On Fanfiction

So, EL James is apparently publishing a novel from Christian Grey’s perspective, if you weren’t aware. I never read the series, to be honest, and I don’t have any particular feelings about this development as a result. It did make me think about something else, though: fanfiction.

Google defines fanfiction as,

“fiction written by a fan of, and featuring characters from, a particular TV series, movie, etc.”

Generally, I say that this can also be when you write original characters in the setting/world of a particular [insert medium here].

When EL James first published the books, there was a big controversy about the legitimacy of fanfiction as a creative pursuit and whether someone should be able to be paid for writing it. After all, Fifty Shades of Grey is fanfiction of Twilight with changed names. Is this fair to Stephenie Meyer? On some levels, yes—they have different audiences, and one audience doesn’t take away from the other, but James’s work also acts as publicity for Meyer’s work.

Before you say ‘no,’ though, ‘it isn’t fair,’ let’s talk.

Some people I know personally say that fanfiction is not a legitimate creative pursuit (my words) because it isn’t original. I say bull. Is there anything original under the sun? Jane Eyre might have been fanfiction of Jane Austen (though this article finds it unlikely) and Dracula was supposedly a fictional recreation of Vlad Tepes (discussed and compared here). Shakespeare used and reused historical events (such as for Macbeth) and Greek mythology (such as for A Midsummer Night’s Dream).

Besides, why should it have to be original at all? Is it not enough to applaud that a person is practicing a skill useful in countless fields? Is it not enough to acknowledge that most fanfiction never leaves the internet, and that most fanfiction notes that not all of its content is created by the fan? Is it not a callback to the idea that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery?

“But fanfiction is bastardization of the source material!” You might say. “A fan couldn’t possibly get the characters or the world right!”

Why not?

Once a creator releases a creative piece into the world, there’s some loss of possession, I think, some loss of control. By putting your work out there, you are allowing others to interpret it. Sometimes, interpretation doesn’t match intention. I think that’s some of the beauty of reading, though—no two people ever read exactly the same book. I would agree that some fanfiction takes characters very far out of the realm of what I interpret as feasible, but I think that much fanfiction is about the interpretation of the characters that a fan very dearly loves (or despises).

When I publish (because I refuse to think I’ll die without), I would love to read someone’s fanfiction of my work. I would love to see what possibilities a fan might come up with, using the world and/or characters I have created. Wouldn’t it be amazing to know someone has enjoyed your work so much that it has inspired that person to create something?

Don’t we all wish to inspire creativity in some form?

Maybe that’s wishful thinking on my part. I don’t know. Generally, I support fanfiction because I think it’s wonderful practice as a stepping stone to “original” (and I use that word loosely) work, or just a fun past time. I don’t know about being for something that is as close as Fifty Shades of Grey was to Twilight but then I’m not an expert. I’m just a blogger, thinking, so feel free to disagree with me, and let me know why. This is something I would love to discuss!

Thanks for reading!
How do you feel about Grey being a thing?
What are your thoughts on fanfiction?

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16 thoughts on “On Fanfiction

  1. This is a similar concept to that brought up in the book Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. Whilst FSOG may follow many similar patterns to Twilight, it’s not really publicized as a Twilight fanficiton or advertised as one so whilst it lacks originality, I don’t see a huge problem. However in money/legal terms, I don’t believe that you should be able to be paid for a book that uses unoriginal characters (you take them straight from the franchise) however if it just follows the story pattern yet in a different setting – it’s fine! People said that The Iron Trials was a rip off of Harry Potter – it’s not but in the beginning there are a lot of similarities but it doesn’t bother me!
    And for the new series, it might introduce a new perspective of the story and change our views! I’ve yet to read to FSOG series but it sounds like an interesting concept! 😛

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve heard that about The Iron Trial and I’m really curious how many of the similarities I’ll pick up on when I read the book. The whole magical boarding school thing is a fairly popular trope–Hex Hall and Percy Jackson arguably follow a similar pattern.

      Personally, I’ve heard too many things about FSOG that bother me for me to be interested in reading it any time soon. There are other books that appeal to me more xD

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’d chuckled a bit when I heard about the Christian Grey POV thing, because I remember Stephenie Meyer trying a similar tactic with Edward Cullen (and reneging ’cause of manuscript leaks). In any case, while I had been slightly piqued by the canceled Twilight companion novel, I’m not so interested in its more mature counterparts.

    On the other hand, fanfic! I’ve pretty much disappeared this week to read a lot of fanfic. I’ve always found them as a useful writing exercise, taking predefined variables (characters, plot, magic system, etc.) and rejecting the canon storytelling in favor of a different, intriguing one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I haven’t been reading a lot of fanfiction as of late, in part because I find myself picky about the things I like to read on my computer (and on my phone I’m more likely to get sucked into wordpress than anything else). But I do agree–I find it particularly interesting to read fanfiction of characters in a world very different from the original because I find even realistic AUs to have a focus on the development and characterization of relationships that I really enjoy. It’s such fantastic practice, whether you move on to something else or not, but it can also help the insecure writer become so much more comfortable with xir own craft.


      • Haha. Oh yes. Fanfic certainly helps indulge my relationship-obsession (shipsession? No?), whether they’re canon or not. I do find I’ve been reading more AUs lately, especially since they typically get a revamped plot, with most of the world building and characters already established.

        Liked by 1 person

          • Lool if I wasn’t prone to seasickness I’d totally go for sailing lessons too…

            I’ve been a frequent visitor to fanfiction.net, especially now that their filtering system is pretty decent (and they’ve stopped banning M-rated stuff). These days, though, the site has an overglut of badly-written fanfics, so takes much longer to navigate when it comes to the larger fandoms.

            I discovered Archive of Our Own just recently, and I’m loving the quality of the fics there. I do think there’s better writing to be had on the slow-burner romances and the longer stories, but I can only attest to the stories rated higher than a T for teen so far.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Sturgeon’s Law rules so much more than science fiction! I’ve seen archive of Our Own but they tend to not have things for my fandoms, which is a shame. I’ve found that longer fics are usually better, but there are some one shots that are also absolutely beautiful.

            Liked by 1 person

  3. Very interesting and intriguing post. I agree with your view on fanfiction, I personally love to read the different takes people can have and the different storylines fanfic authors can create with the same characters. I also would love to see peoples different takes on anything I would (maybe) publish in the future. I love how writing connects people who can share their love for something which in this case is a particular book and the fanfic created because of that book.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That sense of community is definitely a positive aspect I could have mentioned, but it never really comes up as a criticism–and I feel people are more prone to criticising fanfiction for its “copyright infringement” than they are to recognize the ways in which it can be incredibly helpful. I know people who’ve made lifelong friends because of fanfiction. It’s something that a lot of people can empathize with, and it’s so wonderful.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I find fanfic and discussions about it fascinating. I write it, read it, and enjoy thinking about how fanfic relates to original source material. I’m not inclined to go anywhere near E.L. James or Twilight, the originals or fanworks. Not my thing.
    I’m also frankly tickled by the notion that fanfiction is now getting more academic attention and meta-analysis. If you ever want to fall hard down a fascinating rabbit hole, type “transformative works” and fandom in Googe Scholar as search terms. Examinations of the tropes and social constructs in fandom and fanfiction can be fascinating!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post!
    I enjoy a lot of fanfiction but I can’t hang with FSOG. I read the books and they were just not good (my opinion). I couldn’t care less about Christian’s POV, he’s a dick.

    I read a lot of Sherlock fanfiction and I’ve found some that stay very true to the tone of the BBC series. Much of it is really well written in general, aside from staying true to the series’ tone. I don’t think it detracts from the canon stories at all. I’ve thought about writing my own, too. I think people are quick to judge things (“graphic novels aren’t real books”, “fanfiction isn’t a ‘real’ genre”) but I think the important thing is that people are reading and enjoying what they read.

    Liked by 1 person

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