The ignition point of change is lower than you think. Transformation in thinking tends to smolder beneath the surface a while before bursting into the light. We need to give ourselves permission to shift perceptions and we search for ways to explore the consequences in safety. We do this through creative expression. We draw pictures, make videos and write endless tales of every permutation of a theme our greedy minds can come up with. We hunger for new ways of seeing things.

Fan fiction creators and consumers are explorers at heart. They are the outliers, the first adopters, the ones who dare to go beyond received wisdom and push the boundaries of belief and acceptance. They use familiar characters and themes as a jumping off point rather than an end to themselves. Stories are not meant to be precious; they exist to inspire and provoke thought. They are not diamonds they are coal – smoldering with the potential to create a myriad of sharp and beautiful things.

Fan created works are dismissed out of fear. When the means of expression are removed from the steely grip of the perceived elite the balance of things is threatened. No longer is the path a straight and narrow one with an ending point clear and defined. Each person who contributes their voice to a fictional universe creates a new deviation filled with a panoply of possibilities.

We live in a world where stories cannot be contained and that is a good thing. They were, of course, always malleable, the only difference is that now it happens much faster. It used to take many years and miles of distance for a story to evolve. Now it happens almost the instant it is published. Does Shakespeare’s retelling of ancient themes and myths in any way demean them? Are the many incarnations of Sherlock Holmes of any less merit for their association with Conan Doyle’s beloved character? Artistic quality may be argued but that has nothing to do with the origin of the story only the ability of the story teller.

It is easy to disparage fan created works as inferior or to adhere to a double standard. Fan fiction is deemed acceptable when created and shown in mainstream venues. Yet level of talent is not determined by quantity of fame or fortune. Websites that celebrate the creativity of fandom like “Archive of Our Own” prove that the ingenuity, intelligence and sheer beauty of fan created work is not in question. All levels of experience and expertise are represented from beginner to professional writers and artists.

History may be determined by the victors but art exists on the fringe. Fan fiction is more than self-indulgence. To the contrary, it is one of the few places the voices of the oppressed may be heard. If a person feels underrepresented in mainstream media where do they turn? How do they find connection and understanding? If you cannot find stories that define you then your only recourse is to create your own. If you use familiar characters and themes more people are likely to listen. Fandom is not a wasteland it is a university. One only needs to fling open the doors and be willing to learn.