Fan fiction is a supremely interesting topic.  I wish I could start somewhere and say, “Here is the origin of fanfic, and I shall walk you through its evolution.”  But really, that’s not possible.  Fan fiction has been around since stories were first told, and even what constitutes fan fiction is definitely up for debate.*  What’s absolutely certain is that some people hate fan fiction and others love it.  I won’t bother to rehash the entire debate that is flowing around the series of tubes right now, but here’s my favorite quote from io9’s article (a repost from Catherynne M. Valente’s LJ):

It is part of the human activity of storytelling to retell, misremember, breakup and tell backwards, peek into the crannies and tell the other stories (thank you Euripides), wonder what might have been, what could be, and tell the same stories over and over, but tell them slant. I feel that trying to destroy that impulse is not only hopeless but cruel.

I think Ms. Valente hits the nail on the head with this one.  The situation at hand is that a bunch of people are upset, and according to some they have denigrated fan fiction and those who write it.**  I couldn’t have said it any better than Ms. Valente already did, so I will add only that I fully support fan fiction and if I should ever publish a novel I hope it will inspire at least one person to make my playground their own.  Every author is entitled to his or her own opinion, of course, but many of the comments leveled at fan fiction writers (throughout academia, publishing, etc.) are both ignorant and ill-considered, so I hope that this new generation is one that “sees fanfic as, not a nuisance, but a mark of success, a benchmark.”

*For more on this, I recommend starting with Fan Fiction and Fan Communities in the Age of the Internet by Karen Hellekson and Kristina Busse.  If you’re one of my friends, I’d be happy to lend you my copy.  Henry Jenkins is another quite prolific academic who discusses fan fiction, but these suggestions are only a few in the giant realm of fan studies.  Check them out.

**[Update] I am fact checking on what exactly was said and what was said was said, etc.  For the moment I’ll leave the post as it is.

Further Update: I’ve read George R.R. Martin’s thoughts on the matter and I stand by what I said in the first version of this post.  I believe that his analysis of fan fiction is flawed, but I don’t think it’s a debate that will be easily resolved.