Back in 2012, the Scottish author and screenwriter Ewan Morrison introduced at least a few Guardian readers to a literary phenomenon with an pedigree older than most probably had thought: “fan fiction”, or “fanfic”.
In its simplest form, fanfic is when people write their own stories using characters and scenarios taken from their favourite novels, TV shows, films, or even real life—oh yes, believe it or not, there’s actually fanfic out there about pop stars like Justin Bieber and Harry Styles.
The “hook” on which Morrison hung that particular Guardian article was the then-global success of E L James’s Fifty Shades of Grey, which the author had developed from her early fanfic based on characters from Stephanie Meyer’s “vampires versus werewolves” Twilight Saga. Since Fifty Shades had “hit 31 million sales in 37 countries,” he pointed out, “worried voices are asking: is this the beginning of an era in which fanfic overthrows original creation?”
Morrison dismissed such “paradigm-shift apocalypticism”, not least because...