What the fic? Plots thicken as fan-written stories proliferate on the Internet

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News Media Commentary
Title: What the fic? Plots thicken as fan-written stories proliferate on the Internet
Commentator: Cheryl Truman and Heather Chapman
Date(s): 02 October 2006
Venue: Lexington Herald-Leader (MCT)
External Links: What the fic? Plots thicken as fan-written stories proliferate on the Internet; archive link (popmatters.com)
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What the fic? Plots thicken as fan-written stories proliferate on the Internet is an article about fanfiction. It introduces a lay audience to the genre.
Simply put, fan fiction is writing in which the author spins off a new storyline based on established characters. Although it has roots that go back decades, it is largely a phenomenon spawned by the Internet and “fanzines,” magazines aimed at fans of a specific cultural phenomenon, such as the original Star Trek. Much of fan fiction—or “fanfic” or “fic,” as it’s often called—appears to be based on characters from television, but it can be written about anything that accumulates a loyal following—from books to anime, movies to video games, Broadway musicals to professional wrestling.
The article describes a story example at Godawful Fan Fiction and then says that "not everything in the fan fiction universe is bad. Despite an unending supply of smutty fantasies with bizarre misspellings, tortured grammar and no character development [...], there’s well-regarded stuff out there. For instance, some of it uses the Harry Potter novels—by far the most popular subject, with nearly 262,000 stories on the Internet fic hub www.Fanfiction.net—as a jumping-off point to examine relationship dilemmas and moral quandaries."

Alison Evans, the author of the dissertation The Global Playground: Fan Fiction in Cyberspace, gives some insight into the fanfic phenomenon, there is the obligatory Henry Jenkins quote, and a fanfic author explains why she writes fanfiction.

The article assumes that the "stereotypical image of a fan.fic reader is that of a tubby, balding man living in his parents’ basement" and quickly corrects this misconception ("anecdotal evidence suggests that most fic readers are women"). It also features a glossary, talks about professional author fanfic policies ("Anne Rice and Anne McCaffrey, actively seek out fanfic Web sites and try to get them shut down, [...] Most writers, however—including Potter author J.K. Rowling—range from tolerant of to tickled by their mainstream Internet following") and gives a nod to the long history of fanfiction:
In the 1960s, Star Trek fans began cranking out underground fanzines, many of which were dedicated to an imagined love affair between Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock. Those stories argue that the real romance on the Enterprise was between Kirk and Spock rather than Kirk and the cadre of one-episode stands who populated the series. (Since then, fanfic that explores same-sex relationships has been called “slash” because of how those Kirk and Spock stories were denoted by authors: Kirk/Spock.) As the genre has grown in size and popularity, some of it even has been legitimized. Geraldine Brooks’ March, the imagined adventures of the absent father in Little Women, took the National Book Award this year. And Jean Rhys’ 1966 novel Wide Sargasso Sea is the back story of Rochester’s mad wife from Jane Eyre. Author Gregory Maguire has made a career out of fanfic, basing books on the untold stories of The Wizard of Oz (his books Wicked and Son of a Witch), Cinderella (Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister) and Snow White (Mirror Mirror).
Linked fanfic sites include Fictionalley.org and TheForce.net. The listed glossary terms include definitions for Alternate Universe, Canon, Crossover, Fanon, Genfic, Mary Sue, Mature readers only, Ship, Slash and Suethor.