Why Fandom?

I think that Fan Fiction (fanfic for short) is a really intriguing phenomenon. A single author comes up with a truly brilliant idea, and soon the rest of the world has latched on, thinking they can either improve on it or add to it or even make it their own. In all honesty, I would rather have my own good idea to write about instead, but since I apparently missed the originality boat, I’m willing to settle.

I have theories on why people enjoy doing this sort of thing. Here they are:

  1. Readers love a story or character so much, they can’t bear to see the story end. In this type of fanfic, writers use the author’s original characters to extend stories past the written conclusion, write backstories to predate the original author’s work, or even add things into the author’s version of the story. Search for “Harry Potter Fan Fiction” if you’d like to see how popular this is. It’s nuts.
  2. Readers find the concept behind a novel or a series truly fascinating, but are disappointed with the actual plot. They feel perhaps they have a plot that is more satisfying. Again, they use the characters created by the original author. Perhaps the story as a whole was okay, but they hated the ending. Rewritten endings seem to be a particularly popular form of fanfic. Misery for those of us who lack the homicidal tendencies of Annie Wilkes.
  3. Lastly, there are the groups who fall in love with the scenario behind a fictional work, and wish oh-so-badly they could live there themselves. This usually applies to science fiction or fantasy works where the world created is broad and well developed. Go to any local bookstore and check out the Star Wars and Star Trek wall. There is a whole wall, I guarantee it. Star Trek is such a big field of fandom, in fact, that they have conventions, societies, and dress up like Klingons to get married. But what about us folks who are shy? Who have secret passions for nerdy hobbies but don’t want to be seen in public wearing a Ferengi facemask (even if it meant your own mother couldn’t tell who you were)? For us, there is writing. And what more anonymous place than the internet?

The fanfiction I write falls under that last category. Anne McCaffrey developed a beautiful world on a brilliant concept: a creature exists who would choose you out from a crowd, tell you you are better than all those other people, and love you unconditionally for the rest of your life. Oh yeah, and now you get to work together to save the world.

Let me make one thing clear: I think Anne, though brilliant with her ideas, is a mediocre writer. Her plots are good, her characters are rather Twinkie, but her writing itself is a little blah. Not only that, but she created her world as she wrote her stories, a device that would have mortified J. R. R. Tolkien. The result was some serious plot holes, and worse, holes in the world of scientific logic.

But we cope with that. We find bandaids to put over the gaping holes and construct characters and plots that are more satisfying than her originals. (Sssh, don’t tell too many people I said that. I could get mobbed.) And we really enjoy ourselves.

I’m convinced one day, I’ll do like Meg Cabot and launch out of the world of fanfic into a world of top ten best sellers and movie deals. One of the characters I invent will be so intriguing, or some plot so juicy, I’ll be able to pull it out of the world of fandom and make my first million. If I do, I’ll be humble and pay tribute to my fictional origins.

Just not where my adoring new public can see it.


5 thoughts on “Why Fandom?

  1. I can appreciate fan fiction as it relates to #1. It would be quite flattering to create something that people identify so strongly with that they wanted to interact with it and become a part of it.

    Unfortunately I believe most of the fan fiction out there is the product of aspiring authors unable or unwilling to do anything creative and simply want to hold the title of author, creator for whatever connotations it carries. I think this kind of mentality is even more prevalent in music. Radio stations play one mediocre song after another. I would argue that no great song has been written in a day, but there are plenty of songs on the top 100 that have been. That boils down to the contingent that time is money, and you can make much more of it by ripping off the creator left and right than you can by putting the time and energy into creating a genuinely good song of your own. That’s why music is so cyclical. Every trend in music comes and goes. Remember the group vocal phenomenon? Spice Girls, 98 degrees, Backstreet Boys, N’Sync, – all were big at the same time and all faded away at the same time. There was an original source of talent for all these copy-cats, who may or may not have received any widespread recognition for their work. Proof of this is Green Day. They have been making their bland music for over a decade, but until a wave of angsty, teen pop-punk bands started getting airplay did Green Day receive any kind of widespread recognition. (Green Day is basically a rip-off of the Clash and the Ramones, both creators in their own right.)

    Basically, my point is that all genius creates an enormous sea of mediocrity around it, and the virgin sailor who traverses those waters unlikely to ever accidentally find the treasures they hold within them. It is the purpose of education to be the Northern Star to guide these wayward pilgrims. Mark Twain said – “The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.” Same thing goes for the people who don’t listen to good music, think an icecream cone glued to a 2×4 is art and consider harlequin to be a purveyor of fine literature.

  2. What? I’m confused, because Harlequin IS a purveyor of fine literature, right???


    Okay, maybe not. But I really like your comment that genius creates a sea of mediocrity around it. Alas. Maybe I’ll be the corked bottle floating around in that sea, hoping that there’s a message inside me that might say something good…

  3. Interesting discussion on fan fiction. I myself have never written any fan fic but I have, in the past, worked on fan art. Drawings from my favorite books or even comics. To me it is a good way to get started into your own work. I can’t say for sure if this has any bearing on your discussion I just thought I would add my two sense.

  4. I started doing that too. Characters from fantasy novels I read in middle school. I remember showing one to my dad and he said something about her being awfully short for having boobs that big. Not something a (pre?)teenager wants to hear from her father even if it isn’t about a drawing she’s proud of. :p My talent really doesn’t lay in the world of visual design, though, so I wandered off into the world of text.

    Relevant enough for me! I just feel special to have comments. πŸ™‚

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