The Historical Emergence of Fan Fiction

The term fan fiction carries a wealth of emotional connotations and many of them are negative. I reviewed a couple different definitions of fan fiction, but I especially liked The Oxford Dictionary official definition. To paraphrase the The Oxford Dictionary  fan fiction is a work of fiction written by a fan featuring the characters of any movie, television series or book(s).

The interesting thing about fan fiction, is that conceptually it is simply the retelling of a story from a different perspective. Consequentially, that means that the idea of fan fiction has existed for a very long time, because humans have been retelling stories with previously created characters for a long time. In her article regarding the history of fan fiction, Gaurdian author Ewan Morrison writes that “Fanfic is seen as the lowest point we’ve reached in the history of culture – it’s crass, sycophantic, celebrity-obsessed, naive, badly written, derivative, consumerist, unoriginal – anti-original. From this perspective it’s a disaster when a work of fanfic becomes the world’s number one bestseller and kickstarts a global trend.”

In some ways, mainstream culture has managed to ignore fan fiction. However the global phenomenon of Fifty Shades of Grey has forced many to openly to know what the term means and to recognize it’s potential impact on society.

I’m certain that not all forms of fan fiction are the same, and people absolutely have the right to create it if they do not attempt to sell it. However research indicates that it is not uncommon to see disturbing trends of violence or inappropriate sexuality (especially in regards to pedophilia or rape) in fan fiction. Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of fan fiction is not the act of copying or the legal issues. It’s possible that the worse thing about fan fiction is the extent to which it reflects the subconscious of our current culture.


2 thoughts on “The Historical Emergence of Fan Fiction

  1. alivalerio February 19, 2015 / 4:12 am

    I found your post super interesting. I don’t have much experience with fan fiction, but I have a fair understanding of it.And as a lover of all things literacy, I’ve read articles about this controversial art form. I think this is a conversation that is definitely worth having. Literacy is taking all kinds of new forms, and fan fiction is one of them. I think it’s not just film or television or books, I think it’s all kinds of media. I’ve even heard of fan fiction for video games. I agree with what you said, I think the idea of fan fiction has been around for a long time, although the term to identify it may be relatively recent. If you really think about it, I think films and television shows based on books and comics could be seen as fan fiction, even if the fans are professionals.They are extensions of previously existing stories, which is basically the same premise.

    But I have to disagree with Ewan Morrison’s quote — at least most of it. I don’t think fan fiction in itself reflects badly on our culture at all. In fact, I’d be bold enough to say it really has the potential to be something great. People connect with the stories they consume on a deep emotional level, and they write fan fiction to celebrate the stories they know and love and offer a new take on them. In turn, audiences who read fan fiction are probably people who have also connected with the stories on which they are based. This leads to a community of people exchanging ideas based on a work they appreciate and respect. They don’t do it for money, because they can’t. I don’t think (most) people are dumb enough to try and claim the central ideas for themselves. And I think that would defeat the purpose. The scope of material from which to draw from and produce fan fiction is virtually endless, and I’m not sure Morrison really understands that. There’s so much more to it than how he describes it.

    The only thing I do agree on with him is about 50 Shades of Grey. I haven’t read it or seen the movie, but I’m not a fan. And I think it paints this potentially creative and complex genre in a horrible light. But if it leads more people to thinking about new literacy paths, such as fan fiction, then at least there’s that. Not all of this genre is violent or inappropriate. A lot of it probably isn’t (a lot of it probably is, but then again, so are a lot of original stories). I think it does reflect on the subconscious of our current culture (it’s sad to think how 50 Shades does that) but that act of reflection doesn’t have to be so bad. In fact, I think it can be a beautiful thing. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. jesslangone February 19, 2015 / 4:41 am

    Think about the novel “Grendel” by John Gardner. That is essentially a fan fiction of Beowulf, isn’t it? And it is a published novel making money. You can make the argument that this fan fiction isn’t disturbing the profit of the author of Beowulf because he/she is dead. I think looking at fan fiction as a way for fans to express their love of art is a wonderful concept. It give people a different facet for discussion of characters and their story, and that is what literature is about, at least for me. Storytelling! It is a wonderful art, and fan fiction gives people a way to respond to that art.

    Some fan fictions are really great, you get to think about the characters in ways that you haven’t before. I am not an avid reader of fan fiction, but I think that it allows people to think about the in between. A lot of the fan fiction that I have read is not about some crazy plot or adventure the characters are going on, it is normally about what is going on for them in between the action in their original story. I think that this, even though it might not be as exciting, allows for fans of these characters to have a greater interaction with them.


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