I started reading fan fiction set in the world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer about six months ago. At the time, I assumed that it, like most genre fiction, would conform to Sturgeon's Law; i.e., that 90% of it was crap. A few hours browsing FanFiction.net confirmed this suspicion and revived memories of reading the "slush pile" (unsolicited manuscripts) for a small (now defunct) science-fiction magazine.
Luckily, I stumbled across the All About Spike site (I'm nuts about both the character of Spike and James Marsters, the actor who plays him). It's a well-organized site presenting the cream of the crop -- nothing but well-written (many professional quality) stories. I've used the site as a portal; anytime I found authors I liked, I'd check out their web sites for more of their work, and found their lists of what they thought was worth reading, which led me to more good writing.
These stories have provided me with a lot of stress relief, entertainment, and occasionally a good cry at a time when I was dealing with a lot of pressure at work. I would come home totally stressed out, but then lose myself in a good story, relax, and be able to get enough sleep to slog through the next day.
I'm not a fiction writer, and don't have any desire to be. But I have worked in publishing, including a five-year stint as a copy editor. I know that good fiction writing is relatively rare, and that the chances of making a living at it are slim. It astonishes and delights me that: (1) there are many good fan fiction writers out there, (2) they keep writing for the sheer love of it, and (3) they're generous enough to post their work on the Internet for anyone to read -- for free!!
I wish I could give them something in return for all those hours of reading pleasure (I feel like I owe them at least the price of a paperback book!), but the only thing I can do is write fan mail.
So here's to fan fiction writers; consider yourselves (virtually) toasted!
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