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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)

irishkateirishkate on October 28th, 2013 01:50 pm (UTC)
God - some of the comments make me ashamed to be a fan fic person. Seriously - people, get a grip.

I should clarify - NOT the comments here - the ones on the ping back.

The comments here all remind me why I hang out with you guys

Edited at 2013-10-28 01:59 pm (UTC)
irishkateirishkate on October 28th, 2013 02:10 pm (UTC)
Do I love fan fiction? Yes. Have I read lots and lots..err yes..

But - I find it DOES affect how I see the characters and the world. So while a really badly written piece will get forgotten a really well written piece will be remembered and slowly but surely I will become unsure whether it is part of the universe or not - or it will colour how I see a character in the next issue.

So I have taken to being very selective about what fan fiction I partake of. I don't want the creator's vision soured until I am certain there will be nothing further from the creator and that any thing I read will not change my future interpretation of the world.

And if the creator has asked that we not play in their world, whether til they are done or at all, then that too colours the experience and so I don't. Sure, if it's a world I really wanted to play in it is disappointing but there are other worlds and I didn't do the creating so it isn't my world to play in.

And I sure as heck wouldn't involve the creator unless they asked to join because who knows how it might colour their world too.
rubynye on October 29th, 2013 01:00 am (UTC)
I've read your essay twice, then went back over my post, one of the aforementioned trackbacks, trying to find in it any of the attitudes you have quite rightfully demolished here. Well, there is one: I did say "I'm more likely to consume media by creators who welcome fanfic," which, if stripped of its context "to lessen the chances of my imagination running down forbidden pathways", i.e, to make sure I don't think of fanfic in universes whose creators do not approve, might possibly somewhat resemble “I won’t read anything by writers who don’t condone fanfic of their universes.”

After all, I did also say, "I'm not saying this to argue against Ms. Lee's request, but instead in support of it." I trust that's not one of the attitudes you would like for me to grow out of? All of the ideas you've excoriated here deserve it, but I don't actually see them in the responses you cite. Certainly not in mine.
kitmizkit on October 29th, 2013 07:44 am (UTC)
I think it was actually more the comments on your post that may have gotten up my nose, but to be totally fair, mea culpa: I think *I* missed the "forbidden pathways" context in your original post (that'll teach me to read too fast), and in that case, I totally owe you an apology. I *am* sorry for flinging things around non-contextually: that was badly done on my part, and I should have been more careful. #embarrassed
ex_rolanni on October 29th, 2013 02:59 pm (UTC)
I read your post, which was respectful, and fairly said, and for which I thank you. I see that I am also now listed in the wiki entry regarding various writers' stances on fanfic, and I'm grateful to whomever did that for me.

The comments under your post, however, only cement my determination to burn all of my books before I agree to allow my characters to fall into the hands of the commenters. The level of. . .disdain for the creators of supposedly beloved works is (to me) horrifying. And the claim that my "apple pie" is no different -- is indeed inferior -- to any other random person's writing gives rise to the question, "Then why on earth would you want a piece of my inferior pie? Why not bake your own from scratch?"

While I realize that you are not responsible for the viewpoints of your commenters, and I do most sincerely hope that you are more representative of the community than they -- I do want to make the point that their expressed views, and their manner of expressing them, are. . .rather off-putting to an outsider, with no background in the community's usual standards of discourse.

rubynye on October 29th, 2013 03:20 pm (UTC)
One of the problems with discussions is the context that is not explicitly stated. Part of that context for my post, and the comments, is that we took your announcement of policy as a springboard for discussing, and expressing frustration with, the entire corpus of authors who disparage fanfic and its writers. Such disparagement isn't the same as requesting that people not write fanfic about a given fictional universe (part of my personal frustration is that I wish the two concepts were less often fellow travelers).

Ah, the apple pie metaphor. I was riffing off of Clarke's "To bake an apple pie one must first create the universe." There are many different routes to an apple pie, from growing the wheat and the apples and raising the dairy cows, to buying ready made pastry and sliced apples from the supermarket. I'm not saying that they are the same kind of pie, but I am pointing out that they're both tasty pies.

I would ask you not to burn your books. My chief frustration with the entire subject is that I wish I could adequately convey how fan fiction is meant to be a compliment, that it is absolutely not meant to harm the fictional universe's creator. I wish I could craft a convincing reassurance. But a compliment is worse than negated if it is forced upon the recipient; I didn't read anyone in my discussion as arguing for disregarding your policy. I absolutely and explicitly wasn't and would not.

(with apologies for editing the comment -- I'm trying to be as clear as I can manage.)

Edited at 2013-10-29 03:28 pm (UTC)
ex_rolanni on October 29th, 2013 06:27 pm (UTC)
No problem at all; I appreciate the care you're taking to be clear. I'll try to exercise a similar care.

First, thank you for the reassurance that my wishes are not being cast aside; I was worried, and that's a weight off of me.

With regard to complimenting authors of favorite works. . .

I do very much understand being captivated by a story universe. I've been there more than once; and the fact that there is a Pern, and a Karres, and an old brownstone on 35th Street in New York where a fat man tends his orchids and occasionally deigns to solve a mystery -- figures very much in my decision to become a writer. I wanted to Do That -- to build a real world, populated by real people.

In part, I wanted to Do That to thank the authors who had given me a way out of a. . .disturbing sort of early life. It's amazing how re-energizing it is to escape into a book for a couple hours -- and I felt that, if I could provide that escape for someone, somewhere, I would have done something good and worthwhile.

Many years after I had taken the decision to be a writer, and some few years after Steve and I had seen the first Liaden books published, I got a note from Anne McCaffrey, telling me how much she liked our work, and asking if there was more. We got to chatting in email, so I had the chance to tell her that she was the reason that there were Liaden stories; that Pern was one of the reasons that I was a writer.

Her answer was that she was glad; because she would have never have thought of Liad.

So, I think. . .it's not that you have somehow been less than clear about your admiration for our work, and your desire to compliment it -- and us -- but that we're standing on two different roads. In my case at least, as I'm getting to be an old lady myself, the other road is too unlike what I'm used to for me to venture there.

If it's not impertinent, I thank you for your (intended) compliment, and, again, for your willingness to have this conversation.

Eleri Hamiltoneleri on November 15th, 2013 06:52 pm (UTC)
I've not really written fanfic myself. I've participated in forum or LJ based RP that are set in various authors' universes, played a quasi-official character in an mmo story, and am writing what is essentially authorized fan fic now, so I guess that counts some.

I have more respect for fanficcers who play in a universe, but stay away from main characters & storyline. It shows respect for the story the author is telling, and I think shows more creativity on the ficcers part. When an author creates a universe that we readers want to explore, and see more of, and be a part of, it is human nature to *want* to explore- some people do it via fan groups, some through fan art, some through cosplay, and some through fan fiction.

I don't think it is inherantly evil, but it *is* territorial. You don't see a whole lot of authors freaking out if someone cosplays one of their characters, but *write* something, and you're stepping on their toes, in a way.

So if someone says "No, don't mess with my stuff", then you don't mess with their stuff. If you just GOTTA write that story, then go ahead and write it, but don't go posting it all over the intarwebs. And sweet Maker, don't act like you have the right to not only write that 'forbidden' fiction, but flaunt it in the author's face.

I admit to leaning somewhat the other way though, if an author is *nasty* about fan fic- not just saying "no", but name calling and such.

One of the RP forums I was on was set in a known universe, but the characters were all self-made, we never encountered any of the 'real' characters, we hadn't even set a time frame for when we existed relative to the real story.

But, we kept the forum very hushhush and invite only, because the author of the universe we were playing in had made a long diatribe about how fan fiction authors were all leeches who couldn't come up with a world of their own, and they would sue the pants off of anyone they saw writing fanfic, fanfic was evil and crap, etc etc, and generally being pretty unpleasant about it.

So none of us felt *guilty* about violating that dictum, at all- in fact in an ooc chatter section, we sometimes talked about the fanfic people weren't writing in other universes, because those authors had said "Please no.". But for the author of the universe we were playing in, there was a clear consensus of "bite me you rude (*^@$(".