Is FanFiction Killing the Classics?

There is a lot of controversy in the literary world about unpublished stories. One particularly controversial type of unpublished story is fanfiction. Fanfiction is a story or book written about an existing book, series, TV show, etc. Some authors don’t mind fanfiction, some even participate in and encourage it, but others find it irritating. J.K. Rowling finds fanfiction amusing and sometimes even allows people to publish them. George R.R. Martin, author of the Game of Thrones series, hates fanfiction, and thinks that authors who allow people to publish them are simply “cash cows.”  However, authors aren’t the only people who dislike Fanfiction. Many people say that reading fanfiction takes away from “real” literature and the classics. Some even argue that fanfiction detracts from the publishing of books, which limits our choices on the library shelves. However, if fanfiction didn’t pull readers in with a particular draw (i.e., a specific character or pairing) would that person be reading at all? Some definitely would be, some not so much. Some certainly can’t say that they would have read Wuthering Heights if they hadn’t read a particular Harry Potter fanfic.

Benjamin Eakins not writing fanfiction / Wikipedia

Benjamin Eakins not writing fanfiction / Wikipedia

The writing is another side to it. Why do people write fanfics? For the same reason anyone writes. Fanfiction is a creative outlet that lets people who can’t necessarily come up with a world on their own write. Some fanfiction isn’t written at a level that meets publishing standards, but lots of fanfiction is really well written. Fanfiction is a creative outlet for people who are passionate about something and within it you find the same variety of writing levels that you do in published literature. Writing is like any other talent; just because someone has “made it” doesn’t mean they are the most talented or the only choice. A lot of regular people can out-write some published authors.

A common misconception is that all fanfiction is really risqué. Although some authors do write like this, most fanfiction you read will not be vulgar (depending on what you put in the search bar). There is plenty of well written, properly punctuated, and wholesome fanfiction out there. Besides, just because a story makes it to publication does not make it great literature. There are plenty of badly written published books out there available, some of them are just more cleverly disguised.  

Although fanfiction has been around for as long as literature itself, its availability has increased severely in recent years due to the use of internet. How do you think this impacts society? Is its impact negative? Does it distract teens and young adults from reading the classics, or does it encourage people who would otherwise not be reading to read? What is its impact on published books? Should websites like FanFiction and Wattpad exist? Decide for yourself.