Fanfiction's reputation is shaky, yet has lasting legacy

Picture this: It’s 2011 and you’re under blankets adorned with the faces of your favorite band, One Direction. Your mom thinks you’re asleep, but really, you’re frantically reading fanfiction about Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson. 

The words on the screen of your iPod Touch are just waiting to be digested, and you can’t stop. Midnight quickly becomes 3 a.m., and Styles and Tomlinson have just shared their first kiss after chapters of sexual tension. You can’t quit reading now, even though you know that sixth grade awaits you in just a few hours. 

This was the reality for countless young Directioners and other fans of popular media in the 2010s. Most people will refer endearingly to their “fanfic phase” as one spent reading some amazing stories about their favorite pop culture figures. In HBO’s trendy series “Euphoria,” fanfiction culture is mentioned briefly, providing an ode to a culture that is rarely discussed. 

To those that didn’t consume fanfictions in their early teens, fanfiction is a genre of literature best defined as when fans use celebrities or characters from movies or books to create imaginary stories. More often than not, these fanfictions are often romantic and can be very pornographic.

Fanfiction didn’t have its start on the internet, and it definitely didn’t begin with Directioners. Going as far back as the '70s, imaginary stories from fans of popular franchises like "Star Trek" would get published in fanzines and circulate around conventions. 

Yet, fanfictions took on a life of its own with the birth of the internet. Tumblr, Wattpad and FanFiction.Net are just a few sites that were littered with stories about all different types of characters and real people. 

Fanfiction may seem like a way obsessive fans can fill the nostalgia that books, movies or even bands may leave people with, these reads are often very compelling and can make some serious coin. 

Take for instance the infamous “Fifty Shades of Grey” series — not many people know that this iconic trilogy had its start as a fanfiction. Originally, the characters of the story were not Christian Grey or Anastasia Steele. They were actually called Edward Cullen and Bella Swan. That’s right, “Fifty Shades of Gray” started as a “Twilight” fanfiction

Too often, fanfiction is dismissed as something inferior to “real” literature. Nonetheless, it’s impossible to deny the cultural impact that fanfiction has. 

Less than six months ago, a popular Styles fanfiction titled “After” was turned into a movie that has just been added to Netflix. Anna Todd, the author of the Wattpad story-turned-movie, gained a six-figure publishing deal from a story that was mainly written on her phone. 

As someone who beams at any mention of fanfiction, especially those that appropriated Harry Potter or One Direction, I find that fanfiction is an amazing way that new writers can express themselves to an eager audience. It’s touching to me that people dedicate so much time to bring characters back to life or add unique twists to real people. 

Don’t get me wrong, fanfiction can get really weird — like, stuff that people should probably never think or publish online. 

For example, people have speculated that all of the pressure for Tomlinson and Styles to date, with a lot of it stemming from popular fanfictions, resulted in a loss of their friendship. But so long as the internet exists, there will always be unexplainable and inappropriate things that appear as well. 

That’s the beauty of fanfiction. Anyone is given the platform to write anything. Sometimes, this sparks creativity and a passion for writing, as well as a dedication to reading. Other times, it can have serious implications. 

Perhaps somewhere in time, 13-year-old me is typing furiously on her HP laptop, uploading her next chapter of "Narry" (Styles and Niall Horan) smut to her fanbase of approximately 12 awaiting readers. 

Fanfiction and Wattpad’s accepting community encouraged me to continue writing — even if the story had an awful plot and was filled with unoriginal content. 

To fanfiction, I owe my love for writing, and I will never be ashamed of that. 

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