Fan fiction is a genre of creative writing written by fans and set in the existing universes of various, usually popular, fictions. There are dozens of fan fiction archives online abuzz with passionate communities, legions of fans writing their own versions of Harry Potter, Firefly, Twilight, Star Trek and countless other fan cultures. It is not only these speculative fiction genres that attract fan fiction writers – Sherlock Holmes fan fiction is quite popular, there is also a considerable amount of Jane Austen fan fiction, Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes and Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer, and scores of others also have fan fiction communities, even The Bible – but it is the fan fiction of the speculative genres of science fiction and fantasy that attract the larger and more active portion of the culture.
Fan writing did not by any means start with the Internet. It might be argued that classical authors, Virgil or Homer for example, or anyone who has ever written down one of the King Arthur legends, fairytale collectors Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm and a huge number of others were fan fiction writers, weaving their own tales from existing folk stories. H.P Lovecraft encouraged others to write in his mythologies, and C.S Lewis dipped his pen into Middle Earth a few times. In the 1960s and 1970s Star Trek Magazine published fan written stories, and it is often believed that the Star Trek franchise spawned the first fan fiction community in terms of what we now think of as fan fiction. While fan fiction is not a product of the Internet, online publishing has definitely made it more visible, perhaps even more popular. The Internet has also enabled the growth of fan fiction communities on fan fiction sites like www.fanfiction.net where more than a million original fan fiction tales are shared and archived. With the increase of that visibility which has also meant thousands of dedicated readers (fan fiction fans), traditional publishing cultures have recently started to take notice of the fan fiction phenomenon. With this increase in exposure and popularity, one has to wonder what the original creators of these fictional universes think of fans getting into their stories and having their various ways with them.
The practice of writing fan fiction raises all sorts of legal and ethical dilemmas and while some authors encourage it, others most defiantly do not. The legal and ethical objections against fan fiction might not be much of an issue for small time fan fiction that may have a few at most readers. But what happens when the fan fiction in itself becomes a success?This is an excerpt from a longer essay published in Vivid Scribe’s Pop Thinking volume 2, available as a FREE ebook download here.