In the August 8, 2018 issue of the UK’s The Guardian carried a feature on fanfic (fiction written by fans of a particular movie, TV show, comic book series, book, etc.). I must admit that I write and read a bit of fanfic myself (honestly there is A LOT of bad stuff out there in fanfic land dark, nasty, and poorly written, but some of it is kind of awesome). I honestly think it can help people who produce it, even if nobody else wants to read it. Frankly I always felt like I was kind of wasting my time, but I feel MUCH better about it after reading this piece. Go on. Read it. I’ll wait. (Confused by what I mean by fanfic? Check out my description in my review of Star Trek (2009).)
The quote I’ve pulled out is actually a paragraph but it is such a great metaphor I had to use it all. It’s true you do use other people’s music and interpret when you play an instrument. It’s so apt a comparison.
[Naomi] Novik scorns the idea that published authors should turn their back on fanfiction. She recalls being on a panel where one member said he couldn’t understand why someone would waste their time writing it over an original work:
“I said, ‘Have you ever played an instrument?’
He was like, ‘Yeah, I play piano’.
I said, ‘So, do you compose all your own music?’”
The article also talks about using already established characters as training wheels for learning writing skills with a pre-built community who wants to talk about it, compares how classic works often “borrowed” characters and situations from earlier works in the vein of fanfic (just by people you have to read in Literature class), and – this is something else I hadn’t thought of before – is looked down on as pink collar.
Fanfic Primarily Women
Fanfic is devalued in part because it is primarily created and read by women.
There is an undercurrent of misogyny in mainstream criticism of fanfiction, which is widely accepted to be dominated by women; one census of 10,500 AO3 users found that 80% of the users identified as female, with more users identified as genderqueer (6%) than male (4%). Novik has spent a good deal of time fighting against fanfiction’s stigma because she feels it is “an attack on women’s writing, specifically an attack on young women’s writing and the kind of stories that young women like to tell”. Which is not to say that young women only want to write about romance: “I think,” Novik says, “that [the popularity of fanfiction amongst women is] not unconnected to the lack of young women protagonists who are not romantic interests.”
Honestly, except for copyright I’d copy the whole thing. It’s just brilliant, read it.
Sarah S. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many times at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. She is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales fighting to bring the History, Mystery, Magic, and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. How can you help? Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, look at her photos, and find her on Facebook , Twitter , Google+, LinkedIn , SlideShare, and Academia.edu . Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and former director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.