Geekery (lovely word, just trying it out), at lest where I’m from, often includes some form of derivative work made by fans of a certain universe (or fandom, to be politically correct). Some larps (like, say, these) can also be seen as a sort of fanart, especially since it does, indeed, take a fan to place a larp in a setting already created by someone else, and for something else, be it a piece of paper, celluloid, boardgame or whatever.
I’ve participated in a couple of fanlarps so far – and none of them used the term in self-description. Hell, the co-alpha and I are even currently working on a super secret project which will very well be inspired by stuff that has already been written by someone else.
But it was another form of derivative work that first introduced me to the idea that you can, as a fan, participate in a fandom by not only consuming, but also creating. Fanfiction was just becoming huge round about the time I was in high school, and I was lucky to be surrounded by people who not only understood, but participated as well. The first fanfic I recall having written was at the end of primary school, when I was, for some reason, obsessed with retelling the Cormallen and Pellenor fields incidents in my school reading diaries. I’ve never been one to write or read tomes of thick, good quality fanfiction – but I sure did indulge in a short Sirius/Remus, Cara/Kahlan or, more recently, Sterek. (Oh, Sterek. You don’t want me to get started on all things lacking in Jeff Davis’ screenwriting.)
#1 Original material is too short anyway. Who knows if something happened offscreen or not? Sometimes a fan’s honourable duty is to add to the main story – both in detail and detailed (khm) events. (Ships of note: Myka/H.G., Oliver/Slade/Shado… what? It was obvious in the picture.)
#2 Being gay is almost more common than being straight in a fanfic universe. Can’t not appreciate details like that. (Fandoms of note: anything involving Sirius and Remus, Sterek, LotS fandom…)
#3 It’s not uncommon for characterization to be better in fics than in works they derive from. This was acutally a friend’s observation – one I must agree with, especially in some of the tv fandoms. On the other hand, sometimes – sadly too often – characterization almost doesn’t exist in the fics. It’s a double edged sword, but I’m always one to appreciate good character development. Also, lately, some of the writing in more popular fics has become awesome, too – something I don’t really recall from my high school days. (One word: Sterek.)
#4 Fanfics are a way for newly publishing authors to experience feedback, having a following and the process of writing longer stories. Not all of it is good for literature as a whole (e. g., I found City of Bones almost impossible to read due to blatantly obvious, multiple fandom influences), but it can be awesome for an inexperienced author, especially since fanfiction is something you commit online – which sometimes means almost instant feedback. Still, the unspoken agreement that positive feedback is awesome, while negative (sometimes more constructive) feedback should be kept to yourself sometimes does more harm than good. Actually, there’s more to the double edged sword nature of fics than I previously thought…
#5 Finding someone you share a ship with is sometimes just like finding a long lost member of your pack. A couple weeks back I found myself in a club in the middle of the night when a friend asked another one whether she is a fan of some obscure anime (I hope it was anime) with an unpronounceable name – and I had the privilege to watch all hell breaking loose. (Hint: You don’t have to be a japanese fangirl to scream like one. Fandom knows no national boundaries.)
#6 Rule 34. The heavens created fanfic for a reason. (To make fans very, very happy.)
#7 Some canon will always stay canon for me, no matter what the internet does to it. Sure, I’ll dare to larp in settings I find dear. But I’d never even think of writing a fic in Kay or Bujold’s world, even after I have commited several acts of Potter fics, which is another of my favourite fandoms.
Can’t really say why – maybe it’s a personal quirk. Or maybe it’s just a product of growing up in an age when you couldn’t reach the authors by any means whatsoever, not even to tell them you loved the way they gave true love to character X in book Y or whatever. It was a time when what you thought of a development in a book series or tv show didn’t really matter – at least not beyond simple ratings figures. Nowadays all of our voices count – and I’m still a bit in awe every time I read of a showrunner answering some fan’s question on Twitter. Quite in awe.
Bonus #8 I think my favorite fanfics of the past ten years can be summed up in three words: Tapestry / Described / Sorrow. Nope, I’m not big on non-slash fics. What would you call them anyway? Slash, femmeslash… straitsh?