FanFiction: A History and Reflection of Post-Modern Literature

Fan fiction is the creative expression of fandom, or a reflection of a pop cultural universe created by a fan. For those that write fan-fiction, it can be agreed that it is not an easy task to create captivating fan fiction. Many authors and writers, including myself got their start with fan fiction. However I’ve found that fan-fiction has changed modern literature in more ways than one. It has roots in history, it challenges writers to adapt to style and think creatively with already existing characters. It has changed the way we publish writing and what we accept as modern literature. It has its own rules, tropes, themes and elements that would classify it as a genre. FanFiction is an art.

To this day I find writing fan fiction as a great exercise to hone my skills as a writer. Alter my style, build my vocabulary, explore tropes, or even get to know a complex original character in a familiar setting.

I started writing fan-fiction in grade school. I found it to be a good release of stress during times of chaos. I loved the escape it gave me to dive into my favorite authors world’s. Maybe put myself in the character’s shoes. I also found that I loved writing just much as I loved to read. My Grammy still talks about one of my earliest stories that I wrote during my American Girl phase. I could relate Kit Kittredge because she too was from Cincinnati ( Depression Era) and wanted to be a writer. My fan-fiction then expanded to the Harry Potter universe, of course. I hand-wrote an entire fan-fiction that got passed around to many of my classmates. I probably have it somewhere still. I eventually began to publicize my fan-fiction on websites like under the pen name Hope of Harry. It was nice to get anonymous feedback on my writing and encouragement.

Fan-fiction has been around much longer than expected. And there have always been sexual undertones. According to the Atlantic’s Shannon Chamberlain, we know that humans have been writing smutty fan-fiction since the 17th century. Many featuring Gulliver’s Travels. “Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, published in 1726, marked the beginning of this movement. Not long after its publication, readers started to imagine its hero, Lemuel Gulliver, in circumstances that either were only briefly alluded to in the text or they themselves invented; the more shocking the revisions, the better” (Chamberlain). Modern examples emerged in the 1960’s as the Star Trek universe had its Big Bang. As the series expanded, so did the fan-fiction sex fueled romance ( or SHIPP) between Spock and Captain Kirk. Many of these stories were published to magazines and newspapers. Post- modern examples would include every Star Wars novelization; Fifty Shade of Grey, and Marvels: What If? On Disney +. Fan fiction is everywhere. And the original creators aren’t threatened by it. “Like Rowling, most 18th-century authors made their peace with fan fiction, as long as the creators shared it freely and didn’t attempt to make money from it. In the late 1700s, the new discipline of economics provided a readily available argument for anyone who wasn’t already on board: Fictional universes, fanfic writers argued, aren’t a zero-sum game, but a self-multiplying abundance. No publicity is bad publicity, and fan works only increase interest in the original books and characters” (Chamberlain, Atlantic).

Fan-fiction has altered the publishing industry by giving the power back to the writer. Closet poets and novelists can now produce and distribute their work. The advances in modern technology have created a platform for writers like, Wattpad, ArchiveOfOurOwn, and Reddit where millions have posted fan-fiction or even original work ranging in all genres. “There, fanfic writers of every age, gender identity, color, ability, religion, and sexual orientation can take original stories they love and give them a unique twist all their own”(Trombetta, Bustle).

Online blog sites like WordPress and Medium have allowed creative writers, like me, to build a profile and gain exposure. Budding journalists can grow and bloom to their major story break; sizzling chefs can build their own recipe archives which could later be published as a cookbook, developing photographers can share their view with the world. One of my favorite authors, Natasha Preston started on Watt-pad and is now in print. Some of my friends and colleagues have self-published on Amazon.

Early in my career and education, the goal of being published seemed almost impossible. But thanks to fan fiction and advances in computer technology, many dreams can come true.

The art of writing good fan fiction involves creating original twists and characters while maintaining a style that readers can believe as part of the original story universe, or what is referred to as ‘canon’. In every universe there unwritten( and written) rules to how that universe operates. As a fan-fiction writer, you must carefully decide how you will follow, bend or break those rules. Your audience will tell you whether or not it’s working. A writer will know of their work is canon worthy.

Although there are times in which the fandom will not accept a piece of work as canon but the original creator will. A good example of this would be Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. From what I’ve gathered, apart from my own personal opinion, was that Harry, Ron and Hermione were not written well. And that could be because it was not written by Rowling or the fact it was published as a stage play.

The original trio as parents were not believable. The voice was not there. Also, no one believed that Voldemort had sex with anyone, let alone having a child with Bellatrix Lestrange. The child between them seems even less plausible than the first twist. Readers of the series would understand that just by knowing Voldemort’s basic psychology ( He was a full-blown psychopathic narcissist that was on the quest to live and rule forever. He had no desire for a successor nor an enemy. He killed anyone who was rumored, prophesied or slightly hinted at being or becoming more powerful than he. He tried to kill Harry as a baby and each year after. He killed his most trusted ally [Snape] just to have complete power He was incapable of love because he was conceived on a love potion….but I digress). “Despite its controversial status among a sizable number of fans, the play is marketed as the eighth story in the Harry Potter series. Before the play’s premiere, JK Rowling confirmed on Twitter that the play was canon, despite its authorship”(Goddard). Other examples of poorly executed canon would be the recent Star Wars : The Rise of Skywalker which did not translate well to the screen.

Adding unique twists and implementing sexy and passionate scenes between two unlikely characters is no easy feat. Neither is creating original characters and plot inside an existing universe. It is a true art form. “Fan-fiction is a beautiful opportunity for readers who want to see themselves represented in the stories they read”(Trombetta, Sadie; Bustle).

FanFiction has opened the door for new genres to emerge. Although queer fiction and literature has been around since the beginning of time, modern times has brought it to the shelves as it’s own genre. It warms my heart as a queer bookseller to see parents investing in their queer child’s interests. “anything that will get them to read” is what I generally hear. FanFiction has given the queer community a medium that allows them to explore their reality without being overshadowed by heteronormativity. “For them, it provides an ease of entering a community and culture that welcomes the different and the unique. Fanfiction being innately participative can be a platform that represents the queer than condemns, and introduces awareness of the dimensions of sexuality that is often inhibited by the mainstream media” (Lyka, Cali).

Despite criticism from not fandom readers, mockers and non-writers; FanFiction has changed literature as we know it and has found its place in the modern world.

“At this time of accessibility, fanfiction is a tool of constructive criticism, wielded by the fandom, that can transform popular media according to the receptivity of its generation”(Lyka, Cali; The Artifice).

It is an art.

Below you can find the cited sources. I thought they were interesting to read.

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