Fanfiction: cool, or still uncool?

I have a confession: I used to read a lot of fanfiction. I used to write a lot of fanfiction.
It's sort of a secret shame that I don't talk about to people, even though I was still actively part of the community right up until the end of my first year of university. By then I wasn't reading new stories, but I definitely had a commitment to finishing my own. My most popular work was a 89,000 word Harry Potter story. To date it has had over 186,000 page views and 382 reviews. That's a pretty big achievement. But why do I hide all association from it?

Fanfiction seems to get this bad rep for being 'low art'; a domain populated by tweens inserting themselves into stories with their favourite characters, or mums looking to spice things up with erotic fiction. I suppose in some ways that's a true assessment to make, but in others it's a perfect place for writers to establish themselves. It's a lot easier to expand on a world that you already know well, or develop a minor character and create a backstory for them. I see it as the 'kiddie pool' of literature, where you can develop and grow your art.

I feel like fanfiction has kind of snuck into mainstream pop culture in recent times. Over the past 20 years the internet has helped grow fanfiction from 'those weirdos in the corner of the convention' to real credible stuff. I suppose, as a former writer/reader, it's quite nice to spot books in Waterstones by former fanfic authors...

Probably the most famous is 50 Shades of Grey, which I'm sure you all know started life as a Twilight fanfiction. No I have not read this book; nor do I ever plan to. But you have to admire E.L. James' ability to create something so popular, even though it first appeared in a weird niche on the internet. The Twilight fanfiction area of is definitely somewhere for writers to publish whatever they want. Don't get me wrong, there was a large amount of vampire stuff, but I remember a lot of stories that were just the writer's own work with familiar characters. One which although not to my usual taste holds a special place in my heart is Wallbanger by Alice Clayton. Wallbanger started its life out as 'Edward Wallbanger'. This is a bit of a raunchy story, but packs a lot of humour. Caroline (Bella) moves into an amazing new apartment that happens to share a wall with the bedroom of her neighbour, Simon (Edward), who happens to be a bit of a Casanova. Blah blah, hijinx ensues and if you read it closely, you can spot some of the other Twilight characters. Whilst making notes for this post, I felt a little bit nostalgic and looked through the first few chapters again. Definitely out of the norm for books that I read, but if you like chick lit, it's a good one to read.

When Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell was published, I knew I had to read it. Its portrayal of fan culture is so realistic, and any Harry Potter fangirl can see a lot of themselves in the story. Regardless of the slightly geeky element, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I think it was in part due to the fact that it's a coming of age story about twins who start university. I read it in my second year at Aberystwyth. I have downloaded Carry On onto my Kindle (Rowell's standalone story of Simon Snow and Baz Pitch, the subjects of Cath's fanfiction in Fangirl), but am yet to read it. But once again, I've read that it's "everything a fanfic loving adolescent could have ever wanted from a book".

There are probably a lot of former fanfiction authors out there, if you think about it. Another author whose name springs to mind is Cassandra Clare. The Mortal Instruments series was once Harry Potter fanfiction. I haven't actually read any of her work, due to the fact that I haven't read good things about Clare herself and her time in the Harry Potter community, so I can't comment on it in too much depth. But I'm sure there are even more authors out there.

Some authors find fanfiction flattering, others find it copyright infringement. Famous critics are Anne Rice and George RR Martin. Whilst the former does not allow any work to be published anywhere, there are quite a few fanfics for A Song of Ice and Fire. What does he expect us all to do whilst he works on the next book?

On a completely different note. I was always there for a good crackfic. The comedic fanfics were always my favourite. It always makes me smile when I think about the time my friend Megan wrote a one page story pairing Aunt Petunia with Rick Astley. "I'll never give you up, Petunia!"

Whilst fanfiction deserves some of its bad reputation, overall it can be seen as a force for good as it encourages a love of writing. It can be seen as the birthplace of new generations of writing, whilst letting older readers laugh at the more cringeworthy works (I'm looking at you Ebony Dark'ness Dementia Raven Way).

Any other closet fanfiction readers/authors out there?

p.s. I'm still not sharing a link to any of my stuff!

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