Once upon a time
I remember sitting in a college class listening to the teacher explain fanfiction. What made it memorable was that seemingly no one else in the class had heard of such a wild and outlandish concept. They were aghast at the very notion of it. 'Why would anyone do such a thing?' For me, learning about the existence of fanfiction - the very concept - was an empowering revelation. A new world of possibilities opened up for my favorite characters, one in which I could contribute.
Reading and writing fanfiction was a big part of my childhood, but I somehow failed to realize until recently that a new breed of fan-creation had taken shape. Just like those college students, I was stunned to learn people were writing fanfiction based on other fanfiction. My first thought was "Why?" but now it's "Why not?" If something sparks your creativity, that's what counts. Here are my top picks for fanfiction so outrageous it inspired its own fanfiction.
The Premise: Operatic rock group The Protomen have two albums dedicated to their Dystopian vision of the Mega Man universe. In Act I we discover that Dr. Wily rules over all with an iron fist, and learn the fates of both Proto Man and Mega Man. Act II takes us back in time to discover the origins of of Wily and Mega Man-creator Dr. Light, and see how they basically initiated the rock-and-roll robot apocalypse. Think George Orwell's 1984 by way of Queen with robots.
The Fanfiction: If there's one sure-fire way to ignite a young fanfic writer's passion, it's that spark of angst found so readily in gritty, depressing reboots. The fanfic community surrounding The Protomen is small - compared to the rest of these slides - but the fact that there's any fanfiction about a dark rock opera based on Mega Man is worth celebrating. Since The Protomen's Mega trilogy won't be completed until Act III, some fans have taken it upon themselves to provide additional backstory for the characters and the state of the world. Sadly, none of them are in rock opera form.
Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality
The Premise: "Its a terrific series, subtle and dramatic and stimulating I wish all Potter fans would go here, and try on a bigger, bolder and more challenging tale." That's a quote from Hugo Award-winning science fiction author David Brin in reference to Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality taken from The Atlantic. If that doesn't give you an acute case of "Wait. What!?" then try this: Methods was written by Eliezer Yudkowsky, an AI researcher, theorist, and co-founder of the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence. It presents an alternate-universe in which Harry Potter was raised by a scientist and and struggles to apply scientific theory to magic, spanning 600,000 words across 112 chapters. Harry Potter fanfiction is serious. freaking. business.
The Fanfiction: Since Methods is itself derived from one of the most fanfic-centric communities on the internet, it's only natural this scientific fairy tale has spawned a number of fanfics of its own. Split between an active sub-Reddit and a less-active Fanfiction.net collection, most of the HPMOR community expands upon Yudkowsky's vision of Harry Potter by casting other charcters in the lead role and seeing how they behave though the lens of scientific rationalism. Unfortunately, I don't think any amount of scientific reasoning will explain how the hell Quidditch works.
The Premise: Dead Fantasy is a video series featuring Final Fantasy and Dead or Alive characters beating the ever-living crap out of each other. There's nary a line of dialog spoken, just constant grunts punctuated by the occasional battlecry as an army of anime ladies go to town in a kung-fu epic that would put even the Matrix trilogy to shame. There were also a few J-POP music videos, but those were likely non-canonical. The series was conceptualized by the late Monty Oum, an animator and director who went on to work for Midway Games, Namco Bandai, and Rooster Teeth. He never finished the Dead Fantasy series.
The Fanfiction: Seeing as how the plot to the Dead Fantasy series can be summed up as "characters show up and fight each other" there is a wealth of material to be explored. I imagine it's a lot like drumming up the backstory for a fighting game - you already know the cast is going to beat the hell out of each other, the question is "Why?" The answer comes in the form of several novellas told from the point-of-view of a single characters. If you've ever wanted to read a detailed account of two people having a long, magically-charged, kung-fu beat down you've found the right fan community.
Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series
The Premise: We all remember Yu-Gi-Oh!, the children's-card-game-turned-mega-franchise featuring one of anime's most impossible hairdos (and that's saying a lot). The show took itself as serious as a heart attack, despite starring a reincarnated Egyptian Pharaoh playing card games with children. Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series brings the inherent absurdities of this premise to the forefront, redubbing the original show with new dialog that lampoons its plot and hyper-exaggerates all the characters. Start here.
The Fanfiction: If you're sitting down to write YGOTAS fanfiction then you're probably doing one of two things: either a romance story between Marik and Bakura, or a "crack fic" about the first thing that pops into your head. Marik and Bakura were both possessed by demonic fashion accessories in the Yu-Gi-Oh! series, which transformed them into homicidal maniacs, so naturally they fall in love having so much in common. Sadly, stories in the crack fic camp usually read like retellings of humorous events in the author's own life. But with Yu-Gi-Oh! characters. And by Yu-Gi-Oh! characters I of course mean Marik and Bakura.
The Premise: Ho-Oh, the legendary rainbow pokemon, has declared war on humanity (I told you these were dark). It has released the dampeners on pokemon worldwide, which basically means all those flamethrower, thunder shock, and hydro pump attacks are now hyper-lethal against humans--not to mention all the creepy stuff bug-type pokemon can do. Humanity, alongside the precious few pokemon still loyal to their trainers, must now fight for its own survival on the bloody, endless battlefield their world has become.
The Fanfiction: The idea of a war involving pokemon is inevitable when you base your universe around animals fighting each other. Author Cornova's fiction, however, takes a much darker slant. Since this PokeWar is happening on a global scale, many authors have been able to create side-stories or one-off vignettes about the lives of other characters. Cornova even acknowledges some of these stories as "canon," a list of which you can find in his profile page.
The Premise: As you may have already guessed, Fallout: Equestria combines the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic TV show with the Fallout video games. The story takes places in the irradiated wasteland of Equestria which was decimated by a "megaspell holocost" (read: nukes). It follows young unicorn Littlepip who escapes from her Stable (read: Vault) to search of her lifelong friend, Velvet Remedy. She encounters plenty of, um, colorful characters along the way while also slowly piecing together what caused this global catastrophe.
The Fanfiction: Fallout: Equestria is celebrated as one of the largest and most successful fan-creations in the My Little Pony community. It has spawned hundreds of stories in several different languages all set within its post-apocalyptic universe. And it doesn't stop there: radio dramas, audio books, comics, music, and even plans for a limited-run book printing of the original story. It's a real testament to the creative drive of the MLP community.
The Premise: BEN Drowned, as it's commonly known, is a supernatural horror story about a haunted copy of The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask for the Nintendo 64. As if Majora's Mask wasn't creepy enough, this tale recounts one man's experience with what he thinks is either a defective or prototype game cartridge. The cartridge is full of disturbing imagery and mismatched scenes not found in the final game. Gradually, our hero becomes convinced the game is possessed by a malevolent techno-ghost called BEN, which is trying to escape.
The Fanfiction: This story was originally published back in 2010, and spread like wildfire across the internet--just like BEN wanted--thanks in part to some convincing footage reportedly taken from the game. Its author, Alex "Jadusable" Hall, eventually spun the story off into a full-blown alternate reality game, but that was later canceled before completion. Since then, the fans have stepped up to tell BEN's origin story and fill in some of the blanks left by Hall. A surprising number of these stories, however, also include supernatural romance.
The Premise: It's no secret that 99.9-percent of people who would argue about the Mass Effect trilogy's ending online didn't enjoy the ending to the Mass Effect trilogy (and argued about it online). Out of that debate came a truly provocative and well thought out interpretation of Shepard's final battle: the Indoctrination Theory. In brief, the final choice you make in Mass Effect 3 isn't the one you think you're making. Instead, it's a battle of wills between you and the Reapers for control of Shepard's mind. Developer BioWare, however, has remained coy about whether this is truly the case.
The Fanfiction: I really like this theory. It gives the game an air of mystery, similar to the theories about Final Fantasy VIII or Majora's Mask. Poking around online, I found dozens of stories inspired by this interpretation of Mass Effect's ending. Of course, for every one of those stories there are a dozen female Shepard and Garrus romance novels, but what are you going to do?
The Eternal War
The Premise: One man has been playing the same game of Civilization II for over a decade. The result is a nightmare world not unlike something from the Warhammer 40,000 universe. In his game, most of the Earth is irradiated swampland, a combined result of the polar ice caps melting and one-too-many nuclear winters. The resulting military stalemate--a three-way tie between the Celts, Vikings, and Americans--is airtight, with each nation's destitute populace solely dedicated to maintaining that status quo. There is no end in sight.
The Fanfiction: Okay, while an old game of Civilization II isn't the same as the text-based entries on this list, it still makes for a compelling story. After its author, Lycerius, posted this story on Reddit back in 2012, it quickly took on a life of its own. Many offered up their advice and solutions to Lycerius' predicament, while others spun fiction based in the war-torn world he'd helped create. Eventually those tales found a home on the sub-Reddit, The Eternal War Stories.
Everything in the Star Wars expanded universe
The Premise: Earlier this year, in a move that ruffled the feathers of Star Wars fans across the universe, Disney announced it would be, basically, ignoring any and all materials taking place after the original trilogy as it sees fit. This is in preparation for the release of Star Wars: Episode VII in 2015. The upshot? The now-defunct expanded universe, which had grown bloated with decades worth of material, has all now landed firmly in the realm of fanfiction.
The Fanfiction: The sea of fan-created works surrounding these games, novels, and more is so vast, and so deep, that it would be impossible to summarize here. Things get interesting, however, when you consider the possibility of twice-recursive fanfiction. I'm talking about a hypothetical piece of fanfiction based on fanfiction written about something in the Star Wars expanded universe, which is itself now fanfiction. Whether such a document exists remains to be seen.
The story continues
The fanfiction universe is vast, its possibilities endless. Do you know of a work or series that has spawned its own collection of fan-creations? Make your voice heard in the comments below. Who knows, maybe it'll ignite that creative spark in another reader.