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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Tasha Beren on Fan Fiction

First of all I'd like to say thank you to the A to Z blog for hosting my post and especially to Tina from Life is Good for organising the blog hosting.

I survived the A to Z challenge this year and it was great fun taking part, I hope everyone had as much fun as I did. Although I've only been on Blogger for a little over a year and interacting with the professional writing blog community, I have been blogging one way or another for longer than I'd care to reveal and today I would like to talk to you about one of my loves: fanfiction aka fanfic.

Please don't groan and run away, fanfiction does not begin and end with 50 Shades of Grey, I promise :). If you are not familiar with 50 Shades of Grey and wonder why I mentioned it, it is because the books originally started out as fanfiction for Stephanie Meyer's Twilight.

I thought it might be helpful to define what fanfiction is first, so there are no misconceptions.

Very simply put, fanfiction is fiction written by people about a universe and/or characters they did not personally create, of which they are a fan.

It can be a fictional universe, for example Harry Potter (to the left is some fanart for one of my Harry Potter fanfics called Gold Tinted Spectacles), or it may use real people, for example The Beatles. Usually this fanfiction is written for the consumption of other fans for free, with a few notable exceptions (this link goes to a superb article with a list of fanfics you probably never realised were fanfics).

There have been a lot of misconceptions in the media recently about fanfiction and 50 Shades really hasn't helped. Fanfiction is not all about the porn. As I have mentioned before on my own blog, the fanfiction medium is definitely not afraid of sex and explores sexuality and sex in many and varied ways, but fanfiction is not just about that. There is a whole subgenre of fanfiction called Gen which has no relationships and no sex in it at all. Something the media never seem to mention in their reports about it. (Of course there is Rule 34 - if you can think of it, there is porn for it, but that goes for everything as well as fanfic ;)).

I have been a writer all my life, scribbling in notebooks all through my tweens and teens and even before that, but I did not really spread my wings with writing until I found the internet, fandom and fanfiction. One of the greatest things about fanfiction is it brings people together with shared enjoyment and, in my experience, the community is a fun, nurturing and vibrant place to explore writing and concepts and, well, just about anything you want to explore. During my stay in fandom writing fanfiction I cannot begin to explain what I have learned, everything from how to be a better writer, to social tolerance, feminism, racial awareness and so much more.

Ideas are very powerful things and the fanfiction world is full to bursting with them in easily accessible, easily digestible packages. I also firmly believe that anything that encourages reading, writing and creativity has to be wonderful.

Admittedly, I am quite glad there was no internet when I first started writing, because all my really big disasters are very firmly in drawers never to see the light of day again. I will admit I have one story in the depths of that drawer where my lead female character was totally a self insert and a Mary Sue (female character who is best at everything, saves the day, marries the hero etc) and ended up with Wesley Crusher. I've always fancied the characters with brains :). My shame is locked away, but the youth of today is writing their own first terrible fiction and throwing it straight onto the internet.

Now I'm not saying they shouldn't, everyone has to start somewhere and there are people out there who love reading such stories, but I am very glad no one can ever dig up mine from Google and laugh as loudly as I do when I occasionally glance at it. I do have one piece of advice for all would-be fanfic writers, however: find yourself someone to read it before you post it to correct any hideous errors. In fanfic land we call these people beta-readers and they are very wonderful and very helpful.

I, myself, am mostly a slash writer when it comes to fanfic. This means I write mainly male/male pairings, although I have been known to write het (male/female) and ménage (threesome or moresome). This does not mean all my fiction has sex in it, just that most of it has relationships of some kind. I usually write fanfic because I'm a shipper, this means I ship (want to see two or more characters in a relationship) when they are not together in canon (the official events of the universe). I have also made it my goal in life to write at least one vampire story in every fanfiction world I choose to play in. My pairing du jour is Loki with just about any of the Avengers and if I tell you my Harry Potter pairing of choice is Harry/Draco you can probably tell I enjoy pairing the bad guys with the good guys.

People write fanfiction for numerous reasons, too many to list here, but most of all I think the majority of people write it to have fun and enjoy themselves in a warm and friendly community.

Amazon have just announced Amazon Worlds where fanfic writers can earn money selling their fanfic for the few American TV shows they have licensed. Personally I think this is a grab to gain content cheap without paying professional tie-in writers and is a truly horrible idea. I wouldn't touch it with a fifty foot pole. I also believe that moneterising fanfic in any way is asking for trouble because when money becomes involved so do lawyers and they always try and spoil people's fun. /Climbs off soapbox

Some fanfics stick closely to canon and read like another episode from the series, book or film. Some diverge so far they are known as AU or Alternative Universe where recognisable characters are placed in new circumstances, for example the characters from X-men First Class as regency ladies and gentlemen (very popular since both leading men have played regency characters) or, closer to the original, Erik and Charles meet a different way, causing a different outcome to the film. Some people also use the term Alternative Reality, but there is much debate even within the fanfiction world over which one means what, so a lot of people stick to AU.

One of my favourite sub-genres is the crossover where the author takes two or more universes and crosses them together. As with rule 34, if you can think of two universes, someone somewhere in fandom has probably written that crossover. N*SYNC meets Harry Potter is by far not the strangest. I love a good crossover (although there are some truly terrible ones out there as well), because I adore stories where characters are confronted with situations they just have no way of comprehending. I enjoy writing them too and the one I am most proud of is a Harry Potter/Anita Black crossover called Black Magic by Moonlight where I plonk Harry and Draco in the middle of Anita's preternatural St Louis.

There is such amazing creativity in fanfiction and all the media seem to be interested in is the sex or the authors/creators who have a rabid hatred of it. I honestly cannot understand the professionals who try and vilify it. If someone wanted to write fanfic of my stories I would be utterly overjoyed. I wouldn't read them, so no one could try and accuse me of copying them, but I would still be totally flattered and glow with happiness that they existed. I have never understood the idea of 'MINE, you can't play!' when people have been doing it for centuries and you can't demand people experience your work exactly the way you want them to. Reading and writing is an individual experience and that's the amazing thing about it. Fandoms that have fanfic tend to survive a very long time.

If you would like to dip your toe into some fanfic the best place to go is Archive of Our Own. It's run by a non-profit group called the Organization for Transformative Works and is very well set up and monitored. You don't need an account to read, you will just be asked if you wish to proceed if you click on a link with adult content. Most of my fanfic can be found there under my fanfic pen name Beren.

Are you a fanfic writer, if so, what do you write? If not, have you read fanfic, did you enjoy it? Also, if you have any burning questions about fanfic I would be most happy to answer them to the best of my ability.

Thank you very much for reading, I hope you enjoyed the post.

Natasha Duncan-Drake
Blog | Twitter | Tumblr | Livejournal | G+ | Wittegen Press Author Page

About the Author: Tasha started writing as a pre-teen and has never stopped. She used to be a software engineer and database designer before she decided to follow her dream to be a writer full time. With her twin sister she created Wittegen Press, a small e-Book press for publishing genre fiction. Her books include novels in the contemporary fantasy, crime and horror genres as well as many short stories and novelettes in every genre from sci-fi to romance. When she's not writing she's usually reading, watching vampire movies, baking or polishing her Photoshop skills.


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Natasha and Tina .. what a very interesting and informative post - something I knew nothing about .. but at least I'm now aware.

The list of fanfics certainly did make interesting reading .. and I bookmarked it .... as the listings were very informative ..

Opening my eyes somewhat .. cheers and good to meet you - Hilary

Tasha Duncan-Drake said...

Hi Hilary, thanks so much for reading and commenting. Fanfic had been around for a very long time, that's just what we call it now :). It also really is a great community online - I have so many wonderful friends because of it. - Tasha

Anonymous said...

Most interesting to read. Thanks for sharing.


Tasha Duncan-Drake said...

Hi Yvonne, glad you enjoyed the post, thank you for reading.

Billy Blue Eyes said...

Heard of fan art and know they do it with video games but nver writing. You have opened my eyes.

Tasha Duncan-Drake said...

Greetings Bill, thank you for reading. I'm always amazed when people don't know about fanfic because it was so long ago I found it, but then I remind myself of my first reaction, which was: 'Really?!' :) Mostly because I'd been doing it myself for years and never realised there were others out there.

Fan art is another wonderful medium, if you haven't seen the Let's Draw Sherlock project you're missing out. This month's project is music inspired art, last month's was re-imaginings of famous works of art. - Tasha

Jeremy [Retro] said...

i see and appreciate fan art/fiction i am sitting on a series of books that i wrote to film characters, gave them lives outside the screen. you gave a nice spin within your post... you have given my eyes to look into those again... well there is more to this story, but i don't think it would be interesting.

life, live and learn...

thank you!

Jeremy H.

New Look, New Name and Same Suff...

Tasha Duncan-Drake said...

Hi Jeremy, thank you, glad you enjoyed the post. Fanfic and fanart are such a great way to express enjoyment of a franchise and I think, often and instinctive reaction with many people even if they don't know they are doing it or only doing it in their head :) - Tasha

Unknown said...

Good content. I will have to check it out. :)

Tasha Duncan-Drake said...

Hi Debra, thank you, have fun :)

Tina said...

Tasha, I'm so glad you shared this post with us. I didn't know about fanfic at all, and am so glad that I do now. Sounds like you've educated a lot of others as well! Thanks so much.
Tina @ Life is Good

Sheena-kay Graham said...

I'm a fan fiction nut with several profiles. Including one with mainly slash pairings. So glad to meet a fellow pro- fan fiction writer.

Tasha Duncan-Drake said...

Hi Tina, thank you so much for letting me take part. Having been playing in fanfic fandom for years I often forget not everyone knows about it.

Hi Sheena-kay, yay for another fanfic nut. Fandom can be such a wonderful place to place can't it. I have friends all over the world thanks to fanfic and fandom.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I read about the Amazon fan fiction. It does sound like a marketing ploy.
I've never tried fan fiction and although I know many who write it.
Had to chuckle at Rule 34. That is so true!

Tasha Duncan-Drake said...

Hi Alex, I'm hoping Amazon Worlds will die quietly like Fanlib did when they tried it. Rule 34 will never not amuse me :). Thanks for commenting.

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Kassiah said...

I love Fanfiction!

Maalai said...

Thanks for the information... I really love your blog posts... specially those on Local Tamil News

Tasha Duncan-Drake said...

Thanks to everyone who commented. Glad you enjoyed the post.
Very pleased to hear you love fanfiction Kassiah, it's such a great creative medium :). The more of us who shout about it the better :D.