A Series That Never Ends
Harry Potter dies, and the elves from the Lord of the Rings go shopping in Toronto.
Very unlikely in the actual storylines of these popular books, but these are only a few things you might find in the growing world of fanfiction.
What is fanfiction, you may ask? As Clea Saal writes, "A 'fanfic' is, simply put, a story written by a fan based upon the characters, concepts, premises or events of a TV show, a movie, a book or a comic book." Basically, a "fanfic" is a story written using characters that are not original.
Fanfiction is a way for amateur writers to improve their skills and play around with writing styles and ideas. However, because fanfiction is very rarely written by professionals, this form has become the stereotypical "bad writing." This is not entirely false, as there is a growing number of unoriginal fics (stories), as well as the common "Mary-Sue" and the occasional "Gary-Stu."
These are the terms that fanfiction writers use to describe "perfect" and normally, original characters that have been incorporated into a fanfic. However, the original series probably supports these characters, as there are these kinds of characters from most animes and books. The stereotypical "Mary-Sue" is a teenage girl (created by a teenage girl) who is anti-social or very social (think cheerleader stereotype), talented in everything, "unbeatable," famous, beautiful, and has a tragic past that comes back to haunt her. The regular "Gary-Stu" fits most of these descriptions as well, with the exception of gender and gender of creator.
And then, of course, there is "fanon." These are ideas, plots, et cetera that have been used so often by fanfic writers that it's considered a "fact" that came from the original series. Examples are Blaise Zabini's gender (from Harry Potter), and the widely accepted and overused belief that all or the majority of the Gundam Wing characters are homosexual.
However, there is fanfiction out there that rivals (and perhaps even betters) its original creators. Some of these fanfics are found on personal websites and webrings, while others are found on popular fanfiction sites. Every site hosting fanfiction by more than one author has a different goal; the popular fanfiction.net's is simply to provide writers and readers with a place to post, read, critique, and meet new people, with no discrimination against genre, series (except those forbidden), or quality. Fandomination.com tries to give writers a upload system that is universal and easy to use, while accepting material that is "not tolerated or encouraged on other servers" (in terms of rating and/or content). There are also sites such as IcyBrian.com that believe in selection of quality (all fics must be approved by the webmaster before they are posted).
The forbidden. Authors who allow no fanfiction on their work. Actors and celebrities who despise fics on themselves or any characters they play. Perhaps the most infamous to fanfiction writers is Anne Rice, who is the author of the popular Vampire Chronicles. Rice has clearly stated that she is disgusted with the idea of fanfiction, and has filed several lawsuits on the matter. There are authors who think quite the opposite. And I don't mean authors that you've never heard of.
J.K. Rowling, the famed writer of the Harry Potter books, is quite flattered by the idea of fanfiction. She has simply requested that certain material be taken off of sites, only because younger readers can access it - therefore, this request has more to do with censoring than fanfiction in general. And then there is the most common kind of author/creator. The person has not commented on fanfiction at all, most likely because they are unaware of its existance. Fanfiction has only recently become popular, especially on the internet, with everything from articles and columns on the matter, to fanfiction writing contests.
Have you ever read a book where you could hardly stop reading? Well, imagine: that book's next chapter hasn't been written yet. Although a lot of people enjoy (as well as specialize in writing) or one chapter short stories, most fanfics are divided into chapters, written one chapter at a time. Some writers make a schedule on how often they update, while others write the next chapter as quickly as possible. A few authors even set a of minimum reviews before they will update - sometimes for the criticism, sometimes for the suggestions, but mostly to be able to tell yourself there are people out there reading your story.
However you write, read, or view it, fanfiction is a literary form, and takes time and practice like everything else. To all the current and to-be, in the future, fanfic writers, experiment if you want, but try and follow the rules of writing. To readers, keep an open mind when reading, and remember that each product should be treated as it deserves (if you think it must have taken hours to write the first paragraph, treat it as such). And to all in the fanfiction world, remember - fanfics take time and work; show respect accordingly. And to the world, never forget there is a place where your favourite book series doesn't end, where you can read the scenes cut out of your favourite movie: the world of fanfiction.
What is a "Fanfic"? by Clea Saal - w w w. B o o k s a n d t a l e s .c o m/ f a n f i c t i o n / i n d e x . h t m l
The (Good) Fanfic Webring - w w w . t r i n s a n . c o m / g o o d f i c . h t m l
The Case For Fanfiction (an essay) - w w w . f i c t i o n p r e s s . c o m / r e a d . p h p ? s t o r y i d = 1 2 8 1 3 9 8
(Note: this is my first essay; keep that in mind when criticizing this piece - also, there are no spaces in the links; they simply do not display properly if there are none when written)