Behind every story, the good ones and the bad ones, the only thing hidden is an immense passion, love and admiration for the original work. The decision to devote many hours of effort to fanfiction and the courage to dare to share the end result is only paid for in most cases with the recognition of a few amateurs and the laughter or misunderstanding of others. Many fanfiction pieces share deep and dark desires. Often times a piece of the author shows up within the fan work.
The message of the importance of this art form has spread. Last year’s edition of WonderCon had to cancel a panel scheduled with the intention of making humor at the expense of the fanfic after many fans on Twitter were outraged at the idea. However, the best example of the change of perspective regarding fanfiction is the fact that publishers are now the ones who remain alert to any work that begins to go viral. Many publishers are on the hunt for great short stories that can be easily adapted after the market has already proven its demand and interest to the readers.
The success of stories like as Fifty Shades or After (2013-2015) showed that what sticks on the Internet – after undergoing the necessary changes so that they don’t become an object of lawsuit for copyright reasons – can work just as well or even better outside it. However, there are many vocal groups within the fandom that consider that making money from the fanfic goes against what it stands for: stories by and for fans that must be shared with respect for the author.
This is why many fanfiction authors reject projects like the one proposed by Kindle Worlds. Other reasons include what they consider a censorship of themes and the impossibility of practicing many of the styles that are fashionable between fandom, such as writing stories imitating conversations on WhatsApp or other social networks -what is known as chatnoir-, gender swap (which consists of changing the genre of characters) or the practice of Imagina, which tries to write scenes fantasizing about what would happen between the reader, who is usually the protagonist, and some fictional character, to face the craziest situations.
Under the conditions of the Amazon platform, it would also be impossible to share stories in which the characters were inspired by real people. With Wattpad’s popular page highlighting stories with Justin Bieber, ElRubius or Zayn Malik as the protagonists, it seems evident that a large part of the fans will continue, at least for a while, to seek their readings in more traditional pages. The little guys also get less support. Outside of fandoms like Harry Potter fanfiction authors, there are so many smaller works that have avid fan communities that tend to get overlooked by opportunities like that. Fandoms like Death at a Funeral or Matlock.
The latest exercise in claiming the genre wants us to consider what fanfiction is and where is the boundary between fan literature and the use by an author of what he considers references.
The blurred line between fanfiction and reference
It seems obvious that a story in which Sherlock Holmes is dedicated to solving cases, if not written by Conan Doyle, is a fanfiction, isn’t it? That’s not always the case. The television series Sherlock (2010-) uses pre-existing characters to create a universe that now seems original and the same can be said of other fictions such as Once Upon a Time (2011-) or Open Until Dawn (2014-).
One of Stephen King’s first books, The Mystery of Salem Lot is a reimagination of Dracula (1897) by Bram Stoker, a novel that has also inspired Joe Hill who, in Sons of Abraham -one of his stories compiled in Ghosts (2008)- imagines what would have become of Van Helsing’s descendants many years after the events of the original novel. Nor should we forget the fashion that, a few years ago, tried to rewrite classic stories with the addition of certain fantastic elements such as zombies or alien invasions. Pride, Prejudice and Zombies (2009), for example, got its own film adaptation in which Jane Austen shared credits with her fan, Seth Grahame-Smith.
In the face of this, what is fanfiction, where does the line stand between “fan work” and “original material”? Is money then what gives legitimacy to a work? Is it the use of professional self-publishing tools or services from places like Ingram, Squibler or Reedsy? If so, Amazon and its Kindle Worlds may be the perfect solution to the problems of the genre, but first you must win over the fans by relaxing their conditions of use a little. We, as readers, can only observe.