Sunday, 14 August 2011

Playing With Other People's Toys

This week I took my first foray into fanfiction. Or made it. Do you take or make a foray? Seriously, this is going to bug me.

I've never really been interested in fanfiction before. I never saw the point in reading something that was bound to be rubbish compared to the original, and as someone who wants to be a published author someday, it kind of bothered me that people could just take your characters and twist them to suit what they wanted.

Take the book I was forced to read a couple of years ago for Critical Reading. "Wide Sargasso Sea" by an author that I will not name because I object to the existence of this book, essentially tells the story of Mad Bertha from "Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Brontë. It's an incredibly dull book, which was my first objection to it, but then I realised that this woman is making money using characters that aren't hers. Storylines that aren't hers. And I object to that strongly.

Online fanfiction, however, I have mixed feelings about. On the one hand, yes, people are using other people's characters and creating whole new backgrounds or futures or whatever for them. But they aren't making money from it. They're doing it out of their love for the characters and the original text, the original author should be flattered. I know I would be.

I still didn't really see the point of it, though. Why read a Harry Potter fanfiction piece when I can just read Harry Potter?

And then I stumbled upon a story (not using StumbleUpon) and started reading. I don't really know why I did, but I was hooked. It's really well-written, it's a believable premise, and the writer has been very true to the characters. I'll admit that she slips in a few places, but that's to be expected I think, and otherwise it's really very good.

I sat and consumed the story in a matter of days, and it's not a short story. There are 42 chapters. The average chapter is about 4500 words, which is around 9 A4 pages single-spaced. So it's quite an undertaking, especially since it's on a screen not on the page and that makes it much harder to read (because the website's formatting isn't exactly reader-friendly). And then it hit me.

I believe I've discovered the problem with fanfiction - it's unreliable.

And I don't mean in the sense that it deviates from the canon and can find Hermione falling in love with Snape (there is an ASTONISHING amount of these stories online). I mean that many of these stories are written as serials, with the author posting chapters as they write them. I just reached chapter 42 of a work of fanfiction, and discovered that it wasn't finished. Reading the comments, it would appear that between chapters 37 and 38, the author took a year long break. A year. This story has been in production for more than 6 years. And that is the problem with fanfiction. I have no way of knowing when I can finish reading it, and it is incredibly frustrating. All the more so because the writer left the last chapter on a cliffhanger.

Two months ago.


  1. Oh lordy, that would drive me nuts. I'm a super impatient person, especially when I've really gotten into something.

    I'm just glad you didn't find it when the author had written chapter 37. Sheesh, the wait on that would have been killer.

    And I hope the author decides not to take another yearlong break again!!

  2. I have some serious issues with fanfiction. I guess it's true that most authors would probably be very flattered that someone cared enough about their characters and plots to write their own version ... but in my opinion the only person who knows those characters well enough to write about them is the author. It bugs me that people can make money out of other people's ideas - to me, they're just too lazy to think up their own characters, so they pinch someone else's and pass it off as 'fanfiction'. NO. I do not approve of this. If you're doing it out of genuine love for the series/novel/whatever, and you're in no way aiming to make money out of it, then fine. I guess I can get on board with that. But as you said with the example of Wilde Sargasso Sea, to blatently rip off someone else's work because you can't be bothered to think up original characters ... you do not deserve that publishing contract.

    ALSO. The sheer volume of Snape/Hermione fanfics that can be found on the internet is phenomenal. What is more phenomenal is the readership they attract. Do I want to read about Hermione's secret saucy dreams about Prof. Snape? No I do not. Go away, please.

    Lastly. The reason it took me so long to comment was because I wanted to have a look at the example you mentioned (I found the link on your facebook) ... and I'm sorry, but I thought it was appallingly written. I managed to get through the first page?? Chapter?? I don't know, whatever ... and I was seriously unimpressed. All I can say is I hope they're not planning on giving up their day job ...

  3. I didn't realise it was a romance when I started reading, otherwise I wouldn't have bothered. It's not really romantic. I wasn't going to share the link because I was a teensy bit embarrassed for people to know what kind of crap I actually read. Yeah, the spelling and grammar is pretty bad, but it gets better, she has people proof-reading it for her. I actually don't think English is her first language, so in that respect it's very good. I got really hooked on the story, and eventually stopped noticing the bad grammar. And there are no secret saucy dreams. Not in the one I'm reading anyway. I was scared by some of the things I found when I was researching fanfiction.