This short story, “Loud”, (http://archiveofourown.org/works/4623426/chapters/10539903), a transformative work found on archiveofourown.org provides an exemplary sample of fanfiction and it’s place in online literature. The work focuses on two main characters, Jack and David, from the live-action film Newsies.
Like many fan works, the piece centers on a “ship”, short for relationship, between Jack and David. This piece firstly extends the canon, setting it after the newsboy strike and well further into the timeline. The expansion comes in the development of the boys relationship from friendship to romance. Additionally, the author chooses to write David as a person with autism. These two major additions to the established canon of the original film transform the pre-existing givens about the characters.
What makes this transformation crucial is that the readers seeing out this type of work are warping the canon to be more of “what they want.” This specific piece follows the incredibly common pattern of creating a male-male love interest. Across any media following, there are always fans who create and latch onto different queer ships, using canon moments as evidence supporting their theories. In many cases, a heterosexual ship can and does become canon. But it is only in recent years that we have begun to see any queer representation in mainstream media, and thus fanworks are the only place for the representation to appear. Film viewers wanted to see Jack and David together, so they turned online to place where that would be possible. Because acceptance towards the LGBTQ community has only recently begun to appear in our media, digital literature was the only place to find media that viewers found identifiable, and thus they become readers.
This same idea holds true for presenting David as autistic. People with disabilities are another largely underrepresented demographic in mainstream media, and even when portrayed are often put into narrow, “tolerable” levels of disability. Presenting a non-verbal, panick-stricken David being comforted by his boyfriend is not likely to be found in any mainstream media so far, and it would be optimistic to say such a scene would appear in the near future.
In short, fanfiction is digital literature. Fans seeking a fulfilling, relatable story are more likely to turn to non-traditional storytelling, because the mainstream media simply has not caught up to the desires of the consumers they hope to reach.