Saturday, December 11, 2021

Why I'm shamelessly reading fanfiction

I first talked about fanfiction back in 2017. Back then I was discussing whether it should ever count towards reading goals, despite the fact that I really didn't read it. The post was definitely written with a mocking tone and I can tell from reading it that I didn't think fanfiction should really be taken seriously, despite the length of many stories. 

Sometime in the past year or so, it seems that fanfiction has become more mainstream in the book community. It's very common to see more popular fics included in recommendation lists on BookTok. I've seen Manacled, in particular, recommended and discussed more and more in the past few months amongst many creators, which was my first real foray into the world of fanfiction and I found that I loved it! But then I went back to published works and didn't pick up another fanfic until October... and now I can't stop. 

As you might know if you read my blog semi-regularly, I've been in a bit of a slump for the past year and a half as life wreaked havoc on my mental health. I've struggled to post regularly and, more upsetting, to read regularly. Or at least, as regularly as I'd like. This year I've turned to new genres to get back into the groove, but what's shocked me the most in the past few months is that I've come to absolutely love and appreciate fanfiction. 

I've thought a lot about why this is as I tried to convince myself to read a "real" book in between stories. Why is it so easy and comforting to read these sometimes beautiful stories that people put into the world for free? 

Think about the fact that, when you choose a story to read on AO3, you're probably choosing from a fandom you already love. When you go into a work of fanfiction, you know the characters. You probably love them already, and you're probably already very invested in their lives. You already know the world and can't wait to jump back into it. There's no effort required to understand a new world or understand who new characters are. There's only the effort it takes to fall into a story full of people and places you adore. It brings a whole new meaning to "comfort read." 

While I was wondering if I was just late to the game that everyone else was already playing, I came across this Forbes article discussing the fanfiction boom of 2020, which apparently began around the time of lockdown. Apparently, traffic to AO3, the most popular fanfiction website, increased by 60% year over year in April 2020. 

Obviously, fanfiction has been around forever. I remember people reading when I was in high school, but I certainly was not one of them. The only fanfics I knew about were, frankly, awful. I just didn't know where to look! Some of my absolute favorite reads of all time have been discovered in the past three months, and I'll be shamelessly reading for the foreseeable future. It isn't as if I'm going to run out of material! 

For anyone like me who is interested but has no idea where to start (the AO3 search is intimidating), here's the fanfiction genre page on Goodreads with some popular options! 

Do you read fanfiction?
What's your comfort genre?
Let me know in the comments!