Booking Through Thursday: Fanfiction

What do you think of fanfiction? In general—do you think it’s a fun thing or a trespass on an author/producer’s world? And of course, obviously specific authors have very firm and very differing opinions about this, yet it’s getting more popular and more mainstream all the time. Do you ever read or write it yourself?

The first fan fiction I’ve ever read was of the anime series Ranma 1/2. This was back in the early 2000s, and I wasn’t happy with the way manga-ka Rumiko Takahashi left Ranma and Akane’s story as open-ended. I had stumbled across fan fiction quite accidentally, and while I have read many terrible works, there were still plenty of great ones that filled the gaps and what kids these days now call “feels”.

Over the years I’ve read fan fiction of the fandoms that I loved: Harry Potter, Danny Phantom, ​Sailor Moon… even encountering some zany cross-overs (Louis-Philippe Giroux​’s Lines of Destiny remains my favorite, even though the author as discontinued it and someone else has gotten his permission to continue it).

I have tried my hand at writing fan fiction too, particularly back in the days when I first started reading them. These stories were written in longhand, spanning several notebooks and various pieces of paper that I can no longer keep track of.​ After a time I’ve started writing on the computer, but none of these will ever see the light of day (mostly because I think they’re terrible and I haven’t got time to encode and edit them). However, I have published one very short Harry Potter fan fiction and an unfinished one over at FanFiction.net.

Obviously, I am a fan of fan fiction. That isn’t to say that I don’t respect what the writers who do not support it feel about it. If they don’t like their fans writing fan fiction about their work, they are well within their rights to say so and do something about it. I can also understand why they don’t want it, as authors tend to feel protective about their characters like they were their children, and take pride in how they wrote it. It’s also one of the reasons why I don’t publish my fan fiction, or when I do, I try to write them in a way I feel the author would.

For me, writing and reading fan fiction fills the holes that the original work failed to do. Not that I don’t love them any less, but I want more. The variety of fan fiction works gives me options that allow me to find what it is exactly that I want to fulfill. For example, I’m frustrated that Jo March and Laurie Lawrence (Little Women by Louisa May Alcott) did not end up together, so fanfics give me alternatives. Maybe they got together after a few years, or when they were older. Nothing will change the original story, but for a moment, I feel better about them.

Of course, there are many issues when it comes to fanfiction, particularly along the lines of plagiarism. It’s a pretty grey area, especially if the fanfic writers established that they do not own any of the characters or worlds, but have exercised some liberties but still acknowledge the rights of the original author. There are recent issues as well, particularly in the case of Cassandra Claire, which I won’t go deeper into. But for fun, I think fan fiction is all right. It’s good practice for aspiring authors. Just be considerate of the original author’s wishes and never ever claim others’ work for your own.

P.S. Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl gives insight on the world of fan fiction and the mind of a fanfic writer.