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Wherein Jane Offends Authors Against Fan Fiction

If there is anything that I have learned being online is that many, many authors are in need of a readership. Peter Watts, a critically aclaimed science fiction novelist, is giving his book away as a last ditch effort to rescue flagging sales. At least once a week, at All About Romance, readers post questions about missing authors. Often the reply is that the author is without a writing contract. Few authors are able to write for a living. 2004 Bookscan numbers revealed these statistics:

  • Only 25,000 books sold more than 5,000 copies.
  • Fewer than 500 sold more than 100,000 copies.

Whether the problem lies within publishing business models, failed publicity, the decline of independent bookstores, selling to the net, greater market fragmentation due to increasing variety of entertainment options, the unmistakable truth is that its tough business these days.

I got to thinking about fan fiction after reading the interview answers I received from Cindy Hwang, executive editor for Berkley Publishing. The interview will be posted on January 1, 2007(!). Two of the authors she signed and who will be published in 2007 are Meljean Brook and Jean Johnson. Both are paranormal writers who have inventive worlds and both are former fan fiction authors. They are not the only authors who found fan fiction writing as a training ground of sorts, for writing.

Meg Cabot (upon whom I have previously confessed to having a girl crush) has recently come out as said that she was a fan fiction writer. Author of the famed Temeraire series which was recently optioned by the even more famous Peter Jackson, Naomi Novik, wrote fan fiction for years before publication. Jacqueline Lichtenberg, an author of 18 published novels, wrote the first Kraith Star Wars fan fiction in 1969.

I spoke with a friend of mine who is involved in the Japanese manga fan fiction. Said friend told me:

But consider that the Japanese have made anime/manga/game fanworks an institution (even though they’re not legal), even putting situations and characters into their products to encourage this practice, because they know that a dedicated fan community will keep a series alive for a long time. You can see it on the net. The series with large numbers of fangirls dedicated to writing fics are the ones that make tons of money from all kinds of merchandise, and from selling new versions of the DVDs, and additional CDs, and making musicals, etc.

I mean for God’s sake, look at Star Trek. Do you think all those books and stories hurt anything? They’re even encouraging a new series now, the new Voyages, which is made completely by fans and is available for free on the internet.

The beginnings of fan fiction may go back to the publication of Sherlock Holmes. Apparently there have been many pastiches devoted to Holmes and Watson. What is a pastiche? Well, it sounds like its the same thing as fan fiction only nicer. Isn’t Laurie B. King’s The Beekeeper’s Daughter and all its sequels published fan fiction? Or Darcy’s Story by Janet Alymer? what about Pulitzer Prize Winner, Geraldine Brooks’ March? It’s a story about the life of the father of the March girls created by Louisa May Alcott. Or Alexandra Ripley’s Scarlett?

I have only read Janet Evanovich fan fiction. That was when I was in the throes of my love affair with Evanovich. Ironically, since my interest in Evanovich has died, so has my interest in fan fiction. As an aside, did Donna B ever finish her Ranger and Stephanie story? It was my favorite. As for writing fan fiction, not interested. I would much rather be the reader in that relationship.

During my research I found that there are some very violent opposers of fan fiction. One of its most outspoken critics is professional writer, Lee Goldberg. Mr. Goldberg is the author of television tie-ins such as Diagnosis Murder and Monk and 4 standalone books. I have to confess that when I first saw Mr. Goldberg’s body of work, I thought that what he did was fan fiction and wondered why he held fan fiction writers in such contempt.

Fan fiction, according to novelist Robin Hobb, defines fan fiction as “Fan fiction is fiction written by a ‘fan’ or reader, without the consent of the original author, yet using that author’s characters and world.”* Oxford English Dictionary’s 2004 edition defines it as

fiction, usually fantasy or science fiction, written by a fan rather than a professional author, esp. that based on already-existing characters from a television series, book, film, etc.; (also) a piece of such writing.

Lee Goldberg, Robin Hobb and Chelsea Yarbro Quinn have been, to varying degrees, been forceful outspoken critics of the practice. Hobb described it as a form of creative identity theft. Chelsea Yarbro Quinn stated she has “no sense of humor . . . about copyright infringement” and that fans who engage in it “show a profound disrespect” for the work and the author.

There is not a lot of romance fiction derivative works unless you count Christina Dodd’s homage to Sabrina and her maybe unintentional homage to Linda Howard’s White Lies. But paranormal romances are on the rise and who is to say that there won’t be Butch/Vishous slash fiction written (they clearly are hot for each other**).

Novik writes

I would love for people to put up posters and make costumes and invent their own stories and fantasize about my characters. If they did, that would mean I was doing something fundamentally right — that I was creating characters that people wanted to make part of the shared culture by which we communicate with one another.

I came away thinking that fan fiction is really a good thing for authors and readers. It provides a way for fans to immerse themselves in the author’s work and keeps the world alive between publications; thereby solidifying the fan devotion. I do understand the right of an author to control derivative works, but I wonder if speaking out against your most devoted fans does more harm than good because frankly, who else is writing fan fiction but the most devoted of fans. Isn’t encouraging it like Naomi Novik does just really good business sense in the tough world of publishing.

*Hobb’s original rant against fan fiction is not available at her website but can be viewed in its entirety here. The rebuttal is in bold. Hobb’s original statement is in plain text.

**As another aside, Ned and I have been watching the TNT replaying of the LOTR series. I asked him if he didn’t now see the homoerotic undertones between Frodo and Sam. The conversation went like this:

Jane: See, seeeeee. They love each other.
Ned: Sam had the hots for the barmaid.
Jane: He could swing both ways.
Ned: He didn’t. He wanted the barmaid.
Jane: How many straight guys do you know that go around saying “My Sam. My Frodo.”
::long pause::
Ned: I don’t know any Frodos.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

74 Comments

  1. Swifty
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 04:54:22

    Thank you for linking to us. And haha, I personally thought that Frodo and Sam were in love with each other and that Frodo left because Sam married that barmaid and that his was so heartbroken that the wound he was referring to was, well, heartbreak.

  2. Carrie
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 05:02:10

    There IS Black Dagger Brotherhood fan fiction out there. Heh. (And yes, most of what I’ve seen is Butch/Vishous…)

    I also believe Marjorie M. Liu wrote fan fiction (and later wrote a licensed X-Men novel).

  3. Jayne
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 08:11:46

    **And what about that hug at the end of “Return of the King?” That’s almost a romance clinch.

  4. Shelly
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 10:40:22

    The only romance fanfic I’ve ever seen is for Heyer’s These Old Shades. Two fics only, slashing Avon with his best friend Hugh (and really, the two do seem like an old married couple) and one crossing Avon and Dominic with a guy from Highlander of all things.

    There is an LJ community for Austen that has fan fiction on it as well. I read some of the stories there once, and they were mostly continuations, or “filling in” of scenes we’d not see described.

    But really, one of the things that drives fan fiction most is a need for romantic resolution, or perhaps just more of an in depth romantic description between characters, and most romances which people love are single books which already do this so readers wouldn’t be driven to write more. The only ones that might prompt fics IMO would be long series in which fans “waiting for Rothgar” so to speak. But I’ve not actually seen any.

    Re: driving readers away, most fans don’t mind if an author politely states that she doesn’t want fanworks created. They might be a little sad, but they love the author and so want to make her happy and will obey. But an author that insults her fans with diatribes inevitably drives fans away and her readership down. It’s always foolish, when you’re trying to sell something, to be rude to those most likely to purchase from you, especially when courtesy works just as well if not better.

  5. Bev (BB)
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 10:50:05

    Oh, my god. There are so many things I could say here, I don’t know where to start. Can you tell this is a topic near and dear to my heart? :D

    Okay, first a sort of disclaimer. I’ve written Lois & Clark fan fiction under my B.B. Medos pen name. The funny thing is, the only times I’ve ever been tempted to write fan fiction is related to television series. Movies and books don’t create that same urge for me at all so I’m not sure if some of your assumptions hold true for everyone, Jane.

    And as to the “definition” of fan fiction, I have another one to offer:

    “Fan fiction is a way of the culture repairing the damage done in a system where contemporary myths are owned by corporations instead of owned by the folk.” Henry Jenkins, Director of media studies at MIT

    What’s interesting is that most of those “professional writers”, and I use that term loosely, work for the corporations that Mr. Jenkins is talking about to crank out books that conform to whatever the marketing department wants, which isn’t always in line with what the fans see or want in the product being offered in the first place. Case in point, Lois & Clark had an “approved” book written by a rather well-known science fiction or fantasy author that bore absolutely no resemblence to the TV series and barely any to Superman in general. So, as to the claims that fan fiction is copyright infringement, at least we’re not charging $25 bucks a pop for something that’s basically fraudulent advertising . . .

    See, here’s the thing, fan fiction is about ownership, but not ownership in the legal sense. It’s about the what ifs of the characters and the plots. The settings and the worlds. It’s about the unanswered questions. The questions that really need answers for the experience to feel complete. For “ownership” to feel complete for the reader or viewer.

    In most cases, I don’t have those questions when I finish reading a book or even when I end a movie. But a TV series or a comic book series is a completely different matter. Why? Because they’re constrained to an episodic and limited format. We’re fed them in small doses where we can think about the possibilities over time before hit with the next installment. So the questions build upon themselves and many times those questions can’t be answered due to the rating levels of the delivery system. Lois & Clark in particular being part of the Superman franchise couldn’t get much past a PG rating and rarely past G.

    Feel that urge to write about books? No way. At least not about todays romances. Too many of THOSE questions get answered already for that to happen. Now, if you want to talk about updating some of the old classic romances with fan fiction, it’s a completely different ballgame. :D

  6. Bev (BB)
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 11:40:18

    Oh, yeah, I also meant to mention that of couse Lord of the Ring is a Romance in the most classic sense of the term, i.e.

    “a medieval tale based on legend, chivalric love and adventure, or the supernatural; a prose narrative treating imaginary characters involved in events remote in time or place and usually heroic, adventurous, or mysterious; a love story”

    And the love story is definitely between Frodo and Sam but there doesn’t have to be any homo-erotic leanings to it. After love isn’t just eros, it’s also agape. It can simply be about friendship, you know. And that was one heck of a friendship. ;)

    And about that kiss/hug between Aragon and what’s her name at the end . . . it bugs my son to no end that it’s really the only thing I want to rewatch over and over from the entire 12 hour trilogy.

  7. Teddy Pig
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 12:05:26

    I just do not see the problems here. As long as no one is making money off these peoples characters or makes any claim to own the stories then what is the issue????

    From what I have read, the big problems that have been brought up again and again happened to Marion Zimmer Bradley when she was publishing those fan fiction book about Darkover. The main problem being she had to dump a book she was in the process of writing when she could not get premission to use one of the ideas from one of those stories she had published. I think hiring a good contract lawyer would have been a better idea.

    Since it was her world and all but anyway, who knows, I just think too many authors against this type of fan whorship slice their own throats marketing wise.

  8. Christine Rimmer
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 12:12:47

    I probably shouldn’t touch this with a cattle prod, but…

    I totally understand the urge to write fan fiction. I get why people read it. I do think that fan fiction is one of the sincerest forms of admiration for a work. I know there is some amazing fan fic out there.

    For most authors, though, it’s purely a copyright issue here. We don’t want anyone messing with our ownership of that which we created.

    Fan fiction does have a “diluting” effect on our ownership no matter how we might wish that it didn’t. And it can take characters places authors, as the creators of said characters, just didn’t want them to go.

  9. Jane
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 12:22:57

    There are alot of arguments against but all of them seem hypocritical. I mean, if you are going to argue against fan fiction because its derivative, lacking in originality, having no voice, then the authors must hate all those published works that are derivative. Yet, I see no online rants by Hobb or others against those types of books.

    Fan fiction does have a “diluting” effect on our ownership no matter how we might wish that it didn’t. And it can take characters places authors, as the creators of said characters, just didn’t want them to go.

    But wouldn’t that be true if you sold the rights of your books to Hollywood or to a role palying game as Hobb did. How much control do you have then? And I am not sure what is meant by dilution. Is there a measurable downturn of sales of an author’s book when fan ficiton exists? Are readers confused between the fan fiction stories and the author’s original work? That doesn’t seem to give readers much credit.

    The argument of a violation of copyright, by itself, seems hollow. As a corollary, if an author cites copyright violation as the only excuse, then those same authros must be against someone breaking a law. I.e., you have the same feelings about speeders because th law says that its 65 and those other drivers are going 70.

    I think it comes down to money. Authors against fan fiction don’t earn any money off of someone who earns a reputation based upon fan fiction or a contract on the basis of writing works based on the original author’s work. I think the Author may feel used and find it unfair, which are entirely valid. But again, is that good business sense? Are Authors going to allow their feelings get in the way of building a devoted fan based?

    As for MZB. I just don’t know how much of that story I believe. There are no court documents. I haven’t seen any comparison between the fan fic writer’s work and MZB’s work. I intentionally didn’t touch the MZB story because there just isn’t enough information out there for me to form an opinion about what happened.

  10. Angie
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 12:30:57

    I’m with you, Christine, on probably not touching this with a cattle prod, but something you said struck a chord with me.

    And it can take characters places authors, as the creators of said characters, just didn’t want them to go.

    These are the times when I can completely understand the objections to fan-fic. Like fan-fic that takes Harry Potter characters and puts them in homosexual or pedophile type relationships? Or any two characters that were written as heterosexual and puts them in those situations? I think that’s not really an homage to the writer but a twisting of the characters that the creator never intended (Spike/Angel man-love, for instance) that I can see the objection to and I think, if I were the author, I’d probably object as well. Because you’re taking those “what if” scenarios that Bev refers to and making it a situation that would never,ever occur if the fan-fic writers stayed true to the characters.

  11. Shelly
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 12:41:55

    See, here’s the thing, fan fiction is about ownership, but not ownership in the legal sense.

    I think that’s probably a good description for some fan fiction, especially for television series where corporations do drive what happens. But many fans writing in a fandom where there is clearly an author and owner don’t necessarily see it that way. It’s more homage than anything. Sure, we write fics that describe what happened behind the scenes in chapter four. But many of the fics are just done because we want to revisit the characters, or just take them out and play with them. To us, fanfiction is first and foremost about love.

    We don’t want anyone messing with our ownership of that which we created.

    But that’s fine Christine. Any author who doesn’t want it has every right to say so (hopefully nicely :)). And if her fans love her, they’ll listen. But in the fandom I write in, which is a manga fandom, the author welcomes fan fiction and artwork. She herself used to do the same for other manga series so she gets where we’re coming from. And I think her thriving communities online only encourage people to stick with her series, which can go months between new chapters.

    But it’s your right to feel the other way, and it’s perfectly understandable as well, and your wishes should be respected. The fan fiction hosting sites that I know of will not allow fan fiction to be posted for those authors who’ve made this known. We do listen. We’re your fans. :)

  12. Christine Rimmer
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 12:44:06

    >But wouldn’t that be true if you sold the rights of your books to Hollywood or to a role palying game as Hobb did. How much control do you have then?

    Actually, I think control is exactly the right word. If I license the use of my characters or world, well, it was my decision to so. I made whatever deal I made–and now I get to deal with the results. When someone writes fan fiction, they make no deal at all with the creator of the work. The original author has no control.

    And I don’t think–and didn’t mean to imply–that there was a violation of copyright in fan fiction. I’m pretty sure you have to claim a work to be yours and/or make money at it for there to be copyright violation.

    And as I said in my last post, this is really dumb for me to argue. Fan fiction is not going away. I realize that, as do most authors.

    And most authors have very little control of anything anyway–except in the actual process of creating the work.

    Shutting up now.

  13. Christine Rimmer
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 12:53:08

    Well, okay. Shutting up in a *minute.* ;)

    Hmm. See, I knew I shouldn’t get into this. Argh. When you bring up Manga, well, then I’m reminded that there are forms where there is an implied agreement between the original author and fan/authors.

    And the truth is, I’m a total control freak. I try to be nice. But I’m not.

  14. Bev (BB)
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 12:55:22

    [quote comment="14413"]Fan fiction does have a “diluting” effect on our ownership no matter how we might wish that it didn’t. And it can take characters places authors, as the creators of said characters, just didn’t want them to go.[/quote]

    In whose mind, though?

    I’m quite serious when I say that I’ve never been tempted to indulge myself in a fan fiction related to a romance I’ve read. Would author’s concerns about their characters being taken in directions they don’t wish them to go stop me if I felt that urge, however?

    Hell, no!

    And you know why?

    Because once the story is out there it’s left their imagination and is fair game for mine. As long as I don’t turn around and try to sell my efforts, and trust me I won’t, what games I play with it inside my own head are my business.

    So, the question isn’t what directions fans choose to take the charcters but whether they then choose to SHARE those efforts with other fans, isn’t it?

    Freely. Without charge.

    That’s what really gets authors knickers in a twist and Jane is right – if they were smart they’d turn it to their advantage instead of griping about it. Why do you think the Star Trek franchise IS still around 40 years after cancellation?

    F A N S.

    Of course, you do realize that we’re delving into territory here that you people always say you like to avoid, i.e. rabid fan-, er, people-stuff . . . just thought I’d mention it. :evil grin

    (‘Cause when you’re talking about Star Trek fans you’re talking about the Holy Grail of rabid, you know.)

  15. Alison Kent
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 13:00:54

    [quote comment="14451"]That’s what really gets authors knickers in a twist and Jane is right – if they were smart they’d turn it to their advantage instead of griping about it. [/quote]

    I know of one historical romance author who has said if her fans ever wanted to write fan fic about her characters and story worlds that she’d create a place on her website for them to do so. I know of others who have found fan fic online and reported it to their publishers to have removed. Not all authors can be painted with the same brush when it comes to fan fic!

  16. Jane
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 13:10:28

    Here’s the problem. If it is all about control, then an Author who stands against fan fiction could not sell the rights of the book to a production company or any other source that is able to change the canon because that would mean a relinquishment of control.

    To me, it’s more about money. I read authors, not necessarily Ms. Rimmer, as saying that I want to control my product until I am given the right amount of money to relinquish my control. So then, it’s not about control it’s about the money.

    if it’s about the money, how much is lost by coming down against fan fiction and how much is gained by saying “write it, but I can’t read it.”

  17. Shelly
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 13:19:09

    I think it comes down to money.

    It’s probably all about money when it comes to corporations and television/movies.

    But to be honest Jane, I think it’s probably not when it comes down to an author and her work. (I write fanfic and ‘amateur’ original fiction btw, and not professionally.) Original characters come to life in your mind. You create them, you know them, and you present them to the world exactly as you want them seen. Many authors don’t want that changed. They want their vision to remain static.

    But that’s really an impossibility if they want their works read, because the reader always brings her own POV into it. Then the characters take on lives of their own, different ones for every person reading them.

    I’ve read other people’s fiction using some of my OCs (original characters) and it took me aback. I thought, “They wouldn’t act like that.” But then I thought about it and realized that the words I’d used had created that picture in someone else’s mind. My words in communion with their thoughts had created a new being, and this was it. It was fun, and it was fascinating, and it made me think about how to perhaps write differently in the future. ;D

    That’s going to happen with every reader. The question is for me is, should they be allowed to share their side of this creative process? I think if the original author says no, then they should not. She is, after all, the main partner in this pair. But if she doesn’t care, then they should go for it. I think it’s a wonderful thing.

    But I don’t think it’s about money to the authors, just creative control, not changing what’s in *their* heads. They are, however, kidding themselves about not diluting their vision. Dilution occurs upon every reading. The only difference is that without fan fiction they generally aren’t aware of it.

  18. Robin
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 13:42:22

    And I don’t think-and didn’t mean to imply-that there was a violation of copyright in fan fiction. I’m pretty sure you have to claim a work to be yours and/or make money at it for there to be copyright violation.

    I’m glad you made that clarification, because it really frustrates me when authors threaten all sorts of legal penalties for fan fiction writers, when the legal ground is so shaky. As a somewhat related aside, I think some authors (and anyone, for that matter) may feel more threatened by fan fiction precisely *because* they don’t have clear legal rights vis a vis this kind of writing, and thus feel more vulnerable.

    I really do understand the ambivalence many authors have toward fan fiction, especially because authors themselves have to sign over certain rights to publishers themselves, while fan fiction writers don’t. So in a strange way, while original authors *ostensibly* have the control over the characters and the fictional world they created, they also have certain limitations (contractually created) that fan fiction writers don’t have. Some authors don’t even own the copyright and/or trademark (or at least the whole of it) to their own characters, whch complicates things even more. And like Angie said, when an author sees his or her work translated into something that seems to go against any possible intention on the part of the original author, I can imagine that it may feel like a violation to said original author.

    But I think there are two areas of slippage that make the situation more complicated for both authors and readers.

    First is the issue of how one defines derivative. Sure fan ficton *overtly* takes recognizable characters and re-creates a modified fictional world around them. So in every sense of the word, fan fiction *is derived* from its original source. But what about Romance, for example, that *overtly* or *covertly* plays on other sources — sleeping beauty, beauty and the beast, Romeo and Juliet, etc.? I’m not saying that these situations are perfectly analogous or that Judith Ivory, for example, should be stoned for writing her own versions of certain fairy tales (also, who’s the author who’s famous for those updated fairy tales?). What I’m trying to open up is the idea that perhaps the distinction “professional” authors point to between derivative and original work is somewhat artificial and less absolute than they might hope it to be.

    Personally, I think you could make an argument that virtually all of Romance, sci-fi, and fantasy is fan fiction — that the genres themselves are built on a certain fan loyalty to certain myths, archetypes, seminal works, and generic traits, and that writing in these genres is its own sort of fan-created fiction. I’m not in any way saying that individual genre novels aren’t *original* or creative or fabulous works; I’m only suggesting that when you talk about originality versus derivation as the line of demarcation between unpublished fan fiction and published genre fiction I think you have to confront and deal with some of these points of overlap.

    Similarly, when an argument is forwarded based on copyright or “ownership” interests, I think another problem emerges, a problem related to comments articulated by Naomi Novik. What author, for example, doesn’t want his or her readers to so wholly absorb and become involved in the world he or she has created that they will remain loyal consumers of the work (in all of its licensed forms) for life? Romance readers, for example, talk all the time about how they are literally carried away by the world of the book, and the hallmark of a celebrated Romance is often how affected the reader is by the writing, the characters, and the world of the book. So clearly, there is a strong desire to have the reader attach in that way.

    But when it comes to having a reader take that feeling of attachment and exercise it in a creative way that is *similar* to that of the original author — that is, writes a piece of fiction derived from the original source, all of a sudden the author feels violated and wants to assert an ownership interest to protect his or her characters, etc. from fan fiction.

    Although I neither read nor write fan fiction, in my mind (considering, even the more mundane copyright and trademark issues), the line there feels unsteady. I’m not in any way sanctioning fan fiction authors who try to profit from their fan fic or who in other ways clearly trespass against the legal protections afforded to the original source. But for what I’ll refer to as “garden variety” fan fiction, I think it’s a tough call to locate that one moment where fan loyalty becomes wrong, somehow, at the moment a fan expresses their fan appreciation in fiction writing, especially when the fan fiction is clearly not attempting to compete with the original source.

    As for the dilution argument, personally, I think that in most prominent cases, i.e. Harry Potter, Star Trek, LOTR, that fan fiction actually makes the original source more potent by generating even more interest in and comparison to the original work. My own opinion is that dilution is more likely when the original author licenses his or her work (vis a vis trademark or copyright) to the point where there is simply too much public exposure (think Rachel Ray here, for example).

  19. Jane
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 13:43:12

    But to be honest Jane, I think it’s probably not when it comes down to an author and her work. (I write fanfic and ‘amateur’ original fiction btw, and not professionally.) Original characters come to life in your mind. You create them, you know them, and you present them to the world exactly as you want them seen. Many authors don’t want that changed. They want their vision to remain static.

    I think I would buy that if authors wouldn’t be willing to sell their product to someone else. Robin Hobb, for example, who talks about fan fiction as creative identity theft and other inflammatory words, allowed Dungeons and Dragons magazine to write an article detailing role playing information for her books. For at least, Ms. Hobb, it appears that control extends to those who want to pay to play. Which is perfectly fine. I just think that its a bit disingenuous to say that its all about copyright or about control. It’s about those issues unless enough dough comes into play.

  20. Jane
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 13:57:21

    Robin – you make a good point that the copyright laws are very murky on the subject of fan fiction being infringing. Particularly in light of the unsuccessful cases against JK Rowling and Dan Brown. Ironically, those two cases do more for the authors of fan fiction and other derivative works that the authors of established works.

    I saw one commenter state that the problem with the copyright law is that it is interpreted by the courts much looser than the reading of the statute would indicate. Authors, just reading the copyright code provisions, have a mistaken view of how its actually applied.

    It’s probably true that some fan fiction is infringing. But what is ironic, is that the fan fiction that deviates the most from the canon of the original author is probably the least infringing.

  21. Teddy Pig
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 13:57:21

    I just read a fake interview with Rachel Ray where she and the interviewer were dive bar hopping around NYC while snorting coke and and jacking up some local gang bangers. The best part is when Rachel admits to a longterm, raunchy, drug induced, affair with Anthony Bourdain and breaking up over some underage boy they were sharing in Thailand.

  22. Bam
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 13:58:12

    I asked him if he didn’t now see the homoerotic undertones between Frodo and Sam.

    For the longest time, Tim didn’t see the tension between Clark and Lex on Smallville, either. He has since seen the light and is starting to see it between Clark and Green Arrow. :D

  23. Bev (BB)
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 14:19:41

    [quote comment="14485"]But what is ironic, is that the fan fiction that deviates the most from the canon of the original author is probably the least infringing.[/quote]

    Hmm, not sure what you’re saying here, Jane. Could you clarify? There’s a glimmer coming through but not quite enough. ;)

  24. Robin
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 14:30:13

    I saw one commenter state that the problem with the copyright law is that it is interpreted by the courts much looser than the reading of the statute would indicate. Authors, just reading the copyright code provisions, have a mistaken view of how its actually applied.

    The law is most definitely a paradigm with its own rules of interpretation, and once you become familiar with it, it’s very difficult to look at certain issues the same way again, IMO. What some people see as a “loose” interpretation by the courts others will see as fair, because most interested parties see a legal issue through their own particular circumstances. The thing is, though, that a decision that appears to protect authors in one situation may actually cut against them in another. But it’s sometimes hard to see that if you’re just looking at one set of facts or circumstances. Whether statutes are intepreted narrowly or broadly, judicial decisions will always create unexpected outcomes. For the most part, I think the courts (especially the SC), have seen their readings of copyright, trademark, and patent codes as the best way to protect individual ownership rights AND free market values. When authors want copyright statutes to be interpreted in a way they consider more “strict” (which isn’t the same thing as saying they protect original authors, necessarily), I don’t think they are necessarily cognizant of the way in which they benefit from “looser” judicial interpretations (being able to take advantage of fair use in their own work, for example).

  25. Jane
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 14:33:32

    Okay, let my try to articulate my thoughts here. My understanding is that the least likeable thing that fan ficcers do is to change the stories so much that the original world created by the author is distorted. If the world and characters are so distorted as to not be in keeping with the original voice then those are the least likely fan fictions to be infringing. The farther away from the original work in details, world building, characters, etc., the less likely that the fan fiction actually infringes.

    Let’s say I took Butch and Vishous, two characters from JR Ward’s book, and I kept them vampires but created a whole new world in which there were new “rules”, new characters, new everything, and I took the story in an entirely different direction. I.e., Butch is actually a cyborg, not a vampire, and he is not trained to love anything. Then Vishous awakens him to feeling by giving him his blood. Vishous really isn’t a vampire but a minor god who can change others like Butch into being like Vishous but only if Butch sucks the blood from a particular place in Vishous’ body etc. etc. Let’s say I sold that horrible story online from DearAuthor.com for $.50. Could JR Ward sue me just for using the names, Butch and Vishous, when I am creating my own world? I think its less likely for her to be successful than if I wrote some fan fiction featuring Marissa, Butch and Vishous getting it on, using her own world, etc.

  26. Robin
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 14:34:18

    Oh, I forgot to comment on your second point. I wonder, sometimes, whether authors get more upset when fan fiction gets more and more sharp in its deviation from the original because it violates their original vision or because it opens up the real gray area in locating the difference between original and derivative work (i.e. at what point does the deviation create another original work).

  27. Shelly
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 14:44:23

    I think I would buy that if authors wouldn’t be willing to sell their product to someone else.

    You’ve got a point. Though, too, there are authors who couldn’t stand to see that either. Tolkien wouldn’t sell movie rights to his books, though he was tempted on occasion. But yes, those who do say they don’t want their works touched and then sell the rights away are a bit disingenuous.

  28. Nora Roberts
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 14:55:54

    My solution is simply not to read fan-fic. I’m probably missing out on some interesting work, but saving myself–I think–from being annoyed or frustration by other work (with my characters and worlds) that went off on some weird tangent.

    I don’t object to fan-fiction. I certainly spent a lot of my time as a kid–and before I started writing, rewriting books and movies in my head to suit myself or to continue a story I particularly enjoyed. I understand the pull of fan-fiction.

    My objections would begin if I came across any that were for profit, off my original characters.

  29. Bev (BB)
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 15:01:04

    [quote comment="14504"]Okay, let my try to articulate my thoughts here. My understanding is that the least likeable thing that fan ficcers do is to change the stories so much that the original world created by the author is distorted. If the world and characters are so distorted as to not be in keeping with the original voice then those are the least likely fan fictions to be infringing. The farther away from the original work in details, world building, characters, etc., the less likely that the fan fiction actually infringes.
    [/quote]

    Oh, you’re talking about one of the most debated things in fan fiction – what is in within canon and what is not and I can tell you really haven’t dipped your toe much into it.

    To put it bluntly, purists get decidedly testy when the “world” of the original is messed with so I’m not sure what that does to your illusions, Jane. What you’re actually describing above would be called an alternate reality to an established universeat best in fanfic-speak. I think. I get confused myself on what’s what. I have link somewhere around here to an excellent essay on just that topic, i.e. the distinctions between the “types” of fanfics levels relating to canon. What, you think people don’t already study this phenomenon?

    The point I’m getting at is that sure there are people who like to take the characters and worlds in any given construct and distort them, but that’s no where near the norm in fanfic. Why? Because for the most part people are driven to write it and create it out of love for the original. You don’t spend that much time on something you want to promptly tear apart. Find the nuances of. Yeah. Completely distort past recognition? What would be the point – except completely disrespect the original creator?

    So that argument bears a little bit of rethinking at the very least.

  30. Mm
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 15:08:22

    Darn it, someone had to mention LOTR and Sam and Frodo and all I can think about is the promo that TBS did a while back where they had edited clips of the movie and the background music was “Secret Lovers”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGA-FnH2XKw
    Ugh, that song is going to be in my head all day.

  31. Bev (BB)
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 15:09:05

    Sheesh, I think it ate a few words from my last post. What I meant to say in that last paragraph was:

    “The point I’m getting at is that sure there are people who like to take the characters and worlds in any given construct and distort them, but that’s no where near the norm in fanfic. Why? Because for the most part people are driven to write it and create it out of love for the original. You don’t spend that much time on something you love to promptly tear it apart. Find the nuances of it. Yeah. Completely distort it past recognition? No. What would be the point – except to completely disrespect the original creator? NO!

    So that argument bears a little bit of rethinking at the very least.”

  32. Shelly
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 15:36:28

    That’s true. In Alternate Universe stories you really need to keep the characters as In Character as possible or you lose all reason to be there. That said, I love a good AU fic.

    I see what you’re saying though, Jane. Yes, authors would get upset when their vision is distorted. If you take their hero and write him as a raping bastard (and this happens all the time in bad fics, where rape is a plot device), they’re going to be offended.

    But I wonder if they would appreciate the occasional fic that gets it right though and hits their character dead on, or if they’d still be pissed that someone had the audacity to write it.

  33. Jane
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 15:45:16

    [quote comment="14537"]But I wonder if they would appreciate the occasional fic that gets it right though and hits their character dead on, or if they’d still be pissed that someone had the audacity to write it.[/quote]

    I guess that is my question. If the world is not distorted but in keeping with the tone, voice, intent, blah blah blah, then is the work “diluted” or “enhanced.” That’s where I see the irony. The stuff that is most true to the author’s original work is the most likely infringement. The stuff that is more outre is least infringing.

    Therefore, if the argument is that fan fiction shouldn’t be allowed because of copyright or control, then you would think authors would be least offended by the work that is closer to an original work. Often, though, I find fan fiction opposers saying that its most offensive when the original world is distorted including new characters, taking the series in a direction the author does not want it to go, etc.

  34. illyria
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 15:52:39

    I think that’s not really an homage to the writer but a twisting of the characters that the creator never intended (Spike/Angel man-love, for instance)

    I think that pairing is canon now ;-) . Spike: “Angel and me have never been intimate. Except that one–” Though it depends, as usual, on how one interprets that line.

    It probably doesn’t help (although I think Joss calls fanfic “free advertising”) that Joss posts stuff like this (on Whedonesque): “3)In my world, heroes bugger each other senseless. Not all of them, but more than you’d think, and probably not who you’re thinking.”

    Although, he also points out, “1)When I called James “the best ingenue Angel ever had” I merely meant that there was enormous acting chemistry between them. After throwing different actresses up against David (sometimes literally) it was gratifying to find someone who brought out passion in David’s performance that I’d never seen. I mean, look at Caveman vs Astronauts, for god’s sake! David is off the charts hilarious. I learned early on to film those two in one-ers instead of regular coverage because their energy just kept increasing. Others have misinterpreted that quote before.

    2)What may or may not have happened is entirely up to the viewer, that’s what makes it art. Having said that, I know EXACTLY what happened and it’s funny that I’m never going to tell anyone. But did no one see the obvious smoldering passion between the Blue Hand guys? MAN, did you guys miss the boat.”

    I don’t rule out the possibility that Spike and Angel had ever been together, and I don’t think what Joss has said or posted that it never happened. Over a century together, and the fanged four never swapped partners? Even if there was some retcon involved with the sire continuity.

    also, who’s the author who’s famous for those updated fairy tales?

    Robin McKinley?

    I don’t write fan fiction, but I read a little of it, when I come across ones that are well written in the fandoms I’m involved in. Sometimes it involves slash, and other times it’s a way to look at certain characters or scenes or canon pairings a different way or to fill in some things that might not be in the actual story. But most of the ones I read are about TV shows and the occasional movie. Very rarely does it involve characters from books.

    And it can take characters places authors, as the creators of said characters, just didn’t want them to go.

    Wouldn’t they be going there anyway, even without fan fiction being so popular or easily accessible on the ‘net? I’ve re-written stories in my head before or wished that something else had happened.

  35. Bev (BB)
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 16:00:59

    To be honest, one question I have with regards to romances and fanfic is more along the lines of how many books does it take to create a Universe. In my own head, I mean. Generally speaking one book ain’t gonna do it for me so that leaves most romance authors free and clear.

    But what about all those long extended family series, you ask? Well, granted they’re in the same universe technically but they’re also not. Let me put it this way, if I’m not going to get drawn into long arguments over historical accuracy related to most of my top favorite books there’s no way I’m going to feel that drawn into their how their “universe” ticks as much as I love them as stories.

    Truly, there have only been a couple of romance authors through the years that have made me sit up and take notice of either their “worlds” or their “characters” in such a way that they stayed in my imagination long enough to even consider “playing” with them beyond the story in the book. And that’s what fan fiction requires. It requires a vividness of SOMETHING more than just the story getting stuck in the reader/viewers imagination to the point that they go past that point of simple passive enjoyment and begin actively playing with other possibilities using the tools the original creator presented to them.

    For me that requires the same characters in more than one story. That limits possibilities considerably in romance. Or at least it did until recently.

  36. Bev (BB)
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 16:20:54

    [quote comment="14545"]Therefore, if the argument is that fan fiction shouldn’t be allowed because of copyright or control, then you would think authors would be least offended by the work that is closer to an original work. Often, though, I find fan fiction opposers saying that its most offensive when the original world is distorted including new characters, taking the series in a direction the author does not want it to go, etc.[/quote]

    And even if it is offensive to the authors in the worst possible way, there’s always the underground. I say that not as an indorsement but as a statement of fact.

    Put it this way, every time I see “in a direction the author does not want it to go” the mental connection I make is to my experience in Lois & Clark fandom where we were cautioned about distributing stories that showed Superman in a bad light. Seems that DC Comics tends to turn a blind eye towards fan fiction in gereral unless the guy in the tights gets a really bad rap in it. Now that may be complete bunkus but it was the generally held rumor mill by those who had been within the Superman fandom the longest so most took heed of it. Therefore the Lois & Clark Fanfic archive is probably one of the cleanest and tighest controlled on the web. Yes there is are “adult” level stories but they’re password protected. All done primarily to keep in tune with Superman’s image. I doubt very much if any of it is slash, however.

    OTOH, I’m also relatively sure that slash fic related to L&C exists and could be found if one looked for it. It’s all about what’s acknowledged and what’s not acknowledged even with fan fiction itself. How much is acknowledged depends upon the individual fandom.

  37. Shelly
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 17:13:12

    I don’t know about Lois and Clark slash, but boy is there tons of Smallville slash. They were asking for it though, putting Clark and Lex so close together and giving them ‘moments’. ;)

    I just went to adultfanfiction.net and looked at the book section. Boy do people write it for a variety of stories, from A Separate Peace to Shakespeare to the Hitchhikers Guide to Anita Blake. But nary a genre romance in sight.

  38. Michele
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 17:33:30

    also, who’s the author who’s famous for those updated fairy tales?

    Could you mean Bill Willingham’s Fables, published by DC/VERTIGO? It’s an excellent series and a great twist on familiar fairy tales and characters. I’m now a total Prince Charming fangirl.

  39. Meljean
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 17:48:41

    Seems that DC Comics tends to turn a blind eye towards fan fiction in gereral unless the guy in the tights gets a really bad rap in it.

    I think this has probably changed (or maybe was always a rumor?) I’ve read quite a few stories where Supes is made into a pretty bad guy, and on mainstream fic sites like fanfiction.net. In most cases, it is taking an aspect of his personality (the boy-scout) and moving it into an extreme, like fascism.

    DC does this as well — sometimes in its AU (alternate universe) stories, or within a story arc (but of course Supes is back to his good ol’ self again by the end).

    Obviously I’m a huge fan of fanfic, though I haven’t been active in the communities for a while. I do think that if an author has requested fanfic not be distributed, it’s best not to put it online (nothing is going to stop people from creating it in their heads or on their home computers if a story touches them that deeply). I wouldn’t write or read Hobb fanfic, or Diagnosis Murder fanfic, etc. I also find that most responsible fanfic sites are aware of who allows fanfic or not — so you’ll see warnings not to post certain types of fanfic (Roberts/Robb is one of them, even though it seems that, here in the comments, she doesn’t mind? Must be the lawyers :-D ).

    I do find it interesting that at three of the fandoms Hobb references in her rant — the X-files, Buffy, and Star Trek — have creators that support fan activity. Hell, one character on the X-Files was even named after a fanfic writer who’d died of cancer — and, as mentioned above, Whedon didn’t take any offense at all, but even saw it as a form of support (and obviously love for his characters). So I do wonder why all of the outrage on behalf of creators who obviously don’t see fanfic the same way — and I also wonder why copyright and creativity are considered the same thing. Using the latter can infringe on the former, I’m sure — but that doesn’t mean the writing isn’t a creative act.

    For the record, the series my editor bought is essentially a crossover fanfic — Paradise Lost, The Vampyre, Dracula, every romance I’ve ever read, Frankenstein, a bunch of Poe’s stuff, a bit of Oscar Wilde, a wee bit of Ovid, Good Omens, far too much Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Borges, but maybe just in theme…crap, far too many to list. I guess calling it a crossover fanfic from “every book and movie I’ve ever read or seen” will suffice.

  40. Bev (BB)
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 17:49:28

    [quote comment="14613"]I don’t know about Lois and Clark slash, but boy is there tons of Smallville slash. They were asking for it though, putting Clark and Lex so close together and giving them ‘moments’. ;)[/quote]

    I haven’t read any but I would suspect there’s some Lex & Clark slash from L&C. Just thinking about it make me go eeww and not for the reasons one might think either. The Lex there was particularly Lois obsessed, so it just messes with my mind. ;p

    [quote]I just went to adultfanfiction.net and looked at the book section. Boy do people write it for a variety of stories, from A Separate Peace to Shakespeare to the Hitchhikers Guide to Anita Blake. But nary a genre romance in sight.[/quote]

    I think that’s one of the things about fanfic – a lot of it is relationship motivated and genre romance by definition fulfills those needs already. That’s what I mean about not feeling the fanfic urge from a single title romance. It just doesn’t happen for me. Why would it?

    But the longer the author, um, draws out the relationship over multiple books the more potential for, how to say this, missed possibilities can happen. Haven’t you ever watched a favorite tv series and wanted a certain couple to get together and The Powers That Be (TPTB) draws it out, messes with your little mind, yanks them around and back again so many times that you want to scream “Enough already!” Now, the authors/writers call those plot devices, TPTB calls them ratings/sales boosters but fans call them missed possibilities.

    THAT’S where fan fiction comes roaring in the door . . .

    With the romance genre, there are simply less open doors to begin with. Now why the fan fiction urge is so closely tied to those relationship questions is another philosophical debate entirely. A decidely intriguing one, though, because it shares a lot in common with why romance as a genre doesn’t get a lot of respect.

    The biggie?

    Why are so many fans acknowledging that their favorite TV series, movies and books leave them wanting more in terms of relationship development?

    Over and over and over again. Amazing ain’t it?

    And we wonder why authors might get testy about fan fiction being written about their books when the original works weren’t romance?

    Just saying.

  41. Janine
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 17:57:24

    also, who’s the author who’s famous for those updated fairy tales?

    Gregory Maguire?

  42. Keishon
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 18:44:32

    Interesting topic. I have no opinion only that I don’t read fanfic. I’ve never felt the need to rewrite endings or write stories that featured someone else’s characters. Who has the time, sheesh. It may seem like flattery, but it can turn into an annoyance as well. I agree with Nora, just don’t read it and as long as they are not making a profit from it, have at it.

  43. Shelly
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 18:57:18

    I think that’s one of the things about fanfic – a lot of it is relationship motivated and genre romance by definition fulfills those needs already.

    Yup. The series I mainly write fanfic for is yaoi manga, still ongoing, and the h/h are currently apart and not very romantic at the moment. But the fans are crying out for it. As am I. So I write it. :)

    But those romantic series I love that are finished or with a romance in full swing, I just feel no need to write.

  44. Jane
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 19:27:03

    I did wonder if there was any JD Robb fan fic. I.e., Eve and Somerset or Eve, Peabody and Roarke.

  45. Meljean
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 19:32:12

    [quote comment="14692"]I did wonder if there was any JD Robb fan fic. I.e., Eve and Somerset or Eve, Peabody and Roarke.[/quote]
    Oh god. Somerset and Eve? *rofl*

  46. Angie
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 19:36:01

    I did wonder if there was any JD Robb fan fic. I.e., Eve and Somerset or Eve, Peabody and Roarke.

    Oh god. Somerset and Eve? *rofl*

    Sweet baby Jesus. Some things should be sacred. Roarke and Eve are one of them. *barf barf barf*

  47. Shelly
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 19:57:05

    I just found a whole website devoted to JD Robb fics. They look like general stories in the same pattern as the real ones. No Somerset and Eve lol. I have no idea on the quality though.

  48. Meljean
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 19:59:28

    [quote comment="14700"]Sweet baby Jesus. Some things should be sacred. Roarke and Eve are one of them. *barf barf barf*[/quote]
    I think most would probably center around them solving a new murder, because the characterizations are SO strong and the readership so invested in the E/R relationship — but I would be surprised if there wasn’t something out there with a Mary Sue taking Roarke away from Eve … or loving Roarke and losing him before Eve came along — and the Mary Sue dies spectacularly, throwing herself in front of a criminal who would kill Roarke, which is why Roarke turned to legitimate pursuits in the first place, and little does Eve know that Mary Sue still holds that special place in his heart. (I can’t type this without imagining it and laughing my dorky head off, I have to admit.) Or a fanfic where Eve gets pregnant. Or one set within Peabody’s home town (I’m oddly fascinated by the Free Agers).

  49. Angie
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 20:07:20

    Meljean–I was thinking more of having Eve and Roarke with other people. It doesn’t feel right, but I’m one of those die hard Robb fans who buys the book the day it releases and thus, I believe in the sanctity of Eve and Roarke’s happily ever after, lolol. We’re talking sacrilege here! ;) I’ve been reading these books since they were first released and dammit, they’re Eve and Roarke. *sob*

  50. Bev (BB)
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 20:37:41

    [quote comment="14720"]Meljean–I was thinking more of having Eve and Roarke with other people. It doesn’t feel right, but I’m one of those die hard Robb fans who buys the book the day it releases and thus, I believe in the sanctity of Eve and Roarke’s happily ever after, lolol. We’re talking sacrilege here! ;) I’ve been reading these books since they were first released and dammit, they’re Eve and Roarke. *sob*[/quote]

    Voila, Jane, an example of that fanfic canon I was talking about in action. Sure, the fringe could violate it, but they’d be the fringe. Way, way out in the fringe. And they’d share it with other diehard fans at their own risk, too.

    See, that’s the part that I think some authors don’t get. The sharing of fanfic also creates its own checks and balances because the “real” fans will only tolerate so much deviance from canon before they lose interest or worse, become, um, what was the word? Oh, yes, rabid in their disapproval. And if there isn’t an audience . . . well, there’s the rub. What’s the point?

  51. Meljean
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 20:46:42

    [quote comment="14720"]Meljean–I was thinking more of having Eve and Roarke with other people. It doesn’t feel right, but I’m one of those die hard Robb fans who buys the book the day it releases and thus, I believe in the sanctity of Eve and Roarke’s happily ever after, lolol. We’re talking sacrilege here! ;) I’ve been reading these books since they were first released and dammit, they’re Eve and Roarke. *sob*[/quote]
    Oh, I totally agree — I just meant (and obviously didn’t say very well) that I didn’t think very many non-E/R fics would show up, because so many fans (I’m included) are invested in them as a couple, and the idea of either with another character isn’t at all appealing. I imagine most would keep that central relationship intact … and if they didn’t reflect the series as it’s written, go the way of the Mary Sue and the pregnancies or whatnot that are badfic staples.

  52. Sybil
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 20:48:20

    [quote comment="14426"] I think that’s not really an homage to the writer but a twisting of the characters that the creator never intended (Spike/Angel man-love, for instance) that I can see the objection to and I think, if I were the author, I’d probably object as well.[/quote]

    I think it is like reviews… fanfic is not for writers or for the author. It is for the readers. It is for the fans. And fans are good things.

    I have read a fic or two in my time but never about books. Because to me, the author tells the full story. And if she/he fucks the story up all to hell. It is just dead. Ten to one I don’t read the author again but that is that.

    With tv or movies you have limits you don’t have in books – time and ratings being the biggest ones. So in my head fanfic makes sense for them.

    Regardless of if I want it or if I read it. I don’t see that it hurts anything and totally see how it helps. As long as money is not exchanging hands fanfic isn’t doing any harm. They are fiction. They aren’t real so you can’t ‘damage’ them. And if a person is worried their view of a character or story will be ruined if they read another persons take on it, then they shouldn’t read fanfic.

    I sort of look at it like… if you don’t like a tv show, don’t watch it – don’t demand it not exist. If you don’t like a song, don’t listen – don’t demand it not be recorded. If you don’t like a book, don’t read it – don’t demand to burn it. People shouldn’t need to be protected from things they should be able to make a choice.

  53. Shelly
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 20:50:59

    See, that’s the part that I think some authors don’t get. The sharing of fanfic also creates its own checks and balances because the “real" fans will only tolerate so much deviance from canon before they lose interest or worse, become, um, what was the word? Oh, yes, rabid in their disapproval.

    I don’t see this in action much to be honest. And to be even more honest, I’m glad I don’t. One man’s canon is another man’s OOC. I see it time and again on some blogs. There are some rabid fans who scream OOC!!! when what they really mean is that the writer doesn’t agree with them on characterization.

    Eve and Somerset, no, that’s not canon. Everyone can pretty much agree on that. But most cases are much more grey. And the fanfic world would, IMO, be a poorer place without them.

    Luckily, in the fandom I write in, there are no people like this. We encourage everyone’s attempts at fiction, because really, they’re just expressing the same love as everyone else.

  54. Michelle
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 20:53:23

    I have no interest in fanfic. (compared to spoofs which can be funny). To me it is a matter of respect. If an author objects to fanfic there wishes should be honored. I can’t imagine how horrible it would be to read about characters you created engaged in distasteful/criminal acts -say pedophilia.

  55. Nora Roberts
    Dec 19, 2006 @ 09:36:35

    As I said, I don’t read fan fic. I have a firm line on that because I know it would make me crazy. What have they DONE with Eve and Roarke??? I did ask the owner of ADWOFF to keep it off that site, if possible. The reason being authors of fan-fic invariably wanted me to read it and comment. I didn’t wanna. To avoid this on a site I visit every day, and which began as a fan site, I asked that we keep the fan-fic away.

    Other sites? Have at it, as long as no one attempts to publish for profit without express permission.

  56. Christine Rimmer
    Dec 19, 2006 @ 11:14:05

    This has been a great discussion. Lots of thoughtful, informative posts. Thanks, Jane, forgetting it started.

  57. Christine Rimmer
    Dec 19, 2006 @ 11:14:49

    Er…that would be “for getting.” LOL Gotta watch that space bar.

  58. Emily
    Dec 19, 2006 @ 22:30:12

    I don’t really see how fan fic can be seen as changing canonical characters or stories, or ‘taking’ them anywhere. Readers know that what happens in fanon, stays in fanon–they know the difference between the original and the derivative works

    Except, of course, for that guy who emailed that I had ‘ruined’ Sherlock Holmes for him. I guess I just don’t know my own strength.

  59. Erin
    Mar 06, 2007 @ 02:14:04

    [quote comment="14314"]There IS Black Dagger Brotherhood fan fiction out there. Heh. (And yes, most of what I’ve seen is Butch/Vishous…)[/quote]
    WHERE?! LOL.

  60. Robert Mitchell
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 06:28:58

    I’ll try to intersperse my reply at the ***
    ******
    >Christine Rimmer replies:
    >December 18th, 2006 | Quote
    >I probably shouldn’t touch this with a cattle prod, but-
    ***
    No, you shouldn’t, cattle prods HURT! Grin
    ***

    >I totally understand the urge to write fan fiction. I get why people read it. I do think that fan fiction is one of the sincerest forms of admiration for a work. I know there is some amazing fan fic out there.
    ***
    Yes there is, along with all the bad fan fic you can find some really good writing by fans who have a love for a series or an author and want to read stories that haven’t been written yet. Sometimes it’s about a character that is only on stage for a scene or two but really strikes a chord with that fan, or it’s a series that has been discontinued for some reason. The reasons vary so much that I won’t even try to enumerate them.
    ***

    >For most authors, though, it’s purely a copyright issue here. We don’t want anyone messing with our ownership of that which we created.
    ***
    There are ways to handle this that don’t involve turning your fans against you. Eric Flint for example uses one method very effectively. He opened up the 1632 series to his fans and allows them to write under his supervision. While retaining control of what is cannon and what isn’t he can allow their imaginations to soar into areas he had not considered. The fans have responded by respecting his overall control and following the guidelines he set up.
    ***
    >Fan fiction does have a “diluting" effect on our ownership no matter how we might wish that it didn’t. And it can take characters places authors, as the creators of said characters, just didn’t want them to go.
    ***
    This is why some authors don’t want to read fan fic and request that their fans don’t write it. I can understand the not wanting to read it, that prevents their being accused of *copying* something written by a fan. So if an author requests that they not be exposed to it I believe that should be respected. However I don’t see any realistic way to prevent fans from writing it.

    Much fan fic is written, by people who never expect to see publication, simply because they have a story in their heads that is based on the story they’ve read and internalized. They think it’s good and want to share it, they don’t intend to violate copyright. Most of us who aren’t writers don’t realize what copyright is or when it’s been violated. Pesonally, as long as they’re not trying to sell it or claim that the author stole their idea I don’t have a problem with it, but I’m not an author of anything yet, other than some poetry and a few songs, so my opinion isn’t worth all that much to anyone but myself. Grin.

    Still when you get right down to it *everything* is derivitive. Writers copy a style that appeals to them or on a subject that is similar to one that a favorite author writes about. Is that fan fic? Only in the broadest sense perhaps, but yes it is. Therefore I must conclude that some fan fic is a very good thing, it brings us new writers and *that* is always a good thing.

  61. Del
    Jun 20, 2007 @ 17:47:35

    I am an avid reader and have been known *cough cough* to write some fan fiction. Look at the star wars books that were written by other authors. Wouldnt those in a way, becuase they are useing someone else interectual property be fan fiction? Fan Fiction is a way, in my own humble oppion, to let an author know how much you enjoy their stories, and charcters. It is also a way for the fans to let the creater know where they think mistakes might have been made with charcters they have fallen in love with and dont want to see bad things happen to. Some fanfiction comes from shows/movies/books that have stoped being made. For example Star Trek Voager, or the show Firefly. Those show are sorely missed by some, and with Firefly ended much to soon. The fiction is a away to keep those characters alive and still much a part of the life and world.

    As I said this is just my humble oppion an feelings. But I can think there is a place for fans to write about the charcters that they love even if they may not own them. Its away to practice your writing skills and may give need cofidence to write, publish their own works. If I had fan fiction out there about charcters that I had created I would take it as a compliment. That the fans liked what I had writen so much that they wanted to write about the same charcters that I have created.

    As for any spelling or grammer mistakes that may be in this post please for give me. I have dyslexia and its not a handy thing for a writer to have.

  62. Robert Mitchell
    Jun 20, 2007 @ 21:55:45

    Some really good insights here on this subject.

    If the fan knows what the Authors feeling are on fan-fic they should respect them, to the best of their knowledge. That being said, not all of them have come right out and stated how they feel about the subject.

    Take Lois M. Bujold, she doesn’t try to prevent her fans from writing, but, she has stated that she does not want to see it. She’s stated why and her fans try to prevent any *newbies* from transgressing. They’ll even tell them where some fanfic sites are that they can share their efforts on without disturbing Lois.

    Eric Flint on the other hand has a series that he invites his fans to write for. He maintains Artistic, Editorial, and Canonical control but the fans who write and develop characters and situations based on the 1632 books can, and do, sometimes find themselves getting published, and PAID, for their efforts. What started out as a Stand Alone novel has become, IIRC, seven books, and an online magazine with eleven editions so far, the first two of which has also been published in paper editions.

    And it’s still going strong. Visit Baen’s Bar sometime and look into the 1632 Slush, 1632 Slush Comments, and Tech Manual. The amount of sheer research that goes on there is just incredible. Go to http://bar.baen.com/ (the New Bar) or http://bar.baen.com:8080/ (the Old Bar) Personnaly I prefer the Old Bar but that’s just a preference, and there are also other ways to connect as well, you find the one that works for you.

    The one thing that I believe Baen Authors have in common on this subject is that fans are to be cultivated and that some of them are going to write about your characters. All you can really do is let them know your preferences on introducing you to it.

    One of the subjects that Eric Flint keeps hitting on in editorials is that most authors have the same problem, and it’s not piracy. It’s invisibility. The more people you can reach, preferably in a good sense, the more books you’re going to sell. Name Recognition is a must for ANY artist, without it they have a much more limited audiance. So, to me, if fan-fic can help introduce more people to a particular artist, author, or medium then that’s a plus!

    I don’t write a lot of prose but I do write a fair amount of poetry and songs. I don’t consider them fan-fic but they certainly are derivitive. I tend to write in the style of the fiction, or music that gave me pleasure when I read it or listened to it. Remember Achy, Breaky Heart? Well, I wrote a song called My Achin’, Breakin’ Heart about two months before that was released. Other than the titles they’re not really very much alike, except for both being C&W, but I certainly knew that I wasn’t going to get that one published or recorded any time soon!

    Anyway, for me, the authors who rant against fan-fic are not doing themselves any favors. If they didn’t want their fans to identify with their characters then why in the world did they write about them? If they do want their fans to care about them then what is so surprising about the fans wanting to write the scenes they want to see that the authors haven’t provided for them? If they’re worried about a copywrite difficulty all they have to do is inform their fans, publicly, that they can not afford to read their efforts and then not do so, handle it in the manner that Eric Flint has, or somewhere inbetween. Enough said.

    Oh! By the way, Jane, Bookeen should be shipping our sample units this week! Yippee! Once they arrive we will be sending out information on our E-Book Reader, including pictures, price, and specifications. For those who want to see what we’re talking about go to http://naebllc.com/phpBB/ where we will be posting them as soon as possible.

  63. Shannon
    Aug 03, 2007 @ 13:07:20

    I am extremely late on this, but I thought I’d add my opinion.

    I think fanfics are awesome. Its a way for writers to practice the mechanics of writing, to try out different methods and play around with presenting ideas without having to worry about character and world building. And when they start doing parallel universe fanfics and original character fanfics, they are beginning to try their hand at worldbuilding and character development while still having a base to fall back on to prevent their story from being complete crap.

    Normally the crapiness of a fanfic wouldnt really matter, but if you are serious about writing and are playing around with fanfics, I know that the best way that I notice my errors is when people read my work and point them out to me, so I can try to fix them in later writing.

    Personally, I think fanfiction boosts interest in the original. I have a few friends who are avid readers of Wolverine/Rogue fanfiction from X-men and will read no other kind. I myself probably wouldnt have been quite as into Harry Potter if I wasnt rooting for Draco to ravish Harry every other page. And as for the Black Dagger Brotherhood…all I’m gonna say is that the possibilities are endless there, and that I’m still praying that there will be a Butch/Vishous kiss in V’s book.

    And if there isnt, as someone said before, theres plenty of people who have already jumped the gun and written the scene themselves.

    I think that if there is fanfics out there about your work, the author should be flattered to some degree. It means that he or she wrote a good story, with a great world and great characters that people couldnt stop thinking of, and that was presented so well that it was easy for people to step into the world themselves to play.

    And if an author doesnt want fanfics, honestly, there isnt that much they can do about it. JK Rowling I know has requested that all fanfics remain PG and somewhat true to the story, IIRC. Similarly, JR Ward does not allow fanfics on her message board for copyright reasons. But there is still a Harry Potter/Every male character in existence website (3 of them, actually), and it just means that I dont post my fanfic on the message board, I put it somewhere else.

  64. AJArend
    Jan 02, 2008 @ 16:26:25

    “I just found a whole website devoted to JD Robb fics. They look like general stories in the same pattern as the real ones. No Somerset and Eve lol. I have no idea on the quality though.”

    I know I’m coming into this discussion really late, but I can speak to the quality of the stories on the above site. Some are very, very good. Some are very, very bad. Some are in between. Many times I’ve had to stop reading a story because, as Nora said, “What have they done with Eve and Roarke!!!” But, some I’ve read and thought, “Wow, that person should be writing their own stories!”

    That’s the nature of fan fic, I think.

    There are no “Eve and Summerset” stories. There are most definitely no “slash” stories (gay stories involving Roarke or any other male character) nor will there ever be any other stories that deviate too far from the world that Nora created. I don’t allow it, simply because I have too much respect for Nora and the books she’s created. Even though this might sound weird to some of you because I encourage fanfic on my site, which, I know to some seems like a disrespect of the author.

    But, I really do respect Nora deeply. I’m glad she’s (according to her posts here) cool with fan fic because it’s SO popular on my site, but honestly, If I was asked to take it down, I would. I wouldn’t like it, and I’d get a LOT of complaints, For me, it all comes down to the author’s wishes. I may not agree, but the author’s wishes should be respected.

  65. merlynne
    Jan 28, 2008 @ 00:43:31

    Speaking as someone who reads (and not writes) fiction of all types and genres, I can say that reading fanfic based on books, movies and tv shows does not stop me from buying and watching the new books, movies or tv shows from that original creator. In fact I would have to say that fanfic creates *more* demand for the original works. Let’s face it, a certain nameless popular SF show that ran for 10 seasons and spawned a successful spin-off series in its own right is simply not that fascinating in itself – it reuses plots, stole plots from other shows (don’t think we didn’t notice!), has limited character development, has its characters do *stupid* stuff (these are meant to be intellingent and/or trained/experienced characters!) or pulls out the most rank plot devices to keep the episode/character alive for the next. Why do I continue to watch the show? Honestly: eye candy. The actors look pretty. I started watching this show only *after* reading heaps of fanfic, nearly two years after its initial release. I now own all the DVD sets, legitimately purchased no less (my daughter, less discriminating, watches them repeatedly. I’d rather spend my time reading something more satisfying and challenging). I read fanfic because what I want to see on TV isn’t there. I read fanfic because what I read in books isn’t there. Why oh why was Butch/Vishous not explored in more detail over a couple of books?! Even better, why couldn’t they be given a happy ending or is that still too outreach for mainstream fiction? And don’t deluge me regarding Suzanne Brockmann’s Jules/Robin published novella – read it, loved it, which makes reading other works (such as the one with B/V) that builds an expectation and then *not* deliver so much more the worse. So yes, still reading fanfic and thank goodness for it.

  66. andreas04: close to attraction
    Mar 21, 2008 @ 16:16:44

    [...] and The Ja(y)nes had a great discussion going on fan fiction as it relates to books that I naturally had to donate my two cents to. Well, it was probably more [...]

  67. Vampirelle
    Jun 12, 2008 @ 19:39:53

    OMG! I’m still praying for hot Butch/V fics… Please, PLEASE if you know where I can find some fics about them write the link here ToT

  68. MMO
    Jul 14, 2008 @ 22:43:11

    I was searching the web to see if there would be issues because someone in our fanfic world wants to use a writing challenge prompt using another author’s line and I was trying to determine whether or not we could get sued for that?!

    And LMAO, if Jane didn’t ask about an Evanovich fanfic!! Guess where I’m from??? The answer is, sadly, Jane, while Donnab completed two of her stories, the third, ‘Secret Seven’ remains unfinished :(

    I think that’s a hoot that you inquired!!

  69. St. Fang of Boredom
    Sep 28, 2009 @ 15:12:51

    I loved this article. You made a very true point. Aren’t authors hurting themselves by going after their most die-hard fans, the Fanfiction authors?

    As both a Fanfiction author and someone who’d like to write her own book one day, I don’t see anything wrong with Fanfiction. I respect the wishes of the authors who do not want their stories ‘Fanfictionized’, but I’ve never seen a book that was in any way hurt by Fanfiction. I know a lot of people complain about what some authors do to characters, such as making them gay or killing them off, but my simple answer is, if you don’t like it, don’t read it! Or, even better, write your own the way you want it!

    Fanfiction is, in a way, a much older art than just as long as Fanfiction.net has been around. Really, how many people have sat there and wondered how a book they’re reading would have gone if a character had taken a different path or something to that effect, then gone so far as to come up with the scenario in their head as to what would’ve happen. And a Fanfic is born!

    As I said before, I’d like to become an author of my own book one day, and when I do, I expect people to write Fanfics based on my story. I’ll encourage it. And if they take my characters and totally twist them into something else, great! I’ve just encouraged creativity!

    By the way, I, too, suspect a bit of Hobbit Hanky-Panky going on between Frodo and Sam. I mean, Sam just loved his ‘Mr. Frodo’ a bit more than the average best bud….He was close to stalkerish, really…

    -Saint

  70. Jane
    Sep 28, 2009 @ 19:06:18

    @St. Fang of Boredom Sam was the precursor of Edward? Both stalkers?

  71. St. Fang of Boredom
    Oct 12, 2009 @ 09:40:57

    @Jane: I never thought about that before….But yeah, that makes sense….

    Since when are creepy stalkers a turn-on?

    -Saint

  72. Shadow
    Dec 17, 2009 @ 08:24:43

    @Carrie: so there is!? and with those two?!??? please, please, where? I want to know!

    PLEASE!

    ~shadow

  73. AmberC
    Jul 11, 2010 @ 11:42:46

    This was an amazing article. Kudos to the writer.
    I, am a fanfic writer, who hopes to elevate to the level that I could write an original works someday. It was something I did, even before I knew there was such a name for it.
    Yet, there is a freedom in fanfiction that’s incredibly addicting that I think it would be difficult for me to step away from. I enjoy it, and the fans of the original works enjoy the connection we have because of the same love we carry for a particular series, and a set of characters.
    And for that experience, I could never thank the original author of the series I write for enough. I once received a review from the sibling of a cancer patient, thanking me for posting quickly and that he/she printed out the chapters for their sister to read, while they were getting the rest of their hair shaved off. And that when they brought the printouts to their sister, she smiled all the while she got her hair shaved off.
    In a sense I was touched that someone would enjoy my twisted visions to that extent, and that my hobby did something so wonderful for someone else. And the original author has no idea, that someone in the world loves their characters to THAT extent. I think that it’s not just the characters people love, but also the dynamics between the characters that they crave.
    Always, the author’s wishes should definitely be honored, fan or not — because the original authors are artists in their own right.
    For the original authors, who may read this, I want to thank you for opening my imagination to the extent that it has been. Without you, my world would exist in shades of gray.

  74. Indira
    Feb 27, 2013 @ 05:45:39

    I want to know the reason you branded this article, “Wherein Jane Offends
    Authors Against Fan Fiction” http://smallgig.com .

    In any event . I personally loved the article!Thanks,Cory

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