This feels a bit presumptuous, as my first book hasn’t even hit shelves yet, but the topic of fanworks has received a lot of discussion, and it’s also a topic that’s dear to my heart—so I decided to go ahead and write this post.
Brace yourselves, folks! This is going to get long. For those of you who are impatient or just don’t care to slog through all of my babble (understandable), here’s the short version: I think fanworks are a good thing. Now here’s why.
The first reason? I wrote fanfiction.
As a child, I was writing fanfiction before I even knew there was a term for it. I wrote fanfic in my head at the age of four or five, when I was afraid of the dark and my mother suggested that I make up stories in my head to get myself to sleep’I made up stories about My Little Ponies. I wrote fanfic in a spiral notebook at the age of seven or eight, sitting on the floor of my bedroom and thinking up new adventures for Fflewddur Fflam of Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain series. I did this out of love—and because I had so completely entered the world of the books that I didn’t want to leave it.
In no way do I feel that this curbed my creativity or originality, as some artists who are opposed to fanworks believe will happen. For me, fanfiction was a form of play. It didn’t prevent me from writing my own stories, but it did allow me to hold on to characters I loved. Those characters weren’t just words to me; they were my playmates.
When I grew older, and that wondrous (and terrible) entity we know as the internet began to emerge, my playground widened. I learned the terms fanfic and fanart, and I learned that I wasn’t alone in my enjoyment of them. Which leads me to my second reason.
Fanworks foster community.
Community is vital to authors and creators, because it gets people talking about our work and our ideas. And community is important to audience as well. It connects people. I have friendships that have lasted more than a dozen years that began with a shared interest in a fictional universe.
My final reason is this: to me, fanworks are a natural impulse. They’re a response, part of a conversation. When we love a story, often its characters become people to us. Its world becomes real. We want to explore that world, to experiment with it. We might imagine other courses the story could take; we might fill in gaps, or consider different situations. That makes sense to me.
And I believe that it’s important for creators to remember: once we place our characters on a page (or a screen) and send them out into the world, we lose control over them. They’re no longer just ours. Our audience will have varied perceptions of them. Sometimes we’ll be flattered by these perceptions, and sometimes we’ll disagree with them, but they’re all valid.
Although I wouldn’t read fanfiction of my own work (for all my talk, that’s not a level of surreality I’m prepared to deal with), I’d be happy to know it’s out there. However, I know that other writers view this issue differently than I do, and I believe their wishes should absolutely be respected.
For myself? Ultimately, I still feel that fanworks are about play—and I am personally happy to share my toys.