How is this for a coincidence? I just got the August monthly newsletter for OWW (online writers workshop) and under the sales announcements, there was an article titled "The Appeal of Fanfiction" on Internet Review of Science Fiction (www.irosf.com). So I jumped over to the site to check it out, as I am almost more intrigued about what published writers have to say about this fanfiction phenomenon than fanfiction itself.
The article, it turns out, was somewhat informative. The author names two widely used websites for fanfiction (that I didn't know of but probably would have found with a simple Google search), Fiction Alley and Fanfiction.net. I opened another browser to check out these new sites and was a little bit blown away. I was very aware that fanfiction was popular and widespread. But there was literally a story posted for every TV show, Film, or Book you can think of. From Shrek, to Friends, Days of our Lives, and even Dark Angel (she says with a rush of excitement). There may only be fifty-four posted fanfic stories for "sex and the city" but Harry Potter fans watch Accordingrding to this article in April "Harry Potter had an impressive 186,525 stories". In just three months that number has jumped to 196,622. That doesn't include any stories that get published on smaller fan sites specifically for a tv show, book or movie.
The article also brings up the question of why Fan Fiction is so popular and why it is so prolific in science fiction and fantasy genres, (besides the obvious, that we're geeks!) To me, I think this answer is a simplistic one. Fans fall so deeply in love with the characters and the world created that they either A, can't stand the idea of it ending or B- are curious about the what if? There are times when reading a novel or series I think, what if she had married him, or what if she had double crossed them and became a bad guy. It is sort of a flashback to those choose your own adventures (honestly part of me thinks they should make a comeback!)
I first stumbled upon fanfiction about five years ago when I started reading the Anita Blake laurelby Laurell K. Hamilton. She's an interesting one that Laurell. Will swear up and down that all fanfiction is an evil, bad thing, completely illegal and something she will not discuss or condone. On one hand I agree with her. She spends countless hours creating these characters, building these worlds and designing the perfect plot, only to have some stranger swoop in when she's not looking and kidnap her characters and stories and rewrite them as their own. Of course most fanfic writers give credit to the author don't they? And isn't it a compliment that someone loved your work and ideas so much that they would spend their free time creating new stories? It's not like they are getting paid, or making money. Now that would be illegal.
Then there is J.K. Rowling. With 200,000 odd stories floating around on the internet it may indeed be impossible to stop, but Jo doesn't seem to give off the impression that she wants to. What is it hurting after all? It certainly doesn't affect the number of people buying her book. Fans aren't choosing fanfic authors over the new Half Blood Prince. In fact, it would be interesting to look at how many new stories have already been posted following the release of the 6th book. And what happens after the 7th? Are all these people going to quietly surrender and fade into the dust? I doubt it. I predict that HP fanfic will become even more prolific after the final book in the series is published. Like newly rehabilitated junkies, fans will flock to the web to get their Harry Potter fix.
But not everyone captures the magic like Jo, and not every story deserves to be praised. In my next entry I intend on reviewing a few fanfiction pieces (a good variety... some storylines I know and some that are new etc. ) to get a better feel for what is out there. Any suggestions or requests? Know any must die for stories? I'd be happy to include them in the next post.
(Fade to Black)