Fan Fiction is a tricky subject. There are authors who vehemently oppose it – stating that it’s a breach of copyright, that it violates an author’s ownership of his/her world/creation. And then there are authors who love it – who encourage their fans to dabble in it. A favorite John Green quote of mine is from the TFiOS tour when this happened…
I personally, as a writer, don’t mind fanfiction, but to be honest, I have very little to do with it either way. I don’t write it, having never felt prompted to dabble in any world other than the ones I create; I don’t read it, having no interest in hearing other people’s depiction of characters/places/events that I’ve already read about and fallen in love with via the author’s actual works. That doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate it, but it does mean that when it comes to fanfiction, I’m woefully uninformed. For me, as long as no one is making a profit off of it, it’s fine. Flattering even, from a writer’s point of view. And then, of course, there’s the fact that much of modern literature could broadly fall under the “fanfic” category of literature – we retell fairytales like they’re going out of style, authors like Gregory Maguire have gotten famous from writing in world’s that someone else created. Sure, it’s a bit more complex in the case of Wicked vs. The Wizard of Oz, but although Maguire’s Oz is drastically different and undeniably unique from Baum’s, it is still based on Baum’s creations.
What I’m trying to say is that fanfiction is a vastly interesting subject. So when I picked of Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl I didn’t really know what to expect. I knew it was about two twins, Wren and Cath, who are headed to college for their freshman year. I knew that they wrote fanfiction, and that that would play into the story. But that’s about all I knew.
Like in Eleanor & Park,
Rowell keeps Fangirl
from ever going quite as you imagine it will. There are hundreds of tiny inside jokes – the series that Cath writes her fanfiction about has striking similarities to a series of novels that probably attracts more fanfiction than any other in modern times. It’s a series about a young magician, orphaned, who goes to magician’s school to learn to control his power and defeat a horrible enemy that has plagued magician’s for years. There’s even a kind and powerful magician who mentors him and seems to run the school. Sound familiar? That’s just the tip of the iceberg, but it’s one of the many little parts of the story that I loved. Reading the novel, watching the story unfold in my head, hearing the clear commentary about fanfiction was great. But it was made even stronger by the clear “fanfic” quality that the main story had – it was just familiar enough that it was obviously a parody of a famous series I know and love, which lent the story so much power. It was total inception – a story within a story, a parody (in the best way) in a novel discussing those stories written to parody, change or enhance famous literature.
The story is brilliant, but more than that it has heart. All the best books have a ton of heart – they don’t have to be about a particular subject to be worth reading, they don’t have to belong to a particular genre – they just have to have the heart.
And I learned a lot about fanfiction. I realized that it’s not about writing in someone else’s world because you’re too lazy to create your own world. It’s about writing in that world because that’s how much you love it, and that’s the way you know how to express your love. You write things the way you see them, and it lets the world continue to live on well after you turn the final pages.
There were so many things to love about this story. Lines like, “To really be a nerd, she’d decided, you had to prefer fictional worlds to the real one,” that resonated with my own feelings on literature.
Or this one, which fully grabbed the storyteller in me: “As if there was any way she was going to say no Levi wanted to know what happened next. That question was Cath’s Achilles’ heel.” That really is the one thing I can’t resist – someone who actually wants to know what comes next. There’s nothing more flattering, no feeling more gratifying that to know that someone, anyone cares about what you’re putting down on paper.
Or, this one that echoes how I feel every time I have to say a goodbye.
“I miss you.”
“That’s stupid,” she said. “I saw you this morning.”
“It’s not the time,” Levi said, and she could hear that he was smiling. “It’s the distance.”
Because that’s exactly what it’s like to have to close a great book. It feels like saying goodbye, and even though it just ended, and you only just read the last words moments before, you already wish you could rejoin it – be a part of that particular world once more. Fanfiction starts to make a lot more sense when you think about it that way, doesn’t it?
Overall Reaction: I couldn’t put it down – the story flowed so effortlessly, I was reading in every second of my spare time.
Up Next Week: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan