Weighing in on the Great Fan Fiction Debate

By Jessica Demarest


At this point, whether you participate in the creation or consumption of fan fiction or not, you probably know what it is. And as a super cool book nerd with your finger on the industry’s pulse, you’re probably also aware of some of the contention concerning fan fiction in the publishing industry. Is it considered “real writing” if you’re simply taking someone else’s characters and world and bending them to your will?


Honestly, it depends on who you ask. For years, people in the traditional publishing industry have looked down on things like fan fiction and other forms of fan art. In many ways, the fan fiction plight closely parallels that of self-publishing. There’s a stigma that basically says, if you didn’t get a big fancy book deal from a big fancy publishing house, you can’t call yourself a real author. As the world’s perspective of self-publishing shifts, it will be interesting to see whether fan fiction is met with wider acceptance as well.


After all, many writers are quick to point out the many benefits to writing fan fiction. It can be a great way to get young writers interested in the craft and has helped several authors reach big-time fame. E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey, a bestselling novel that got its start as Twilight fan fiction, is among the latest of these success stories. Even well-established writers like Neil Gaiman and Meg Cabot have been known to write fan fiction from time to time.


Besides, haven’t you ever read a story and wondered, but what happens next? Or but what if __________ happened? Fan fiction allows readers to delve further into their favorite universes, playing with characters and exploring new plotlines. The story really doesn’t have to end until you want to.


And if you think about it, that’s not so bad for the big publishers either. Fan fiction can keep a story going for years, which allows the original story to get wider exposure. If your friends were always talking about that awesome Harry Potter fan fic they just read and you’d never even picked up Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, wouldn’t their endless chatter encourage you to give it a go? Fan fiction keeps the hype alive, and as long as its writers aren’t trying to steal credit or make money off of their work, the medium really does benefit traditional authors and their publishers.


As it stands now, fan fiction definitely isn’t the most valued form of writing among many professionals, but that doesn’t mean we should discredit its merits. Writing is writing, isn’t it? Sure, there might be some really lousy fan fiction out there, but there’s lousy writing in any genre, whether its fan-based or not. Does one bad egg spoil the whole dozen? Tell us what you think in the comments below!