i on Romance: Let’s Talk About Fanfiction

Posted December 13th, 2013 by in Blog, Features, ionR / 13 comments


Welcome to “i on Romance”!

Hey, I’m Karen (@Aleveria) , one of the Junkies here on the blog. Sara has graciously given me a space here to interact with you, our readers. I will be introducing topics that (hopefully) will get you gals talking. They may be subjects that spark a debate, maybe it’ll be something that asks you what your preference is, or perhaps it’ll just be a fun question regarding books that you’ll be asked to answer.

Let’s Talk About Fanfiction

Today I’ll be discussing the Fanfiction transitioning to Mainstream Fiction trend. That’s a mouthful! I know this subject can be contentious, but I’d still like to propose starting a dialogue/debate amongst you, and interactions with the bloggers here.

First of all, I want to talk about the validity and acceptance of Fanfiction in general. There are creators that don’t acknowledge it as an accepted form of homage to their work. However, there are many creators that not only acknowledge the fanfic community, they encourage it.

There’s a quote that originated in the bible, but was made popular by Ambrose Bierce (thus proving the quote as true)

“There is nothing new under the sun”

I try and hold that idea with me when critiquing almost anything. One of my other gigs is podcasting about Television. We have a couple of unsaid rules, don’t use “it’s just a TV show”, to handwave a plot point, and don’t say “This has been done so many times…” to collapse a theme into nothingness. Those arguments diminish the subject matter so much that if they were valid points of contention, there would be no point to discussion at all.

One of my podcasts is a weekly round-table discussion about the TV Show “Castle”. During the summer hiatus in 2012 we featured rewatches and interviews with popular fanfic authors. Fanfiction is a large part of the Castle fandom, and those episodes were extremely popular. I have also done an “audiobook” version of a popular piece, and have gotten many requests to do more. The fanfiction medium is happily accepted there. As a side-note, two of the people I met through these talks have gone on to bigger and better things. One of them is a published author, and one has a job in the entertainment industry.

Overall, the creators that inspire fanfiction usually find it harmless and a homage to the characters they’ve originated.

Now let’s talk about censure and acceptance in the literary community. This is a much stickier situation. When fanfiction goes mainstream, it tends to get belittled by its critics. Personally, I think fiction is fiction is fiction. Again, nothing new under the sun applies to everything… including previously used characters and situations. There is a distinct difference between plagiarism and inspiration. All creation is sparked by something known to the artist, and as long as it’s made with the intent to publish something original, whether it is or not, the finished project shouldn’t be made fun of.

I’m not saying the work is good or bad per se, that’s a whole different matter. If an original work is written poorly, or not to your taste, or something similar – then it is absolutely okay to critique objectively. But that applies to all art in whichever medium it comes. Why is fanfiction singled out as an inherently inferior form of writing?

An offshoot of that backlash is the tendency to also condemn the people who enjoy the author’s work. You may not like the practice, but making someone ashamed of liking it is just plain wrong. I’m definitely guilty of teasing people about their choice of reading material on twitter, but those people know I’m doing it good-heartedly. I make sure to stress that I’m not making fun of them, I’m dishing it out and taking it too. I read my fair share of what I call “lady porn” – and when I’m teased about it, I take it in the manner in which it’s intended.

However, when the comments are based in disdain or even hatred, that’s when things become overly-judgemental and again, in my opinion, wrong. A person isn’t stupid or wrong for liking a book that originated as fanfiction, they’re only guilty of having a preference and an opinion.

Wool by Hugh HoweyI want to close by offering an example of an open-minded and generous author that not only acknowledges fanfiction based on his work, he features it on his website. Hugh Howey, author of the bestseller, Wool, dedicates a section of his site to people that have used his characters and settings as inspiration for their own work. I find this practice commendable and kind, and I think he’s amazing for being so generous.

If you’re so inclined, visit his site here to see what he does for his more creative fans. You can see in the comment section of some of the posts that the discussion gets lively from time to time, but Mr. Howey is always courteous and accepting of all points of view.

All in all, I think fanfiction can be good, and it can be bad, but it’s a valid outlet for people who want to write.

If the creators accept it, why shouldn’t the community? And if a book based on fanfiction becomes a mainstream hit, who are we to judge its success?

Now it’s your turn. Leave a comment below to continue the discussion. What are your thoughts on Fanfiction? Good or bad. Let’s get a dialogue going and see where it leads!










13 Responses to “i on Romance: Let’s Talk About Fanfiction”

  1. dholcomb1

    I guess if I like Bridget Jones’s Diary, then I like fanfiction, since it’s openly akin to the works of Austen.

    • Klindsay

      I’d say that you have the option to like fanfiction. I mean, if you hated “The Avengers”, you probably wouldn’t like fanfic based on those characters. But yeah, a lot of mainstream art is an homage to previous works.

  2. Chanpreet

    Fan fiction is great. It allows imaginations and ideas to find outlets. Of course sometimes it leads to books, movies, tv shows, etc.

  3. Sara HJ

    Karen, a great post on fan fiction. I can’t say I am a fan as I haven’t read any recent works. I will be honest I don’t go looking for it. Have I read Bridget Jones Dairy? Yes and loved every moment of it.

  4. Susana Dorado

    I’ll use your words fiction is fiction Is fiction. I don’t have an issue reading fan fiction but I noticed some readers do. Even to the point of giving 1 star reviews on books based on fan fiction that they haven’t even read. I just don’t understand that if a book is good then it’s good regardless whether it’s fan fiction or not. I read Beautiful Bastard and Fifty Shades of Grey which I thought were based on fan fiction both good reads. Fiction is good reading whether it’s fan fiction or not.

    • Klindsay

      Yeah! That’s the hate I reference. Or at least part of it. Those are both offshoots of fanfiction, as well as Wallbanger. I didn’t like all three (if you see my reviews you’ll notice that), but they can really be good!

  5. infinitieh

    I don’t have enough time to read regular fiction, let alone fanfiction. Also, there’s a fine line between fanfic for fun and selling it later, in my mind, which is why I refuse to read Fifty Shades of Grey. Back in the day, I’ve read and written fanfic, but no one ever tried to sell any of it. It really annoys me that fanfic is now being sold.

    • Klindsay

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      I guess I just wonder why it’s less valid to profit from your work if it comes from fanfic when people make money from novels/movies/tv shows based on Jane Austen, Bram Stoker, or Washington Irving.

      Christina Lauren, the author(s) of the “Beautiful” series have followed up their fanfic-based work with five original stories. I think it’s great that we’re getting more authors, no matter the source.

      • infinitieh

        Guess my original reply from days ago never went through…

        In a nutshell, works based on public domain stuff are okay. Plus, the authors you mentioned are dead. To me, fanfic based on books whose authors are alive and still hold the copyright are not okay. It’s like the music industry: parodies are fine as long as permission is given (like in the case of Weird Al) or not for monetary gains (like most of the fan made vids on youtube). Anything else and lawyers will get involved.

        On the other hand, original stories by fanfic writers are fine, just not their fanfic.

  6. Alice

    Hi Karen! Nice post.

    Fan fiction has been around forever, I bet. I know that mostly it’s based around TV or movies, but I have heard about literary fan fiction too, and even have to admit to looking up a few “Harry Potter” fan fiction stories that made certain characters much nicer, or have better endings!

    I have a couple of teenagers, and fan fiction is very popular now, and I’ve had conversations with my teens about it. I think, as long as the fanfic writers understand about copy-write and plagiarism, that it’s a great educational device. It encourages imagination, writing outside of the classroom, and critical thinking about what you are watching and reading instead of simply allowing stories just to pass through you. Besides, alliterations like “Finnick fanfic” are just too good to pass up!

    • Klindsay

      Yup, it was called “slash fiction” in the early days, and it was based around the Original Star Trek. I won’t go in to which characters it focused on, but if you’re interested, you can look it up. Let’s just say they weren’t the traditional male/female couplings.

      Back then, they were circulated in magazines that were sent by clubs, and they evolved from there. They turned into more traditional fanfic very quickly – centered around mostly Sci-Fi shows. The Original Battlestar Galactica, Space 1999, etc.

      Nowadays, Fanfiction is written and distributed on the web, and for the most part, contains what’s called a ‘disclaimer’. The author puts a little note (usually witty) at the start of the story that says they don’t own any of the characters in order to give props to the creators of the show/movie.

      Personally, I think it’s pretty cool. Not only does it spark creativity in budding authors, but it gets people who otherwise wouldn’t read to do so. I’m glad your teenagers are interested and that gets you discussing stuff with them!

      (sorry if you knew some of this – I just took the opportunity to expound on some stuff I didn’t cover in the original article).