A Brief History of Fan Fiction in Celebration of MuggleNet Fan Fiction’s 11th Anniversary
Grab an extra large mug of tea, wrap yourself up in the comfiest blanket you have, and get ready to spend the entire day on the couch, reading, because today is Fan Fiction Day! On November 14, back in 2004, a mere six years after Scholastic published Sorcerer’s Stone (seven years after Bloomsbury’s publication of Philosopher’s Stone), MuggleNet Fan Fiction was created.
MuggleNet Fan Fiction (heretofore referenced as MNFF), a separate archival offshoot from the Harry Potter fansite, has turned a ripe 11 years old today. Launched two years after Spartz introduced MuggleNet to the world, MNFF is a very pretty, very carefully organized, trove of Potter stories. There are three distinct section of MNFF: archived fan fiction, organized either by title, author, or category; audiofics, that is, recorded readings of popular, quality fan fiction; and fan forum, which offers both writers and readers a place to discuss plot bunnies, plot holes, character motivation, research help, etc. This level of customization extends to even the background skin’s theme of the website, should the visitor not want to stare at a dark blue screen, with a swooping, shadowed dragon mid-flight at the top of the page.
To those brand new to fan fiction, welcome! TIME Magazine wrote an easy-to-digest feature on the massive world of fan fiction and its appeal, to fan fic writers and readers alike. It’s worth a read. In a nutshell, however, fan fiction allows fans to find a medium through which they can communicate both their love of and frustration with whatever work they rally around. Because while fan fiction, like all other aspects of participatory fan work, is an outlet for dedicated fans, it also is an outlet for them to react to the original text (e.g., Sirius’s supposed betrayal of the Marauders was especially harsh and cruel to Lupin, who had a romantic relationship with the former; what would the Slytherin legacy look like if Harry hadn’t begged the Sorting Hat not to put him in the Slytherin House?; how would the events of the series look like from Neville’s point of view?). Contrary to misinformed belief, fan work is not lazy copying or reductive. It doesn’t disrupt or destroy canon. It merely adds on or clarifies the written text, canon, and subtext, to both the delight of the fan and in homage of the OG creator.
Extraordinarily, via fan fiction, we have gone back to the ancient, pre-Romantic way of considering and creating a piece of art/work. Artists didn’t have an ironclad hold on their ultra-original, one-of-a-kind creativity; rather, writers kept on improving, clarifying, or remixing the stories that had always existed. Perhaps they tweaked the stories to fit the social context and cues of their society, but the notion of coming up with a brand new, copyrighted thing was unthinkable. Interestingly, in his essay “Death of the Author,” French literary theorist Roland Barthes (bae) argued that readers should stick to the text, and the text only, for interpretation. Trying to understand the experiences or biases or supposed intentions of an author is nothing but exhausting, unhelpful, and staggeringly limiting. The minute the author has published his or her work, s/he has given up any ownership of the thing s/he has written. An author’s intent is minuscule compared to the reader’s vast consumption of what culture has already impressed upon him or her; that is, the reader is liberated from trying to piece together the author’s own context and influences and is free to interpret, analyze, react, and digest the work on his or her own terms.
Which is fantastic, because while JKR’s series has its own special place on my bookshelf, and repeated readings of the books continue to reveal new information to me, I will never turn down an opportunity to read, for example, about fans’ head canons on secondary characters like Neville, the Malfoys, Cho, etc.
Reflecting the diversity of Potter fans, the collection of Harry Potter fan fiction on the Internet is vast. In addition to MNFF, Potterheads can find Potterverse work on FanFiction.Net, Tumblr, Archive of Our Own, HarryPotterFanfiction.com, HPFanFicArchive.com, and even Reddit. Just as vast is the subject matter of fan fic that exists: not a fan of the ubiquitous Snape/Lily pairing? That’s fine, let’s just skip on over to a romance-plot-less, gen-fic about the Marauders. Additionally, fan fiction isn’t just limited to the written word. It can take – and beautifully has taken – the form of manips, GIF sets, fanmade trailers, fanmixes, etc.
Which makes for a nice segue into the last part of this post: a brief, not-at-all comprehensive, list of awesome fan fiction that you can finish reading by the end of this weekend.
1. If Hogwarts Raised Harry – What would potentially have happened if Petunia refused to raise Harry, and Dumbledore had no choice but to have the magical walls of Hogwarts raise Harry. No one has said “no” to Harry, so he refuses to accept that Slytherins wouldn’t like him.
2. Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality – AU. Petunia leaves Vernon and actually raises Harry with care. Harry, lover of sci-fi and fantasy, gets his Hogwarts letter and is promptly Sorted into Ravenclaw.
3. The Shoebox Project – a slowly winding Mauraders fic that tracks them from the summer of their sixth year to a few years after they’ve graduated Hogwarts.
4. A New Beginning – non-seventh book compliant. What the Second Wizarding War would’ve looked like, if Harry had stayed at Hogwarts.
5. Delicate – Rose/Scorpius pregnancy fic, first person
Admittedly, I’ve only scratched the surface of Harry Potter fan fiction. And I haven’t even touched upon the shipping manifestos behind certain pairings (that requires its own separate post of its own). So MuggleNet readers, what’s your take on fan fiction? What are some of your favorites that I’ve egregiously left out? Sound off in the comments below!