Our story starts in 2005, when the WB channel created one of the longest-running American fantasy TV shows. One which you probably haven’t heard of.
‘Supernatural’ is a science fiction show about brothers Dean and Sam Winchester. They live in a black 1967 Chevy, drive across the country, and find and destroy demons. At the end of the day, they have a beer and they drive on to their next destination.
Somehow, Supernatural has one of one of the largest fan fiction communities on the internet. It’s bigger than Harry Potter, The Avengers or Sherlock. Fan fiction is, of course, what happens when fans write fresh storylines set in an existing fictional universe.
Fan fiction works, by fandom
Why is this show so popular among the fan-fiction community? Some say it is the show's strong emphasis on family. Fan writers seem to be inspired by the complicated dynamics between Dean and Sam. For example, one fan found inspiration in the brothers’ emotional journey. The makers of the show know that, andt they play with it.
My friend Hans Bekhart noticed the subtextual homoerotic tension, and she ran with it.
In Bekhart’s 4,448-word story about Supernatural, Dean and Sam’s brotherly love turns incestuous, as you may have guessed. Dean resists Sam’s kiss at first... he tells Sam not to follow his sexual urges.
“Why not?,” asks Sam.
“Because it’s wrong,” Dean says.
“Says who?” Sam whispers back
“I can’t do that to you, Sammy,” Dean breathes, but he doesn’t move away.
This scene might seem silly, but incestuous sexual acts between Sam and Dean are hardly the full story. On the back on that premise, Hans created a complex emotional framework and gives the characters depth far beyond what’s shown on TV.
“So for me it's a way to kind of explore identity, my own identity as a queer person and also grief, specifically is a theme that comes up a lot in my stories.”
Some say the fan-fiction movement started in the late 1960s, when fans extended the stories of Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock and passed them around in zines. But the medium didn’t really come into its own until the advent of the internet. One of the most popular fan fiction sites, FanFiction.Net, touted close to 3 million registered users in 2011, one study said.
Another interesting tidbit from the study? The userbase of that fanfiction site was 78% women.
The fan fiction universe, by gender