After reading this article in defense of fan-fiction, my perspective has changed. Being an outlier of the fan-fiction community, I have only heard of the negative stereotypes that are attached to this writing style. The only real experience that I have with amateur literature is through media sharing sites like deviantart, and that has left a terrible taste in my mouth for anything remotely related as those types of pieces tend to be appallingly awful. However, I now see merit in fan-fiction and media sharing sites; the idea of communities forming around the vision of one person is inspiring to say the least.
As a teacher these communities that are created by fan-fiction are spaces in which I could only dream of creating for a classroom, or even a small group of students. I want students to be excited about reading, writing and critical thinking and see it as something other than some dull task that must be completed in order to pass a class. These communities promote all of these things. Whether the writing is bad or not, these people are reading, thinking critically about those readings, and applying that knowledge to their writing. Though it seems strange to say this, fan-fiction is an incredible phenomena that may contribute more to society than it detracts. I mean that in the sense that people are dealing specifically with what they read and observe rather than passively accepting it as the way it has to be. If I can get students to do that, I believe that I have done my job--if students can do those things, they will be better prepared to deal with and critically think about many other things, not just fiction. The skills garnered through analyzing, critiquing, and contributing to fiction, can be applied to anything (politics, advertisements, religion, media outlets, etc.).
Though the majority of fan-fiction may be unreadable, I believe that those that participate in this community are better equipped as critical thinkers than most other readers.