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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 6 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 6 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 6 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 6 years ago
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