Is fan fiction rising from the shadows?

By Ashlee Malkin
Palm Beach Gardens
Staff Writer

Fan fiction, though not 100 percent well known, has been around since the turn of the 20th century. First, parodies of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland were written by authors such as Frances Hodgson Burnett and E. Nesbit. Later, Star Trek was popularized in the 1960s. It was then that the word ‘fan fiction’ was used to describe original works in the science fiction genre, as well as Star Trek-themed stories that were written by fans, according to Joan Marie Verba in “Boldly Writing: A Trekker Fan and Zine History, 1967-1987.”

Fan fiction has changed since then, but the process of writing has always been the same. Ideas for fan fiction usually stem from something in a person’s life, a past experience, or a favorite show on TV, like Glee. Then people feel inspired to write stories, or ‘fanfics,’ as they’re called.

Erika Mitchell, better known as E.L. James, the author of Fifty Shades of Grey, started out in January 2009 as a fan fiction author on the fanfiction.net website. Mitchell wrote a sensual fanfic for the Twilight series using the original Twilight characters. This lead to Fifty Shades of Grey, an erotic mature novel that involves the relationship between the main character, Anastasia Steele, a college graduate, and a young, wealthy businessman, Christian Grey.

Palm Beach State College student, Breanna Pitter, 18, heard about Fifty Shades of Grey and wanted to have her own opinion. “I heard about it from my friends and a couple TV shows, like The View and The Steve Harvey Show,” Pitter said. “Some people said it was strange, some people learned from the book, and some people said it was good—a nice, interesting read.” The book is #1 in the New York Times bestseller list, and two more volumes were released, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed.

According to Charlotte Meredith of the Daily Express, the trilogy has sold 40 million copies worldwide, and the rights have been sold in more than 30 countries. Needless to say, the success following the series has surpassed the public’s expectations greatly.

Mitchell has gained a lot of fame and fortune, earning herself a spot in Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World.” But she doesn’t shy away from her original roots in fan fiction. “The response overall has been so extraordinary, so no, I’m not used to it all yet,” said Mitchell, on her website eljamesauthor.com. “Part of me loves it, but I’d rather be at home writing.”

Pitter said the book is definitely for adults. And even though the black and grey images on the cover seem mellow, she stated, it’s “hiding the truth.”

Interested students can sign up and put their own works on fanfiction.net, so they too can be fanfic authors.