Fanfiction is like sashimi. In theory, the idea is kind of revolting, but in the hands of someone who knows what she’s doing, it can be surprising and wonderful in all kinds of ways.
I’m pretty proud of that analogy. I’m also not NOT proud that I occasionally delve into reading fanfiction. It’s a new thing for me, and I admit, I had no idea what it was about as little as a year ago and pretty much wrote it off as hackneyed, cliche, thinly-veiled sexual fantasies scribbled by people of limited imagination and limitless fetishes. I really couldn’t have been more wrong, though. Sure, the vast majority of it falls into at least one of those categories, and just by virtue of that fact that there’s no “quality moat” to publication, the ratio of absolute crap to everything else is a lot higher than it is with original (published) fiction, BUT…
…but the hidden gems are fan-freaking-tastic. Someone who can take a setting and characters that you’re already intimately familiar with, do something novel with them, write them in that “step off the page” way that good authors do, and write well in general is just amazing to encounter.
So there’s value there. However… what really gets me is the numbers. There are millions of stories on fanfiction.net alone. Literally millions. How do that many people feel passionate enough about a given work to do that? And which works get the most love is endlessly fascinating to me. For example.
The most popular fanfiction subject on that site, by far, is Harry Potter. There are 680,000 pieces of Harry Potter fanfiction on there. You could spend the rest of your life reading just stories that people have written about Harry Potter and never read them all. That’s kind of insane to me. I can’t decide if it’s in a good way or bad way.
After good old HP, it’s a steep fall down to #2 in the books category, where we’ve got, you guessed it, Twilight. Aaaaand the less said about that, the better. Except to say that I’m not particularly surprised. And that’s really the key issue here. As you work your way down the list, there are some real eyebrow-raisers, just daring you to click on them.
For example, way down at the bottom of the “TV” category, 18 brave souls have undertaken the daunting task of writing Bill Nye The Science Guy fanfiction. I don’t even… what could you possibly… how would you even… maybe I should just look at one and see what it’s…
One shot : Just this random story where Bill basically loses his mind and tries to get animals to talk.
THings get whacky when bill nye starts an arguement on facebook between young children cartoon charactars
NO NO NO NO NO NO
For those who have had enough of that creepy purple dinosaur, and are ready for someone to step up and take over the thrown of child show entertainer. (Graphic, dont read if you happen to like that purple menice to society)
THAT’S COMPLETELY…. I might actually watch an episode of Bill Nye that was nothing but Bill beating the crap out of a guy in a smiling Barney costume. Anyone else? No? Just me? Cool.
Moving on. Another interesting one: Song of Ice and Fire. I’d think this one would be huge. Martin’s huge cast of characters and totally developed world seem like a pretty enticing sandbox, and the tried and true “what if X character hadn’t died?” fanfiction hook would work kinda… uh… WELL with that series. But it clocks in at only 4,300 stories. I mean, that’s a LOT, objectively, but it’s less than I would have guessed.
The Hardy Boys checks in with 1,500. I’m not even TOUCHING that one. Although I will say that there’s not exactly a high bar to clear, writing-wise. That, and I hope that AT LEAST 500 of those stories are about how the Hardy Boys STRAIGHT UP MURDER their worthless friend CHET and drive his JALOPY off a freaking CLIFF.
Of course the other 1,000…
Nope, still not going there.
Some other interesting numbers…
Fanfiction based on TV shows has some obvious names at the top. Glee, Supernatural, Doctor Who, Buffy, and Sherlock round out the top 5, but digging deeper there are some real head-scratchers. Grey’s Anatomy weighs in at 14,000 and change, which is kind of puzzling to me since that show always seemed like it was already fanfiction, so what’s left to cover? Firefly only has 7,000. I’d have guessed much higher, given the combination of the show’s passionate fanbase and the void left by its untimely demise. The West Wing has just under 5,000, and I’m curious what you’d want to write about that show, I mean without the acting and Sorkin’s writing, you’re pretty much just left with, you know, politics, so how interesting could it…
Josh wakes up a little too drunk to recall what had happened the night before. Donna leaves him sleeping in her bed, while she cries and jumps onto plane to fly across the country. COMPLETE
Oh, right. That whole thing. As if the videos weren’t annoying enough.
Still hate those, by the way. They are the bane of every pop culture writer who’s trying to find a clip of a specific scene of a TV show.
Let’s move on down to the bottom, shall we? There are a handful of categories that have ONE, and only one story. Some person, some brave person, has decided that he or she is the lone voice that must bring light to the darkness. I had to dig pretty deep until I found something that had only 1 story about it that I’d actually heard of, and here it is… 1600 Penn.
I’ve never actually seen this, but before it was cancelled, I ran into a good number of snarky comments about how bad it was. so technically I’ve heard of it. My impression is that it was incredibly broad, full of sitcom stereotypes, and was the kind of thing you watch in the twilight haze of a 2 hour layover in Denver. Anyway. So, what does such a show engender when it comes to the 1 person in the entire world who wanted – no, NEEDED – to write fanfiction about it?
After the first family welcomed a new member to the family, D.B went off to the Navy struggling with his feeling.
I cackled to myself for far longer than I should have. Moving right past the fact that it’s pretty terrible diction to use “family” twice like that… he struggled with his FEELING! “Damn it, my feeling is acting up again. I should really take something for that.” “Is that my feeling again? I hate that thing.” Maybe it’s one of those things that’s only funny to me. In the course of my 9-to-5 job I edit a lot of other people’s work, some of them obviously ESL, and you run across some pretty fun mistakes sometimes. One time a guy wrote that the (at the time) new iPhone 5s was selling “like hot cake.” It’s the little things in life you treasure.
Fanfiction writers. God bless ‘em, every one. I love stories. Love them. I think they’re important in a real and meaningful way. But I’m not sure I’ve ever reached that level of passion where I couldn’t just be there with my feelings, I had to explode out into expressing them in that way.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I just realized that Fanfiction.net has a Plays section, and that 11 people have taken time out of their busy schedules as world-class appreciators of awesome things to write Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead fanfiction, so I’m just going to go ahead and assume all 11 are amazing.