A Skeptic’s Look At Fanfiction Part 2

Hello, and welcome back to Lucas Di Quinzio’s reading discovery hour. This week, Lucas is looking at fanfiction and considering if anyone would actually watch a show that he hosted.

Part one is here. If you don’t like part two as much, maybe you can write your own. That’s what a lot of fanfiction writers do for shows that went downhill…

People write alternative stories for shows that have disappointed them

It’s not uncommon for TV shows to go downhill quality-wise after they have been on for a few seasons, particularly US shows that often have twenty-plus episodes. Sometimes this causes the show to drop in ratings and get cancelled, other times they remain popular and stay on for another few years – or a decade. Please end with dignity, The Simpsons.

Many fans faced with this just bitch about it to their friends, or to the internet. However, some fans open up Word and start writing up some fanfiction. This brings me back to a point I made previously about people not being able to let go of a series. Personally, I have no problem ditching a show if I don’t like it anymore, but I clearly do not have the mindset of a fanfiction writer.

One show where is this practice has taken off is Glee. Now, I was under the impression that Glee was sickly-sweet garbage from the get-go, but it seemed to develop a large following of fans who thought it was quite good. However, the show went downhill with the unfortunate death of Cory Monteith, one of the primary cast members. Glee Fanfiction writers now write what could have happened had Cory not passed away.

This kind of what-should-have-happened fanfiction is common, though is often just bitching to people about something you don’t like in prose form. Much better than YouTube comments, I guess.

Fanfiction is a place for minorities

Mainstream media is a fairly white and heterosexual place. One generally has to look around a bit to find quality stories featuring LGBT or minority characters and culture, particularly if they are a teen/young adult.* Fanfiction allows writers to fill books and TV shows with such characters. Even if it is just a swapping of race, sexual preference or gender, it can give readers a decent character that they can better relate to. Also, all sex jokes aside (for now), fanfiction provides a platform for writers to explore sexuality in their work and put it up to an audience without having to dive right into smut territory.

I have to say, I initially dismissed gender/race/sexuality swapping in fanfiction, but thinking about it further put it in perspective. I mean, I still won’t read it, but I see its purpose. Not every part of fanfiction I see a point in, though.

*I know the young adult genre is aimed at teenagers but they are not adults yet and there’s little adult about the stories. It should be called the teen genre. It bugs me for some reason, I had to say it.

Oh, there’s weird stuff

When I first started looking into fanfiction, I expected to be swamped with questionable content. I wasn’t – it was really more of a gentle wave filled with seaweed instead. There was the aforementioned Supernatural fandom and its fixation on brotherly incest. And for some reason One Direction fanfiction is popular – a fact that reinforces the stereotype that fanfiction writers are mostly horny teenage girls. Though what’s stranger is that stories about being adopted by the boy band are popular. At least I can see why writers would want to make dirty fanfiction about them (you know, because horny teenage girls)

And then there’s ‘mpreg’ – male pregnancy. You know, because homosexual sex just isn’t enough sometimes. Now, this isn’t some situation where a woman has transitioned into a man, or a man just has female reproductive organs for story purposes. No, this is a dude getting pregnant and presumably giving birth through a less than ideal orifice. I guess they have C-sections. But where’s the womb? Why is this popular? So many questions. And I just know Supernatural mpreg is a big thing.

And let’s not forget the classic stereotypical slash fiction – that certainly is still out in force. Just imagine two character from two different stories – someone has probably written a story about them together. That said, these kind of stories don’t seem to be that popular compared to stories centred in one popular universe. Like Harry Potter knocking up Draco Malfoy.

Multiple fanfictions have become novels

It is a well-known fact that 50 Shades of Grey started life as Twilight fanfiction called Master of the Universe. It began on a fanfiction site before author E.L. James (or as she called herself on fanfiction sites ‘Snowqueen’s Icedragon’) put it up on her own site and re-worked it to eliminate Twilight references. The series was picked up by Australia’s The Writers’ Coffee Shop and sold approximately a bajillion copies. Looking at the final product, I feel that at no point an editor was involved.

It’s a great success story. A god-awful book, but a great success story.

Upon further research, I found out that the 50 Shades series wasn’t the only fanfiction to be tweaked then published. The popular but much reviled (or at least by the writers I know) Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare started as Harry Potter fanfiction, and the erotic fiction series Gabriel’s Inferno and Beautiful Bastard started out as Twilight fanfiction as well. Hell, there’s even a book based on One Direction fanfiction.

This all sounds fine on the surface. Write on the internet, become popular then become published. But there is a problem with this increasingly popular practice – copyright. Fanfiction infringes on an author’s copyright by using their characters and worlds and using them for another story. But, seeing as this is all done without money changing hands and kept within fan communities, there’s no harm being done. Except now there is money involved and books are being published. Turning fanfiction into novels is great for publishers because there is a built-in fan base, which of course is stemmed from another author’s fan base. It’s ethically iffy, and I’m not sure about it myself. I guess you can compare it to re-makes and adaptations of old works such as Shakespeare, but they generally keep the essence of the story and are legally sound.

Well, there’s what I’ve learnt about fanfiction. It’s really just the tip of the iceberg (or reservoir tip, you know, because all the sex, sorry) and I still finding myself mulling over the whole thing. My advice is to take influence from your favourite stories instead of just writing in already established worlds, but if you want to start off in fanfiction, go ahead. Hell, you may get yourself published.


  1. Amy Rae

    Very nice article, Lucas :)