To ruin an ancient proverb about trees and observational reality, “if media is created, and no one writes fanfiction for it, does it exist as successful media at all?" I argue that in a way, it doesn’t.</p>
Fanfiction isn’t as uncommon or strange as some people think. Even the more recent Achieve of Our Own fanfiction database has 578,554 users and 1,671,047 works as of May 31.
BBC’s Sherlock is fanfiction. 50 Shades of Grey is fanfiction. With the way season five of Game of Thrones is going it’s practically fanfiction at this point. Hell, almost any
remake of any form of media can be seen as fanfiction. All that is required is an alteration of the original piece or “canon” in a way that you deem fit.
This can extend anywhere from doing a full 30 chapter rewrite of Harry Potter with Neville as the “Chosen One” to the common act of injecting more diversity into media through the inclusion of LGBTQ content. What matters is that fanfiction is the result of fans that are engaged, and critical, of media.
In literary studies there is the theory of “reader response.” It is the idea that in essence a book stops mattering when no one reads it and stops actively interpreting it.
Instead of other literary movements where it is important whether or not taking the road less travelled really didn’t make all the difference, like Robert Frost claims, reader response instead lets readers decide their own meaning and have it be just as valid.
In this sense, fanfiction is a large part of the even larger body of fandoms that truly keep media relevant and warrants its existence at all.
Fanfiction gives meaning and insight to how important society views media. If fans did not feel affected by media then they would not spend the countless months, or sometimes years, dedicated to righting what they feel is wrong or exploring a character’s complexities in alternative plots.
When almost everyone is writing Dean Winchester from Supernatural as bisexual, then does that not make the reading just as valid as the canon when many fans support this new view? Does it not also show what people in our society may want in media: complex, stereotypically “masculine”
examples of bisexuality?
It isn’t just the fans that are affected by the media either; fanfiction also works in a symbiotic relationship with creators.
I was talking to one of my best friends, Perrin, about this subject over Facebook, and as someone who isn’t a trekkie, I was informed just how fanfiction can potentially shape the way creators view their works.
Perrin told me “Spirk (Spock and Captain Kirk) was really the start of officially acknowledged ‘slash’ [homosexual] pairings in fanfiction, which eventually bled like crazy into published works. Then, years later, someone interviewing Gene Roddenberry asked what he thought about it possibly being canon or not and he was open to the idea of it being a romantic/sexual relationship though he hadn’t originally seen it that way.”
Fanfiction and fandoms allow creators to see what their fans look for in their creation and it invents new interpretations that may not have been an idea within the creative team. If nothing else, it gives creators the fun of seeing how fans interact with their media.
Besides the obvious enjoyment that the readers get through often well-written pieces, fanfiction also serves as an amazing tool for budding writers.
Some professional authors scoff at the idea of fanfiction being a valid writing tool, but I like to think they are jaded and bitter and simply haven’t had the joy of writing an Avengers coffee shop alternative universe fic.
What fanfiction does is give budding writers characters and dynamics, and allows them to play with it. Nowhere else can new writers have an arsenal of fully formed characters to explore, and nowhere else can experienced writers amass hundreds of fans who in all likelihood would follow the writers into the original fiction domain if they decide to publish.
A fourteen-year-old’s self-insert fic can be given the same potential reader base as a twenty-five year old English PhD student, and I think that’s pretty incredible.
This means that young writers who wouldn’t otherwise have a reader base now have the chance to be critiqued, complimented, and gain the ability to distinguish between good writing habits and horrible writing.
So if you have a favourite show, movie, book, comic, or whatever else but something about it is nagging you, why not give it a try? It can only better your writing.
And if you are curious about seeing what is available for your favourite forms of media, go to Achieve of Our Own (archiveofourown.org) and have a field day with the Hunger Games alternative universes and Sherlock and John in drift-compatible Pacific Rim crossovers.