A Deeper World Through FanFiction (FanFiction Fridays continued)

This is the second post in a new weekly series titled FanFiction Fridays. Every Friday for the next few months, an eclectic mix of writers will guest-post on FanFiction (please go here for a controversial definition). You will be hearing from Computer Science majors and published authors and FanFic writers and Drama geeks. FanFiction is fascinating to me because it brings up issues of technology and copyright, originality and creative derivation, gender-norms and digital communities.

This week Tiffany June Lin writes about fanfiction as a way to deepen flat original universes. Tiffany June Lin is a fanfiction reader (Fanfiction.net username: kuailongkit (favorites only)). Her hobbies include singing a cappella, acting in her dorm musical, and, of course, reading fanfiction. In real life, Tiffany is an Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT.

I am an avid fanfiction reader, not a writer, by any sense of the term. You can probably see why, after reading this post. But I’ll do my best. I will not give you philosophy. Instead, I shall explain the appeal of fanfiction.

I started reading fanfiction in middle school, and haven’t stopped. For me, it is more than just a hobby, it is an escape from our boring world. But why has fanfiction captured my attention so much? It is because of all the random hijacks that the fanfiction authors make their borrowed (without permission) characters do. I do not deny that I would love to have the chance to meet up with a few of my favorite authors and grab their signatures, sometimes more than I wish to meet the original author. Why would this be? The authors write such captivating stories, to prompt fans across the globe to write stories based on their characters. But sometimes, it is only the plot that is fascinating. Perhaps the characterization of fan favorites is just a little lacking, turning the characters into two dimensional caricatures.

Perhaps I should start with one of my favorite fandoms, Harry Potter. As an elementary school student, when the first few books came out, I found myself fascinated with the world. Now, as an adult, I find that when I reread the books, I look primarily to the characterizations, and find them lacking. Truly, the Harry Potter series was written for children. My favorite character is Severus Snape, because he is the most complex character.

But let’s analyze the other characters first. Perhaps I am being a little harsh, but all we have are a rule-abiding bookworm, a Quidditch-obsessed slob, and a hero for the three main characters. They don’t have any depth, and it’s insanely easy to predict what they would do next. Harry will always try to solve the problem by himself, try to keep everyone else safe. How boring. Hermione always runs to the library and believes that the adults are correct. Other than Umbridge, who was blatantly unfair. Ron… well, he has jealousy simmering under his idiotic exterior. How hard is it to write someone with a little more character than that? What’s worse is Ginny, who I have always seen as a ‘boy-who-lived groupie’ or simply as ‘Ron’s younger sister’, manages to get together with Harry after having no real interaction with him. I don’t understand.

The reason that fanfiction is so interesting is that it takes these boring characters, and creates a depth for them, creates some other motives that drive them, and makes them more interesting to read about. Instead of the (to me) nonsensical union between Hermione and Ron, and Harry and Ginny, we have interesting, fresh relationships like Harry and Luna, Harry and Hermione, and (one of my favorites) Harry and Tonks. These pairs aren’t as common as Harry and Ginny. But they’re interesting and they make sense to me.

Maybe this is only because I read too much fanfiction. But ultimately, I believe a good fanfic is one that takes the characters, places them in a situation, and makes it believable. How different is that from say, writing a sequel? The only difference is that the writers aren’t the same author.

Inspirational Quote:

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand.”–Marie Curie


  1. Tiffany,

    I think the majority of fanfiction is based on works that people love. For people to be excited enough about a universe and its characters to write about it, they have to read it and enjoy it first. I mean, how can you be a Harry/Tonks shipper if you don’t like Harry or Tonks?

    There is a lot of Harry Potter fanfiction out there. But I think it’s there because people love the source material, and want to either be a part of it or make it their own in some way. Our culture is becoming more and more participatory, and people who are fans of Harry Potter want to participate in his universe in some way. I think it’s great that they’re choosing a creative means of participating. Art has always depended on the borrowing of ideas from others.

    I agree, though, that writing should be judged on its own merits, rather than on the author’s identity. There’s a lot of completely un-approved fanfiction out there that’s quite good, and a lot of ‘canon’ writing that’s atrocious. (Brian Herbert’s Dune prequels, for instance, should all be tied to thumpers and left in the deep desert.) People can and should judge for themselves what’s good writing and what isn’t.

    Jessica – your blog is good stuff. Keep it up.

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