I read a lot. It’s one of my favorite pastimes and almost every time I tell someone I read a lot they ask me one of two questions: “What’s your favorite book?” or the dreaded “What are you reading right now?” The first question, while sometimes difficult to answer (depending on how I’m feeling that day) isn’t really the problem. It’s the second question that usually gets me.
I go through different phases of what kind of stuff I want to read. Right now, I have a list of 30 books I want to read ranging from Plato’s The Republic to Libba Bray’s Beauty Queens. But if you had asked me last month, or even last week, I would have had a very different answer.
Before compiling my epic book list I had been in my “fanfiction” phase. Now for those of you that don’t know, fanfiction is fiction written in already existing universes, like Harry Potter or The Walking Dead.
Fanfiction is one of those things that has always been incredibly underappreciated and often ridiculed. More than once I have found myself asking people not to judge me when I tell them that I’ve been reading ‘so and so’ fic instead of an actual book or had people laugh at me when I do tell them.
I’m 100 percent done apologizing.
If you’re one of those people who thinks fanfiction is somehow below or less than a published book I have one very simple question for you: Why?
Sure, I’ve read some pretty horrible fanfiction that probably shouldn’t have ever seen the light of day, but I’ve also read some pretty horrible books. Bad writing is bad writing, it doesn’t matter where you found it.
Now one of the main reasons why I love fanfiction so much (besides the fact that I’m fandom trash) is that some of the best written pieces of literature I’ve found, pieces that have profoundly changed my views about things or really made me think, have been fanfiction.
People who write fanfiction don’t get paid. They don’t have anything to gain. They’re simply sharing an idea because they love it. Some of these people work so hard and put so much time and energy to create these stories, it’s truly incredible.
Could you imagine writing 300,000 words for fun, getting nothing in return except for some reviews from strangers? For context, something is considered a novel after 40,000 words.
The other primary reason why fanfiction can be so great, and shouldn’t be devalued like it has been, is its ability to take a story anywhere. There’s no editor or publishing company trying to push their agenda, changing the sexual orientation or race of characters because it doesn’t fit their demographic. No one telling the writer that honestly talking about mental illness or sex or anything isn’t appropriate because the characters are in high school. There’s immense freedom in writing fanfiction to really make it about anything you want, without it getting scrubbed down before reaching your audience.
If you want to be a serious writer, fanfiction can be a fun thing to do in your free time, but I do think that it does usually lack a crucial part of writing, which is creating your own characters and worlds. But from the perspective of an avid reader, fanfiction has provided some of the best, and worst, adventures that I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing. Fanfiction shouldn’t be treated as a joke as often as it is.