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Fan Fiction: Why it should worry you

Okay, so there was this article floating around that is frankly one of the most offensive things I’ve ever read.  It made me really angry, to see both myself and people I consider good friends put down and degraded by such a poor written and researched article.  So now I’m going to talk about some of the common myths stated in that article, then tell you the real reasons people should fear fanfiction.

Lets debunk one of the most obvious facts first:  Fan Fiction is not a new thing.  It was not invented by the internet and young teenagers who are too young to know better.  The art of playing with characters that are not yours has been around since the world started turning.  Ever hear of two poems called The Odyssey and The Iliad?  They weren’t original fiction.  They were based off what a lot of people believe to have a historic source at its core that happened hundreds of years before they were first written down, all of it oral poetry.  Even the version of the poems we have is probably not the original version, since by that point it’d had that many hundreds of years during the Greek dark ages to be embellished.

While we’re talking about Homer’s poems, let’s discuss fan fiction that has been written about them.  Let’s start with Virgil’s Aeneid, shall we?  He thought The Odyssey and The Iliad were great, but you know what?  They were Greeks.  He’s a Roman, and he’s got an emperor to please.  So why not write a story based off those poems that Romans can relate to?  After all the Greeks were pretty swell, but Rome was where it was happening now.  So he penned in some OCs that would please romans.

That’s not to mention Lord Alfred Tennyson, James Joyce, Dante, and Euripidies.  They all wrote fanfic about the Trojan War, based off those two poems.  These are men who are considered to be literature greats, and they’re writing fanfic.  That doesn’t even start on movies like O Brother, Where Art Thou, Troy, and God knows how many movie adaptations of both of the poems that are out there.  AU’s, baby.

Can we talk about how wildly popular Sherlock is for a moment?  Because that’s not original fiction either.  That’s a modern AU of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s  novels.  It’s not even the first ‘modern’ AU.  He’s been updated a few times.  Let’s face it, Sherlock Homes has so much fanfiction it’s ridiculous.  And this was all before the internet became a thing.

Oh, and let’s talk about the Victorians for a moment.  The Victorians rewrote King Arthur, Robin Hood, and many others to suit their more delicate sensibilities.  I remember going to a lecture by a Robin Hood scholar while I was in college, and she said in the 4th century, Maid Marian was no high class dame.  ’Maid’, in fact, was joking term for prostitute.  So no, not fanfic at all. We would never change the original text to support our world view.

Most popular comic book characters aren’t being written by their original authors anymore either.  Just because they’ve got the company stamp of approval, doesn’t make it any less true that new authors are playing with characters that aren’t theirs.

And really, if there’s any question at this point, just take a look at how many Star Wars novels there are.  Some people manage to get paid for their fanfiction.  So this notion that fanfiction is new and therefore not worth reading is frankly absurd.

So now that we have decided that fanfiction is not new, let’s discuss fanfiction not being valid because it’s not published.  Going back to the Greeks, Homer certainly never intended to publish his poetry.  The Greeks lost the ability to have a written language during the dark ages, and it wasn’t until the story had existed for centuries before it was finally written down.  But hey, they have an excuse of not being able to write, so let’s go to someone who can.

Emily Dickinson, as most of you should be aware, is a very famous American poet.  She only published seven of her poems in her life time.  Seven out well over a thousand poems that she didn’t want people to read.  Does that make all of her other poems invalid?  Hey, she was just writing for herself, so obviously they can’t be great works of literature.  She wasn’t writing to get paid after all.

That’s not even to mention Thoreau, Kefka, and others who only became famous and popular after their deaths. Oh, and let’s not forget that Vincent Van Gogh hardly ever sold his paintings.  No one would take them.

So let’s all write and make art for money.  Because obviously, that’s the only reason to write and draw.  It’s the only way for our works to become valid, so that we don’t end up like any of those poor fools who believed that the act of writing or making art was worth doing in and of itself.

Finally, let’s talk about the sex all we evil women are writing.  Obviously, we are to blame for it, not the teenagers or young writers who stumble across it for the first time because their parents decide it’s okay to leave them in front of a computer for hours at a time without supervision since actual parenting is too hard for them.  As Cy mentioned, I’d much rather have them stumble upon some safe, consensual sex in fic than hurt themselves or their partner by not knowing or thinking pressuring someone to have sex is actual consent.  Even writers who write those sex scenes that they don’t label as dubious consent or non-consensual will have someone (hopefully kindly) telling them that it’s not okay and to please use proper warnings.  They may not see it in their fic then, but they’ll eventually start to learn the difference if enough people point it out to them.

It’s certainly a new thing too.  I must have been dreaming all those dirty sex jokes in Aristophanes, Shakespeare, and the like.  I haven’t burst out in hysterical giggles while teaching Macbeth to teenagers when the doorman made dick jokes that none of them understood.

But hey, it’s not like porno graphic sex was ever written.  The Earl of Rochester didn’t write graphic poems about it.  I certainly don’t remember reading a poem written by a vicar in the 17th century about his penis turning into a vine and descriptively raping a girl before he woke up and found out it was a wet dream.  Hell, the 1600’s in general must not exist in history, because there was tons of sex and violence in the literature there.

Yet here we women are writing porn and ruining all of literature.

Now that we’ve gotten those points out of the way, I should tell you why people should fear fanfiction.  People should fear fanfiction because we are re-creating stories with things that we want to read, not with what people tell us we should be reading.  People should fear fanfiction because we can write characters of color, different religions, or of different sexual orientations, not just the straight, heterosexual white males that the public tells us are interesting.  People should fear fanfiction because we are critiquing the world around us, the canon that inspires us, and creating our own communities that can be positive places for everyone to grow and develop.

People should fear fanfiction because we’re creating our own world, and not you nor anyone else can tell us what to think, how to write, or what to do in it.

So keep writing fanfiction and creating fan art.  Write things that you want to read.  Draw things you want to see.  It doesn’t matter if it’s published, or if you post it online, or if you keep it hidden under your bed.  What matters is that you created something.  You thought for yourself and created something personal and beautiful.  It may not be a work of art, and it may have so many flaws that everyone else considers it terrible, but you’ve already taken the first step to getting better by creating it in the first place.  We only get better through practice after all, and you’ve already put in some time.  Think of how much better your writing will be in a year if you keep at it, or how much better your art will be in a month if you practice.  And you’ve already had the courage to start.

Keep creating, because it’s through creating that we bring about change.  It’s through persistence that we convince people that we are worth paying attention to, no matter what color, gender, religion, or sexuality we have.  And maybe it won’t happen in our life time, or in 100 years time or even in 1,000 years, but that doesn’t mean we should give up without a fight.

Keep going, because art is something we do for ourselves, not because other people tell us too.  It’s not shameful to make money off of art.  By all means, do so!  But neither is it shameful to write for fun and never be published.  The reasons why you create art doesn’t matter, as much as the fact that you created something.  And that something may only be a stepping stone at the start of your journey to greatness, but it’s still a meaningful step to take.

And that, my friends, is something to be proud of.