As a legal adult (but an experiential child), I’m not sure if kids still enjoy fanfiction the way I and my friends used to back in grade school. I used to spend my afternoons post-school sitting in front of fanfiction.net, still in the bits of my school uniform that I’ve yet to remove. (Usually a chic combo of blouse + shorts or sando + half-zipped skirt.) I’d only leave my desktop computer to have dinner, or when my mom starts nagging me to do my homework. I surrounded myself with friends who appreciated the same interest, an odd bevy of weirdos who also religiously printed out their favorite fanfiction to share and re-read like a bible. There’s even a standard fanfiction format for the hardcore freaks: three column, long bond paper, in a sans serif font, size nine. Who cares about poor eyesight? You gotta save up that paper and ink, gworl.
You, me, and your lola are probably now aware of what fanfiction. In my simple mind, it used to be some underground cult, but has grown into a legitimate hobby in the last few years. You got your books, you got your movie tie-in novelizations, and then you got fanfiction. It’s not quite a sequel, in the way the New Testament followed the Old one. Imagine a hardcore Bible-reader wanting to know what happened after the Book of Revelations, so he wrote a post-apocalyptic novel featuring The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Ridiculous, but strangely plausible.
The truth is that fanfiction isn’t some new, modern century creation. It’s actually been around for many, many years now, changing forms through the decades. The Brontë sisters, authors of classic English novels such as Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, are actually some of literature’s first fanfic writers, creating adventure fantasies about Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington. The first time “fan fiction” was used publicly was 1939, and its modern version was popularized by the Star Trek fandom, who were prolific in creating zines and stories that they would sell in sci-fi conventions. Any fanfiction aficionado has a genesis of their own, each one stranger than the next.
At the end of the day, I can say that I owe fanfic many things. The friends that I have made throughout my years of reading and writing it, and the bravery that it has given me to pursue my craft.
Personally, my fanfic love affair started all because of a b*tch you might know as JK Rowling. Look, I love JK, but for a very long time, I’ve had my doubts that she actually loves me back. Between the long dry spell of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, fans of her series left like the Chosen People in the desert for forty days, minus the leather sandals. What the heck were we going to do, when we didn’t know when she’d put a book out? Was she even gonna put a book out? Will we ever know if Voldemort gets his nose back? You see, JK Rowling is the original George RR Martin. Ain’t nobody knows real torture like Ms. Rowling does.
But the beautiful thing that came out of JK Rowling’s canonical absence is that fans decided to capitalize on what I refer to as the Golden Age of Harry Potter fanfic. We had nothing to read, so we decided to create the stories ourselves. Book Four was the perfect time to do it, because they had the Yule Ball (their version of prom) and characters were starting to be attracted to each other. Hormones, yasss. Everyone took sides, choosing their OTPs (one true pairings) and fighting to the death to defend it. I don’t even want to recognize the fakes out there trying to peddle their bogus OTPs, because in my totally not deranged mind, I think Draco Malfoy and Hermione Granger (Dramione) are meant to be together. And nothing you say can bring down this Titanic-sized ship down.
Fafiction isn’t just limited to books or fictional situations. In more real-life examples, you’ve got the pairing of Zayn Malik and Harry Styles, also known as ZARRY. (All-caps v. necessary.) After reading a heart-wrenchig, sadly fictional story of how Zayn is a hotshot football player and Harry is an aspiring artist. I was a wreck for days after reading it, and even wrote the author an impassioned letter about how she ruined my life, I’m rendered useless by her story, etc. Usual crazy fan stuff. We’ve exchanged so many messages that she’s become one of my closest One Direction virtual friends. And she even read my own One Direction fanfiction, whose existence I can’t believe I just admitted to.
Believe it or not, my fanfiction level is considered normal. I mean, there are tons of fanfic fans out there who can be more rabid and more passionate that I am. I’m merely a hokey lurker and a one-time (okay, two-time, tops) writer. Fanfiction has gotten so big throughout the years that there are now loads and loads of fanfic writers who have crossed over to mainstream fiction. This is a list that includes but is not limited to: Cassandra Clare (who started writing Dramione fiction, FYI) and EL James (from 50 Shades of Grey, you may have heard of it.) Some “real” writers may think of that as a cop-out, but I think that just makes literature a beautiful, messy democracy. These days, anyone can write, and why shouldn’t they? If there’s anything I’ve learned in my years writing (both fanfictitiously and professionally) it’s that everyone has a story to tell. It’s just a matter of digging it out of them.
More wonderful about fanfiction is that it’s given many, many writers the chance to get published (in their own ways), especially now that getting published has become more difficult these days. What I particularly love about this is knowing that women dominate fanfiction authoring — even in the ’70s, over 90-percent of Star Trek fanfic authors are female. One scholar has even stated that fanfiction fills the need of a largely female audience for fictional narratives that expand the boundary of the official source products offered on TV and film. Girl power, you know. If no one is out there telling our stories, who says we can’t write our own? (It’s not surprising that fanfic is full of the most multidimensional female characters, some even more fleshed out than their canonical versions.)
At the end of the day, I can say that I owe fanfic many things. The friends that I have made throughout my years of reading and writing it, and the bravery that it has given me to pursue my craft. I mean, if an emo Death Cab for Cutie fan can write the most touching Twilight fic that has graced this side of the Earth, then why can’t I? (Not theTwilight part, just the writing.) Fafiction might just be the most/only legitimate form of artistic plagiarism (if you wanna be a dick about it) or straight-up admiration, a sign of our ever-democratizing times. We may know fanfiction, but are we truly aware of its power? It seems like we’re just about to find out.