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What's fanfiction

2024-04-10

Fanfiction, as the word implies, refers to fictional writing authored by fans, inspired by an original work of fiction. These works come in various forms and are shared through both online and offline platforms. From stories that continue where the original work left off, to parallel universes, reimaginations of characters, and everything in between, fanfiction knows no bounds. This unique amalgamation of fan culture and creative writing is an intriguing part of contemporary literature and pop culture.

Brief History

Fanfiction did not just arise with the advent of the internet. Historically, works like Virgil's Aeneid could be slated as fanfiction, given that it picks up where Homer's Iliad left off, telling the Trojan prince, Aeneas's story. Similarly, many of Shakespeare's works were also inspired by historical narratives and folk tales.

What's fanfiction

However, fanfiction as we know it began to take shape in the 1960s through 'fanzines' or fan magazines related to Star Trek. From then on, with the establishment of internet connectivity, and platforms dedicated to fanfiction like FanFiction.net, the genre started blossoming into the multifaceted form it is today.

Categories of Fanfiction

There is an incredibly wide spectrum of fanfiction available, which often depends on the original work's fandom. Some fanfics remain canon-compliant, adhering to the original works' narrative or timeline. Others might delve into alternate universes or realities which often stray drastically from the original plot. Slash fanfics introduce romantic relationships between characters who aren't romantically involved in the original series, often of the same sex. Fanfics have further various rating systems to suit different age groups and sensitivities.

Platforms and Communities

Fanfiction is primarily shared online, with dedicated platforms such as FanFiction.net and Archive of Our Own (AO3), the internet's largest fanfiction repositories. Here, writers can upload their stories, and readers can browse by fandom, genre, characters, and more.

Platform communities also provide supportive spaces for writers and readers alike, offering constructive criticism, advice, writing prompts, collaborations, and more. Each platform has its strengths �AO3, for instance, is known for its superb tagging system, allowing users to filter stories accurately, while FanFiction.net has an enormous library of works dating back to the late 90s.

Fanfiction and Copyright

One area of complex debate in fanfiction is copyright. While fanfic is transformative in nature, it's rooted in another's intellectual property. Fanfic authors usually don't profit from their works, and most creators tolerate or even welcome fanfic as a testament to their work's popularity. Nevertheless, there have been cases where creators haven't been welcoming, which opens up thorny legal issues.

Fortunately, organizations like the Organization for Transformative Works help navigate these waters, providing legal advocacy and helping create spaces such as AO3 where fanfiction can be freely shared and enjoyed.

The Influence of Fanfiction

Fanfiction has not only expanded the boundaries of creative writing but also played a vital role in shaping narratives. It has become a platform for exploring themes and topics that mainstream literature often overlooks, like LGBTQ+ representations and mental health issues.

Moreover, fanfiction can significantly impact the original works. JK Rowling’s announcement that Albus Dumbledore is gay was seen by many as a nod to Harry Potter fanfiction, where queer themes are widely explored.

Q&A's

Q: Is there anything wrong with writing fanfiction? A: No, there's nothing wrong with writing fanfiction! It can be a great way to improve your writing skills, and it can be a lot of fun. However, it's important to respect the original creator's work, especially when it comes to copyright issues.

Q: Can I make money from fanfiction? A: Generally, making money from fanfiction is legally complicated because the works are based on copyrighted material. It's advisable to write fanfiction for personal enjoyment or community participation rather than monetary gain.

Q: Why do people write fanfiction? A: People write fanfiction for many reasons. Some write to explore 'what if' scenarios or continue the story after the original work has concluded. Others write to explore different character developments, relationships, or to fix perceived flaws in the original work. And overall, most people write fanfiction simply because they enjoy it.

Conclusion

Fanfiction, in its vast scope and diversity, offers a unique blend of participatory culture and storytelling. As fans bring their passion, creativity, and dedication to the table, they have formed communities that spur creativity, challenge norms, and push boundaries. Through this distinct form of fiction writing, the line between consumers and creators is blurred, making fanfiction a fascinating aspect of modern literature and pop culture.

References

Russo, J: The New York Times. "The Weird World of Fan Fiction." July 24, 2015. Thomas, Angela. "Fan Fiction Online: Engagement, Critical Response and Affect." Art, Design & Communication in Higher Education, Vol 6, No 1, 2007.

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