In general, I’m not a reader of fan fiction. But I am a fan of Hugh Howey, and when I saw that he was encouraging writers to set their own stories within the universes that he creates, I thought I would take the plunge and give it a go.
Howey famously became a household name after self-publishing his ‘Silo’ series and signing a unique print only deal with a publisher. Since then, he’s given his permission for indie authors and fans to write stories based in his fictional worlds, and encouraged them to sell their work on Amazon for a profit.
I recently read ‘Dunes of Danvar’, a piece of fan fiction written by indie fantasy author Michael Bunker, which is set against the backdrop of Howie’s ‘Sand’. It’s a short, three part story that introduces new characters to the mix, although it follows roughly the same timeline established by Howie.
The characters are well developed in a relatively short space of time, and because the world is already established, Bunker doesn’t have to dedicate too much time to building up the back story – he can jump right into the action. It’s this fast pace that keeps ‘Dunes of Danvar’ feeling fresh and exciting. He mixes the familiar with the new in a way that feels entirely natural and it really does help to make the fictional universe feel more real.
For fans who are too impatient to wait until Howie brings out a new novel, this is perfect. However, each of the three sections are sold separately, each priced at less than a pound. It’s not expensive by any means – but when you consider how short they are, each section takes no more than 30 minutes to an hour to read – there are plenty of other self-published books on offer at the same price point that give you much more for your money.
Fan fiction continues to grow in popularity. There are hundreds of sites and platforms out there that allow people to delve deeper into already established fictional worlds and characters, and to share their work with other fans.
Fan fiction has already proved to be a platform for indie authors to take a leap into the mainstream. E. L. James started off writing Twilight fan fiction and Cassandra Clare, author of the YA ‘Mortal Instruments’ series, once wrote stories in the world of Lord of the Rings. J. K. Rowling once considered suing a Harry Potter fan fiction author for copyright infringement, but was reportedly so impressed by the quality of the work once she was provided with a review copy that she gave it her blessing (www.elderscrossing.com – in case you’re interested!).
Already established authors have also taken a foray into the fan fiction. Iconic author Neil Gaiman having published short stories based on work such as The Chronicles of Narnia and Sherlock Holmes, and Hugh Howey himself has written work set in the world of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five.
So while ‘50 Shades’ might not be everyone’s cup of tea, it stands to reason that there’s something out there for everyone. The only question is how to filter out the good from the bad? If anyone has any good recommendations, I’d be really interested to hear them.