Poll: With the Harry Potter films done and over with, do you think the HP genre of fanfiction has been diminished, in terms of popularity and numbers of new stories? Vote Now!
Hello all! I am an attorney from the United States who enjoys reading fanfiction in his free time. Right now it tends to be of the Harry Potter and Naruto variety primarily, with some Percy Jackson, Twilight, Star Wars, LOTR, Stargate crossovers thrown in. Naruto is, in my mind, the Japanese version of Harry Potter. There are just too many similarities to ignore.
The primary ways that I learn of good fanfiction is through other authors/readers favorite stories found in their profiles. I’ve found some real gems that way! Even if our tastes might differ, those stories did come with a tentative stamp of approval. I’ve found it to be a far superior use of my time than doing a blind search and searching through the many works that should never have been published in the first place. For every good fanfiction author there are a hundred really, really bad ones! So the purpose of this page is primarily to alert other readers of stories I liked and hopefully to make you aware of some pretty damn good fiction to spend your limited free time reading.
I’ll give you a quick overview now to determine if our tastes somewhat match up.
What I like for fanfiction in general:
I'm a snob when it comes to a well written, complex story. I have a low tolerance for incessant spelling errors, grammar mistakes, or word substitution errors (writing "pray" when it should be "prey" or "sole" when it should be "soul" for instance). Authors don’t be afraid of the commas! They are your friends! I can’t tell you how often I have to “autocorrect” in my mind while reading so the story makes some kind of sense. If the story is very original or has an engrossing plot which grabs me, I'm willing to overlook many proofreading issues. Another ridiculous thing to me is misspelling a major character’s name. For fanfiction, if you aren’t sure how to spell Voldemort’s name correctly, maybe you should have looked it up! Or not written all together.
As for my favorite stories, something had to grab my attention. When I first started reading fanfiction in late 2009, hundreds of thousands of stories were available to me, many of which were long and complete. It was glorious having so many options. My old profile on this site talked about how I only read stories over 70k words and complete…that’s entirely gone out the window in the last year or two. I was forced to expand my searches simply because I had already read the few good ones that met my criteria and now there was little left. So I started reading works in progress. That’s a hit or miss proposition at the best of times, though I do often enjoy it. On the one hand, the true joy of fanfiction is being involved in the creative process, to offer a well-written review and influence the course of an ongoing story. On the other, many stories just won’t ever be completed for a variety of reasons, or will be worked on only once every six months. I know real life tends to get in the way, but you’d think people would be more serious about their hobby?
In summary, I don’t favorite a story unless it is something I would invest the time to read again…and I often have! And for the authors out there reading this profile, unless a story is so bad I abandon it midway, I like to leave well-written, comprehensive reviews. I've found authors really do mean it when they say that they want reviews; I try to give them well-rounded reviews explaining what I liked and didn’t like and suggestions for improvement or even things I’d like to see. I try not to be mean, but I freely speak my mind. Amongst the many hundreds of authors who have profusely thanked me for offering a substantive review that they’re unused to, I do inevitably get a few authors who don’t appreciate my candor. It’s really a shame in those instances that the ubiquitous, “You’re awesome, and your story’s awesome. Update soon!” style of review has made them uncomfortable with receiving a real review that offers constructive criticism.
Harry Potter: The stories I like
Harry Potter is truly my favorite genre of fanfiction. Rowling did some amazing world-building. However, when put under the intense scrutiny of hundreds of thousands of hard-core fans of her world, plot holes the size of semi-trucks can be found with ease. (Seriously what could realistically stand up to that level of scrutiny?) It’s in those many 'holes' that great fanfiction is born. It’s funny, when I first started reading in this genre, I wasn’t a believer in the Dumbledore conspiracy theory. If you read enough really good fanfiction that delves into this subject, you’ll change your mind very quick indeed. There is just far too much to ignore.
My personal opinion is that 98% of all fanfiction in this genre is about improving Harry in some way. Whether that’s some substantive change to his character or circumstances, that’s what most fanfiction in this genre comes down to. Even in a genre with over 600k plus stories, it’s still ripe for exploration. Canon Harry was a dumbass, plain and simple, a puppet who never saw the strings directing his actions, nor made many substantive steps to improving his situation or his abilities. It never made sense to me that he goes from this hardened survivor of abuse at the Dursleys, sees magic as his redemption, his empowerment, yet goes to magic school and basically plays the lazy student who doesn’t want to learn or better himself. Even after it becomes clear Voldemort is alive and will actively be trying to kill him, he still doesn’t try to improve himself or question anything about his situation. Fanfiction explores the question, “What if he had?”
What I love to see in HP fanfiction, but don’t often get…I love a good story that attempts to do some world-building of their own. Rowling gave us a magnificent start, but she basically wrote the magical witches and wizards like regular, modern humans who could do a few extra tricks, rather than what they likely are, either a new species or subspecies of humanity who developed in relative isolation. Even if you ignore that possibility, it’s clear they have their own unique, isolated, and ancient culture. In fact, there are bigger differences between modern day countries than what I've seen between the western culture and the culture of HP as depicted in both canon and the vast majority of fanfiction. The magical culture in canon has people who aren’t even sure what clothes male and female non-magicals wear, yet in so many ways their culture somehow/someway mirrors the modern Western culture.
With that in mind, how on Earth does the magical culture hold so closely to modern western cultural ideals and taboos under those circumstances? How could they be so similar when there are so many compelling reasons that they shouldn’t be? Let me explore a few of the major ones. First, the magicals are isolated and insular and reject many “muggle” ideas even when they might become aware of them and who marginalize the muggleborns who don’t assimilate as easily. Second, they’re much longer lived compared to the muggles. Of course cultural change is going to come slower when the people in power live double the modern muggle lifespan or more depending on power levels. Go back in time even just a hundred years and the difference in average lifespan between the two groups is magnified further. Since cultural change is concerned with even larger time-scales, it's hard to not stress how important this issue of longevity is. Third, physiology often influences culture. The wizards and witches of HP are inherently magical beings. That’s at their very core. As we even saw in canon, magic itself imposes requirements on them and would inevitably influence their culture. You need only look at their symbiotic relationship with the house elves, magically binding oaths and life debts to see that. Fourth and finally, perhaps most importantly when comparing the magical culture to the modern western one, the magical culture hasn’t been influenced by the church and organized religion. The modern western culture has been influenced greatly in its development by the Catholic Church throughout history. Considering religion organized killings of witches (and magicals) and condemned them as evil, that influence was rejected by the magical culture. If you remove that influence, so many other things we take for granted aren’t so certain anymore.
In terms of fanfiction, few authors give this much thought. I imagine they think that canon had this ridiculous depiction of magical culture, so why change it? That’s assuming, of course, they even considered it for a moment. Authors love to unconsciously or subconsciously bring in modern notions of western culture to their writing of the world of HP. Is it a matter of comfort, the idea of 'writing what you know' at work, or is it a lack of skill? I just don't know. Again, they’re amateur writers, so I really can’t blame them at all. World-building is often the undertaking of authors good enough to publish their own original work. But…the ones who really try to re-imagine the world and culture of HP are the ones who have my absolute attention. It’s a rare author that even tries and I think it often comes down to perspective. I’ve noticed that European authors of HP fanfiction are much more likely to try doing this. I suppose it has a lot to do with ease of travel to different countries and more regular interactions with the people of different cultures. They recognize, from their own experiences in real life, that they shouldn’t assume the cultures match up. I’ve always gotten a kick out of the fact that writers of adult HP fanfiction, tend to be the most open-minded and creative in their imaginings of the magical culture and its views on sexuality. It’s easy to believe. Our modern western notions of sexuality have a lot to do with three things. Those are first, fear of unwanted pregnancy, second, sexually transmitted diseases, and third, the condemnation of the act before marriage as a sin. Imagine a culture that rejects the church’s influence and whose extremely advanced medicine makes unwanted pregnancy and disease a non-issue. Perhaps even for centuries or longer. Yeah, under those circumstances how on Earth would their views on sexuality mirror our own modern ones?
The HP genre is my absolute favorite. There are just so many ways to explore it. I’m a little worried currently though, as while the movies were being made, interest in writing fanfiction of this type was pretty high. I’ve noticed a distinct reduction in the number of stories written since. I guess only time will tell.
In General: My choices in Harry Potter fanfiction are very Harry-centric. If a story primarily features Neville or Hermione, for instance, I’m not interested. I prefer a strong, independent, smart Harry who bucks authority and escapes the chains of Dumbledore. I want Harry to embrace the “gray” side of magic and take the fight to the death eaters. You have to kill your enemies in order to win a war. Stunning them and waiting for them to escape prison, be released, or get revived, is a quick way to get killed. War is filled with horrors, once that’s recognized, it can be won. I like a good bit of training “scenes” where Harry explores his magic and gets stronger. I also have really gotten into crossovers and Harry!creature stories lately. It forces the author away from the canon patterns and events that have ensnared so many before and kept them from writing their own unique story. If I wanted to read HP canon, I’d read Rowling’s books; that’s not the point of fanfiction. These re-imagined stories should be able to stay true to canon/or their own AU for that matter, while telling their own unique, stand-alone story. That’s where author often go off the tracks. They start writing their own story and then seemingly fall asleep at the wheel, while writing those familiar canon events and the story gets carried along by momentum. I’ll throw a bucket of cold water in their faces to revive them, but this needs to be something they continuously watch out for.
Pairings I like: I’m a big fan of Harry/Tonks, Harry/Hermione, Harry/Fleur, and Harry/Luna, but not necessarily in that order. A good story featuring one of those pairings can often temporarily change which one I prefer the most. Those are my all-star ladies of HP. For reasons discussed thoroughly earlier in this profile, I like to see a very different magical culture, so I enjoy reading harem stories. I’m also not opposed to sexual situations in my fanfiction. Sex is a huge part of our human lives and motivates many of our decisions and actions, why shouldn’t it be a large part of our story telling? American conservativism is a source of a lot of problems in our culture I think. I’ve always found it incredibly strange that authors writing in this genre are willing to write the most horrific death, violence, torture and murder, but are uncomfortable writing scenes of sexuality. More often than not, like in canon, Harry is written like some celibate priest/monk, rather than a maturing teenager, both wealthy and famous with a normal, healthy interest in sex.
Pairings I don’t like: I am not a fan of Harry/Ginny, but I can stomach it if the story is extremely well-written. I also really hate Lupin/Tonks. What a waste that was. Rowling took Tonks who was this incredibly funny, flirty, vivacious, and happy character and then pairs her with an old man 15 years her senior with self-esteem issues, who is morose and depressed most of the time, who really never embraced his role in Harry's life, and who fights the relationship from the beginning. I believe, Lupin requires someone who can really identify with his particular affliction. His curse, at least according to canon, has artificially aged him faster and leaves him unhealthy a great deal of the time. You’d have to conclude that his life will be cut far shorter due to his disease. A female werewolf would be an ideal choice for Lupin. Someone who can share in every aspect of his life with no fear of infection…that kind of shared characteristic can only aid them in establishing a strong, long-lasting relationship. If we really examined Tonks/Lupin with some small dose of common sense as to whether they’d last, I’d have to conclude there would be no way it’d last. Perhaps it was a good thing they died in the 7th book, because I’m pretty sure they were heading towards divorce. I've invariably found that when your spouse can't share in such a big part of your life, it can lead to nothing but trouble and heartache.
But what I can’t stand, hate, detest, abhor, is Ron/Hermione. I am definitely not a fan of those two, so if that bothers you, best of luck elsewhere. That relationship is just so mismatched. Having a relationship with someone who nearly caused your death, who you fight with constantly, who makes fun of you, who is pathologically jealous, who is disloyal and abandons his friends at the first sign of trouble, and who most importantly is nowhere near as smart or as hard working as you…is a relationship that can only exist in an author’s mind who wants to wrap up her stories in the most convenient, if utterly false sort of way. For me personally, a relationship has to operate from roughly the same level for it to work long-term in a fulfilling way for both parties. Harry/Hermione works so much better when you think of a relationship in those terms. Ron is the anchor that keeps Harry down, who prevents him from reaching his full potential, and from realizing his beautiful best friend right in front of him could make a good match. If Harry hadn't been abused and neglected and denied any friends and family growing up and didn't have extreme abandonment issues, can you really see him remaining friends with Ron, betrayal after betrayal? If he wasn't afraid losing Ron as a friend meant losing the Weasleys as a surrogate family? Can you see Hermione and Ron making it without Harry acting as the buffer there? God, how I hate him.
Pairing Pet Peeves: For some reason, when Harry is paired off and is relatively happy in a story, fanfiction authors often get into their heads that every other ancillary character needs to get paired off as well. That’s not the way life works! I’m not interested in the other pairings, I’m interested in Harry/whomever, which the story is billed as. Too often these other pairings distract from the main pairing and the story itself while doing very little, if anything at all, in advancing the plot forward. I’ll often skip those sections as filler and a means to increase word count.
Twilight: The Stories I like
I prefer stories based heavily in canon--no all human or extreme out of character or non-canon couples. An all human Twilight story just makes no sense to me. Some fanfiction based on Twilight is Twilight only in the sense that the characters have the same names. Stories that I typically like are either extensions on canon, post BD, or Twilight re-imagined stories.
Check out My Favorites!
Well, that's it. Thanks for checking out my profile and if your interests in fanfiction are similar to my own, check out the stories I've favorited. I think you'll see I have good taste and can lead you to some great works of fanfiction. I should note that I’ve often alerted stories that never get onto my favorite list. It’s a rare story that does actually.
I love hearing from others readers who liked my story choices, if you want to message me and suggest your favorites or recommend something you think I’d like, please private message me. I’d love to hear from you.
Stories that I currently beta for and are updating: Please check out these excellent stories.
Midnight Gold, The Rise of the Forgotten Lord by InheritanceConfessor2011
-Beta’d Chapters 7, 9, 10-16, 28-44
Last Ancient by runick4
-Beta’d Chapters 18-22
The Chronicles of Camelot: The Snake, The Boy and the Chamber by blackshadow111
-Beta’d Chapters 22-23
To Boldly Go by Thrans
-Beta'd Chapters 1-6