When discussing literature, most of the time, we only talk about published books. However, fanfiction serves a very important purpose in the literary world. This specific craft is often looked down upon. Often, saying something is written like “fanfiction” is considered an insult to the piece. This begs the question, should fanfiction really be used as an insult?
What is Fanfiction?
My English class recently discussed fanfiction while reading Paradise Lost by John Milton. While I was thinking about how John Milton created the original brooding bad-boy character archetype with Satan, my friends were arguing that Paradise Lost is a fanfiction of biblical stories. Some people in my class disagreed with this assessment of Paradise Lost, claiming that it was written before fanfiction was “invented,” so it could not possibly be fanfiction. However, just because people did not have a term for it historically does not mean that old texts cannot fit into the criteria of the modern invention of fanfiction.
What are fanfictions? Fanfiction is fiction written by a fan of a particular work featuring the same characters as the original. By definition, works like Paradise Lost fall into the fanfiction category but are not recognized that way. This could be because of the stigma that surrounds fanfiction as ill-written. Critics think Paradise Lost could not possibly fall into the horrid category of fanfiction. In direct opposition, I will prove that fanfiction is not bad and that creating it helps literature in the long run.
The Community of Fanfiction
Authors create a community of fans when they write their books, but the material they can give their fans is limited. From these fandom communities, people use their creative license to create fanfiction and expand upon the author’s story. Fanfiction is a testament to the original author’s ability to write; it means that the story they created was so enjoyable that fans want to continue to express their love for the book.
You may ask, isn’t this an infringement of the author’s copyrights on their story? Fanfiction is not necessarily an infringement because the creation of fanfiction is not one for money; fanfiction authors do not seek to gain money from their writing; they simply seek to write fanfiction out of pure adoration for the original author’s work. In addition, it is common practice on functions platforms, such as AO3, also known as Archive of Our Own, and Wattpad, to credit the original author for their characters and story.
A Possible Threat to the Integrity of Fanfiction
Although fanfiction is based on another work, it is important to emphasize that the original characters and many of their plot lines are the fanfiction’s author’s original thoughts. Many fanfiction authors create entirely new storylines and alter the original author’s work so much that the fanfiction nearly seems brand new. For example, the popular book The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood was a fanfiction of Rey and Kylo Ren from Star Wars, but placed into a situation of academia at Stanford University. The plotline and the story were entirely original, but the characters were based on Rey and Kylo Ren.
These stories are fanfiction authors’ intellectual properties which is why artificial intelligence, or AI, poses a huge threat to the craft. While AI threatens normal authors, they can easily sue AI companies for stealing their stories. Additionally, it is difficult for AI to access their story without paying for it. However, for fanfiction authors, AI can easily access and steal their material. Fanfiction is free to anyone on the internet, so AI can steal the stories that these authors have created. This is just one of the many things that fanfiction platforms must sort through in this new age of AI.
Fanfiction and Publishing
Fanfiction platforms can be used for two types of story writing. Sites like AO3 are traditionally used to create fanfictions, while sites like Wattpad are supposed to be for completely original works; however, these sites can have some crossover. Fanfiction websites are places where authors can build a following when they don’t necessarily have connections in publishing or resources to publish their books traditionally. Publishers can pick up the book from this platform and republish it on their own. For example, Vicious Depths by Madeline Stanford was initially published on Wattpad, and then it moved on to being published traditionally.
However, fanfiction stories can also be published with slight changes. Some of the most famous examples are Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James and After by Anna Todd; both of these books represent the quintessential perceptions of fanfiction as romances, but there are examples of published fanfiction that step outside of that idea. The popular series, The Mortal Instruments, and more specifically, the book City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, started out as Ginny Weasely and Draco Malfoy fanfiction.
Additionally, some authors simply start their platform on fanfiction sites and build a connection to publishers from there. I recently discovered that Olivie Blake, one of my favorite authors, originally wrote fanfiction. She has written books such as One for My Enemy and The Atlas Six. Although these books were not necessarily originally fanfiction, Olivie Blake has come from a background in fanfiction, where she was initially able to make publishing connections.
Fanfiction as an Insult
Ultimately, fanfiction is a craft that should not be insulted. Yes, there are examples of poorly written fanfiction, but there are also examples of poorly written books; poor writing is not exclusive to fanfiction. Humans have been creating fanfiction for thousands of years, even if they do not know it yet. The Aeneid by Virgil could be called fanfiction of The Iliad, and The Iliad could be called fanfiction of Greek myth — the cycle is never-ending. Ultimately, there should not be shame surrounding creative expression through fanfiction because it can create beautiful pieces of literature.
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