Love it or hate it, fanfiction has been around for generations and its here to stay. Alas, I am guilty of having written fanfiction and though some authors (Anne Rice, G. R. R. Martin) hate it when others take an idea of theirs and put their own spin on it, I think it can be a positive. Sometimes fans of a tv show, movie, or of a book series can fill in the gaps or take an idea and turn it on its head. Stories evolve over time
Take the legend of King Arthur. Many historians believe such a man existed, although he was not what he is today. Over centuries of telling and retelling the story, additions were made until the point that the original tale was not recognizable. Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Bronte – now revered as authors of classic English Literature – dabbled for years in what we now consider fanfiction. They drew inspiration from the gothic tales of the Victorian Era, Sir Walter Scott, the Lake Poets, and created their own fantasy worlds. It can be argued that characters from their juvenilia later appeared in “Jane Eyre,” “Wuthering Heights,” and “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.”
Jane Austen, though, might have been the one who is most guilty of “borrowing” from other authors and putting her own spin on it. Paralells have been drawn between her “Pride and Prejudice” and Frances Burney’s “Evelina.” A poor girl, a wealthy suitor, obnoxious relatives, a charming rake, social satire… The title itself “Pride and Prejudice,” came from another of France Burney’s novels (“Cecelia”). When Rev. Austen tried to submit “First Impressions” (P&P’s earlier title), he compared it to Burney’s “Evelina.” The name Willoughby (a character originally from Evelina) shows up in “Sense and Sensibility” and is also a blackguard. “Mansfield Park” Austen’s most serious and moral novel, is the tale of a young girl taken from obscurity and placed with wealthy relatives and must find her way in the world. Sound familiar? The story of Dido Belle Lindsay has recently resurfaced and there is some evidence that Austen borrowed from Dido’s story to create the world of Fanny Price. “Northanger Abbey” might be the best example of Austen dabbling in fanfiction – it is a direct parody on the popular gothic romances of the day.
Obviously, I am making a case for fanfiction. It has its place and I consider it a legitimate form of art. What are your thoughts?