Denis McGrath’s re-posting of his notorious anti-fanfic post (part of his week-long festival of posts that got him in trouble) made me wonder: what shows get a lot of fanfic written about them, and why? Never mind the quality of the fanfics; what’s interesting to me is that some shows, including popular ones, don’t inspire much fanfic interest while other shows just seem to compel their fans to imagine the stories that the actual writers won’t come up with.
FanFiction.net is nowhere near a complete listing of fanfics — actually, since the better fanfics tend to go up on fan sites for the shows they’re ficking (is that a word?), you’ll rarely find anything remotely interesting on that site — but it does list the number of fics it has posted for each show, which at least gives some idea of the shows that really inspire young people to write about them. The ones that have thousands of fanfics are, of course, mostly current shows, plus the eminently fickable Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There are very few that break 10,000; apart from Buffy, they include StarGate Atlantis, Doctor Who, CSI, and House. I was surprised to find CSI and House have so many, since they’re not genre shows, but it sort of makes sense: they are both procedural shows with structures that are easy to imitate, along with characters and relationships that fans like to argue about. Grey’s Anatomy may be soapier than House, but that soapy quality makes it harder to write a self-contained fic, and other shows with self-contained stories don’t have much to offer the ‘shippers. But put in Grissom, Catherine and a murder, and you’re in business.
It’s clear that on this site, many of the fanfics are from young ‘uns, because Hannah Montana has over 6,000 fanfics listed and even The Suite Life of Zack and Cody has over 1,500. That’s one of the reasons I can never have a particular problem with fanfic. The stereotype of a fanfic writer is of someone grown-up who really should be channeling his/her writing abilities into their own writing. But a lot of fanfic is people in school making up stories about their favourite characters, something that existed long before the term fanfic was invented.
Better yet, when they write these stories, they know they will have an audience for them: people online who love these characters as much as they do. If they write about their own life experiences, there’s very little chance that anybody will want to read it, even for free. If they write about The A-Team and post it online, there’s a devoted online segment that wants to read everything ever written about Face/Hannibal ‘shipping. I can’t blame anyone for wanting to write a type of literature that has a built-in audience.