The Secret Life of Fiction


It’s a word that puts off many people, and I felt it was prudent to begin the article by stating it outright. There is poetry in discussing exactly where stories go when the final word of the book is followed by the fullstop-of-finality. We all like imagining the spaces where our favourite characters disappear, and exactly what would happen to them if we coax them to fill these spaces.

And that’s where this world of fiction created by fans lives. Fanfiction is a huge, incomprehensible phenomenon, one which you won’t always find discussed in mainstream media. Fanfiction occupies an alternative space, one of the mainstream-yet-not popular culture, yet sees blooming trade. Within this framework, homosexual identities find assertion while different cultures are expressed. Ultimately, a huge popular network is organically built on stories that are considered ‘not suitable for the mainstream audiences.’

Fanfiction has had a profound impact on the way we view fiction and more importantly, texts in this real world. Since this fan-created content is so organic in nature, it is often very hard to notice the impact that it has within the fandoms as well. Within the Harry Potter fanfiction world,The Shoebox Project is a hugely influential fanfiction. It well-known for having set the foundation for how the Marauders will be viewed and written about for years to come. Fanfiction like The Shoebox Project allows the creation of fan-lore- a concept that is both beyond the author and yet, at the same time, so common a truth that it almost becomes canonical in its existence.

Without bombarding you with too many examples, let me explain what this means. Theories which are based within the framework of the canonical piece, yet at the same time never specifically stated are what become popular fan-lore. I’m going to try and use Harry Potter examples since they are the most well-known, but a very common example of fan-lore in action is seen in the fact that the Astronomy Tower has become something of a beacon of romantic shenanigans, a spot where the most make-outs take place. As a popular phenomenon, fanfiction has allowed the occurrence of the death of the author. With the existence of fanfiction, spaces of fiction are reclaimed by readers and the voice of God is lost. The idea that the author no longer has the final say in the characters or the story is not very new, however, technology has allowed pop culture to explode to a point where fans can create their own story through a collective imagination. This isn’t something that has been seen before, with the obvious exception of religion.

It allows us to open closed doors – because the story might have a solid reality, an existence driven by the author. However,at the same time, it can move beyond the author. The interaction with the story never ends, because everytime the readers write more headcanons, more fanfiction, more alternative universes- the story keeps changing with the characters.

The alternative space that fanfiction provides is interesting in the way it allows readers to express themselves. For instance, Fanfiction sees a wave of alternative sexualities – everything from homoerotica to asexual characters are depicted with a normalcy that one can never find in mainstream media. Fanfiction is alternative and extremely subversive in the way it opens this world for alternative identities to create themselves and define themselves within mainstream media. Tropes which are common within heterosexual romances find themselves in homosexual courtships, minor characters are expanded upon, claimed, and reimagined.

As a space of subversion, the power of fanfiction lies in its ability to create a fan-lore – an existence which is beyond the author, beyond the book, and yet, within the framework. As long as the story fits canon, there is no real proof of fanfiction having not happened – and hence, the story is almost certainly rewritten in these parameters. The most popular fan-lore, in fact, can also gain canonicity due to the effect they have on the author or on the way the book is viewed. Within the world of fanfiction, anything is a text – and, I think, that is the most important effect it has had on the way we view fiction.


T in a Cup


A Cup of T
‘T’ as in me, ‘Cup’ as in tea, ‘Of’ as in preposition and ‘A’ as in article. Bringing you thoughtful rants on TV, books, society and various other things induced by too many cups of ice tea.

Written by Tanvi
Updates every fortnight

Column icon by Sanna Jain
Featured Image by Kanishka


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