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26 October 2013 @ 07:23 pm
fan fiction  

I should not even post this, because it is a shitstorm in the making, but OMG.

Sharon Lee/ of Sharon Lee & Steve Miller is doing an open Q&A, and posts a response to a question about fan fiction over here.

Fan fiction is an incredibly touchy topic, and I thought Sharon responded with an enormous amount of grace and intelligence in her explanation of why she doesn’t like or support fan fiction of their universe.

I should not, of course, have read the trackback links on the blog entry.

One heavily weighted version of those responses is “I won’t read anything by writers who don’t condone fanfic of their universes,” which I think is stupid, but okay, that’s the reader’s decision, fine.

The other emphatic response is “The authors of these works have no right to tell me I can’t write fic in their universe,” with bonus “what is their fear, that someone will DO IT BETTER?”

Let me come right out and say that this is bullshit.

Look, I have written more than my share of fic in the day. I freaking *love* playing in somebody else’s universe. I have written more words of X-Men fic than comprise the entire 11 book Walker Papers series. I wrote an entire Highlander novel, which, while intended at the time for publication, has been essentially relegated to fan fiction, and has been posted online as such.

And know what? If the owners of those properties hit me with a cease and desist? That would absolfuckinglutely be within their rights.

Would I think they were being poor sports? Yeah, probably, especially with Highlander, which is a moribund property right now. If it was something like the Liaden Universe®, which Miller & Lee are actively pursuing and make their living from? I might still think they were poor sports, but I would totally feel it was their right to be poor sports about it.

And, y’know, nobody in the goddamned world can stop somebody from writing fan fic, but a fic writer does not then have to post it on the internet. Back in the day, of course, people wrote fic and snailmailed copies of it to each other, which got them an audience; today you post it and anybody can access it. This is magnitudes of difference in scale, and yeah, frankly, I think it’s relevant. If you want an audience for your stories that badly, write something original instead of in a universe the authors don’t want fic written in.

The argument that nobody’s making a profit from it? Arguable, because on fic sites there are advertisers who do make a profit, so I don’t know where to come down on that line. But presumably the fic author isn’t making money and the original author isn’t technically losing any, the argument goes who does it hurt? Well, perhaps nobody, but not hurting still doesn’t actually make it okay for people to post stories in a universe the authors have specifically asked them not to.

So what do I personally feel about fic? Well, look, I flipped out so gleefully over Faith Hunter‘s Jane Yellowrock that I wrote a fic of her world WITH MY OWN CHARACTER IN IT and sent it to her. And then we wrote an entire novella, proudly proclaimed as “fan fiction by the authors themselves”, and put it up for sale. Because we are the owners of those copyrights, and we’re allowed to play and profit in those worlds for that reason.

Back before URBAN SHAMAN was released, I admit I thought I was totally down with fic. Then URBAN SHAMAN came out and within weeks somebody asked if they could write a fic about (spoiler) Joanne’s son. I was like, DUDE. THAT’S BOOK EIGHT. BOOK ONE JUST FREAKING CAME OUT. GIVE ME A CHANCE!

The truth is, I don’t really care if people write, or even post, fic about my books. I don’t know if they have. Let me also emphasize this: I do not want to know if they have. If they love the worlds enough to write fic, I’m delighted. Am I afraid they’ll do better than I will? Not even vaguely. Am I afraid they’ll fuck up the characters beyond redemption? Eh, not really, because at the end of the day it’s a bit like Raymond Chandler said about movies: my words, my books, are still safe on the shelves. From my perspective, fic writers are not going to change that.

But ultimately, we are talking about intellectual properties, about the way authors make a living, and about their right to exercise their discretion regarding that intellectual property and their income in the way they choose. I say that it is bullshit for fic writers to claim that a writer does not have the right to say “This is not okay,” about fan fiction. The arrogance is appalling, and I can only conclude–hope, assume–that people who take that stance are very young indeed, and that they might someday grow up to be people who not only love an author’s work, but respect that author’s right to create boundaries around that work.

(x-posted from The Essential Kit)

alfreda89: Feels like Autumn; USA color (WA)alfreda89 on October 26th, 2013 06:39 pm (UTC)
Well said.

Back before URBAN SHAMAN was released, I admit I thought I was totally down with fic. Then URBAN SHAMAN came out and within weeks somebody asked if they could write a fic about (spoiler) Joanne’s son. I was like, DUDE. THAT’S BOOK EIGHT. BOOK ONE JUST FREAKING CAME OUT. GIVE ME A CHANCE!

The truth is, I don’t really care if people write, or even post, fic about my books. I don’t know if they have. Let me also emphasize this: I do not want to know if they have.

And this. I know when things take place, and I want them to take place in my own time. Period.
ex_rolanni on October 26th, 2013 11:05 pm (UTC)
And this. I know when things take place, and I want them to take place in my own time. Period.

Fanfic aside, we already get notes from readers that say, "I know you've forgotten about X, so please let me remind that there are Unresolved Issues concerning them."

I'll write back and ask, "How do you know we've "forgotten about X"?"

And inevitably the answer comes back, "Because you haven't written anything more about them."

Me: "That's right. We haven't written anything more about them, YET. That's not quite the same as "forgot about"."

(no subject) - alfreda89 on October 27th, 2013 02:35 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mizkit on October 27th, 2013 09:27 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - ex_rolanni on October 27th, 2013 05:17 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mizkit on October 27th, 2013 09:26 am (UTC) (Expand)
Laura Anne Gilman: the general warned me...suricattus on October 26th, 2013 06:41 pm (UTC)

And...yeah. What you're seeing is fannish Entitlement of the worst sort. "You owe us your success therefore we own you and yours" sort of thing. More dangerous when it's attached to the person themselves (actors get this) but still, no, son. Just..no.

I'm a ficcer from way back, I've always supported the right of fans to play in universes that catch their fancy...but with the proviso that yeah, rights owners have the right to say no, and then you (we) go find somewhere else to play, just like the homeowner who has that AMAZING climbing tree, but says you're not welcome to climb it FOR WHATEVER REASON THEY HAVE.

(my official take has always been: go, have fun, please don't show me just to avoid any legal issues that might crop up -plausible deniability is key for everyone).

Edited at 2013-10-26 06:42 pm (UTC)
joycemocha on October 26th, 2013 06:51 pm (UTC)
Well said. I have written fan fic years ago, but that was as a writing exercise when I was deeply stalled out in my fiction. I don't do it now.

And as for my stuff? Don't care, don't want to know, but I also do want a share of associated properties that ain't fiction (such as games and such, not too worried about that. At the moment, anyway.).
S. L. Grayshadowhwk on October 26th, 2013 06:56 pm (UTC)
You and I are of like minds on this. You already knew this. Just posting my 'hear hear'.
aberwyn on October 26th, 2013 07:50 pm (UTC)
There is possible legal harm caused by fanfic. It's a question of "derivative rights," ie, the right to sell the work to the movies, TV, game companies, someone who wants to make a T shirt design etc etc. Fanfic does encroach on derivatives. It's possible that if the owner of the original rights makes no complaint about this encroachment then the owner might lose the right to protect his/her derivatives from some, for ex, shady Hollywood type who will then claim "public domain" and use the works without payment.

I have no idea if this has ever happened or is even a plausible scenario, but my understanding is that it's possible.

Otherwise I totally agree with you and got bombarded by the Entitled for saying something similiar a few years ago. If you start getting a lot of one-star reviews on amazon and goodreads for no particular given reason in the review, you know who to suspect.
ruford42 on October 26th, 2013 10:09 pm (UTC)
There's a lot of confusion out there when it comes to IP law. And if the Samsung/Apple trial of the decade (OK it might be less "of the decade" so much as "lasted the entire damned decade") illustrates, there may well be plenty of confusion over how to enact and interpret it in the system and courts as well!

In the US, we have three basic types of IP: Copyright, patents, and marks (both service and trade marks).

Copyright is for original works of art. Patents are for ideas and innovations while marks are for words, phrases, symbols and/or designs that distinguish the source of goods or services in a given industry.

Patents and marks both have to be registered and defended.

In patent law, if you fail to enforce your rights over a length of time you risk running afoul of the doctrines of estopple and/or laches which would limit or forbid your ability to recover financial damages.

Similarily, if you fail to maintain the registration for a mark or defend against a challenge -- the mark can be abandoned.

Copyright, at least since the Copyright Act of 1976 was passed, does not require registration. So long as it is not a work for hire, you own all copyrights, immediately, upon creation up until you either sign those rights away for you've been dead for 70 years.

Furthermore, the existence of fan fiction or of any derivative work, licensed or not, does not diminish the owner's rights to create or license any additional or derivative works.

That said, I can think of three possible reasons why an author would not want to even hear about your fan-fiction, or anything else you may have written:

1) The horror story I always heard about is the case where a fan gets to meet the author and gushingly shows her this great story, or idea for a story they had. Then a few months/years later the author has another book come out, but this time the characters and/or plot bare some resemblance to something that played out in the other book. The fan suddenly becomes less fannish and more of an engraged, entitled twit and tries to steal the author for infringement because she obviously stole that story from them...

2) While technically the rights of the owner are not diminished by non-licensed derivative works, ala fan-fiction -- It can have other effects. For example, if an author started knew about a lot of fan-fiction and let it slide -- then it possibly opens the door for other uses of derivative works (Joanne action figure anyone?!? :) for which the author might not be OK, but might very well find themselves arguing in court with a lawyer claiming there was an implicit license.

I have yet to encounter the author who would rather be pulling their hair out because they were dealing with a lawyer rather than just a bazillion deadlines :)

3) Well...It's quite possible they are PAINFULLY aware of how bad their own fan fiction was back in the day! :-)
(no subject) - aberwyn on October 27th, 2013 08:27 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mizkit on October 27th, 2013 09:29 am (UTC) (Expand)
M. C. A. Hogarth: presenthaikujaguar on October 26th, 2013 08:34 pm (UTC)
I don't think there's an issue where the contemporary legal and financial weirdness we have built onto art and the human response to art are more clearly shown to be at odds than in fan fiction. Commercializing art so that artists can feed themselves off their work is full of so many nonsensical requirements: $7 for a novel? That novel might change my life. It might convince me I'm not alone. It might become food for my spirit that I use all my life to bolster my flagging joy. Is that worth $7? God, no. It's literally without price. And yet we have to assign some sort of arbitrary price to it.

And yet, we want artists to make art. We no longer maintain them the way we could afford to in small tribes. So how do we do it?

But art is something we instinctively know belongs to us all, and to re-tell and embroider and explore permutations of it, to make it ours in our heart is a human need. It's just a human need that's profoundly at odds with the compromises we've made that allow (poorly or not at all sometimes, but it's what we've got) artists to put bread on their tables.

I think, honestly, the only answer to any of it is education. To teach (and be willing to learn) that while art is priceless, and art is a birthright, art also implies a cost: the cost of maintaining the person who made it. I think when people understand that, they become more sympathetic to authors who request their playgrounds remain their own. (Likewise, I think when writers and artists try to really imagine what it would be like if they lived in a world where they didn't have to worry about those practical concerns, a lot of them would be less distressed by fan-made creations. Alas, we don't live in that world.)

It's something that calls for so very much diplomacy, though. No matter who you are.
kitmizkit on October 27th, 2013 09:30 am (UTC)
That's really beautifully said. <3
Deborah Blakedeborahblakehps on October 26th, 2013 09:08 pm (UTC)
What you said. (Also, nice rant.)
Kirsten HansenKirsten Hansen on October 26th, 2013 09:10 pm (UTC)
worldbuilding and love
I don't write a lot of fan fic. I've done a bit of online role play in a variety of worlds and that's about as fan fic as I've gotten. To a large extent, I view fan fic as a compliment that an author has built a world so real that others feel like they can live in it. No author tells all the stories about the world they have created and, when readers fall in love with that world, or with the characters, we care. We care that we can't learn more of the world, we care that we will not know more about the characters. And, sometimes, we want to look at "what if?" What if the author had done this differently? Sometimes it's wish fulfillment (Spock and Kirk come to mind). Sometimes it is a disagreement with the choice the author made. Sometimes it's flat out curiosity.

I do get that there are legal concerns and intellectual property issues. Fifty Shades of Grey, anyone? That was fan fic until it was edited for publishing. And yes. Authors may have plans for how things will play out. Yes, authors have the right to write the books they choose (and can get published) and legally have choices about pursuing copyright. I'm coming out of an academic world where intellectual property is just as important.

I agree that closing up this bubble that you desperately want people to care about is being a rather poor sport. "Hey, I put all this work into building an amazing world that I want you to love, into characters who I want you to be invested in... but don't be invested in any way other than buying the books, reading them, and getting others to read them. Oh, and buying any merchandise I am able to produce or supporting me by coming to see my signings or seeing me at cons or telling anyone how awesome I am." If you made something awesome, how could you be surprised if other people love it enough to want to join you there? Heck, even if someone writes fan fic about something you haven't written yet, that does not negate what you will write. It's inspiration.

Art has always inspired others to create more art. If you want to talk fine art, then let's talk restoration artists. Let's talk about training through emulation. Let's talk about all the work spent studying the masters to learn how they did it. I love working in a creative community, being able to share what I love with others, get ideas and feedback from them. Would I love someone making money through an idea I had? Probably not. But if they are more able to do it than I am... then maybe the idea they have sells.

Then again, this is why I am not an author, it's why I help run my husband's art studio and collaboratively work with him. It's why I am paid to make other people's content look good. I work in a support industry so I've been on both sides. I still come down on the side of really liking collaboration in as many forms as possible. Yes. Some people are jerks and would make money off my work, don't even feel the need to acknowledge original sources of ideas. But I do hope that we move towards a world that is more interested in seeing what can happen. Think of all the stories role play games have engendered.
All Over The Mapjemck on October 26th, 2013 09:59 pm (UTC)
Meantime, we had a very civilized and wide-ranging discussion on this very topic at BristolCon today - covering many of these issues, with a panel and audience both pro and anti fanfic. And for the record, I am an 'anti'- and no one abused me for that.

On the derivative works, copyright issues etc, there's the increasing danger that with eg Google trying to establish that authors who haven't actively protected their copyright have de facto surrendered it, permitting fanfic could well be deemed evidence of just such a surrender.

There hasn't been a case thus far, to my knowledge, but I know lawyers who consider this a plausible scenario,
aberwyn on October 27th, 2013 08:41 pm (UTC)
Of course no one abused you. You're in England and you weren't at a football match. :-)
annathepiper on October 26th, 2013 11:37 pm (UTC)
The day I hear anybody wrote fanfic based off of anything I've written will be the day I go "YES!" and pump my fists in triumph.

But at the same time, I seriously want to smack anybody who bitches about how they're going to do fic because the author did their own story wrong. AUGH.
Alix (Tersa): Arwen Reading (tersa)tersa on October 28th, 2013 04:03 pm (UTC)
I seriously want to smack anybody who bitches about how they're going to do fic because the author did their own story wrong. AUGH.

Most of the time, I feel this way too, and it drives me CRAZY...

...but then I've also recently had a story I love go completely off the rails (in my, and the opinions of a number of other fans) into Non-sensical Land, so now I'm conflicted.

For the most part, though, I agree that the sense of fan entitlement is a bad thing, and even in the example above, there are ways to express one's disagreement with the author which doesn't involve "ur doin it wrong".
(no subject) - esmerel on October 28th, 2013 04:33 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - tersa on October 28th, 2013 04:38 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - esmerel on October 28th, 2013 04:45 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - annathepiper on October 28th, 2013 04:55 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mizkit on October 28th, 2013 04:58 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - annathepiper on November 1st, 2013 02:13 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Brianlogrusboy on October 27th, 2013 12:04 am (UTC)
Let me get this straight. There are people who claim to love authors' works so much that they're inspired to create their own works of art but yet have so little respect for the originators that they are unwilling to consider the authors' wishes concerning this work.

I always wondered where movie studio executives came from. Now I know.

(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - logrusboy on October 27th, 2013 05:40 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mizkit on October 27th, 2013 08:40 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - logrusboy on October 27th, 2013 05:10 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Dreamshadowmorgie on October 27th, 2013 01:08 am (UTC)
Eh, the only thing I'll say about the matter (as I've done zip research, and don't write), is that I have bought books based on the fanfic I've read.

So, in some ways, fanfic has helped me support authors I'd have otherwise never touched with a ten-foot pole, as I'm too broke usually to jump into untested (for me) waters.
kitmizkit on October 27th, 2013 09:32 am (UTC)
I started watching Buffy because of fan fic. I'm really not slighting it, and I totally understand people getting into things through it. But I also think it's the author's choice about whether they want to let people play in their sandbox, and if that means losing a handful of readers like you, well, that's a shame, but it's the choice *they've* made.
(no subject) - morgie on October 27th, 2013 11:52 am (UTC) (Expand)
jen_qoejen_qoe on October 27th, 2013 07:38 am (UTC)
Yep, pretty much all of that.

And on a much shallower note - dude, you wrote a Methos book? My weekend has been made!
kit: fanboy_bignosesmizkit on October 27th, 2013 09:35 am (UTC)
I did! And honestly, it's one of my favorite books I've written. Be kind when you read it, because its 15 years old now and could use a good edit (which it's never going to get), but I do love the story. :)

I actually have two more Methos novels I'd really love to write, but there's no way to get paid for them and since right now I can't even keep up on contracted writing... :p
(no subject) - logrusboy on October 27th, 2013 05:12 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - ruford42 on October 28th, 2013 01:33 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - shadowhwk on October 31st, 2013 07:30 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mizkit on October 31st, 2013 07:33 pm (UTC) (Expand)
rfrancis on October 28th, 2013 03:48 am (UTC)
Apologies if this repeats what someone else said (lots of comments, so little time), but what I never understand is why someone would want to pick a fight with a writer of works they love. That's... baffling. I mean, it's all I can do not to overdo wanting to be BEST PALS with the people who write the stuff I love. Hanging out for half an hour with Zelazny once is one of the peak moments of my life and I will never, ever shut up about it. And yeah, he was a mensch and told us to knock ourselves out with regards to AmberMUSH as long as nobody was getting paid, but if he hadn't? I'd have done my best to explain better, I guess, but if at the end he'd said "please don't do that" I'd have gone home and told people "He says no, so I'm out and I recommend we drop it" because I'd rather the guy who made my life richer be okay with me than to do my little thing when there are so many other things I could do, you know?

Augh, I don't get it. People are so. Very. Entitled.
anthony_lionanthony_lion on October 28th, 2013 08:42 am (UTC)
I know there are authors out there who will refuse to look at fanfics sent in from fans, and will do their utmost to get them off the net.
There's a very good reason for that. They can't use the plot/action/dialogue/characters/whatever that is 'unique' to those fanfics without getting themselves entangled in a horrid web of legalese.

Just imagine that a fan takes two characters in one of your books and decides that they need to get married, and based on the setting cooks up a plausible way this can happen.
Wouldn't it just suck if you already had that planned to happen in the next book? The one you were already writing?
Just try to convince your fans that you never read that fanfic...
And the fan will be either bragging about you using his/her ideas, or screaming bl**dy murder for you stealing his/her idea without giving 'due credit'.
Even if you can prove that you're in the clear, many fans will not believe it(Stamped and sealed outlines left with an attorney... Yeah, as if we'd believe THAT!) and you risk souring your audience.

Also, given the general population's rather weak grasp of reality(calling Al Nino to complain about the weather... Harassing actors playing 'bad guy' roles) are you certain they can remember what is and isn't 'canon' to a story?