Saturday, August 21, 2010

F is for Fanfiction

That's right. Fanfiction. Boon of some, bane of others. Is it ripping off published works, or adding to them? Does it aide to a career of writing or one of theft?

Many an author has said something to the effect of, "And I finally had to let it go," or, "And then it was out in the world and out of my hands." Once you've completed your last edit, there's really nothing you can do (barring, of course, the 100th Anniversary edition) and your work is now in the hands of readers. You've released it to the masses for them to read, interpret, and enjoy.

But some authors feel a line is crossed once their characters move from the pages of their story to the pages of someone else's. I mean, it's understandable that you wouldn't want your baby (a common metaphor used for stories) playing around with the wrong sorts of people; they're bound to feel protective. After all, you raised that character from page one. You spent hours upon hours crafting his personality, her look, its way of speaking. And now someone else thinks they can pull the strings? It's an outrage!

But, not 2 seconds earlier, didn't you say you'd released it? That your work (and the characters) was out of your hands?

...Well, yes... But that was before thousands of people started desecrating it!

With the internet boom, there are hundreds thousands a huge number of sites dedicated specifically to hosting fanfiction, not to mention others which host it on the side. Where before you wrote it maybe for your group of friends, or a fan-group that met once a month/year, now you can post it for millions to see. It's as good as being published!

Well, maybe not, since the majority of fanfic writers don't get paid for their work. And the fact that the majority of the pieces I've seen all offer disclaimers at the beginning, stating that the characters/universe is property of its respective author.

I'd even venture to say that the majority of fanfic writers only have the utmost respect for the author. They write because the characters have struck a chord within them and they merely want to show their appreciation and creativity.

And some authors get it. Tamora Pierce, author of a plethora of YA fantasy, states on her website that she is fully supportive of fanfiction:
     As long as no one tries to make a profit from fanfics based on my work, I don't mind in the least. What I do mind, and what my publishers will mind as well (and they're the ones with the attorneys), would be if someone tried to sell work using my characters, maps, etc. That's copyright infringement (the fancy term; the unfancy one is "theft"), and the result would be ugly.
     On fanfics in general, I think they're one way to develop your skills as a writer. Sometimes it's easier to keep a story going if you don't have to create the setting and some of the characters yourself. I'd hope that sooner or later people writing fan fiction would branch out into creating their own worlds and books (hey--I need something to read, too!), but at least they're having fun as they write fan fiction. Besides, when I was a kid, I wrote "Star Trek" and Lord of the Rings stories--we just didn't call them "fan fiction" back then.
     At the risk of using a cliche, some of my best friends are fan fiction writers. Well, when they're paying you to do it, it's called "tie-in" writing. My friend Josepha Sherman has written two "Star Trek" books, three "Highlander" books, "Buffy" and "Xena" books--and her own books as well. The tie-in books help to support her until her own books start earning royalties. I know others who write "Spiderman" books, "Buffy" books, "Star Wars" books, computer game tie-in books . . . We all have bills to pay, and that's how they pay theirs. And a lot of those tie-in books are pretty good!
And Diane Duane's message boards display a similar support:
     No fiction writing of any kind is to be posted on this board.
     DD pays for this board. She likes to come here and read posts. And if she read your fiction, there could be problems. Since she pays for this board, we should make it simple for her not to be tripping over problematic material by making sure it's not here.
     While DD, as a Star Trek author, is well aware of the allure and appeal of writing fan fic, and is thrilled and delighted that she and the YW books may have, in some way inspired you to go write your own stuff, if you put it here, you can open her up to legal implications that could jeopardize her career. We know that you wouldn't be the one suing her in court for stealing your ideas, but all it takes is one nutball (cf. all those folks who have gone after J.K. Rowling because they think they wrote Harry Potter). And if you post your stuff, it could encourage that nutball to do the same. There are other places, like nanowrimo, fanfic sites, or livejournal that are far better for this.
     But yes, write like a fiend! Wizards are good with words. That many of you would also be writers was just in the cards. Just don't post it here.
Wait, so the author can't even read the fanfiction? Back to Tammy for more detail:
As for reading fanfics, I must abstain, politely. There's the time factor, for one, as in, I don't have any. More importantly, though, sometimes in the heat of the battle with a book, we grab any idea that surfaces, without necessarily knowing where it came from. I've since gone back to find things I've fitted to my use in books and movies I read years ago. I can't take the chance that someone else's ideas might enter the stew where my creativity happens, to surface years later: that's how writers get sued for copyright infringement/theft. It's nothing against fanfics or their writers, and everything to do with me covering my behind.
So, I guess it makes a little more sense that some writers would be so against fanfiction, since they can't/shouldn't even read what's out there. It's one thing knowing that your kid's getting a tattoo, it's another if you have no idea where or what the tattoo is.

As for myself, I have written 5 fanfics. I know, GASP! My first was based on the Extreme Ghostbusters cartoon, and it was written in freshman year of high school. My second was a 'missing' scene in the Big Wolf on Campus tv show written later that year. Then came my first literature-based work, a 'final book' of sorts to end the Everworld series by K.A. Applegate. Unfortunately I never got past the first chapter. Same went for my Kim Possible fanfic...and my most recent attempt at an LXG fanfic.

Now I'm more in-tune to my own fiction and I don't see continuing these projects. Well, maybe the LXG one, if I get some more inspiration/time/motivation. Mostly I see these as exercises in plotting, characterization, and writing in general. Going back to what Tamora Pierce said, it's much easier to get things started when you already have a character talking in your ear about what they want to do. But now my own character's taken priority, and she's brought a megaphone.

As far as reading fanfiction goes...I'm not really into it anymore either. There were a few I used to follow religiously, I avoided some genres like the plague, and was completely uninterested in others.

Harry Potter fanfiction (which is HUGE) never appealed to me because I wasn't interested in any stories but the original. I also didn't like the way other writers portrayed the characters. Having mortal enemies snogging each other out of the blue is not my idea of a good story. Meanwhile, I'm very involved in a Harry Potter role-play community who take original characters (OCs) and manipulate them in Harry Potter's world, so to each her own.

Well, what do you think about fanfiction? Have you dabbled in any, or do you stick to more traditional sources of fiction?

Some F Books I've Read:

A Fantastic F Group:

The F Font: