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From Fanfic to Bookshop Pick: The Love Hypothesis

By Emma Regan and Jordan Maxwell Ridgway

This article is the first in a series exploring the world of fanfiction. Fanfiction has not only been growing in popularity amongst readers over the years, but it is also proving to be prime training for writers wanting to break into the industry. This week we will be discussing The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood and its success.

Fanfiction is typically unauthorised material written by fans and based on existing works. There has been a full range of responses from authors and copyright owners, both positive and negative. The earliest cited use of the term ‘fanfiction’ dates back to 1939 and has deep roots in the fantasy and science fiction genres. However, all literary buffs are aware that writers, such as Shakespeare, were known to ‘borrow’ and put their own spin on existing characters and plots.

Today, fanfiction can be found on sites such as Wattpad and Archive of Our Own (AO3), amongst others. Fanfiction is believed to have a largely female-based reader and author demographic, but a growing portion of the transgender and non-binary or genderfluid community are reading and producing works of their own too. Fanfiction also appears to appeal to young people as a way to reimagine the content they love and hone their craft.

As Ali Hazelwood said in an interview with Collider, “It's great, like you said, to find your voice, to explore things that you usually don't find in traditional publishing.” In the same article, Hazelwood expresses her joy that publishing houses are taking a growing interest in fanfiction and its marketability, and how this is lending further “legitimacy” to the medium. Fanfiction has, over recent years, felt like a pejorative: a disclaimer to suggest the work should not be taken seriously in its own right. This likely stems from the work not being purely original, cited as enough cause for dismissal. But it could be said that Shakespeare may have created the term ‘star-cross’d lovers,’ but he hardly invented the trope.

It is notable that fanfiction is often based on the trials and tensions between characters from popular franchises, and so it is unsurprising that a lot of the successful examples of fanfiction translated into original works fit into the romance genre. Despite its profitability and demand, it is still a genre that can be dismissed as ‘fluff.’ Considering this fact, along with the dismissal of fanfiction, as well as its demographic, it’s hard not to see the compounded odds stacked against its favour in its quest for legitimacy, surely making successful transitions even more rejoiceful.

The Love Hypothesis is one of many book titles which have gained popularity via TikTok, through the ‘BookTok’ community. It is a romance book set in academia which follows the story of Ph.D. candidate Olive Smith and “young, hotshot professor” Adam Carlsen, as they manage to find themselves caught up in needing to portray a convincing, romantic relationship and includes various other tropes used in romance novels (with quite a few of those being subverted too).

However, you might notice the two people depicted on the book’s cover look eerily like characters from a popular franchise. Ali Hazelwood started off writing fanfiction on Archive of Our Own (AO3), first for the Star Trek fandom before moving onto writing Star Wars - if you haven’t figured it out yet, the main characters of The Love Hypothesis are based on Kylo Ren and Rey Skywalker from the latest Star Wars trilogy. AO3 is where The Love Hypothesis first started (although it was under a different title then) amongst all her other fanfiction. It was there where Hazelwood found a community of other ‘fanfic’ writers and gained a strong following of readers that were enamoured by her work. Soon after, Hazelwood started to consider the process of moving from fanfiction writing to producing original content, when a literary agent, who had been reading her work, reached out to her via social media and asked to read some of her manuscripts. It was then a process of working out which pieces of fanfiction Hazelwood had written that would be the easiest to adapt into an original novel.

The Love Hypothesis doesn’t shy away from its origins though. As mentioned above, the cover of the book distinctly shows who the main characters, Olive and Adam, are based on by using fanart that was produced when the story was merely fanfiction, something the author was adamant on. Adam Carlson is also close to the name of Kylo Ren’s actor, Adam Driver, so the links to the original piece of work are there. This shows just how much traditional publishing is embracing the concept of fanfiction and that it isn’t afraid to look at it for up-and-coming authors.

Moreover, We’d Know By Then by Kirsten Bohling is another book that has been recently published with origins as another ‘Reylo’ fanfic, this time, using the soulmate trope.

Could this be the new trend within traditional publishing? Or do you think original fanfiction is the best place to get your dose of romance?


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