So, I grew up before the internet was really much of a ‘thing’, and was subsequently introduced to the idea of fanfiction quite late. My reaction was, at first, one of complete horror.
“Plagiarism!” I cried, and had I been wearing pearls I would have clutched at them. “How could anyone be so lazy as to steal someone else’s characters or world-building? Plagiarism, I say!”
I had never done anything so scandalous, after all. I’d only ever used characters of my own invention in my stories… even if they were horribly derivative of the things I’d read. (Thinking back now, my first attempt at a novel was basically The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe with some different window-dressing – but at least I tried, dammit! That was the main thing! …Right?)
This was my stance for many years, thinking that I was superior in every way to these talentless hacks who wrote mere fanfiction. I never read any of their work or even entertained the notion that it could be any good. To me, it was all as easily dismissible as an ad at the beginning of the Youtube video. I would only read and write proper things.
Perhaps worst of all was my hope that no-one would ever write fanfic about my own darling characters. How dare they? Blasphemy!
Unfortunately, as life has a habit of doing when one thinks so sanctimoniously, I was soon to be put firmly upon my ass.
By this woman!
Jill Bearup (sometimes known as Sursum Ursa) who has the most gorgeous hair ever, and she’s just adorable with her accent and her nerdiness and her focus on positive things instead of negative and sometimes a kitty cat! I recommend watching all of her videos. Right now.
In her vlog, Fanfic, and why I’ll never read an Anne Rice book, she details exactly why fanfic can be used as a force for good. Not evil. To sum up, it is a perfect means for new writers to gain experience in their craft and also get much-needed feedback from their peers. My eyes were opened. “What’s so wrong with that…?” I thought. Some people might lack the confidence to create their own story straight off the bat. Why not let them practice with other people’s characters first?
Sure it might be smutty and terrible, but it’s how we can learn to not be smutty and terrible!
Furthermore, fanfiction can grow up. It can become fascinating character studies and even adaptations. Most of the movies I like are adapted from someone else’s work, and what is an adaption, really, but a form of fanfiction?
Really, the error of my ways was all around me. The more I thought about it, the more I found it to be so, but it didn’t end there. Swooping down upon me like a harpy in the night was… *cringe* …the realization that I had been a gigantic flaming hypocrite the entire time.
What had I spent half of my life doing before writing? Why, drawing, of course. And did I draw my own characters? No. No, I sadly did not. I spent my youth drawing characters from Sailor Moon, Pokémon and Dragon Ball Z… Yes.
I once made fanart!
(Not this, though. This is just a glorious example.)
All characters that had been created by other people and I’d just drawn them without a second thought, never even considering that it was wrong because I sincerely loved those franchises and they had inspired me to create.
Finally, came the most damning realization of them all. I had been totally wrong to hope no-one would ever make fanfic about my own characters. I was wrong because fanfic and fanart do not diminish or taint the original work, no matter how terrible they are. Great work will always be great and crap can only ever get better, really.
More than that, though, is what it would truly mean to have fanfic and/or fanart made from my work. It would mean that I actually had fans.
Those people that admire you.
Far from being offended, I should feel honoured to have fans, and doubly honoured that I might inspire them to create something. Anything!
I can’t actually think of a more meaningful thing to do with my life, to be honest.