Student | Mercedes-Georgia Mayes
Fanfiction.net is one of many websites used for the dissemination of fan-created fiction, alongside Archive of Our Own and Whattpad, and boasts fiction based on almost 2,500 pre-existing works in the ‘Books’ category alone. Within this, each franchise has anywhere between 1 and 800,000 stories attributed to it of varying length. Such dedication is impressive in itself, but it is the space these stories provide for diverse creators and characters which truly sets it apart from published fiction.
Unlike the published world, the realm of fanfiction is dominated by diverse content creators, with the majority of contributors being female. Online platforms are also used by queer content creators and ethnic minorities who use this space to balance their under-representation in media. In this sense, the creators are just as important as the content they disperse: they present a refreshing contrast to the white male dominated world of the highest positions in publishing. Though attitudes are changing and previously repressed writers no longer face quite the same barriers to getting published, it is still powerful to see a collection of works by writers who previously would have faced more challenges to share their work.
As well as this, fan-fiction offers interesting opportunities for writers to experiment with their writing. Here, they don’t have to focus on every aspect of storytelling at once. Instead, they can develop their ability to create a compelling narrative, experiment with different genres, or play with writing in a different style, without the pressure of worrying about extensive world-building or character creation. It is a fun and easy way to practice writing and receive constructive feedback through interactions with readers, as well as boosting confidence through systems of likes and follows. Who knows? It may just be that the greatest writers of the next generations start out by writing Sherlock and Doctor Who fan-fiction.
As well as this, the content this diverse cast of writers creates allows for much more realistic representation within works of fiction. In particular, the insertion of ‘own characters’ of certain races or sexualities that are oftentimes scarce within media, or interaction with ‘genderswap’ which place females in traditionally male roles and vice versa. All these changes being applied to existing works of popular fiction help to reflect the diversity of the modern world as well as offering insightful critiques as to what is lacking in modern literature.
Unfortunately, the potential for fanfiction as a place for young, LGBT and minority writers to express what they wish to see in fiction is still largely overlooked or criticised. This is both due to the stigma surrounding some of the more sedentary works of fiction that are posted and the obvious contention of some authors to their intellectual property being used by others, even if not for profit. Nonetheless, for those who have realised the potential, this world is endlessly inclusive and a firm foundation for greater works of minority fiction to establish themselves in the future.