Feb 3 2014, 5:12pm
I've been in fandom for about 15 years now, and I've been writing fanfiction for close to a decade. I'll be the first to say that in all that time in fandom, I've seen plenty of shipping and fanfiction that I personally found ludicrous and/or repulsive, and I also agree that real-person shipping crosses a line that shouldn't be touched with a ten-foot pole.
Lots of misconceptions about shipping and fanfiction in this thread
But that said, I always find it sad when I see people--especially other fans--turning up their noses at fanfic and other fan creations. I think there are two very important things to remember when it comes to fanfic:
1. It's all done out of love for the fictional universe and the characters. Yes, even the most godawful self-insert "Mary Sue" fic (I could go on a tangent here about how the whole Mary Sue witch hunt is pretty misogynistic and problematic in and of itself, but that would be a whole other post, so I'll refrain). And yes, even the most ridiculous, out of character shipping or slash fanfic. The people who write those fics don't do it because they're trying to disrespect the characters or the author of the original work. They do it because they love the characters and want to explore avenues that weren't there in the original canon. You or I may find their particular explorations bizarre or downright distasteful, but 99.9% of the time they're still done out of a genuine love for and interest in the original canon.
Moreover, lumping in ALL shipping and fanfic with the "bad apples," so to speak, is pretty unfair. Yes, there's a lot of crappy, poorly written fanfiction out there, but you know what? There's a lot of really poorly written original fiction out there, too. (Just look at Twilight.) Fanfic is like anything else: sometimes you have to wade through a lot of mediocre stuff before you find the gems. And yes, there are gems. Remember how I said shippers and fanfic writers do so out of a love for the canon and characters? There are countless fic writers who spend HOURS not just writing, but researching and discussing and poring over the characters and their personalities, relationships and motivations, figuring out what makes them tick. To imply fanfic is nothing but the work of perverts and giggly 13-year-olds is doing a disservice to all the talented writers out there who devote an immense amount of time to making sure their work is as polished, thoughtful, and in-character as it can be.
2. Whenever fanfic detractors point to authors like GRRM who virulently hate fanfic, one really important fact tends to get overlooked: once an artist, writer, filmmaker, etc releases their work out into the world, they no longer have 100% control over that work and how it's perceived. I'm not talking about ownership and copyright issues, I'm talking about how a work and its characters are interpreted. Once the work is published and people start to consume it, those people are going to form their own ideas and interpretations of the work, whether the author likes it or not. The author loses the right to say, "No, you're interpreting that WRONG! This is how I meant it!" I mean, they can try saying that until they're blue in the face, but that doesn't mean they'll succeed. And quite honestly, I think anyone who can't understand or accept that fact shouldn't be a writer. Because it's really part of the beauty of writing (or art, or filmmaking, or whatever): you release it into the world, and then other people get to make of it what they will. And frankly, if everyone just had all the same interpretations of art and literature and such, even if they were the official, creator-endorsed interpretations, it would be a pretty boring world.
So all that to say...if you don't like fanfic, you're entitled to your opinion, but just try to keep in mind that, like so many other things, it has plenty of good to offset its not-so-good parts.