In light of the attention Fifty Shades has been getting lately, many media outlets have been conversing upon the fact that it started as Twilight fanfiction. With the online publishing changing the way writing is traditionally done, there are discussions about the legality of who owns the fan work — the author? the site publishing it? the original creator? Does it change things if the work is done for free or for a cost? While some writers and creators have been vocal in support of or against fanfictions and fan works, there is also a myriad of other voices in the mix.
And this discussion is important. The Organization for Transformative Works, for example, explains that the fandom and its fanworks are a culture which holds its own histories and communities, and that as “fanworks are transformative . . . transformative works are legitimate” and legal. There are plenty of people who think otherwise or don’t care, but the fact remains that it has been a huge influence on the lives of the fanwork creators and the original creators as well. After all, what is a fandom without its fans?
But it’s often still embarrassing, despite the amount of time I spend on these fanworks sites. It’s something to be ashamed of; something you write and post anonymously to your group of online friends, but isn’t “worthy” of showing, say, your teacher, or publishing in a journal. There is a certain image assigned with those who are in a fandom — you’re obsessive, you write horribly, you’re “ripping off” the original creator, you’re a twelve-year-old girl obsessed with Twilight and/or a gross person writing porn, etc.. (I’m definitely guilty of pasting this stereotype on others, myself.) But I believe that the times are changing and it’s not something to have to hide. And although I don’t write too much of it anymore, focusing more energy towards my original works, I am forever thankful for what it has done for me.
Reasons why I am thankful for fanfiction:
- It has made me aware of the online distribution and sharing of works. I discovered fanfiction surfing the internet one day after waiting for the next Sammy Keyes book to come out and was pleasantly surprised to see I had a whole archive of stories to read to keep me satiated. It wasn’t until much later that I had realized how wonderful this was: limitless reading! For free! At the click of a button! And I could share my own ideas and absorb others in a community meant for fans like me. For a bookworm, it didn’t get any better than that.
- There is a built-in audience of people who know and love the fictional world as much as you do, and within this audience, I have found friends, fellow writers, a readership, and a whole bunch of other ways to hone and create my craft.
- It has made me a better writer. For some, it may be “constricting” having to use someone else’s characters, their world, but for me, I think it has made me more versatile. I am aware of my fictional boundaries and have found creative ways to overcome them; I have taken the skills learned in the sandbox of fanfiction and incorporated them outside in my own stories, and can identify them in other stories people have written.
- It has made me confident. There is a bad side to the internet; people who tell you “don’t read the comments!” or “beware of the trolls!” are definitely not wrong. But this pocket of the internet is usually kind and welcoming; you’re bound to find someone willing to coach a fledgling writer through the period(s) of self doubt.
- Awareness of others. The wonderful thing about an internet community is being so aware of the diversity of people! I’ve discovered not only many writing styles and methods, but learned much about the plights and joys of other cultures and ways of life. In many ways, the fandom world has been a refuge for those who are ignored and wronged by mainstream media, and have joined them with people who love the mainstream media in the first place. It is a wonderful mixing ground.
- Friendship. This I cannot stress enough. Friends, no matter how old or where they’re from, have shaped who I am and will definitely shape who I am to become.
Who knows? Maybe without ever discovering fanfiction, I wouldn’t be here today, writing on this blog and involved with the LRR. I’m glad I’m here!