I am new to the world of fanfiction, sort of. I’m not foreign to the concept. Even before the internet existed, I daydreamed of alternate or extended stories around my favorite books, shows and characters. I may have even occasionally written them down. But, I’ve never delved into the current (apparently enormous) fanfiction world.
However, I just finished reading Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. (Hats off to Rainbow Rowell for embracing the concept of fanfiction. Not all successful authors do, apparently. Some even get nasty about it.)
Not only did Rainbow Rowell embrace fanfiction, she celebrates it in Fangirl. I was a big “fan” of this book and it made me think more about fanfiction. Something I’d never really thought about before. And it prompted me to start scouring the internet to find out more about this crazy world.
Here’s what I found.
What is fanfiction?
First, what exactly is fanfiction (or fanfic)? For those who might not know about this at all, it’s pretty simple. Fanfiction is any kind of work that is inspired by books, films, TV shows, music, and celebrities. It’s created and published by fans of the original work. It can take all kinds of forms – art, comics, stories, although stories tend to be the most prominent.
Fanfic is crazy popular.
Reading Fangirl made me realize that there is a whole world of writing out there I haven’t experienced. It also made me think that if there is a book where the protagonist is a fanfiction writer, this isn’t just some niche group of book and TV zealots obsessing (which I totally get), it’s something more.
Fanfiction makes up 33% of all content about books on the web.
Granted, I have heard of fanfiction. I know it exists. It wasn’t as if I’d lived under a writing rock. My issue is more that I didn’t appreciate the breadth, depth, diversity and popularity of it. I dismissed it as maybe even not real writing. I now see, thanks to Rowell and my research, that was a big misjudgment on my part.
You may have read fanfic and not realized it.
Even if you’ve never heard of fanfic, which is probably unlikely, or are just vaguely familiar with the concept, you might have read it and not realized. Although there are copyright issues, and fanfic writers and sites need to be careful, peppering disclaimers everywhere helps, some fanfic has made it to the mainstream.
Ever read Pride and Prejudice Zombies? (copyright on Austen works is long gone so they are up for grabs.)
Or Fifty Shades of Grey? (It started out as fanfic for Twilight.)
If you’ve read either of these books, you’ve read fanfiction.
Some books and shows and people dominate fanfic.
Can you guess which books or shows are the most popular when it comes to fanfic? You probably can. Star Wars, Harry Potter, Star Trek are some of the biggies. This isn’t surprising. They’re hugely popular and have a rich tapestry of characters and stories that lend well to tangents.
There are even fanfics about real people, usually musicians and celebrities. Harry Styles, also not surprisingly, is the centerpiece of many a fanfiction story.
Fanfiction permeates every aspect of pop culture and somehow I’ve never really “gotten” it. I feel a little like I’ve been sitting next to a giant elephant for the last decade. I knew it was there. But, I’m only now noticing how big and interesting it is.
Where would a newbie read fanfic?
Now that I’ve come to appreciate said giant elephant, it can be a little overwhelming to be in a room with it. OK, enough with the elephant metaphor. Essentially, there is so much fanfiction out there, if you’re a newbie like me, where do you start?
I wanted to figure out which fanfic sites might be best for a newbie to fanfic like me. I found the following 5, which seemed to be popular and have a wide variety of fanfic topic options.
This seems to be the premier fanfic site, from what I can tell. Although, clearly, I’m hardly an expert. Based on what I’ve read, FanFiction.net is considered to be worlds largest fanfiction archive. Launched in October 1998, it has currently well over 2 million users, and hosts stories in over 30 languages. It has so many categories of fanfiction it’s impossible to count them. For a newbie, this may seem overwhelming. But, having so many categories can also be helpful in that it can help narrow down a starting point.
Kindle Worlds is part of Amazon and it’s apparently a little different than most other fanfic sites. All fanfics offered via the service are creations of specific licensed media properties, thus negating issues with copyright. But the biggest differences is that fanfic authors can earn money on what they wrote. Their works are fully-fledged ebooks, and are sold in the Kindle Store, just like any other Kindle title.
Even I have heard of Wattpad. But that might be because it isn’t just a fanfiction site. It’s an “online storytelling community where users post written works such as articles, stories, fan fiction, and poems.” So, it’s not just fanfiction, but fanfiction makes up a large portion of the content on the site. It also has a wide variety of topics to get a newbie started.
Tumblr I know. I like Tumblr, a lot. (Sorry WordPress, I like you too. I can like more than one blogging community, right?) However, I’ve never delved into the fanfic portion of Tumblr.
Tumblr + fanfiction or fanfic hashtags get you great fanfic stories. Some of the stories can be found on other fanfic sites, but not all. Some users publish their stories exclusively on Tumblr, and you won’t find their works anywhere else.
I like this approach because if you find fanfic you like, you can just follow a certain tag and get updates.
Also known as AO3 for short, Archive of Our Own is a non-profit website dedicated to fanfiction, founded and operated by the Organization for Transformative Works. It was created by fans of fanfiction. The reason why AO3 is so popular is that it displays no ads, which is a very appealing concept for readers. AO3 has a large assortment of categories, and the most popular are Harry Potter and One Direction. It also includes many different formats, including writings, graphic art, videos, and podcasts.
Anyone know other fanfic sites that are good for fanfic reading beginners?
May 25, 2017 at 9:53 am
Fanfic is my guilty pleasure, who would have thought it was 33%?
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May 25, 2017 at 10:07 am
Since it’s 33%, maybe you should take “guilty” out of the equation. 🙂 You’re hardly alone in loving it!
May 25, 2017 at 5:32 pm
I’ve always loved Fanfiction. I don’t write it anymore, but I still read it. It’s just nice to see new alternatives to characters I love. And wasn’t Fangirl good?
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May 25, 2017 at 5:59 pm
Yes. I really liked it. I was surprised how much I liked it. I hadn’t read any other books by Rainbow Rowell before. I definitely want to read more now.
May 26, 2017 at 7:22 pm
I have a friend who writes fanfiction! Most of my experience with it has been through her work and fanfiction.net