I’ve seen a lot of different things written about fanfiction these days, as it has become more prevalent than ever. Lots of young writers have taken to writing it, mostly because current mainstream media is lacking in diverse character options, and the writer is using fanfiction as a medium in which the writer is fixing the problem raised.
Writers and readers of fanfiction make the character trans, or swap their gender, make the character a POC (person of colour), or change the character’s sexual orientation.
As fanfiction becomes more popular, mainstream media has started to notice fanfiction and fan-made art about mainstream media.
The reaction of the vast majority of the population is to completely dismiss fanfiction, or to ridicule it. The idea is that, it’s mostly silly girls writing it, and their opinion doesn’t matter.
Now, before we get into this, I would like to point to history and say that this has all happened before.
In the 18th century, the growing popularity of the novel was beginning to make people anxious. They worried that novels were immoral, especially Gothic novels. They thought that by reading them, those who read them would not be able to tell reality from fiction. As it so happened, the people they were most worried about was young women. Jane Austen’s book “Northanger Abbey” is actually about this very issue. Men didn’t read novels except as a silly pastime. They read serious things in Greek or Latin, things like Ars Poetica, philosophical works, works about knowledge.
Society of the 18th century devalued the novel because girls liked them. That’s the bottom line. Now, we’re seeing a similar trend in which fanfiction is devalued because it is mostly written by women – and not just women – a lot of queer women and women of colour are popular fanfiction authors.
In today’s society, novels are seen as serious literature. Shakespeare is highly regarded, when at the time, his works were the equivalent of a sitcom. Novels used to be suspect because of their immoral nature. Now, today, fanfiction is seen as frivolous and unimportant because it’s “not real writing.”
First of all, it is very much real writing. Many works start of with a main frame using the premise of a popular work in the media, but then change it entirely. There are even different genres, and works that are hundreds of thousands of words long. Some fanfiction authors are very popular for how good their writing is. Fanfiction is also a medium in which new authors can experiment and learn to write as they go. It is a diverse and changing system, and I think that is something amazing.
Secondly, a lot of today’s novels are actually fanfiction, with the difference that those authors are recognized as real authors and are getting paid big bucks for it. Fanfiction from online is free, for the most part. Just take a look at all the adaptions of Sherlock Holmes – are those seen as “just fanfiction” by the world at large? No! How about the Percy Jackson series? That’s fanfiction based on Greek mythology. How about Lord of the Rings? Some of what J.R.R. Tolkien has written is based on works of Shakespeare. And let’s not forget Fifty Shades of Grey, which is literally acknowledged as fanfiction and has sold 125 million copies.
Not only do I acknowledge that fanfiction is, in its own rights, real writing, but I think that it’s important writing. When people look back at this literary time period (I have no idea what they’ll call us), I think that fanfiction will be a genre. A real genre, not just something people snicker about or pretend they don’t read or write.
Why do I think that?
Just look at the impact fanfiction is having on mainstream media. There are hundreds of thousands of works of fanfiction, and it’s shaping the way media is consumed. LTBTQ+ fiction is starting to grow as a genre because of fanfiction, because of the reader’s desire to consume diverse media. Fanfiction proves that people want diverse media and that they would consume it, and consume it in vast, unending quantities.
And I would just like thinking of that, of something written online, on sites like AO3 or fanfiction.net being turned into a work of literature for high school and university students to study in the next century. Can you imagine it, an Oxford classics section dedicated to fanfiction?
Some of you are horrified by the idea, for different reasons.
But I think it’s just brilliant.
(Just so some of you know, that poster above is for Sense8, which is a Netflix series. It’s proof that mainstream media is picking up on the fact that a lot of people want diversity in their media. On that poster above, there’s a Korean woman, a black man, a gay Latino man, and a trans woman who are all main characters on the show who are amazing. I really suggest you watch it if you can.)