Someone asked me what genres Diana has been reading, and I had to acknowledge that lately it's been a whole lot of fan fiction (does that even get called a genre, really?).
If I am lucky, the person asking is even older or more out of it than I am, and says, "Wha?" and I get to act like I have any idea of what I'm talking about by saying, "Oh, you know, it's what all the kids are into these days," though with this as with all things, I have no idea whether people other than the ones right next to me are reading it, or writing it, or whatever.
If you have no idea what I'm talking about, fan fiction is (to the best of my knowledge) this: fiction written by fans of an author or series or novel. Sometimes it becomes its own published work (I think Fifty Shades of Gray was originally fan fiction of Twilight, which makes the whole thing feel even sketchier than I thought it did).
Except maybe it's not sketchy at all? Here are things I think are sort of great about kids reading fan fiction (or watching people read it on YouTube? Which is apparently a Thing?).
1) It makes kids write. It gives them a sense of themselves as readers/writers, and they end up writing and writing their own, presumably nutty, fan fiction. Yes, it is possible that much of what they write is…not the highest quality, but that's (in this context) besides the point.
2) It is an expression of LOVE! And love makes the world go 'round! Truly, I think it's a little bit like writing Led Zeppelin on the cover of your cloth-covered binder (can you guess my high school graduation year within two years from this reference?). There's something inexpressibly moving to me about all these people laying their tributes to authors at their metaphorical (or electronically represented) feet. Just check out Scott Westerfield's blog, where he often features his fans' fan fiction (it took me a long time to figure out how to write that), and see if your cold, cold heart doesn't soften just a bit.
3) Some of it is probably really great. I don't read fan fiction—yet. But I have to believe that some of it is really amazing, just because the world is wide and varied and there are terrible and wonderful things everywhere you look. Besides, Diana is writing some (yes, it's out there, can you spot it? Dare you try?), and as her parent I just have to believe that it's awesome.
Reasons I am not super-psyched about the whole thing.
1) Can it be good to read lots and lots of writing that is not good? I don't know. I mean, lots of published writing is pretty crappy too, but sometimes it feels like I am watching her gorge on cheetos. Metaphorical literary cheetos.
2) But wait, the book is an inviolable world! It's true that I believe there is an alternative fictional universe where all books come from and that things that happen in books are true, so it freaks me out to consider that, say, Harriet the Spy has alternate possibilities contained within it. This, however, might be a slight idiosyncrasy on my part, so maybe I'll say no more about it.
3) It's on the internet. Which is bad for kids, right? And electronic? And unwholesome? That's as far as my logical thinking goes on this point. I will let you know if I get smarter about it. And it leads directly to…
4) It didn't exist when I was a kid. Yes, I am that person who doesn't trust things that are new. Though I think it's possible that if I thought about it the right way much of Shakespeare is fan fiction from Ovid, right? Sort of? Maybe?
Anyway, maybe your children are still happily plowing through various books by actual authors (which still happens here, as well—there'd be no fan fiction without the original book, right?), but this could be lurking in your future.
And tell me: what do you know about it? Is it part of anyone's child's life but mine?