Fan fiction has been around for decades, but the works are slowly integrating into mainstream media. The name is fairly self-explanatory, encompassing works created by fans of a television show, book series, film or even real celebrities.
The Fifty Shades of Grey series, by E.L. James, was originally based on the Twilight Saga by Stephanie Meyer. The most recent adaption of fan fiction onto the big screen was After by Anna Todd, with One Direction’s Harry Styles as the male love interest, before his name was changed to Hardin. The Netflix film The Kissing Booth was also originally uploaded on the popular fan fiction and amateur author website, Wattpad.
You may have some set-in-stone opinions about these series; it is very easy to completely disregard all fan fiction works. However, it can be argued that there are many positives to the development of these fan-based communities:
Fan fiction explores concepts, genres and ideas that you wouldn’t usually find in mainstream Western writing. Fantasy elements are especially common, allowing for the progression of ideas where they might be blocked off in traditional novels.
Have you ever felt like a story skirted around an issue that you felt could have been explored more thoroughly? Have you ever tried to find a specific plot or niche genre within traditional media and come up blank?
Fan fiction allows the creation of niche genres and ideas that wouldn’t be widely sellable within mainstream media. While this can include sexual concepts that aren’t vanilla enough for mainstream publishing, it also creates space for the exploration of other concepts that publishers may not deem highly sellable. Writers may delve further into the horror elements of supernatural stories, look deeper into mental health issues or explore the discovery of a character’s sexuality, which a typical YA book wouldn’t do.
The element that drew a lot of readers into Fifty Shades of Grey was the exploration of BDSM. While many who actually partake in the BDSM community criticise the series – they claim it’s a bad example of how dominants should behave – it still allowed a lot of readers to discover a new part of their sexuality.
Both creators and readers are given the freedom to explore niche kinks and sexual preferences in fan fiction. Readers are also able to very specifically narrow down exactly what they’re looking for, without having to feel uncomfortable with reading other sexual concepts that they aren’t interested in. Basically any sexual interest can be found using tags, similar what is used on any other social media website.
Even if you aren’t personally interested in a certain kink or erotic theme, fan fictions often provide a much more realistic portrayal of certain preferences than pornography or even articles in the media. If you’ve ever felt looked down upon for a certain sexual interest, it may be beneficial to explore that within a fan fiction community. These communities often establish healthy portrayals of these tabooed concepts.
For every Fifty Shades of Grey tagged under “BDSM” on a fan fiction website, there will be hundreds of stories that give a more accurate and healthy portrayal of a dom/sub relationship. Warnings are also provided if there is an unhealthy element to the fic, so you know exactly what you’re getting into before you start. This isn’t purely sexual either, there are also warnings about things like major character deaths, in case you don’t want read about your fave dying. Or maybe you do, it’s all up to you.
The fictional publishing industry is filled with politics. It is extremely difficult for new writers to get their foot in the door. Fan fiction websites, such as Wattpad and Archive of Our Own (also known as AO3), give writers the opportunity to get their work seen by real people. Just like putting any other sort of creative art onto the internet, publishing fan fiction allows writers to receive real feedback about their work from people just like them. If you scroll down to the bottom of any fan fiction, you will see a wealth of positive and uplifting messages for the writers. Having these sort of communities spurs on young talent that may have otherwise been deterred from continuing to write. Similarly, creators are given the chance to write and do something creative just for themselves. It is rare to find a fan fiction writer looking to be the next E.L. James; most just want to share their ideas and works. It’s a hobby for most, just like any other.
So why shouldn’t we disregard fan fiction?
With all the elements mentioned above coming together, fan fiction is truly becoming something great. Talented writers are given a positive space to explore their niche interests and ideas, creating a wealth of increasingly brilliant writing for others to read. It’s a win-win. Readers are provided with new, innovative concepts and spins on the stories and characters they already know and love, while writers are provided with communities that encourage them to build on their creativity. It creates a safe environment for people to explore their interests, sexual or otherwise.
Hopefully, the adaptations that are trickling into the mainstream media are only the start, because there a thousands of writers currently using fan fiction as a means to create truly fantastic pieces of writing. We just have to give them a chance.