Every spring, Knox’s anime enthusiasts journey to Anime Central convention. Last year, junior Sam Butler was among them, but this year, she will see the show in a different way.
While her friends are watching screenings or attending panels, Butler will be one of the experts leading a panel on the topic of fan fiction.
For anyone who has not been on the internet much in the last 20 years or so, fan fiction is a genre of writing where the author sets their story in a world that has already been created in another work using its established characters, the writer’s own original characters or a mixture of the two.
Butler attended the fan fiction panel as an audience member last year and noticed that there was a lot of information she gained from her experience writing fan fiction that the panelists were not covering.
She felt she had “something to offer” to the panels, so when she got home, Butler investigated how she could become a part of the panel next year. She found the panelist application on a forum on the Anime Central (ACen) website and sent it in. Soon, she was in communication with the head of the panel and had the job.
Although fan fiction often does not get much respect in the writing community, Butler sees it as an important and useful form of writing. She has been writing fiction since she was 14 and has learned a great deal.
“I’ve learned how to take criticism,” Butler said.
When other people read her work online, they do not always feel the need to be as tactful in their critiques as they would be if they saw her face to face.
Although this has the negative side effect of encouraging over the top criticism in some cases, it can also encourage honest criticism that might not be possible when the reader can see the writer. Butler said these interactions have taught her to sort out useless critiques from genuinely useful advice and not take criticisms of a story personally, a skill she has brought to her experiences in creative writing workshops at Knox.
When she publishes her fan fiction online, the stories also receive positive reviews, which have given Butler confidence as a writer. Some reviewers have asked her to let them know if she publishes a book so they can go out and buy it and their confidence in her writing skills inspires Butler.
“They think I can do this, I don’t know [if I can] yet, we’ll see,” Butler said with a humility that was visible throughout the conversation.
Butler also sees fan fiction as “literary training wheels” for beginning writers. Since the original author has already created the world, it gives the writer a chance to focus more on the story and the characters.
Although many people Butler has encountered do not take fan fiction seriously since they see it as a derivative form of writing, she disagrees. At the fan fiction panels she attended the year before, a writer for the TV series “Psyche,” pointed out that every episode of a TV show that is not written by the show’s creator is essentially a glorified fan fiction.
If it seems like working with industry professionals might make Butler anxious that is because she is.
“I’m a little intimidated, very a little intimidated,” a smiling Butler said. “They’re basically doing what I want to do.”
While this thought makes Butler nervous, it also excites her since the panel could help her be a step closer to her dream of becoming a professional writer.
“I have connections to a world I want to get into,” she said.
For now though, Butler is still writing fan fiction on fanficton.net. Her longest story — which set in the world of her favorite anime, “Yu Yu Hakausho,” is over 600,000 words and has over 2,800 reviews.