The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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May 22, 2013

In fan fiction, your favorite characters do what you want them to

When J.J. Abrams took over the "Star Trek" franchise in 2009, he boldly went where the series hadn't gone before — romantically — pairing Uhura with Spock. Many fans disliked the change. Some loved it. Others didn't care, because they just wanted to see Kirk and Spock make out.

This story is about that third category.

For decades, Kirk/Spock has been one of the most popular couples in fan fiction, a genre in which fans write stories using characters from books, movies, TV shows and even real life. (Kirk/Spock spawned the subgenre "slash" — fan fiction about same-sex entanglements.)

Fan fiction is having a moment right now, and not just because "Star Trek Into Darkness" has thrown a luscious new villain, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, into the mix.

The success of "Fifty Shades of Grey," originally written as Twilight fan fiction, has major publishing houses intrigued. In February, Simon & Schuster published "Beautiful Bastard," a reworking of another Twilight fan fiction; the sequel is out May 28. Last fall, Penguin hired a 16-year-old to adapt her One Direction fan fiction into a young-adult novel.

Maybe it's about time. "Fan fiction is one of the great unsung popular literary movements of the past 50 years," Time magazine book critic and author Lev Grossman wrote this month. His novel "The Magicians" and its sequel riff on the magical worlds of J.K. Rowling, J.R.R. Tolkien and others, so you know that dude reads fan fic.

Fan fiction is like methadone to a heroin addict, offering a come-down from the high of the original creation. It's a rebound relationship, filling the gaping hole left when a favorite series ends (or starts to decline).

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