|The Star Trek fanzine Spockanalia contained the first fan fiction in the modern sense of the term. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
I’ve been on a fan fiction kick over the past year. This is during all my free time when I’m not parenting, writing my own books, or creating columns for the lovely Girl Who Reads, you understand. However, there’s something very addictive about stories exploring known worlds and characters. There’s no tedious back-story, for one thing – we all know who Luke Skywalker is or what Hermione Granger did.
This column is to offer a guide so you can, if you wish, explore the huge universe that is fan fiction. Let’s start off with some basics:
Just be aware that most fan fiction centers around sex. A lot. There are some terms you’ll need to learn in order to avoid (or find) the types of stories you want: lemons (a rather outdated word for sexual content), slash (male-male sexual content), femslash (female-female sexual content.) Luckily, the host sites always provide ratings, so do be certain you’re checking for G (general) T (teen) or M (mature) before diving into a long story.
Quite a large percentage of fanfics are slash, so there’s that.
There are two main websites to bookmark if you’re a fanfic reader: Fanfiction.net and Archiveofourown.org. FF.net is the better known, but my favorite is AO3. Here’s why: FF is clunky. The text is plain text (and I do understand why since the site hosts millions of stories.) However, it’s the outdated FF.net search engine that made me run to AO3.
|Cover of Old Friends and New Fancies, by Sybil Brinton, considered to be the first work of Austen fan-fiction. (1913) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
AO3 offers a wonderful tags interface. For example, if you’re searching for Jane Austen all you have to do is start a search and click on a story’s tag. By tag I mean relationship (Fitzwilliam Darcy / Elizabeth Bennett) or story idea (First Kiss.) Once you’ve done that, lists of fanfics set in Austen-verse will come up based on that tag (more on this later.)
The next thing to know is there’s a lot of, well, crap out there. Some fanfic authors are writing in a second language, bless them, and others start ambitious projects only to drop them months later when real life gets in the way. Plus, some ficc’ers are so bad there is an entire site devoted to the unintentionally funny things they put in their works called wtffanfiction. Feel free to go and have a laugh, but be aware a lot of the slash shows up in that site. And as always, remember these stories were written by authors just starting out, and yes, they have feelings too.
I always try to be sensitive about that.
And now on to the fun stuff.
Let’s say you read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (I told you we’d get back to her) and you loved it. Not only that, you want to know more about those characters. You’re hardly alone in this – I see books written about every character in the Austen-verse on library shelves, aka PUBLISHED fan fiction.
Maybe you’d like to read about a first kiss between Elizabeth and Darcy, since Austen neglected to give us any physical interactions between them at all. Fear not, there are plenty of stories to fill in the gap, including this well-written piece called Hearing Light.
Or let’s say you’d like to read an alternate universe where Darcy is the woman and Elizabeth the man, or where they meet in a modern setting, or Elizabeth and Darcy work through the delicate matter of impotence. It’s all here, compiled under the couple’s tag in AO3.
When you bring up your tag you can sort it by kudos (the number of times readers have left compliments on a piece.) It’s a good idea to do so, since you can avoid most of the abandoned or sloppier writing that way. However, do read the blurb first, and avoid any that proclaim, “I suck at summaries.” Writing a blurb may be difficult or boring, but there’s no excuse for leaving out that little exercise if the writer starts with pre-existing characters and world building.
As you go through the search results you may see some crossovers pop up – stories based in Austen-verse (to continue this example) but including other pairings. Just be cautious or you could get sucked into a new universe of characters you really didn’t want to read about. I suppose I have to add Johnlock as an example here – Sherlock Holmes / John Watson seem to show up in every search on AO3. Yes, as a couple. Yes, it’s slash. Feel free to indulge or run far away, as you wish.
|Gaiman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
There are many famous authors who make a point of writing fan fiction, and here is a list of ten of them. Some extremely famous books were written as fan fics to begin with, and if you decide to mock that tradition you might have to start with Shakespeare and his plays based on Plutarch, Holinshed, and the Ur-Hamlet.
Then there’s Tom Stoppard, who wrote a play called Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead based on Hamlet.
Let’s not forget Wicked, based on the movie called The Wizard of Oz, based on the series of Oz books by Frank L. Baum, which were continued after his death by Ruth Plumly Thompson.
Let’s not forget Kindle Worlds, the sanctioned Amazon kindle store that sells fan fiction.
Mock fan fiction if you wish, but be aware the concept is hardly new. It’s been around since one bard heard another bard sing an ode and think, “Okay, that’s cool, but what if …?” And thus fan fiction was born under the weighty title of bardic tradition.
To keep with the fan fiction theme, Donna wrote a review of Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell yesterday and will give us a special treat on Friday. Fan fiction may have a bad reputation, but there are some amazing stories out there all proclaiming, “The story isn’t over ‘til we say it is.”
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