Fanfiction: Revisions and Reruns in any Genre
Book series often end on flat notes, leaving readers wanting more. Likewise, it’s not uncommon for TV shows to be canceled in their prime, forcing viewers to wish they knew what happens next. Most video games have flashy characters but next to nothing in terms of a satisfying plot. In all of these situations, there are two ways of coping: move on from what had so much potential and mattered so much, or turn to the massive expanse of continuations, rewrites, and reimaginations in the world known as “fanfiction.”
Fanfiction is not a new creation, nor is it something that the Internet has made a part of popular culture. Most older texts are some form of fanfiction, as they could easily have been passed around for generations before being written down, the text we know being a changed and improved form of the original tale. The Bible, for example, was written by men who were simply telling their own stories of what they thought happened when it came to the events of religion.
Coming into more modern times, Star Trek in the sixties started the trend of popular fanfiction, namely what is known as “slash” fiction. The die-hard fans of the show, known as “Trekkies,” immersed themselves so much into that universe that they wanted to write their own adventures, and the novellas they produced were repeatedly put out for publication and distribution. Telling if one of these stories was fan-made or not normally relied on the inclusion of one little detail the show did not touch on itself — a relationship between the characters Captain Kirk and Spock. This relationship, marked as “Kirk/Spock” when needed, began the trend of popularization of male relationships in fan media, as well as the term for it: “slash” fiction. To this day, the term is used whenever male-on-male relationships are depicted, with variants like “femslash” for the female variety, and while the backslash between the names is now used for marking any relationship, some fanfiction writers try to remain loyal to the original use of the backslash.
Not all fanfiction has been a delight for the creators of the initial series that spawned it. Anne Rice, known for the Vampire Chronicles books that have many open ends and side plots to explore, has explicitly said that no fanfiction for her works can be published in any form. This warning finds a permanent home on the “banned fandoms” list on FanFiction.net, where it lists other such media that cannot have fanfiction posted for it—like the Archie comics, for example. The reasoning given for this ban on fanfiction is normally the same, that any additional writing from unknown people will do nothing but tarnish the original piece.
Other authors and creators have open arms for fanfiction, seeing it as a blessing to their original premise. J.K. Rowling is one such author, and she has even admitted to reading fanfiction written about her Harry Potter series on several occasions. Amazon, with their Kindle Worlds, is trying to take advantage of the fanfiction written for things that the creator is fine with it existing for, but they are trying to make a profit off of it. In the spirit of fanfiction, the only profit should be the reviews and critiques the author gets that makes them a better writer, as the original creator should be the one with the profit. It does not seem right for someone to make money off of someone else’s idea, and as fanfiction is just expanding on an original premise, the person who created that premise should be the one receiving the bigger rewards for it.
Not all fanfiction writers understand this, and it tends to be those with the least amount of skill who find fame from their writings based on someone else’s creation. In the early 2000s, Cassandra Clare, then going by a different name, was writing mostly plagiarized Harry Potter fanfiction: her “skill” earned her a publishing contract and she is now a relatively famous author of young adult literature, such as The Mortal Instruments. The big name in turning fanfiction into money, however, is E.L. James, author of Fifty Shades of Grey, the trilogy known as “mommy porn.” Everyone who reads it, ignoring the terrible writing and absolutely flat characters, and definitely paying no attention to the unsafe practices it preaches, is reading a paid-for version of a Twilight fanfiction.
Originally titled Master of the Universe, the series can still be found online in its original form. The characters’ names have been changed from Edward and Bella of Twilight to Christian Grey and Anastasia, and the locations have been altered to attempt to make it less obvious that the story is set in a pre-established universe. It makes no difference, as the published novels read like the person who wrote them has no idea how the world, especially in the realm of alternate sexual practices, seems to work.
Not all fanfiction is a bad thing, and not everyone who writes it has the intentions of Cassandra Clare or E.L James when they start a piece. There are intentionally terrible pieces, like My Immortal, a Harry Potter fanfiction so bad it was removed from Fanfiction.net and can only be found on websites hosted solely to keep it relevant. There are stories that have transcended their text-based status and become memes of their own, such as Half-Life: Full Life Consequences (see the video below) and its sequels, all with dramatic readings that can be found on YouTube. And then there are just the fanfictions that are written by people who love to write, making up the giant majority of what can be found online. All stories might not be good, but the people like me who write it do it out of love for the source material, and for the thrill of expanding on a story we loved the first time we experienced it.