Gone Too Soon: When Fanfiction Rescues Canceled Television

This kind of fanfiction has the potential to reach audiences that may usually avoid it.

Fotolia.com | © alswart

Fotolia.com | © alswart

It doesn’t matter which genre is your favorite, or which fandom you call home—we’ve all felt the sting of a treasured show getting canceled prematurely. Thanks to reported ratings, a fan community can usually tell when a show is in its final moments. But sometimes a series that otherwise seems original, well-executed, and superbly written, can be canned before it has had a chance to find stable footing. What is a fan to do, then, when their favorite show comes to an abrupt close, leaving nothing but unanswered questions and unfulfilled promises behind?

That is where the fanfiction community comes in to finish the story. Fan-favorite shows such as Firefly, Twin Peaks, and Veronica Mars have extensive archives of material written by devoted, talented individuals who loved them enough to create full seasons of additional content, some of which are massive. Veronica Mars, canceled after three seasons, has a two-part, forty-five thousand word series that follows the characters into their sophomore year at Hearst College. Firefly, infamously canceled after just eleven episodes, has a fifty-thousand word follow-up that continues the series past the events of the film, Serenity. Lastly, Twin Peaks, canceled after two seasons due to declining ratings, has a forty-thousand word continuation that essentially serves as a third and final season for the show. Additionally, all three of these shows have even larger crossover pieces with other established universes, with word counts that climb into the hundreds-of-thousands range.

But what differentiates these shows from the countless other popular television programs that have fandoms just as dedicated? The distinction lies in the function of these works—providing an ending, albeit non-canon, to a story that would never have had a conclusion otherwise. More importantly, however, is the fact that this specific category of fanfiction has the potential to reach audiences that may usually avoid it. Our obsessive need for closure means that an early cancelation can be the catalyst for viewers heading in droves for fanfiction forums, desperately seeking out some sort of resolution. That most of these individuals would have been satisfied with the original content only serves to highlight the importance of this introduction—the finale someone writes when their favorite TV show gets canned may be the first fanfiction experience a new reader has.

Does this change anything, practically, for fanfiction writers out there? Of course not. But it’s interesting to think of an unfair cancelation not as a tragedy, but as an opportunity to share our community with someone who may never have been encouraged to see what’s out there. And who knows? They just might like what they find.

Recommended Fanfic: When Heroes Fall by LittleMissJaded (MA, 48,000 words) Sometimes even heroes fall. Simon is faced with reality when he realizes he should have listened to Jayne before stepping off of Serenity.

About Aaron Tavarez (2 Articles)
Aaron Tavarez is a short fiction and novella writer from Dallas, Texas. He studies Psychology at Arizona State University and is currently working on his first full-length novel.

1 Comment on Gone Too Soon: When Fanfiction Rescues Canceled Television

  1. Rachel Smith Cobleigh // February 25, 2016 at 11:31 am // Reply

    Well said! And thank you for recommending a fanfic!

    Similarly, a TV show that started out great but then jumped the shark can be thought of not as merely a tragedy, but also as an opportunity for other writers to go out in the world and show their stuff, by writing not just more satisfying completions, but far more satisfying alternate-universe (AU) versions of the show. I started reading (and eventually writing) Downton Abbey fanfiction because I was so dissatisfied with how the show turned out after the first series. There is a lot of excellent writing in this fandom, for any fan who just hasn’t gotten enough out of the show!

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