Fan fiction (also known as fanfic or fan fic) is a written work based on an existing story created by fans. The writing of fan fiction is unauthorized and is usually made for entertainment purposes only. The author uses characters or backgrounds from an existing story as the basis for the fan fiction. Sometimes they also add their own original characters in the story.
Fan fiction has actually existed for longer than what one would expect. Shakespeare's plays which are Romeo and Juliet, Much Ado About Nothing, Othello, As You Like It and The Winter's Tale are actually categorized as fan fictions he created based off of another author's work. Romeo and Juliet was based on an Italian tale from The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet by Arthur Brooke and Palace of Pleasure by William Painter. There was also Alonso Fernndez de Avellaneda who wrote a sequel to Cervantes' work that is Don Quixote.
Fan fiction arguably began in the 1960s when the first Star Trek fanzine or a fan-written magazine titled "Spockanalia" was released. As time went on, more Star Trek fanzines were released and it started to spread. People's impressions of fan fictions weren't very great as most fan fictions were cheesy love stories written by female fans. Oftentimes, they would write the blooming romance of certain characters from the story, which some people would frown upon. Or other times, they would write unrealistic self-inserts which went more or less like everyone swooning for the oh-so beautiful and capable young woman.
In 1973, Paula Smith and Sharron Ferraro launched the fanzine "Menagerie." This fanzine contained "A Trekkie's Tale" which was a satire parody of a fan fiction created to poke fun at these unrealistic characters. The character in her fan fiction parody, "Mary Sue '' was later coined as a phrase for a type of fictional character, usually a young woman, who is portrayed as unrealistically free of weaknesses.
"As Theodore Sturgeon said, 90 percent of everything is crap. The amazing thing was, the crap had so much of a pattern. I'm very much a pattern seeker, and you could see that every Trek zine at the time had a main story about this adolescent girl who is the youngest yeoman or lieutenant or captain ever in Starfleet. She makes her way onto the Enterprise and the entire crew falls in love with her. They then have adventures, but the remarkable thing was that all the adventures circled around this character. Everybody else in the universe bowed down in front of her. Also, she usually had some unique physical identifier---odd-colored eyes or hair---or else she was half-Vulcan. The stories read like they were written about half an hour before the zine was printed; they were generally not very good."
Thirty years later, the internet existed and came the first web dedicated to publishing and reading fan fictions, fanfiction.net, officially released on October 15th 1998. This webpage gained a lot of traction because of its user-friendly interface and automated approval process. This allowed fast growth and an increase of works and users. This platform has started to gain popularity and with it, an accumulation of fan fictions from different fanbases or fandoms.
More platforms for fanfictions were created such as Wattpad and Archive of Our Own. Wattpad was launched in December 2005 while Archive of Our Own was launched on November 14th, 2009. These platforms grew more popular than fanfiction.net because of the purging that happened in 2002 and 2012. The strict regulations implemented by fanfiction.net caused users to move to the other two sites.
In recent years, fan fiction is still often consumed by people of different ages. Though it might invoke negative views, fan fiction is just a way to express creative freedom. Don't focus on the stigma that paints fan fictions in a negative light, in the end, fan fiction is all about having fun.