Fan Fiction on the Radar

A year ago, I wrote a post on Harry Potter fan fiction,  http://wp.me/pYql4-14b.  My information came from an article in Time on the occasion of the release of the final Potter movie.  I had no idea how popular fan fiction had become, since my only prior experience was with its 20th century incarnation as cheaply printed fanzines on the magazine racks at Tower.  I sometimes skimmed but never bought.

All of that has changed.  The genre was featured last Friday in a Wall Street Journal article, “The Weird World of Fan Fiction.”  No wonder the Journal took notice.  E.L. james, author of the Fifty Shades of Gray erotic trilogy, which sold 15 million copies in three months, got her start writing fan fiction based on the Twilight Series (Edward as a powerful CEO and Bella as his sex slave).

The article mentions other well known writers whose first work was fan fiction. Meg Cabot, author of The Princess Diaries began writing Star Wars stories when she was 11.  Naomi Novik, author  of the Temeraire series, which has been optioned by Peter Jackson, continues to write fan fiction.  For her it is play, and she has more than 400 stories online, set in the worlds of Star Trek, Sherlock  Holmes, and The Avengers.

In addition to fan fiction writers who have broken into the mainstream, some have gathered huge numbers of online readers at sites like fanfiction.net or wattpad.net.  One story based on The Hunger Games has been read two million times.

Fan fiction isn’t new.  Conan Doyle fans in the late 19th century wrote their own Sherlock Holmes stores as authors continue to do.  The theme for an upcoming TV series with a female Watson appeared first on fanfiction.net.  One can argue that both Homer and Shakespeare in his histories, created stories akin to fan fiction; they used pre-existing worlds, situations, and characters.

The Journal gives a sense of the wild playfulness of fan fiction authors.  There is Pride and Prejudice in Space. We have Alice and the Mad Hatter battling zombies, and The Lord of the Whiskers, which populates Middle Earth with cats.  Male-male romance appears to be common, with Kirk and Spock, and Harry and Draco among readers’ favorite couples.  There are character cross-over stories too, like characters from the TV series, Glee, winding up in Middle Earth.

Published authors are mixed in their response.  Some, like J.K Rowling and Stephanie Meyer welcome the spinoff stories.  Others like George R.R. Martin and Anne Rice are dead set against fan fiction, and threaten lawsuits, though suits are seldom launched except when fans try to move borrowed worlds into mainstream publication.  Orson Scott Card was initially opposed to fan fiction but has come to embrace it.  This fall he will host a contest for Ender’s Game fan fiction.  Fans can submit works to his website, and the winning stories will be published in a anthology.  “Every piece of fan fiction is an add for my book,” Card said.  “What kind of idiot would I be to want that to disappear?”

I understand the draw of fan fiction.  My first real literary effort was a sequel to The Wind in the Willows that I wrote in the fifth grade because I didn’t want the story to end.  In college I was seized with great, “What am I going to do now?” angst when I finished Lord of the Rings.  One of the things I did was work with a group of independent filmmakers on a 20 minute epic entitled, Billy the Kid Meets the Wizard of Oz

The word, “amateur” comes from the Latin, amare, to love.  With that in mind, I look forward to checking out some of the web sites where these amateurs post their work.