My interest in internet fiction was sparked way back in my middle school days. I think I was maybe 12 or 13 and I had just watched a season finale of the cartoon Avatar: The Last Airbender. It was a silly thing that drew me – Katara was this wonderful, strong, female character and she had somehow decided to begin a romantic relationship with the Avatar, Aang.
Aang was admittedly rather charming, but in the way you would call a corgi puppy’s antics “cute,” and “sweet,” and “charming.” He was portrayed for almost the entirety of the television series as a younger brother figure whom Katara could nurture as she matured and took control of her own life. Not really romantic per se. Now, I’m leaving out a lot of the character development and complex interactions which made the show the incredible feat that it was for the sake of keeping this short, so I’ll give that Katara and Aang had a bond. But romance? It just didn’t make sense to my teenage, hormone-addled mind.
In an effort to deal with my disappointment in the show’s chosen storyline, I was drawn to the internet and stumbled across fanfiction. It was a glorious discovery. I had access to thousands of alternate universes other authors had cleverly crafted to their own whims. There were pages upon pages of stories about Katara that didn’t end in her marriage to Aang and I was entranced. I’m fairly certain I commandeered the family computer for days just to read as many “fanfics” as I could. In that time, I discovered a new meaning for the word “ship” (Zutara, anyone?). Up until that moment, I had always found myself disagreeing with the heroine’s romantic interest in books I was reading, but now I could ship her with someone more suitable. I finally had a community of writers who shared my divergent opinions on other works.
Needless to say, fanfiction has held my interest ever since. While I tend to oscillate between different fandoms depending on my mood, there’s always new fiction to be found. Taking characters out of their original context and giving them new life and new challenges is an intriguing thought experiment. To read the evidence of how others have interpreted a character through their characterizations in fanfictions is wildly thought-provoking.
Fanfiction is truly an art all on its own.