Usually, when people throw around the term fanfiction (fanfic for short), they mean the stories you find on websites such as fanfiction.net or quotev, pieces written by fans of an original comic/novel/movie/TV show, using characters from that universe, and shared with other fans. The quality of the writing can vary wildly, but the level of enthusiasm remains consistently high. In the past couple of years Kindle Worlds has allowed fanfic authors to garner pay for their work through a licensing structure that keeps everyone on the legal side of the copyright line, something that can be a nebulous issue. Legalminimum supplies some good guidelines for using established fictional characters. Since most fanfic is created out of a desire to celebrate and promote the original, rather than to make money or compete with it, many writers are happy to allow their characters to lead alternate lives.
Though the Internet has helped to popularize fanfiction, storytellers have been borrowing from their forebears for century upon century. Mark Twain wrote fanfiction. Yes, it’s true. In “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” he used recognized characters from Camelot in a new tale of his own. William Shakespeare often repurposed figures from Greek, Roman and Celtic legends to populate his tales. Think of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “The Tempest.”
In the past fifty years or so, many established authors have found publishing success by continuing this tradition of literary borrowing. “Wicked” by Gregory Maguire takes an adult look at L. Frank Baum’s Land of Oz, providing a sympathetic portrayal of the Witch of the West. Totally fanfiction. Similarly, Jean Rhys took up the cause of Jane Eyre’s antagonist, the purportedly insane Mrs. Rochester, in her 1966 novel, “Wide Sargasso Sea.” The continually growing spate of Jane Austen spin-offs contains too many titles too list. Meanwhile, James Deaver and others are keeping Ian Fleming’s James Bond alive.
My point is, if you enjoy reading and/or writing fanfiction, don’t be shy about it. Don’t feel it’s something less worthy than “real” literature. You’re in the company of Mark Twain and Shakespeare, after all.
Note: Why yes, there is a list in our online catalog.