'Fanfic' Is Not a Dirty Word
There seems to be a sentiment amongst authors that fanfiction is a bad thing. Oh sure, there are exceptions to the rule, but for every author who’s cool with people writing fanfic based on their books, there’s another author who’s loudly and passionately opposed. So why are so many authors down on it?
I think it’s a generational thing. From what I’ve seen, it's mostly Baby Boomer authors who are on record as having a negative attitude to fanfiction. Younger authors – who, for the most part, have grown up using the Internet – tend to see it as being complimentary. After all, if people are writing about your characters and the world they inhabit, that means it has a special significance to them, right?
I wrote my first piece of fanfiction when I was 7. It wasn’t called “fanfiction” back then, because this was 1990 and the Internet was still made of tin cans, fishing lines and bubble gum. When I say “my first piece of fanfiction”,though, I should probably point out that almost everything I wrote then was fanfiction. Oh sure, I’d change the names. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles became The Warrior Cats and The Transformers became The Power Converters (for all your overseas travel needs!), but the purpose was the same. I wanted to tell stories about characters I already knew and loved.
It continued as I got older. I remember writing an incredibly long (and incredibly bad) Spider-Manstory, as well as starting on a Batmanstory and not getting very far with it (proving how tricky Batman can be to write for!). When I got to be a teenager, I even uploaded a Buffy the Vampire Slayer story to fanfiction.net (I’m pretty sure I deleted it a few years later, so I doubt you’ll be able to find it...fingers crossed!).
Eventually, I moved on and started creating my own world and my own characters. But writing fanfiction provided a training ground, a framework for practicing my storytelling. I already knew how the characters should speak and act thanks to my established familiarity with them. It removed some of the more challenging aspects from the process of writing.
When I studied Creative Writing at uni, there was one girl whose only aspiration was to write fanfiction. The other students seemed to look down on her for that, but it occurred to me that there’s plenty of professional fanfiction out there. Just look at all the Star Wars and Doctor Who books that get published every year (though the catch-22 of it is that you generally need to have already established yourself as an author before they'll let you write what's called a 'licensed fiction' title).
Some people may say that my book, Vanguard Prime: Goldrush , reads a little like fanfiction. After all, I’m a huge comic book fan and have drawn on the archetypes of the superhero genre in creating my characters. That’s been a very conscious choice, however, with the intention of breaking down these stock characters and exploring their hidden dimensions as the series progresses.
That said, if I was offered the chance to write a Doctor Who book, I’d totally take it.
How about you? Do you write fanfic? Do you read much fanfic? Or do you feel that it’s not worth your time? Let us know in the comments section!