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A Study in Fanfiction

The Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy by EL James has been receiving mixed reviews since its release, not only because of its rather controversial plotline, but also because of its roots. The novels’ quite unusual origin has been a subject of interest of many people.


EL James revealed that the first novel was originally a fanfiction of a different romance series, The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer. Up until this point, fanfiction was something more of an underground movement. Now fanfiction is slowly being recognized as an independent writing genre.

First Thing’s First


Fanfiction is defined as a story that has elements, such as characters and settings, derived from an already-existing story. This eliminates the need for world-building and character development.

The creation of spinoff stories has ancient roots. Some of the popular classic works we know today are essentially fanfictions of Greek literature. Coined in 1939, the term “fanfiction” was originally used to describe “amateur science fiction,” which is the opposite of what used to be called “pro-fiction,” professional science fiction.

The movement became popular through Star Trek fanzines or fan-magazines starting in the sixties. These were the first early records of what is now known as fanfiction. From mimeographed fanzines, fanfiction moved into the digital era through online forums and fansites.

Where in the Online World


There are a variety of websites that support fanfiction. One of the oldest is FanFiction.Net, which was founded in the late nineties. Fanfiction.Net supports a variety of fanfiction from novels, movies, games, TV shows, comic books, plays, musicals, and more. In 2010, Fanfiction.Net also began supporting crossover fanfiction stories.

One fanfiction website that has been gaining popularity is ArchiveOfOurOwn.Com, more fondly known as AO3. The website contains nearly the same types of stories as FanFiction.Net but is more popular with recent fandoms such as Sherlock, Hannibal, and Marvel.

Fanfiction has become more accessible through these websites, but also more vulnerable to criticism, both constructive and nonconstructive (called flames).

This accessibility has also increased its popularity. It has allowed both writers and readers to explore the possibilities of their favorite worlds.

What’s Next


While there has never been no known fanfiction to be legally published, this possibility was opened by writer Rainbow Rowell. One of her novels, Fangirl, contains a fanfic of a fictional work (the Simon Snow series) called Carry On. This “fanfiction” was published last October.

With the increasing popularity of the fandom movement, fanfiction has definitely cemented a place in the digital world as a way for fans to express their ideas and share them with others.


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