Fanfiction and literature

I’m often amused by how many people look down their nose at fanfiction. People often decide that it’s a lesser form of literature due to the fact that the characters or story universe or artifacts or whatnot were not necessarily created by the fanfiction author, particularly if the author inserts themselves as a Mary Sue (see: the evil one who is usually ridiculously perfect.) However, in recent years, fanfiction has been given a bit of a boost in people’s eyes.

Many people don’t realize that fanfiction has been around a long, long time. For instance, in the earliest manuscripts located on King Arthur, he wasn’t even a king, merely a great warrior hero, or possibly a forgotten Celtic deity. Guinevere? Lancelot? They were additions incorporated into the story at a much later date – essentially, fans of the story decided the story needed a little punch, some romance, some intrigue… turn poor heroic Arthur into a cuckold. The same sort of thing happened with Robin Hood. Maid Miriam was pretty much a comical, if rather lewd, side note – it wasn’t until much later that she became more important in the story, again the product of fans of the story desiring more romance and intrigue, expanding her role until Robin Hood was almost never spoken of without mention being made of Maid Miriam.

In recent years however, despite the derision and scorn many fanfiction writers face, some rather more prominent ones became noted in the literary world with their published works. Having honed their skills by writing online for people who liked the characters from certain fandoms, as they are often called, they then were able to use what they learned – what people like to read, how to write so the style sucks you in and you don’t even notice the style, how to fully flesh out the characters and keep them from seeming one dimensional, which is rather harder than most people realize – and were able to turn it around, change up the characters enough, and were able to get it published. It’s not merely the changing of names, though it’s definitely one of the most important one.

The most recent one that people often snub because, let’s face it, “mommy p0rn”, not that I’ve read it because, ew, is the 50 Shades of Grey series by E. L. James. By this point anyone who had been conscious at some point in the past ten years has heard of the Twilight series and have heard that the 50 Shades stuff is a rather blatant riff on Twilight. Just goes to show that no matter how awful the original work is (Twilight) if it exists, somebody will make a fanfic of it, or in this case, following rule 34, make an extra smutty version of it.

However, there are well done versions, or at least psuedo-versions, such as the Southern Vampire Mysteries on which the True Blood series is based. I haven’t read it myself, but I had heard about it before I had ended up seeing much of the series (Mom was a fan). About five years back I came across somebody online had told me that the writer had originally written Inuyasha fanfiction online, only to pull the fanfiction when they had rewritten it enough to publish. The person had a huge following and naturally followed the writer to the published format. Hearing that, I carefully watched the show to see if I could figure out what it may have been based on. I quickly caught on to the parallels that they had told me about. The bartender was the little shape-shifting fox demon who was brotherly towards the main character, the heroine Sookie was Kagome, the heroine from the Inuyasha series, Bill was Inuyasha, the title character, and Eric (is that his name?), the tall blonde vampire viking, was Sesshoumaru, Inuyasha’s half-brother. Oh yes, I caught on quickly.

But was it really Inuyasha fanfiction? True, the Inuyasha series was around since 1996 in print and was turned into an anime in 2000 and yes, True Blood has only been around since 2001. Yes, the parallels were incredibly alike. Considering the fact that the fanfiction would have been removed sometime in late 2000 or early 2001, and many fanfiction stories that had been online before September 11 of 2001 suddenly disappeared completely from the web afterwards (seriously, half of the ones I used to read between college classes were completely gone from that day on and I couldn’t find them again no matter what I did) I can’t prove it one way or the other. Either way, it’s fun to imagine the middle-aged Charlaine Harris being a fan of a Japanese cartoon. There’s nothing wrong with cartoons – cartoons are just another way of telling stories while turning it into an art form.

At any rate, some of the most popular fan fics have been around for some time. For instance, Pride and Prejudice, one of my favorite books since years back, has been made into fanfiction many times over, only some of it has been published and can be purchased online. For instance, a fun parody version that came out in 2009 is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. My sister, meanwhile, has a much loved copy of Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife which I have never read but, from what I understand, is spicy in the area of romance as is the tradition of many fanfictions that cater to readers with a more adult taste.

While there are many poorly written fan fics out there, there are just as many good ones. I used to write fan fiction myself, trying out different styles to see what I was most comfortable with, and trying to get myself used to writing about themes I wasn’t always comfortable with. There are other people who write fanfiction as ways to practice or, in the case of some published authors online, they use it as a way to get a larger readership of their published work – and it does work. Many of these fan fics, if you are willing to look are as good as, or better than, some published work. Many of the stories you forget you are even reading fan fiction. If you aren’t familiar with the story, movie, tv show, etc.,  it’s based off, you may not recognize some of it as fan fiction.

I believe in encouraging fan fic writers. The important thing to realize is that they, like any other content creator, are putting these stories out there for people to read, free of charge. It’s important to encourage people to write, and it’s important for people to read. Doing both helps to exercise the mind, which is always so, so important. Many of these stories deal with philosophy, issues people face today, science, history, even mathematics for the geeky types. Many of them are incredibly well researched, sometimes even much better than stuff you might find in the media. Yes, more historically accurate than Brave Heart or Patriot or other such movies you might see.

These people may never be professional writers. This is a hobby that they love, a service they provide for free. Instead of keeping a journal, they create a story that everyone can enjoy. Even if you aren’t a fan, there is no reason to deride them or discourage others from testing the waters. You may enjoy golf or tennis or salsa dancing. You may never go pro. But just because you will never go pro it doesn’t mean you should stop.

Read! Write! Keep a journal! Go salsa dancing! Just whatever you do, have fun. (But especially read and write – brain exercise is so important.)

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~ by cerridwyn eldritch on June 13, 2013.

2 Responses to “Fanfiction and literature”

  1. […] So it’s a pretty cold and dark place. Beauty is present, but it is as isolated as it is costly. That which connects is that which feeds. Under such circumstances, feeding the soul is hardly a priority for the majority. Mythbuilding. That will always be with us, even in its smaller forms like fan fiction. […]

  2. I agree wth most part of this article. Especially the “tennis or salsa” part. After all, why couldn’t we have fun and try to improve at the same time? And how to improve, without practicing and with no external critical feedback on what we do?

    Maybe less on the “While there are many poorly written fan fics out there, there are just as many good ones.” Well, honestly and from what I have seen, I wouldn’t say there are as many good ones…(but maybe I don’t visit the right websites for that) but I agree that there are!
    I’ve read some very beautifully and/or skillfully written ones. Better than many published novels or short stories, I’d say.
    These jems are sometimes hard to find, but when you inadvertently find one while wandering on the Internet, it’s always an unexpected and pleasant discovery.

    Oh, and… “Pride and prejudice and zombies”?

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