A Skeptic’s Look at Fanfiction Part 1

I’m going to just put this out there – I don’t get fanfiction.

I don’t get why people read it and I don’t get why people write it.

And slash fiction. Weird and wrong sexy encounters. Why do you want to see Yogi Bear and Captain Picard get it on? (I don’t know if that’s a real one and I don’t want to check).

I was all ready to write an article making fun of fanfiction is the same way I tactfully skewered ‘life hacks’ and monster-themed erotica. That is to say, forget the most of this site’s readership has some semblance of tact and go full-on stupid.

But then, I stopped and thought, and I realised that I didn’t actually know that much about fanfiction at all. For starters, I thought fanfiction was two words. It’s one and even Microsoft Word knows that.

So instead, I decided to do some research, and I found out some things that put fanfiction in a new light. It wasn’t a revelation – I’m not about to take up writing it myself – but it was a nice surprise. Like being offered a ‘healthy alternative’ food that turns out to not taste rubbish.

Here are the mostly positive things I learnt about fanfiction (not ready to call it fanfic) in handy list form.

Fanfiction can be a good starting point for writers

Writing fiction can be hard, did you know that? Not only do you have write with proper grammar and in a pleasing style, but you also have to think of a plot, create characters with personalities, and make a world – like, a whole world. It can be daunting for someone who wants to start writing. If one decides to write fanfiction, there’s already an established world set up that’s full of fleshed-out characters that you take on adventures and/or make bone. If a writer is smart, they can use fanfiction as an exercise to focus on tightening up their writing. It can act as a sort of writing prompt if you want – you need to make a short story set in Hogwarts with Hagrid and six-foot croissant, go.

Some people just don’t want to let a series go

It’s a sad reality that all series come to an end someday. Yes, even Doctor Who will end one day – maybe. And even though everything gets wrapped up and all the characters are either dead or received closure – many readers just want more of their favourite series, even if it’s written by fervent fans. Entire online communities have formed to continue their favourite series – Harry Potter and Twilight are amongst the most popular.

Personally I like it when a series finishes well before it outstays its welcome, which could be a result of all the British sitcoms I watch. That said, I might be spoiled by the large, sprawling Discworld series by the late Terry Pratchett.

I thought initially that if fans don’t let go of a series and keep adding to it that it might lead to newcomers being daunted and possibly avoiding a series partially due to its fanbase and knowledge required to get into it. Then I was told that alternate universe fanfiction is popular, and it got me thinking. Never-ending stories, intense fandom, multiple universes – sounds remarkably like superhero comics. And I like those, so maybe I shouldn’t be so harsh on fanfiction communities.

But then again, there aren’t a bunch of comic writers continuously writing about two brothers having steamy affairs…

The Supernatural fanbase scares me a little

There seems to be no series more tied to its fanfiction community than Supernatural. There is also a lot of incest between the show’s leads, the Winchester brothers. The fans call it ‘wincest’ but no cute name will distract from the fact that bro-on-bro action is so popular in the community. And it seems the writers of the show are embracing this fanfiction community. Or rather, enabling them.
I’m going to file this under ‘things I expected to find in fanfiction but am still disappointed by.’

More on Lucas’s mildly surprising journey into fanfiction soon.