Our Reading Lives

An Open Letter to Fan Fiction

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Eileen Gonzalez

Contributing Editor

Eileen's primary literary love is comic books, but she’s always on the lookout for her next literary adventure no matter what form it takes. She has a Bachelor's in media studies, a Master's in digital communication, a smattering of published short stories, and a seriously cute dog. Follow her on Bluesky.

Dear Fan fiction,

You’re amazing.

I’m sure lots of people tell you that, but I wanted to say it anyway. From the biggest fandoms with millions of works to choose from, to the smaller ones with only a handful of dedicated writers still stubbornly cranking out fics, you make me smile, squeal, laugh out loud, and melt into a puddle of warm fuzzies. And yes, sometimes you make me cry, rage, and make angry claw hands at the screen. But these days, you generally come with detailed warning labels from considerate writers, so I only have to cry, rage, and/or make claw hands if I want to.

an open letter to fanfiction

I know that not everyone feels the way I do. Some deride you as nothing but the poorly written romantic and sexual fantasies of teenage girls. But we both know that’s not true. Fan fiction is as diverse as the people who enjoy it. Slash, gen, coffee shop AUs, crossovers, drabbles, stories so long they put War and Peace to shame…Whatever a reader’s preference, you can deliver.

And even when you are the unpolished, self-indulgent product of a teenager’s imagination, well, what’s so bad about that? There’s nothing wrong with kids expressing themselves and then sharing their hard work with their fellow fans. Fan fiction is supposed to be a creative outlet, a space for us to try and discover new things. I’m sorry that some people don’t see it that way.

The hate is so pointless, too. You make it so easy for readers to find what they want and avoid what they don’t. And if by chance someone misreads the summary or discovers partway through that they don’t like what they’re reading, hitting the Back button is so much simpler than sending the author a nasty message just because their story wasn’t precisely what someone else wanted. Some people still don’t seem to get that. I’m sorry about that, too.

But I want to focus on the positive, not the negative. No matter how much the small-minded may try to restrict you, you remain one of the most flexible forms of entertainment I’ve ever come across.

When a character I like dies, you remind me that fictional characters are never truly gone so long as there are fans around to perform CPR with their keyboards.

When I’m sad or worried about something, I write fan fiction in my head about what would make my favorite character feel the way I do. The “solidarity” helps.

When my ship is sunk or my headcanon denied, you swoop in to make the what-might-have-beens a happy reality.

And when I am too tired or don’t have the inspiration to write, you are there to provide me with more options for relaxing fun than I can possibly read in a lifetime.

For these and so many other reasons, fan fiction, you will forever be among my favorite things to read. And I for one am so glad you exist.

A Devoted Fangirl