Fanfiction: The Value of Derivative Works

Most skiffy authors active today started writing with fanfiction. No matter how creative we think we are, we all need some inspiration to get ourselves going, and when you’re writing in a genre, that inspiration almost always comes from the genre you’re writing.

And yet, people treat fanfiction as a bad word. Part of this is that, as Lee Blauersouth said at “Evolution of Fanfiction” at CONvergence last month, “Fanfic is something that 13 year old girls do, and if there’s anything society loves more than hating on 13 year old girls, I’ve yet to find it.”

Which in itself actually makes fanfic a metagenre worth studying – fanfic is a form of young adult literature written by young adults, for young adults – and usually about young adults.

So what all that means for most of us is that we are going to be writing a lot of fanfiction while we develop as authors (I wrote Sailor Moon, Star Trek, Star Wars, Dragon Age, and Gundam fanfic along my developmental path as an author, along with a handful of others), and as a way of experimenting with our story techniques as authors, whether we publish those stories or not. I have a number of Pathfinder fanfics that have served as useful practice for writing fantasy.

So, as writers (and as literary theorists!) we should celebrate fanfic – fanfic is where we go to practice our art form before we unleash it on an unwitting world.

Mwa ha ha.

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