So. Fanfic. It’s a divisive topic, to put it mildly. As I write this, Twitter is going at it over fanfic with a ferocity usually reserved for topics like abortion or gun control. I guess we’re all tired of fighting over Trump and QAnon and the Capitol and masks and the other ghastly delights of 2020 and 2021.
Here’s a fun fact about me: Some of the earliest stuff I wrote was Star Wars fanfic. And it was Mary Sue fanfic to boot. Princess Leia was in my stories but kind of elbowed aside so I could go have fun adventures with Luke, Han, Chewie, and the gang.
Why the nine-year-old me thought there could be only one girl in the story is a disturbing question I’ll have to unpack some other time. Back when I read Harry Potter fanfic regularly, I noticed some young female writers tended to make Hermione a dreadful mean girl and have their self-insert MCs insult her straight out of the story so they’d get Harry, Ron, and Draco all to themselves. It would seem this kind of thinking is still an issue. Hmmm.
(Another reason I find fanfic interesting: It can provide a snapshot of where people’s heads are at, and not always in a good way.)
Basically I’m pro-fanfic, as a writer and as a soon-to-be debut author. I haven’t written a whole lot of it myself, but back in the days before I knew J.K. Rowling was a transphobic bigot, I read Harry Potter fanfic to pass the waiting time between the books. And Doctor Who fanfic kept me happy in the long period between the original show and the reboot.
Honestly, I don’t see why people get so upset about it. Don’t like it? That’s fine. Don’t write it or read it. If someone wants to try their hand at storytelling in a familiar universe, what’s the harm as long as they aren’t selling it? Yes, a lot of fanfic isn’t well-written at all. So what? It’s not like you slapped down money to read it. And some of its authors might realize they actually enjoy what they’re doing and start taking the time to learn how to write their own stuff well.
I know some authors have been crystal clear that they don’t want anyone writing fanfic of their work; their story has been told the way they want to tell it and they don’t feel kindly towards anyone who tries telling it another way. It feels intrusive, like a criticism of their storytelling or someone invading their property. And that’s valid. I’m certainly not going to tell any other authors how they should feel about that.
But if someone were to want to write fanfic of Tidepool or any of my future novels? Go right ahead. As far as I’m concerned, if a reader has engaged with my fictional world enough that they want to tell more stories with those characters or play What if this happened instead? That means I’ve done my job as an author. I take it as a big compliment.
And it’s how I got my start as a writer. Who am I to tell anyone else they can’t?