Report: “What I Learned From Studying Billions of Words of Online Fan Fiction”
In the past 20 years, over 60 billion words of fan fiction have been written and posted on Fanfiction.net, the world’s largest repository. The site’s 10 million members have collectively authored a corpus about three-quarters the size of the entirety of published English-language fiction. This outpouring of creativity has been generated primarily by young people, with a median age of 15 ½.
Our research goal was to learn more about fanfic authors’ mentoring relationships. We expected to find traditional mentorship pairs, with an older or more experienced author serving as a beta reader for a younger or less experienced one.
What we found was different. Millions of authors and readers communicate via multiple channels—including Skype, official beta reader groups, fan fiction user groups, and other messaging and social-media platforms, as well as story reviews. Individual pieces of feedback are often too small to constitute mentoring on their own, but in the aggregate, particularly when reviewers build on and reference each other’s comments, the result is a new form of network-enabled mentoring that we call “distributed mentoring.” It enables authors to piece together an overall view of their writing that is supportive as well as constructive.
About Gary Price
Gary Price (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com.