The World of Fanfiction: Background information when reading Fangirl

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Fangirl

by Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2013, 448 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2014, 300 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl

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About this Book

Beyond the Book:
The World of Fanfiction

Print Review

In Fangirl, Cath's story is interspersed with snippets of her fan fiction (or "fanfic") starring characters who, in Cath's world, are as well known as Harry Potter is in ours. This hugely popular (primarily online) genre of amateur writing is inspired by existing fictional characters, settings, and themes.

Writers of fanfic are part of a fandom, a whole community built around mutual admiration—and often enthusiastic imitation—of a fictional world. The most popular topics for fanfic include the Harry Potter and Twilight series of novels, as well as the television shows Glee and Supernatural and several anime series. You can find fanfic on sites like Fanfiction.Net, which brings together thousands of fan-submitted stories in one place. The site has well over two million users and archives stories in thirty different languages. Some stories and authors become hugely popular, celebrities with their own eager fan base. The bestselling novel Fifty Shades of Grey actually started life as fanfic based on the Twilight series.

Harry Potter Fanfic has become more widely known – and certainly more readily disseminated – thanks to the Internet. The medium has made it easier for fanfic authors to share their work, for fans to become part of the dialogue, and for fandoms to eventually develop. While the Internet has facilitated fanfic's growth, writing that borrows characters, settings, situations, and even whole plot lines from existing fictional works has been around for a long time. Even if they weren't referenced as "fanfic," spinoffs of works by Jane Austen, Daniel Defoe, and Arthur Conan Doyle's work have all been around from almost the same time as the originals, and were distributed in print.

Cath writes fanfic in which two same-sex characters develop a romantic or sexual relationship – a plotline that did not exist in the original. This genre of fanfic, where same-sex characters are paired together in a departure from the parent story, is known as "slash fiction" or "slash fic." This fanfic subgenre also predates the Internet, going back to Star Trek-inspired Kirk/Spock stories from the 1960s.

Whether these fanfic pieces represent harmless homage or flagrant copyright violation is a matter open to debate. Some authors and creators embrace fanfic, while others have been known to send cease-and-desist letters to writers, especially when stories are sexually explicit in nature. But it seems clear, given the hundreds of new fanfic stories that are posted every day and the thousands of readers who embrace them, that this form of creative expression isn't going away any time soon.

Representative picture of Harry Potter series from imdb.com

Article by Norah Piehl

This article is from the October 2, 2013 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.

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