My road to publication started off as a hobby. I wrote children's stories during my college days, but it wasn't until 2002 that the writing bug got me. I bought Sherrilyn Kenyon's Fantasy Lover and was captivated by the amazing Dark-Hunter world Sherri had created. One night, I visited her website and was immediately curious about her chatroom. Once inside, two very special people (Mama Lo and Mo) drew me into Dark-Hunter role play and writing fan fiction.
Fan fiction, or fanfic, is stories written by fans of the original work, using the characters, settings, and/or worlds of the original creator. These fans can't get enough of their fixes, so they write about them. They extend the life of their favorite books, movies, and TV shows with their stories, and some even incorporate two or more different world canons. Haven't you ever wondered what would happen if Sam and Dean Winchester entered the world of Robert Kirkman's Walking Dead?
The practice of writing fan fiction has been popular since the mid-1960s, when SF fans couldn't get enough of their favorites. Certain fandoms have developed fiction categories such as alternative universe (AU) and uberfic. Uberfic takes the underlying essential character relations, themes, and/or motif of a fandom universe and transposes them onto original characters. This has a strong appeal to the fandom community, and to readers approaching it purely as original fiction. Some fans have even taken it a step further in a subgenre of fanfic called slash (characters paired off in m/m or f/f relationships) that started decades ago with Star Trek and revived during the 1990s with Xena: Warrior Princess.
Fanfic has always stirred up a lot of controversy. Some authors/creators support the hobby like Stephanie Bond does with her bodymoversfanfiction.com site, or at least tolerate the writing. The writers of Supernatural have written a few episodes which refer to the Supernatural fan fiction. The publisher of the Star Trek print novels has farmed the fanfic world. And there have been contests for fan written stories featuring Lora Croft.
But others, including Anne Rice, vehemently oppose fan fiction and sometimes ask stories based on their worlds to be removed from fanfic sites. I can understand the reasoning behind their dislike of fan fiction. Monetary issues and feelings of personal violation are likely involved, along with a sentiment likely translated to "Come on? Seriously? Not smart enough to write your own stuff?". Some fanfic based on novels and book series is presented as completely new work and, in some cases, as direct competition to the original. Beyond the belief that fanfic is copyright infringement, the practice isn't the best outlet for all aspiring writers. Nor will many fanfic writers follow Meljean Brook and Jean Johnson's journeys to publication by being discovered by a NYC editor.
I wrote official Sherrilyn Kenyon Dark-Hunter uberfic until Sherri's critique partners (Mama Lo and Tasha) encouraged me to pursue my own completely original stories. They assured me my energy and creativity should be aimed at my very own worlds. I wrote two years of addictive fan fiction and I made lasting friendships with other fans. It was a wonderful learning experience. I learned so much about characterization. The Dark-Hunter fandom nurtured and supported me as I refined my craft. I wrote fanfic for the pure joy of writing and sharing with an audience that craved exactly what I wrote. Writing fanfic was good practice for me. It was that novel shoved under my bed that every author is said to have.
Personally, although I make my livelihood in the medium that earns the least, I'd be honored if people read and loved my characters and stories enough to write about them. I'd be truly flattered if I were ever popular enough for people to spend time in a fandom based on my worlds with any frequency. Fanfic isn't just about the writing, it's social networking. Conversation and word-of-mouth sells books. As long as the original authors/creators are the ones making money and earning a living from their worlds, it's cool.
© 2012 Melissa Combs