There are moments in life where you discover something, and are for a time unware of how profoundly it will affect you.
For me, fanfiction was one of those discoveries. (Some things that didn’t even come close to making the list were crossfit, ice fishing, and rollerblading. Ew)
A fun discovery slowly became an irreplaceable part of my world. At first, the lingo was confusing, site navigation baffling, and the smut shocked me. I struggled to find my way, but once I found it I never looked back.
Now I am a veteran of thousands of fics read, hundreds of authors followed, and dozens of my own baby-content out there for others to enjoy.
Smut doesn’t really shock me anymore either. Good? Bad? Who can say.
But what is fanfiction, Auntie M?
If that is what you are thinking then I just have one question for you… how did you find this website? No really, I am wondering. Email me.
Fanfiction is where a creator takes the characters or the story from a piece of work that they love – maybe it is a TV show, a movie, a book, a play, etc. – and makes their own world.
Occasionally, people will take inspiration from more than one world, and that lovely unicorn is called a cross-over.
Of course, most everything that can be written already has been. Vampires? Been done. Does that mean that every book written about them since Bran Stokers’ Dracula is worthless? Of COURSE not.
Fanfiction is taking elements from someone’s story and making them your own.
Every creator brings their own wonderful interpretation or world view to a work, which refreshes old stories and re-inspires the public to love them.
It is really beautiful, when you think about it.
After all, what young teen cared about Dracula before Stephanie Meyer brought us the breakthrough hit Twilight? (Oh, there will be more on this subject later -_-) After that craze, the market was flooded with vampire books. The success of Twilight, inspired by Stoker’s universe, brought back the excitement of vampires.
Essentially, I am a passionate supporter of fanfiction being far more widespread than most people give it credit for. It is not a small niche interest group on the internet; it is a cultural phenomenon that shapes the trends we see in our movies, TV shows, books, etc.
Consuming Fanfiction: A Guide
I could write a really detailed dictionary of fanfiction terms, but that would bore everyone except me. So if you have questions, I encourage you to email me, or just head on over to AO3 or Fanfiction.net and start exploring!
The only advice I would give is to be watchful of the tags on each fic. If you aren’t looking to read something violent, sad, or otherwise potentially harmful to your well-being you can steer clear of those works. There is something (thousands of somethings) for everyone.
Fanfiction and Me: A Love Story
To me, fanfics do an amazing job of capturing the essence of our society. They lack the generic appeal of mass-marketed media, and represent the wonderful diversity of our world.
Fanfics are written by anyone for anyone.
They are written by all sorts of folks with a myriad of different experiences and identities. These intersectionalities provide readers with a truly endless glimpse at the breadth of human existence.
Something that I have always valued is how fanfics represent queer culture more completely than I have ever seen before. The fanfics that I read as a baby gay were the first positive representation and community that I had experienced. Seeing my favorite characters re-imagined as people that reflected my own identity was unbelievably impactful. They showed me that my experiences were not odd, or unusual.
Take Harry Potter for example. The fandom of fandoms. A book series that overtook my generations’ imaginations. Through fanfiction, we can see these classic characters firmly represented as people of color, queer individuals, and so much more.
So, if you are a person who finds yourself in need of an ally, fanfiction can provide that for you.
When I needed a space to find myself, fanfiction allowed me to do that.
It has unequivocally made me a stronger person. It gave me the language to describe what I was feeling as a young queer person and gave me a community of people to reach out to. This level of representation does not yet exist in the mainstream, but damn it folks, we will create our own representation.
The more time I spend thinking about this, the better I feel about that thought. It’s more accurate that way, don’t you think? This beautiful grassroots movement of people creating and connecting, providing spaces where people can feel affirmed?
We don’t need a boardroom full of Hollywood shot-callers to approve our stories. WE approve our stories, and we will never stop telling them.