I don’t really read fanfiction these days, but that hasn’t always been the case. My very first internet community was a video game fanfic site, and I spent quite a few years indulging in the hobby. At some point, though, I simply fell out of it—and I haven’t returned since. When I see people I know who are well into the realm of adulthood like me who still read and write fanfics, and when I see something like Archive of Our Own spring up around two decades after I quit, I can’t help but wonder where the differences lie. Why did I stop whereas others have kept going?
While reflecting on all this, I came to a conclusion: I stopped reading fanfiction because I no longer need it to fulfill the reason I began in the first place. The root desire that led me to fanfics no longer applies to me today.
What Fanfiction Gave to Me
When I first discovered fanfiction, it came at a time when many of the things I enjoyed felt confined in certain narrative ways. Video games like NiGHTS into dreams… had plots and characters, but they were very sparse and minimal—more vehicles to get people playing than elaborately unfolding stories. Many cartoons I grew up with, like King Arthur and the Knights of Justice, never reached proper conclusions. This was also the era of anime OVAs at the video store, and those were often just little samplers not meant to be complete stories.
What fanfiction gave me was the opportunity to explore these limited settings. It often felt like the canon product only gave us a thin slice of the worlds they were presenting. I wanted to see how other people imagined what was beyond the visible parts of those universes, both external (other physical areas and aspects) and internal (the internal worlds of characters beyond what is shown to us). Of course, fan sequels were a huge part of this, continuing the stories where they might have ended (in my opinion) too soon.
Why I Stopped Reading, Maybe
However, more and more of the stories I experience now feel more complete and more satisfying. The worlds they portray are endlessly complex and intricate, sometimes even overly so. Rather than wanting more and more, I find myself often wanting less and less. And if there is some unresolved element, I’d rather use my energy to move on to another piece of entertainment. My current mindset is, why read fanfic of one manga when I can read two manga instead? Not only that, series like Naruto literally have gotten sequels, and while there’s plenty to potentially disagree with when it comes to the direction Boruto has taken, I don’t feel strongly enough about it to check out fan versions. Heck, I’m not even that interested in reading the multiple endings of We Never Learn, where the author drew out a happy ending for each girl.
This isn’t to say that everyone should do what I do or be where I’m at. Fanfiction is great, and it holds so much energy for joy and discovery. I also look at what seem to be the common directions that fanfics go these days—alternate-universe settings for characters, shipping, etc.—and those aren’t really my jam either. In my younger days, I searched for Gundam Wing fanfiction because I wanted to see people come up with their own mobile suits. What I got instead was decidedly not that. Fair game, but not what I was seeking.
Maybe I’ll Be Back Someday
It would be silly of me to say “never.” What the past couple years has taught me is that the future is indeed unpredictable, and I may find myself in a place where I need the comfort of fanfiction. See you in another decade maybe.