Long have humans revealed in the worlds created by others, from Homer’s The Odyssey to folklores told by travelling bards. These stories enriched societies and in some cases became so tied with culture that variations of the stories still exist today, some that have barely retained their original roots. With the rise of globalization and all that it entails, story telling has entered into a new form, becoming a way to bring more than a single culture together as in the case of The Odyssey and Greece. The abundance of creative worlds and the easy access to them have sparked an ever-growing community of devotees that have taken their own interpretations of the works and made them readily available online to the masses. These works range from the ever-popular Star Trek, Supernatural, Dr. Who and Harry Potter fandoms to the smaller book fandoms that exist for single novels. Just as the travelling bards of the past added and subtracted events from the stories they told, writers of fan fiction take creative worlds and modify them, pairing characters together in sexual/romantic relationships that may not be ‘canon’ (in the original), creating entirely new alternate universes for existing characters, and even simply delving into the mind of a character for a short drabble on that character’s feelings towards a certain new event in the original story. The wide range of what can be done with a creative world is mindboggling, and trying to detail every aspect of this creative outlet is near impossible, as writers vary from one to another. The only universal agreement seems to be that Mary Sue characters are very much so undesirable and must be burned via feedback to the author, something that occurs in every fandom that is exposed enough to attract a fair-sized community.
“Friction over Fan Fiction,” an interesting article (link below) that provides a background on fan fiction as a creative outlet that has emerged with the rise of globalization and, in particular, the internet, concerns itself with issues of copyright. After all, is fan fiction even legal? Could someone get in trouble with the law in Canada or the US for writing something based off a piece of work that has been carefully copyrighted, even if they ‘disclaim’ owning it? The truth is that there is no clear legislation for this soaring global trend, and that authors of the original works do in fact, on occasion, take action to protect their works, if only to write to the ever-popular fanfiction.com to have them ban posting stories revolving around their work. Currently, the list of authors include big names like Anne Rice and Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb, and worlds like the Archie comics, that have imposed any sort of crack down on their fans’ attempts to celebrate their works.
This is particularly interesting from a cultural perspective. Never before the modern era have stories been written down in textual format and preserved, unchanging over time. In the article Henry Jenkins, in a nod to this cultural, almost evolutionary need for social humans to continue to develop stories beyond their textual bounds, says, “the works on which fan fiction is based serve for fan communities the same purpose as myths and folklore served in earlier times, as a source of shared references having instant recognition in that community and a source of raw material for fans’ own creative works.” In this way the need for a balance between respecting the rights of original authors and the desires of the fans of these authors is quite a necessary thing. After all, on occasion, as was the case with E.L. James’ 50 Shades of Grey series, it was originally a fan fiction under the Twilight fandom. Yet of course it is so far removed from the plot of Twilight that Stephanie Meyer cannot possibly come after James waving her sparkly vampires and oversexed werewolves around on a copyright flag. And that perhaps worries some authors, whereas others like J.K. Rowling, embrace fan fiction as a way to stimulate readers.
Basically, what I find to be the most intriguing part of fan fiction is the sheer vastness of topics explored by these writers, topics that are perhaps still largely taboo like kink, BDSM and all manners of sexuality that deviate from that heterosexual norm we are all very familiar with. In this way I like to think that the existence of this widespread phenomena is in fact helping to promote ‘the other’ as acceptable and not something to be gawked at when seen in the ‘real world’.
I’d like to know if there is agreement that this form of creative expression is a cultural necessity, perhaps one that stemmed from out past fondness for oral stories, and just hear some thoughts on the subject. Are you guys involved in any fandoms out there you’d like to share?