Will Fanfiction Rot Your Brain?

Welcome to Fanfiction Friday, your passport into the world of fanfiction! If you’re just joining us now, you’ll probably want to pop over to the introductory vocabulary post first, unless you’re already a fanfic veteran. This week, we’re exploring the question of whether reading fanfiction will rot your brain. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t.

Last week, we learned about some of the reasons you might read fanfiction, and I touched briefly on the long-standing debate over whether one’s mind is only enriched by reading so-called “good literature”, or whether the simple act of reading is enough to improve the mind. This is a debate that has been going on since Classical times, but in the context of American libraries, it stems from the establishment of libraries by the upper classes (George Washington et al.) for the betterment of the lower classes) and the principle that the lower classes lacked the ability to choose appropriate reading material for themselves.

We’ve come a long way since then, but sadly the idea still persists that certain books somehow have a more “improving” quality than others. This is evident in the longstanding stigma associated with genre fiction, the corresponding prestige of literary fiction, and the shame of acknowledging to reading romance novels—and, now, fanfiction.

I’m not a brain scientist who can prove with fancy testing that the reading of all types of literature affects the brain in exactly the same way—although that would be cool. But I will reiterate what I said last week: I firmly believe that fanfiction, like every other form of literature, does enrich the mind, and this is a hill I’m willing to die on. Read what you like, and be proud of it!

That concludes this week’s edition of Fanfiction Friday. Happy reading!

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