fan fiction

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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 1 year ago
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  • 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 1 year ago
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  • 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 7 months ago
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  • 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 7 months ago
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Fan Fiction & LGBT Expression

Last week, Archive of Our Own (AO3), a major fanfiction archive and network, won the Hugo award for Best Related Work, an award never before given to a website or unpublished fan work. Fan fiction is the genre that comprises unpublished, written fan works based on other media, such as comics, television, film, and books. Perhaps because it is written by "amateurs" or because it is unpublished, fan fiction has often been scoffed at as unprofessional or self-indulgent. But for fans, fan fiction can be a way of reshaping popular media to reflect their identities. Members of the LGBT community in particular often criticize popular media for lacking compelling narratives surrounding LGBT themes, and when left unsatisfied, many fans turn to fanfiction to see themselves in the media they otherwise enjoy.

How does fanfiction fill a void in representation for LGBT fans? What role does fanfiction serve in building and maintaining a fanbase, if any? And what happens when any particular piece of media garners a notable LGBT fan fiction fanbase? What transformative properties do LGBT fan works enact upon media, and what are the positive and negative consequences?

  • Fanfiction has always been a form of escape and wish-fulfillment. For some people, that may be making slight changes to stories; for others, it could be as large as changing a character's identity. Either way, it is a safe space to gather with a community of writers similar to you, and, if you already feel alienated because you are a part of a marginalized community, it can provide a support system you may not be able to find as easily elsewhere.This is a very interesting topic and one I hope someone will pick up. It is very complex and not something I can explain readily in a comment, but definitely one worth exploring. – fhlloyd 1 year ago
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  • Fanfiction is amazing. It gives both writers and readers the catharsis of a world in which they/their OC can interact with beloved people and characters. It's also a nice way of making oneself into someone they wish to be. I agree both with your "reshaping popular media" comment, as well as fhlloyd's comment regarding alienation and support systems. Despite being borne of one person's fantasies, others may find content relatable and enjoyable. – SmileQueenCross 1 year ago
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  • It'd be great to address all the shame around writing and reading fan fiction. There's a lot of it – espadaccini 7 months ago
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How fan-fiction has evolved through the years.

Analyzing how fan-fiction has evolved as something sort of niche and obscure on the internet, written by a usually younger audience to explore the different ideas they wanted to see from shows and movies they loved. Now it has become a wildly viral thing where some people explore those same ideas but with real people including YouTubers, band members and Hollywood celebrities. An interesting approach might be how the ones based on true people might affect those celebrities or internet personalities.

  • cool idea, but it seems somewhat broad? something that could narrow this down could be picking a specific theme/celeb (like you say in the prompt) and examining that, while also synthesizing it to related themes/contexts if you so wish. any stats/additional credible information you could find on this topic supporting its increased prevalence would be useful! – r 7 months ago
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Fifity Shades of Fan Fiction

Fan fiction has a rather negative image within the literary genres. Works such as Fifty Shades of Grey do not not necessarily help the genre to renegotiate its stand in the literary world. Why is it that fan fiction is oftentimes seen as problematic? What are some positive examples? What might be the future of fan fiction?

  • For a shining example of the heights that fan fiction can achieve, I would suggest looking into Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. It takes the source material and elevates it into something brilliant, profound and even life-altering. – Lokesh Krishna 4 years ago
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  • This is going to be a long comment but first, I really do think this question is relevant so good job. I just want to add a few things (mainly for the future writer): I gather that by fanfiction you mean those posted online for nonprofit purposes. It would be interesting to compare the impression people have of those works in comparison to "Wicked", modern Dracula/Frankenstein/etc. rewrites, those based on an existing work (ex. "Dorothy must Die" by Danielle Paige), etc. The distinction between professionally written "fanwork" and others might influence what you consider examples of fanfiction in your second question. For the first question, is there a conclusion to be drawn from people's impression of works when produced professionally? Do people assume that had a work been good it would have been published, and so works online are thus of lesser quality? Or is online fanfiction mocked because of the idea that the internet is a young person's playground, and thus online writers must be younger/less experienced? There is also the notion that fanwork is necessarily erotica which might make it seem cheaper to some. [Note: While it is also possible to discuss the pros/cons of fanworks in terms of queer representation/copyright/etc. the best thing about your question is that it's focused on people's perception of fanwork, so I wouldn't broaden the topic to include its actual workings]. For the third, one can look at the influence fans have on writers: it would be easier to see said influence on shows, but it would be interesting to see if book authors are influenced similarly. I guess my only issue then is that your topic is still very broad, and all three of your questions could make separate articles. I'm not sure I would ask you to focus on one question yet, but it would definitely be to your advantage. Still, an interesting topic. – Rina Arsen 3 years ago
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  • As a personal opinion (haven't read but watched one movie and have heard a lot of talk about it's origins), and one the future writer might use, I see it as completely irrelevant that it started out as a fan fiction because the end product doesn't rely on the source of inspiration. It's just a big messed up relationship. The fact that we constantly tie it back to it's fanfiction origins is proof that fanfic has a bad connotation, one that we should address and assess. If it doesn't affect the content, why are we still bringing it up? Why is it such a big deal? Readers of this article should ask themselves those questions. – Slaidey 3 years ago
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  • While the Artifice has received quite a few articles on this topic which are still in the publishing queue(I myself edited one today), one important derivative aspect which could be looked into is the availability of online portals for people to write out their fantasies for others to read and how this has radically altered the way people view these writings, what with everyone considering themselves a great writer.(No offense intended) – Vishnu Unnithan 3 years ago
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The Power of Fanfiction: a rise in transmedia storytelling

As our world is becoming more socially digitized and interactive, it is undeniable that fandoms have become important aspect in keeping franchises alive, but how important has fan influence become? Transmedia is a growing technic narrators’ in franchises have begun to use in which a single story is told across multiple platforms and adaptations. Although transmedia’s rise through social media and influence have been covered in a few topics and articles on the artifice before, how has fan fiction influenced transmedia storytelling?

Examples may include looking into fanon versus canon and instances where a highly popular canon has become fanon (such as Matt’s appearance in the anime Death Note). Another important aspect to look into is the “Boba Fett Phenomenon” where a side character becomes so wildly popular within the fandom that a franchise is forced to give them a backstory and more character development.

Although I struggled to find a source for this, I remember my Digital Media professor once discussed that there was a scandal in the Dr. Who fandom where a popular fanfiction actually guessed the fate of the current season. The fan who had written the story was sworn to secrecy or told to change their story (can’t recall exactly…) as to preserve the integrity of the show. Regardless, I think this is another example where fan fiction was integrated as an unauthorized expansion within a universe (and therefore has become a piece of transmedia storytelling).

A great theorist for transmedia and fan fiction is Dr. Henry Jenkins.

  • I myself use to think that fan fiction was boring and unnecessary, but recently this year I reread a book series I fell in love with in high school, 'Vampire Academy' and found a fan fiction writer/ blogger via Tumblr (can't remember their user) but I just fell in love with how they continued the story after it was finished by the author and it just amazed me how they decided to write so much and keep the story alive for themselves and for other readers I also think that these writers ideas can be taken away from themselves and used in other peoples ideas and stories and can also be taken and twisted to suit the other story but people are so imaginative and society is changing so much, so fan fiction can be taken any place these days, there is also a fan version of the Vampire Academy movie I have not brought myself to watch yet – ambermakx 2 years ago
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Love for fictional characters in fan fiction

I wrote an Artifice article called "Can You Really Fall in Love with a Fictional Character?" (That’s not shameless self-promotion, that’s context for this topic). I got a comment about what the topic looks like in the context of fan fiction.

Based on comments I’ve seen, many people express their love for a fictional character by writing “self-insert” fan fiction in which they have a relationship with that character.
Fan fiction could also be used to express agape, non-personal interest in the well-being of the character. A fan can rewrite the ending of a story so it is happier for a particular character. This is often called “fix-it” fiction.

I’m not sure if there is enough subject matter here for a full article, but then again, I am not enough of a subject matter expert on fan fiction to write it myself. If you know more about fan fiction, perhaps you could flesh it out more?

  • Oh, this I love. I don't write self-insert fan fiction, but I am a big fan of "fix it" fiction. The best personal example I can give you is, I just finished reading Harry Potter for the first time, and I have a *lot* of feelings about Severus Snape. Not a character crush, but I identify with him on some significant levels, and I hate the way his life and arc ended. So recently, I've been hunting fan fiction that redeems this character (without making him nicey-nice), and have even written a bit. It's inspired me to think about other characters and plots I might want to fix, and changed my attitude about canon. (I used to think, if it's canon, you have to accept it, period. You don't mess with it. But now, I'm not so sure). Anyway, as I said, I love the topic and think there is definitely an article in there somewhere. – Stephanie M. 3 years ago
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  • I think this would be a very interesting article and I would love to read it once it's written! You definitely have the general topic of it down, but as far as fleshing it out there are a couple of things you could do. The main one would be to read fan fiction. By reading it you can try to understand how and why people choose to write self-insert or reader x *insert fictional character here*. How does it feel to read it? Why did you pick that character to read about? Does reading it satisfy or heighten your feelings towards the character? Another would be to try to reach out to the authors of these fan fictions. No one knows the work better than the ones who create it. Websites like wattpad, fanfiction.net, and even tumblr are your best bets for getting replies from authors.I hope these help you start to expand your topic. G'luck! – isabelladannunzio 3 years ago
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  • I do read fan fiction, and I probably would reach out to some authors if I was going to write the article myself. But I posted the topic here so someone else - maybe someone with firsthand experience writing self insert fanfic - can write it. That's how this works. Those are definitely good suggestions for whoever wants to take the topic. Thanks for the input. – noahspud 3 years ago
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  • I would love to read something about this, since it is rarely discussed, even on sites where it happens almost exclusively, such as Archive of Our Own. I used to write fanfic, mostly "fix it", about The X-Files. But when Mulder and Scully finally did spend the night together in the ep. "Amor Fati", it felt a bit of a letdown. Still, there were many more arcs and great characters, such as the mind-reading Gibson Praise and of course The Smoking Man, a.k.a. Carl Spender. When Duchovny left the series and Mulder went into self-exile, I definitely would have fixed that, since I felt the show began a slow death then. Shippers will often tell you that it all started with Mulder and Scully, though they compared them to the couple on Moonlighting. The lasting favorite seems to be Sherlock, with more fanfiction than you can tally up, usually "fix-it", regarding Sherlock's and John's teased-at romance. Self-insert in this show seems counterproductive, since you would then interfere with the two flatmates and any budding love. Then again, you could always fall in love with Lestrade! Another great companion to fanfic is the Meta, or analysis of a character, arc or trope. Mary Watson, the psychopath, spawned LOTS of these, which went along quite well with both fix-it and self-insert fanfic, usually disposing of her in various, violent and some more humane ways! I just don't know enough about the fanfic of other shows or movies, like Harry Potter, which seems too popular to just leave out of such an article. – SharonGenet 2 years ago
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Bad Movies vs. Great Fanfiction

There are lots of bad movies out there, especially when one gets into sequels and part three, four, etc. In opposition to this, there is some great fanfiction written that by far surpasses a poorly made, poorly written movie. Think about "Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull" and what a disappointment that was to the franchise. There are fanfiction stories out there which are much better stylistically and storyline-wise.

  • Hi, are you talking about Indiana jones and the crystal skull? Because my assumption from my own viewing and from late 80s and present day reviews of Indiana jones and last crusade was that it was an incredibly well received film by fans and critics. – SeanGadus 4 years ago
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  • Hi, yes, sorry, I did put the wrong film in my post. I guess it was just so awful I tried to blot it from my memory altogether. In all seriousness though, I do agree with you that The Last Crusade was a good film, and well-received. I go to a lot of conventions and I don't think I've ever heard a positive comment about "Crystal Skull." Thanks for pointing that out. – NoDakJack 4 years ago
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  • I was also devastated by the latest Indiana Jones movie, and I agree that fans often have far more substantive story lines than Hollywood does. It makes us pause and wonder what they were thinking. My guess is that there is a big difference in purpose between the film industry and fanfiction. What drives each of those forces is what ultimately makes or breaks the stories and characters we all love. Maybe an in-depth look at how we can bring fanfiction to the forefront as a well of valuable script ideas would be interesting. Actors, production companies and ticket sales corrupt even the most ironclad franchises, whereas fanfiction is created with the purest intentions of paying tribute. – wtardieu 4 years ago
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Value of Fan Fiction: conversation or wish fulfillment?

This topic was inspired from multiple conversations I have had with people pertaining to my own writing. The first full-length fiction piece I wrote was a fan fiction based off of Suzanne Collin’s The Hunger Games. While I expect most people to react with a wrinkled nose or an amused chuckle, several have been enthused by the concept, articulating that fan fiction is a valuable part of the dialogue between author and reader.
My question then surrounds the purpose of, and thereby value of, fan fiction literature. Is it supposed to be a semi-rational approach to an author’s work, exploring underdeveloped facets of their created world, in a kind of creative dialogue? If so, much fan fiction seems to fall short, as the characters developed or plots imagined do not coincide with the author’s original content at all (The character arcs found in the Dramione ship from the Harry Potter fandom is a key example). In that case, then, is the purpose of fan fiction really a sort of wish fulfillment for the fan base, a resource through which they can create – as all fiction writer’s do – their own version of reality? Each approach comes with its own set of artistic constraints and merits, and I’m curious as to whether or not one approach can be “valued” over the other.

  • Interesting topic! One I don't know a whole lot about... as I haven't read/written fanfic in the last 10 years or possibly more years. Things I'm curious about include: Is this a genre for all ages? Or do only certain groups enjoy fanfic? Also, how much can we value works that are basically spinoffs of someone else's idea? But on the other hand, how many people have made revisions of some of the older classics? Like Peter Pan or Alice in Wonderland for example. What makes something fanfic instead of a retelling? If someone published fanfic many many years after a story was first created would it still be fanfic? – Tatijana 5 years ago
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  • Well, whenever something goes wrong in a series (a character dies, something anti-climactic happens) I always hear people say "Well, there's always fanfiction." In that case, it is wish-fulfillment.You may notice too that the fanfiction version of a character is very different from the actual character, doing things that would otherwise be uncharacteristic of them. The writer is forcing them to do what they want, and that too is wish fulfillment. (Shipping is a good example of this.)I don't know about dialogue between author and reader ( how many authors actually read fanfiction) but I see it more as a dialogue between fans. – Candice Evenson 5 years ago
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  • Lawrence and Jewett have an interesting idea about fan fiction in their book The Myth of the American Superhero. They argue that fandoms are religious in nature and that fan fic is "strikingly similar to the growth of apocryphal literature in the biblical tradition" (256). Thus, fan fic is not only wish-fullfilment or creative dialogue, but a way for members of a fandom to interact with their "religion."Not saying that they are correct, but it is a different view of the issue. – C8linZimmer 5 years ago
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  • Note to the author of the article, be sure to read the other articles on this site about fan fiction! https://the-artifice.com/tag/fanfiction/ – MichelleAjodah 5 years ago
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