Fanfiction is the word used to describe any type of literary work about already licensed characters. Fanfiction is written by fans, and they create their own story line based on the licensed character’s personalities and situations. Fanfiction can be short stories, plays, or even screenplays and they can be written about books, movies, anime/manga, or tv shows. Technically, Gregory Maguire’s Wicked is a fanfiction, and many Star Wars books are written by different authors, all fans of the original.
Basically, if someone is a fan of a popular book, they will sit down and write their own story about the characters. That story is a called fanfiction. Oftentimes, these stories are posted online for other fans to read. Although these stories are actually illegally using copyrighted characters, it is rare to hear of some fan being sued for it. Fans write the fanfiction because they love the characters, not because they want to make money off of it. If they were writing fanfiction to make money, without receiving permission, then that would be illegal.
The question is whether fanfiction can have literary value. What is meant by “literary value”? Generally, literary value is placed on a book or story that provides a lesson in the human condition. It is a great story that makes us think and maybe even strive to better ourselves. Many of the classic novels today, such as The Great Gatsby and The Fountainhead, are said to have great literary value because of what they teach us. Literary value does not mean that a story is fun to read, enjoyable, or that it keeps us intrigued and at the edge of our seat with excitement. In truth, many books of literary value are very dull to read.
So, is it possible for a fanfiction to contain literary value? The answer is, undoubtedly, ‘yes’. Just because it is written by a fan on a copyrighted subject does not mean that the fan will not write something completely new that will astound the readers with its wise lessons. These licensed characters might go on a philosophical adventure never written about before. It is not what the story is about that gives it literary value; it is what the story says to the reader. A fan writing fanfiction is still creating something new, and their own mind just might have an answer or a new lesson on the human condition.
Now, will that fanfiction ever become one of the literary greats alongside The Fountainhead? That is very unlikely. The most it might get is a wonderful trip around the Internet. However, if a fan manages to write something of literary worth, they should definitely write some original novels of their own. That way, they can have their own fans writing fanfictions about their characters.