The arrival of Internet has revolutionized the concept of fandom, and a manifestation of this revolution is the fan-generated literature known as “fanfiction.” Beyond homage or admiration, these written spinoffs of television, film and literary franchises could be cataloged as samples of personal prose and a good practice for more serious fictional writing. Nevertheless, well-known authors resent amateurs meddling with their work and view fanfiction as mere plagiarism.
The definition of “fanfiction” applies to a story inspired by an original work that either modifies or expands the actual text. Such yarns are non-profitable, exclusively on-line published (most of the contemporary fanfiction in English is gathered at Faniction.net) and targets devotees of the inspiring piece. These transmedia texts are triggered off by several subjects: anime, films, TV series and books, especially sagas like Twilight, Harry Potter and George R.R. Martin´s A Song of Ice and Fire.
Fanfiction springs from four emotions:
Love: A loving fan would wish to enhance a favorite tale by using its universe and characters.
Deprivation: After the word “The End” is reached, a feeling of hunger gnaws the fan’s vitals. The only way to appease it is to continue the story, to expand the boundaries and create sequels.
Impatience: It arises while waiting for another season of a TV show to roll by or by the incessant counting of months and years before a new book comes to the market (George R.R. Martin, hear our clamor!) What best way to beat that impatience than writing our own versions?
Frustration: Many readers experiment with fanfiction to appease exasperation with an author who pairs off the heroine to the wrong partner, kills a favorite character or drags the plot into an undesired direction. Most aficionados understand those moods. How many of us want to push Martin to write faster, are angry that Bella didn’t choose Jacob, or, like me, feel that the doctors in “Grey´s Anatomy” never make the right amorous decision?
Fanfiction is basically prose, although I have heard of poetry fics and fan song fiction. There is a form of fanfiction that is expressed in video structure, and you may find several samples in YouTube. FF or “fanfic” (as it is known) appears usually in the shape of short stories, but there is also the drabble, telling a tale in less than a hundred words. On the other hand, some fan-authors actually write full novels that are posted in a serialized fashion.
Fanfics are usually set in their canon universe, but some are located in alternative spaces. I have seen Game of Thrones characters turned into contemporary high school students. Crossover fanfiction is when characters mingle with other fictional individuals outside of their canon universe. An example would be people from “Glee” attending Hogwart, or the “Ron Solo” fics. Yes, that is indeed Ron Weasley ambling about the “Star Wars” cosmos. I have found some interesting crossover romances among YouTube videos and I leave you this one that pairs Jaime Lannister with Lucrezia Borgia (from “The Borgia” series.)
In terms of genre, fanfiction’s favorite category is Romance. Love fanfic provides an extensive canvas upon which devotees can splash all the intensity of their lusty or platonic fantasies. There are romantic fics for every taste, from “fluff” or “feel-good” happy-ending stories, to “kink” (in Spanish we use the Japanese term "lemon") used to define erotic tales with extensive sexual content. There is heterosexual fanfic as well as one targeting gay audiences. The latter is known as “Slash,” or “Femslash” if geared towards lesbians. To continue the possibilities, now we have “twincest”, which was obviously prompted by the nefarious Lannister Twins’ escapades, but I found several fics that involved George and Fred Weasley!
A glance through the almost infinite variety of romantic merging proves the readers’ need for love stories in places where such emotions are not present. It also expresses the vastness of fan’s imagination when it comes to the engineering of these liaisons. Hermione Granger and Harry Potter sounds like a match made in heaven, but Hermione and Severus Snape? CatelynStark and Jon Snow? Jaime Lannister and Ned Stark? Jacob Black and Edward Cullen?
I love fanfiction, but I am not longer interested in writing it. Way before the term existed, I was already scribbling it. It was a great method to rewrite poor and unsatisfactory endings. In my stories, Julien Sorel survived the guillotine; it was Brian of Bois Gilbert (not dull indecisive Ivanhoe) who rescued Rebecca from the stake; and Scarlett and Ashley flew together to Mexico leaving Melly behind to look after her rival’s brood and to comfort Rhett (in more than one way.) Curiously, years later I discovered the existence of a manga that had Rebecca and her Templar nemesis in love and together. Curiouser still, at a high-school workshop I had my students rewriting GWTW´s last chapter. Five of them had Melanie living happily ever after...as Mrs. Rhett Butler!
|Were Melanie and Rhett meant for each other?|
One of the most rewarding aspects of fanfiction is learning than others feel just like you do, that they also envision perfect couples that no author cares to create. It gives you a sense that you are not a freak because you want Sansa Stark to fall in love with Sandor Clegane, or because you wish Sirius Black to resurrect, and that you are not alone in giving the Hermione-Ron combination a jaundiced eye.
Around the turn of the century, I had my first ran into official fanfiction. It happened at a website devoted to “Big Valley,” a 60’s television western. I never thought “Big Valley” had such a large following, especially thirty years after its cancellation. But there it was, an Internet page with some juicy fanfiction as bonus.
Big Valley’s major hook were its protagonists, The Barkley Brothers played by Richard Long, Peter Breck and Lee Majors (in his pre-Farrah days). Most BV’s followers had a thing for Jared Barkley (R. Long) or his half-brother Heath (Majors). It surprised me to discover, through the said fanfiction, that grumpy Nick (P. Breck) also had a major fandom. For decades, I had thought I was the only soul on the planet to have a crush on him. This showed me that fan interaction is the phenomenon´s major attractive. Fanfiction brings together likeminded people, even if their taste in common is just a mundane fantasy.
|Peter Breck as Nick Barkley|
Inventive and daring as the internet version may be, fanfiction is not a new art form. Back in the early XVII century, readers demanding a follow-up to the adventures of Don Quixote saw their dreams come true when Spanish bookstores presented the desire book. The only problem is that this Quixote was a fanfic written by Alonso de Avellaneda. Since Miguel de Cervantes had no way to sue Avellaneda (Golden Age Spain was not a litigious society), he had no other choice but to write a sequel to the quests of his mad knight.
In our own times, we find novels that could be defined as fanfiction. Examples are parody novels such as Seth Grahame-Sennett’ Pride and Prejudice and Zombies or Alice Randal’s Wind Done Told, a retelling of Gone with the Wind seen from the point of view of Scarlett´s mulatto half-sister. Parallel novels like Geraldine Brooks’ March (reviewing the experiences of the father of Little Women in the Civil War) and Jean Rhyss’ Wide Sargasso Sea (the story of Jane Eyre’s “Madwoman of the Attic”) also qualify as fanfic.
Even sequel novels that have not been written by the author of the source material are nothing but glorified plagiarism (aka “fanfiction.”) Just think of P.D.James Death Comes to Pemberley, (sequel to Pride and Prejudice) Susan Hill’s Mrs. De Winter (sequel to Rebecca) and Alexandra Ripley´s infamous Scarlett. But nobody would accuse those respectable writers of being anti-original. Why not? Is it because their skills place them above a bunch of dilettantes?
The level of writing skills in fanfiction varies from author to author. There are some whose style is definitely amateurish, whereas others show much literary promise. A couple of years ago, my countrywoman Francisca Sola wrote a fanfiction novel called El Ocaso de los Altos Elfos (The Twilight of the High Elves.) It was her response to a major disappointment with Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix. El Ocaso was so booming that it was translated to English and Italian, and was not bought by Random House only because of copyright conflicts with J. K. Rowling. Since then, Francisca has became a novelist in her own right, having published two books and being one of the few Chilean authors to dabble in paranormal fiction.
|Francisca Solar, a fanfiction success story|
Francisca Solar is not the only success story in the fanfiction universe. E.L. James has achieved fame and fortune thanks to the rewriting of her Twilight erotic fanfic. For those who still don´t know it, the fic had its rebirth in the market as the notorious 50 Shades of Grey. Naomi Novick, creator of the Temeraire series, has confessed to have written fanfiction in the past. But despite these precedents, the new genre is still reviled and even fought by established authors who rail against the bootlegging of their works.
The United States Supreme Court has been emphatic about it, as long as fanfiction is described as such and as long as the authors do not profit from it, fan-generated literature is perfectly legal. The Guardian may define fanfiction as “crass” and “celebrity-obsessed,” but many critics and reviewers (such as Teresa Nielsen Haydn, editor of Tor Books) are embracing it as a new subgenre. Yet writers are still raising their voices against the trend.
While Stephanie Meyer encourages fanfiction based on her characters, Anne Rice has formally demanded that stories centered on her work be removed from Fanfiction.Net. She wrote an open letter to her readers denouncing fanfic: “I do not allow fan fiction,” she wrote. “The characters are copyrighted. It upsets me terribly to even think about fan fiction with my characters. It is absolutely essential that you respect my wishes." Some fanfic authors, who did not abide with Ms. Rice´s wishes, claim to have been victims of further harassment from her part.
George R.R. Martin does not reach those extremes, but perceives fanfiction as an infraction of his copyrights. He resents the distortion of his literary universe and believes that plagiarizing his work is a bad exercise for novice writers. J.K Rowling is much more tolerant, she claims to be flattered by the Harry Potter inspired stories, but draws the line at excessive sexual content.
How do you feel about this issue? Have you ever been inclined to write about characters that were not your own? Or do you see it as a useless exercise of your writing skills? Do you feel that derivative tales are never up to the original’s excellence or are you one of fanfiction’s secret “junkies”?