|Posted on March 26, 2013 at 1:10 PM|
Okay, okay, I know I'm taking forever to get Accelerati out the door and on its way, not to mention Diadae #3. Get off my back, willya? Kidding. Kind of. But I'm not here to talk about that right now. There's something else that's been irritating my shorts the last few days. Fanfiction.
Not that I'm irritated by fanfiction itself. In fact, quite the opposite. Fanfiction (or "fan fiction" if you're claustrophobic and need a little space) is, as you are likely aware, stories based on existing works written by the geeks who are hopelessly enamored of said existing works. Top categories include Harry Potter, Twilight, Hunger Games, Marvel and DC comic books, and pretty much anything on TV. I'm not ashamed to admit I've written more than my fair share (though you'll forgive me if I don't link you to it; some worlds are not meant to collide). It is a vast and fertile landscape of derivative creativity.
Fanfiction is also really GAY. Most junior high schoolers are sitting there going, "Yeah dude, that sh!t is so gay lol", but I actually mean a high percentage of it involves non-heteronormative pairings. In this way, my blog post ties in with Equality Day (or whatever it's called that we're celebrating by changing Facebook pictures to red boxes). That's beautiful. I'm on board with that, 100%. Mostly I wanted to put this in to acknowledge the major concern of the day, which is not what this post is about but also important.
What fanfiction is NOT, is plagiarism or copyright infringement.
Under copyright law, without express rights in form of a written agreement, no one can take your intellectual property and use it to make money. Doing so constitutes copyright infringement. Following that logic, fanfiction doesn't count since the fic authors don't make a dime. It's pure enjoyment.
What are you going to do about it, anyway? Let's say a group of guys are sitting around a table in Denny's after attending Wizard World, postulating, "Hey, what if the Venom symbiote adhered itself to Spider-WOMAN instead of Spider-Man? And she hooked up with Carnage? Would they have little red-and-black babies who can fly and shoot laser beams?" Are you going to send in the FBI to storm f*cking Denny's and arrest the poor geeks? Where does it end? I can't see the difference between that and taking "legal action" against fanfiction writers and/or websites on which they are supported.
Let's be clear: there is such a thing as fanfiction from which money can be made. There are literally hundreds of "original Star Trek novels" floating around out there, published since the original series was on in the Sixties. Many widely-respected authors have taken a whack at Trek: Greg Bear, Diane Duane, Peter David, Laurell K. Hamilton, and we could be here all day. THAT'S JUST TREK. Forget about going into Star Wars. And then Dungeons & Dragons novels. And then we could do Supernatural, or X-Files, or...
Yet when people do it online, solely for fun, it's silly and devoid of merit - or worse, evil and worthy of prosecution. A collective middle finger goes up from the fanfiction community to those narrow-minded individuals like George R. R. Martin, whose attitude [see here] sparked today's ranting. He is not alone, but he is in the minority; most authors are thrilled to death when they hear people have been writing fanfiction about their characters and worlds, and graciously allow the practice. It's a badge of honor, a mark of success. "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery."
Alas, then it becomes all about the money. Here, let me address that: you don't get to make money off everything. More importantly, how many of us truly believe that, for example, J. K. Rowling suffered any dip in sales due to fanfiction readers? Perhaps three. And that's three books. If that many.
Most fanfiction readers want to enjoy the original works before they delve into the murky waters of reimagining and alternate universes. Point of fact, I would never have read Harry Potter if not for my friend sending me a fanfiction link. It was not an epic tale (or even a "pretty good" one), but it got me interested in the characters and setting - which I then went on to explore by picking up the movies and books before I started bothering with fanfic. See how it's actually a brilliant marketing tool in a kind of bass-ackwards way?
As to those authors who tout a concern that fanfiction writers need to "find their own story", do you really think it's so bad that they cut their teeth on yours? I wrote a fanfiction before I knew what it was. It is a totally natural progression of imagination, especially from the Baby Boomers forward. Before then, entertainment was pretty much limited to radio dramas, books and the occasional movie, but the rising popularity of TV and comic books widened the availability of the fictional works of others. The internet caused it to explode. Children are increasingly inundated with stories from all sides, so in my opinion, it's becoming more and more commonplace for them to begin cobbling their own stories from pieces of others than to dream up fiction without derivation. We should be nurturing this, not stamping it out!
"All worthy work is open to interpretations the author did not intend. Art isn't your pet - it's your kid. It grows up and talks back to you." - Joss Whedon
But noooo, you want your precious money, Orson Scott Card [same link]. Sorry. You also want marriage to stay inequal, yet you want to write interspecies romance? (Clark marries Lois, even though he isn't even human... and yet two men can't hook up? Shaky logic, there.) Maybe you should check your scruples, because I think they took a hit somewhere along the line. Around the same period that you became a miserly bigot.
Just so we don't let them off the hook, here's a list of the other authors who expressly "forbid" any fanfiction based on their writings [via fanfiction.net]:
•Dennis L. McKiernan
•Laurell K. Hamilton
•Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb
Ahh, see?! Remember earlier when I mentioned Laurell K. had written "original" Star Trek novels? And she doesn't want anybody to write fanfiction of her works without making money! Leg to stand on - I deny you this, madam.
Of course, I put "forbid" in quotes because they can't forbid it. Other fanfiction websites aren't quite as docile and domesticated as FFnet, and have lawyers on retainer just waiting for some foolish corporate attorney to actually attempt to file a lawsuit. Because it won't hold any water.
In conclusion, fanfiction is a lush and excuisite world, full of as many perils as wonders. Cash-hoarding fiends would paint it as mimicry which somehow "devalues" their original work, but don't forget that both wriiting and reading fanfic is completely voluntary. It's not going to ruin someone's watching Game of Thrones on HBO that there's a steamy homoerotic story of their two favorite characters floating around the internet written by a tenth-grader in Cheboygan. Not unless they go digging for it themselves. You're probably already on the New York Times best-seller list and have a fifteen-car garage full of Rolls Royces, so why don't you live and let live?
All of this without even touching with a ten-foot pole the commercial success of Pride And Prejudice And Zombies.