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Written By: Abeer Khan
Fandom culture has arguably become the greatest influence to social media. From “stan” accounts, update accounts and entire profiles dedicated to a certain niche — fans of various people, places, and things have made their presence known on Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and other social media platforms.
Fandom is derived from the passion and love individuals may feel for certain things. Whether it be a band, a television show or movie, a book series, or an anime. Fandoms are present everywhere on the internet and individuals are able to share their excitement for beloved characters, engage in debates regarding themes relevant to their interests, whilst discussing plots and exploring alternate endings to the stories they adore. A fandom represents the followers and enthusiasts of art — from musicians to actors to stories. It ranges between genres and knows no borders. It truly allows individuals to exhibit passion and love for their interests; and one of the greatest ways fans have expressed their dedication to who and what they love has always been through their art, particularly in writing.
Thus, the birth and practice of a long-ridiculed literary genre — Fanfiction. This genre is often seen as a genre for the “immature” or “unoriginal”, but that is simply not the case.
Fanfiction is the original literary work based on the characters from famous fiction or real life, set in either an alternate universe or within the original setting itself. It is essential to understand that although writers take inspiration from what they already know and love — the basis for their stories remains original. Fanfiction allows its writers to indulge in the universe they truly love while giving other fans the ability to read new works about the characters and individuals they admire in a different environment.
Due to the high sophistication of the written work along with the heavily enthusiastic response that it grasps, there is no doubt that fanfiction should be considered a literary genre of high legitimacy. Too often are fanfiction writers ridiculed for exhibiting their passion for their fandom through writing. Critics express their dissatisfaction for the writer’s use of “unoriginal characters”, when in reality, these writers are exhibiting the height of said originality, when constructing an entirely different universe or plot around the people and characters they’ve only seen in a certain light.
Writers share their works on platforms like Wattpad and LiveJournal as well as independent sites created just for fanfiction like Archive of Our Own or Fanfiction.net. Works range from Harry Potter to Naruto and also revolving around actors and singers like, of course, One Direction. Platforms like these allow fanfiction writers to thrive while allowing readers to indulge in their favourite characters while they go on new adventures.
Often times, the power of these works is underestimated greatly. As a large number of readers fall under a teenage demographic, their enthusiasm is brushed off as excessive and childish. In reality, works like that of Dorkorificand LadyJaida’s Harry Potter Fanfiction “The Shoe Box” totals to about 231–325 pages, which is greater than the count of JK Rowling’s “Prisoner of Azkaban” alone. Writers work tirelessly to create these beautiful works for not only their readers, but also themselves. They take it upon themselves to create something they feel all fans will enjoy — and that is admirable.
The popularity of fanfiction is beyond comprehensible as well. When Archive of Our Own user dolce_piccante wrote the One Direction Fanfiction “Escapade”, it received a downpour of love. With 601,112 hits on the site, it has become the greatest viewed work in its tag. It’s popularity soared so great, that people started to become fans of the fictional character arcs she used for the members of One Direction, to the point where Twitter and Tumblr accounts were dedicated to the character tropes alone.
However, as stated earlier fanfiction has never gotten the recognition it has truly deserved. The wide investment and mainstream attraction towards works that often romanticize abuse like Anna Todd’s “After” or stories that are so cheesy that the plot becomes non-existent like that of “Fifty Shades of Grey” by E. L James, which was originally a Twilight fanfiction, have instead taken the spotlight away from works of great structure.
It is essential to understand that Fanfiction is also a means of harm when written with toxic intent. There is a fine line between appreciating someone as an individual within a work and exploiting them for one’s personal gain. This is something many writers fail to understand. Written work is written forever, especially on the internet, and has the ability to spread like wildfire. So when something is written that forces relationships, manipulates real individuals into being virulent, or is passive towards offensive behaviour, it quickly becomes harmful. This is especially relevant to sites like Wattpad, where young readers make up most of their readership, yet are exposed to themes of abuse, body image, and bullying through their unhealthy romanticization.
Fanfiction is meant to be a written ballad to a positive influence in one’s life. So, to then portray said influence in a negative light negates the purpose of Fanfiction altogether. It is the height of ignorance to assume that the subject of one’s work will not read works about them as the internet allows for endless possibilities. Responsible written work must also be stressed along with the appreciation of Fanfiction because the minute a work becomes damaging, it ruins the reputation of an entire genre.
Fanfiction is meant to be a form of art with complex themes, lovable characters, and well-developed plotlines. It is not something only enjoyable for teenage girls or immature fans, but instead a literary genre consisting of meaningful written work by writers who, time and time again, remain unappreciated. In the primal era of globalization, there is no doubt that fanfiction will not only become more accessible, but far more popular, and we all should be here for it. It is time for this hidden art to embrace its true glory. It’s time it is given the recognition it deserves.
Editor: Ammaarah Mookadam