By and large, I think AmazonWorlds is a shitty, exploitative way for Amazon and Alloy Entertainment to make money off desperate writers.
That said: I write fanfic. A lot of it, almost exclusively. Further, I’ll put my writing against a lot of stuff that gets published—hell, come to that, I’ve BEEN published, if we want to count publication as some sort of writer-cred, which is a sketchy idea anyway. I’ve seen several people today going off on the idea solely out of a sense of horror that OMG SOMEONE WILL GET PAID FOR WRITING FANFIC. These people, as a general rule, have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about when it comes to fanfiction. Is a lot of it shit? Oh hell yes. Sturgeon’s Law applies to fanfic every bit as much as it applies to the bestseller list.
That said, there are writers writing fanfic who create milieus, settings, conflicts, arcs, and characters so fantastic it makes me want to pull my face off. I would be happy to give you a list of recommendations if you don’t believe me. I’ve read everything from modern-day thrillers to horror to science-fiction to historical romance—all of it fanfic, and all of it better than your average bestseller. So if you think fanfic is all teenaged girls and sexually frustrated women writing self-insert Mary Sue porn so they can write about having sex with Captain Kirk or the Doctor, you couldn’t be further from the mark. (Is that out there? Yup. It’s a tiny minority, see above re: Sturgeon’s Law.)
More than anything else, I am really really bothered by the dismissal of fanfic writers as “not real writers”. A lot of us work every bit as hard as a professional. I personally have written about 125,000 words so far this year, about two-thirds of that fanfic. I have a group of people who edit my stories, which goes beyond just grammatical edits to making suggestions to actually improve the story and the characters. A lot of us don’t get paid to write purely because we don’t choose to do so.
Then again, a lot of us DO get paid to write. You might be surprised to find out which relatively famous authors read and write fanfic. We are passionate about what we do and about the stories we tell. Fanfiction is a place where people who may not have a voice elsewhere (women, teenagers, outsiders in general) can interact with media that means a lot to us, can talk back. We deconstruct, we take things apart and put them back together again. We dissect sexuality and gender roles—and yeah, a lot of times that means we’re writing about sex. We are providing for ourselves what the stories the mainstream is giving us are not providing, and frankly, we’re having a lot of fun doing it.
I’m having a really difficult time figuring out why people are so threatened by Amazon Worlds specifically, and fanfiction in general. Writing and publishing is not a zero-sum game. It’s not like every person who’s willing to pay for somebody’s Vampire Diaries Amazon Worlds piece is one less person who would buy your books. Even assuming that same person would be interested in your books, people have been known to buy more than one book in a lifetime.
One of my favorite quotes is from Henry Jenkins, a pretty prominent academic who writes a lot about what he calls ‘participatory culture’: “Fan fiction is a way of the culture repairing the damage done in a system where contemporary myths are owned by corporations instead of owned by the folk.”
Here are some other folks who say more intelligent things about fanfic than me: Lev Grossman, in Time magazine, The Boy Who Lived Forever, and here’s a link to havingbeenbreathedout here on Tumblr on the evils of paying for fanfic:
“Yeah, paying for fanfic is a bad habit, man. I have to admit, I’ve been really irresponsible that way. My first fanfic purchase was probably the omnibus Collected Works of Mark Twain that I saved my allowance for at age ten, full as it is of medieval religious RPF (Joan of Arc, King Arthur). That’s not counting, of course, the Elizabethan fanfic that my parents, being Shakespeare buffs, purchased for me before I had any money of my own. Coincidentally my favorite Shakespeare was also medieval RPF (Richard III), though I was partial, as well, to his Holinshed fic (Macbeth) and his Plutarch fic (Antony and Cleopatra). On the other hand, I found his Ovid fic Romeo & Juliet massively overrated, although there was some good dancing in the 1950s fanvid AU West Side Story.”
Fanfiction has been around since people started telling stories to each other. It’s as valid an expression of human creativity as people who bake using recipes, who knit using patterns, who sit around on their back porch and play other people’s songs on their guitar. And just the same way those people are actual no-scare-quotes-needed bakers, knitters, and musicians, fanfic writers are just that: writers.