Fanfiction is literature written by fans of a particular work, often a television series, book or movie, featuring the canonical characters and settings of the work in a new context. Though fanfiction is not a product of the Internet, the web has proliferated this literature to proportions greater than those it could have achieved in print.
1800s: Holmes, Austen and Dōjinshi
In the late 19th and early 20th century, fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes series began to pen additional stories using the characters to cope with Conan Doyle killing the character off in the 1893 story "The Final Problem." In addition to works produced by Conan Doyle's son, Adrian, a fan publication titled The Baker Street Journal has been operating since 1946. Because of the amount of fan work surrounding Holmes, the fandom was the first to use the term "canon" to distinguish the works written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Because so many fan stories have been published, many of these works are referred to as "pastiches", a literary term usually reserved for satire. However, the terms "pastiche" and "fan fiction" are used interchangeably in Sherlockian fandom.
Around the same time, author Jane Austen saw fan works created around the characters in her novels, including Pride and Prejudice, Emma and Sense and Sensibility. Her fans call themselves "Janeites", a term coined in 1894 by literary scholar George Saintsbury. In 1913, the book "Old Friends and New Fancies: An Imaginary Sequel to the Novels of Jane Austen" by Sybil G. Brinton was published, incorporating characters from six of Austen's novels into one story.
During the late 1800s, a similar trend began appearing in Japan with the launch of dōjinshi (同人誌), or self-published, magazines. These often feature a range of works including manga-style stories as well as short novels. The first of these, Meiroku Zasshi (明六雑誌) was first published in 1874. A second magazine, Garakuta Bunko (我楽多文庫) was launched in 1885 solely to focus on fan literature. Dōjinshi saw a surge in popularity in the 1980s, coinciding with the rise of comic fairs specifically for these magazines, including Comiket, which is now one of the world's largest conventions, attracting hundreds of thousands of attendees every year.
1960s: Star Trek
Prior to the mid-1960s, the term "fan fiction" was used by members of the science fiction community to denote amateur sci-fi stories published in zines. In western culture, the rise of modern fan fiction is often contributed to Trekkies, fans of the science fiction television franchise Star Trek. The first Star Trek fanzine, Spockanalia (shown below, left) launched in 1967, containing several fan-written stories. The Star Trek fandom also coined the term "slash" in a 1974 issue of the zine Grup (shown below, right), which is used for homosexual romantic pairings in fan fiction.
Fanfiction.net was founded in 1998 by Los Angeles computer programmer Xing Li. The site breaks stories down into nine categories: Anime/Manga, Books, Cartoons, Comics, Games, Miscellaneous, Movies, Plays/Musicals and Television Shows. As of March 2009, crossover categories were put into place for stories that used characters from different works. Within four years, the site accumulated 118,000 registered users, which grew to more than 2.2 million by 2010. The site receives thousands of new stories a day
After LiveJournal introduced communities in 2000, many fanfiction authors and artists flocked to the site to share their works and collaborate with each others. In May 2007, LiveJournal staff members suspended more than 500 accounts associated with "illegal" interest keywords, including child pornography and rape, a decision contested by many users who claimed that many of the deleted accounts were for role-playing purposes, book discussion groups, rape survivor groups and age-restricted adult fan fiction communities. It was known as The Great Strikethrough or Strikethrough 2007 for the manner in which suspended account names appeared throughout the site. Many of the journals were later restored, however the event caused many authors and fandom-related bloggers to move to other sites. Despite this, many fandom communities still exist on LiveJournal. As of December 2012, there are 375 communities which list “fan fiction” as an interest.
In 2003, fanfiction author astolat and video maker Tzikeh launched a fanfiction gift exchange challenge for fandoms considered obscure in the community, including characters from a Skrillex music video, the British Railway Network and Bing Crosby and Bob Hope’s 1942 film The Road to Morrocco. Originally called While We Tell of Yuletide Treasure, the annual exchange begins with a sign up period throughout November and the final 1000-word pieces are due on Christmas Day, with the authors’ names revealed on New Year’s Day. During the first year, 315 people signed up to participate and stories were delivered via the homepage as well as a LiveJournal community which launched on November 3rd, 2003. In 2009, the exchange moved over to fanfiction hubsite Archive Of Our Own. In 2012, more than 27,000 stories were exchanged from 1500 different fandoms including fairy tales, Greek or Roman mythologies, American Sherlock Holmes television series Elementary and 2012 movie Pitch Perfect.
On May 22nd, 2013, Amazon announced Kindle Worlds, a self-service publishing platform that enables its users to submit original works of fanfiction from a selection of licensed works and franchises, including Gossip Girl, The Vampire Diaries and Pretty Little Liars. Upon its official launch in June, the platform will be open for user submission and offer a selection of 50 fanfiction titles written by best-selling and award-winning authors for immediate purchase.
According to the press release, the books will be published by Amazon, who will pay royalties to the rights holder in exchange for all the rights to the work, and directly sold online in the price range of $0.99 and $3.99. Depending on the length of the work, authors will receive royalties of 35% of net revenue for works more than 10,000 words and 20% for works between 5,000 and 10,000 words. In addition, user-submitted content must adhere to the platform's guidelines, which prohibits pornography, offensive language, copyright-infringing conten, excessive use of brands and crossover plot lines.
That same day, The Daily Dot pointed out the problematic nature of this platform, as most fanfic is made freely available. In its press release, Amazon did not reveal any community-oriented features like editorial or publisher critique, making it seem more like a way for the franchises to cash in on these works. Meanwhile on Tumblr, fanfiction writers similarly expressed their concern about the platform and giving away the rights to their work. Others felt this would disrupt the gift economy of the online fanfiction community, where most works are made freely available without any expectations that anything be given in return. Many commenters on the gossip blog Oh No They Didn’t! spoke out against the idea of paying for fanfiction when so much of it is already freely available, likening the Kindle service to paying for online pornography.
Categories and Types
- Relationship to canon
- Romantic / Sexual Pairings
1. Slash (fanfiction equivalent of yaoi)
3. Femslash (fanfiction equivalent of yuri)
4. General (no romantic / sexual plot)
- Genres / Tropes
- On FanFiction.net:
1. K (everyone)
2. K+ (nearly everyone)
3. T (teen)
4. M (mature)
- On FanFiction.net:
Notable Fan Fiction
Agony In Pink
Agony In Pink is a story featuring several characters from the television series Mighty Morphin Power Rangers that became notorious for its detailed rape and torture scenes. It was originally posted to the Usenet group alt.sex.stories on November 16th, 1994 by a writer known as The Dark Ranger. In February 2000, the story was used as leverage to cause the Australian government to ban Usenet archive deja.com after the complainant found the story on their site.
My Immortal, published on Fanfiction.net in 2006, became colloquially known as "the worst fanfiction ever" for its asburd storyline and large number of spelling and grammatical errors. Though My Immortal was intended as a Harry Potter fanfiction, it heavily incorporated lyrics from and references to the bands My Chemical Romance and Evanescence, often depicting the young wizards as gothic. Due to the story's over-the-top nature and the amount of backlash from people claiming the story was only posted to troll other readers, My Immortal was removed from Fanfiction.net
Half-Life: Full Life Consequences
Also in 2006, Half-Life: Full Life Consequences was uploaded to Fanfiction.net by the user squirrelking, who was already known for his error-filled writing. It was introduced to a larger audience in January 2008 when YouTuber Djy1991 uploaded an adaptation of the story created in Garry's Mod (shown below). As of December 2012, this video has more than 4 million views.
Master of the Universe
A Twilight fanfiction, this story was originally posted to Fanfiction.net sometime prior to 2010, when it was removed for racy adult content. Author E.L. James under her pseudonym "Snowqueens Icedragon" then hosted the story on her personal website for a time. The story was the inspiration for the 2011 best-selling novel Fifty Shades of Grey, which would go on sell more than 31 million English-language copies across the globe and become the first e-book to sell more than 1 million Kindle copies.
Originally posted in January 2011, Cupcakes is a gory My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic story depicting Pinkie Pie dismembering Rainbow Dash for special baking ingredients. Though the author is unknown, it was originally posted on 4chan's /co/ (cartoons and comics) board shortly after episode 12 of the first season aired.
Sweet Apple Massacre
In June 2011, another gory Friendship is Magic-inspired work, Sweet Apple Massacre, began to circulate online after it was posted to Fanfiction.net. This story depicts colt Big Macintosh kidnapping Apple Bloom, Sweetie Bell and Scottalo before torturing, raping and disemboweling them. It was quickly removed from Fanfiction.net for violating their rules but was reposted on several other sites.
Dipper Goes to Taco Bell
Animated cartoon series Gravity Falls fanfiction Dipper Goes to Taco Bell was posted to Fanfiction.net in August 2012. It was taken down within a week for violating the terms of service for depicting the character Dipper Pines and his sister Mabel dying in a Taco Bell before being turned in to taco meat.
 Sherlockian.net – Sherlockian.Net: Pastiches, fan fiction, new stories
 The Daily Dot – The problem with Amazon's new fanfiction platform, Kindle Worlds
 Tumblr – Link no longer works – http://aurevoirlorraine.tumblr.com/post/51086685194/kindle-worlds-what-is-this-all-about