Why are people turning to fanfiction during the pandemic?
Fandoms have provided an escape for years. Fans have found comfort in other fans, events, and online communities. One popular form of writing that has grown beyond anyone’s expectations is fanfiction.
Fanfiction is fiction written by a fan that features characters and situations from books, TV shows, movies, and more. It was inspired by Star Trek fans in the 1960s and 1970s when fans shared their stories through self-published journals known as “fanzines” The freedom to create and reimagine a beloved story is hugely appealing to many fans, and provides an easy way to write stories without having to come up with the world on their own.
Without books during lockdown, fanfiction exploded
For many people during lockdown, turning to their favorite books, films, and TV shows gave them comfort. The weekly page views of Archive of Own Own (AO3), the top website for readers and writers of fanfiction, rose to over 298 million during the last two weeks of March 2020, according to Forbes. On April 7, 2020, the site recorded an all-time daily high of 51.4 million views. Another popular site to post fanfiction is Wattpad. While many aspiring authors often write fanfiction, fanfiction is not publishable due to copyright issues. Nonetheless, writing fanfiction gives people a chance to be part of a community and take reality into their own hands for a while.
Writers turned to fanfiction during the COVID pandemic as a way to cope with the isolation and anxiety of quarantine. The Forbes article writes, “According to data from AO3, users posted an average of 4,000 pieces every day in March as opposed to 3,000 a year ago.”
Why fanfiction now?
Anything familiar is comforting. Our brains are hardwired to respond to familiarity. People feel safe seeing the same faces, and with lockdown limiting that, people turned to the familiar characters they see in fiction. Psychologist Aja Romano, writing for Vox, says, “I also think fanfiction is different than published books in a number of ways. One of the ways it’s different is that it’s very, for lack of a better description, Id-y [idfic refers to the author’s relationship to the story]. Fanfic is written to have emotional resonance for the reader. It’s not written to make somebody a lot of money. It’s not written to get a publishing deal. It’s literally written to appeal to the Id of some other like-minded person.” To read the full interview of the psychology of coping with fanfiction and hear other fans’ stories of coping, check out this article by Vox.
With a gap in real-life connections, fans formed tight-knit communities online. This is one of the largest ways fanfiction is different from published books and why it soared during the pandemic. By immersing yourself in the piece you’re reading, you’re responding to it and creating emotional connections. With a book, you only have the text and a one-to-one relationship with the author.
Do you read or write fanfiction? Let us know in the comments!