Picture this: It’s a nice evening over Winter Break as you sit with your family. You’re bored, and your family is spewing nonsense because of course they are. You know you’ll be here for a while, so you pull out your phone. TikTok isn’t entertaining you, and Instagram just reminds you of how much happier and cooler everyone else is, so you turn to your favorite website: Archive of Our Own. You type in your favorite ship (and if my mom is reading this that means your favorite imagined couple, whether they be an actual couple in media or not) and settle in for a riveting story that will send your endorphins to new heights. Then, everything comes crashing down when your mom asks, “What are you doing on your phone?”
“Uhhh, reading,” you say.
“What are you reading?” your mom asks in response, either because she loves you and is curious or because she loves you and is suspicious.
“Nothing, really,” you respond, societally conditioned to do so because you’ve been told that fanfiction is “embarrassing” and “stupid.”
And that right there is what I am here to fight against. I will say it loud and proud: I love fanfiction. For those of you who don’t know what fanfiction is, it is fiction written about or set in a piece of media written by fans of said media. I read it all the time, usually just for my favorite ship (Kirishima and Bakugo from My Hero Academia, if you’re curious), but sometimes for other ships in other fandoms. Fanfiction is much more expansive than people think. My favorite ship alone has 28,169 works as of the time I am writing this, and it is not even in the top ten most popular ships. There are thousands of different tags with all of your favorite romantic or platonic tropes, including special character-specific tags and even the dreaded Omegaverse tags. You can find smut and fluff, G-rated content and R-rated content, and everything in between. There are works that are fewer than 500 words and longer than 500,000 words.
The longest works of fiction in the world are both fanfictions too. The longest is “The Loud House: Revamped” and is 16,000,000 words. The second longest piece of fiction is a Super Smash Bros fanfiction that is 4,100,000 words. There are messes and masterpieces in every language. It is like reading a regular book but just plug in your favorite characters and universes. I have read 100,000 word fanfictions in the span of a day—they’re just that good.
Anyway … if there is all this cool stuff, why is fanfiction considered so weird? Of course, the answer is that we all look down at and laugh at geeks and make fun of their nerdy hobbies. The things we like are cool but the things nerds like are effin’ lame. Losers. But actually, you are the loser for knocking it before you try it. I implore you: try to read some fanfiction. If there are two characters you like, I guarantee you you can find a masterpiece written by someone just for fun.
Reading fanfiction is almost the exact same thing as reading a book. It teaches you new words, teaches you new things about the world, and takes you on an adventure. It makes you laugh, makes you cry, and can even make you scared to go to sleep. You relate to characters in the media, and fanfiction is an extension of that. There is an entire world out there for you to explore, but you can customize your experience with ships and tags from your favorite books, TV shows, movies, video games, and even real life. (Those seem kinda creepy to me, but I don’t judge.) Any two characters that exist, there is probably fanfiction content for them. I once found a smutty story about the two Trade Federation aliens (the ugly gray guys from the Star Wars prequels). It was terrible and therefore awesome.
And don’t let me forget—writers out there, you can WRITE fanfiction, too! I have tried and failed, but those who write are my heroes because how else would we have content to consume? Fanfiction may be nerdy, but nerdy things are underrated. And I will be honest with you, I try to be as open as possible about reading fanfiction, but sometimes when I am asked what I am reading, I smile sheepishly and say, “Nothing.” But I am with my fellow fanfiction readers, fighting against oppression and being open and proud about my love. Don’t be ashamed to love something so awesome, creative, and expansive. If you find that you love fanfiction, you’re not alone, and I have it on good authority that you’re cooler than everyone else, so read on.