To literature snobs, it’s the ultimate dirty wordâ€”a place where people go to alter or continue the storylines of some of their favorite films, books, television series, video games, manga, etc. But to some of us, it’s just another place to go to read for free. Some of it includes familiar characters, locations, events, and narratives. Some of it just takes character names and features and brings us into a whole different universe. For readers, it’s a place to go in unknown directions. For authors, it’s a way in which to hone their skills. And with Teen Tech Week coming up, it’s a great place for teens to Mix and Mash around reading and technology in a creative setting.
I first discovered the Derbyshire Writer’s Guild in Tenth Grade, while doing research on the works of Jane Austen. Clueless, and having never heard the word â€œfanfictionâ€ in my life, I entered into the world of hundreds, maybe even thousands of fan-written stories. I ran to my school librarian the next morning, ecstatic with my find and a little giddy with unrestâ€”I’d stayed up for hours reading the night before. That continued to be my primary source of Austen materialâ€”then my only fandomâ€”until a couple years later when someone on the boards mentioned a story that had been posted on another website, fanfiction.net.
Heaven help me.
From there, I went exploring into countless worlds and fandomsâ€”even ventured into different books so I could read the stories people were discussing on the forum. But with thousands of stories, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. So I’m going to give you a few starting pointers to navigating this crazy world.
Fanlore is a great place to start if you’re interested in actually learning about fanfiction as a collection. You can go here to find information about various types of fan work, fandoms, and other interesting tidbitsâ€”did you know author Cassandra Clare of Mortal Instrument fame established a strong following in the Harry Potter fandom with a six year endeavor called The Draco Trilogy? You can also contribute any information you might know that has not yet been added. The developers of Fanlore have been very good about producing alphabetical lists of just about everything, so both browsing and searching are made easy here.
Fanfiction.net is also a place you can go for lists of lists. One thing that causes it to surpass fanlore, if you are just looking for a story, is the ability to search by original text category. From there, you can search by original text nameâ€”anything from Twilight to The Wizard of Ozâ€”rating: K-T (Stories are rated for age suitability as K, K+, T, and M–default is set to K->T, and be prepared to verify your age before viewing anything higher)â€”story type (choose from Action/Adventure, Romance, Hurt/Comfort, Humor, and many more). You can even choose what characters you want to be in the story. There is a broad range of everything on ffnet, in both writing quality and content. Reading at the T level can help with that, on occasion.
Every book or series with any kind of following will likely have an online presenceâ€”a fandomâ€”especially if said book or series has been turned into films or a television show. Think Harry Potter. Think Vampire Diaries. Think Little House on the Prairie. You think I’m kidding. Many of these fandoms collect on overarching websites, and many have branched off into their own communities where they can both discuss the original worksâ€”canonâ€”and present their own writing. There are some fandoms that have produced so much literature that it is sometimes difficult to decipher canon from fanonâ€”things that the readers and authors take for granted (and protest when changed!) that never existed in the originals. Heaven forbid Colonel Fitzwilliam not be named Richard or Draco Malfoy not have the second highest grades at Hogwarts. It would be difficult to list all of these dedicated sites; with so many hundreds of individual fandoms, each of which might have more than one website dedicated to it, so I would suggest a brief search on Google.
I know, all of this information can be decidedly hard to rake through. If you have a fandom in mind, have at it. Find the section for it on Fanlore or ffnet, or search for it. Ask for recommendations on the boards. If you’re still shopping, try fanfiction.net, or fanlore. They can set you on your path.
So, instead of scratching your head for another book when you hear “I’ve read [Insert Title Here] and I loved it, and I’ve also read [Everything Else Like It], what have you got for me?” Why not suggest fanfiction? Not only is it a great place to find new worlds and universes (not to mention other fans to squee with), but we can choose what characteristics our favorite characters–and the ones we hate–might have in a world of our choice. Not only is it a great place for readers, but future writers get a chance to dip their feet into the proverbial pond.
–Jessica Pryde, nostalgically rereading Correspondence and Courtship, one of the first complete fanfics she ever read.