by Kat Zuzow
Fanfiction is the product of a fan who has immersed themselves in a TV show, cartoon, anime, book series, etc., and has let their imagination run wild in the pre-created universe they lost themselves in, so far gone enough to write about it. It answers the question “what if this happened instead?” It’s most often posted online for other fans of the same universe to read. Its status in the literature world is somewhere between “garbage” and “the bastard child of the grocery store romance novel.” I’ve seen a recent resurgence of people arguing about whether fanfiction deserves any sort of literary recognition or not. I’m here to tell you that it does.
The main point against giving fanfiction recognition is that there’s a major difference in quality between published books, and what’s posted online. This makes fanfiction “bad.” This is true, though it’s not the case for every piece that’s posted across the board (and really, the same could be said when comparing books, too). In the defense of fanfiction, one person, sometimes two, play the role of writer, editor, copyeditor, and marketing. That’s a lot to do with minimal manpower. Not to mention there is no monetary gain in all this; the writing is done for the love of fandom. Books get entire companies and teams to leaf through, and improve a piece. Books have an unfair advantage.
So why would fanfiction deserve literary recognition? Because it creates a cycle of inspiration and creation. Someone consumes something that has writing, and characters that they love enough to create something based off of that thing, they slave over writing something, then post it for the world to see. Someone else reads what they posted, falls in love with what that writer posted, then is inspired to create, too. Books do much of the same. And the cycle is repeated. Hell, a best-selling novel series 50 Shades of Gray is modified fanfiction of the Twilight series. It’s not impossible that a published, and well-liked author writes fanfiction, and the world is none the wiser.
Fanfiction provides a safe space for writers to create, and share without the pressure of being original, or marketable. It acts as a lab for writers to experiment with plot elements, chew on characters, see what works and what doesn’t. It allows them to learn, to improve their craft, so they can implement these things into their own original work one day. No wars are won without a war room.