Time has a lengthy article on fan fiction by Lev Grossman. The hook is Harry Potter, but it’s actually a pretty good overview of the phenomenon as a whole, from Muncle and Trek. I particularly like this bit:
Fan fiction is what literature might look like if it were reinvented from scratch after a nuclear apocalypse by a band of brilliant pop-culture junkies trapped in a sealed bunker. They don’t do it for money. That’s not what it’s about. The writers write it and put it up online just for the satisfaction. They’re fans, but they’re not silent, couchbound consumers of media. The culture talks to them, and they talk back to the culture in its own language.
I particularly love Grossman’s explanation of fanfic as a conversation, because it captures all the aspects. There’s doing it for the sheer love of the original work, but there’s also a great deal that comes from disappointment with what’s being offered by the creators (or, in our case, some of their hirelings.) Much of the fic in our own archive – they’re pretty much antiques at this point – came not only from love of Star Wars, but also frustration with what was being offered by the official sources – one author in particular, but if there’s one thing I won’t deny, it’s that the quality of the Expanded Universe, as it pertains to certain favorite characters, has always been a mixed bag. (And hell, I’d rather see someone put all their fannish angst into a fanfic than endlessly complaining about it on blogs and forums. At least it’s actually productive.)
Anyway, the article: Grossman even references sex pollen. Now that’s research.