I have often heard people talk about “quality literature”. It is the idea that some written works have more value than others. Certainly some books are more interesting, have better written characters, or have cultural significance, but some texts are completely disregarded based on their subject matter. An example of this includes any Mills & Boon paperback, most romance novels, erotica and other such texts. No one takes a Mills & Boon seriously, no matter the quality of character development, setting or plot. Another type of “trashy literature” is fanfiction.
Wikipedia defines fanfiction as “stories about characters or settings written by fans of the original work, rather than by the original creator” . Fanfiction might be based on books, films, television series, games, comic books or any other fictional universe. Often fandoms (the “genres” or original series the fiction is based on. For example, Doctor Who, or Mass Effect) are what my old Primary Education tutor called “passionate affinity spaces”. That is, everyone involved within the community is passionate to an extreme about what they do, and the original texts. They either love it or hate it, with very little in between.
Now here is my guilty secret: I love fan fiction. Obsessively so. I can spend days on end doing nothing but reading fanfiction from whatever fandom I am obsessed about at the time. Over the years, that has included Harry Potter, Torchwood, Tamora Pierce, Glee, and most recently, Mass Effect. I have been reading fanfiction since I was about 14, and I believe in its value so very much. The longest fic I have ever read was 4,800,000 words long. That is longer than the entire Harry Potter series! I have been following some fics as they get updated for years at a time. My all-time favourite fic is a based on Tamora Pierce’s Protector of the Small series, has currently 415,000 words, and the author has been working on it since 2006. I have personally been reading Fallen since 2008, and it is still going. Right now there is only a couple of chapters to go, and all of the 1,899 people who have favourited the fic are getting frustrated because the author hasn’t updated since August last year. Long-time followers know the author is insanely busy getting a veterinary degree, and will often go without posting updates for months, although this is the longest stretch yet.
So why isn’t work such as this ever taken seriously for its literally quality? This person has dedicated years of her life, has produced excellently well-developed original characters, has seamlessly woven her original plot into Pierces’ existing universe, and has gained the love and admiration of literally thousands of people. And unlike Pierce, Fallen’s author doesn’t get paid to write. She writes for the love alone.
Fanfiction and their authors deserve more recognition, and should be taken seriously as quality literature. Because fanfiction is where some of the worlds best authors get to come out of the woodwork, do what they love for the sake of it, provide their work to their audience for free, and not involve themselves with the restrictions of the publishing houses. In short, fanfiction has value, and it is about time more people recognised it.