Author has written 7 stories for Smallville, StarTrek: The Next Generation, Final Fantasy VIII, Superman, Elder Scroll series, and Star Wars.
watashi wa anata ni watashi no story wo yonde honshi.
I have a theory about fan fiction. Maybe some share it but many may not. As a writer I always want to tell a good story and present that story in a satisfying way. Also as a writer, I respect the work of others. I work hard to create my unique worlds and characters and I probably wouldn't take too kindly to someone else taking my work as their own, piggybacking on it as it were, to tell a story about my characters that is generally uninspired.
Yet, fan fiction lives on as well it should. We have evidence of "fan fiction" going back to the time of Shakespeare and outside of English even further back. At some point the work of an author takes on a life of its own and others are attracted to that work and wish to add to it. A writer may own the words they put on the page but no one can claim ownership of the human condition that we so often write about. The ideas, passions, and troubles of mankind are shared by all and we all help each other develop these idea into our culture.
Still, even with that, I do find myself putting a restriction on the fan fiction I will write. Fan fiction has a bit of a bad reputation as work done to simply make characters who are not romantic with each other in the source material inclined to be so. That of course is hardly the sum total of fan fiction but that is the reputation it has. Fan fiction writers often seem to take two extreme paths with the characters from the source. The first they create a darker version of them where everyone gets killed or other impossible things from the point of view of the source material is concerned. The second is that the fan fic writer plays it relatively safe, keeps everything just as in the source but takes the next logical step for the character that simply has not been taken yet in the source. There is a third minority of stories that simply want to be a good story set in that world so that the author of the story doesn't need to take the time to develop a completely independent world with all new characters. They can attach their story to a well known universe and get readers to their writing more easily.
For myself, while I enjoy reading the darker stories since they take chances, I don't think I would ever produce such a work myself. Allowing characters I care about to take the next logical step is well, interesting and yet boring at the same time and isn't my place. I admit that their might be very good merit in creating a good story set in someone else's universe but deep down I feel that unless your story hinges on something in that universe so that it "needs" to be set in that universe, you do more justice to yourself as a writer to take the time, do the work, and create your own universe to play with. Some franchises actually get so bit, that they start to incorporate stories into their canon that really don't fit with the world they are set in. It is a good thing to start over from scratch from time to time. Tell a story, let it stand, and move on.
For me, I think the best fan fiction is the work that puts the source material in the cross-hairs. Anyone can write a fan fic about Petrochio and Katarina that might be fun for a once read through but for it to last, it needs to develop these characters in some way other than to say they still argue when they are married. A modern retelling of the story needs to do more than just hit all the same beats as the original and call it a day. I think a fan fic really works when it takes the ideas and assumptions of the source and puts them under the microscope. As such, the fan fic isn't just trying to be a good story. If all you want to do is tell a good story, you can create your own world for that. A fan fic isn't trying for a good presentation (though some really need to work on that part). For me, the best fan fics are the ones that have something to say about the source. There is a commentary element to it that is needed. A fan fic of Obiwan giving Luke his father's light saber and dropping that Luke may have a sister is not really worthy of my time. A fan fic of that same encounter but having Obiwan give Luke the story from the rubbish prequel films is not only hilarious, not only a parody for cheap laughs, but puts the original work in the spot light. A writer intent on writing that fan fic could not set it in any other universe and make it work.
Years ago I wrote a story centering on Mary Bennett from Pride and Prejudice. She was an amazingly interesting character, in an amazing book, that for some reason, Jane Austen just didn't care for. I really wanted to explore the character so I wrote my story and let it go, and I followed the story as it developed before my eyes and at the end I had fleshed out this young British woman and was pretty satisfied with myself. I was less satisfied when I went back to the beginning and read through it again. The beginning didn't match the rest of the story. I started in the Pride and Prejudice world but I didn't end there. Indeed, I realized that, the events of Austen's book had so little to do with my story that I could easily change Mary Bennett's back story and name to almost anything else and the story would still work because the story stood on its own and didn't need to be related in any way to Austen's work. I drew inspiration from her themes of course but I didn't have anything to say about Pride and Prejudice itself, so in the end I changed it and the story was better off for it.
In a similar light, I wrote a story involving several "missing scenes" about Darcy such as his encounter with Wickham and the negotiations to get him to marry the idiot girl Lydia. Not only could those stories not be done outside of the Pride and Prejudice world but doing them as I did, I called attention to the their absence as commentary on the source. I wasn't simply trying to make the scenes fit into the Austen work, but to add to the substance of that work. I added bits about the "business" world of that time and other "manly" concerns that Austen never addressed because she either just didn't have the real life experience enough to write about it or she just figured it was well known and didn't need to be explained.
So my theory as to fan fiction, not that anyone has to agree with me, is don't treat the source material like it's a comic book (even if it happens to really be a comic book). Superman's origin has been told so many times (going on 20 now) and they just keep telling the same story over and over because it's the only good idea they have. DC is so good at telling this story again and again that they have developed a sort of formula that you can't break out of. A proper retelling of Superman's origin can't just be the same story leading to the same canon over again. A proper retelling of Superman's origin can't just be that he crashes at sea off the coast of Australia and is raised there instead of the US. A proper retelling of the story can't just be an evil Superman instead of a good one. It can't just be that he fall in love with Jimmy instead of Lois. It can't just be Clark and Lois getting married in Vegas. A proper retelling needs to have a good reason for being in the DC universe in the first place. It needs to put Superman under interrogation and make him explain his existence and justify why we should care. It can't just be another fun version, it needs to materially add to the overall story in a positive way. Call to mind the absurdness of a child flying alone to another planet. Call to mind the fact that Superman's brain might not work the say way as a human brain and so he might take longer to develop. Call to mind that Earth's atmosphere might not be able to fully support an alien from a planet almost 100,000 times as massive as the Earth. Don't just accept the source on its terms, force it to explain itself and then I think you have the workings for a very good fan fic that is also a very good story.