My latest Locus editorial is out: "In Praise of Fanfic."
Two things are sure about all fanfic, though: first, that people who write and read fanfic are already avid readers of writers whose work they're paying homage to; and second, that the people who write and read fanfic derive fantastic satisfaction from their labors. This is great news for writers.
Great because fans who are so bought into your fiction that they'll make it their own are fans forever, fans who'll evangelize your work to their friends, fans who'll seek out your work however you publish it.
Great because fans who use your work therapeutically, to work out their own creative urges, are fans who have a damned good reason to stick with the field, to keep on reading even as our numbers dwindle. Even when the fandom revolves around movies or TV shows, fanfic is itself a literary pursuit, something undertaken in the world of words. The fanfic habit is a literary habit.
update: WD45 sez, "The most recent podcast of Definitely Not The Opera from the CBC featured a fine intro to the world of Fan Fiction." DNTO is just about my favorite CBC Radio show, and that's saying something — it's the only radio I've ever truly loved.