What is ‘fan fiction’?

Discussion - fan fiction

I’ve never really read any ‘fan fiction’ – as I’d define it – until a few weeks ago I saw a Buzzfeed article recommending their top pieces of Harry Potter fan fiction. I thought I’d check one out actually quite enjoyed it!

Generally, fan fiction still has a questionable rep. Some people see it as ‘ripping off’ other people’s characters and ideas. Also, it seems to me that there’s an awful lot of bad, mad and downright weird fan fiction out there on the internet, and that to find something good you have to get lucky or follow recommendations from others. The result is that most people don’t consider fan fiction to be ‘real’ writing.

But essentially, fan fiction is taking the universe or characters that someone has created and using them to tell a new story. This got me thinking about just how many popular books that could essentially be classed as fan fiction.

For instance, sequels to a whole range of books have been taken on and written by new, different authors, from ‘Scarlett’, the follow up to Margaret Mitchell’s epic ‘Gone with the Wind’ to the recent continuation of the late Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy by David Lagercrantz. Many recent authors have also taken inspiration from secondary characters in timeless classics and given them their own imagined storyline, such as in Jo Baker’s ‘Longbourn’ (Pride and Prejudice taken below stairs) or in Gregory Maguire’s ‘Wicked’ series (looking at the other side of the wicked witch of the west).

These are just a few examples. When you start thinking about it properly you can come up with hundreds.

I think for me the main definition of ‘fan fiction’, as I understand it, is that it can be written by anyone and posted online for everyone else to read for free if they can find it. Expansions or continuations indeed are a version of fan fiction, but have been selected by publishers as an officially recognised original piece of work. However, these lines may blur as more and more people self-publish their work.

To me, it feels like books picked up by a publisher carry more weight, and that they’ve been selected because they’re the best that this genre has to offer. Plus my TBR is already longer then I can ever hope to handle, so I just don’t have time to dedicate to wading through the vast expanse of fan fiction available on the internet.

I do recognise that I might well be biased in my views though, as I haven’t had much exposure to good fan fiction. I’m more than willing to try reading more though, so if you have any suggestions, please do comment and let me know!

What does everyone think about fan fiction? Do you read it?

Getting to the bottom of fan fiction

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. Continue reading