Some creators love it, some hate it, and some just pretend it doesn’t exist. Yet regardless of how authors feel towards it, fanfictions are still posted online everyday. Stories about alternate universes, character studies, relationships, filling in gaps the original author left unanswered, or just creating new stories about characters and worlds that so many love. The stories range in length from a few hundred words to multiple novels. Some readers fall in love with these stories so much that they even pay to print and bind the fanfiction into a hard copy book. So why do we continue to turn to these stories even though they are not “canon”?
For one, fanfiction keeps a story alive, even after the creator has ended it. Take a tv show like Lost, for example. The series ended several years ago, but fans can still enjoy new stories set within the Lost universe through fanfiction - perhaps one where everyone doesn’t die in the end, or a retelling of the series through the eyes of Walt’s dog Vincent. Whatever the story may be, fanfiction allows the story to live beyond its set episodes, pages, or film runtime. It keeps the fandom interested in the world the author created, while allowing for infinite possibilities for the characters and universe the reader loves.
More importantly (in my opinion), fanfiction can create a space for representation and diversity that was lacking in the original story. Last month I wrote about Disney’s lack of quality queer representation in their media, which is disappointing but not the least bit surprising given its history. I mentioned how in Star Wars IX, there was a background wlw couple that was on screen for three seconds. These female characters were applauded as “groundbreaking representation” for the franchise, yet Disney refused to give anything to the two male leads who shared several scenes and chemistry (chemistry that their actors even alluded to in interviews). Though Disney and Star Wars did not allow for main characters to be queer on the big screen, there are countless fanfictions on the internet about these two characters as a romantic couple. Where the canon fell short, writers filled in with moments of adventure and intimacy through fanfiction. This idea expands far beyond sexuality; where there was no representation, now there can be for the trans community, the disabled community, the BIPOC community, and so many more.
Not only is fanfiction a channel for representation, but can also be used as a form of protest. Take JK Rowling for example: she is not only a blatant transphobe online/in real life, but put this transphobia, as well as racism and antisemitism, throughout the Harry Potter books. In fanfiction, we can read a one-off about Ron being transgender, give Cho Chang an actual first name, study Hermione through the lens of her being Black, or create new characters that give insight into Jewish life at Hogwarts. All of these ideas, and so many more, go against what the author had originally pictured when she created the story. Through fanfiction we can appreciate the base world that was handed to us by the original creator and stand up to their hurtful beliefs, creating a new world that is entirely our own.