Screenwriter and comic book author Joss Whedon said, “There’s a time and a place for everything, and I believe it’s called ‘fan fiction.’”
He was right. Only in the world of fan fiction can you find a story in which Indiana Jones and a young Lord Voldemort do the dirty, or where the characters of the Sherlock Holmes stories are all lobsters having a knife fight over who rules the seven seas.
As a concept it sounds ridiculous, and yet fan fiction is a tradition that goes back years. It was seen as early as the first publication of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes adventures, and became even more widespread during the 60s with the advent of Star Trek. Today the Internet makes it even easier to find and distribute, giving life to massive websites that host such writings, which are regularly visited by thousands of users.
These websites contain thousands of fan-written stories and drawings, of and about pop culture characters, often pairing them off with each other in non-canonical romantic relationships through a process called “shipping.” Frequently these stories also contain detailed descriptions of sexual encounters between said characters.
But why use characters from pop culture? What is the attraction to fan fiction as a medium?
According to Colleen Hare and Robyn McRae, regular readers and writers of fan fiction, it starts with an attraction to the original piece.
“When I first start liking a show I get attached to its characters, and then I want to see what other people’s interpretations are of them,” said Hare. “I like reading about them, it’s easy to access fan fiction, and it’s free. [ . . . ] Often I find that the explicit fan fiction is better in terms of plot. Lots of times the [lower-rated] fan fiction is very “kiddie” and boring, so I tend to automatically go to the explicit section because it has better storylines.”
“Explicit fan fiction is porn with [a] plot most of the time. [ . . . ] It’s about more than just the sex,” McRae added.
Both girls agreed that with regular porn there’s no real buildup or story. “The best you get is, like, your stereotypical pizza delivery man and babysitter,” said Hare. McRae added, “With fan fiction it could be 100 pages long, and nothing happens until page 99. They make you wait!”
Authors themselves have expressed mixed feelings about fan fiction culture.
George R. R. Martin said, “Every writer needs to learn to create his own characters, worlds, and settings. Using someone else’s world is the lazy way out.”
Neil Gaiman, on the other hand said, “As long as nobody’s making money from it that should be an author or creator’s, I don’t mind it. And I think it does a lot of good.”
Whether the authors like it or not, fan fiction doesn’t seem to be a medium that is going anywhere anytime soon.