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Fanfiction: A Tale of Fandom and Morality

Has is a voracious reader and a geek at heart! She is a fan of most sub-genres of romance and fantasy, but especially loves fantasy and some sci fi. Has is a reviewer at The BookPushers and Book Lovers Inc, and she’s currently looking out for historical romances with unusual settings, and fantasy romance in the vein of Anne Bishop and Elizabeth Vaughan who are on her list of favourite authors. She’s also a fan of authors such as Tamora Pierce, Patricia Briggs, Ilona Andrews, Ann Aguirre, Lisa Kleypas and Nalini Singh. She is always on the look out for new authors and loves the feeling of discovering a brand new author and books she loves.

I always describe myself as a geek at heart because I’m such a huge fan of cult shows such as Farscape, The X-Files, and Firefly.  I’m no stranger to fanfiction and I have read the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s been a fun ride because fanfiction can fill in the missing bits or expand the universe of a television show, book or movie. It also helps to form a community and define it. I have been involved in the fandoms I mentioned above, and I loved the community aspect of it. It can be engaging and inventive, as well as hilariously intentionally and unintentionally bad. Fanfiction is a way where fans can invest and add to an established world that they love and it brings about many discussions. It can also bring on the fanwankery, which at times can be quite funny and entertaining.

In the past few years, fanfiction has also become a launching pad for authors – partly because of the followings they have gained and the popularity of the fandom they belong to. This development has the potential to change fanfiction and its fandoms, and not necessarily in good ways.

I never thought that fanfiction would actually become commercialised or widely practiced for profitable gain. Fanfiction is a great medium where fans can enrich and be a part of the world that they love. It has always been a great thing that fandom can revitalise and bring back shows or even books from an early – or abrupt – demise. Recently both “Firefly” and “Farscape” were able to get resolutions due to the influence of their fanbases.

Fanfiction can be a fantastic medium to keep fandom alive or even to help it grow. In the 50s/60s, the Lord of the Rings novels gained huge popularity due to science fiction and fantasy fan groups, who embraced Tolkien and the world he created by keeping it alive. They wrote fanfic in fanzines and attended conventions that helped spread the word about the books. Due to this ACE released unsanctioned bootlegged paperback copies which reached a wider audience, after claiming that the US copyright was void because the original US publisher, Houghton Mifflin failed to protect the rights to the series. However, Tolkien appealed to his fans, who then helped to campaign against this edition. This caused ACE to relent their claim to the rights and paid back royalties and letting the book go out of print. Nonetheless, the success of the series and the grassroots campaign, led to another publisher, Ballantine, to later release an official revised version. Since then, Lord of the Rings has inspired countless authors and made an impact in the genre of fantasy and science fiction.

Star Trek is another major fandom that helped to expand the sub-culture of fanfiction and its fandoms. It showed how influential a collective group of fans can be, by turning a dead show into the pop cultural phenomenon that Star Trek is today. Star Trek fanfiction was influential in helping to create well-known terms, such as the MarySue character (which stemmed from a fanfic story in a fanzine that had a perfect heroine with no flaws and is loved by all). The term is now widely used to describe this trope in fiction and shows how fandom and fanfiction influences have spread to other mediums, especially the wider mainstream, which has picked upon its popularity and phrases.

The growth of fandom and its ability to create influence through word of mouth recommendations is a factor which studios and publishers are keen to tap into. They can take advantage of stories that are popular among fanfiction readers and writers because there is an established fanbase and it’s an attractive and profitable audience to target. The popularity of Star Trek and Lord of the Rings shows how it can catch the attention of publishers or studios and help reignite a text or a show out of obscurity.

Historically, however, fandom has not been about making money, and any attempts to do so by fans were frowned upon. I never suspected that being part of a fandom was about making money or even to nurture a personal following for personal gain. The goal was to be part of a community where people could partake in and celebrate their fandoms and immerse themselves in that fandom’s universe. I felt really proud and happy to be a part of Farscape’s fandom. We were instrumental in bringing the show back from cancellation and we helped to bring about a resolution, in the form of a mini-series, which concluded the series perfectly. My experience in that fandom was that it was about forming a sense of community and belonging, and the idea of fans profiting from this was an anathema.

This notion of not profiting seems to be changing for some fans and fandom, especially recently with Twilight, especially when you have publishers like Omnific and The Writer’s Coffee Shop repackaging and publishing Twilight fanfiction into books. There has been fan uproar associated withCassandra Clare (The Mortal Instruments) andE.L James (Fifty Shades trilogy), who have used fandom and the fan following linked to it to gain big publishing deals because of the hype and buzz linked to the fandom they wrote for.

I never really gave much thought to this new development in fanfiction-turned-published-books because in the past it was never really an issue. I was aware of a few authors who had used elements of their fanfic in their books or started out writing it, but they have only published original works.  But the idea of writing a full fanfic and gaining a following, particularly if it is an enthusiastic and active one like Twilight or Harry Potter, in my opinion, is definitely venturing into a ethically grey area.

Some fanfiction isn’t close to the base material because it’s either set in an alternative universe from the original text, or has all-new characters (OOC) inhabiting the world that the original author has created. But it does borrow heavily and use elements  which the fanfiction writerimplements into the story, and despite differences from the original text, it is still set in that universe and aimed at the fanbase’s readers. Overall with fanfiction and all the different varieties it has, such as alternative universe (AU) or same sex pairings (Slash),  there is an understanding that fanfic writers are not to profit despite any differentiations. The fact that there are now publishers who are dedicated to turning fanfiction into published books with the potential for profit is not a good. It changes that key tenet of fandom, of commercialising a text for which they don’t have the copyright or full ownership.

I can see the appeal of the retellings of public domain books such as the recent literary mashups of paranormal and classic literature, or Jane Austen inspired fiction (which is a sub-genre in itself) or even parodies that are legally fine. Some may argue that the notion of originality and the moral use is in question. Those books are in the public sphere and there is no legal restraint, so I can also understand and see the appeal of turning a popular fanfic story into something more commercial. I have read and enjoyed books that were partly and fully based on fanfiction. In some cases I was not aware of the connection until I read the books, but in the past few months I’ve come to believe that if a story was originally based as a fanfic it doesn’t matter how many rewrites or editing takes place, that original intention and story was aimed at and belongs to that fandom.

The more I think about this issue the more strongly I feel that taking an entire fanfiction story and turning that into a published book is ethically wrong. It’s an easy way to cash in because there’s already a built-in fanbase that is able to market the book via word of mouth. It’s a disservice to the original text and its author, and essentially they aren’t producing an original piece of text — even if they have edited and reworked the fanfiction to avoid copyright infringement over characters or setting. The original root of that story is based on another author’s fictional playground.

Yet contrast this with original fiction that has been self published or even posted freely on fiction sites which can also garner a huge following like authors such as: Amanda Hocking, S.C. Stephens or Susan Ee. The rise of self publishing/epublishing has grown tremendously over the past few years, and I feel that there is no good reason why an author would follow the route other fanfic turned published writers have previously done unless  they don’t fully believe in their writing could stand out because of competition. Another factor is that  they are using fandom as a cynical ploy to market their books due to the support of a vocal and popular fanbase, which can be a fantastic marketing tool. Those writers who have done so have downplayed their fanfiction origins because it lessens the idea that this is not a fully original story to a wider audience they hope to reach, especially if it concerns hitting mainstream success.  However, the thought that the author does not believe what they wrote is strong enough to stand on its own merits but decided to publish it so they could profit by exploiting their fanbase is disappointing. Although not all fanfiction writers turned authors have followed suit. For some, their time with fandom and writing fanfic has helped to hone their writing skills and has been a fun and enjoyable experience.

I personally feel that in the long run fanfiction and its future is not going to be as expressive or free because of the fears that aspiring authors will be using fanfiction as a springboard for launching their own books.  The recent cases of authors who have pulled their fanfic for publications have split their fandoms and have become pretty acrimonious – with supporters for those writers, who don’t see any problems with commercialisation of fanfiction and for those who fear about the ramifications and increasing popularity of using a community for profitable gain.

There is evidence to suggest this is the case, especially with the recent success of the Fifty Shades trilogy and Gabriel’s Inferno (which also originated as Twilight fanfiction). And what happens if fans of these books are inspired to write their own fanfiction and then decide to publish it? I could envision a book based on the Fifty Shades trilogy with Ana and Christian as paranormal beings, perhaps as vampires,  and it could be set in the far future to differentiate it from the original text. Because this series has a huge following which stems from Twilight and it has captured that zeitgeist right now.

I really get a headache thinking about this because it might start off an ever-crazier circle of fanfiction based on fanfiction.  And because of this, I can see more authors and studios joining George Lucas, Anne Rice, Robin Hobb and GRR Martin, who have actively sent out cease and desist letters to fanfiction sites because of copyright issues. It is different from borrowing ideas or tropes, because not one book or story is truly original, and authors have written similar plots and character archetypes as other authors. But the main aspect of fanfiction is that it started off based on another writer’s universe. Therefore it is not an original premise even if the fanfiction author has written a different approach or direction. It’s aimed at readers who love and enjoyed the original text universe, and I can see authors being more proactive in protecting their books from fanfiction if this trend continues to be more widespread.

I think this issue is going to be very detrimental to fandom and fanfiction because the element of commercialization has always been in the hands of the copyright owner and not the fan.  I am seeing this distinction merging…and I think this is a very slippery slope. Fans do feel some sort of ownership towards their chosen text or show because they spend time and energy by supporting and expanding it — via fan-art, fanfiction and discourse — either online or at cons where textual meaning is produced and celebrated. This is a factor that creators and owners of a text appreciate because it helps to foster a community and a captive audience. With the increasing popularity of fanfiction being turned into published works, this relationship is going to be fraught and complicated.  I don’t want this to happen because this might mean another potential Lord of the Rings or a Star Trek or even a Twilight might not take off because fandom is going to be stifled. And that would be a real loss.

Guest Reviewer


  1. KT Grant
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 06:16:40

    A fan fiction of a fan fiction within a fan fiction? Inception! Then we can all write Inception fan fiction.

    Profiting off of fan fiction is a very grey area but now with the success of C. Clare and EL James, I see it happening much more and epublishing and NY publishers are going to welcome it.

  2. Silvialaura
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 06:38:13

    I don’t think the morally grey area following James and Cassandra Claire is because they used their fanbased fanbases to launch their professional careers (even if they totally did; but then so did others). Both authors were plagiarizing other people’s work, one in her published book and the other in her fanfiction.

  3. ~L
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 07:10:41

    Cassie Clare is a well documented plagarist. A little google on her name and fanfic should get a start on that.

    ELJames is snowballing into well beyond a train wreck from the fandom repercussions (which I believe started within Twilight before this exploded) to yet another round of mommy porn, and all the free advertisment is making it a very profitable train wreck. So profitable of a trainwreck–it’s going to happen again and again. Where there’s cash involved, ethics and decency get killed off first.

    Fanfic of fanfic already exists, as well as a fanfic spawning an AU that traverses fandom wide and becomes a fandom almost of it’s own. Magnificent 7’s ATF AUverse is one.

    The P2P trend already is doing damage, small single strikes, but damage–and the potential for serious individual damage. A fic author pulls their fic down, retreats back from fandom for whatever reason, can be, often is mildly to severely harassed unless there is announcement of a going pro with original if they are at a certain level to have a following. The reasons to pull back from fanfic are numerous–career, health, stalkers, harassment from fans (yes some fic authors can end up with absolutely terrifying fanbases ) etc.

  4. Has
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 07:32:51

    @KT Grant:

    I agree and this is going to set up a dangerous precedent because I don’t think publishers would have touched ex fanfic stories but the recent upheaval with publishing is partly the reason why because of the built-in fanbase and the fact it still taps into the success of the source material. But I think this is going to make more authors/producers and studios more proactive in shutting down fanfic sites or stories. And that is my fear because fanfiction is so important to fandom and this could also lead to other mediums like fan-art being exploited and being shut down.

    Publishers who pick up ex-fanfiction stories like this are legitimizing fanfiction, but they would react against those who breach their copyright yet I think they are undermining and blurring the line about this issue. Fans should express themselves via mediums like fanfiction, but they acknowledge they don’t own those rights when they post fanfic on sites but they can’t then pull them and then state its original and they own it because the root of that story was written for fans. It is to be read and shared by fans for free and is a part of that community. No profit should be made and that has been known since the beginning of its inception. Add money in the mix and you have Pandora’s box waiting to implode.


    There have been authors who have huge followings from their fanfiction, but they never resorted to pulled to publish. And there have been cases of original ficcers like S.C Stephens who has posted stories for free on which is the sister site for and has now self pubbed a few of her stories because of demand and her following. The issue with Cassandra Claire and E.L James – they both used their fandoms and the authors linked to it for profitable gain and reacted unethically by taking advantage of it. Their actions has also ripped apart their fandoms – this is not an action of a fan who respects their fandom, because in my experience fans are there to supportive and be a part of a community.

  5. Has
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 07:36:33


    This makes me so sad. I think a main reason why so much of this P2P fic is coming up is the fact there is a new generation of ficcers who are unaware or don’t care about repercussions like this. I agree this is going to be a huge clusterfrack in the making with the added wankfest of fandom.

  6. Brie
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 07:39:13

    Commercialization aside, the relationship between fan fiction writers, readers and original creators can be positive and symbiotic. Yesterday’s post is a perfect example of that and now that you mention The X-Files I have another example. I used to be a huge fan of the show to the point of wanting more and reading fan fiction (I still read them from time to time, nostalgia can be strong!). Some of them were fantastic and even got recognition from the show’s creator. There’s an episode dedicated to a fan fiction writer who died of cancer and they even named one of the characters after her. So it can be positive, fans get to experience different situations that they were craving but would never happen in the original -like Mulder and Scully getting together- and the creators can see and appreciate that fan fiction keeps the fandom alive.

    But of course when money and commercialization enters the mix things get complicated.

  7. Teddypig
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 08:18:29

    I think a lot of fan fiction websites are going to start getting “cease and desist” notices from authors.

    Oh and I just want to say a big HEY to another Farscape fanboi… I actually helped run a non-sci-fi channel forum the first couple of seasons it was on the air.

  8. Patricia Eimer
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 08:36:07

    I’ll admit to having written Fanfic back in the day and still do when I get some free time but I’m like you– I always thought of it in the old school manner that anything I wrote in fanfic wasn’t publishable beyond that and it shouldn’t be. Fanfic is a way to share my love for a particular show or movie and hone my writing skills in a safe, community like environment. The idea of P2P just sets wrong with me and I can’t help but think that there area few people who are going to make money while the rest of us suffer from cease and desist letters and lose a community of friends at the same time.

  9. Mireya
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 08:57:27

    The only repercussion I see is that it is going to become a trend that original work creators/owners, be it authors, screenplay writers, studios, publishing companies, etc. will start coming down HARD on fanfiction of any sort. Of course that is not going to get rid of fanfiction, it will simply go “underground” and make it harder to locate. I know there are tons of Anne Rice fanfiction out there, it’s just not that easily found.

  10. Jody W.
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 08:57:45

    With one of my publishers, I can’t publish more books in the “world” I created for them without going through them or getting their permission due to contract issues. Guess it’s my own fault for signing that contract, but I have to say I’d really hate it if other people were able to actually publish fanfic of the world *I* can’t even play in! Don’t have an issue with fanfic at all, just with the potential we have setting up here for more and more of it to get published for $, not just shared with other fans. What with the convergence of digital publishing, piracy and people really pushing the boundaries of fanfic ethics, I bet we’ll see a lot more showing up on Amazon with the names changed and the creator feeling that it was okay for EL James, so it’s okay for him/her. Someone linked to one for sale on Amazon the other day about Hermiony and Ron Wesley and the Room of Requirement that sort of terrified me…

  11. Carolyn Jewel
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 09:02:20

    I totally understand the expectation in the Fan Fic community that one’s FF shouldn’t be about publication. That is, I understand the ethos and the sense of betrayal the community feels when someone breaks the expectation. I’m pretty sure, however, that I don’t see that the expectation rises to a legal duty. The expectation is a social contract, not a legal one.

    I have this suspicion (based on nothing but what I’ve heard and surmised) that the FF “contract” is based on a feeling that writing FF is an appropriation of the author’s work and possibly even a violation of copyright. I have no understanding of the actual legal position of FF, however.

    What I wonder is, what IS the legal standing of FF? I love that people have felt so strongly about a fictional world that they want to write in it, too, and give the world their own spin or explore their own take on events, characters and the like. I’m not sure at all that such a thing should be illegal per se.

    As a writer, I know how hard it is to go from “I want to write” to “I have written this book.” That gap is huge and can seem impossible to bridge. I understand exactly how someone with the writing bug starts with FF and starts learning about how to end up with a book, and then gets to a point where they actually have something new.

    I guess mostly I’m saying, yay for FF and authors whose work inspires that kind of involvement. And I suppose I’m also saying I feel really uncomfortable about suggesting that content creators should seek to stop FF.

  12. Lou
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 09:29:52

    I’ve never been part of the FF community, but I’ve always admired the loyalty and the enthusiasm for whatever show they’re celebrating. And I’ve always thought that authors who came down hard on the FF community were downright party poopers.

    But that was when nobody was was publishing fanfiction for profit. Now I can see why those authors acted in this way, and I don’t fault them for it one bit.

    The idea that Meyer and her publisher will let this swing by fills me with disbelief. It sets a precedent that it’s OK. The major publishers who engaged in a bidding war are downright fucking stupid for allowing this to happen just for a quick hefty buck.

    I would love to hear what authors think of this whole clusterfuck scenario. How would they feel if their own publisher published a FF to P2P, and it turns it out it was based on their world. Or are publishers only willing to publisher FF to P2P if the author who owns the origins is not pubbed with them?

  13. Mohini
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 10:40:33

    @ Carolyn Jewel
    Fanfiction is a grey area anyway but what I’ve gathered (in fact I’m quite certain) is that since legally fanfic writers can be sued for copyright infringement. Copyright infringement is judged in court as a case-by-case thing. It could go either way. Court could judge that it is a transformative/parody work and thus not infringement or they could say it is infringement. In most cases, neither side stands to gain so there is an (often uneasy) unspoken agreement to live and let live. (At least in the biggest archives) if an author/producer etc. has spoken out vehemently against fanworks of their stuff, the fans are asked not to.
    I believe sometimes the fans even listen (/joke)
    The Wind Done Gone is iirc, a case where the fanfic author was sued and sort-of won. But the case was finally settled out-of-court, I think.
    Hope I helped :)

  14. allreb
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 10:44:09

    Hmmmm. Some thoughts, though I don’t have any real conclusions.

    1) I don’t see an issue with using fandom as a way to create a following. I don’t think most people who become popular in fandom actually set out to garner a following that will be big enough to gather a publishing contract, and most never get popular enough for that anyway. (Cassandra Clare being a big exception to that rule, and even then, it seems like most of the readers of her novel did *not* come from her fanbase in HP fandom, since she’s a consistent, instant best seller with each release — even big fandoms are small in the grand scheme of things. )

    Aside from that, authors are often asked what kind of platform they can bring to publishing when they’re offered contracts, because if they have an established base they can reach, who will buy their books, that’s seen as a GOOD thing. So I don’t get up in arms over the idea that someone who was a popular author in fandom is now moving to publishing original stuff. I don’t think that, in and of itself, is using fandom.

    2) But of course, that issue gets a lot thornier when it isn’t a case of a popular fannish author going on to write and publish something original, but rather “filing the serial numbers off.” (As was the case for Fifty Shades, I gather. But I haven’t read that *or* Twilight, so I can’t really judge its closeness or how much it depends on the context of Twilight to function as a novel.) I can definitely see why people take issue with it, but from what I know, in this case, I can also empathize with people who don’t see a problem.

    I’ve written tons of novel-length AU stuff in various fandoms, and even though I work hard to keep characters in character and keep the tone and feeling of canon… sometimes there really is a point when you stop to ask how much of it is really *fanfic* and how much was just inspired by a love of the original. And it can certainly happen that you start out writing fanfic and realize that it’s developed beyond that to you, and feel that it’s far enough removed from the original, and has become so personal it feels the less dependent on canon… Especially when its core is far removed from the core of canon. (By which I mean, at its core, Twilight is about supernatural creatures; if Fifty Shades is *not*, then at what point does the character stop being Edward Cullen and start being his own character who’s just cut from the same archetypal cloth as Edward Cullen?)

    It really is a thorny question. I can see why people are uncomfortable with P2P (my discomfort, too, springs from not wanting to bring down the wrath of copyright holders onto fandom as a whole), but I can also see why people defend something like Fifty Shades as original fiction, *even though* it’s nearly identical to the formerly fanfiction version.

  15. L.K. Rigel
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 11:12:18

    An “author” plunders the work of an author, sells the result, and calls herself a fan.

    It’s like a rapist calling himself a lover.

  16. CK
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 11:34:03

    @L.K. Rigel: Oh, I wish you hadn’t gone there. I’m not a triggerish person but Gabaldon made similar comments equating fanfiction authors to rapists and it just didn’t end well.

  17. Moriah Jovan
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 11:56:07

    Gabriel’s Inferno was a Twilight fanfic? *whimper*

  18. Ducky
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 11:59:19

    I have enjoyed fan fic for a few fandoms but it wasn’t fan fic written for financial profit.

    IMO there is something very wrong about any fan fic writer making money off somebody else and their creative work.

    I didn’t know about Cassandra Clare’s history. She must be laughing all the way to the bank.

  19. L.K. Rigel
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 12:04:00


    Yes, I suppose I could just close my eyes and think of England. Or Virginia legislators.

  20. Sunita
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 12:07:17

    Great post, Has!

    The relationship between fandom and the people who create and market their creative stuff is always going to be tricky. What worries me here is that authors who hate fandoms will say they told us so, and authors and companies who are okay with them will start to wonder if they’re being taken for a ride.

    At some point, someone is going to say “hey, there’s this book you should read, Twilight. It’s like 50 Shades but more YA.” Whatever you think of S. Meyer, she doesn’t deserve that.

  21. Sunita
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 12:12:30

    @Moriah Jovan: Yep. It started life as The University of Edward Masem. The author is very tight with ELJ. I’ve only looked at the first few pages of the fanfic and the pubbed version, but there is a lot of overlap, so I’m guessing the same techniques were used.

  22. Moriah Jovan
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 12:16:31

    @Sunita: Well, fuck.

    It had problems. I would have edited it differently, as it had a bit of a sagging middle during which I could put it down, and the end was not as satisfying as I would have liked, but overall it was a crackalicious read.

  23. Has
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 12:24:57


    Hey!!! I’m a fangirl heh! :D But I adore this series and loved the fans because it never really had a major wankfest and their response to the cancellation was very classy.

    @Moriah Jovan:

    I knew it was fanfic from the Amazon boards – I’ve seen a couple of threads over there reccing P2P fic. And I’ve seen the list of ex fanfic books and it is huge.

  24. Heidi Belleau
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 12:33:00

    @L.K. Rigel:

    Neither of your comments here were remotely appropriate. Regardless of how you feel about fanfiction or filing off its serial numbers for monetary gain, it’s nothing like rape, and nothing like the war on women.

    I didn’t like it when Diana Gabaldon said it, and I don’t like it now, either, and I especially don’t like your flippant response to someone asking you not to make such comparisons. What you’re saying is cruel and hurtful to those of us who are survivors so I’m asking you politely to cut it out.

  25. Has
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 12:34:48


    Thank you!

    And this is my fear – I am already seeing comments that 50 is better written than Twilight and I think that is a shame because it does rip off Twilight – despite the AU setting and different characters names. I never really realised this but even the plot follows Twilight closely. I think because it is AU and I was never a huge of Twilight it is not apparent at first glance. But the themes, the characterisation and even basic plot elements such as stalkery best friend, Cullen/Grey family dynamics and the adoption, Grey/Edward’s fear and pushing away Ana/Bella – even the pregnancy – which Ana had a C-section!

    I also noticed there seems to be a faction in this fandom that even derides Twilight and I really find that strange and odd, and I think this may be another factor because there seems to be no source of respect for the author and the books.

  26. Moriah Jovan
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 12:39:07

    @Has: Well, at this point, I think I’d rather not know.

    Somebody upthread asked what authors think of it. I couldn’t tell you, my thoughts and feelings are so jumbled and mixed, but it’s not coming out on the pleasant side.

    I used to think, if my books sparked fanfic, I would be so flattered that somebody wanted to play in my world, but I would not read it. My world, my people, are set in stone in my mind. I don’t want the movie I see in my head being tampered with. I may not mind its existence, but I don’t want to read it.

    Now I don’t know what to think.

    And for reference: I didn’t know fanfic even existed until a couple of years ago. Playing in a world someone else built would never have occurred to me and is not appealing to me in the least. I had reason to read some fanfic of Jack McCoy and Claire Kincaid and while it was a little purple, it was well-written. And I couldn’t continue. I shipped that as much as anybody, I think, but the ambiguity of the relationship was, to me, part of the attraction. As a longtime fan of L&O, I didn’t want that messed with.

    However, I can appreciate that other people DO like to have scenarios and resolutions they will not otherwise get. I totally get why writing is cathartic. I mean, writing has saved ME millions of dollars in therapy bills. But what I am gathering from these discussions is that people’s hobby is now being threatened, and that really makes me sad for them.

    That said, this is why sewing and needlework pattern companies put a disclaimer on their patterns that items made from the pattern cannot be mass produced and sold at craft fairs and bazaars. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. It just means that the seamstresses don’t advertise where they got the pattern.

  27. L.K. Rigel
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 12:39:40

    @Heidi Belleau:

    Your pain is obvious and real. Rape – real rape – is horrific.

    It could be that your pain is so great and your selfhood was so violated that it’s impossible for you to understand or accept my use of the word rape to describe my feelings about a part of who I am being taken and used and exploited by another person against my will.

    I’m truly sorry for your pain. I also meant what I wrote about how I feel.

  28. Heidi Belleau
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 12:42:23

    Come talk to me whe@L.K. Rigel:

    Please don’t condescend to my trauma while simultaneously spitting on my issues with your language/rhetoric. When the thought of fanfic makes you have nightmares, or traumatic flashbacks, or affects your job/school performance, or makes it hard for you to have meaningful relationships with people, or makes ordinary situations humiliating, then you can talk to me about how you suffer the way I have suffered.

  29. Violetta Vane
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 12:45:03

    @L.K. Rigel

    Wow, could you possibly be any more patronizing, condescending, offensive or just plain stupid? Telling a rape survivor that they don’t understand your precious feelings about fanfic… because they’ve been raped?

    You need to start apologizing. REALLY apologizing.

  30. L.K. Rigel
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 12:46:20

    @Heidi Belleau:

    I didn’t mean to imply that my suffering was equal to or equivalent to yours. There is a lion in the jungle. That doesn’t mean my cat doesn’t exist.

  31. Heidi Belleau
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 12:48:34

    @L.K. Rigel:

    Yes, but…

    you called the cat a lion.

    Anyway, I’m going to leave this thread now. I’ve already opened myself up to a world of hurt for even speaking up, but I really do hope that in the future you consider the impact of your language. I respect your opinion on fanfic, but that doesn’t mean your language wasn’t hurtful and inaccurate.

  32. L.K. Rigel
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 12:52:51

    Rape is the ultimate theft. It was too easy to go there for a comparison, and I see now it was lazy writing on my part.

    Again: I am sorry I used that word to describe my feelings.

  33. JH
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 12:53:33

    @L.K. Rigel:

    The use of the word “rape” to describe your feelings on this issue is purely for sensationalizing your audience. We’re inherently programed to respond to this word with arms in the air and a demand for justice, as well we should be. But using it in this manner just demeans both the word and you for using it.

    Part of me does wonder if that was your intent. Perhaps another Author Behaving Badly moment? It would have been very easy to describe your horror at the prospect of someone taking your work, worlds, and characters that you’ve spent hours creating, hours second-guessing and changing and fine-tuning, plopping them in a story simply to turn around and make a profit off that story. An author who has created their story has a huge investment, both with time and emotion. It would have illustrated your point in a much better manner to just describe how it actually effects you instead of tossing a trigger word simply to gain a reaction.

  34. L.K. Rigel
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 12:54:33

    @Heidi Belleau:

    I did not call the cat a lion.

  35. Heidi Belleau
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 12:58:49

    @L.K. Rigel:

    Rape isn’t theft. I am not an object.

  36. L.K. Rigel
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 12:59:22


    My intent was to say that someone who sells their fanfic and calls themselves a fan is like a rapist calling himself a lover.

  37. Mohini
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 13:01:26

  38. JH
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 13:02:46

    @L.K. Rigel:

    Ohh, ok. Yeah, you saying it a second time, exactly word for word, completely clears it up, adding a new level of clarity and introspection.

    Note: That was sarcasm. Since we apparently have to spell things out here.

  39. L.K. Rigel
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 13:03:32

    This is destroying the thread. I’ll stop. I apologized for using the word rape. I meant it. I can’t make you believe me.

  40. Violetta Vane
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 13:05:16

    @L.K. Rigel

    What’s so hard with saying “I fucked up and re-traumatized rape survivors for a stupid reason, I’m sorry” and leaving it at that?

  41. L.K. Rigel
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 13:07:18

    @Violetta Vane:

    That’s what I meant!

    I fucked up. I re-traumatized rape survivors, and there is never a good reason for that.
    I’m embarrassed beyond belief.

  42. LizJ
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 13:14:34

    I’ve been following the FF series here, and find it really, really interesting.

    I had a brief stint writing FF several years ago. I learned some difficult lessons about online community based on that experience. I went from hoping to develop my writing enough to become an original fiction writer to being pretty much crushed (f I couldn’t survive this situation, how could I survive more wide-spread criticism as a published author?).

    It was, as I look upon it later, all pretty ridiculous.

    Has wrote, “It is different from borrowing ideas or tropes, because not one book or story is truly original, and authors have written similar plots and character archetypes as other authors. ” Ironically, I was accused of plagiarism by a Queen Bee of the fandom because (the accuser claimed) my story had too many similarities with her story. Most of those similarities had to do with cannon elements of the story (settings, character history, etc.), not with original elements in her story. While both were sequels/condinuations, the stories were quite different. Hers was quite a bit more lengthy then mine (she was still writing it when I left the fandom, whereas mine was finished). She took the main character on a completely different personal journey than I did.

    I have always wondered if it was more of a personal attack on me, due to her not liking my political views or religious beliefs, since there were a number of other writers that could easily have been accused of being “too influenced” by her work. AFAIK, I was the only one she attacked in this manner.

    As a result of the blacklisting, I did a ton of research into the whole issue of plagiarism, and felt confident that I was not guilty of plagiarizing her work.

    I keep trying to work up to writing again, but I wouldn’t write fanfiction ever again. That bridge has burned, and I don’t want to rebuild it.

  43. Silvialaura
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 13:14:47

    Not to nitpick too much, but nobody equated trodding on fanfiction to the rape of an actual person, which would be beyond the pale.

    LK Rigel said that ripping a supposedly beloved author (if you don’t love the author and the work why did you wrote fanfiction in their fictional world?) it’s like to be a rapist and call oneself a lover. Still it was enough of a trigger, so perhaps better use… what other metaphor?

  44. ~L
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 13:15:38

    @allreb – I write fanfic. I have for well over a decade. I started writing original fic eons before, still write original fic. Nothing is professionally published and doubtfully ever will be. While fandom is generally supportive of one of their own ‘made good’ and gone onto write original, Cassie Clare is a whole other kettle of fish.

    ELJames? That is wrong. The end. She may be able to skirt by with legalities, but if a story starts as a media-based character (I’m more forgiving with RPS AUs with intense rewriting but even that makes me twitch a little, want to see the author go onto the *next* story.) I’m going to have to disagree entirely, there is no point a media-based copyrighted character becomes yours, even if they’re living entirely in an AU world of your own with entirely original characters around them. There is absolutely *no* point that a media-based copyrighted set of characters or becomes yours no matter how much heart and soul is poured into the story line. If it was written with copyrighted characters–it is always and forever fanfic. The line of thinking you’re stating, I’ve seen more and more of since the formation of OTW, and the newer entrants into fandom taking that up and trying to push even further–which sums up my fluctuating ambivilance to dislike of OTW.

    I tend to be an old skool grump raising my cane and muttering damn kids get off my lawn, but no, if fanfic is always a fanfic. Playing the rewrite game is unethical in the extreme with media based fandom (again–RPS AUs I’m more forgiving when there’s not much but a name and a face to start with and even at that, a massive rewrite needs under taken to the point it is baffling *why*, move on and do the next thing or if you’re too frightened and want to cling to the guaranteed sale? Stay in fanfic.) It’s a respect and honor thing, respect of the original creators and some honorable behavior. But yeah, like I said, decency and ethics are the first things to get killed when $$$’s come into play.

  45. Has
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 13:19:29

    @Moriah Jovan:

    That’s the thing – there has been past fanfic stories which had elements or it was partially based taken and then turned into published book. Cassandra Clare did that with her MI series and I think James is the first case where her books are 89 percent based with no real changes on the original fanfiction. There was no rehaul or editing to distinguish that is causing this debate.

    With some authors they have a harsh stance on fanfiction because this is exactly their fear. And I am really saddened to see it might be true because fanfiction is a fun thing that unites fandom and can be a tool to help keep it alive. Also fans are very protective of their chosen texts – and have gone against those who have threatened the owner of the copyright. So seeing this happening by those who don’t really share this view is disappointing. I do think these fanficcers have no sense of care of the original text and it is interesting to note they have downplayed or ignored the fact their books use to be fanficton. I think this is really telling of their attitude.

    @L.K Rigel
    I think P2P is about opportunism – it can bring out strong emotions from both sides who pro and against fanfiction. But its really about those who have followed this route who tend not to care or realise the impact this may have on their fandom or even in general with others. Because I can see this trend hitting up other fanfic writers. Or even those who wont feel any kinship with a fandom but will cultivate one to try to follow the same path like James or even Clare. Its a way to prove to mainstream pubs, since they are now picking up these writers because they have a following which can be ideal in creating buzz and hype especially if its popular.

    I just don’t think its fair for those who abide by the no profit rule because they will be the ones who will get caught up and punished in the future.

  46. Heidi Belleau
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 13:24:01


    Rapists rape. Comparing someONE to a rapist compares the act they are committing to rape.

    Or do you think this whole argument is because someone compared fanfic to a rapist doing his gardening or eating a ham sandwich?

  47. Heidi Belleau
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 13:29:26


    Which is to say: don’t be deliberately obtuse. People told her her comments were inappropriate. You acknowledge that her comments were triggering. The conversation was moving back to its original topic. Why go on to defend the statement in spite of all that? What are you hoping to accomplish by your actions?

  48. L.K. Rigel
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 13:30:26


    I’ve already seen people posting on Facebook about how they should publish their fanfic on Amazon because of the success of 50 Shades. Also, wasn’t there mention here at DA recently about an online publisher giving their authors guidelines on how to retrofit fanfic for publication?

    Maybe chop shop is an apt metaphor??

  49. Moriah Jovan
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 13:34:22

    @Heidi Belleau: She apologized.

  50. Silvialaura
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 13:34:40

    @Heidi Belleau:

    I didn’t try to accomplish nothing. Maybe I don’t like to see someone “embarrassed beyond belief” for an unhappy turn of phrase. This said, the conversation wasn’t back to the original topic. Just check the timestamps.

  51. L.K. Rigel
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 13:38:41

    I think the Pride and Prejudice knockoffs have confused the issue. Because Austen is out of copyright, it’s legal if not ethical to take her world and use it at will.

    And the culture of mashup has been with us for a while.

    There’s a thin veil between celebration and appropriation. It seems to me that Has is worried about the appropriators ruining everything for the celebrators.

  52. L.K. Rigel
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 13:39:40


    (thank you for your kind words)

  53. Heidi Belleau
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 13:44:26

    @Moriah Jovan:

    How nice for her, since that’s the only person that apology was for.

  54. meoskop
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 13:44:29

    This is an interesting series. I have a long established & well documented dislike of fan fic in all it’s forms, but I think hanging 50 Shades as the tide turner is wrong. (Wait, am I about to defend 50 Shades? No! I’m about to bury Caeser)

    The fan fic to bestseller trends starts with all the Jane Austen retellings and explodes with Pride & Prejudice & Vampires type stuff. It’s not a big jump from “If we can retell Mr. Darcy’s life, why not Edwards?” in the publishing office. The difference is that now it is with works still in copyright.

    I do think the move to works in copyright will cause a flurry of legal paperwork at some point but I also think the long history of looking the other way coupled with self publishings rise will one day cause fanfic to be as common as sampling in music. I don’t love it, I don’t see another road.

  55. Heidi Belleau
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 13:45:25


    Man where were you when I got reamed out by a college prof for answering my cell in class? God forbid anyone feel embarrassed for doing or saying stupid shit.

  56. Moriah Jovan
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 13:47:26

    @Heidi Belleau: Okay, look. You had a point. Now you’re just bullying her.

  57. Heidi Belleau
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 13:48:17

    @Moriah Jovan:

    How am I bullying her by responding to Silvialaura? You’ll have to help me out on that one.

  58. Violetta Vane
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 13:58:17

    @Moriah Jovan @Silvialaura L.K. Rigel apologized, so why don’t the two of you move on to the actual subject? You’re giving the impression that you’re really, really invested in making this thread a safe space to trivialize rape analogies.

  59. Moriah Jovan
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 14:00:49

    @Violetta Vane: Yes, she did. As I noted. Thank you for reiterating my wish to get back on topic.

  60. RR Kovar
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 14:05:13

    As far as I’m concerned, if your story starts out being about characters created by an author whose work is not in the public domain, then you should not be able to profit from it. I don’t care if you take them into space, find a new planet, and colonize it. Of course, if you are willing to do all that, then take the extra step and create your own characters. Yes, it’s difficult and scary and takes a lot of work, but that’s how it should be. Stealing someone else’s characters, including the relationships created by those characters’ creator, should not be rewarded with a publishing contract, no matter how much the Manhattan mommy set loves the book.

  61. MinnChica
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 14:09:08

    “I think the Pride and Prejudice knockoffs have confused the issue. Because Austen is out of copyright, it’s legal if not ethical to take her world and use it at will.”

    I couldn’t agree with this more. I absolutely HATE those mash-ups. To me, they are just another form of fanfiction, and one where authors are profiting off it.

    I heard an author at a Con once say that she thought Jane Austen would be proud of her attempt to take P&P and infuse it with vampires… Call me crazy, but I doubt it. If Jane Austen would have wanted to write paranormal, she certainly could have.

    While I don’t read/follow the fanfiction world, I have nothing against people writing it. HOWEVER, once someone profits from it, that is where I think they have crossed the ethical (and possibly) legal line.

    Great post Has!

  62. Has
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 14:10:45


    See this is what is so scary! An author cant officially read fanfic because they may get sued by that writer for stealing ideas they have written. So what if Meyer writes another sequel or releases Midnight Sun and then you can have fanficcer claiming its their idea because it shares elements from their story. This is a very dangerous precedent and the fact a major publisher picked this up without thinking of the consequences astounds me.

    And for those who think that critics for P2P are just jealous and bitter – this will cause a crackdown on fandom – James and others like her have pushed established boundaries past that line. Yes it was a grey area but its there for a reason. And fanfic is free – if a FF writer has written popular FF – there’s no reason for them go pro. Its been done before with original ficcers – even self pubbers who started out that way. But if this trends to continue and I think it will – will cause a crack down and I don’t know how they can not see it. Look at the examples I raised , with other fandoms and the previous posts on this topic. FF has been influential in a lot of ways and in general fiction and culture.

  63. Heidi Belleau
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 14:13:08


    I agree wholeheartedly! If peoples’ issue with published fanfic is just on legal/copyright grounds, then fair play, but if we’re talking about it as an ethical issue, I hardly see how “using someone else’s characters” suddenly becomes okay just so long as they’ve been dead for an arbitrary number of years. Copyright is a legal line, not a moral one, and conflating the two is uncomfortable for me. Unless I guess you think it’s immoral to break the law no matter what the law is.

    I suppose I personally just find it strange hearing people say “Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters” is a-ok but someone’s AU fanfic is not, and mean it in a way other than vis-a-vis copyright law.

  64. Silvialaura
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 14:15:05


    Still there must be a difference between fanfic-for-money (“let us riff on Austen’s work, it’s public domain!”) which is openly based on Austen’s work, which makes it a… pastiche? hommage? and at least is in the clear and a fanfic sold as an original work of fiction (“let us give Twilight’s characters another name and saywe created them”).

  65. allreb
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 14:22:16

    @~L: Then I’d say we simply disagree about once-a-fic, always-a-fic, which is fine by me.

    But I do agree about not publishing as a respect and honor thing, and because of the community. I don’t want fandom as a whole to go down in flames because someone tried to make money off of it and got everyone else in trouble, too. Frankly, I’m more concerned about that than whether Fifty Shades itself still counts as fic or not.

  66. L.K. Rigel
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 14:25:56

    I embrace Clueless as an homage to Emma (though it’s more of a retelling). Same with West Side Story and Romeo and Juliet.

    I don’t think Pride and Prejudice and Zombies fits the category of homage or retelling. And I haven’t read 50 Shades, but I haven’t heard anyone call it an homage either.

  67. Heidi Belleau
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 14:26:14


    I don’t agree on the “once a fic always a fic” front either. I guess to me the line would be how much does the new characterization deviate from the original characterization? I don’t mean “Oh this character is no longer Doctor Who because he is named Doctor What!” or “Oh this character is clearly not Harry Potter because he has RED hair!” but more along the lines of… how much of the individual traits of the character are preserved, and where do we draw that line? If the backstory is different? If the appearance is different? If their personality is altered by their setting?

    It’s sort of hard with “50 Shades” because the characters in Twilight are so poorly sketched in the first place. However, the fact that the main character in “50 Shades” is clumsy (iirc?) which is pretty much Bella’s only defining trait is… a little uncomfortable.

    I guess my question is, how much a part of a character is their appearance, their setting, their voice, their distinct backstory? If a character is still brave and self-sacrificial and mean to his friends, but he’s not an orphan or a wizard, is he still Harry Potter?

  68. Silvialaura
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 14:34:29

    @Heidi Belleau:
    In the case of “50 Shades” it’s easy: because the author herself said, at some point, that a character *was* Edward and another Bella, and they are the same characters she’s now getting money for. In other cases… not so much.

  69. Genya
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 14:34:49

    What surprises me about fandom sometimes is that some fans seem to be truly unaware of the illegality of making any monetary gain from fanwork. There’s a reason fanfics have disclaimers to state in one way or another, “We know we don’t own these characters, worlds, etc., so please don’t sue us into bankruptcy or kill our fandom by forbidding any fanwork!” Fanfiction and fanart ARE technically illegal in that you are using copyrighted/trademarked characters, worlds, etc. for your stories or art without the creators’ explicit permission and/or license. For example, a copyright holder/estate can slap a C&D on you and then even sue your ass off if they wish just for ONE fanfic ebook or fanart print on an on-demand publishing website. It’s their right.

    As to why fandom has thrived all this time despite this, it’s only because as long as there’s no monetary profit, various TPTBs have been willing to close an eye to the use of their copyrighted material. Fanwork done solely out of love is free promotion for them, something that gets their material attention (and of course from there, they’re hoping for money too). The instant you start trying to profit off their material without permission, it’s a different situation. It’s been rather weird for me to see some fans justify the selling of fanzines, for example, as legal just because “it’s been going on for as long as fandom has been around”. Does the length of time and the perpetuation of the act by many other people somehow diminish the illegality of selling someone else’s copyrighted material? Not in my books.

    And Has, I agree with you very much with taking an entire fanfiction story and turning that into a published book as ethically wrong. Although I’m active in fandom, I’m also a professional in the creative industry. It’s been fascinating for me to hear opinions from the pro side as well as the fandom side. Unsurprisingly, lots of people in fandom don’t consider what James did to be unethical since “filing off the serials” of fanfiction is a much more common practice than the general public realizes, while the professionals unanimously think the opposite. (At least, the ones I’ve spoken to about things.) I can’t say I blame the pros for that. And yeah, a book like 50 Shades of Grey may end up setting a very negative precedent for fanfiction, like you said. It would suck big time for the actions of a few to cost the many a virtual haven to explore their creative side and enjoy squeeing with other fans over their favorite TV shows, books, films, etc.

  70. Has
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 14:38:03

    @L.K. Rigel:

    That was Dreamspinner Press with the guidelines. And I’m seeing this on livejournal too! It may not be Meyers who wont act against this new trend(although I got a funny feeling she will) – I know copyright law is on case by case basis and its different in each country too. So it will be interesting to see how this pans out but I don’t think this trend will continue the way it is.

  71. Heidi Belleau
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 14:49:28


    Which is fair enough (other than her new publisher lying their fool heads off saying it’s a totally original work you guys, really!). Obviously lying and saying “No this was never Edward and Bella HDU” isn’t okay either, so I guess the line comes down to the author’s original intent?

    So say I write a story called “Harry Potter: Investment Banker” (because I am a mad genius like that), where Harry Potter is a middle-aged man with loving parents but let’s say still otherwise like Harry in that he’s very brave and self-sacrificing… if I then decide to rename him Bob Smith: Investment Banker, is that still unethical? Will he always always always be Harry Potter because I originally called him that?

    I guess it’s all just very terribly murky, legally and ethically. I just hope we can start drawing some lines without honest fanfic writers who just want to share their stories with other like-minded nerds getting caught in the crossfire.

  72. Has
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 14:56:35

    @Heidi Belleau:

    This is why heading into this territory is like entering a virtual example of Inception. Because its blurring and diluting the roots of that fiction. People can still claim its different but they cant deny the origins and major tropes and character types.

  73. Silvialaura
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 15:16:39

    @Heidi Belleau:
    I’d totally read your “Harry Potter Investment Banker”. In fact I’d be surprised there’s no AU about Harry Potter, the venture capitalist. I recall an AU where Snape was a skater with a different backstory, but still very much Snape.
    Still, without Harry Potter as a starting point, your fiction would be different. If you’d started by writing an AU called David Copperfield Venture Capitalist, or Captain Achab Venture Capitalist, you’d come out with a different character and someone would have done part of your work, by creating the character and by creating the readership that will like that character.
    I’d start by drawing the line at doing things openly: if something is a fanfiction should call itself a fanfiction and be free (as in beer).

  74. RR Kovar
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 15:17:14

    It’s about more than the name. If you wrote Harry Potter: Investment Banker, and the only things they had in common were bravery and heroics, then you changed the name and called him Bob Smith, I don’t know that anyone would argue that the story is yours.

    If, however, you posted your investment banker fic on in the HP fandom, then you’ve counted on your readers to fill in the back story of HP, even this version, live parents and all. They are bringing their knowledge of Harry, their emotional reaction, their mental image that was developed in the original HP books, and by posting it in their fandom, you have asked them to do so.

    In the first scenario, you used your own reaction to the character as inspiration, and then realized Bob isn’t really like Harry at all, except in a couple of ways which bear no resemblance to scenes from the HP books/movies. In the second, you have told the world that your main character IS Harry Potter, just in a different situation. You can’t untell the world that, and attempts to do so will only prove that things put out on the internet can always, always be found.

  75. Jill Sorenson
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 15:17:43

    @Lou: I’d be flattered if someone wrote fanfic based on my characters. If they ended up with a story and characters that were substantially different from mine, and got published, I’d be fine with it.

  76. Jill Sorenson
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 15:38:40

    On the other hand, things would get dicey if someone published a story with characters recognizable as mine, and finished a series or satisfied my readers in a way that prevented me from selling *my* books. I can’t speak for other authors, but that would bother me.

  77. Has
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 15:52:08

    @Jill Sorenson:

    That’s the sticky issue with P2P – it can lead to a floodgate like this. And I’ve read a few fanfics which were pretty similar to episodes which aired soon after they were written. There was a few fanficcers who felt the producers must have read them and were then copied their fics.

  78. Angelia Sparrow
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 15:53:35

    Twilight is a feral fandom. It grew up on its own and is composed mostly of younger people who have no other fannish connections. Hence there were none of the Grande Dames of fanfic to mentor the fandom along or explain the rules. (no money is 1, don’t show it to the talent is 2)

    Now, the whippersnappers are all “Oh hey, I could change a few bits and SELL this,” without any of the “grownups” of fandom saying “YOU CAN’T DO THAT!”

    I will freely admit to cannibalizing bits of fanfic for some published stories. However, the bits I used were original things I had created, not part of the canon ‘verse. A wedding ceremony here, a rock climbing scene there, an original character making the transition to an original universe. Some things are too good to end up in the rubble of geocities. And please note, bits, not whole stories with serial numbers filed off.

    The primary problem I’m seeing is a lack of fannish home training.

  79. Shanna Swendson
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 16:23:50

    This is one of those issues that gets so murky for me that my head threatens to explode, between being a fan and being an author, and I’m not sure what the right answers are.

    Based on my experiences and discussions I’ve had with author friends, most authors seem to get that spark of wanting to write from the same place in the brain that fanfic comes from — wanting to tell further adventures of characters we love, wanting to see what happens in the story world beyond the boundaries of the actual story, even what a character a lot like ourselves might do in that world. It may never be published or even written down. It may just be a daydream, and as that daydream is spun it has less and less in common with the source material and becomes a unique creation. If it does get written down, it may be the novel that never gets finished because it turns out that writing isn’t quite as much fun as daydreaming, or it may be that infamous First Novel Under the Bed. Sometimes, it actually does get written and published, but mostly it triggers the realization that making up stories is fun. I guess the difference for writers today is that computers and the Internet make it easier to write down those stories and then share them with others. In my day, I’d have had to write them by hand or type them on the manual typewriter I had (electric ones existed, but we didn’t have one), and then there would have been no one to share them with, so there was no point in getting them out of my head until it was a book of my own that I might possibly have published.

    So, what’s the difference between a book that may have started its life in a mental fanfic before morphing along the way into a story with no real connection to the original work and a fanfic that was actually written and published (in the sense of posting it on the Web) as fanfic before having the serial numbers filed off so it could be published for profit? Is it in the initial publication and open acknowledgement as fanfic before it’s turned to profit, or is it that the mental fanfic goes through enough of a process pre-writing that the novel itself can be truly considered an original novel?

    Then there’s the issue of using the fame of the original author and the fan community surrounding that work as a springboard to fame. I’ve been active on TV discussion forums going back to the X-Files days, and I’ve sold a fair number of books because of people knowing me from those forums. Is that also riding on the coattails of something more famous? Some people decided to get my books because they liked my writing style and sense of humor in my commentary posts, some figured that since we liked the same show and the same things about the show they’d like my books, some just thought it was cool that someone they knew virtually had a book published, and sometimes it was the community supporting one of their own (Browncoats are very supportive of each other). I would imagine it works a lot the same way for these published former fanfics. Is that much different from my church choir showing up en masse at one of my book signings? Or is it all very different from writing derivative work, getting recognized by fans of the original, and then turning that around to profit from it?

    And if a publisher sees the success in fanfic as a potential “platform” for an author, is that the author’s fault or the publisher’s fault?

    As I said, no answers, but it does seem like this is something authors have been doing all along, just with the public nature of the Internet making it a lot more obvious when it happens and maybe making a lot more of a splash. I have to admit there’s something about this that makes me feel icky as an author, but I don’t have a logical, concrete reason why. I’ve heard that there’s fanfic based on my books, but I’m afraid to look to even see what it is. It’s uncomfortably flattering. I imagine I’d be pissed if I learned that someone got a book deal and became a bestseller (and that would make them more successful than me) by changing the characters’ names and publishing those books.

  80. P. Kirby
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 16:42:39

    @RR Kovar: Yes. I think this is a good way to describe the situation.

    @Angelia Sparrow: Heck, I’ll freely admit that most of my stories have been influenced in some way by books and movies. I’ve come across an idea and thought, “That’s fascinating, but what if…?” and off I go. I don’t work in isolation, and while I work hard to make my approach to a premise original and entirely mine, I’d probably stare stupidly at a blank screen forever in the absence of outside influences. I see no problem with revisiting certain archetypes, themes, relationships etc. Frankly, I suspect a lot of original fiction may have been rooted in something fannish, except it never spent its infancy on fanfiction dot net or a similar site. And the author never used the story’s origins as a selling point.

    But I find the trend of fan fiction-to-published, paying fiction very worrisome, both as a writer and a reader, because the line between original and derivative may be fuzzier than that slice of pizza that’s hiding in the back of my fridge.

  81. De
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 17:44:13

    @Shanna Swendson:
    or is it that the mental fanfic goes through enough of a process pre-writing that the novel itself can be truly considered an original novel?

    I think it’s this.

  82. Melissa
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 19:02:21

    @Heidi Belleau:

    If peoples’ issue with published fanfic is just on legal/copyright grounds, then fair play, but if we’re talking about it as an ethical issue, I hardly see how “using someone else’s characters” suddenly becomes okay just so long as they’ve been dead for an arbitrary number of years. Copyright is a legal line, not a moral one, and conflating the two is uncomfortable for me.

    I’ve been thinking about this since the fanfic issues have been highlighted here on DA recently. I’m not sure my opinion is finished evolving, but I’ll share it anyway. I’ve asked myself why I’m not bothered by retellings of Romeo and Juliet (West Side Story) or Jane Eyre (Wide Sargasso Sea) or Emma (Clueless), but I’m uncomfortable with Fifty Shades of Grey starting life as Twilight fan fiction. I feel like an author should be entitled to have sole rights to his or her own literary creations (and revenue generated by those creations) at least for the author’s lifetime. I think most people would agree with this. It’s hard to imagine anyone arguing that J.K. Rowling should have to compete on Amazon with other authors’ Harry Potter books and may the best writer win. But at some point, the authors will all be dead and gone. If their work has survived, perhaps even become some sort of cultural touchstone, then I think it’s legitimate for new authors to “re-imagine” that work as a way of commenting on it or on society (past or present). Similarly, I think an author could write an original work using dead (but real) historical figures and putting words in their mouths. If you were to make a current celebrity a character in your book and have them perform an illegal act, I would imagine the celebrity could sue you for libel. Now, clearly not every Pride and Prejudice sequel is making any kind of “comment” on Austen’s time or our own. I’m sure most of them are just cashing in. But I think it’s impossible to have some kind of government imposed aesthetic and subjective standard about whether a particular book is using a famous work in a transformative manner. So going by the author’s life plus an arbitrary number of years seems like a reasonable compromise.

  83. Maili
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 19:12:25

    @Melissa: I like this.

  84. Cara
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 19:16:39

    I don’t really have much to add, except that I’m really glad DA is hosting this line of discussion! Great post, Has!

  85. Merrian
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 19:31:30

    @L.K. Rigel: Only someone who has never been raped would make such an awful claim. All I read in your analogy is a sense of entitlement.

  86. Merrian
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 20:14:22

    I should note I coming into this late because of time zone issues

    @L.K. Rigel: What a condescending bitch you are and your ‘apology’ is about being called on it, not that you mean it sincerely.

    @Silvialaura: What you are not getting is that many people who survive rape are told by the perpetrator that what happened wasn’t rape, that often the words used during the rape or abuse and by others about the rape are part of the assault and continue the effects of the assault.

    This project where survivors share the words their rapists used to diminsh them highlights this

    It is actually an act of microaggression when people tell those who like myself are rape survivors how to feel, that we shouldn’t be distressed or offended. It is diminishing to our personhood. On a thread where we are talking about slippery slopes and ethics, where we are considering the power and use of words and of entitlements I find it particularly poignant that talking about rape survivors as things and not people could even occur.

  87. Has
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 20:38:17


    I agree with Maili about your point! I think this is why Pride and Prejudice and other books which have been in the public domain is legally ok to expand on but its also a part of cultural identity. In a way – like the movie review of Galaxy Quest which is a riff on SF shows ala Star Trek is the same.
    I think this is why this current trend to P2P is so troubling.

    And on another note – I know the reference to rape was emotive and it was a poor choice of words/example but L.K has apologised and I think there is a danger it is derailing the topic and the discussion.

  88. Jody W.
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 21:07:16

    You know what Melissa’s comment, which I agree with, made me think about? Perhaps it’s kind of like a patent. The creator makes something awesome. He or she or whomever she sells the rights to gets to profit until the patent expires. That’s why it doesn’t bother me as much when I see revisions and retellings of things in public domain but it does bother me to see the same thing happen to fic or music under copyright, without seeking (and legitimately receiving) permission. I’m sure the legalities are all totally different for copyright and for patents, but in my head, that’s kind of how I see it. If Harry Potter is still huge in 200 years, I would love to see how it gets reinterpreted by the culture of that time. But not now. Now it’s Rowling’s. Etc Etc.

  89. Elle
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 21:19:09

    I Beta read for a really popular fanfic writer back in the day. She was very prolific and wrote in the Star Wars, X-Files, Star Trek, and Buffy fandoms. No matter what AU situations she threw those characters into at their core they weren’t her characters. She played with them, put them through the wringer, did wonderful things to them and horrible things to them. Working with her behind the scenes I know just how much blood, sweat and tears she put into her writing but in the end no matter how much of her time and talent she invested into the fanfics she wrote the characters weren’t hers to own or profit from.

    I haven’t been involved in fandom on a fanfic level for years. Maybe I’m naive or just a product of the time I was an uberfangirl but knowing that a fanfic writer is profiting from their fanfic in such a way as James is doing now just feels wrong to me. It’s disingenuous to not be upfront with it being a fanfic. Had she written a completely original story and called on her fans to support that, then I could back that but changing names and putting this out for money is, in my opinion, lazy and unethical and opens the doors for more fanfic writers to do similar things.

  90. Has
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 21:36:31


    I feel the same way about the current way trend for fanfic now. And I don’t understand why they wont admit its based on a fanfiction – she appreciated the fanbase and her followers but it is not based on her own original inspiration and source but Meyer’s. Another element is that James did write close to the characters of Bella and Edward even if its in an AU setting. I don’t understand why people are claiming its reworked and original when the characterisation hasn’t changed but the names and the appearance. If she made Grey into a a chilled out surfer dude and Ana into a high powered executive – then there would be more of a differentiation.

  91. John
    Mar 17, 2012 @ 00:00:11

    As a long-time writer of fanfic and supporter of fanfic, I find myself mixed on what’s being presented here because of the controversy.

    On one hand, fanfic with the serial numbers filed off is sneaky and underhanded. Some readers have no idea what it is. Others support it because that’s what it is. Still, others are in a middle place where they know it has origins but may not know the extent of it. It seems morally unethical (to me) to have someone simply do that without acknowledging the source, the reason for publication, and why it would be justifiable to the fanfiction community – ie, if the fic is so AU/OOC in nature that it’s really more of a story inspired by the piece than a piece deriving many characterizations/settings/events/pieces of canon from the source of inspiration in question.

    On the other hand, I think we need to determine exactly WHY it would be ethically in the wrong for someone to do it. Yes, the Clare events of plagiarism are extremely wrong and unsupportive, but I don’t find the use of her pre-existing fanbase to support a different series wrong. Yes, I may have issues with the lack of her addressing why it happened and the specifics, but an author with a built-in fanbase is kind of a publisher’s dream. The same thing happened to Joan Johnson, who was discovered by Berkley via her fanfiction (and she debuted with an original series unrelated to the fanfiction, as I recall).

    I don’t think using that fanbase as a business boon is a bad thing. On the contrary, I think an author who can keep a fanbase like that holds a lot of promise – and making it clear that the new material is original work is key. James, however, is using something that is directly the same fiction as the fiction she posted online as Twilight fanfiction. I find that morally oppositional because the work wasn’t altered beyond superficial changes for publication. However, I don’t think the original intention of it being “fanfiction” necessarily makes it so unoriginal that it should be challenged. Yes, it started off using the names, but was anything else about it founded in something other than inspiration? If it had never been fanfiction and simply was written with the names and such as it is in the published version, would we find the work SO similar to Twilight that we would consider it plagiarizing? Or would we just consider it deeply inspired/imitating of Twilight?

    I also worry that this will ruin authorial views on fanfiction. I know authors are opposed, but I’m going to say that fanfiction can keep an author alive. There are fandoms I read that are kept alive by their writers – even if it’s a small fandom – and those video games/television shows live on because of that fanfiction being created constantly. An author who may take a few years between books may very well be saved the wrath of frustrated fans because of the satiating quality that fanfiction provides. Also, I don’t think that anyone writes fanfiction with the intention of building a fanbase just to later on sell the work or sell later individual works. Fanfiction, though popular, is hard to get a following that intense in, and it generally seems to be that authors who do well in fanfiction find a same level of audience-devotion with original series. Clare did it, and her rabid-fan-boy/girl readers probably did not read her fanfiction. At least, a majority of them probably did not.

    I think the real question is – other than the extreme lack of trust in the fan fiction community, would this book be considered too-close to Twilight if it was never put up on the internet as fanfiction, and merely written for personal reasons? Because one has to wonder how many of our favorite books actually were deeply inspired by particular characters/situations the author wanted to recreate, and whether or not we would consider that “wrong” with the knowledge of it during the period of reading.

  92. Saxo
    Mar 17, 2012 @ 00:01:10

    re: out of copyright works, The big difference for me between a WIDE SARGASSO and FIFTY SHADES is not so much copyright length, but attribution. WIDE SARGASSO in no way hides its dependence upon EYRE. Everything about it is derived from the first story, and without the success of the first story, and without it serving as background, WS would not succeed.

    FIFTY is just as derivative (in fact, it is in many ways more derivative than some other published fanfics–it’s a very close reinterpretation of the Edward Cullen dynamic with his stalker tendencies, deep dark secret that only the protagonist knows, etc.) but instead of saying, “Hey, this is a re-imagining of TWILIGHT with the characters as human,” it says, “Despite the fact that I previously said these characters were Meyer’s, this is wholly my own creation.”

    That’s where it starts to get icky for me. Rhys is saying, “I’m expanding Bronte’s world.” James is saying, “This has nothing to do with Meyer and never did, my previous actions to the contrary.”

  93. Jane
    Mar 17, 2012 @ 00:32:52

    Let’s just take as a given that LK Rigel’s words were very unfortunate and that many don’t accept her apology and can’t move past that. However, to concentrate on that would be a derailment of an important issue. Can we please be considerate of our guest blogger, Has, and treat the comment thread with some respect. I am sorry I didn’t step in earlier when Ms. Rigel first made her comment but I am just now catching up.

    Thank you.

  94. eggs
    Mar 17, 2012 @ 02:00:13

    While everyone understands that Meyer will feel pissed off at E.L. James profiting from her hard work, I have to wonder how may other people are feeling pissed off about James profiting from their work as well.

    My son writes fanfic and he’s regularly getting emails from other fanficcers (is that even a word?) with suggestions on plot development, corrections of grammar, suggested improvements to be incorporated into his text and requests for very specific plot developments. He often incorporates these into his text. I have to imagine that the same thing happened with E.L. James’s work.

    With no clear-cut editorial contract specifying who copyright belongs to, and an email trail of the assistance provided, could these unpaid editorial assistants not make a claim for a slice of the profits from 50?

    All of this editorial assistance is only offered for free on the understanding that the end work will also be offered for free. I cannot imagine how pissed off these people must be that she’s turned around and used their freely given editorial assistance to make a buck, but offered them no payment in return. Furthermore, the implied contract of ‘you give me free assistance and I’ll provide the fandom with a free book’ has been broken, because the book is no longer available for free.

  95. Evangeline Holland
    Mar 17, 2012 @ 07:22:11


    IMO, if you are writing fan fiction–meaning, you sit down at your computer or with a pen and pad and begin writing a story, whether it be AU fic or even slash, for preexisting characters and world-building, it doesn’t matter if it gradually morphs into something original. The initial spark of inspiration, the first point of reference, was someone else’s ideas, characters, and plots (the characters as they are in the “present” are shaped by what has happened in the book/show/movie).

    As a writer I fully admit to being inspired by much of what I read and watch, and there can be a slippery slope in taking a plot from a movie or show and reinterpreting it, but I feel there’s a difference between watching Casablanca and wondering if the dynamics could be shifted to the Peninsular War, and taking Rick and Ilsa for my own use (and later, pulling the fiction and changing their names to Jake and Astrid). As someone said either on this thread or the previous FF threads, when writing fanfiction and sharing it with the fandom, you are telling readers to come to the work with knowledge of and emotional investment in the characters and their world.

    Master of the Universe-cum-Fifty Shades was written with the knowledge that readers would envision Edward and Bella in their heads (and more likely Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart–which adds another layer to this topic) and bring their attachment to Stephenie Meyers’ trilogy to James’s fic. To pull it from circulation and change the names to Christian and Anna in order to sell it, and then pass it off as original fiction crosses the ethical line in my book. And right now, with so many contextual similarities, I don’t think anyone can claim that MoTU/FSoG would exist without Twilight. From a business standpoint, an unpublished author with a fanbase is one to grab, but does–or rather should–business ($$$) trump ethics?

  96. Has
    Mar 17, 2012 @ 08:50:45


    That could be a problem for James or other authors like her, because she’s publishing this as an ‘original’ story but all fanfiction has heavy beta feedback and those that helped her out can easily claim they helped to co- write or gave her ideas. They could also claim for a piece of that pie because if they kept those suggestions and correspondence, and it could be substantial or important plotline – it is another potential minefield for those who P2P. This is another element which stands out from writing fanfiction, it is truly a group effort which is part of the community aspect of fandom.

  97. Heidi Belleau
    Mar 17, 2012 @ 10:28:21


    This is definitely true. What if one of her beta readers who took on the (I imagine substantial) job of editing her work sees that her suggestions are still in place in the published work and she’s not getting any of the money? Wasn’t it established recently that authors only own the original version of their text, not the edited one, in the case of wanting to re-publish their work?

    There’s no protections in place in fandom when it comes to that. Lots of my fandom friends edit my original writing, but they do so understanding BEFORE they commit that I will be selling the story for profit. Luckily they’re good friends and free reads and a mention in the dedications is enough payment for them!

  98. Heidi Belleau
    Mar 17, 2012 @ 10:29:27

    Not to say that if you don’t want to edit someone for free, you therefore aren’t a good friend, of course.

  99. Moriah Jovan
    Mar 17, 2012 @ 10:36:31

    @eggs: This is exactly the thought that prompted me to say in a different thread that it would be interesting and groundbreaking to see the community who asisted come up with a class-action suit.

    Since I haven’t read 50 Shades (and gicen the fact I didn’t know GABRIEL’S INFERNO was TWILIGHT fanfic), I personally am not comfortable thinking Stephenie Meyer is a victim here. But I am CERTAIN that those who contributed to the making of 50 Shades are. Every movie has 15 minutes of end credits to roll because movies don’t get made without hundreds (thousands) of people involved. The difference? Every person in those end credits got paid for their labor.

  100. Moriah Jovan
    Mar 17, 2012 @ 10:38:06

    Um, please forgive the typos. I’m on this dumb iPad.

  101. snailmail
    Mar 17, 2012 @ 11:11:38

    Too many generalisations abound regarding fanfic and the beta/collaborative effort question. Some are a joint effort, others aren’t. Yet others are the result of a trade of skills where several parties benefit. For example, I asked a beta reader to read through my first fic and then I did the same for hers. We quickly became mutal beta readers. I in no way feel any ownership for any of her stories as she doesn’t for mine. She was good with photoshop and made me banners and covers, she also hosted my fanfic website. I went on to start an epublisher and become a romance editor and also gave at least eight ex fanfic writers their first publishing contract. I feel I’ve more than paid back in kind over the years. To say all fanfic has heavy beta feedback is untrue; some does and some doesn’t, every instance is completely individual to the author and those who critique the story. Personally, I don’t recognise this world of a bunch of readers and authors all working together to produce a fanfic. My experience was of sitting up till six in the morning sometimes to get a new chapter out while fielding mails (welcome mails I must add, not complaining) crying more! more! I gave up a huge amount of my sleep and time to write the stories (AU) and some of my readers gave their time to reviewing and one gave time to beta reading. A favour I returned for her stories. And let’s not forget that even if the favour isn’t returned, the beta reader gains by getting to read new chapters first. and by being more likely to get a custom made story because their suggestions are more likely to be incorporated.

    Yes, publishing fanfic to original is a thorny path to be trodden carefully, but the production of fanfiction represents a heck of a lot of time and effort from the fanfic authors to feed both their own addiction to the fandom and that of their audience. Let’s not make general villains of them in this because of the actions of a few. They work the hardest of all.

  102. S.
    Mar 17, 2012 @ 11:31:07


    I don’t think people are saying fanfiction writers are lazy or that they don’t toil for the piece. They’re working very hard on their fanfics (or fanart) based on someone else’s sandbox. No matter what kind of AU you put them in, you have the structure of the entire cast already created for you. You basically work from a template and a built in audience. Most of us who appreciate fanfiction are already fans of that fandom, whether it be TV, Movie, Books, Anime, etc, and we deliberately seek to enrich our experience with like-minded fans. For the most part, the fanfic writer’s effort is rewarded in the form of feedback – direct reader response or community discussion.

    It’s an unwritten contract – fanworks are not to be made for profit. It’s the reason why readers and writers alike in the fandom are so freely talking and playing in the community. As someone who have participated in both fandom and now watching them merge muddily, I can tell you I sincerely dislike this experience. Fandom is a place where fans gather to enjoy the original creation – not a place where fanfic writers should be profiting off something that wasn’t theirs to begin with. Slightly off-track – this is the reason why I cannot stand by publishers who encourage writers to file off serial numbers and publish their fanworks as original fiction.

    I love fandom for all it represents, and I would absolutely hate to see the day when the copyright owners swoop in to ban fanwork all because of a few crude fans making profit from what doesn’t belong to them.

  103. Moriah Jovan
    Mar 17, 2012 @ 11:42:50

    @snailmail: For the record, I take my avocations and my love of them very seriously. The idea (possibility) that other people’s beloved avocations are under threat speaks to my heart. I don’t know who is making a villain of whom, but clearly, fanficcers love their avocation. I wouldn’t like to see that taken away from them because copyright holders have now become rightfully concerned because one or two people have set a very profitable precedent. This is a case of one person ruining it for everybody.

  104. abby weyr
    Mar 17, 2012 @ 12:19:38

    I have not read all of the comments. So what I want to mention may have already been stated. One problem I see with fan fic being P2P is how much of the reviews the ff got influenced the story? does the author when published give credit to all of the reviewers? do those reviewers get any money for their input influencing the story? Being still kind of new to fan fic, I am still working on my own blog entry on this to sort out my thoughts and feelings. This article and comments I read have given me more food for thought. Thank you for sharing.

  105. Has
    Mar 17, 2012 @ 12:20:11


    What S and Moriah said! The aspect that really worries me is the fact that money is a factor in this and that can change the established agreement NOT to profit from it and this can destroy a community and rip apart a fandom. I have heard that James has definitely damaged the fanfiction community with Twilight along with others who have decided to P2P.

    I have Betad and know people who have with published authors and I don’t owe or feel that I should have the right in owning any part of that book. I know how much hard work goes in writing a book especially with drafting and crafting a book from the beginning. But with fanfiction, it was established there shouldn’t be any element of profiting from it – P2P is changing that, and since the source material is owned by an established and legal copyright owner. The grey area on FF and P2P is all murky, James posted a disclaimer she didn’t own Twilight when she wrote MOTU but published publicly the 89% of the full fanfiction and if she states she wrote that and it was original but later it was proved that a beta helped a lot with that because they feel they want to share in some of the profits she made – its another good reason why FF shouldn’t be commercialised.

    And people have started to post 50 shades fanfic – one is basically the same as the 50 Shades of Grey,but with the names changed – but since its the same as the MOTU and that was based on a Twilight fanfiction – the concept of copyright is entering the world of an Inception fanfiction.

  106. Lasha
    Mar 17, 2012 @ 16:57:14

    @Ducky: You have no idea, Ducky. Google LaptopGate and CC’s name and you’ll find out even more.

  107. Lasha
    Mar 17, 2012 @ 17:09:35

    @Angelia Sparrow: I agree. I have taken “bits,” usually a sex scene, reworked it and put it in a story that was submitted to a publisher. Since I know Kirk and Spock or Duncan and Methos never had sex scene on screen (although I would have bought those DVDs!), I am fairly certain the sexy bits are entirely mine and mine alone.

  108. Silvialaura
    Mar 17, 2012 @ 17:10:48

    @Lasha: You’re being kind. Google “charitywank” or “MSScribe Story”.

  109. ElleBea
    Mar 17, 2012 @ 22:29:30

    I wasn’t going to comment as I don’t feel I have enough of a grab on some of the things/people mentioned (I’m not a fan of Twilight/vampires etc so don’t read that kind of fic, so I also haven’t heard of the people you mention who have plagiarized). But I will anyway lol. Most of the fic I read concerns real people and not characters from TV/movies/books etc.

    I write fanfic and have done so for several years now. I’ve been writing since my mid-teens but it wasn’t until I came across a forum for a band I like about 5 years ago that it even occurred to me to share with someone. I’m still very wary of sharing, not quite having the confidence that it’s good enough, although I do have a handful of people who read and comment. For these people I am eternally grateful.

    Anyway, I can definitely see the points being made about sharing for free or posting for profit. It definitely is a murky proposition and one I don’t think I’ll ever need worry about. Especially when it comes to who had the idea first – face it, coming up with a totally original idea these days is getting a lot harder. A lot of what I see and read seems to be similar to something else, so it’s clear that ‘borrowing’ does happen. I suppose it just comes down to how different you can make it, or what kind of twist you can give it so that it does appear to be new.

    I do have a question though. What happens if the fic you are writing concerns real people and not characters that someone else has created?

    My fanfic mainly concerns members of the band IL Divo, although I have written a couple about Orlando Bloom. Should there ever be a time when I decide I want to p2p, what happens then? I can change the names of the characters and even change the setting to other real places etc without too much trouble. As the original fic was written using real people and not characters that someone else has spent a lot of blood sweat and tears trying to perfect, does that make it easier or harder, or even a little less murky? When writing the “I would like to thank…” part at the beginning of the book, would I also have to thank the parents of the real people for creating them? Ok, that was a bit silly but it was a thought.

    As I mentioned, it’s very unlikely to happen but it would be interesting to hear what other people think about it. Should there be different rules/standards for fics written about real people or is it all the same regardless?

  110. Mohini
    Mar 18, 2012 @ 02:25:03


    I can’t speak for anyone else but- the thing that bothered me most about publishing fanfic is that, when we’re writing fanfic, it is sort of a homage to the author. It’s like saying ‘I love your sandbox and its pretty shells’ and it’s also a community thing, where you tell these other fans, ‘hey, look, we have this in common, let’s play together,’ and publishing your work after that is sort of like a betrayal of the author and the community. I have nothing to do with the Twilight fandom, I’ve not gone near it, and I still feel betrayed that ‘one of us’ would do this.
    Publishing something, saying ‘this is a transformative work of [insert author]’s work,’ is still a homage to the author. Filing off serial numbers shows disrespect for the original author and his/her feelings, the community and everyone who helped you- beta-ed for free, reviewed on what was working out and what-not.
    Publishing RPF stuff wouldn’t bother me this much (as long as you give credit to everyone in the community who helped you out) especially if it’s AU because you’re basically making up almost everything except physical features. I’m sure about this because it has happened once (that I know of) and i didn’t care because while I was reading the story I was thinking, ‘this is great, but how is this fanfic?’ I still think it is better if you just take the plot and write something different with it, because it makes me slightly queasy thinking about real people while I’m reading anything intimate (sex/ a confession of love, etc.) but then that’s a problem with RPF in general and why I don’t read it.
    I hope this makes sense, and I helped somewhat.

  111. ElleBea
    Mar 18, 2012 @ 03:19:07


    Thanks Mohini :D

    I totally get where you’re coming from. Although I have written some of that sex stuff, I have to admit it’s not my finest. I prefer the lead up to rather than the act itself. Face it, there’s plenty of it out there if that’s what you’re looking for.

    I never really thought about it too much before but I think once I start writing, they stop being who they are in real life and actually do become like different people who just look like someone famous. I like to portray them as I think they are – sort of like taking in what they show the public and running with that as if it were real. Say, for example, meshing all the ‘nice, polite, romantic, funny’ bits of the characters that Johnny Depp plays and using them as though that is what he is like in real life. He might be a real arsehole in real life but I would be portraying ‘the best parts of’ him, or at least what I perceive to be the best parts. Does that make sense?

    I suppose I could come up with characters of my own but as good as I think my imagination is, I’m not quite there yet. And given the amount of movies and stuff I watch, I suppose I’m a little worried that I might be subconsciously ‘ripping off’ something I’ve seen. Face it, there are plenty of things out there that could do with a re-write or a different ending lol.

    At the end of the day it would be nice to get money but I’m realistic enough to know it won’t happen. I’m also quite content enough to just keep my stuff where it is. Like I say, I have maybe a half dozen people who like my stories and encourage me. I’m more than happy to acknowledge them (Lori, Carolyn, Tha, Ingela… ) for the help they give, whether it’s ideas, help with the story, grammar corrections, artwork etc or just moral support. It’s for these people that I continue to do it.

  112. Mohini
    Mar 18, 2012 @ 05:55:41

    Yes, you make a lot of sense. That is what I was trying to get at, in my own clumsy way. You see Johnny Depp being suave and you write about a ‘nice, polite, romantic, funny’ character who in your head looks like Johnny Depp? It’s not fanfiction to me.
    All the characters I write about come from somewhere if only as a ‘She’s not going to be like that,’ thing and while I’m not going to try and get published I’m also not going to treat those pieces as fanfiction. We don’t live or write in isolation and being inspired by what we see is perfectly valid. nudgenudgeDianaGabaldonwinkwink.

    Oh yeah, a lot of things that will remain unnamed could use a re-write :).

    I think it’s very nice that you’re happy with writing for your friends and yourself. I might change my mind later I suppose but right now- that’s how I feel too.
    I’m so sorry for writing this enormous note ^^U, shutting up now.

  113. ElleBea
    Mar 18, 2012 @ 06:40:47


    :D No need to apologize. It’s being passionate about something that makes life interesting. You should see me come football season – go Doggies lol.

    Shown or not shown, writing for me is a way to get ideas and thoughts out of my head so I can sleep at night. As mentioned above, it’s also a way to connect people with similar ideas and likes/dislikes etc. That can never be a bad thing.

    I’ve seen the nudgenudgeDianaGabaldonwinkwink name before although I don’t know who she is. Might ahve to look her up. Some of the friends I share my writings with are trying to help me broaden my horizons, reading wise, so I’ll be sure to add her to the list of potential authors.

    She doesn’t do vampires does she? Blech. lol.

    I hope you do find your way back. Good luck with whatever you decide. :D

  114. mozzer0906
    Mar 18, 2012 @ 07:22:15

    I thought your opinions were spot on and well articulated. I have also truly enjoyed the comments as well. Thank you for this series.

  115. azteclady
    Mar 18, 2012 @ 22:17:47

    @Moriah Jovan: I still have to read most comments here, but the comparison to patterns is not accurate.

    I did a bit of research on this issue and it turns out that patterns–or tutorials–cannot be copyrighted. The physical expression of a set of instructions can be under copyright, but once a person buys the pattern, whatever s/he makes from that pattern s/he can sell as often and at whichever price s/he can get from it. Pattern makers would prefer that their customers didn’t do that–which is why the include the ‘can’t sell what you make from this pattern’ bit, but that language is not legally binding.

  116. Annamal
    Mar 18, 2012 @ 23:59:43

    I’m pretty sure that I read somewhere that Lois McMaster Bujold’s Shards of Honor started out life as a Star Trek fanfic with two original characters.

    It’s not at all like 50 Shades (in that Bujold’s universe is closer to Firefly than Trek and her characters are so definitely original that *other* authors have used thinly veiled expys of them) but it is possibly a case of using a fanfiction to launch into a published book.

  117. Maili
    Mar 19, 2012 @ 06:33:30

    @Moriah Jovan (and @Has):

    I wouldn’t like to see that taken away from them because copyright holders have now become rightfully concerned because one or two people have set a very profitable precedent. This is a case of one person ruining it for everybody.

    But that’s the thing. She isn’t the only one and while I’m against her actions, I strongly believe she shouldn’t be blamed for setting a very profitable precedent.

    I just can’t accept it’s a case of James ruining it for everybody. Not while there are many authors doing the same – and for years, too – and when there are publishers like Writer’s Coffee Shop (launched in 2010), Omnific (2009), Dreamspinners Press (2007), Vintage and some others around*.

    (*I wanted to add Sourcebooks since some of their authors used their Austen fanfiction from the Austen ff community to publish at Sourcebooks. But I think the addition of SB would just confuse the matter as everyone and their dog seems to believe the Austen ff community (and other comms of public domain works) is immune to the ‘don’t publish fan fiction’ rule. I still don’t get why they should be exempt, seeing that they use beta readers and other ff resources, but anyroad.)

    I think we should say that it’s them who are ruining it for everybody. Rather than piling it all on James alone, surely? I do realise she’s getting shot at because she’s the tallest poppy at the moment, but I still think it’s unfair and silly.

    As for setting a very profitable precedent?

    Despite what marketing geniuses, veteran publicists and social media gurus say, no one can truly control word of mouth in media, online and in real life, and among audience or customers.

    Sure, James’s fan base have helped to effect the word of mouth, but it’s still down to product to carry it through. No matter how much we spent on marketing, word of mouth can only happen when a product happens to be in the right place at right time with the right something that could fulfil whatever is needed. Sometimes, it’s just dumb luck.

    So, I don’t see how James can be blamed in her case. That’s unless someone could prove she’s hired an incredibly gifted publicist (please do name the person because I’d hire that person on spot. Seriously.).

    Named publishers have been around for some time, so why hasn’t anyone raised the flag over them? Did it really take the mainstream success of James’s books to get some to rally up? This is the bit that puzzles me the most.

  118. Has
    Mar 19, 2012 @ 10:55:38


    I think the issue with James is that she is SO high profile, its hard not to focus on that but she’s definitely not the only one. But I agree with you that TWCS, Omnific and even Dreamspinner because they are have commercialised fanfiction and I do think the focus will go onto them very soon.

    The problem about the marketing aspect is that the fans/people linked to the fanfic pubs, have cynically used social media and the fanbase to promote P2P which from what I’ve seen had any hardly any changes made from the original FF to the repackaged books. It is ethically wrong and it is misleading because they are downplaying the FF roots or in some cases that I’ve seen using it to highlight specific FF which draws attention to the author who then garners a following – which then leads to P2P. I don’t understand why Meyers hasn’t acted on this but I suspect it is very complicated because as we have discussed the legal issues are a minefield. But I do think this can lead to other fandoms being picked up for the same treatment and those pubs might even expand to focus on them too.

    At least the issue with Sourcebooks, or those who have written parodies or FFiccy type on public domain books, don’t have have the legal issues surrounding P2P – that is a line that is clearly defined however ethical or dubious it is. I am not a fan of the literary mashups with supernatural beings but at least I knew it was fanfiction. This is why the whole thing linked to P2P and fandom is so iffy. Its not genuine in that respect because the people behind these pubs are willing and active to publish repackaged FF but want to downplay and deny those roots when it is published. If they feel it is legal because all features copyright infringement is removed play this down? And the fact that Fanfiction is written by fans and is aimed at them – and it is FREE just adds even more to the dubious nature of this trend.

    And this leads to another factor, I think fanfiction is almost like a genre in itself, it does have a crackish element to it, but its not structured like a novel and in a lot of ways resemble the 19th Century serialized novel because it is posted and published in instalments. But it looks like with the P2P and Vintage doesn’t seem to care about the editing that much and is another aspect of quality and publishing. And if a NY publisher doesn’t seem to care and is legitimizing fanfiction because it is profitable what is the point of their role of becoming gatekeepers other than a way to able to print mass market books. They cant cry HALP! When P2P decides to follow other fandom and successful series – and although the 50 series has hit the major league in the mainstream, other FF to P2P wont be able to carry that success but there will be more nibbles which will chip away at that. I think it is sad because there have been examples of original fiction being produced by indies or self pubbers who have shown similar success.

  119. xt
    Mar 19, 2012 @ 16:39:02

    Sorry if I missed a topic while skimming through all these posts, but I only came across one that addressed the concerns of the original writer of Twilight. If James has truly committed a copyright infringement, then isn’t this a case not to be debated amongst members of the fanfic community, but by Twilight’s ‘owner’ and the courts? (Apologies, but I’m not really up on who’s who in the writer’s world.)

    And to someone else who made the comment about how creators of original works/TV series/characters, etc., like to see their works copied in fandoms (nonprofit) so that it makes their art accessible to a broader fan base, I’d have to say that isn’t always the case. Fanvids of shows posted on You Tube are constantly being taken down by the copyright holders of the songs. Evidently, they don’t think broadcasting their songs to a bigger audience helps them financially. Thanks for letting me post!

  120. ramboyearone
    Mar 20, 2012 @ 04:17:12

    a real writer has no morale. He has no power on what comes out from his pen.
    The more power he has (like deciding to write fanfiction do gain money), the less good will be results.

  121. Stumbling Over Chaos :: Looks like spring in linkity land
    Mar 23, 2012 @ 09:54:37

    […] Author focused on fan fiction this week: Fan Fiction: A Tale of Fandom and Morality. Fan Fiction, Plagiarism, and Copyright. Are Fictional Characters Copyrightable? Fan fiction […]

  122. setlib
    Mar 30, 2012 @ 13:04:33

    Daniel Pink (author of “A Whole New Mind”) wrote a great article about the economics of fan fiction, and how a more permissive attitude toward fan activities might be a great financial boon to the publishing industry:

    To illustrate his point, he takes the example of Japanese comics (called “manga”) which are hugely popular with all ages in Japan, and have inspired a massive community of amateur artists who create fanfiction of their favorite comics (called “dojinshi” or “doujinshi”). They are able to SELL their fanfiction works in conventions, and even in bookstores side-by-side with the original works, and are rarely sued for infringement. Mr. Pink explains that the publishers are fully aware that this is technically a copyright violation, but as long as these amateurs don’t sell *too many* copies, the publishers consider the passion of the fans good for business. Really popular fanfiction artists (like the all-female group CLAMP) can even get hired by the big publishers, and rather than hide their fanfiction roots in shame, they are lauded by the fan and publishing communities alike — and they sell a lot of books! It’s very illuminating to see that other cultures can take a completely opposite, and successful, position on this “moral” issue.

  123. Ellen Degeneres reads 50 Shades of Grey | Lesley's Reading Heaven
    May 01, 2012 @ 18:33:27

    […] side note, Fifty Shades began as a Twilight fan fiction, which has spawned some thoughtful discussions about that nature of copyright and creative license. Share this:TwitterFacebookEmailLike […]

  124. Dylan Clearbrook
    Aug 05, 2012 @ 08:16:33

    Having written fan-fiction for several years, I have to say that the notion of profiting from the work of someone else is appalling. At least two members of our writing community went on to attempt to break in to publishing with original work (I don’t believe either got far) but at no time did anyone even consider trying to profit from our fan-fic. Are there those that profit from writing fan-fic? sure. Peter David is a good example (I don’t believe the man has ever had a creative thought that did not originate in the imagination of some one else). But by and large, a majority of fan-fic writers do not consider profit when they start writing. They write out of love for the characters, the world, or in protest of the current direction of the canon or a combination (as it was in my case). There are even fan-fic stories out there that could even be considered better than the original in opinion of certain readers (an example would be a novel length fan-fic written by a Harry Potter fan that was, in my opinion, a better ending to the series than the original – do a search on The Seventh Horcrux.)

    Yes, we are in a grey area. I would like to think that a majority of fan-fic writers would have the ability to say NO if they were offered the opportunity to make money from their work – free from the possibility of legal action. But honesty compels me to believe that many would be tempted.

  125. A
    May 06, 2014 @ 00:40:37

    A few years after this was written, but it begs the question: What is covered by the label “fanfic”?

    I mean, isn’t Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical fanfiction based on Gaston Leroux’s novel (published 100 years ago) of “Phantom of the Opera”? Fanfic that messes with canon, too; leaving out major characters and turning Erik/the Phantom into a sex symbol, right?

    Am sure Leroux would’ve been …. amused.

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