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Can Fanfiction Be Considered Literature?

The word fanfiction emerged during the 1930s, and it is said that it started with science-fiction lovers, who also organized many conventions. Fanfiction became popular in the 2000s and became a Tumblr favourite over time.

Fanfiction is mostly written by fans inspired by a work of art that already exists. They can take any character, choose any storyline, and give any ending.

While some celebrated the fact that fanfiction allowed fans to imagine anything they wanted about their favourite characters, shows, comics, movies, and even books, others scorned fanfiction and considered it a form of amateur literature.

Now, most of the fics are written by amateurs. Many just write for self-pleasure or as a hobby. However, there is a section of every fandom that may be disappointed with the ending, the character arc, the plot, and whatnot. Those people crave an alternate storyline, and they turn to fanfiction to satisfy this craving.

Fanfictions can range from 100 words to a million or even more. Some are novel-sized. Authors sometimes split them into chapters. This means they choose to spend hours, days, weeks, months, and sometimes even years on their work. Therefore, fanfiction cannot be simply put aside as a low form of literature.

Is most of the fanfiction bad? Can be. When I first started, I was horrified by some of the stories. Stories won’t have proper grammar and punctuation. They will lack a proper storyline, be filled with typos, have poor-quality writing, or be too graphic for anyone to read.

However, as I started seeking out specific forms of fanfiction, I started discovering better stories, some of which blew my mind and left me speechless. They were more impactful than some of the literature I had read. Believe me when I say this because I was a literature student who struggled to read long novels.

I also believe fanfiction democratizes literature. Fans can write anything they imagine and desire. So, fanfiction is a type of fan service or self-service.

The question remains: Can fanfiction be considered literature? Yes, I believe so. However, I also believe it depends on the fan writing it and the text itself. As long as fanfiction serves something of substance and impact, adds some dynamic to the original work of art, and provides quality writing, it should be considered literature.

Today, nearly 100 million people are reading fanfiction regularly, according to chantillynews.org.

Some may argue that fanfiction lacks originality. Even if fanfiction allows the use of pre-existing material, it is still offering a different perspective from the original. The writing style and characterization are also oftentimes different from the original.

Many classics have been inspired by pre-existing material as well. For example, Romeo and Juliet was actually inspired by a poem by Arthur Brooke, The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet. You can also take Fifty Shades of Grey as a modern example, which was written as fanfiction for the Twilight series.

There are other problems, too, when it comes to fanfiction. One such problem is copyright issues. But this is a complicated topic. Fanfiction may use characters, narratives, and settings that are copyrighted. However, fans argue that fanfiction is born as a tribute to the original, a creative endeavour, and a means to create a community where fans are free to express themselves.

On the other hand, copyright holders and professional critics of fanfiction claim it’s a violation of their rights since fans use their intellectual property without permission and that fans can adversely affect the market value of the original material.

A famous example of this situation is Anne Rice (author of The Vampire Chronicles). She believed fans were trying to get compensation for her work and proceeded to threaten to sue fans if they used her material for fanfiction.

However, some believe that the only reason many copyright owners have tolerated fanfiction is because, ultimately, they are profiting from it. Fanfiction can generate free promotion, give value to the original work, or help keep it relevant.

Apart from this, the intensity of support fans give to fanfiction cannot be looked down upon. In this world of everything being on the Internet, this kind of support and enthusiasm encourages media consumption. Therefore, attacking that would mean you probably need to hire a new PR team.

I believe fanfiction is just a liberating form of art where people get the opportunity to present their unique perspectives. Some even say fanfiction is better than the original. But that depends on the fic and fandom. Fanfictions also present familiarity. You only go looking for fics that involve characters you are already familiar with and love. That being said, you may have to go through some bad literature to get to the good ones.

As a writer, I firmly believe that this is a good exercise for us when it comes to discovering our sense of style. I observed that I started writing better after reading a lot of fanfiction. I was able to understand new and complex words because they were so easily readable. Another advantage fanfiction presents for writers and readers is practice and letting out your worst plot lines. It serves as a landscape for experimentation.

I often see it as a writing exercise where I get to see how the characters might react in different situations. It has helped me understand some characters more deeply than I would have in the original. And writing fanfiction can be a therapeutic experience where you get to see how you expected it to be.

The fact that fanfiction emerged when fans wondered, “What if it was like this or like that? What if Voldemort survived? What if Aslan died? What if Jon Snow became the King?” There are so many versions to choose from! Even the show What If…? by Marvel ponders what would happen to characters if life did not happen the way it did in the canon.

So, I see fanfiction as a way to right some wrongs, explore new storylines, and make it more inclusive. And many like me have found writing and reading fanfiction an enjoyable and freeing experience.

So now that I have managed to somewhat convince you that fanfiction may be good, where do you look for it? The internet serves as a never-ending cornucopia of stories. I started on Wattpad but did not stick around for long before moving to fanfiction.net. There are some real gems on this site. Today, the more famous and easier-to-use counterpart for these is Ao3 (Archive of Our Own), a non-profit organization, where you can use its filtration system to look for stories that you like!

I hope, after this, you give fanfiction another try. 


Edited by Vicky Muzio 

Photo Courtesy: Storyset on Freepik 

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