Ah, yes. Every few years or so, a person comes along to hate on fanfiction as if their opinion on it…matters?
The thing is, this person’s take is elitist and pretentious and far from original. People have dismissed fanfic for all of the reasons she droned on about for as long as fanfic has been around. Will it make us stop writing fanfic? No. Will it make us stop reading fanfic? No. The OP makes me wonder what her motivation is, or why she believes it necessary to draw this judgmental line in the sand. And she does go on, too. Why she so mad?
I’ve been writing fanfic and contemporary fic for 30 years. I’ve enjoyed success in both spheres. I have had short stories and a novel published, and I’m a journalist, too. I write for a living. I love my job. So here is my take on fanfiction:
Fanfiction should be regarded as a legitimate form of writing. Yes, it is a place where aspiring writers cut their teeth. It’s also a place where experienced writers go to write what they love, where they can also foster these younger writers in a community that isn’t a bunch of pretentious, hair-pulling blowhards who will tear another writer to shreds on the altar of their own egos. I have belonged to many, many writing communities over the years. Once you get a group of CIS white men together rhapsodizing over Hemingway while writing for money… it is not a safe place. I do not recommend. My experience in ff communities has been welcoming, encouraging, and supportive. We write together and talk about writing. It’s LIT.
(also… if the OP wants to rail about how traditional publishing is no longer a bunch of misogynistic blowhards, ask why she must use the name RS Benedict. It’s the same reason JK Rowling and SE Hinton used their initials. Because if they used feminine-sounding names, they were less likely to be taken seriously.)
The OP mentioned queer lit. Her response was achingly straight. Yes, queer lit does exist outside of ff (though good queer representation is a fairly new phenomenon in contemporary fic; I know this from experience). However, imagine this scenario: You’re a queer teen in a conservative rural town 2 hrs from the nearest bookstore. Your school library has banned anything remotely LGBT and your parents have Amazon shopping on lock. So you go to Ao3, where you find a trove of queer/ace representation written by people who are actually queer and actually ace.
It’s too simplistic to cast ff in a such a black/white narrative. What the OP disregards is the large number of us who write fanfic because it allows us to break from the confines of contemporary publishing. It allows us to experiment with form in unique ways that traditional publishing would ignore because publishing houses are more about making money than taking risks. The OP mentioned formulaic, low-effort writing. Has she read a James Peterson or a Dan Brown? Talk about misogynistic. Don’t get me started on Nicholas Sparks. White guy, coastal town, girl with a disease. Sound familiar? I’m already snoring.
Point is, those stories are boring. And they sell millions of copies. Millions.
Fanfiction is fun. It’s interesting. It’s hilarious. A lot of it is insightful and meaningful, too. Not all of it is great, just like not all of contemporary lit is great. The OP called ff ‘training wheels’ as if reading and writing ‘actual stories’ is like graduating to Big Girl Lit. But literature can (and should) be many things, actually. A person can read and write original stories and fanfic. It doesn’t have to be an either/or.
Fanfic writers tackle big issues and reach an audience by using characters that are well-known and relatable. And as always I will remind us in the ff community that present-day movie franchises do the exact same thing. MCU, DC, Riverdale, Star Trek, Star Wars… all of it is fanfic with a budget. Drew Goddard basically wrote Buffy fanfic and it got him hired as a Buffy writer. Joss Whedon is a gleefully successful fanfic writer. So is Jon Favreau. They’re simply lucky white guys with ties to Hollywood.
It’s a shame that the OP has so completely swallowed the idea that the only real writing is writing for traditional publishing. Fanfic writers, keep doing what you do. You’re the future of writing. You write what you love, and you do it for free. That’s creative expression in its purest form, and don’t let anyone shame you for it.
Guess I went off a little. I feel passionately about this, so thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts. Much love 💜 BORAHAE