Confessions of a Closet FF Writer: Part 3

“Fanfiction is what literature might look like if it were reinvented from scratch after a nuclear apocalypse by a band of brilliant pop-culture junkies trapped in a sealed bunker. They don’t do it for money. That’s not what it’s about. The writers write it and put it up online just for the satisfaction. They’re fans, but they’re not silent, couchbound consumers of media. The culture talks to them, and they talk back to the culture in its own language.”

—Lev Grossman, TIME, July 18, 2011

Chew on that for a minute, and then we’ll begin part three of Closet Confessions in the 1960’s, when the Fan Fiction genre found its feet and began to prosper.

Bronte 1

The Bronte sisters wrote FF stories about the Duke of Wellington.

A few side notes before we leap into the 60’s:

  •  In the 1820’s the Bronte siblings’ childhood penchant for writing about the exploits of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, earned them the distinction of being the first authors to write fan fiction stories based on real life people.
  • In the 1930’s and 1940’s, fans rewrote and parodied Sherlock Holmes and Alice in Wonderland, as well as several other famous pieces of literature.
Sherlock 2

First parodied in the 1930s, Sherlock Holmes has been reborn in TV’s “Elementary,” starring Jonny Lee Miller.

Now, onto the 60’s:

The term Fan Fiction was originally created in the 1960’s, by science fiction magazines to differentiate between original works written by amateur writers, published in science fiction fanzines, and those original works of professionally published fiction writers.

Fanzines were handwritten or typed, mimeographed and stapled booklets, passed around science fiction communities and gatherings. These fanzines were either given away to promote the genre, or sold for the cost of printing. Fan Fiction’s humble beginning is probably one of the reasons why it struggles with its image today.

The Star Trek fanzines of the 1960’s encouraged Fan Fiction along the path it’s taken today: an intermingling of fandoms and fan interaction.  Star Trek also lent credibility to FF writings by being the first to feature FF in their magazine, Spockanalia.  With the fanzine’s far-reaching exposure within the populace of science fiction came more credibility for the genre, as well as for its authors.

Before there was Star Trek, most fanzines were written by men who reported on conventions they attended, books they read and other fanzines they might or might not like. Rarely did these magazines include fiction of any type. While Star Trek was in its heyday, women published media fanzines which included mainstream fiction as well as Fan Fiction. Whether a person bought the magazine for the convention report or the fiction stories, the intent of each fanzine was to share with and build-up community amongst the science fiction fans who read them.

Another side note:

  • Eighty percent of Fan Fiction today is written by women and usually has a romantic bent.
  • Nearly  80% of Star Trek Fan Fiction written during the early years of the series is attributed to women writers.

Back to our show:

So, we have covered what Fan Fiction is, who writes it and when it became relatively legit to write it. Now, let’s talk about how it is fairing today.

Over the last decade, many writers have moved to the forefront of publishing through the humble and seemingly non–legit world of FF. The most recent is E.L. James, who adapted Fifty Shades of Grey from her Twilight Fan Fiction. Her first book of the trilogy sold 50 million copies, with two more installments added and a movie deal thrown in. People now write FF based on her book series. Other authors taken from Fan Fiction land are Meg Cabot (The Princess Diaries), who wrote Star Wars FF, and Cassandra Clare (The Mortal Instruments young adult series), who wrote Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings FF.

I think it can safely be said that Fan Fiction has found its niche, its following and its future, but what of its legitimacy? As I come to the end of my series, I will admit there are grey areas in FF as far as legalities go. And yes, there is a lot of bad FF out there. But a great deal of well thought out and well executed fiction exists. However, the same could be said for traditionally published works if one thinks about one’s book purchases the last few years.

But, if the question of its legalities and the use of other author’s writings as story basis are stripped away, and if an author with writing ability, storytelling panache and imagination stands out from the rest, couldn’t it be said that what has been created through the adding and taking away is well written, justifiable fiction? The writing being neither better nor worse, neither more legitimate nor less legitimate than what we find at our local bookstore? The only real defining difference, once the other things have been stripped away, is that one story was published on the web, while another by Simon & Schuster.

You draw your own conclusion and get back to me.


Chrinda Jones

Have something to add to our discussion on Fan Fiction? Drawn your own conclusion regarding FF and want to share it?

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