They’re amateur writers—with millions of readers. After years in the shadows, they’re starting to break into the mainstream.
By ALEXANDRA ALTER
What if Edward Cullen, the moody vampire heartthrob in Stephenie Meyer’s best-selling “Twilight” series, was an undercover cop? Or a baker who specializes in bachelor-party cakes? Or a kidnapper who takes Bella hostage?
It may sound like heresy to some “Twilight” fans. But those stories, published online, have thousands of dedicated readers. They were written by Randi Flanagan, a 35-year-old sales manager for a trade publishing company in Toronto.
Ms. Flanagan writes fan fiction—amateur works based on the characters and settings from novels, movies, television shows, plays, videogames or pop songs. Such stories, which take place in fictional worlds created by professional writers, are flourishing online and attracting millions of readers.
Ms. Flanagan started writing her own takes on “Twilight” three years ago, after devouring Ms. Meyer’s vampire books. She has since written 15 stories, including some that are as long as novels. In the process, she has gained groupies of her own. Some 1,500 readers subscribe to her account on fanfiction.net.
“A lot of people don’t understand why I would devote time to this,” says Ms. Flanagan, who writes at night after her young son goes to bed. “It’s just fun.”
Fan fiction has long existed under the radar in a sort of shadowy digital parallel universe. But the form has been bubbling up to the surface lately, as a growing number of fan writers break into the mainstream.
The publishing industry’s current overnight sensation, erotica author E.L. James, began writing her best-selling book “Fifty Shades of Grey” as “Twilight” fan fiction. She began posting her X-rated take on Ms. Meyer’s tame paranormal romance online three years ago. Her “Twilight” homage, titled “Master of the Universe,” evolved into a series starring a powerful CEO and a young woman in a sadomasochistic sexual relationship. The books were acquired by Vintage, a Random House imprint, this spring and have sold 15 million copies in less than three months. Now, in a sort of literary infinite feedback loop, fans of the trilogy have begun writing their own takes on “Fifty Shades,” including an inevitable parody that mashes up “Fifty Shades” with “Twilight.”
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