Making Use Of: Online Fan Fiction Spaces

Curator's Note

Fans have always made use of—that is, taken what is at hand and repurposed it to their own ends, often to disseminate creative artworks like fan fiction: blogs are repurposed to host fiction archives; Tumblr is used to exchange tags and images. Although sites like have long existed for fans to disseminate and read fiction, commercial spaces have been created, where fans, overtly or covertly, can post and share fan-created content—and sometimes get paid for it.

Attempts to monetize fan activity rely on commercial ventures that will work for some fans but not others—often at the expense of unfettered fan creativity, as commercial ventures limit fannish expression in terms of explicitness and what is considered appropriate. Yet such sites show fans making use of community spaces to fit the sites where they spend time.

Kindle Worlds (image 1), begun in 2013, attempts corporate monetization of fan writing. Although it is actually a way for writers to write authorized tie-ins on spec for not-great terms, the announcement uses the term "fan fiction." Scribd (image 2), a subscription service founded in 2007 that permits paid users to read e-books, lets users upload their own work, including fan fiction (a term the writers, not Scribd, use), and charge for them or not. Wattpad (image 3), a Canadian company founded in 2006, focuses on disseminating and reading content on mobile devices. The uploading interface forces frequent, short updates of minimally formatted material—perfect for a smartphone screen. It also defines the category of fan fiction. These corporate entities see fan fiction as a way to engage the audience.

Contrasting with these sites are two fan concerns: the Archive of Our Own (AO3; image 4), a fan fiction archive launched in 2009 and run by and for fans; and Big Bang Press (image 5; first title published 2014), which applies the fan model to commodity exchange, selling professional-level nonfan works by established fan fiction writers. These sites show fans undertaking large projects to forward their own concerns.

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