Over the past few months, I’ve become a huge fan of a TV series. The season finale was broadcast a few weeks ago and I have admittedly been suffering from withdrawal. Dang it. The idea of continuing the story came naturally to me as a writer I suppose. As the idea rolled around in my head, it came to me that engaging in Fanfiction may be a way for me to keep the series alive during the off-season. I’d heard of Fanfiction but had never engaged the process. Honestly, I didn’t know very much about the process. Here is what I’ve found out:
Essentially, fanfiction is pretty much what you would imagine it to be, given the name. It is the result of the writings done by fans of a particular TV show, movie or book. Much of my research into it pointed to science fiction origins – Star Wars and Star Trek, in particular. I would just bet that it has been around a lot longer, though. Consider a Dickens fan penning another chapter or expanding a particular scene or chapter. You probably wouldn’t run across one of these because until recently, there was no mechanism to publish. Since Fanfiction is supposed to be a not-for-profit activity – and we’ll discuss the legal aspects in a moment – a turn of the 19th century fan would have no real way to move forward in their fanfiction desire. Now, it’s as easy as signing up for a free account at Smashwords or Fanfiction.net and putting it into electronic “print.”
Shaky Legal Ground
Like all of you other professional authors out there, my first concern is about the legal aspects of Fanfiction. I don’t need that kind of trouble, thank-you-very-much. The answer to the legal question of “Can I legally do this?” is a rock solid “It depends.” Some authors are happy to support Fanfiction efforts. They see Fanfiction as a great (and free) marketing tool. Other authors seem to be completely pissed off by the concept and see it as a kind of thievery. The Wikipedia page for Fanfiction contains a brief legal discussion, but I’m not certain I trust it as it appears to be a bit biased in favor of Fanfictioners. I think my advice would be to thoroughly Google the work, the author and anything else that has to do with the particular title. If it seems writer friendly, I’d say go for it. If you have the least shred of doubt, my advice would be to not do it. One of the most important things to remember is that you can’t make any money off of your little Fanfiction venture.
Whilst researching, I was surprised about the role erotica plays in Fanfiction. It seems that some folks engage in Fanfiction to move forward fantasies about specific characters (Leia and Han in hyperspace hanky-panky, anyone?).
One source indicates nearly 90% of Star Trek Fanfiction in 1973 was written by women. Really? Amazing.
The term “slash” refers to same sex pairings.
Before I take off on this little dream, I’d like to hear from anyone who has written some Fanfiction. I’m interested in your motivation, your thoughts on the legal aspects and if I’ve missed any significant aspects in this short article.