Writing for Fandoms: Is Fanfic Literature? | Fanboys Anonymous

Writing for Fandoms: Is Fanfic Literature?

Posted by Michelle Callaghan Thursday, February 28, 2013
Next week I'll be in Boston for the AWP Conference and one of the last panels looks at video games, comics, and fan fiction as legitimate literature. I'll totally blog about that in March, but for the sake of dipping into the topic, I have a confession to make. Since this is Fanboys Anonymous and what better on a first post than a little geeky soul-bearing, here goes:

In 2003, I discovered fan fiction.

It was a cool summer night. Sucking on my braces and scratching a pimple, I was clicking through PlayStation's flash website for Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus for the six-trillionth time, dodging the searchlights with my cursor and wishing for just one-more-adventure ohgodplease! So I opened the Google machine and typed three words: Sly Cooper stories. Don't know why. Don't know what I expected to find. But my adolescent life as I knew it was over. The fic was “Mark of the Master” by Atolm2001, a still-not-finished (read as: dead) multichap adventure. (I've since looked up the author on deviantART and left a thank you note. No response. Creep status: dutifully earned.)

I loved it then, I love it now, but there has not been a minute since that I haven't been weirdly ashamed of the hobby. You might be thinking "so what?" or "that's cool" or if you're like every other fanfic enthusiast I've spoken to, you might completely get my shame because hear me out: modern fan fiction to this day has no solid footing in the writing world, and even among fandoms it can sometimes be considered excessive. Maybe even considered a little weird, even if only to the self-conscious writers themselves. I am even shy about it! And full disclosure: since 2003, I've written fic for Sly Cooper, Jak and Daxter, CSI, Bones, Wicked, Big Bang Theory, and Mass Effect, and for every fic I've written, I've read thirty more. This past July, I spent four entire days reading a 98 chapter Mass Effect story on my phone.

fanfiction mass effect coldplay writing
Me, reading aforementioned Mass Effect fic at a Coldplay concert, as all normal people do.

I've only been comfortable admitting my dalliance long-term relationship with good ol' FanFiction.net for, oh, maybe a year now, because I've finally gotten to the point where I'm embracing its influence on readin' and writin'. But while it's fun, creative, sometimes straight up good quality reads—is it legitimate literature?

It can be. Some of it is garbage, sure, but some of it is better than novels I've slogged through. You can't publish it (*) but good fic upholds all the criteria of quality writing. And at the end of the day, some of the things we call good writing, even some of the things we call [monocle] canonical English Literature [/monocle] are, in fact... FAN FICTION!

And so, after my deepest confession, I give you five of my favorite Glorified Fan Fictions:

5) The Entire Star Wars Extended Universe
Star Wars books Skywalker Episode 7 geek EU
Thanks, some geek on Tumblr!

Publishing fan fiction is usually a pipe dream, but the SWEU authors pull it off and continue to make bank. This is what rules about open world building and open creators. Say what you want about George Lucas' creative decisions, but he opened his world to the fans and created a beautiful monster.

4) Grendel by John Gardner
grendel beowulf literature john gardner
Not just high school readin'.

Speaking of beautiful monsters, if you haven't read Grendel, give it a shot. It's a really kooky but awesome take on the villain from the epic poem Beowulf.

3) Wicked by Gregory Maguire
wicked wizard of oz broadway musical witch great powerful gregory maguire
Also a Tony Award-winning musical!

My all-time favorite novel, Wicked is another Grendel-like treatment of a villain. Wizard of Oz fan fiction for the win!

2) Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard
rosencrantz guildenstern hamlet stoppard theater absurd
"Audiences know what to expect, and that is all they are prepared to believe in."

This absurd and goofy-deep play is Hamlet fan fiction at its finest.

1)Paradise Lost by John Milton
paradise lost john milton satan lucifer bible epic poem
I'm not sure I even understand it.

Bible fanfiction. Not kidding. Also very canonically foundational to so much English literature and has even infiltrated some religions in interesting ways. I like it for the scene where angels and devils are throwing mountains at each other. Badass.

So there you have it. Fanfiction can be found on college syllabi. I’ll be looking forward to how the panel at AWP in Boston handles the "as literature" argument, and I’ll let you know what the geek folk say.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to write a sestina about Dovahkiin!

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