S1 / E8: Fan Fiction Primer

Fan Fiction is sometimes thrown around as a dirty word. You might hear something along the lines of: “Oh, you write fan fiction. Like Fifty Shades of Gray?” And then laughter. Or Fan Fiction authors will be relegated to a stereotyped image. When asking one fan fiction writer, BB, about her experiences she made this statement: “I really don’t like telling random people, or even my old friends from school, that I do fan fiction. I guess I’m afraid that they’re gonna think I’m one of those people that just writes crazy love scenes where enemies have this weird sexual tension or something like that.”  This seemed a common reticence among many of the people I’ve talked to about their experiences writing fan fiction. However, I’m here to argue that fan fiction is not only something beneficial, but also has a storied history in the canon of literature.

If one types in “What is Fan Fiction?” (which is literally what I did as I wrote this article, just to see what would come up), Wikipedia will be the first thing to pop up and its definition is this: “Fan fiction or fanfiction (also abbreviated to fan ficfanfic or fic) is fiction about characters or settings from an original work of fiction, created by fans of that work rather than by its creator. It is a popular form of fan labor, particularly since the advent of the internet.” (Wikipedia 2015)

Going off of this definition, one can make the leap that fan fiction then covers a much wider range of literature than one might first assume when hearing the term and taking note of the often negative connotations associated with it. A book like Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea becomes a work of fan fiction. It looks at Jane Eyre through imagining the story of Mister Rochester’s first wife. This is a novel which Time listed as one of the 100 best English-language novels written since 1923 and is listed as one of Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels. Going further back, there are many arguments to be made that, in a way, Shakespeare wrote fan fiction. (This, in case any is wondering, is the point when I’m giving lectures on fan fiction, where I usually say “Boom!” and drop an imaginary mic).

Another important component of Fan Fiction is that I believe it helps to foster creativity and writing in people who might not otherwise go towards writing. Writing in a pre-conceived universe takes away some of the terror of approaching the blank page, while also allowing one to explore characters and tropes in an entirely new way. This can be a first step towards a lifetime of writing (when I was young, I wrote X-Files spec scripts).

So, readers, what have been your experiences with Fan Fiction? Would you like to make an argument for or against Fan Fiction? I’d love to hear your thoughts: send them to Luna Station Quarterly @lunaquarterly or to me @PintsNCupcakes. In future, I’ll be delving deeper into Fan Fiction with a look at the unique language of fic as well as interviews with authors of Fan Fiction. So until next month, keep fannin’ on!