From Star Trek to Fifty Shades: how fanfiction went mainstream

Since it began in the 1960s, fanfiction has been both loved and dismissed as the work of nerdy amateurs. Now, a new generation of authors is dissolving the distinction

Devotees of fanfiction will sometimes tell you that it’s one of the oldest writing forms in the world. Seen with this generous eye, the art of writing stories using other people’s creations hails from long before our awareness of Twilight-fanfic-turned-BDSM romance Fifty Shades of Grey: perhaps Virgil, when he picked up where Homer left off with the story of Aeneas, or Shakespeare’s retelling of Arthur Brookes’s 1562 The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet. What most of us would recognise as fanfiction began in the 1960s, when Star Trek fans started creating zines about Spock and Captain Kirk’s adventures. Thirty years later, the internet arrived, which made sharing stories set in other people’s worlds – be they Harry Potter, Spider-Man, or ...