Fan fiction has become a true phenomenon. Websites such as fanfiction.net and Archive of Our Own boast millions of self-published stories, written by fans and set in the fictional worlds of book series such as Harry Potter and Twilight and TV series such as Star Trek, Supernatural, Teen Wolf, and many others, with more added every day.
As Anne Jamison points out in her 2013 history Fic, some of the first modern fan fiction appeared in Star Trek fanzines in the early 1970s, continuing the adventures after the original series’ cancelation. These stories were written (and often self-published) by and for fans. Then, as now, fanfic often ventured into territory that the established canon didn’t explore—expanding on minor characters, addressing plot holes, and including LGBT themes. It also notoriously delves into erotica; one Twilight fanfic was later expanded, reworked and self-published as Fifty Shades of Grey.
E.L. James isn’t the only famous author to have fanfic connections: Cassandra Clare of the bestselling YA series The Mortal Instruments previously wrote Harry Potter fan fiction, for example, and S.E. Hinton, the iconic writer of The Outsiders (1965), has written Supernatural fanfics.
At least one major publishing player has taken note of fanfic’s possibilities. Last year, Amazon.com launched Kindle Worlds, in which authors can sell works set in The Vampire Diaries and Pretty Little Liars universes, among others, through a licensing arrangement.
There’s no doubt that the popularity of fan fiction is growing, and many more new writers will come from the vibrant fan fiction community. And its DIY ethic may attract those who might later go the self-publishing route. —D.R.
David Rapp is an Indie editor at Kirkus Reviews.
Photo above right is of Cassandra Clare.