Interestingly Fanfiction, often written off by many as being an inferior source of fiction, can teach young people a range of skills, from the way to search databases for the type and subject matter they like, to the ability and confidence to be critical of texts. There is a great amount written about the relative artistic value of fanfiction, most strongly arguing that whilst there is a significant amount of poorly written work available (Derecho, 2006) there is certainly an amount of very well written and valuable work available too.
The prevalence of Fanfiction encourages the reader to be critical and selective in their reading. Encouraging young people to access such work also encourages them to feel more confident in exercising their own judgment in terms of what they would like to read, but also in terms of what they deem to be worthy of their time. Schools, through necessity, provide structures and reading lists and are directive in terms of the reading of young people. Fanfiction offers a plethora of options and encourages the reader to discard work that does not speak to them.
(Image Via: http://icanhas.cheezburger.com/)
Fanfiction offers readers a world in which they can re-imagine their favorite narratives and characters in such a way as to be able to relate more closely to those characters, or to even rewrite those characters to reflect their place, view and experience of the world. Notably there has always been a high prevalence of queer fanfiction. For example FemmeSlash fiction provided a fertile ground for queer young women (and others no doubt) to re-imagine storylines in such a way as to mirror either their own experiences or at least mirror the experiences they would like to see in mainstream media.
Fanfiction is also an interesting space to introduce young people to the eccentricities of copy write. Whilst most young adults would know today that downloading films or reproducing work without citation in essays is wrong or illegal, the complexities of parody and rewriting are often ignored. Whilst online fanfiction does not often concern itself too much with such issues, beyond disclaimers clarifying that authors do not ‘own’ the characters or original text, when commercial publishing is raised it seems a lot more complicated. (Lipton, 2014). Titled such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Graham-Smith, 2009) and Android Karenina (Waters, 2010) have brought fanfiction to the forefront of commercial publishing, and would be an interesting place to introduce copy write implications to young students.
Graham-Smith, S., Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Quirk Books, Philadelphia, 2009.
Waters, B.H., Android Karenina, Quirk Books, Philadelphia, 2010.
Derecho, A. (2006), ‘Archontic literature: A definition, a history, and several theories of fan fiction’, in K. Hellekson and K. Busse (eds), Fan Fiction and Fan Communities in the Age of the Internet, Jefferson, NC: McFarland, pp. 61–78.
Leavenworth, M., L., Canon authors and fannish interaction , The Journal of Fandom Studies, 10/2014, Volume 2, Issue 2
Lipton, J., D., COPYRIGHT AND THE COMMERCIALIZATION OF FANFICTION, Houston Law Review, 01/2014, Volume 52, Issue 2