’t mind the occasional smutty fanfic ;-)I think the most innovative one I’ve read so far is the Puppet Master one, though I’m a fan of many others. They’re a good way to pass the time while waiting for BD!

    • I know what you mean about getting confused. If I read too many well-written fanfics that take place within the canon universe, I start believing certain plotlines are real, and then become quite sad when I realize they aren’t. And yes, I do enjoy the occasional smutty fanfic also =)

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