The Fanfic Rebellion

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Title: The Fanfic Rebellion
Creator: Steven Savage
Date(s): February 13, 2000
Medium: online
External Links: The Fanfic Rebellion, part of this series
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The Fanfic Rebellion is a 2000 essay by Steven Savage.

It is part of his long-running column at, "Way With Worlds," and later posted at his personal website. Some of the columns were about fanfiction, but most of them were simply about original fiction writing.

Other Fandom Essays by Savage

Some Topics Discussed


Batten down the hatches, the concepts are rebelling!

Ok, the rest of the column is not going to sound nearly that exciting, but consider some interesting things I've observed in fanfic and writing over time:

Sonic the Hedgehog darkfic? Yes, they exist, there's quite a few, and some can get very dark.

How many times in "Sailor Moon" is the male lead of Tuxedo Mask (affectionately known to a friend of mine as "Wuss Boy) replaced, or sometimes made brutal or vicious?

Ever seen people work on taking a dark genre and being unable to avoid humor?

Ever read a story where a subtext, often romantic, is explored, and you can't see it, yet the author is insistent and honest that its there?

These are examples of what I call the Fanfic Rebellion, and it's relevant to writing pre-existing continuities as well as your own. Lets take a look at why so many times we end up going through the looking glass on concepts, and why its important.


Here's my theory about why strange and inverted concepts find their way into fanfic. Feel free to assume I'm full of it - I have been before. However, I have thought this out over time, so I think I have some ground to stand on.

When you start writing a fanfic, you take your knowledge of existing continuity and build on it and build with it. However, there are always:

1.Different ways of viewing continuities.

2.Flaws with continuities, especially commercial ones where factors beyond the storyline may affect continuity (marketability, scriptwriting teams, etc). The human mind is a consistency-seeking device, and you may fill in blanks.

3.Flaws caused by viewing a continuity in a "snapshot" and not knowing the complete story.

4.The "Rorsach Blot effect" - you may see things that could or couldn't be there, or interpret things in a unique manner.

All fanfics to an extent involve metaconcepting - building concepts onto and around premade ideas in the continuity. If you wrote a story exactly like an episode, issue, or book of the continuity you're using, there's not much point.

However, in the cases of continuities that may have existing errors or extremes, it's easy to make extreme changes, perhaps subconsciously. Additionally, metaconcepts you use may overcompensate for perceived flaws. A continuity that avoids deep issues may spawn sad or complex stories, a forced angst tale can result in funny stuff bubbling to the surface because the potential is there was actually forced back.

The human mind is a great device for creating meaning and consistency, and its amazing what it does. However it also tends to find balance and the balance you find can sneak up on you.


Writing with existing continuities.

You will commit Fanfic Rebellion. Its inevitable. Unless your fic does nothing new, original, or unseen in the previous continuity, you will be making metaconcepts. Thus, unless you're terribly untalented, unoriginal, and anal-retentive to a pathological degree, you're going to do new and different things. I'm giving you credit for not having these traits ^_^.

Thus, remember not to take things to extremes - trying to fill in a gap or compensate for a percieved flaw by overdoing it just makes your story less and less believable. You really only create a new flaw or problem, and it will likely be glaringly obvious and conflict with the existing continuity. This can lead to a vicious cycle of corrections or to a vicious cycle of trying to justify ideas while only getting further and further from stable concepts.

New ideas and ways of thinking, expanding on existing concepts, is what fanfic is all about. Don't worry.