If I'm looking at my phone on the subway, I'm doing one of two things – intently reading fanfiction and subsequently missing my stop, or intently reading an MTA map and trying to figure out what stop I just missed. You can usually tell which it is by what my face is doing: intermittently giggling at fandom in-jokes between heaving sighs of angst over when my ship is going to finally admit they're in love for fanfic, OR a perma-bitchface for the MTA map.
Aside from its tendency to make me reject all other responsibilities in favor of reading “just one more chapter,” the fanfiction community is such an awesome and positive part of the internet! Not to mention, unlike almost every other area of media, from authors to collaborators to readers, women and gender and sexuality minorities totally dominate! No wonder it's such an inclusive and welcoming community.
So here are 5 reasons why I love fanfiction, and you should too. Or at least, you know, not judge me for being obsessed with it.
Last Bob's Burgers screencap, I swear.
Are you an aspiring writer? Give fanfiction a try! Once you get past the silly stigma that only crazed superfans write fic, it's kind of a perfect writing exercise. The fact that there are already entire universes with fully realized worlds, characters, and plotlines allows you to zoom in on whatever area you want to improve on. Want to focus on world-building, but are shaky on character development? Create an alternate universe, or AU, (High school is a popular one, but you can get as creative as you'd like.) and throw the characters of your choice into your totally new world! Who knows, you might even get a book (and movie) deal.
It's one of the few and far between parts of the internet where anonymity is, for the most part, a good thing. The internet is always being bashed (with good reason) for how it encourages people to unleash the worst versions of themselves with no repercussions. However, instead of hiding behind usernames to post sexist comments on YouTube videos or do other nefarious internet-things, usernames in the fic world are more akin to pen names. The anonymity allows writers to post whatever their hearts and carpal-tunnel-addled wrists desire, and readers to like and comment with little fear of embarrassment or judgement.
Raise your hand if you also feel a soul-crushing void in your heart whenever you finish a really good TV show/movie/book series. Well, with fanfiction, your journey in that world never has to end! Since the world of fic is ever-expanding, I can assure you that you will NEVER run out of stories to read about Harry Potter and the gang (or whoever else tickles your pickle) again. You might even come across a fic that lasts longer than the original work itself. And even though I thoroughly believe that Rule 34 of the internet totally applies to fanfic, if you somehow think of a scenario that HASN'T been written before, good news – you can write it yourself! Or even commission someone else to write it up. The internet is filled with weirdos like you who would love to indulge your desire for a Lord of the Rings/Smurfs/Full House crossover.
Including this Ashton Kutcher fic for the brilliant oral delivery.
Unlike “proper” literature or other types of media, fanfiction about queer people and relationships aren't relegated to the LGBTQ genre, aka the back of the bookstore where nobody who doesn't already have an interest in those stories is going to see them. While most popular media is overwhelmingly heteronormative, fanfiction abolishes the trend towards homogenizing sexuality/gender. The sheer vastness of shades of queerness portrayed (often quite honestly and realistically) in fanfiction is amazing and a totally underutilized resource for learning about non-normative sexuality and gender in a fun, safe way. Here are a couple of fics that do an exceptional job of depicting and educating about non-normative relationships.
Lastly, but probably most importantly, the community! The fic community is incredibly supportive, because everyone is there for the same reason – to have fun and create in the name of fan-love. After all, who knows better what fans want than fans themselves? It's a beautiful thing.
So go forth and conquer! Read fic, write fic, or create some wonderful mixed media piece of art based on a combination of 15 different fics about Sherlock, Harry Potter, Battlestar Galactica, and, my personal favorite subject, One Direction. The possibilities are endless (just like my love for One Direction).
Images via Tumblr and Vulture