For those that read fanfiction, they know that talking about their reading habits in public will earn them a sideways glance or a questioning look. Fanfiction has a certain stigma around it, and after interviewing a few students, this reporter learned a little more about why that is. For those that may not know the specifics, works of fanfiction are stories that include characters of a TV series, movies, books, etc. that are written by fans. Stories can range from light-hearted fluff to more explicit themes. The more explicit stories are what have caused such a negative stigma around fanfiction itself.
After being asked if they knew what fanfiction was and if they would read fanfiction in a fandom they enjoy, Junior Skylar Shaffer replied, “I do know what fanfiction is and I used to read it if a friend would send me one. I think it would be more appealing if it was clear it wasn’t inappropriate, because I personally would rather not read text like that.” In order to address the latter half of Skylar’s statement, this reporter did some research.
The two most popular fanfiction websites are Archive of Our Own and Fanfiction.net. They both are home to thousands of works of fanfiction and have millions of users. Archive of Our Own, commonly known as AO3, has over 2,257,000 users and over 5,552,000 works. Fanfiction.net has over 12,000,000 users and stories in over 40 languages. Archive of Our Own was created by fans in October of 2008 and is a non-profit, noncommercial archive for ‘transformative fanworks’. Fanfiction.net was actually created before AO3 in October of 1998, but Archive of Our Own soon passed it up in popularity ratings most likely because of its greater range in filters.
On both sites there are ratings for the different types of content in each fandom. On Fanfiction.net the different ratings include K, K+, T, M, and MA. K is for audiences of 5 years of age or older, K+ is 9 and older, T is 13 and older, and M is for audiences 16 and older. MA is meant for audiences 18 and older, and is strictly forbidden on Fanfiction.net. Meaning that any work marked with MA is to be promptly removed from the site. There is a system in place for readers to report work if they do not have the proper rating, which is also utilized on AO3.
Archive of Our Own utilizes four ratings for their content, general audiences, teen and up, mature, and explicit: only suitable for adults. Archive of Our Own also has warnings that authors can put in place in order to inform readers that their content includes graphic depictions of violence, death, or that it includes explicit themes. Also, any story marked with explicit content has a secondary window that informs the reader that by clicking this work they may view adult content, and it informs them that by clicking ‘proceed’ they agree to view such content.
So on AO3 and Fanfiction.net, content is clearly sectioned under the different ratings and by utilizing the filter options, readers can find what they want to read and avoid what they do not. Some of the most popular fandoms on AO3 and Fanfiction.net include Harry Potter, Naruto, Marvel, and Supernatural. In an interview with Sophomore Deacon Sweeting about the fanfiction stigma, he stated, “Fanfiction is seen as dirty, I don’t think that it can ever really be helped to be honest. I just think that there’s always been a stigma around it and there always will be.” So in order to attack the status quo, this reporter asked what people could do to make fanfiction more appealing to the general public and what people could do to show others that fanfiction can be good. There were many conflicting responses on what could be done, but Senior Terra O’Rourke put a positive spin on what many find appalling, “Maybe fanfiction sites can have filters so that you can choose what fandoms you like and they could have a rating system with the stories listed by what’s most liked. Think of it like this, it’s fun for some people and it’s good that some kids are writing creatively and expressing themselves. We shouldn’t bash on anyone who just genuinely enjoys it and promotes it for fun.”
Fanfiction is an easy way for people to creatively write stories about their favorite characters and share them with the public. Instead of shying away from fanfiction because of the societal disgrace associated with it, everyone should be pulling up AO3 or Fanfiction.net to find something to enjoy. Many forms of entertainment are considered entertaining because they allow for an escape from the real world into a story of beloved characters. Fanfiction allows young authors to take their favorite characters and give them the stories that they wish to escape to. So instead of brushing off their works as distasteful, everyone should be whipping out their phones in order to find some fanfiction that allows them to truly escape and enjoy the wonders of reading a great story.