Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Reader Confessions: My Addiction to Fanfiction

That's right. I read fanfiction. For you readers who are close friends or family members, you've heard me defend my actions repeatedly. But quite frankly, there is no excuse for the satisfaction I derive from a really good piece of fanfiction.

I find myself intrigued by the idea of fanfiction existing at all. It's a strange social structure in itself - a messy, complex system of readers, writers, and reviewers who feel a need to interact with their favorite pieces of art. I've read a few essays on the subject, and I am always interested in the ways scholars look at the phenomena of fanfiction through the eyes of sociology and psychology. I spend as much time trying to figure out why I read fanfiction as I spend reading it. I've been known to spend hours daydreaming about what happens next when I've finished a good book or movie or TV episode. But I've never put it down on paper, and I would certainly never want to share it with another human being. So why am I often so interested in these weird fantasy worlds others create?

Fanfiction is probably the lowest form of literature out there. It's the moody, strange ramblings of angsty teenagers and lonely middle-aged cat owners. I'd say about 99.7% of it is horrid, unreadable. But occasionally, something really good emerges out of all the piles of shear crap in the fanfiction world. I've been lucky enough to find a few splendid pieces of fanfiction that make even a serious reader like myself quite happy and hungry for more.

One is a Harry Potter series that picks up with the gang a decade after Book Seven. The series, We Belong, concentrates on George Weasley dealing with his brother's death and the way new friendships form after Voldemort is defeated. It's an extremely satisfying epilogue to the series, and both a good friend and I consider it the missing eighth book.

Then, there's a series I feel even guiltier about but love even more. The Brotherhood series explores the world of my favorite guilty-pleasure TV show, Supernatural. The Brotherhood series (which is primarily the work of two writers but also has a very long reach in the world of Supernatural fanfiction) adds extra characters to the series. And strangely enough, I often find this series to be more satisfactory and thematically deeper than the television show. I never confuse the distinct worlds of the show and the fanfiction, but I love exploring each separately. The Brotherhood's best author (whose oeuvre is the one I linked to above) is actually quite good. Her writing is strong and very subtle, her dialogue is practically perfect, and her plotting is complex and careful. I pretty much put everything on hold when I see an update for a Brotherhood story.

So there you go. Two examples of fantastic fanfiction that I read despite my heavy sense of guilt. I may not have figured out why I read fanfiction, but on a lonely or rainy afternoon in front of my computer, I'm often glad I do.

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