A Fan’s Fiction
The most popular bit of Hawaii Five-0 fan-fiction online is a nearly 40,000-word behemoth focusing on, basically, “What if Danno was a shark-mermaid and also in love with McGarrett?” It has more than 100,000 hits (impressive for something practically novel length).
I have read this story, “The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea,” at least four times. It’s so good. The characterizations are so rich. The shark-mermaid thing works really well, against all odds. If only we could scrap the weird turns the show has taken and start over with this. I would be glued to my TV.
On Archive of Our Own (AO3), a popular fanfiction hub, it is simply one of 9,934 such stories, which are in turn a drop in a sea of millions of stories about the likes of Harry Potter, Supernatural and Sherlock.
It’s been a thing for ages — sometimes derided, sometimes forgotten, but never flagging. The premise is simple: fan-made stories about their favorite characters from TV, books, movies, games, anything. These stories range from the mundane to the fantastical, but they share much in common: predominantly authored by women, for women, with a pronounced emphasis on same-sex relationships (and frequent forays into the smutty).
Some authors manage to gain so much prominence they enter the mainstream — surely you’ve heard of a lady named E.L. James and her little book, Fifty Shades of Grey, which was once simply a Twilight fanfic called “Master of the Universe.” Or even consider “accepted” titles like Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, essentially a fanfic take on Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. (Or yes, even Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.)
In Japan, there’s an entire underground industry dedicated to publishing comics depicting the unshakeable love between Naruto and Sasuke from manga series Naruto (I have mentioned it before in Metro, if you want to revisit my trip to famed doujinshi shop Mandarake on metrohnl.com).
In fact, head down to Kawaii Kon in any given year, and you’ll find a number of panels sharing tips on writing fanfiction.
So the question remains: Why? Why aren’t we satisfied with the stories we are told? Why do we feel compelled to appropriate these characters and make up our own?
Fanfiction is just … equal opportunity, in the truest sense. There are no financial barriers — publishing something on AO3, for example, is free . There aren’t really any legal barriers, as long as you don’t try to sell your stories. There’s no one there to tell you “no, you’re not good enough,” or “no, that topic won’t fly.”
You want to write about Arya Stark dealing with transexuality? You can. You want to write about Harley Quinn running away with Poison Ivy and leaving the abusive Joker behind? You can. You want to write even if you misspell every other word? You can.
You can do anything. It’s as simple as that.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to reread that one story about Danno opening a bakery and falling in love with McGarrett the schoolteacher (“Happiness is Homemade”).