What’s the deal with fan fiction?

All right, here’s the deal: fan fiction exists and it is a large part of fan culture. Movies, books, tv shows, comics, video games…there is no shortage of fandoms and fan fiction to go along with these many different media forms. I began writing fan fiction before I even realized what I was doing and having no idea how much of my life I would dedicate to exploring this new creative outlet.

When it comes to books, authors have been very vocal about fan fiction. Some people encourage it, others do not and see it as a personal offense to their writing ability. I can see both sides of the argument (and I won’t be getting into such topics of long fan fictions being turned into full, published series because I’m not here to talk about that or to point fingers and spread blame). For the most part, I feel like fan fiction is great. It helps a lot of people farther relate to some of their favorite characters and worlds, and it helps stir up creativity.

Fan fiction isn’t something new either. It didn’t just pop up in the world when the internet and computers became commonplace. While it has been called imitation and adoration in the past, fan fiction can be seen throughout history. I believe that the Star Trek universe created the first fan space where it was coined “fan fiction” back in the ’60’s with the original television series, but looking back centuries, there are many other things that can be pointed out.

I distinctly remember writing a paper in college where I made an argument that John Milton’s Paradise Lost was a fan fiction of the Bible. I don’t want to step on any religious toes, but let me explain. The Bible creates characters by name, settings and events. Milton took these ideas and created fully formed characters, helped perpetrate the way we picture hell, and embellished the Good Book. The same can be said for Dante’s Inferno, to pluck some commonplace titles that people will recognize.

There are plenty of other works throughout history. The similarities between Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Faerie Queen aren’t as apparent as Dante or Milton’s works, but there is a heavy influence there. You can also argue that many high fantasy novels, after the creation of Tolkien’s Middle Earth, are all echoes of Tolkien. There is a thin line between fan fiction and influence, but that’s what makes this conversation to interesting. You can see it dotted throughout history. I find it fascinating. Humans latch onto things that they love and want to share them with the world, and one of those ways is creating more of something that is completed.

For worlds like Tolkien’s or Harry Potter, I sometimes find myself forgetting what is canon (a term for all the facts and truths written by the original creator) and what is fanon (a term for the made up ideas of fans) because there is just such a huge, uncontrollable force when it comes to the fan fiction writers in these universes. As the psychology minor in me comes to the surface, I find this to be an amazing display of the human’s need to be involved, to fit into a mold or a box, to focus your attention on something creative.

This isn’t an argument for or against fan fiction, but merely an observer and partaker in the fandom world talking about a truly astounding experience in human history.