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What On Earth Is Fan Fiction?

October 29th, 2014

Ellie-woodelf-blogAs a parent, one thing I really like about having kids is the way they introduce us to new stuff: Japanese Animé, Minecraft, Steampunk … they’re all great. Recently though, I’ve been having a disagreement with our twelve year old daughter. The only thing she wants to do is sit with her headphones on all day, iPod in hand, trawling through Youtube videos.

“What rubbish are you watching?” I asked her the other day. And she showed me. She wasn’t watching anything. She was reading – Fan fiction.

“What’s Fan fiction?” I asked her.

But she didn’t answer, just looked at me despairingly.

So, I had to go and do some digging myself. This quote from Lev Grossman caught my eye: “Fan fiction is what literature might look like if it were reinvented from scratch after a nuclear apocalypse by a band of brilliant pop-culture junkies trapped in a sealed bunker.”

Wow! I thought.

I took a look at fanfiction.net – a website hosting hundreds of stories by young writers, all about the films, comics, books and TV shows the writers are into. Taking an existent fictional world, they make up their own stories, then put them online. I read one – ‘The New X-Man’ by X-wo-Man Fan, who said of herself: “This is my first fan fiction, and I hope you all enjoy reading it.”

Well, I did. And a couple of things struck me about it. First, its length – 41,406 words, a goodly chunk! Then, the way it was received by the community using the site. All the stories on fanfiction.net can be reviewed by anyone reading them. ‘The New X-Man’ had nineteen reviews. Uchichachik23 said: “Love your story cant wait for more keep up the great work,” whilst Son of Whitebeard’s comment was: “Very thrilling.” And most of the others followed the same vein – very short, positive and supportive. But then there was this from PebbleheartMarie: “The tenses are mixed up. It’s either present or past. Anyway, cool story!”

I was knocked out. Fanfiction.net is an easy to navigate site where, it seems, young people are teaching themselves to write far from the clumsy interference of stuffy old adults. They’re not doing it for money, and though they’re dealing almost entirely with copyright material, no one is giving them a hard time or threatening them with legal action. They’re just being left to get on with it.

Surely something good must come of this, you say. And, of course, it already has. Cassandra Clare is just one young writer who cut her teeth on Fan fiction. Author of the wildly popular Mortal Instruments series, Clare’s early fanfics included The Very Secret Diaries, a Lord of the Rings parody which achieved huge viral success. Her first professional novel City of Bones (2007) went straight on to the New York Times bestsellers list and has since been adapted into a Hollywood movie.

So, I’m just going to leave my daughter ensconced on the sofa with her iPod for now because, it seems, whatever we may say about them, and whatever we may do, the kids are finding their own way to become fabulous, as they always will.

Keep on writing!

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