Writing out the what ifs….

March 31, 2011 by ashleycraig
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I’m about to reveal my deepest, darkest, most guiltiest of pleasures.

I love fan fiction.

I read it. I write it. Heck, I’ve even edited a few stories here and there.

For those scratching their heads about this fan fiction thing, I’ll explain. Fan fiction is exactly what it sounds like, fictional stories written by fans of a specific television show, comic book, movie, etc.

If you didn’t like the way a certain film or book ended, you can write it differently, the way you think it should have went. Or if you want to expand on a television show that has long since ended, you can do it.

What if Gilligan hadn’t thwarted one of the Professor’s many plans to repair the S.S. Minnow?

What if Jack had been able to fit on that floating chunk of wood with Rose after the Titanic went down?

What happens when Superman loses his powers for real and is forced to live without them (kind of like in Superman II but like forever)?a meal at the fortress of solitude
What if McDreamy stayed with his wife and away from Meredith at Seattle Grace?

These are the types of things that fan fiction writers have tackled in the past.

Fan-written fiction itself has been around for a long time but didn’t start to really take off until Star Trek rose in popularity. As my co-worker and huge Trekkie friend Jared Hunt said, you’ve got to find something to do in your time without Trek.

There are some in the fan fiction world who argue that Star Trek: Nemesis (the last of the Trek movies with the TNG crew), was a work of fan fiction because the screenwriter was a long-time Trek fan when he put pen to paper on Nemesis, sending the crew and the Enterprise-E looking for some guy named Shinzon who is essentially some kind of humanoid living amongst Remans. That, however, is another post for another day.

It’s not something I went looking for. I was looking for something to do, specifically something to read. I’d devoured all the books I had in my room and the library was out of the question just then, so I started wandering about the internet.

It was sophomore year of high school and I’d just gotten my first computer, so the internet was still this brand new thing full of the unknown. One night I simply typed the name of my favorite television show at the time (the long ago cancelled Roswell) into a search engine and up popped a website boasting fan fiction about the show.

Confused and curious, I started reading. An hour in and I was hooked. There were so many stories involving the Pod Squad and their adventures in Roswell or what could have happened to them after the show ended when they packed up and fled the tiny New Mexico town.

Within a few months I’d read every scrap of fan generated fiction on that website and had gone in search of more. That’s how I landed on www.fanfiction.net, one of the largest repositories of fan fiction on the internet.

There was so much to read and not enough hours in the day.

Here comes the interesting part (I know you were all hoping I would get to that). While the site has a lot of everything, there are some things you won’t find. I’ve found that it’s primarily in the books section of the website.

Certain authors have asked fans to not write stories based on their work. Some of the ones that come to mind are Anne Rice, Anne McCaffrey and Diana Gabaldon.

During an October interview with Gabaldon on her upcoming appearance at the WV Book Festival I snuck in a question about her policy on fan fiction. She said simply that it was for personal and legal reasons (because really all of this stuff is copyrighted and as per the common disclaimer in fan fiction “we’re just borrowing them and promise to put them back when we’re done”).

“These are characters that I’ve created and they’re very dear to me,” she said. “They belong to me and aren’t for others to play with.”

On her website she thanks her fans for their interest but asks them to refrain from writing fan fiction, posting it or sending it to her. Because of that, and her comments to me, I’ve never written a word of Outlander fan fiction.

I’m a writer, unpublished, but I’ve written a couple of novels and a handful of short stories with characters from my own mind. I’m not sure how I would feel if someone wrote their own story using the characters I’ve created, nurtured and developed. I suppose maybe I would be flattered after I got past being weirded out.

Sometimes if I’m stuck on an original piece I’ll go back to a fan fiction that I’m working on just to put my mind on something else. Having characters that already are developed helps the thinking process. You don’t have to think when writing (in canon) ‘how would this character react to this?’ because you already know from reading them or watching them.

Other (published) writers, such as J.K Rowling and Stephenie Meyer, don’t have a problem with fan fiction about their work as long as it’s clean and not filled with pornography, something both authors have excluded from their stories as the main characters are teens and the stories are aimed at children.

Sex seems to be the problem most authors/creators have with fan fiction.
In 1981 (yes it’s been around that long) Lucasfilm sent a letter to a Star Wars fanzine making sure they were aware that the characters were copyrighted and asking them not to publish any fan-written stories involving pornography.

In a side note, Rowling’s Harry Potter series and Meyer’s Twilight series hold the #1 and #2 popularity spots on www.fanfiction.net. Harry Potter has 507,912 stories and Twilight has 178,176.

Star Wars, in the movie category, has the most with 26,079 stories. On the comic side, X-Men has 10,121 stories. Cartoons and Anime also have their own categories. For cartoons Avatar: The Last Airbender (the cartoon, not that M. Night Shyamalan nonsense) ranks first with 28,363 stories and Teen Titans, with 28,092 is second. On the anime side (which also includes Manga I’m told) Naruto has the most with 267,753 stories.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer had long been the most popular television show for fan fiction writers but it was recently ousted by my new favorite television show Supernatural (more on that later). Supernatural stands with 46,720 stories to Buffy’s 41,559 stories.

I know you’re thinking, that’s a lot of stories and they can’t all be masterpieces.

They’re not. Some of them are downright awful, and a waste of internet space (that’s saying a lot considering everything that’s on the internet). All the beta-reading (ff-speak for editing) in the world can’t help them.

But there’s also a large number of stories that are simply amazing, so much that the writers, who go by usernames, have developed followings. Some of those writers have even gone on to have their original works published, which in any realm is a BFD.

Fan fiction is my main way of nerding out, in a rebellious, thumb-my-nose-at-copyright-laws kind of way. I have a lot to say about it and I guess I’m kind of passionate about it.

Any other fan fiction writers out there? Is this someone else’s nerdy guilty pleasure?

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One Response to “Writing out the what ifs….”

  1. sapphyNo Gravatar says:

    I ADORE fanfiction! I found it much the same way you did, just looking for more about Harry Potter between books. What a world opened up before me! I’ve written a bit, beta’ed a Buffy/Potter cross, and started my own blog as a result.

    I started many years ago. The only thing I’m still active in is the blog. Writing HP ff helped me work out some personal demons and soothed a beast inside me. I’ve been begged, cajoled and pleaded with to complete one of my stories, but I just can’t seem to find the time any more. Sometimes that makes me sad, but I’m still passionate about truly GOOD fanfiction. I think it’s a grand learning experience, above all.

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