Wattpad and Fan Fiction

Literature is one of the first expressions of art. It began with myths, songs, and oral literature, and evolved into written literature and books, but not until very recently in our history. Literature is one of the oldest forms of culture that we know, and I do not think it will disappear, although the current mode of literature may not stand the test of time. Novels, short stories, plays and such are becoming obsolete, yet teleplays have ingeniously rose to the height of American culture, and other forms of literature, such as fan fiction, are ever popular on the Internet. So literature is not by any means disappearing, but the mode by which we tell stories is evolving.

One phenomenon that I have noticed on the Internet is what was once called “vanity” publications, which have now become the norm. Sites like Wattpad and Quotev, among others, are publishing the works of thousands of enthusiastic writers who have chosen to share their works by non-traditional means-  by routing the publishing industry. Works of fiction, from short stories to novellas, even serial novels, are being published online by authors seeking no compensation for their work, other than the opportunity to have their works read. They are amateurs, for sure, and their works show their amateurism, yet, this has become a new way to tell stories, and share them, to a broad audience.

Wattpad and Quotev and outgrowths of a fan fiction audience that has long been on the web. I am a reader, and occasional writer of fan fiction, and what is interesting is how suitable fan fiction seems to be for the Internet. The Internet is not known to host long works, and people have notoriously short attention spans for reading long blocks of text. Yet, when it comes to fan fiction, there are no such limitations. I have read novella length fan fiction masterpieces without the slightest amount of impatience, which I would otherwise have for any other type of web text. Even literary short stories on e-zines seem cumbersome; I would rather read those in a printed journal than online. But fan fiction is a whole other animal, and it is curious that the genre is so developed for the Internet, perhaps because of pacing,  or depth, that makes it more readable.

Now fan fiction authors are finding homes in sites like Wattpad. The writings aren’t specifically fan fiction but they have the feel of fan fiction; the crispness of adaptation. They aren’t original, which is why they lack professional authorship, but in the world of adaptative literature amateurs thrive on spinning tales from pre-defined story molds, much like they did with the characters that were the source of fan fiction epics. I believe this new kind of literature may be the future, as much as purists would like to bite their tongues. Speaking as a purist, and a lover of professional artists, I sense a great tragedy is coming, with respect to art, particularly professional art. But this new found genre on the Internet holds the promise of keeping the tradition of literature alive. I would hope that in time, some gifted artists may join the frock and help transform online literature to make it less amateurish. Surely, compensation can be found for authors outside of publishing (and Amazon), and perhaps in the future amateurism will give way to a new kind of professionalism.



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