In Defense of Fanfiction

. . . and other frowned upon writing mediums.

I know several authors who sneer at the idea of fanfiction—not only the writing of it, but the reading of it. A few years ago in TIME magazine, Lev Grossman defined it by saying:

“Fan fiction is what literature might look like if it were reinvented from scratch after a nuclear apocalypse by a band of brilliant pop-culture junkies trapped in a sealed bunker. They don’t do it for money. That’s not what it’s about. The writers write it and put it up online just for the satisfaction. They’re fans, but they’re not silent, couch-bound consumers of media. The culture talks to them, and they talk back to the culture in its own language.”


When Rainbow Rowell wrote her awesome book Fangirl, it suddenly became okay again for writers—even those functioning within professional spheres—to admit they had at some point or another written or enjoyed reading fanfiction. Of course, in Rowell’s book, the main character Cath (an avid and beloved fanfic writer) learns to find her own voice instead of relying on the Simon Snow (aka Faux-Harry Potter) universe.

I think if an aspiring writer is trying to get published, he or she has to let go of fanfiction in a large way if they want to find truth and heart in their own writing, but that’s not really what I’m talking about in this blog post. I want to bring up the argument that it’s okay to write for no other reason than sheer enjoyment. Professionally speaking, to a would-be author, fanfiction represents nothing more than a big, fat waste of time. Nobody’s going to publish fanfiction and you won’t make any money (or if you do, you’ll probably get sued for it), but . . . but.

Don’t toss it aside if you really like it.

On my desk is one of those WD-40 cans, reminding me (on the advice of George Singleton), that if I don’t write daily, I will get rusty. But writing a good, solid novel is hard work, and sometimes you just want to have fun.

Fanfiction, for me, is fun. So is narrative roleplaying (does anyone have any idea what I’m talking about with this?). Goofy letters to your family, maybe. Dungeons and Dragons! That’s storytelling, for sure.

I think there is a stigma that if you’re a professional, you set aside cheap forms of writing and you set aside cheap forms of literature, and only allow the greats into your life. I’m not saying you should turn your back on fine writing, that you shouldn’t try to absorb via osmosis the great talent and truth that has come to us in novel form, or that you should give up on laboring, sweating, rewriting, and crying with the effort of writing something truly beautiful. Keep doing those things.

But in the meantime, make sure you still like to write and that you still like to read, and that might mean writing fanfiction or roleplaying, and it might mean cruising through a bestselling paperback you’d be otherwise ashamed at enjoying. Do the things that makes stories fun for you, and it will help sustain you when you need to muscle through the difficult parts of this business that maybe aren’t so fun.

4 thoughts on “In Defense of Fanfiction

  1. That is really attention-grabbing, You’re a very skilled blogger.
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  2. Totally agree with you on this. It can get downright difficult to keep plowing through your original stuff without taking the occasional break. I’ve never liked how it’s such a taboo topic though. I’ve been turned off by collaborative writing sites because the very mention of fanfiction is so polarizing. It creates an atmosphere that feels terribly stifling to me.

    On a side note, I’ve had Fangirl on my to-be-read list for far too long.

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