I’ve been thinking about fan fiction (or fanfic) a lot lately. According to Wikipedia, fan fiction is an umbrella term for “stories about characters or settings written by fans of the original work, rather than by the original creator.” I’d vaguely known that this was a thriving subculture on the internet, but I hadn’t paid much attention to it until the recent outcry surrounding 50 Shades of Grey, which started its life as a Twilight fanfic set in an alternate universe where Edward Cullen wasn’t a vampire, but was into kinky sex.
Internet publishing kerfuffles fascinate me. Bloggers and book reviewers and authors I don’t know on Twitter are to me what the characters on Days of Our Lives were to my grandmother. This is all a long way of saying that I’d read lots of ranty blog posts and anguished tweets about fan fiction before I’d ever read any myself.
Then an author I follow on Twitter posted a link to an Avengers fic she’d enjoyed. I liked The Avengers when I saw it in the theater, and Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor … I like superhero movies. What can I say? I checked it out. People, I fell down a wormhole. The range of fan fiction out there is astounding. Everything from 100 word drabbles to 200,000+ word epics. I’ve seen fan fiction that is remarkably faithful to the original creator’s world, taking the characters and just continuing their stories beyond where the movie or book or TV show ended. Then there are the so-called “alternate universe” fics where, for example, Iron Man and Captain America are reimagined as students at Hogwarts, or Sherlock Holmes is not just a high-functioning sociopath, but a werewolf as well. Some of the writing is horrible, some good, some fascinating, some basically fetish porn. It’s a weird and wild world is what I’m saying.
But I finally understand the appeal of fan fiction as a reader. I fall in love with fictional characters and when I love a character I’m almost insatiable. Having a seemingly endless supply of stories about characters I love that I can transfer to my Kindle in less than a minute? This is heaven for the fangirl in me.
But I’m not just a reader now, I’m a writer, and so I’ve thought about how I would feel if I were ever successful enough to have non-commercial fan fic based on my own work. There are plenty of published authors who loathe fan fiction and do their best to discourage it. Diana Gabaldon (who writes the Outlander saga) is fiercely protective of her characters and strongly discourages fans of her work from using them in any way. Others are neutral or even encouraging. J.K. Rowling has said she finds fan fiction flattering and doesn’t object to non-commercial (and non X-rated) works using her original characters and settings.
I think I’d be grateful that I’d written characters who inspire so much affection. I like the idea that my creativity could someday spark someone else’s. I could be wrong. I might end up being more protective of my fictional creations than I can imagine being right now.
What about you? Have you ever read fan fiction? Has anybody here written any? How would you feel if someone loved a character you created so much that they took him or her and plopped them in a story that you never would have endorsed? (If you’re curious about what others have to say about the morality and legality of commercial and non-commercial fan fiction, I highly recommend some of the articles at Dear Author under the fan fiction tag.)