In Defence of Fan Fiction

I’ve increasingly noticed that, when someone doesn’t like what’s been done with their favourite fandom, they might liken the offending episode to fan fiction. And not in a good way. In a dismissive way, in fact, as if fan fiction is something to be avoided at all costs if you are at all discerning of quality.

This is a very facile put-down, and reflects more on the commentator than on the body of fan fiction works. What does the put-down actually mean? What is it about fan fiction that they are referring to? If it’s a perceived bent towards fan service, well, it’s fan fiction, isn’t it? The ending of Game of Thrones angered a lot of people and was considered by some to be a bad idea. (Not unlike the creation of the Universe in Douglas Adam’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy). This is because it was not what many fans were expecting or hoping for. Is there anything wrong with that? Are media creators required to take a poll and shape their stories accordingly? I really hope not. The thing is, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t complain when a story goes in an unexpected direction, and then dismiss another story as fan servicing. Fan fiction is all about making stories that fans would love to see. Things like romantic liaisons between characters, and weird and wonderful crossovers. Where else would you see Star Trek crossovers with Harry Potter, or Castle crossovers with Firefly?

Those who treat fan fiction dismissively might be referring to the perceived quality of stories and/or writing. They might say that 90% of fan fiction is junk. In this they would be right. But I refer you to Sturgeon’s Law. Science Fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon famously said that 90% of everything is junk: TV shows, movies, books, you name it. I’ve read some remarkable fan fiction, stories that I wish could have been made into “canon”. And I’ve known some fan fiction writers (*cough*) who evolved into pretty good writers over time. For instance, a Doctor Who fan fiction writer I’ve corresponded with many times, Ichabod Ebenezer, has gone on to win a short story contest and has had a story commercially published in an anthology. His first novel is available on Amazon. Writing fan fiction gives you an opportunity to improve your craft while becoming part of a friendly community.

In fact, there’s a lot to love about fan fiction, so before you use the term in a disparaging way, dive into it a bit. There are thousands of stories available on fanfiction.net and AO3. You’ll find that at least 10% of what’s out there are real gems.

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