While the Star Trek television series could be credited by many with sparking the first ``fandom’’ around fictional characters, Ana showed how the tiny magazines that the Brontë children created for their imaginary worlds could be considered early versions of fanfiction. Just like modern-day fanfiction, the young siblings could use their fictional worlds of Angria and Gondal as an experimental playground to give their imaginations free rein, allowing them to ask what-if questions about real-world characters and development totally new characters, too.
But she also suggested that fanfiction is much older even than the Brontës. Lots of Shakespeare takes characters and plot elements from earlier works and reworks them. Milton’s Paradise Lost is a derivative work of the Bible where he repaints Satan as a tragic hero. Dante’s Inferno is a mash-up of the Bible, The Aeneid, and Greek mythology. The Aeneid itself is a spinoff of The Iliad, she explained.
On the Brontës, Ana quoted Andy Sawyer, director of Science Fiction Studies MA at the University of Liverpool and curator of a 2011 exhibition at the British Library on science fiction, as saying:
``The Brontës are well known authors with no apparent association with science fiction, but their tiny manuscript books, held at the British Library, are one of the first examples of fan fiction, using favourite characters and settings in the same way as science fiction and fantasy fans now play in the detailed imaginary ‘universes’ of Star Trek or Harry Potter.’’
It was a whirl-wind excursion through the vocabulary and history of fanfiction that wound up with a brief survey of all the derivative works that have been inspired by the Brontës over the decades, and which continues today.