Fan fiction is what literature might look like if it were reinvented from scratch after a nuclear apocalypse by a band of brilliant pop-culture junkies trapped in a sealed bunker.
If you want something done right, do it yourself.
Fan Fiction is a form of Alternate or Expanded Universe created by the fans of a work, rather than the work's original creator. Fan Fiction, or "Fan Fics" as they are often called, are written for several reasons: To continue a story that ended prematurely, to see what would happen if certain characters are placed in unusual situations
, see what happens when the characters of one franchise encounter the characters of another franchise. Or sometimes to get the characters to have mad passionate (or occasionally just mad) sex with each other.
Due to the inexperience of many fan fic writers, fan fiction has gained a reputation for being a source of horrible, ''horrible'' writing
. However there are fan fics out there that are INCREDIBLY good
. Sometimes being just as good as, if not better than, the original work.
Fan fic is the place where Epileptic Trees
are planted and cultivated. Expect many, many, many
more fics to star the Ensemble Darkhorse
than The Hero
Saying "It was a fanfic episode," though, is not usually a compliment.
Some franchises — such as Star Trek
— have actually turned fan fiction into a profit center by creating Tie In Novels
. These books are usually penned by young and upcoming authors, often former fanfic writers, and represent an intermediate step between fan fiction and completely original fiction.
Although fanfic exploded along with the Internet, it existed well
before the Net did. Such luminaries as John Stuart Mill contributed unauthorized, original stories set in a fictional universe. Before medieval French troubadours were shipping Launcelot and Guinevere
, the ancient Greeks were writing plays about relationships between characters in The Iliad
. In Plato
one character complains that a play by Aeschylus
got the characterization of Achilles and Patroclus wrong. Namely, that it got the Lover and Beloved
Not all fanfic is written, though that's the most common form. It can be in any format
that can tell a story. In Japan, doujinshi
(amateur "comic books") is a common vehicle; and with the increasing ease of their production on personal computers, fan videos
(ranging from anime
series, to Star Wars
) have already appeared.
The distinction between fanfic and original fiction, as we know it today, is largely created by modern copyright law; much of classical writing is actually "fanfiction" based on older sources. The major distinction between fanfic and a story inspired by another story is that the story a fanfic is based on has one or more "official" versions, usually owned by a company, a creator, or both. Thus, things like The Infancy Gospel of Thomas
, a piece of biblical apocrypha featuring Angry!Uber!
Baby Jesus, or variations on Arthurian legend
where there is no Holy Grail and Lancelot's affair with Guinevere never happens, would not "count" by this definition.
No statement on the legality of fanfic has ever been given in American formal law or in its courts. Some argue that it's a form of copyright infringement; however, see "Legal Fictions: Copyright, Fan Fiction, and a New Common Law"
, and note the above precedents. The two most common arguments for fanfic being legal involve either implied consent - companies and authors have every right to enact a Fanwork Ban
as evidenced by fanfiction.net's banlist but are mostly tolerant - or fair use - the non-profit, educational and transformative use of the work justifies its existence. The latter is the main argument that sparked the development of the Organization of Transformative Works, a fan labor advocacy site.
Authors often have conflicted reactions to fan fiction set in "their" universe, which sometimes leads to the aforementioned Fanwork Ban
. J. K. Rowling
has largely embraced Harry Potter
fan fic, albeit with certain limitations, for example, and Tamora Pierce advises aspiring writers
that fan fiction can be a good way to hone one's writing skills. By contrast, Sir Terry Pratchett
acknowledges it exists and is cool about it, pointing out that everything works so long as people are sensible about it.
He adds two caveats: anyone doing Discworld
fanfic shouldn't even think
of doing it for money, and authors should take care not to put it where he might see it. George R. R. Martin
, author of the epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire
, expressed his disdain for the practice
, saying that "creating your own characters is a part of writing." He's even gone so far as to threaten legal action should he become aware of any fan fiction set in the Westeros universe. In contrast, writer/journalist James Bow makes a rather firm case
for supporting fan fic, pointing out that it forms a stepping stone towards
creating your own characters and setting. As far as media businesses are concerned, reactions have ranged from Archie Comics
demanding immediate removal to Paramount Pictures
taking some of the better Star Trek
fanfics and having them published in print books.
It should probably be noted that several big-name authors are themselves
writers of fan fic. Both Stephen King
and Neil Gaiman
have written (for example) stories dealing with Cthulhu, Dracula, and Sherlock Holmes, and label these stories fan fic.
In the end, more and more media outlets are recognizing that fanfiction and other fan works are a simple fact of life. And as art imitates life, it's now possible to find "fake" fanfiction created as part of a marketing campaign. For example, the 2010 season of Showtime's The United States Of Tara
introduced a new character, an artist who had created and published a comic book character named "Princess Valhalla Hawkwind". As part of the promotional buildup for this, Showtime actually created a "fan site"
complete with fanfic, fan art, and fan video.
Some fanfiction becomes well-known enough to influence other fanfics, which themselves influence more fanfics, and so on in a domino effect. This can and does result in the creation and perpetuation of fanon
, when one author comes up with a "cool detail" and others blindly copy it without realizing it was her invention. Furthermore, characters can become Flanderized
by the feedback loops of fanfiction, sometimes changing dramatically from their original form
Eventually, this accretion of fan-born details and mutations turns into things that "everybody knows" about the series. Those new to or unfamiliar with the original material are frequently confused into believing that it obviously
must be canon
if so many people mention it, even "facts" of the Epileptic Trees
variety. This is especially the case with series that have long runs and which gloss over details which are unimportant to the plot but are of interest to the fans and the fan writers.
One famous example of this is the anime Ranma 1/2
, released well before the Internet became ubiquitous and when many fans had no easy access to the original source material. All manner of details (including the explanation of Akane's mallet as either a ki attack
or as residing in a hyperdimensional pocket
, her Flanderization
into a "psychobitch", her lethal cooking
(rather than being just bad), and the names and fates of the many missing mothers
) were never touched on in the show but became standardized in Ranma
fan fiction over the course of approximately a decade. The process was accelerated and exacerbated by the appearance of fanfiction written by people who had never actually seen
the show itself and whose only exposure to Ranma
was other fanfiction.
Another famous example is the Harry Potter
fanfic The Draco Trilogy
, which was apparently so widely read that details such as Blaise Zabini being female and Ginny's name being Virginia were taken to be canon, although they were both refuted by later books
It's not surprising that fans of some shows occasionally pen FAQs solely to reduce the accumulation of fanon
in this way.
Currently, the largest source of fanfiction on the Net
(and probably anywhere else) is the aptly named Fanfiction.net
, which as of 2013, offers approximately nine million stories across all but a select few canons (which were banned due to creator request) and an automated system for posting. A newer site called an Archive of Our Own
is starting to nip at Fanfiction.net
's heels though with over half a million stories and less restrictions on what can and can not be posted. And to top it all off, in mid 2013 Amazon joined in the act with its Kindle Worlds program, which allows for the publication and sale (!) of fan fiction from specific 'verses.
See also Memetic Mutation
. Compare with other Fan Work
forms, such as Fanart
, and Fanime
. See also the latest Sub-Trope Literary Mash-Ups
For fanfic-specific tropes see Fanfic Tropes
. Of course, the hive mind have a few favorites. There are also a few favorite unfavorites
, if that doesn't confuse you too much
. Some here have even written a few. And here are some that people took the time to make a page for.
One problem with fanfiction is sometimes writers don't do their research even when it is very simple. A common occurrence is when an author from a country other than the original work's country of origin writes characters as if they are from their own country. An example is Harry Potter where non-British writers (particularly American) make characters act and think like an American would; this also happens vice versa as seen in Fifty Shades of Grey.
For the Eastern equivalent, see Doujinshi
(Fun fact: Know Your Meme
considers fanfiction a meme, even though it clearly is not.)
Categories of Fanfics
: Please note that Fanfiction.net doesn't allow the last two.
By relationship with canon