Thoughts on FanFiction

Let's talk about FanFiction! For those of you who may not be familiar, FanFiction is defined by as "a fictional account written by a fan of a show, movie, book, or video game to explore themes and ideas that will not or cannot be explored via the originating medium". also informed me that the term was first coined in 1944, which I think is pretty interesting, because even though I know that the concept has of course been around for a while, I was a little surprised to find that the actual term "FanFiction" has existed for so long! But moving right along, here are some of my ideas about the intriguing world of FanFiction:

Consuming FanFiction

heart direction GIFRight out of the gate, I must say that I love the concept of it. I think it's such a cool and interesting idea, and goodness knows I have some passionate thoughts on how my favorite stories could be improved. In fact, the idea for this post really came about as I was perusing the archives for some FanFiction on one of my favorite shows, Christy. See, like many shows, Christy has a love triangle, and you're either on #TeamDavid or #TeamNeil. The only problem is, in the original incantation of the television series (which is based on the equally amazing book), you never really find out who Christy ends up with. You don't even really find out for sure in the book either. I am, as all should be, on #TeamNeil, so I was hoping that a fellow teammate out in cyberspace had taken it upon themselves to finish the love story between Christy and Neil in their own words. And that brings me to my next point. 
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FanFiction stories abound for just about any story and theme you can think up! There were plenty plenty plenty Christy FanFics. There's just not that much GOOD FanFiction out there. I mean when you think about it, who's writing the most FanFiction? Sentimental teen girls who want their favorite love stories to be completed. But sentimental teen girls don't exactly have a reputation for being the greatest writers, hard as they may try. So then it's difficult to even be very invested in the story you're reading because it sounds nothing like the original author or the original characters. I've encountered this especially with historical fiction FanFics, like for example Pride and Prejudice. If you're going to try to write a believable piece of FanFiction for such a widely loved and specifically written piece as Pride and Prejudice, you have to keep in mind the fact that it was penned in the 1800s, and the language used in the book reflects that. Now just imagine a 14 year old blushing fangirl writing some sappy romantic fluff between Lizzie and Darcy, trying to sound like the sophisticated and incredibly gifted Jane Austen two-hundred years ago. Needless to say, most if not all of such FanFiction falls flat or sounds just plain silly. 
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Another reason I find it hard to find any decent FanFiction is because I don't actually want to hear what other people have to say. I want to hear what have to say, but written in the hand and voice of the original author. What I really want to read is not FanFiction. What I want to read is a bona fide sequel-- that I sadly know will never come to be. I don't want to read some 16 year old's version of what becomes of Christy and Neil. I want to read Catherine Marshall's version of what becomes of Christy and Neil! Because she's the creator of the universe, she's the one I really want to hear from! But I have to settle for FanFiction because the original story has been definitively put to rest. 

I almost prefer fan fic videos for these reasons, because when it comes to creating fanfic of movies or videos, the creator has to work within the bounds of what already exists, and simply manipulate the material that has already been created about their characters of choice. This helps to keep things from feeling like they could never possibly happen in the real story universe, because all the clips have to come from an existing pool of material from said story universe. 
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Producing FanFiction

I have never actually written any FanFiction, despite having a plethora of opinions about what should truly happen to characters in my favorite shows and books. I guess what holds me back is the simple fact that they're not my characters so I don't feel like I have the right to inhabit them. It's also a scary task to take on: assuming the voice and intellectual authority of an already established and beloved storyteller. 

Another thing that holds me back from writing my own FanFiction accounts is the fact that FanFic is not canon (according to Wikipedia, "in fiction, canon is the material accepted as officially part of the story in the fictional universe of that story."). That notion will always loom. No matter how much you WANT something to happen, even if you go so far as to create what happens and write it yourself--it still didn't happen in the real universe of the story (that's why FanFic gets so messy and story lines get blurred). 
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Of course there's the rare and totally crazy phenomenon of FanFic BECOMING part of the canon, like in the case of Andy Weir's "Ready Player One" fan fiction story Lacero, which the original author accepted as canonical and even published as part of a later edition of his book. But this is almost unheard of, and I tend to think that's maybe a good of the glorious wonders of stories written by other people is the fact that, um, stories are written by other people. The reader has no control and is just along for a wild and wonderful ride, even if it's not the exact ride THEY want in their head. That's the control an author is allowed to have; in fact that's the control an author SHOULD have. And the fact that consumers can decide to thwart that control makes me, as someone who wants to be an author, a little wary and angry. 
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When you give someone a gift, you expect them to thank you and use it the way intended. It's a little disconcerting and maybe even a little disrespectful if they don't do that. Say you give someone a shirt, which you've expertly picked out because of its superior quality and your knowledge of the receiver's taste, and then you see that they've cut the shirt up and turned it into a scarf. I feel like maybe that's how authors can feel when their carefully sculpted stories are seen as malleable and changeable by the very people for whom they've written them to please. Maybe that's dramatic, and maybe it's not even the case-- I wouldn't know since I haven't published anything or had someone write FanFiction about my own stories. But I can imagine I might not be exactly the happiest about it? 
The Controversy of FanFiction

orange is the new black marvel GIFThere's also the ongoing stigma/stereotype that all FanFiction is actually just smut or erotica. And how do stereotypes come about? Because there is a grain of truth to them somewhere. There are of course PLENTY of FanFiction pieces that are 100% acceptable, family friendly, and have nothing to do with sex. But there are also more than enough dirty pieces of FanFiction too. And since the internet is a wild and whirling universe, it's just as easy to run across graphic pieces as harmless ones. So being cautious when searching for and consuming FanFiction is of utmost importance.

form omg GIFThere's also the fact that FanFiction is so stinking hard to categorize. Is it legitimate fiction? Should it be? Should it be legal for publication? There are plenty of stories out there about best sellers starting out as casual FanFiction pieces. There's even people who claim to be the anonymous voices behind famous pieces of FanFic, and reaping the benefits of work that is not necessarily their own.(To read about the book deal of an alleged FanFic troll, click here. ) The world of FanFiction is just so murky, and ideas about its legitimacy and ethics are so divided.

I don't know exactly where I stand. On one hand, I love how creative FanFiction allows people to be, and I enjoy reading the occasional piece when I'm craving more story from my favorite books and mediums. But on the other hand, it can be a little insulting to legitimate authors who work really hard to make quality content, and don't want that content to be tampered with. So I guess my conclusion to all of this would be to FanFic responsibly. Think about who you're affecting when you take a story and change it around. Make sure your intentions are always good.



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