The Parallel Universe Of Fan-Fiction

Posted on October 14, 2012 in Culture-Vulture

By Pooja Baburaj:

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” — not quite unheard of, is it? The existence of the world of fan-fiction was exceedingly unknown to me until this year’s annual mid-summer vacation. It was a usual lazy day and all I did was to further tan my already coloured Indian skin while sipping on some fresh lemonade as I read the tabloids in the veranda, sporadically morphing into a Rajnikanth stunt-double to squash a fly or two. After the victorious whacking of five stinky flies, I triumphantly trotted back indoors where I heard my sister’s over-excited giggles while she was on the computer. I put up my best sarcastic intonation and asked, “Are you, my precious little sister, in your senses?” to which she replied, “No, I’m just happy to know that the sparkling Dracula did not get Bella, instead, that hot werewolf got her! And the best part is he ate her up on their wedding.” “Have you landed up on some weird part of Google again?” I remarked. “No”, she said, “Just entertaining my senses with a daily dose of fan-fiction”.
Say hello to the new world.

What is it about the science fiction and fantasy genre that instigates its fans to put pen to paper and come up with extremely creative stories in that same universe of fiction? A plethora of sites around the Internet host fan-fiction, some of which are puke-inducing and cringe-worthy, but a lot of them, to my surprise, make for a good read. Fan-fiction is basically one of those epic flights of imaginations that you undertake with a particularly interesting character from your favourite book, making your very own fantasy mends and bridges in their past or future, in the process. If you have it on your mind and if you manage to put down your day-dreams on paper, you get fan-fiction.

The ones who read and write fan-fiction find it irresistible while those who don’t may not even be aware of it. Lev Grossman from TIME says, “Fan fiction is what literature might look like if it were reinvented from scratch after a nuclear apocalypse by a band of brilliant pop-culture junkies trapped in a sealed bunker. They don’t do it for money. That’s not what it’s about. The writers write it and put it up online just for the satisfaction. They’re fans, but they’re not silent, couch-bound consumers of media. The culture talks to them, and they talk back to the culture in its own language.”

Fan-fiction, like fiction, does not escape the claws of critics. A common criticism of fan-fiction writers is that their stories aren’t literally ‘original’. Yet it is hard to snub and look right through the fact that while the plot and often the characters in fan-fiction may be the work of a popular author, the narratives themselves are unique in execution, often as fine as the story that inspired them. Fans are habitually disgruntled with those teeny bits and pieces that just don’t fit in perfectly in their favourite series and those that destroy their perception of a ‘happily-ever-after’. There is little they can do to remedy their frustration. However, the solution that they somehow discovered was simple – If you just cannot stand that ditzy girlfriend of your much-loved male protagonist, you can replace her through a somewhat shadowed creation on the internet called “fan fiction.” One such improvisation is what we now know as the fastest selling paper-back of all time, E.L. James’ ‘50 Shades Of Grey’.

Hard-core fans put in writing their personalized twists to the plot, spreading their euphoric zeal like a contagion. Fan-fiction is exhilarating and invigorating for both the writer and the reader – it can bring Voldemort back to life as well as get Potter married to Granger (God-forbid). These fan authors are not, for the most part, professional writers. But if they lack in ingenuity, they make up for it through unassailable fervour. As the entertainment industry heads into globalization, it is natural that the influence of the fans expands as well. Fans are the lifeblood of entertainment. Science Fiction conventions have made a multi-million dollar enterprise by providing fans a prominent platform to display their productions. Their success is a measure of the wealth and width of fandom. Those who wish to profit from the fans would do well to court them in all the places they dwell. Fan fiction thus lingers in the dark shades of free speech and copyright protection, therefore to term it as a boon or a bane is yet another profound obscurity.