I suppose it just shows how deeply I’m enmeshed in fandom that when I see the word ‘original‘, I think about ‘original fiction’. I don’t think it’s a term widely used outside of fic-writing fandom circles. Some of you might even be wondering, original fiction as opposed to what? Unoriginal fiction?
Fanfiction. Works written by fans for other fans, based on works of others.
I can sense some of you rolling your eyes at this.
I won’t bother writing anything in defence of fanfic; so many other fans have done this. It’s probably one of those things you either get or don’t. It doesn’t really matter.
I pretty much grew up reading fanfiction. My mother read The X-Files fics and I read those along with my Anne of Green Gables books. When I went to boarding school, some of those fics were printed and slipped into care packages, along with cookies and actual books and magazines. I don’t think my mother ever wrote fanfic, and I don’t think she ever had another fandom outside The X-Files.
I used to write fanfiction. Well, I still write fics now; I just never finish them or polish them up enough to post. I never wrote anything for The X-Files, though. The first fic I actually shared on the internet was for Final Fantasy VIII, so that had to be … wow, around 1999 or thereabouts. A long time ago, folks. I wrote other stuff before that, but that was just me making up stories for my younger brother, and it never occurred to me to share them with a wider audience.
The fandoms I tend to write for are usually video games and anime fandoms, even though I read pretty much anything that catches my interest. A lot of these are holdovers from the past — Naruto, anyone? I didn’t actually grow up with it but my younger siblings did, and I got into it just to make sense of the whole ninja thing. The Final Fantasy games, because those were my RPG staples. Stargate Atlantis, mostly because the really good authors are hilarious and, to be frank, I’d like more of the Stargate universe but I’d probably throttle McKay if I re-watched the show (he’s less irritating in writing, and I don’t find that a characterisation problem for some reason). I can’t think of anything new I just got into but that’s partly because I don’t consume as much media any more.
A check in the WIP folder finds me unfinished fic in these fandoms: FFVIII, FFX, Stargate Atlantis (what was I thinking? and it’s a crossover, too), Naruto, Danny Phantom (what) and Star Wars (though this one is mostly an another-fandom-in-a-SW-setting kind of thing). I’m kinda scratching my head in bemusement at some of these.
I know some people use fanfic for practice, so to speak; it’s easier playing in someone else’s pool before trying to create the whole landscape on your own for yourself. Some of us, though, just write fanfic for the heck of it. I like writing, and I liked the show/game/book/whatever so, hey, why not just combine that?
And it wasn’t just that. I found that sharing my work with others made me happy, and it brought others joy too. I found a community of like-minded people, mentors and friends. I got dragged into discussions about things I never knew I cared about. I learned how to write better, how to take constructive criticism and how to give it, and also that people who started flame wars were idiots and you should just ignore them instead of feeding the fire.
It was a lot of fun.
I have a friend on Goodreads who tends to compare books he doesn’t like to fanfic. “It reads like fanfiction,” would be his critique, “derivative and filled with Mary Sue-like characters.” I used to wonder how much fanfic he’s actually read, because I’ve read fanworks that are better than actual movie tie-ins and he seems to like those fine. Besides, everything‘s derivative; the only thing that’s original is how the work changes our perceptions by retelling stories that have been told before.
I’m just saying it’s not fair to lump everything together, or to put fanfiction down simply because it’s fanfiction.
Sure, there are terrible fics out there, but you just need to click the ‘close’ button to get away from them. And there are a lot of good ones, even great ones, depending on what you enjoy and what you want. And if you can’t find what you want, well, what’s stopping you from writing it yourself?
I’m not sure what the point of this whole rambling entry is. Probably just me trying to say there’s nothing wrong with fanfic, and I don’t consider it less than any of the ‘original’ fiction I attempt, or any sort of other writing as well.
I’m pretty sure some of those fics might pop up here some day, assuming I ever finish them and find the nerve to share!