Fan fiction. Here we go. I don’t read it.
I prefer new characters, new worlds, new voices who are developed by professional authors.
A vast majority of readers under 30 years old read mostly fanfiction. I read somewhere that 70% of readers 30 and under read fan-fiction. That’s not a number to scoff at.
Go on Tumblr. There are tons of people raving about fanfic. They’re obsessed with it.
So what is the appeal?
My sister, who loves it, says there is something about continuing a story line. Authors end books but the fans love to take these well-loved characters and do alternate endings, crossovers, and new story lines.
It sounds cool.
Think about how many fairy tale remakes exist. Those authors didn’t create the characters or the worlds, they just ran with them, took them in a new direction. There is something to that old adage “there are only a few original stories and they’ve already been told.”
Still, there is one thing that stands out.
Fan fiction is FREE.
There is an ongoing movement to make everything free. All media. Books, movies, TV, music. And whereas that is a great ideal, (How cool would it be if all art were free?) it comes back to bite everyone who pours their time, effort, and education into a creative endeavor.
No matter how much we love or hate money, it exists. And without royalties, payouts, and advances I wouldn’t be able to produce as much work as I do. It simply wouldn’t be possible.
Books do not cost much. Anyone can grab a paperback for $5. That’s a great deal being that we live in an era where people walk around with their $500 Starbucks rainbow-dinosaur-cream coffees with a side of diabetes.
It’s difficult for someone like me who makes a living off of writing to hear some of their readers going on and on about how they love free books. Sure we all love free stuff, but would they feel that great about it if they didn’t get a paycheck for their hard work?
There has to be a balance.
I’ve been working the indie scene long enough that it bleeds into everything. I look for indie musicians, indie movies, and indie books to buy so I can trade my hard earned money for their effort and insight.
Fan fiction sometimes seems like the most indie of writing. It’s not profitable, marketable, or translatable since fan fiction writers do not hold rights to the work. People who write it do it for the pure love of it.
I respect the hell out of that.
On the flip side, there’s a lot of uneducated, unpolished work in the fanfiction world. That’s the tradeoff (and why I don’t often read it. In truth I only do when my sister finally finishes some.)
Nearly every book sold in a store or to a library had at least one editor and a publisher who worked to make that story as professional as possible. Each story whether, fiction or nonfiction, is a collaboration of hard work and persistence.
The industry is always changing.
It’s a competitive career, being a writer. Hell, any creative job will wear the average person down. All day long I see writers tweeting about how they want to write but can’t, or that they have writer’s block, or that they need to write but they have a TV show to watch instead. It takes a great amount of discipline to make yourself write even when you feel like you can’t. To skip watching TV. Skip the coffee shops and their expensive cancer drinks.
It’s work. Authors have to struggle more. It’s not fanfiction. It’s not a fun story we wrote because we liked someone else’s world or their characters that can be set down and finished whenever we want, it takes more than that. There is a lot more at stake when writing something new.
Humans are silly puppies who like to chase their tail. We’re creatures of habit. We prefer authors we know and stories that are familiar. This makes it increasingly difficult to introduce new ideas, new story lines, and new characters.
Disney tried to do that with John Carter. Remember that movie guys? It was based off of the Edgar Rice Burroughs Books of Barsoom. Guess what?
It bombed. (Although it now has a huge cult following…) So what did Disney do to recoup the money.
They rebooted Star Wars.
Because, well, everyone loves Star Wars, right?
The new ideas weren’t getting any love so they just put a new pair of boobs on the old one and voila: let the fandom commence.
Sure it’s fun to revisit old stories and take previous characters down new paths, but the more we do that the less room we make for something fresh, something innovative. We’re hamsters stuck on the wheel right now. Plenty of us are happy watching it spin over our heads, but eventually we’re going to fall off and look for something new.
Why not start now?