A commentary on the genre of fan-fiction.
The other day, I encountered a friend reading from a browser on her computer. I immediately recognized the format of the page and realized she was reading fan-fiction. I asked her what she was reading, and she responded only with embarrassment, which was more than enough to confirm my suspicions. She mentioned that everyone always makes fun of her for reading fan-fiction, which rather surprised me. I suppose I wasn’t all that surprised, as I know I’ve never mentioned to anyone that I read fan-fiction and I must have chosen that path for a reason, but I don’t think I understand it. There’s nothing wrong with reading fan-fiction. Some of it is even exceptionally well-written.
I suppose that it does reinforce the negative stigma associated with reading fiction. Perhaps those of us that read fiction are attempting to escape reality, but is escaping really a bad thing? Of course people shouldn’t read only fiction, and they should read only the good fiction, but maybe if more people chose to escape reality for a few hours every once in a while the world would be a happier place. The world of fiction is so diverse that almost every imaginable fictional world or topic has been written about. Not only is there a world for everyone, but these worlds have been written about by countless authors and so there are numerous writing styles in which to read about these fantastical places, things, and people.
Now, if fiction is viewed so negatively, one can only imagine how deeply fan-fiction is hated by these literary snobs. Not only is fan-fiction written by amateurs, but it often goes out to the masses unedited (or as it is called in the fan-fiction community, un-betaed). There are millions of fan-fiction authors out there fulfilling their fantasies about characters created by others. These amateur writers claim no ownership of the characters or settings they use, but they are creating multitudinous new adventures for someone else’s characters. Perhaps they weren’t satisfied with the way the original author ended things, or perhaps they are waiting for yet another continuation of a series to be published. With fan-fiction, they can give themselves the ending they wanted, or they can continue the journey howsoever they might choose and only wait as long as it takes them to write their thoughts out.
Fan-fiction writers can write about the characters of any book, movie, cartoon, or television show they’ve ever seen. There is no limit to the variety of adventures on which they can send the characters. They could write a cross-over with characters from another world, or they could take the characters into an alternate universe. The fan-fiction could be suitable for children or it could be more explicit that any romance novel sold at the local bookstore.
I often wonder why romance novels are considered acceptable for public sale and are so widely read, but fan-fiction is viewed so negatively. Romance novels are frequently poorly written. The language used is unwieldy and awkward, the characters are poorly developed, and the covers of the books are often so flowery and flamboyant that it is impossible to read or buy them discreetly. Fan-fiction can be read online (for free) on relatively discreet web-pages. The stories can be printed out or copied and saved to a computer to make them more portable or more easily accessible (especially if it happens to be a favorite story). Many fan-fiction communities have developed applications for the many mobile devices available today.
Fan-fiction is a wonderful device for developing the imagination and vocabulary. It is usually very entertaining to read. It allows the reader to escape beyond the limits of the original storyline, and to continue escaping past the time in the characters’ lives when the written story has already ended. Writing fan-fiction is a great tool for an amateur writer, as it gives them the opportunity to write for an audience and receive feedback without working to develop unique characters and a unique setting, and without paying an editor and finding a publisher that likes their ideas. Reading and writing fan-fiction can take as much or as little time as you like, and there is no need to get more deeply involved than necessary. A reader can lurk on communities, reading fan-fiction and leaving as many or as few comments as they would like. Readers can put out story ideas (sometimes called plot bunnies) that they would like to see developed by writers. It’s a very personal art form, which can be used as social commentary, simple fiction, or it can be a personal confession by the author, just as published authors are able to use their writing.