February 27, 2014
Big Bang kicks off a new universe for fanfiction authors
by Sadie Mason-Smith
Fanfiction and other works may be one of the last bastions of nerdery still vehemently rejected by mainstream culture—outsiders often view the community as being fundamentally unoriginal. Even in an atmosphere as accepting as a convention, Fight Club rules apply—do not bring up fanfiction with the actors/original world’s author. The gap between those who read fanfiction and those who do not is wide. But it’s shrinking.
Rachel Edidin reports for Wired that there’s a growing overlap between the world of fan communities (called fandoms by those within them) and the world of traditional publishing – and it’s not Amazon’s Kindle Worlds.
Big Bang Press is starting a new world for fanfiction writers. The publishing company, funded by a Kickstarter and cleverly named after one of the more popular long-form internet writing challenges, is integrating fandom into revenue. Edidin explains:
“Instead of trawling platforms like Archive of Our Own or Wattpad for stories, [Big Bang Editor-in-Chief Morgan] Davies decided to focus her search on authors: “We want to take people who have been writing a lot of fan fiction and honing their writing talent, but who are interested in writing original stuff and clearly have the talent and ability to do so.””
Edidin is quick to point out that recruiting authors from the adoring masses isn’t as new as it seems—there are even works that precede everyone’s least favorite example of fanfiction gone original, Fifty Shades of Grey.
“Ray Bradbury’s first published stories appeared in his four-issue fanzine, Futuria Fantasia. And there’s a long tradition of what’s known as “filing off the serial numbers”: removing trademarked names, settings, and other details to republish fanfic as a new original work. “
Some popular genre authors who are linked with fanfiction include Mercedes Lackey, Lois McMaster Bujold, and Rainbow Rowell, whose YA novel Fangirl actually features a main character who is the kind of popular fanfiction author that Big Bang is looking to recruit. From Big Bang’s perspective, the main difference between authors who have successfully broken into “real” writing and their author list is mainstream opportunity, rather than a difference in skill level. As their website explains, “we can give writers the freedom to tell more diverse stories than mainstream publishing often has room for, a goal that is partly influenced by the inclusive nature of fanfiction culture.”
Sadie Mason-Smith is a former Melville House intern.