A couple of weeks ago, Time Magazine’s Lev Grossman looked at fan fiction: the history of fanfic, the fanfic community, what drives fans to write or read it, and authors’ attitudes toward it. Unlike a lot of fanfic pieces, it takes the time to explore the subject in detail—even if the focus is not necessarily the best.
The article is a bit overblown in places (I will admit, I cringed at its contention, “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.”), features a number of jarring linkbacks to other Time articles, and seems to focus mainly on Star Trek and Harry Potter, but overall it provides a pretty interesting picture of fan writing, even if it does tend to focus on some of the more outré and sensationalistic elements (such as “slash”, fanfic in which two characters of the same gender are romantically paired up).
It also looks at the legality of fan fiction, suggesting that a case could be made for fair use but noting that almost no fanfic writer is going to have the financial means or desire to go toe-to-toe with authors, publishers, or film studios over it if challenged.
There’s an insane amount of fan fiction on the Internet by now—I would imagine that it probably dwarfs the total volume of commercial e-books. And, of course, most of it adheres pretty closely to Sturgeon’s Law. But among the portion that doesn’t, there is some really creative work going on—which alas could probably never be commercially published due to its contraband nature.
For those of us who read or write it, it’s simply another way to engage with the show.