Fanfiction Is a Valid Literary Genre, and Here’s Why

My most popular piece of writing is 4100 words long and has more than 300 views, 39 likes, 7 saves, and 4 comments. I know, I know, that isn’t much, but it’s important to me, and it makes me smile that more than 300 people saw and enjoyed something that I wrote, without me having to promote it at all! It’s published on a publicly run and moderated permanently-free-to-use site with an excellent tagging system that lets you find content tailored to your own specific tastes with minimal effort.

What Even Is Fanfiction?

Before we go any further, let me clear something up. When I’m talking about “fanfiction”, I’m talking about the Webster definition of the term.

“Stories involving popular fictional characters that are written by fans and often posted on the Internet…called also: fanfic.”

Full definition here: x.

The Fair Use Fight.

Now, this does lend itself to some problems. There’s a lot of contention about whether or not fanfiction falls under the umbrella of fair usage laws, and rightfully so: as I said, fanfiction is an unlicensed use of licensed creations. This is a bit too big of a topic to talk about in anything smaller than a full-length book. Trust me on that, I’m in the middle of writing one.

The “fair use logo”, although no one actually uses this one…

Ancient Fanfiction You’ve Definitely Heard Of.

Fanfiction isn’t even a new concept! Some of the greatest works of literature that we hail as classics today can definitely be considered fanfiction. Case in point? Dante’s Divine Comedy. It’s literally a fanfiction about the Bible and Dante’s favorite classical writer Virgil but in a 1200s Italian culture AU.

Dante Allegri chilling in his Bible AU world, which somehow became a real part of how people actually view the Christian afterlife? This is La commedia Illumina, a Firenze on the wall of the Florence Cathedral.

Fanfiction as A Training Ground.

Fanfiction helps writers to get better at writing. It gives them important practice with characterization and style development that they need in order to learn to create their own original works. Writers interact more thoroughly with the works they create from than the average reader, and this is true no matter what genre you’re writing in; in order to write for a character or world, you need to know it inside and out. You need to know every quirk and flaw and success and failure and be able to exploit those in a new situation that’s fun for your reader, even if that reader is just you.

Fanfiction Is Just Fun!

Fanfiction is a healthy, free, and fun outlet for creative people to express themselves and be supported by others in their favorite communities. It’s a method of communal storytelling, in which a writer creates something, which is then reinvented by the reader, who becomes another storyteller in the larger culture of the work (Thomas Foster has an excellent section about communal storytelling in his book, How to Read Literature Like a Professor).

Hello! I’m Cat, author and amateur fandom historian based out of Georgia. I write about literature, theater, gaming, and fandom. Personal work: catwebling.com.

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