Have you ever heard of FanFiction? Turns it it’s a pretty popular pastime. An essay by Rhodes (2017) provides us with a simple definition: “contemporary FanFiction is the act of creating stories using the settings, plot elements, subtexts, and characters of a previously established fictional universe—from television, video games, movies, musicals, books, comics, or other sources.”
So basically, any person goes out and writes their own new stories based in their favorite fictional world. These are usually published for free on sites such as FanFiction, Archive of Our Own, and Wattpad.
You may have even read FanFiction (or ‘fanfic’ as the enthusiasts call it) without realizing it. It turns out the Fifty Shades of Grey franchise was originally Twilight FanFiction. In fact, many popular TV shows and movies could be defined as FanFiction- re-imaginings and adaptations of already established fiction. Rhodes (2017) makes a good point here: “Nearly everything in popular media right now is somehow based on pre-existing work (how many reboots is Hollywood making?).”
The world of FanFiction is incredibly in-depth, with its own particular terminology and some pretty out there categories. As Miller (2015) explains, romances between two male characters are quite popular, (think Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy, or Spock and Kirk), as well as ‘mpreg’ – where male characters or celebrities get pregnant. Interestingly, most FanFiction is written by women.
Alexanderson (2015) explains that “[t]he power of FanFiction stems from the fact that it actively invites writers to break down boundaries considered “natural” in a broader cultural context – primarily around sex, sexuality, and gender.” Fans may fill in ‘missing’ parts of stories, or fix things they didn’t like in the original. They can create a community, and push the boundaries of what is possible or realistic, so as to broaden the original to be more relevant and inclusive. Because of this, Rhodes describes FanFiction as “provocative, transgressive, and challenging”.
Of course, there are criticisms of FanFiction. Some authors object to the re-imaginings of their characters and worlds. And there is the question of copyright. In Australia, the Copyright Council has produced an information sheet for exactly this question. Since the FanFiction is not written for profit, it is unlikely the authors would seek to take any legal action. The works may also fall under ‘fair dealing’ as a parody or satire.
Since it’s so popular, it seems to me there may be room for libraries to get involved. We could offer writing workshops where people can re-imagine their favorite characters, or offer a space for people to come together and share their stories. Just as some libraries have embraced Zines as self-published creative works, we may be able to look to FanFiction as contributing to contemporary culture, diversity and innovation.
Have you read or written any FanFiction? Does your library get involved in the FanFiction scene?
– Michelle De Aizpurua, ILN Content Officer.
For further reading on this topic: