Queer fan fiction facilitates exploration and reclaiming of fictional characters.
Not long after my 29th birthday, I wrote my first queer fic ever for the video game series Kingdom Hearts and published it on the website A03. It was the most fun I ever had writing in years and the first fan fic I wrote since I first discovered fanfic in the early 00’s. Writing my first queer fan fic after months of reading queer Kingdom Hearts video game fan fic was such a release, because it let me interpret queer subtext how I wanted and give characters I related to a better ending.
For those not familiar, fan fiction in its simplest terms is written work by fans of a piece of fiction that reinterprets fictional characters and the fictional world they belong to. In fandom, fan fiction allows fans to play around with canon (i.e. the established source material) and reimagine them based on their own view of a character, plot, or setting. Fan fiction has a very long history that goes back to the 90’s and 00’s, where fan fic existed on niche sites for specific shows like Star Trek and The X-Files. Fan fic also existed pre-internet through conventions and fanzines, as well as retellings of Greek myths and fairy tales.
Fan fic allows us to take a character who is coded as queer and actually make them queer.
Similar to fiction, fanfiction has a lot of different categories for different media, as well as genres that are unique to fanfiction. For example, video games have a lot of fanfiction, with series such as The Legend of Zelda and Kingdom Hearts having over one hundred thousand combined fics on fanfiction.net alone. Some of the genres that are exclusive to fan fic include angst, fluff, and fix-it fic. Angst focuses on characters who are brooding or sad, fluff fics contain pure happiness, and fix-it fic rewrites canon events to the author’s liking. On sites like fanfiction.net and A03, you can filter fics by media and by genre.
For LGBTQ+ fanfic readers and writers. fan fic has been a personal haven. Fan fic allows us to take a character who is coded as queer and actually make them queer. This could be anything from shipping two male or female characters in a romantic and/or sexual relationship, having fictional characters in a polyamorous relationship, or interpreting a character as transgender. It also allows us to write “fix-it” fan fic to revive queer characters who are victim of the “Bury Your Gays” trope, which involves LGBTQ+ characters being killed off in television, film, and other media. The reasons that LGBTQ+ people read and write fanfic vary, but major reasons include the lackluster treatment of LGBTQ+ characters in fiction and a desire to interact with other fans of the media they enjoy.
My personal history with fan fic began through the fanfic archive site Fanfiction.net, which was founded in 1998 by Xing Li. A high school classmate introduced me to the site in 2005, after a conversation about the cartoons we watched and the books we read. Although I wasn’t yet brave enough to post my fanfic online, I wrote fanfic in a Hello Kitty Journal for cartoons like Danny Phantom and Teen Titans. Not only did I read a ton of fan fic for those shows, but I also read fanfic for the anime Sailor Moon, the Harry Potter book series, and Kingdom Hearts. The initial appeal of fanfic was that it introduced me to the joy of writing and playing around with fictional characters, even if they were already established. Unencumbered by canon, I felt free to be as creative as I wanted.
After graduating high school, I lost interest in fan fic until 2019, the year Kingdom Hearts III was released. Although I lacked the console and money to play that game, I had rediscovered the franchise through the Nintendo DS games Kingdom Hearts 358 Days/2 and Kingdom Hearts Re: Coded. The former game had a particular impact on me because of its theme of personal identity and how I read the character Xion to be a trans woman and couldn’t deny queer subtext between the male characters Roxas and Axel. While playing both 358 Days/2 and Re:Coded, I went to A03 and perused slash fic with Roxas and Axel in romantic relationships as well as fic that featured Xion as transgender. As a reader who is also grey asexual, I really appreciated that I could filter out sexually explicit queer fan fic (aka smut) and choose to read queer slash fan fic that had romance but no sex. I liked being able to read fanfic without having to choose between my orientation and my personal enjoyment.
Reading queer fan fic allowed me to enjoy my favorite characters…and see them reimagined in creative ways that went beyond sexual orientation and gender identity.
Reading queer fan fic allowed me to enjoy my favorite Kingdom Hearts characters outside of the game and see them reimagined in creative ways that went beyond sexual orientation and gender identity. One of my favorite queer Kingdom Hearts fics centering Roxas and Axel as a couple is titled, “You’re Somebody To Me” by author MatchaVanilla. It reinterprets the world of Kingdom Hearts in a modern alternate universe where the main characters are teens in high school. Despite the modern setting, the fic retains elements of the Kingdom Hearts games such as the creatures known as Heartless, beings known as Nobodies, and the group known as Organization XIII. The fic is also an angsty hurt and comfort fic that tackles depression and physical abuse.While I don’t always write angsty and heavy fic, writing it improves my mental health by giving me an outlet, and reading it reminds me I’m not alone.
As much as I enjoyed reading queer fan fic, it took me many months of reading it and giving myself many pep talks before I worked up the courage to write and post my own. Although fan fic is more well known than it used to be, it is still a topic of derision in and outside of fandom. On the one hand,
there are misconceptions about fan fic such as the notion that all fanfic is pornographic slash. On the other hand, there are anti-shippers in certain fandoms that disingenuously use social justice rhetoric to harass people who ship certain characters.
Moreover, there was also the ridiculous idea that you can be too old for certain fandoms, especially if those fandoms are considered childish. Since Kingdom Hearts is a video game that combines Disney and Final Fantasy video game characters and features friendship as a major theme, some think the game series is utterly cheesy and immature. Despite all this, I decided to take the leap and write what I wanted because I loved Kingdom Hearts and I wanted to learn to love writing again.
Writing fanfiction was my way of giving space for my favorite characters to be happy and queer after the convoluted and heartbreaking events of the game series.
My very first queer Kingdom Hearts fic paired not only Roxas and Axel, but also two female characters named Namine and Xion in romantic relationships with no sex involved. Taking place a few years after the events of Kingdom Hearts III, the fic features the four of them living together in Twilight Town’s mansion. Although this fic mainly focuses on Namine and Xion as a couple, I also included some tender moments between Axel and Roxas as an established couple and some sweet moments of friendship between all four characters. I also casually wrote about Xion being transgender and also wrote Namine as demi-romantic. I wrote this story as my interpretation of what happened to my favorite characters after Kingdom Hearts III and also to pay homage to the action packed and heartfelt moments found in the game series. It was my way of giving space for my favorite characters to be happy and queer after the convoluted and heartbreaking events of the game series.
As a whole, queer fan fic has been an awesome way to express and have fun with queerness. Queer fan fic varies depending on the media it is based on; queer fan fic for comic book characters is drastically different from queer fan fic about video game characters. However, they share similar goals: to make queer subtext valid, bring dead LGBTQ+ characters back to life, and to explore and express queerness in fictional worlds with other LGBTQ+ fans. Queer fan fic has made me love writing again and surprised me in unexpected ways. After writing a music inspired songfic interpreting Axel as transgender and non-binary in a modern alternate universe, I received a comment from a non-binary male reader thanking me. Even though my fic might not get a lot of views or comments, it’s a hobby that I’m happy to take part in because it lets me be as queer as f*ck