I was in high school when I first learned about fanfiction. My friend had showed me a six page story she’d written about *NSYNC and tried to explain the concept of writing original stories about celebrities and fictional characters to me. I honestly didn’t get it. Why write about well-known faces when you could create your own complex characters and fantastical worlds? I was confused. It seemed silly to me.
A few years later, a soon-to-be popular book series changed my life. You may have heard of it? Twilight? It was amazing. For the first time in my life, I didn’t have to hide my inner fangirl. I was surrounded by people who were just like me, who shared the same interests as me, and those who had the same type of enthusiasm for books, movies, and fictional characters as I did. The series renewed my love for reading and showed me just how magical one story could be. I read every single page. I read every single line. Those books meant everything to me, but I still wanted more.
It was the Twilight fandom that reintroduced me to fanfiction. That infamous fade-to-black scene in Breaking Dawn was a sore spot for a lot of us and seemed to be the steeping stone for many to write their own version of the story. I don’t remember how it happened or when it did, but I know that when I read my first fanfiction everything changed. Instantly, I was addicted. It opened my eyes. It showed me a world I never knew. Fanfiction let me see that the story could go on. It could change and shift. It could be almost unrecognizable at times, but it didn’t have to end. Twilight didn’t have to end.
Over the years, thousands of stories have been written and it feels like I’ve read almost every single one. Lately, though, I’ve noticed something happening in the community.
Twilight fanfiction is on the decline.
For me, personally, I don’t read it that often. I haven’t for a while. The reason is quite simple. It’s not that I don’t want to or that I don’t have the time. It’s because stories are not being published regularly. Updates can take several months or years, in fact. It’s painful to read an unfinished twenty to thirty chapter story and have no idea what happens next. This is actually quite common among most fandoms. However, it seems to be occurring more frequently for the Twilight community. It’s understandable, really. Twilight (the film series) will be ten years old. The books are even older.
Why is Twilight fanfiction, in particular, on the way out? Is it because the series isn’t as relevant anymore? Is it because the readers and the writers of Twilight fanfiction are older now and they just don’t have the to time to write? Are they moving on to other books, films, and TV shows? Or is more complicated than that?
Tell me, do you think this is all Christian Grey’s fault?
We all know the story, so I don’t think I have to remind you that Fifty Shades owes its success to the Twilight fandom. Instead, I’ll remind you just how drastically it changed Twilight fanfiction. After the unprecedented popularity of the Fifty Shades books and movies, fic writers started pulling their works left and right. Most well-known stories had been taken down within the first year of the Fifty Shades phenomenon. The authors sought publication and many actually got it.
However, because of this, the number of new fics being written slowed considerably. Even now, it seems like every day I see a new fic being pulled to publish or taken down entirely. I find myself scrolling through older stories, rather than seeking out anything new. I don’t want to give them my heart, when it might get broken sometime down the line.
It brings up a question that continues to be debated today. Should fanfiction be published?
Trust me, I still don’t know the answer to that one. I remain undecided. On the one hand, I’m happy for these amazing authors. Their stories are being read by so many more people than they ever were. They’re getting the recognition they deserve. However, it’s kind of weird to see a story previously known as fanfiction on a Barnes & Noble bookshelf. Isn’t putting your work on a high-trafficked website already a form of publication? Is it right to remove an already recognized story in order to gain a larger audience? Honestly, I don’t know.
I understand Fifty Shades isn’t solely to blame for the decline of fanfiction, but it is at fault. I don’t think the community has ever recovered. Twilight fanfiction has been a wonderful and welcoming place for many, a thriving population of artists and writers. Now, the once vast and vibrant group has shrunk to only a select few.
One thing I know for certain, though. There may not be as many stories being written, but the dedication that these authors have is unmatched. Their clique is small but strong. No matter how much the fandom changes, Twilight fanfiction will never really fizzle. My fellow fangirls will make sure of that. For now, all we can do is READ. Read more fanfiction. Support your favorite authors, make sure they know how much you love and appreciate them. Believe me, they’ll keep writing if you do.
Have you seen the decline of fanfiction in a particular fandom? If so, why do you think that is? Do you still read fanfiction? Do you read stories from more than one fandom? Tell me in the comments!