Fanfiction Appreciation

an ideation by guest writer, Andrew Rigefsky

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single financially stable Alpha must want of an Omega.” This is not, in fact, the opening line of Pride and Prejudice, but a Pride and Prejudice-like story from the X-Men universe written by user Tree_Fics.

Over the last couple of months, I have found myself enthralled in reading in a way I have never been before.  It has gotten so bad, I find random chances I can even at work to break out my phone or Kindle to read. It’s not a particular book I’m obsessed over, or a series per se, or news articles.  Absolutely not news articles.

fanfiction writer staged photograph

My Latest Fascination: Fanfiction

I’ve mostly been enthralled in the expansive world of fanfiction (aka, fanfic), a genre of fiction written by fans of, and including characters from, particular TV series, movies, books, video games, and any other sort of category you could think of.  My particular flavor of fanfiction? Teen Wolf. Not the 1985 seminal classic movie Teen Wolf starring Michael J. Fox, but rather the American television series Teen Wolf starring Tyler Posey. Not any old Teen Wolf fanfiction qualifies, however; it’s fanfiction about two specific characters that were not at all romantically involved on the TV show (which I find to be an egregious mistake).  I’m referring to a potential relationship between characters Stiles Stilinski and Derek Hale, a topic for over forty-eight thousand works posted on the repository site Archive of Our Own (AO3).

Fanfiction 101

Here’s your quick fanfiction 101. The two largest online collections of fanfiction, AO3, and FanFiction.Net, host over 10 million users and millions of user-created stories in fandoms of every sort.  They range from short, one-chapter stories, to some of the largest works of fiction ever written (these works are much longer than even War and Peace, and that book is long).  Fanfics are written for every kind of audience, from Yu-Gi-Oh fanfics for kids of all ages to Twilight fanfics written only for adults.  (You know where I’m going with this.) Lovers of Harry Potter can, unsurprisingly, bond with other lovers of Harry Potter through the magic of storytelling by writing stories of about the seven years at Hogwarts through the eyes of Pansy Parkinson. Similar bonds can grow over a theoretical what-would-happen-if Harry and Ron confessed their romantic feelings to one another and Hermoine decided instead to open a bondage club where Viktor Krum was her most frequent client.  Note: I’m not actually sure this exists, but I feel as though it should.

Power to the Fans

Fanfics can serve as ways for fans to take back the narrative from where they feel it went wrong in the source material.  “Fan fiction is a way of the culture repairing the damage,” Henry Jenkins, director of Media Studies at MIT, said in a New York Times article regarding fan fiction, “done in a system where contemporary myths are owned by corporations instead of by the folk.”  Fanfic authors can explore these “repairs” by developing side plots dropped off by the original author or through shipping of characters, both the popular ones and the completely unheard of ones. Ever wondered about the relationship between Dorothy and Blanche from Golden Girls? There’s a fic for that.  Wanted to read the romance of Steven Colbert and Jon Stewart? There’s a fic for that. There’s even a fic about the Giant Squid mating with the Hogwarts castle – though I’m not entirely sure I want to know how that works.

Fan Communities

Another great aspect of fanfiction is the community of people that form around these stories.  These authors and commenters do it for the love of the pen, not because they intend on having their works commercially published, nor do they have any intentions of such.  They have discussions with each other on message boards hosted on their respective repository sites. They leave comments on each other’s stories that are constructive and positive, which differ greatly from the negative suck-fest/zero-sum-game that the rest of the Internet, especially social media, can be.  One can argue that these communities can serve as even-more-necessary salves for the chaotic world around us.

Embracing the Fanfic

A semi-recent article in The Guardian by Mikaella Clements describes how fanfiction is becoming more and more mainstream, how writers are bridging the gap between it and original writing.  Naomi Novik for example, a co-founder of AO3, is also the bestselling author of the Temeraire book series.  Neil Gaiman, author of my favorite way to scare children in Coraline, also wrote the H.P. Lovecraft fic, I, Cthulhu, and Meg Cabot may be best known for her book series that gave birth to my love of Anne Hathaway, but she started her writing career in Star Wars fanfiction. From what I’ve found in my extensive exploration, several authors have the potential to make the jump as well.

Just as long as they continue to provide me with glorious hours of queer discovery, I’m just fine with that.

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