Otherwise known as fanfic, fan fiction may be written singly or working in groups. One of the larger appeals of fanfiction is the ability to "play in a larger sandbox", working with characters and situations created by others, amplifying and changing them for one's own purposes. Sometimes, as in Robotech: The Misfold, a fanfiction may itself be a shared universe, with an editor and writers working together.

Fanfic has a long and distinguished history, beginning decades ago with the emergence of Star Trek as a cultural phenomenon and new mythology for our time. At that time, fanfic writers put together fanzines that were xeroxed and passed by hand to a few dozen or a few hundred pairs of eyes. With the rise of the Internet and the World Wide Web, however, fanfic could be distributed to tens or hundreds of thousands of willing readers everywhere. This has caused some problems relating to copyright and trademark.

One could argue that some of the ethics of fanfic are actually much older. For example, Shakespeare based his plays on history and other events, back before the legal fiction of copyright changed things. Maurice Leblanc's Arsene Lupin stories often featured cameos by a thinly-disguised Sherlock Holmes. One of the worst things you can ever ask a fanfiction writer is "Why don't you write something original?"

There are many different genres of fanfiction for many different tastes. Some of it is written by amateur writers, some of it is written by professional writers who like to moonlight. There are many pieces of fanfiction that are hardly legible, but there are an equal amount that surpasses many pieces of profiction in quality. Many devoted fans establish online fanfic archives where stories are available for anyone who wants to download them to read. Other fans publish non-profit fanzines and distribute them online and at media conventions.

All published fanfiction must include a disclaimer stating that the author does not own the canon characters featured in the story and that they are not profiting from the story in any way.

Within the world of fanfiction there are many different types of stories.

Gen fiction, which usually sticks to the canon established by the movie or show being featured in the story.

Crossovers which combine two different movies or shows.

Original Male Characters or Original Female Characters can be featured in a story. These characters are the creation of the author and not part of the movie or show canon.

Mary Sues feature the author himself or herself in the story.

Hurt/comfort stories have one character get hurt and another character must comfort him/her.

Smarm stories feature non-sexual affection between two characters.

Adult stories which feature various levels of erotic involvement between a male and a female character.

Slash stories which involve a homosexual relationship (not necessarily with sexual content) between two canon charcters.

I have publish a trilogy of stories online. They are archived at the Magnificent Seven FanFiction Archive found at http://www.cairdean.com/magnific/index.html. The titles are Time in a Bottle, Uninvited, and In My Life.

Fanfic for short, fan fiction is an homage to a particular author/creator wherein fans take characters and situations from a popular entertainment entity (reffered to as the canon) and manipulate them to their own amusement.

Some popular terminology from fanfic includes:
  • Ships: A particular relationship between characters that a fanfic author centers upon.

  • character_abbreviation/character_abbreviation: A sort of code used to express a ship. For example, in the case of the wildly popular Harry Potter fanfic community, H/He would stand for Harry/Hermione (not Hydrogen/Helium as an upstanding science... citizen would conclude. Yeah, I know. Lame joke.)

  • Slash: A "slash" pairing involves a romantic or sexual pairing of characters of the same gender. It doesn't sound so appealing, but it really is the basis for many fanfic communities. For example, in the Lord of the Rings community, a wildly popular Slash pairing consists of Fr/S (Frodo/Samwise.) I once came across Micheal Biehn Slash and was so astounded that I near yelped. Still, the concept of Slash interests me the most because, although very taboo in our own culture, a Slash pairing is perfectly accepted by members of every sexual orientation in a fanfic community--and strangely, especially by straight chicks of homosexual male pairings. You'd think it would be the other way around?

Something to note: fanfic is very well widespread. I found a popular Harry Potter cycle called "Draco Dormiens" by Cassandra Claire that has been translated into 4 languages. Furthermore, the following of a fanfic to this purportion becomes "fanon," and is interchanged with the popular "canon." As for "Draco Dormiens," although I can't bring myself to actually read fanfic, I saw that the hits for this particular cycle on a particular host was in the hundreds of thousands. Dude.

Finally, fanfic is not limited to written words. I have come across sites devoted to paintings, animated cartoons, CGI cells, all kinds of things... and all representing scenes from "fanon" as opposed to real stuff. When inquiring whether this whole thing is legal or not, I came across a popular argument. One side says that fanfic is perfectly legal because it is non profit. The other side proclaims that fanfic is a form of plagarism and should thereby be eliminated. This argument came to a head with the "Anne Rice" matter. Rice wrote on her official website:

"I do not allow fan fiction.

The characters are copyrighted. It upsets me terribly to even think about fan fiction with my characters. I advise my readers to write your own original stories with your own characters.

It is absolutely essential that you respect my wishes."

She then had her lawyers send a Cease & Desist to Fanfiction.com.

The legal ramifications of fanfic is summed up here by one of Rice's lawyers:

Most fanfic is illegal. However, the authors in question have either announced that they do not intend to pursue legal action (Anne Rice has taken this position, for example) or they have been very obliging about giving out actual copyright releases (very very few authors will do this).

Basically, writing fanfic is like copying tv shows on your vcr, or taping from the radio. It's technically not good, but a lot of people do it anyway.

*note: my documentation can be found at:

sorry, I didn't mean to ralph all over your screen :D. Just covering my ass, you know? Don't want Rice to get me. She's vicious.

When asked by About.com what Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans should do now that the show is over, Joss Whedon, creator, replied, "write fan fiction."

Joss understands. He gets the fans. He knows that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, that fan fiction can only benefit the creator. It keeps people interested. It keeps them thinking. If what you have created has sparked the imaginations of so many minds, then you must be doing something right. Why fuck with a good thing? Why would you complain about the fact that people are so enthralled by the world you have created, and its characters that they just can't get enough? 22 episodes a year just doesn't satisfy the cravings. So they get their fix elswhere.

Okay, so there is a lot of crap out there. PWOP (porn without plot), fluff, tripe stuff that gets read by those obsessive types who follow Charisma Carpenter to every bloody con in the Western Hemisphere. But every niche has its crazies. And they are harmless- well creatively speaking anyway.

There is also good fan fiction. This is the stuff that actually captures the essence of a show (or Movie or Book series) and brings it to life on the page. It's not about making the characters act out your stupid little fantasies. Good fanfic writers will keep their characters in line. You won't see Wesley Crusher rolling doobies for his classmates, or Doctor Who pinching some hot yellow alien chick's ass. A good fanfic writer will write dialogue that you can actualy imagine the characters saying. And if they are writing Buffy or Angel fanfic, it will be smart, witty and genuine. It's not a simple task.

An Introduction to Fan Fiction

In the gaping sea of information we call the internet there exist many outlets for creative works and varying genres of creativity among them. One of the more extensive, and in some cases more underground, bodies of works is the collection of "Fan Fiction" that fills the databases of journaling websites like FanFiction.net, LiveJournal.com, FictionAlley.com, and many others.

Fan Fiction, for those of you not in the know (and those of you not so good with context clues), is a creative work of literature in which the author (the "Fan" for our case) makes extensive use of another author's (THE "Author" from here on out) characters and settings. This is often done as an homage to the original author's work, but commonly is utilized as an outlet for the Fan's personal desires and fantasies. Much of fan fiction is G-rated, but a large component of the fan fiction universe is dedicated to creating sexual works exploring relationships between characters that might never even touch within the realm of the Author.

Pairings and Ships

These relationships are oft referred to as "pairings" or "ships" and are designated in the following manner (I will use Harry Potter characters as examples since they are easily recognized):


This particular designation is an indicator that the fiction within focuses mainly on the relationship between Severus Snape and Harry Potter from the Harry Potter universe designed by J.K. Rowling. Note: this indicator alone implies romantic, but not necessarily sexual, content as the main focus of the piece. This designation may be extended with multiple slashes to indicate the inclusion of multiple parties (usually threesomes, but sometimes... well, let's just not go there).

Another commonly seen Fan Fiction designation is the marking "OTP" or "One True Pairing", indicating that the Fan believes this pairing to be the ideal for these two characters. Examples of use:

Snape + Harry = OTP!
Harry + Hermione = OTP!
Dean + Pie = OTP!

That last one was thrown in for all the Supernatural fans out there. The equation syntax also occurs with slashes in lieu of pluses and does not necessitate the equals sign. Over time, the fan-fic crowds found that "Snape/Harry" or "Harry/Hermione/Ron/Dean/Seamus/Dobby" took far too long to type or just weren't nearly fun enough to say so mashup names or other fun names were developed to take their place. You will often find Snape/Harry shortened to "Snarry". Some places, like SugarQuill.com, prefer to use colloquial names like "The Good Ship" (referring to Hermione/Ron) or "Orange Crush" (referring to Harry/Ginny).


Perhaps the most impressive facet of the Fan Fiction world is the sense of community and fellowship amongst the Fans (both those that write and those that do not). Livejournal.com is filled with groups hosting fiction marathons, themed fiction, and the interesting idea of gift fiction. One such group is "Merry_Smutmas".

Merry_Smutmas is a seasonal "gift" writing group (clearly this is a Christmas time... uh... adult exchange). The community allows users to sign up and list what sort of fiction they would like to see written as well as what sort of fiction they are willing to write. Once the signups have concluded, a moderator performs a sort of Secret Santa ritual and anonymously pairs up each participant with an idea/genre/pairing they are to write and tells them who it is for. The stories are submitted by a set due date and are posted slowly over a period of a few weeks. The authors' identities are kept secret until all the submissions are posted publicly, but it is known who the "recipient" of each story is.

Fan Fiction authors are a tight knit group (well, within each "Fandom", or fictional universe. Harry Potter fan-ficcers and StarGate fan-ficcers may have very little cross over in participation). As well, it is reported that as much as 96% of all Fan Fiction authors may be female. It is no such surprise then that the community is often fraught with drama. Sometimes this comes about for reasons like Cassandra Claire's plagiarism, sometimes it's for something as minor as one Fan publicly announcing a personal problem with another Fan or a dislike of another Fan's work.

Drama aside, the Fans' ability to come together to create is impressive, to say the least. Conventions sponsored by companies such as Harry Potter Education Fanon bring hundreds to thousands of fans together to discuss their favorite stories, write more stories, and experience "their" universe together. These conventions are usually non-profit as the idea of profiting from Fan-Fiction in any way is still highly controversial (see FanLib).

The Legality of Fan Fiction

Contrary to the statements made by LadyChris and GalahadTheFish, there is neither anything illegal about writing Fan Fiction nor posting it online for the world to see, so long as the author derives no income from the work. You are not legally obliged to list disclaimers disavowing ownership of the characters (because saying "Oh, by the way, I totally don't own these. You can't sue me since I told you." would not be any sort of defense in court. "This is fair use, bitches!" would be WAY more effective.) and a substantial number of Fans do not use any disclaimer of the sort.

The legality does come into question when looking at the works of the aforementioned Cassandra Claire, who is known as one of the few Fan Fiction authors to ever strike an actual book deal as well as one of the few Fan Fiction authors ever accused of wide spread plagiarism. Much of the dialog from her well known Draco Trilogy series is, purportedly, taken from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (a popular TV series from the late 1990's) episodes. At current, it is not legal in any way to profit from Fan Fiction writings without express permission of both the Author and his/her publisher(s) due to copyright law.

The Future of Fan Fiction

Fan Fiction communities are in a constant state of flux as some groups thrive only if their source material continues to provide for them, while others continue to produce material long after the original creation fades from common popularity.

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