Fan Fiction: Credible Art Form or 'Kind of Lame'?

Fan fiction seems to be a bit like Marmite: fans of original fiction either love it or hate it.

When I took my ‘first foray’ into the realms of fan fiction, I was surprised to encounter a wider range of sub-genres, tropes and terminology than I had realised…

Sequels and prequels to other authors’ narratives, along with spin-off texts, new characters and ‘non cannon’ rewrites can prove contentious–especially when fans feel that the new text undermines or distorts aspects of the original work.

Yet, for some people, it extends the enjoyment gained from the original text and adds dimensions to the fictional universe in question. It can prove satisfying to read (or write) a character’s backstory or find out what happens next–even if these events and characters were created by someone else and/or not generally considered to be ‘cannon.’

In some cases, prequels, sequels and rewrites by different writers–without the approval or authorisation of the original author-have become published or otherwise firmly established in mainstream culture. Examples include Jean Rhys’s ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’ (a prequel to Charlotte Bronte’s ‘Jane Eyre’), and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stage adaption (and rewrite) of Gaston Leroux’s ‘Phantom of the Opera’ and a sequel, ‘Love Never Dies.’

In the case of the latter, Lloyd Webber’s narrative is arguably better known than the story it was based on.

Does this mean that, what essentially began as a form of fan fiction has now entered the literary/cultural ‘cannon’? If so, at what point does this happen and how do we decide which ‘fan fictions’ become ‘cannon’?

I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts on the topic of fan fiction, particularly with regards to ‘intertextuality’ and Barthes’ theories on ‘The Death of the Author.’

  • I love the subject matter being explored here, and I think it would make a great article. Another random "fan fiction" of sorts that was adopted into the literary cannon would be John Gardner's Grendel from 1971 that built on the story of Beowulf from the antagonist's perspective. I hope someone picks this up! – Aaron 5 years ago
  • The mind is a entity that knows no bounds. More often than not we see people through a third eye, imagining what they would do if they were faced by different circumstances. We need to live and let live, let people create their own worlds. – MsLinguista 5 years ago
  • I gave up writing fan fiction years ago after three of my sub-plots for Star Trek Voyager mysteriously appeared in the next season. I wrote a novelette titled 'Thursday's Child' in which Ensign Kim assumed the (temporary) captaincy of Voyager and a member of the crew became pregnant, later giving birth to Voyager's first baby. Both ideas were roundly slammed by other fans, stating that they would never happen - but they did, in the very next season. A scene I wrote had Torres and Paris stuck on a desert planet, trying to survive long enough for Voyager to find them. A very similar scene, only set on a frozen planet, which even had very, very, similar dialogue between the two appeared in a later Voyager episode. Now I'm not accusing anyone of plagiarism (I can't afford the legal fees! LOL), but I began to wonder if the writers for Voyager (and other shows) occasionally scanned fan fiction for ideas they could use? Why not? It's cheaper than hiring a new writer. – Amyus 4 years ago
  • The music for "Love Never Dies" is absolutely stunning, and was actual rather controversial around my circle. However, this example makes me wonder if a re-adaption counts as fanfiction in some cases or not. R.R Martin said about A Game of Thrones that the show could not do the same things the books could do, and so they were in essence their own thing. However, one's creative efforts in fanfiction can teach plot driving and story mechanics. It can build community. Although I am not a fanfiction writer, or common reader, I admire the community for its ability to come together. PBS' Storied actually did a Youtube video on a similar topic. It might have some more interesting ideas on the subject. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bdDIMOehLm8 – ruegrey 4 years ago

Want to write about Literature or other art forms?

Create writer account