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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)

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.