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The Fanfiction Take That Enraged the Internet

One author's takedown of fanfic has inspired a host of passionate responses.

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Fanfiction: we read it, we write it, we share it, and we love it. But like most things online, it is often subject to the most brutal of hot takes engineered to incite a passionate response. This was the case with a now viral Twitter thread from author R.S. Benedict, who decided that this was the week to burn fanfiction to the ground.

In a lengthy thread, Benedict wrote “it’s incredibly bleak how many contemporary aspiring writers cut their teeth on fanfiction, a form that actively teaches you to write worse.” She goes on to write, “controversial take: low-effort formulaic lowest-common-denominator writing is bad actually.”

Benedict’s thread is, of course, filled with snobbish assumptions about fanfic and the people who consume it. It perpetuates a stereotype that fanfic is somehow beneath published literature, and that it makes writers worse. Yes, there are fanfic authors like 50 Shades of Grey‘s E.L. James who are objectively bad writers. But since when has bad writing been a barrier to financial or commercial success?

I would point Benedict to countless films, television series, and novels that are wildly popular despite legitimately “bad” writing. And the critique that fanfiction is formulaic is the same insult leveled at “lowest common denominator” genres like romance novels and YA books, or any genre with a vast readership (especially if that readership is comprised of marginalized groups).

Benedict’s thread goes on to claim that queer fanfic draws readers away from “legitimate queer stories”, an assertion that is impossible to prove and deeply ignorant. Queer fanfiction allows fans to elevate the subtext, and to explore fantasies and relationships that have long been cultural taboos. And it’s hardly a new phenomenon: fanfiction, and erotic fanfiction at that, has existed for centuries.

Her point also ignores the financial realities that many queer folks find themselves in. Not all of us can afford to purchase new books, not to mention the countless numbers for whom discretion means survival. You can always close the tab on queer fanfic online, but the discovery of a queer book or magazine by an unwitting family member can have disastrous consequences for closeted people. Online writing and discourse allows a level of safety and anonymity that closeted queer people need.

Furthermore, reading and writing fanfiction isn’t a zero-sum game. As any TMS author can tell you, our love of fanfic does not preclude our love of reading anything and everything else! For many people, reading and writing fanfiction is a gateway to writing professionally: a safe space to explore your creative impulses without judgement or a hefty tuition fee.

Many published authors took Benedict to task for her unfounded criticism of the genre:

And like so many bad takes before it, Benedict’s take is rooted in hypocrisy:

I would like to propose something radical in 2021: LET PEOPLE LIKE THE THINGS THEY LIKE. Unless those things are nazism or animal cruelty or a violent insurrection to overthrow the government, people should be free to enjoy what they like without guilt or judgment. I can’t stand gory horror films, but I don’t begrudge those who do. Let people live their damn lives.

I mean honestly: if someone else’s passion is ruining your life, you need to take a long, hard look at the way you live.

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(image: 20th Century Fox)

(featured image: screencap/20th Century Fox)

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Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. She currently lives in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, son, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.