The Good and Bad for Readers
The Good for Readers
How many times have you finished reading a book (especially the final book in a series) and wished it hadn't ended? Unless the author has done a good job of writing a satisfying, cathartic ending, it can leave the reader feeling unfulfilled. But the opposite can be true as well, no matter how perfect the ending, a reader may still want more. Fan fiction is a great way for readers to continue on the character journey in many different ways.
A quick search for the average age of fan fiction readers resulted in the above graphic. Granted, the data is almost eight years old, but it confirms my suspicion that most fan fiction readers are teens. That's a good thing, in my opinion. In today's world, anything that will get teens to READ and interact with other readers is good. Fan fiction provides not only entertainment for these kids, but also may give them courage to write their own fan fic story. Write what you know, right? Getting young people engaged in literary pursuits grows more important as these subjects, in my experience, are receiving less attention in the school setting as more focus falls on STEM subjects. (I'm not knocking the sciences, but a good balance is necessary.)
One of the many genres of fan fiction is Self-insert fan fic in which a version of the author finds himself inside the particular fandom's universe. This allows readers alternative characters that may better represent them. In the early Star Trek fan fiction years, most of the writers and readers were female because it allowed them to create and consume more "female-as-hero" story lines. As in the Harry Potter series, fans can imagine which house the sorting hat would place them into, or even create a fifth, secret house, or a blend of houses. The possibilities are endless. There are entire community boards dedicated to this one subject. It's fantastic.
There are many more reasons that fan fiction is good for readers, but now let's move on.
The Bad for Readers
Let me first say that just because there are bad things about fan fiction, it doesn't mean that writers should stop creating fan fic stories or that readers should stop reading them. People should be aware of the downsides, especially given that most readers are teens and preteens.
Generally a Good Thing
In my research, I have come to the conclusion that fan fiction and the resulting online communities are a good thing for readers of all ages. As long as parents understand the potential hazards and monitor their child's reading habits, there should be no problem. I think these communities are a fun and creative way to explore beloved characters and universes from all genres and all mediums.
If I were in charge of the internet world, I would give fan fiction a big thumbs up. But I know my opinion doesn't really matter and I'm just a lurker, or a noob, or whatever they call people who have just dipped their toes in to the Fan Fic world.
Next week, I'll discuss the ways fan fiction is good and bad for writers.
I write novels and poetry and this blog.