Fan fiction isn't a joke, so why is it treated like one?
Fanfiction has for a long time thrived in obscurity. Fic as we know it today began in the Star Trek fandom, but people have been rewriting and reworking well-known characters since the invention of the story. The Trek fandom kept their work in insular communities (in part because the homophobia in the fandom at large made them feel unwelcome), circulating fanworks through mail order zines. But with the advent of films like Fifty Shades of Grey (based on the Twilight fanfiction Master of the Universe) and After (an upcoming adaptation of a One Direction fic), obscurity is no longer an option. People, including The Powers That Be (as fans like to call them: producters, writers, and showrunners) know what's out there. If only they understood it.
When Caitlin Moran shared 'Tea' (a BBC Sherlock fic written by mildredandbobbin) with the cast of the show, she did so eithout permission of the author. The story was laughed at and picked apart. There was no thought given to the desires of the author, no consideration given to the greater community that the work belonged to. The piece was cherry-picked and exploited. It was as if she'd forgotten that there was a person on the other side if the fic, someone that might be hurt if their creative work was held up for mockery, without context or understanding.
(It should also be noted that actors are frequently bombarded with fanworks without warning, and those works are often erotic in nature. Not only does it disrespect the artists, it seems to make many actors uncomfortable).
For those who keep getting it wrong: fanfiction is part of a greater fan culture.
It's considered transformative in nature: taking an established story, character, or idea, and exploring it from a new angle. By that defenition, the book 'Wicked' by Gregory McGuire is just Wizard of Oz fanfiction.
Writer Obsession-ink differentiates this type of fan experience from the afirmational type of fan: one who draws their enjiyment directly from the source of the idea. So in the case of BBC Sherlock for example, an affirmational fan would be more concerned with the writers, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss. Except.
BBC Sherlock is fanfiction.
At least, according to the defenition presented above. Thr showrunners enjoyed the stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and they adapted it, transforming the characters and setting to the modern-day. (In fandom, this is called an alternate universe). Why then did mildredandbobbin receive scrutiny and scorn that Gatiss snd Moffat did not?
"Affirmational" fandom... is the very most awesome type of fandom for the source creator to hang out with, because the creator holds the magic trump card of Because I'm The Only One Who Really Knows, That's Why, and that is accepted as a legitimate thing. Additionally, in this world where the internet's democratization of publishing is making the world a scary place for creators, this is a very non-threatening place for those creators: they're in charge, they're always the last word on their own works, and the terrifying idea of fanworks taking their works away from them and futzing with them is not one that comes up a lot. As a result, these are the fans that the creator will hang out with, and vice versa. These are the sanctioned fans."
They also pointed out that, while male showrunners and creators often write or direct transformative works, transformative fans that are not working for an established production company are often female. In a recent census taken by Archive of Our own, a website that hosts reators and consumers of transformative fanworks, more users self-identified as genderqueer than male (you can see the full stats here). So in a sense, The Powers That Be are mocking the way female fans choose to engage with and enjoy media.