What’s the use of Fan Fiction?

Isn’t fan fiction just a stomping ground for prepubescent teens? A refuge for writers unable to construct characters of their own? Should it be banned on the grounds of copyright infringement?

Lexy Needham over at From a blank page to happily ever after published a recent post bemoaning the critics who believe these very points and I think she has a point. Whether you like fan fiction or not, it’s the way many of us first started on our journeys.

I don’t necessarily mean that we all wrote stories of Dr Who, Star Trek, or any of the other series typically associated with fan fiction and fandoms. But, many of us used existing characters from favourite novels, movies and television to test the literary waters before taking the plunge.

I started writing in my teens and cut my teeth rewriting stories I adored with characters of my own making (characters have always come easy to me). I’d even write the sequels to movies that left me aching to know what happened next. All of this helped me grow my confidence in writing and find a voice that was right for me.

Regardless of your personal attitude towards fan fiction, criticism of a genre should never be directed towards its authors. If you don’t like it, don’t read it. No-one is forcing it down your throat and no-one has the right to discourage anyone from doing something they love (except in the case of serial killers…we really ought to do something about them). These people may be the next bestsellers, the next Neil Gaimans or Terry Pratchetts. Let them explore how they see fit.

Fan fiction isn’t just a holding ground for trainee writers. It can have a significant impact on our favourite shows and movies. In fact, fan fiction and fan support has been responsible for the resurrection for many popular establishments both on screen and off.

What the fans have saved

In writing this, I took a look at popular works that have been kept alive by their fans. I found three which I thought didn’t do it justice and so turned to Lexy Needham for help. Most of these come from her.

1. Dr Who

The eponymous and much loved Doctor all but vanished from our screens back in 1996 to lay dormant until late 2003 when revived by superfan Russell T Davies. In those intervening years, fans of the series kept interest alive through trading fan fiction, fan scripts and even movie shorts.

2. James Bond

The man with a licence to kill was almost snuffed out following the passing of his creator Ian Fleming after only fourteen books. Fans continued to tell of his exploits resulting in the spy becoming one of the most widely recognised characters of our time. At the time of writing, Bond has starred in a total of 45 novels, 31 of them written by fans.

3. Sherlock Holmes

A man synonymous with intellect and refinement (albeit a drug addict) was shelved by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle under rather dramatic circumstances. The mantle then passed to the author’s son, Adrian Conan Doyle, who penned futher cases. Since then, a number of bestselling novels have been published about the world’s most famous detective almost all written by his fans.

4. Marvel and DC Comic Legends

Almost every character created by either of these giants of the graphic novel industry continues to thwart evil to this day thanks to fans of the originals e.g. Frank Miller, Kevin Smith and Joss Whedon.

5. Buffy the Vampire-Slayer

Preppy teen cheerleader turns nemesis to all manner of creatures that stalk the night and the idol of fans the world over. Although still on hiatus, this series still holds one of the largest fan followings in recent history kept alive, in part, by the fan-written comics and prose.

Each of these icons of TV and literary have survived the test of time thanks to their fans and the continued efforts to instil new life into them.

With all this in mind, I’m still holding out hope for a long-awaited Firefly revival.

So, over to you: what are your thoughts on fan fiction?

9 thoughts on “What’s the use of Fan Fiction?

  1. I say give the fans what they want. I am a Sherlockophile myself. Not all of the writers who attempt to carry the mantle succeed, though. Good writing is good writing, and I’ll close a book that is poorly constructed.

    1. I agree. There’s nothing more offputting than a weak storyline and one-dimensional characters (besides poor spelling and grammar). I do think that discouraging those just starting out from writing ANY kind of fiction and especially fan fiction is disgraceful and counter-productive.

  2. I personally think that fanfiction gets too much of a hard time and is always seen as a lesser form of writing, yet many successful writers cut their teeth by imitating the works of those they admired.

    Fanfiction also takes the heat off of a new writer in the fact that the characters, their motivations, appearance etc. have all been decided for them and fans of particular shows will already be familiar with them.

    While there is a great deal of bad fanfiction, there is also a great deal of very good fanfiction. The same can also be said of many books that have been published. Perhaps fanfiction is considered the ‘penny dreadful’ of the current generation, but even those books had a few diamonds hidden beneath the rough.

    Heather xxx

  3. I don’t read a ton of fan fiction, but, whose to say it’s not art just the same. I think people should write what moves them, even if it’s inspiration is Yoda. Who are we to judge 🙂 Thanks for following, I look forward to more of your posts.

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