Thursday, May 6, 2010

Fanfiction - thoughts please?

An Amsterdam post really will follow as soon as I upload my photos from my camera (I was tempted last night to cheat and use photos from my last trip, but I was there for Queen's Day this time!). However, there has been something of an uproar about fanfiction of late.

Diana Gabaldon has said that she considers fanfiction immoral. Numerous people have disagreed, but the first response I read was from Sarah Rees Brennan. Both posts are interesting - I especially liked Sarah's, as her own experience as a fanfic writer was so negative, yet she still believes in the general goodness of fanfic. Also, I agree with her, which helps :) But Diana Gabaldon's post is a strong argument to the contrary.

Disclaimer: Sarah reckons that Diana has modified her point of view slightly since making this post. I haven't yet read through all 584 comments on her blog [I'm a bit skint after Amsterdam though, so I might yet, since leaving the house can be expensive]. I can't vouch for whether or not Diana Gabaldon still holds these opinions with the same intensity, but she provides a well-written argument.

I'm not a reader or a writer of fanfic - when I was 12, I used to write my own versions of TV shows I liked. There were probably less than ten of them, and I threw them all away during a house move when I was 15 or so. I'm delighted that I did, since they were embarrassing. I wouldn't even say they were good enough to be called fanfic. I've also read very little fanfic. In my life, I may have read four or five pieces. My feelings about fanfiction aren't very strong either way, because if it fell off the earth in the morning, I wouldn't notice.

Many people seem to be of the opinion that if the author hates it, don't do it, but otherwise it's fine provided you don't try to make money from it. I'm just curious to know how some of you guys feel on the subject, though. If you were/are a published writer, would you mind if people wrote fanfic? Would you be tempted to read it? Or would you call in the lawyers?

Personally, I go a bit delirious whenever anyone responds to anything I write in a favourable way, so I would be thrilled if anyone gave enough of a crap about me to write fanfic. But then, I'm all unpublished and obscure, and maybe I'd feel differently if products of my imagination were available for public consumption. I don't know. Today, though, my view would be - go nuts, but I legally can't read it.

Any thoughts out there in Blogland?


  1. My daughter writes and reads tons of fanfic. She loves it. I consider it kind of waste of time. I mean I am happy that she writes, it's much better than many alternatives, but it just seems like original writing is so much more creative.

    That being said it's not that big a deal. If you try to sell it or even gain any recognition for it it's not really fanfic, it's copyright infringement. If it's just for fun that's okay, but I don't understand why someone would spend that much effort to write something when they could write something original.

  2. That is a really interesting article, Ellen, as I'm a huge fan of the Outlander series.

    I think Gabaldon is flawed in one area of her argument though, which is while she may find fan-fiction immoral, I'm not sure if it is illegal if it is done non-commercially.

    For example, for many many years, there has been a thriving Harry Potter community: fan-fiction, fan-art etc. Under copyright law, J.K. Rowling owns the literary rights to write and sell HP novels, but under fair use and intellectual property use law, I'm not sure she can stop people using her world and characters for their own entertainement - as long as they don't profit from it.

    It is a grey area, and I think we will see more legal cases in the future as hugely successful authors move to protect their copyright with more defined law.

    I have in the past written one piece of fan-fiction. It was more of a writing practice exercise and I would never dream of showing it publically, but I have read some good pieces online and I love looking at great artwork.

    Not for personal profit is the important thing to remember.

  3. I haven't written any fanfiction myself. The first time I read some that was published in an online mag, I said, "Wait. That's it??" This is writing? But when I mentioned the genre to my son who teaches language arts to 8th graders, he was really excited about the possibilities for them as a writing tool.

  4. Oh duh I feel stupid. I just went back to read the post AFTER I made my comment. I was talking about flash fiction in first comment, not fan fiction. I totally agree with her on the fan fiction thing. That isn't right, unless you do it at home to practice then tear it up. Should not be posted AT ALL

  5. Hi

    I used to love lots of the Star Trek (and all its many re-incarnations over the decades) fanfic - some read even better than the series itself!

    But I can't agree more with the comments here so far. It's harmless and I think even a homage to the original only if it's just being alternative with the actual show/programme/book/story. Also its to the benefit of the fanfic author if they actually acknowledge the original source. It's just good manners! LOL!

    Once the fanfic author starts to try and make a profit then it's illegal and no longer fanfic.

    Take care

  6. Love this post and wish I had a published book for people to fanfiction over. As it is, I too am glad my scribblings about the Man From Atlantis are long buried :-)

  7. And, to be fair, the 'legally authors can't read it' (or are best advised not to, at any rate) tends to apply more to series of books - if it's fic about characters or a world you *know* 100% you're never going to revisit, then it's less of a dilemma.

    (I would LOVE it if people wrote fanfiction about my books. A couple of friends-who-are-also-some-of-my-most-enthusiastic-readers did pen a few teeny-tiny bits, but nothing substantial.)

    I do think authors should have the right to make their feelings about fanfiction known, and respected - and most fanfic sites do respect authors' wishes on this front, as well as the majority of fanfic writers - but so many of them that have denounced fanfiction seem to be coming at it from a very, very, very bad place, which is essentially "Only I as the Great And Powerful Author get to have a valid opinion about what these characters would do in any given situation." Which is a nonsense-y writerly attitude to have - these are your characters, yes, but you write them as well as you can, with the nuances you want, and then you hope that the readers will interpret that and come to a similar-ish version of them in their heads, without insisting that it be utterly identical or else the reader is somehow at fault.

    I sense I am going to end up blogging about this somehow... :)

  8. I've never written fan fiction, I guess because I have lots of my own ideas I want to write. But I know people who read, write, love fanfic and argue that it is homage to the original work to want to create stories and visual art using the characters. And that many authors gain sales and popularity through fanfic communities. I have mixed feelings about it but don't think it's that big an issue unless someone tries to make money.

  9. Matthew, I didn't really consider the recognition side of it myself, just the financial one. Personally, I wouldn't mind if someone got some recognition for writing about characters I created, but I can *definitely* see why some writers wouldn't like it, and I definitely think the individual writer's opinion should be respected. And yes, original stuff is definitely more fun and productive, but you never know - your daughter may branch out into original stuff yet! :)

    Donna, that line caught my attention too, and I'm not certain it's accurate either - especially considering that fanfic has a reasonably long history of being published in fanzines back before the internet. I would be curious to find out if that's true.

    Karen, as I said to Matthew, I never really considered whether getting recognition for using someone's characters was wrong or not, and it's a very interesting question. It's definitely wrong to make money from the products of someone else's creative work, no question! The fact there is such a wide range of opinions about it probably means that any tests of copyright law relating to it will be interesting to watch.

  10. Old Kitty, I forgot to mention one massive argument in favour of fanfic, which I'm sure you'll get as a Star Trek fan - it did give us the term Mary-Sue, for which there is no equivalent term in standard literary criticism (trust me, I'm a recovering English student!).

    Christine, the Man from Atlantis is a new one on me, I'll have to look it up :)

    Claire, that whole 'series' thing never occured to me *smacks forehead*. Logic 1, Ellen 0.
    I think the author's attitude is important - if they're snotty about it, I still think their wishes should be respected, but depending on the reasons they gave and how they expressed them, it could change my opinion of them. And I feel we've both done a great job of not mentioning Any Names At All Here. . .
    I don't think I have to worry about Rosie and Elizabeth fic even if they do see the light of day :)

    Tricia, I would love to know if any writers feel fanfic has an impact, good or bad, on their sales. I'm inclined to think that any vibrant fan community probably helps sales ('must buy this book on release day so I can read my fan sites without getting spoiled!!!') but I wonder if any writers feel they have lost sales as a result of the fanfic community being too strong, and producing too much content, and overtaking the original.

    I also have absolutely no issue with people creating visual art based on anything I create. I can't draw, and if someone else can, let them go nuts :)

  11. I want Amsterdam! :)

    I admit I don't 'get' fanfiction. Still, if it makes people happy, why not?


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