Nerd Report: Let’s talk fanfiction

Columnist Gabriela Velasquez introduces the wonderfully wild world of online fanfiction, busting a few myths about it in the process.

I found my first fanfiction by accident. I was in the third grade and looking for some new “Star Wars” books to check out from my local library when I stumbled upon a fansite dedicated to the handmaidens in “The Phantom Menace.” Upon further exploration, I discovered a link to a fanfiction pairing Obi-Wan Kenobi with Sabe, one of the handmaidens.

I was instantly drawn in, and I was amazed at the author’s twist on the mundane plot of “The Phantom Menace” and exploration of a character who rarely spoke. Curious, I instantly started looking for more and found Fanfiction.net. And the rest, I suppose, is history.

For those of you not in the know, fanfiction is fiction written by a fan of, and featuring characters from, a particular TV series, movie, etc.

I hid my love of fanfiction for many years. I was afraid people would assume I was reading something scandalous. And yeah, sometimes I did stumble upon something a bit inappropriate. I remember finding “Fifty Shades of Grey” in the “Twilight” fanfiction archives back when it was “Master of the Universe.” It was just as ridiculous then as it is now.

But here’s the thing: fanfiction isn’t just badly written erotica. If you know how to find it, you can find a lot of masterfully written stories out there that will tug at your heartstrings. I’m not ashamed of admitting that I’ve cried many times reading really good fanfics.

Fanfiction nowadays has its own internet subculture and terminology, which can make searching for fics for the first time very confusing. So, here’s a guide for entering the world of fanfiction.

First off, Fanfiction.net is not the end-all, be-all website. It’s a wonderful site and is loaded with content, but more often than not, you’ll be wading through a bunch of poorly written stuff, like sifting for gold in an Alaskan stream. If you want to streamline your searching, try Archive of Our Own. It’s a bit smaller, but much of the stories are of higher quality. You can also try Wattpad, where the writers get thousands of hits despite most of the content being subpar. If you’re looking for a cute story, try searching for “fluff.” Fluff stories tend to contain little plot or deeper meanings beyond nonsensical happiness for no other reason than to bring a reader joy.

Back in the early to mid-2000s, fanfics containing sexual themes were called “limes” and stories containing sex itself were “lemons.” Nowadays, those terms are outdated, and stories of that nature are simply referred to as “smut.” And to be honest, fanfiction smut is often far better than any published erotica you’ll find on bookshelves. Seriously.

Another thing fanfiction affords fans is representation. Too often, female characters, LGBTQ characters or characters of color are not used properly. They are killed off or written poorly. Fanfiction allows fans to explore these characters on their own terms. They can write a world where “Sleepy Hollow’s” Abbie Mills lives happily ever after, or Lexa from “The 100” isn’t killed by a stray bullet. Fanfiction, largely written by female authors, gives disenfranchised fans a voice and a chance to change the endings. It’s liberating.

So, for those of you who haven’t yet given fanfiction a try, go ahead. Look around. There’s fanfiction for everyone out there, you just need to know where to look.

And for those of you have have Archive of Our Own bookmarked but are ashamed, don’t be. Fandom isn’t just some back corner of the world anymore. It’s an avenue of creativity and alternative form of entertainment that is both rewarding and unique.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go read the latest chapter of this “Harry Potter” story I’m following.

Edited by Katie Rosso | krosso@themaneater.com

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