Good morning readers! Welcome to another Fri-yay fun post. Today we are talking about the fluff and fantasy behind Fanfiction. Now, fanfiction often gets a bad rep, dismissed for the more extreme side of the spectrum rather than seen as a whole, but just like any genre of established fiction, fanfiction runs the gamut from a well written treatise of source material to absolutely bonkers.
It may be hard to believe the same genre that brought us ‘Transformers Sailor Scouts Fight Cthulhu’ would also produce poignant fiction, but don’t ‘at me’ if you haven’t wandered the rabbit hole of Amazon’s monster erotica section at three in the morning.
Listen, any genre of fiction can get wacky, but Fanfiction doesn’t deserve the snub. I am here to make a case that you should give Fanfiction a try, at least once. Though, many of you might have already, and you didn’t even know it.
Fanfiction, What Is It?
The most basic definition of Fanfiction is fiction written by a fan of, and featuring characters from, a particular TV series, movie, books, etc.
What is interesting about that definition is if you look through that wide lens, you can absolutely toss in modern retellings from the critically acclaimed Circe by Madeline Miller to the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. It’s hard to imagine those in the same breath as a Draco/ Harry fanfic but it comes down to semantics.
The fine line difference between established retellings of fairy tales, myths, Wonderland, and Austen reboots is these properties fall under public domain. Their original creators have long passed and these worlds are now open to anyone’s interpretation.
But at their heart, these are still borrowed characters. Fanfiction is a form of desire and wish fulfillment and retellings and adaptations are a facet of this. The only thing that truly separates retellings from modern fanfiction is time and copyright. But even that line is getting fuzzier as more fanfiction hits the mainstream.
Around Longer Than You Think
When do you think the first fanfiction ever written was? Well, some scholars would argue around 2000 BCE.
“The Epic of Gilgamesh was inspired as a fanfiction of a historical King of Uruk, mixed with Mesopotamian mythology. The story includes the character Utnapishtim, who lives through a world-wide flood by building a ship per the instructions of the god Enki and ultimately landing on a mountain in the Middle East, similar to Noah’s story from the Bible (dates for the book of Genesis vary anywhere from 1400 BCE to 800 BCE). Many historians suggest that the story of Noah was directly inspired by Gilgamesh’s story of Utnapishtim. Other historians suggest the two were simply inspired by a similar source. Either way, there’s too many startling overlaps to classify Utnapishtim and Noah as only a coincidence.” - Lightning Streak, College Student, tumblr user, fanfiction author.
In that same vein, we can look at Homer’s The Iliad and Virgil’s The Aeneid. Virgil was a roman author who lived much later than Homer, but if you read both texts, you can see how the Aeneid is written as somewhat of a direct sequel of the Iliad with rewritten elements of the Odyssey.
And speaking of Virgil, the Roman made his own appearance in Dante’s Divine Comedy, which features one of the cornerstones of fanfiction: self insertion into the text. This infamous text, broken into three acts, featured Dante Alighieri’s journey as himself through Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven, as he sought his love Beatrice. Along the way, he encounters various historical figures in the afterlife, including Virgil as his guide through the underworld.
Let’s face it, fanfiction has been around since the advent of literature in one form or another. And honestly, time puts a great deal of literature into perspective. Texts that were once considered crass and written by degenerate minds are now studied in educational settings.
Fanfiction in ‘the Mainstream’
In the past decade or so, Fanfiction has seen some surprising leeway into Mainstream media beyond the acceptable form of retellings. We have seen full blown commercial success in properties like Fifty Shades of Grey which is a direct fanfic of the Twilight series, Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On books were a loose adaptation of Harry Potter, and most recently with After, the Harry Styles fanfiction. Both of these stories were pure examples of wish fulfillment, and they worked because they tapped into that desire.
However, while it is common knowledge these properties stemmed from works of fanfiction, names were changed to protect copyright and the sanity of certain musicians. Within the next few years, we may see more and more widely popular fanfictions worm their way into mainstream media in new and exciting formats and with that comes the dark side of fanfiction.
The Dark Side
Many writers cut their eyeteeth on fanfiction. Wildly popular authors like Cassandra Clare, Marissa Meyer, and Naomi Novik have been quite public of how they started writing with fanfiction. In fact, Naomi Novik is a co-founder of Archive of Our Own ( AO3). Despite this, the genre is often ridiculed as bordering on plagiarism, training wheels for authors, or for authors who lack creativity because they can’t think of ‘anything original’.
Fanfiction continues to be snubbed and excluded from the majority of mainstream. When a given piece of fanfiction is found to be excellent, that work is considered an exception and an outlier. Despite what mainstream success retellings and adaptations have found, there still needs a defense for fanfiction, a defense for all genre fiction, when these forms of entertainment should be encouraged and embraced.
Fanfiction, like all fiction, features a spectrum of talent, styles, and originality. Add to this, the bulk of fanfiction is readily available from authors as free reading material on various websites. You should give a fanfic a try. Or more than one.
We read to enjoy and nothing should dictate our form of escape.
Where to Find Fanfiction:
And now a surprise mini interview with our own stellar graphics aficionado, Lucy Rhodes
1. What do you do here at S & S books?
I am Sword & Silk's resident cover designer. Once a manuscript is acquired and a new book (or series!) is on board to be published, it's my job to act as visual advocate for that story and author, translating words into pictures, encapsulating entire fictional worlds and casts of characters into JPEGs and paperbacks. It's the best job in the world!
2. Tell us a little about yourself/ experience in the industry
I've been designing book covers for about 7 years, starting out on Wattpad before establishing my own business working as a freelancer. I've worked with dozens of authors, including several international, USA Today, and New York Times bestsellers, across multiple publishing platforms. Just prior to partnering with Sword & Silk books in 2020, I was also fortunate enough to begin working with another large publishing house based in New York. When I'm not playing in Photoshop or trawling through Instagram and Pinterest for inspiration and ideas, I'm usually found either gaming with my husband, pottering around my small garden, or reading (of course). Oh, and I'm also Australian!
3. Take the characters from your favorite literary series. What is the wackiest Alternate Universe scenario you could drop them into?
Hercule Poirot and Jane Marple find themselves in the same carriage, on the same train. Miss Marple is about to make a clever quip about Monsieur Poirot's magnifique moustaches, when the power cuts. They're in a tunnel, it's pitch black. A scream, pitching into a guitar riff, undercut by a pumping bass line. People start singing a song they all know but you've never heard of, and dancing with a clearly well-practised synchronicity, mysteriously illuminated in the pale-blue imitation of moonlight. Fingers snap. Feet twirl, lithe bodies across rooms. Nobody is murdered. Nothing is stolen. Everyone is exactly who they appear to be. For some reason there are also cartoon animals there.
4. What never realized pairing are you dying to read a fanfiction of?
SPOILERS. SPOILERS EVERYWHERE. Big Hero 6 x X-Men. Blink accidentally portals in at a serendipitous moment right before the big explosion, managing to save Tadashi by pulling him back to her when and where in the multi-stream universe. They fall in love and spend their lives trying to get him home, or at least a message to Hiro to let him know that Tadashi is alive. Tadashi also invent supercool gadgets for the X-Men and their rad school.
5. If you could write yourself into one fictional universe, what would it be and why? What role would you play, hero....or villain?
HANDS DOWN HOGWARTS, graduating as a student before HP turns up and ruins everything. The sorting hat would have a lot of trouble deciding which house I belong in, but ultimately Hufflepuff is where I'd belong, fierce and loyal and hospitable to a fault. Me, the only magical daughter of two muggles, and he an (non-Draco) only son from an ancient wizarding family. We would find each other irresistibly irritating and irritatingly irresistible. We'd mount Weasley-esque pranks against each other, me having quickly figured out how to befriend Peeves and he having the sly cunning of a Slytherin and toff. Enemies in first year, to (PG) lovers in time for our O.W.L.s. Maybe we solve some kind of mystery. Hagrid is there. I'm responsible for teaching him to bake. And knit. Hufflepuffs rule.