I know that, in this class at least, we are quite the sophisticates. I mean, Professor Gambito has a thing for Denzel, but I am pretty sure that is not the guiltiest of possible guilty pleasures. And then there is me. See, I have been hiding in the closet for a long, long time, and it is time to come out.
I first discovered the website in 9th grade. I was young, then, and becoming dissatisfied with my 20th read-through of the Harry Potter books. I heard a quiet whispering in the hallway, something about “OTP.” So I did what any curious, unsatisfied girl of 15 would do. I googled it. Immediately, www.fanfiction.net appeared on my screen.
I have never recovered.
You see, fanfiction is something my generation keeps quiet. We sneak reading on our laptops in between Facebook and Twitter sprees, somehow ashamed to be a part of such a radical underground movement. Because fanfiction, whatever else it may be, is a movement unto itself.
Fanfiction, for those who do not know, is exactly what it sounds like. It is the result of fans of a book, movie, television show, band, celebrity, etc. wishing that they could end the story differently – so they rewrite it, or pick up where the story line left off. In theory, this is simple enough.
Some are horrible, and those are the ones people talk about, joking about horrid grammar and sex scenes that are not anatomically feasible. But some are truly amazing, written by talented writers.
I like to believe that I am among them – I have written three novel-length “fics” since my stumble onto the site back then.
The incredible thing about fanfiction is that it is not for profit. I will probably never see any money from the hundreds of thousands of words I have written. The artists who send me drawings or “trailer” videos for my works will never see them in a museum or on a silver screen. This is a network of millions and millions of people – fanfiction.net alone has around 2.2 million users – who write, read, review, and follow I don’t even know how many stories. A much smaller site, Archive of Our Own, has 647,611 stories at my last count, with only 33,500 users.
Think about this for a second. The majority of these users are young. These are young people who are supposed to hate reading and writing more every year. Instead, they are hiding laptops and e-readers under their bed sheets, coming up with a language all their own (with OTPs, ships, pairings, fluff, and one-shots). Some writers, including bestselling authors Cassandra Clare and EL James, are getting their starts as writers on these sites. And above all, publishing has become a purer art than ever. Taking out the politics of agents, editors, and publishers, we are self-marketing through character asks, Twitter accounts, Tumblr accounts, and word of… well, typing fingers. We are editing each others’ works, free of charge (in a process called beta-ing). And we are publishing for the joy of seeing our work affect others.
I know we are supposed to include a literary magazine in our discussion, but in a way, my point was to discuss how the line between literary magazines and fanfiction are blurring. After all, if you google “Literary Magazine” (can you tell how much I rely on google?), you receive the following definition:
A literary magazine is a periodical devoted to literature in a broad sense. Literary magazines usually publish short stories, poetry and essays along with literary criticism, book reviews, biographical profiles of authors, interviews and letters.
How, then, is periodically receiving emails about new chapters for my favorite stories or new stories for my favorite authors any different? Fanfiction.net publishes short stories, poetry, and, yes, essays, along with criticism and reviews. The authors have biographical information on their pages. The characters themselves are interviewed by the readers. Letters between the author and his or her fans can also be published and read by others.
As far as CURA’s social action standpoint goes, interestingly enough, fanfiction websites often run auctions for charities. Readers bid on outtakes and the authors deliver them – all profits go to benefit others.
I suppose what I am trying to say is that fanfiction websites are the most interactive of literary magazines. In a world where interactivity is needed to keep our short attention spans entertained, how can we use these sites as examples for our own?