In Passionate Defense of Fanfiction
Look, fanfiction gets a bad rap, and I get it. I get that most people think of the iconic Ebony Demenita Dark’ness Raven Way I get that maybe they even looked up, to their great regret, that one story about the giant squid having sex with Hogwarts castle. I get that, well, Fifty Shades of Grey happened because of fanfiction. But I’m here to make a defense of fanfiction, and you’re here to read it and then maybe do your own alt-universe slashfic take on it where this article has soft, tender sex with this article? Fanfiction is so rich, guys, I’m telling you.
Anyway. As a person who writes for a living, and has done the whole published books thing but whatever you know I barely even think about it fifteen times a day, I can trace so much of what I have learned about writing back to fanfiction – which is, for the uninitiated, basically fan takes on various fictional universes. For me, fanfiction was basically a place where I could play with my writing: I got to take these worlds, characters, stories, themes created by other people, and from there, I could just play.
And when I say play, I mean I could write these silly little scenes of nothing much at all: people talking in the morning, people having a mild argument then reconciling, people making dinner together. A lot of people seem to think that fanfiction is mostly about making Captain America and Bucky shag it out, and look, it’s not not about that sometimes. But more than that, they’re about relationships: ones you’ve invented, ones you’re just building on. You don’t have to worry about putting all that time in to create a whole backstory or character, but you can still work on the details of your writing. Fanfiction was, for me, a way to flex my writing muscles, to learn how to put together all these small pieces of story until I could actually create one of my own. You can take the toys out of the box, play with them, put them neatly away again, and in the process learn to better wield some invaluable tools of the writing trade.
And that’s just my experience of writing fanfiction – there are plenty of people who take on giant fanfiction epics that span thousands of words and have earned nearly as many readers (the Star Trek fandom, in particular, as a bunch of amazing longform fics that are just a glorious gift to that community). To dismiss these as “just fanfiction” is to ignore the spectacular literary craft on show in these kinds of stories. Even just scrolling through the slashfic tags on Tumblr, which I myself have never and would never do no sir, you’ll come across these amazingly talented writers who just so happen to be writing inside these pre-existing universes because they happen to love them so much.
Above all, though, fanfiction is just a passionate community of people who adore the stories they’re working from. Whether the writing is good or bad, these are love letters to the creators, the characters, the original stories. I can’t imagine a better tribute to a brilliant story than letting it inspire you to write more brilliant stories to match it.
(header image via The Daily Dot)