You may have noticed I didn’t post yesterday. I didn’t do much of anything yesterday except read. And much of what I read yesterday was fan fiction. So to catch up Day 59, I think I’ll make fanfic my topic.
Fan fiction, a.k.a. fanfic, is probably exactly what you think it is, assuming you aren’t already familiar with it: fiction written by fans featuring characters in the “universe” of something they enjoy. (If you aren’t, then how you’ve managed to escape the whole “50 Shades of Gray is Twilight fanfic with the serial numbers filed off” thing is beyond me. Lucky you, though.) This can be new plots, continuations of existing plots, “filling in” where the canon (original published works, including television and film, copyrighted to within an inch of their fictional lives) leaves space to expand upon ideas, crossovers between fictional “universes” (Sherlock/Doctor Who is popular, as is Harry Potter and…well, almost everything), sex between characters who are not partnered in a romantic or sexual way in the original work…
Well, yes. One of the more popular forms of fanfic was born in the late 60s and early 70s because lots of fans of the original Star Trek thought Kirk and Spock made a really awesome couple and so they should have sex all over the damned place. (This is technically known as slash because such stories were identified as “Kirk/Spock” or “K/S”, shorthanded to “slash”.) So, in general, fanfic is fiction about other people’s characters, written by fans who find their creative imaginations fired by the original works and who therefore want to tell more stories than currently exist, possibly in directions the originals can’t, or don’t want, to go.
Without having done a huge amount of research on it, the term seems to have first appeared in the late 1930s, but the concept itself goes back quite a long time — I recall reading a comment somewhere that Virgil’s Aeneid is essentially Roman fanfic of either the Iliad or the Odyssey. But no one would have called it that at the time because storytellers told stories, repeated them and embroidered them and no one cared who first came up with it…not that there was likely any way to figure that out. I mean, look at Shakespeare: many of his plays were retellings of existing legends or other people’s stories (Romeo and Juliet comes to mind). Fanfic as an idea, though, couldn’t really exist until there were enough people writing fiction that could be easily disseminated AND still identified with a living or only-recently-deceased author. Sherlock Holmes fanfic showed up in the 1880s.
Turns out a friend and I wrote fanfic for both the original Trek and The Wild, Wild West during junior high, specifically the summers in between seventh and eighth grades and eighth and ninth grades, and we would swap writing chapters and read them to each other over the phone and laugh our butts off. Admittedly, a lot of it was ridiculous. Some of it, maybe, wasn’t quite so bad. Unfortunately, I only have the bits I wrote (in storage…somewhere), and my friend would have had only the bits she wrote. Still, it kept us occupied. 🙂
Fast-forward from about the turn of the last century (that Sherlock Holmes fanfic) to four years ago, when one of the owners of Making Light, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, put up a post on why she reads fanfic. Now, let’s be very clear here: there is a whole metric fuckton of badly written crap in the fanfic universe. Just because people have stories they want to tell doesn’t mean, unfortunately, that they are good at telling stories. Or at editing their own work, or using a spellchecker. But if it gives them joy, more power to them, and I don’t have to read it. Teresa, being an editor, has higher standards, so when she recommends fanfic, you know it’s going to be by people who have a bit more on the ball. Both that post and the comments thereon are a goldmine of excellent fanfic, with writing quality better than some published works. ***cough***50 Shades***cough***
So yesterday I fell down the fanfic rabbit hole and didn’t escape until it was past time to hit the hay. Not the first time. Won’t be the last. It helped me keep my mind occupied during the latter bit of my homeless stint, and that was priceless to me, but some of the stories — if you can call a work-in-progress that’s already at 365,000 words a “story” — are really quite wonderful. Not for everyone; writers on the two major fanfic sites, FanFiction.net and Archive of Our Own, use warning tags for content and they are serious about it, so if you decide to head over and check out either or both sites, pay attention to the warning labels!
And if you do head over to Archive of Our Own, I have a couple of works posted. If you’re interested. If not, no harm, no foul, nothing to see here. 😉
But I’m very grateful for Teresa’s post. I’ve enjoyed the hell out of some of what I’ve read.