Unlimited Free Reading – Consider Fanfiction
Fanfiction is the ultimate readers’ buffet. Social media is teaming with fan works that get liked, shared, and lauded in comments for months even years after they’re created, recirculating among lovers of the original franchises and enchanting new fans as they enter the fandom flock.
Fan works, especially fanfiction, haven’t always been this accepted, and they don’t end at witty Tumblr threads and professional level artwork. This is the tip of an iceberg heavy with history, fan culture, fetishes, and personal taste, soured with some hate, prejudice, judgement, and controversy.
This post isn’t meant to be all-encompassing. This will be far from definitive, and comments here are purely to help readers appreciate what goes into fan works, as well as motivate them to use fanfiction as a resource when they’re looking to enhance their experience of their favorite franchises.
First off, before we get too far, there are some foundation rules that make fanfiction a whole different beast than any other kind of reading.
- The writer comes first. You, the reader, are not the priority. This is their labor of love and they create for their own reasons (often with no holds barred on content). It is not your place to judge the person, their tastes, or choices, so if you don’t like the work or content, heed the content warnings in place and move on to something else. All authors there are doing this for free and for their own enjoyment. Readership is secondary.
- Show appreciation. Reader recommendations are one of the only ways to navigate toward quality work. Let the author know if you liked it and what you liked. This is an extremely personal community – there aren’t buffers between you and the creator. Understand that if you didn’t like it, not commenting at all is sufficient to communicate that fact. Letting them know you didn’t like it, or that you disapprove of their choices, will just cause a shitstorm, so don’t. Remember rule #1. (I do not typically swear, but few things are uglier than a fight over a fanfic. When we get to its history, you’ll understand why.)
- Knowledge of the cannon isn’t necessary, though you may miss out on some things. For example, the Teen Wolf fandom almost unilaterally focused on secondary character because he made for a far more interesting protagonist then the one in the show. This phenomenon was mentioned at least twice on the Mythcreants podcast. The Marauders are an example from the Harry Potter fandom.
Now for a bit of documentation on the history. I’m not well versed in the large-scale history, though I did get in on this before the social media boom and have my own history to draw from. For clarity’s sake, here are some links of people smarter than me who’ve done the history of fanfic more justice than I can in this post:
Individuals’ history with fanfic, however, have a bit of a common thread. I took some time to talk to people who read fanfiction about how they got into it and what’s kept them there.
“I was looking for continuation. My biggest fandom was Harry Potter. I read fanfiction almost the entire time I was reading the series. This was when we had to wait for every book to come out.” (Kiko, fanfic reader and writer)
“I read about 5 billion percent more than I wrote. I published very little. I became famous for my prolific reviewing. To this day if I read a story, I review it. I have collectively reviewed over 25,000 stories at this point. Some of them got one review for every chapter. I was and still am interested in stories. Nothing will pull me in faster than a good story, though when I discovered the slash, my mind was once again blown. I like “fix it” and AU’s, and I also now love crossovers. I didn’t for the longest time because I had a bad first impression.” (Cody Thomas, fanfic reader and writer)
“A friend of mine introduced me to fanfiction back in 2001. At that point, it was just something unique and fun. But then I started watching Inuyasha. I started reading that fanfiction from finding fanart. Then I discovered there was MORE out there. Actually, the first few years, it was mostly just smut. Then I started getting into other things. Today, I read fanfiction for a ton of different fandoms.” (Anonymous)
“I think fanfic definitely still fills that niche of the overlooked and ignored. For the fandoms that I’ve been in, I know there have been points where it seems like showrunners are listening to us. That they hear what it is we want, and what we want to see reflected in their creations. And then they turn around and do the exact opposite. And I’m not saying that they should cater to the whims of the fans. They have a vision for the show and I respect that even if I don’t agree with it at times.” (Anonymous)
The role of fans has become more active in the last few years, especially as entertainment companies have been realizing the power of these ready-made promotion engines. Advertisers, like the minds behind Arby’s social media ads, are tapping into fandoms with their many game and movie references.
Harry Potter, one of the largest fandoms on the planet, has actually kept the original creator at the helm. One look at J.K. Rowling’s social media exploits will show there’s no bigger fan of her work than herself. One of my personal favorite fan-service moments was when she shared this fan art on her twitter feed.
Other franchises are thriving on fanbases outside their original target audience. Take My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic as one strong example. This show is produced by Hasbro, primarily a toy company, so merchandising is their bread and butter. In the case of this franchise reboot, the quality of the first seasons drew in a massive adult fanbase whose fanart, original characters, and fictions have been worked into the series.
Take the episode Slice of Life. I could evaluate this for days, but – oh wait! Someone already has!
This was the 100th episode and creators gave fans everything it was safe to give them on what is still, at its heart, a kid show. Bear with the author of the analysis post, with all their sarcasm and geeking out. This is just enthusiasm. The point here is this episode was intended to include inside jokes and references to other cult-classic shows the fans love which could be completely missed by the children in the audience.
At this point, involvement in fanfiction starts out as simply as seeing a clever Reddit thread about a franchise you like. You’re already reading fanfic. There are skilled artists making fanart you see populating fan accounts all over social media. With how much fans are being listened to, enjoying all this free material and looking for what you like costs nothing and increases the chance you’ll get those inside jokes that appear in the next official installment.
There are a number of sites you can visit to collect up longer works of fanfiction, that’s if you’re ready to graduate from the Reddit and Tumblr threads, and find the people who actually responded to the “someone write this please” at the end of all the good ones.
Ebookfriendly.com has a pretty useful little run-down of some of the big names. Click the pic to visit their post with more specific notes and links to each site. Happy reading!