I was first introduced to fan fiction about 12 years ago when a student I had talked about the stories he would write. I didn’t hear too much about it until recently on Twitter where there is a huge presence that often bleeds over to YA discussions. I am completely out of my element when it comes to fan fiction, so I contacted Jeanne, a new friend I’ve made on Twitter. She’s an expert on the topic.
Jeanne, I have to admit I am so uninformed when it comes to fan fiction. What exactly is it? Do you have any idea how popular it is with American Indian teens and teens of color?
The simplest way to put it is, fan fiction is a form of derivative literature that explicitly borrows elements (characters, settings, plot points, etc.) from a piece of media created by someone else. It comes in a variety of formats, genres, and styles. But at it’s heart fan fiction is a reaction to media. Where fans, or sometimes non-fans, take control of a piece of media and transform it into something new, something their own. While derivative works are nothing new in media, see James Joyce’s Ulysses or even Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, fan fiction exists outside the boundaries of any industry. It is a subversive form of literature. Anyone can write or read it. There are no real gatekeepers, beside an internet connection and computer skills. But even before the advent of the internet fan fiction lived in fanzines, or in the hearts and notebooks of fans.
I haven’t found any real comprehensive surveys or studies of fan fiction. But anecdotally, people of color have always been active in fandom. Anecdotally, I can say that people of color have always been a part of fandoms and fan fiction dating back to the fanzine days. Fan spaces, much like any other community in real life, are restricted by economics, language and cultural understanding. Though it’s important to know that western countries, like the US and the UK, are not the only places where fandoms and fan fiction exist. For example: Otaku is a Japanese term for people with obsessive interests, commonly used for the anime and manga fandoms. It’s been in us since the early 1980s.
How is fan fiction changing young adult literature?
Well the most immediate example of this impact is how many young adult authors got their start writing fan fiction. Some of the most notable are Meg Cabot, Cassandra Clare, and Rainbow Rowell. In fact, Rowell’s Carry On is a fan fiction based on a fictional book series she introduced in her book Fangirl. With the availability of the internet to YA authors and readers are able to access fan fiction. But even more interesting is how fandoms, fan culture, has become a huge part of modern youth culture.
The vlogbrother youtube channel, started by YA author John Green and his brother Hank, gain it’s huge following in part because of a video Hank did singing about his anticipation for that last Harry Potter novel, called Accio Deathly Hallows. The Green brothers, and their fan following known as Nerdfighters maintain strong ties to fandom and fan works. John even encourages fan artist to create works based on his novels, and has even produced posters of that art, allowing his fans to profit from their fan creations.
Fan culture, and fan fiction by it’s association, is quickly becoming part of mainstream culture. It’s access point being via the publishing industry (Carry On and even Fifty Shades of Grey) and youth culture’s dominance over media and enthusiastic embrace of fandom.
Are there any maginalized authors who began in fan fiction?
Off the top of my head, the only published author of color I know who wrote fan fiction is Rebekah Weatherspoon.
Where should I go to read fan fiction? Or better yet, what sites are most popular with young adults?
Two of the most well known sites are FanFiction.Net and An Archive of Our Own, also known as AO3. But fan fiction isn’t restricted to these sites. Wattpad has hosted fan fiction since it’s inception. Tumblr is quickly becoming a popular place to post and discuss fan fiction. There are also countless websites for individual fandoms, as well as personal sites fan fiction writers.
Jeanne is a stay-at-home parent, writer, and blogger. She critiques media as @FangirlJeanne, and spends too much time on Twitter and Tumblr when she should be writing.