Elena Stidham is a journalism and telecommunications major and writes “Loud and Clear” for The Daily News. Her views do not necessarily agree with those of the newspaper. Write to Elena at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I write the stories that will never be told without me.
At this point in time I’m sure most are familiar with what fanfiction is at least. They are stories made by taking existing piece of media and twisting it to be however the writer wants to write it. It may even be they only use the characters from the media, creating their own world for the characters and keeping only the names and likenesses.
Stories and characters created by someone else have fallen into my documents. When I share these stories, they’re transformed into something new, something that will never be seen as anything other than what remains.
People like me do this for fun. We do this for free.
I, along with many other fanfiction writers, post my works onto a website called Archive of Our Own (AO3). There, I, along with millions of others across the world on the internet, share our fanfiction and build a tiny community. Last week, AO3 was announced as a Best Related Work finalist for a Hugo Award, which is hailed as “science fiction’s most prestigious award,” according to Hugo’s website.
Hugo Awards have been given to authors such as Stephen King and J.K. Rowling, along with newer novels that came out a year prior and even films. Last year, the film “Wonder Woman” even won a Hugo Award. So the fact that AO3 has been placed as a finalist is huge. The fact that fanfiction is finally being taken seriously and on such a grand scale is something I never thought I would see within this decade.
Fanfiction writing was always something I used to hide, something I used to be almost ashamed of. Despite the constant love poured out from those I would share my works with, I never had the confidence to promote my work, to tell others that this is a hobby of mine or to take pride in my work. It didn't happen until the past two years, when I started being more open about what I write. I even started publicly sharing my work. All of this was thanks to the people in fanfiction communities, those that write and those that read, and I couldn’t be any more thankful to them for giving me this extra confidence.
Now with AO3 being recognized on this scale and to this degree, it makes me so happy to see the stigma surrounding fanfiction starting to break away. My heart bursts thinking about other fanfiction writers out there growing out of their shell and no longer being ashamed of their writing, just like me. I think back some of my favorite fanfictions, and honestly, they were better than some printed novels I’ve read.
Fanfiction can be anything the writer wants it to be. It can be a space drama. It can be a cliche romantic comedy. It can be a supernatural horror. It can be the most drawn-out, domestic slow burn, or the quickest, most passionate love story I’ve ever read. We write what we imagine, and we can imagine anything.
We go through the same writing process as published authors, yet we have never received any kind of credit on our names. I cannot tell you how many hours of my life have been sunk into just a one-shot fanfiction — a fanfiction that’s only one chapter long, a short story rather than a piece with multiple parts. A one-shot alone could take me up to a week to write, with my research and my planning and my outlining, writing, editing and even writing it all over again. Some fanfiction writers, including myself, even have someone called a beta, who is an editor for our works.
Many would wonder why writers like me would even go through the trouble. Why spend so much time on something and not even be paid or recognized for our work?
Because it’s fun, that’s why. Because I love to write it and because others love to read it. I was perfectly content with never being recognized as long as I still had the support of my readers who love my projects as much as I do.
This all changed when the Hugo Awards announced AO3.
I’m a writer, but I’m at a loss for words to express how happy this makes me. Fanfiction and its writers are finally — finally — earning the respect and recognition they deserve. This is a huge step in the right direction for how fanfiction and its writers are viewed. It’s a leap, showing the world that yes, we take ourselves seriously, we can be taken seriously and we put a lot of serious work into these creations.
We never had to be recognized by something as massive as the Hugo Award to become confident in what we create. But now the nomination for a Hugo Award is helping break that stigma against fanfiction and pushing writers to be more proud of our work.
Some of the best pieces I’ve made and been proudest of had come from support and breaking the stigma around fanfiction for myself. I only imagine now, with support and a lack of stigma as a foundation for new writers, how incredible their next fanfictions are going to be.