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EDITIONS
 Saturday, 28 December, 2002, 07:23 GMT
Fans' desires swamp the web
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Devoted fans impatient for the next Potter

Do you have a favourite author or series of stories? Are you unable to wait for the next instalment of a particular television programme?

If you are a devoted fan of any of these then you may have come across the phenomenon of fan fiction.

This is when fans write their own stories using their favourite characters.

Until recently fan fiction was limited to small groups of individuals but it is now becoming a global phenomenon thanks to the internet.

Fan mania

On the web, you could stumble across what would seem the latest adventures of Harry Potter.

"It had been nine long years since Voldemort had re-emerged at his father's graveside. Harry Potter had left Hogwarts six years ago, expecting his last three years there to be full of pain and suffering, duels and battles."

Star Trek Enterprise
Star Trek original lives on online
But this is not a preview of the latest Potter book. It has little to do with JK Rowling, though it uses the characters she invented.

It has been written by an avid Potter fan. This story, along with hundreds of thousands of other fan fiction texts, can be read on the internet.

Writers take characters from their favourite books, films or TV programmes and make up their own tales.

Some write new scenarios or concentrate on a particular character. Others even mix characters up from different films or books.

It is not a new phenomenon.

The net is just generally very good at getting minority interests and finding other people with those minority interests,

Alice, fan fiction writer
People have been taking characters from tales for centuries, like Robin Hood, King Arthur, even Sherlock Holmes, and making up their own stories.

Television has helped made fan fiction popular with series like Star Trek and Doctor Who being rewritten by eager fans and then photocopied and posted on. But this latest explosion is down to the world wide web.

Alice, her chosen author name, writes her own fan fiction.

She said: "The net is just generally very good at getting minority interests and finding other people with those minority interests, whether that's an interest in a particular type of music, or a particular type of writing or a particular type of activity."

Folk culture

Some people argue that fan fiction is just an easy way for obsessed individuals to carry on living in an often science fiction fuelled fantasy world.

Wedding of Elizabeth and Mr Darcy
Characters from classical literature used by fans
But it can cover classical literature too like this extract, written by Mary Collette, to carry on from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice shows.

"When a house has gotten a new Mistress, the first thing she must do is learn all about the running of it, and what its traditions are, and that was what Mrs Elizabeth Darcy was asking of the redoubtable Mrs Reynolds."

Professor Henry Jenkins from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has studied the fan fiction phenomenon.

He argues it is part of our civilised life and the internet has created a revolution in grassroots creativity.

"It's that sense of 'this is our culture, these stories are important to us, this is our mythology, this is our folk culture'.

"And like a traditional folk culture fans are assuming that with stories that circulate we have the right to build on them to expand them, that we have the right to remake them in our own image."

Folk culture or not the question perhaps should be is it any good?

Fan fiction writer Alice said: "Some of it's atrocious. Some of it is exceedingly good.

"Sometimes it is a case of taking something that you love and making it better and fixing it."

Copyright troubles

However there are legal issues with using characters invested by another writer.

Using someone else's characters without permission breaches copyright rules.

Many stories now come with clear statements stating they are just for fun, not for profit, to try to avoid media companies acting against fan fiction websites.

But many fans argue that they only write the stories because the companies cannot satisfy their needs.

This may explain why there are currently tens of thousands of websites dedicated to Harry Potter fan fiction alone.

Until the fifth book in the series is published, there will be many more fan written stories about Harry, Ron and Hermione's unofficial adventures.

See also:

20 Sep 02 | Entertainment
10 Sep 01 | Entertainment
26 Sep 02 | Entertainment
07 Nov 01 | Education
02 Oct 01 | Science/Nature
26 Sep 01 | Entertainment
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