I love fanfiction. I really do. And I think it’s important that that’s established right up front.
Fanfiction was actually the first thing I ever wrote. It was for The Mummy, you know the one starring Brendan Fraser, John Hannah, and Rachel Weisz? Seriously. That movie kinda changed my life. It got me writing, it sparked my interest in movies and film making, turned me into a mini-history geek.
But most importantly, it made me a writer, a storyteller.
I was eleven, so my fanfiction was bound to be lame. And it was. It was super lame self-insertion and all I did was retell the movie but with me as Rick O’Connell’s little sister, who had dated Henderson in the past, and wound up with Jonathan in the end. At eleven years old, I had no idea how to properly harness my imagination and use it for good storytelling.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a copy of that lameness so I can’t really say if Elizabeth O’Connell (I was in love with the name Elizabeth) was a Mary Sue or not, but given the evidence supplied by my other early fanfics, she probably was. But here’s the thing–while Mary Sues and self-inserts are often shunned and maligned by the fandoms, I don’t mind them so much. When they’re handled well. I can’t say I handled things very well fifteen years ago, but I think I’m doing better these days. I’ll probably get back to Mary Sues and self-inserts later.
Fanfiction and fanart and fansongs are all really fun ways to express your love for the subject matter and your creativity. To this day, I still write fanfic (Avengers and Star Trek and Supernatural mostly, sometimes HP). There’s just something about certain characters that makes me want to know more about them and how they would behave in certain situations. And if the original writers and author won’t tell me, I have to tell myself.
I love reading other people’s fics, too. That’s where new ideas, new headcanons, and interpretations are put into practice. Sometimes, it’s really cute and sweet, like in the Steam Powered Giraffe alternate universe of the Paradox Babies. And sometimes, it’s mind-blowing, like in McLachland’s Supernatural epic-fic, Named.
Fanworks are amazing. They’re something fans can share with each other in a mutual love of a thing. I especially love collaborative things like when the SPG fandom indulged in “A Case of Too Many Spines” and there were posts after posts after posts of people contributing new panels of art of The Spine in different art styles, universes, personalities. It was incredible to see so many people involved in something so ridiculous and wonderful. It was a way to bond over a mutual love of a single character.
Tumblr is great for sharing fanworks. Because you can start with one person’s art of, say, Sherlock Holmes as a mer-dude saving John Watson as a naval officer from drowning, and a few comments on the post later, a fic inspired by the art will appear. The opposite is also possible in which an artist will be inspired by a fic and will illustrate a scene.
I love that there are so many published authors and other successful artists and entertainers who support the existence of fanworks. It makes me so happy to know they’re flattered and pleased by their fans’ reactions to their work.
If I’m ever as successful as J.K. Rowling or Neil Gaiman, I would be thrilled if I found art or fics of my characters. I would read as much as I could and look at every art I could find because it would be awesome just to know there are people out there who love what comes from my crazy and morbid imagination, that I made someone think about my characters enough that they felt compelled to write or art.
I will lurk Tumblr and FF.net for these things, I assure you. And I will write my own fanfics of my own work and maybe even make some fanon into canon by doing so. And I will do everything in my power to encourage fanworks of Belldonna and McReady, of Cora and Dominic, of Tailor and Lark, of Elsie and Sterling. Because sharing the love is the source of my power. That, and blue Jolly Ranchers.
I won’t even care if they’re filled with Mary Sues and self-inserts, especially if they’re handled well. If the plot is good enough and the storytelling strong enough, I won’t notice the Sue-ism so much, believe me. I wrote Mary Sues; holy buckets, did I write Mary Sues. I can’t get made at other Mary Sues. We all have to start somewhere.
So I love fanworks. I want all the links. Even now, if you come across a really stellar piece of art or an awesome sadfic or whatever? Gimme that link. I might even review the fic here. Even if it’s one of your own–especially if it’s one of your own. I want.
Sharing fanwork makes me super happy.
What doesn’t make me happy about fanwork is the startling trend of publishers saying, “Yeah, we’ll publish your fanfiction. Just change the names and stuff so you don’t violate copyright.”
I mean, what is that? Who in their right mind thinks that’s okay to do?
It’s one thing to take Victorian Holmes and Watson and write a series of adventures and get them published. Most of the original stories and books are in the public domain and as long as you don’t reference anything from the last few stories, you won’t upset the Doyle estate (in England, anyway; in America, it’s fair game).
It’s one thing to write sequels or AUs of books in the public domain, books no one’s livelihood is dependent on their sales. It’s another thing entirely to write an AU of something still under copyright, the author of which still collecting royalties, and to get it published.
It’s leechy and almost reprehensible. Please don’t do it.
Don’t make money off your fanworks. But do keep producing them and continue to work on your own original work as you do–you never know what might end up being your golden goose.