Honesty hour: who among us admit to reading fan fiction? When we’re standing around the water cooler at work, or chatting with colleagues, friends, relatives and whatnot, and the subject of books and popular reading arises, how many of us pipe up and say ‘oh my God, I am reading the best fan fiction about so-and-so and this-show ever, you should totally read it.’
It is a safe bet that not many of us admit to our fan fiction loving ways, at least outside of fandom. While we all have our literary preferences, and reading seems to be the one area in which ‘whatever floats your boat’ is truly open without judgement, many still view fan fiction as a dirty little secret in their reading library.
While fan fic can be about literally anything, bringing our favorite shows, films and even other books to new heights, new story lines, and epic alternatives, many still view it as inconsequential within the book-ish world. That it is not valid writing/reading material, forcing many of us who love it (myself included) to hide the truth of our reading preferences.
Now, would people admit to reading and enjoying the likes of E.L. James, Anna Todd, and Christina Lauren? These authors, all New York Times Best sellers, topping the charts with their stories, are all considered credible and popular writers in their own rights. Everyone knows their names, have read or at least heard of their books, and you’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t read at least one of their novels.
But, what many may not realize, is that all three of these incredible authors started out writing fan fiction. A genre that is still questioned by many, and by probably the same people who have enjoyed these writers works.
Fan fiction has the ability to take a beloved form of media, whether it be show, film or book, and make it something more. Something different than it was intended, but through that tap in to an already formed fan base and give them something they hadn’t expected through something they already love. There are fanfictions based on Harry Potter, One Direction, Avengers, Twilight, and so many more, there is pretty much nothing you can’t write a fan fiction about. One browse through Wattpad, and you will quickly understand why it tends to be the forums most prolific genre.
Therefore, this begs the question: Is fan fiction the new ‘it’ star of publication? These three authors have already proven that fan fiction has its place (with some modification) in the publishing world, and with so much more excellent work out on the web, is this just the start of what could be a literary take over?
Lets take a quick look at the books that have already made their mark on the industry, and their beginnings.
AFTER – Anna Todd
Anna Todd is literally your out of the blue literary wonder. Hailed my Cosmo as the “biggest literary phenomenon of her generation”, she started out working the MAC counter and other random jobs, and a military wife to her high school sweetheart. A long time lover of fan fiction, and boy band One Direction, Anna found herself impatiently waiting for some of her favorite fan fictions to update when she decided to try her own hand at the genre. An alternative universe 1D fanfiction staring Harry Styles and original character Tessa, she takes you through their emotional and tumultuous relationship in three online installments that left readers breathless. She started posting After on Wattpad in 2013, and everything changed. Within a year, the story had billions of reads, and gained noticed of big 5 publisher Simon and Shuster, working out a six figure deal to publish the series. Now, with a movie of the book in the works, NYT and international #1’s, and more than 3 billion online reads, After is considered the biggest online literary sensation known.
50 Shades of Grey – E.L. James
Most people dont know this, but 50 Shades was originally a Twilight fanfiction by the name of Master of the Universe. Again an alternative universe story, published on fan fiction websites under the user name Snowqueens Icedragon. Utilizing the characters of Edward Cullen and Bella Swan, the story gained momentum, but also criticism due to the sexual content similar to videos on websites like cartoon porno. Providing insight into the world of BDSM and sexual adventurism, it was one of the first stories to truly gain worldwide attention with such content, while some criticized and others praised the subject matter. Later, James decided to remove the story from forums and post it on her own site, fiftyshades.com. Over time, with the popularity of the story, James again reworked it to remove the already developed characters by Stephenie Meyer into her own characters of Christian Grey and Anna Steele. It was then published and removed from James site, going on to become a best seller and movie hit maker.
Beautiful Bastard – Christina Lauren
Christina Lauren is the team of Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings, who together created some of the most popular modern erotic novels of this generation. The beautiful series, originating with the first book Beautiful Bastard, started as a Twilight fan fiction by the name The Office. Following the story of Chloe and Bennett it pits a strong willed girl against a hard ass and demanding boss. Of course, the relationship and tension turns sexual, and you find them trying to find a balance between their differing personalities and working relationship. After being picked up by Simon and Shuster, the same imprint which published Anna Todd shortly after, the series spun out six more books in the series. The popularity was immediate, and now Constantin films has bought the rights to turn the story into a film.
These are just a few of the stories which have made it from online fan fiction phenoms to international bestsellers and box office hits, but it shows the true talent behind fan fiction, and the marketability of the genre. Many still like to question its validity, but surely taking on a new spin to an already popular subject matter is brilliant rather than shameful. No longer should we hide our fan fic loving ways, and shout it loud and proud that we enjoy these stories, and know what they are, and can be.