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A problem I would love to have

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created Sherlock Holmes, one of the most memorable characters in English fiction. His fans loved his creation and wanted more and more Holmes stories. Conan Doyle tried killing off Holmes but ended up resurrecting him because that's what his readers wanted.

No one put a gun to Conan Doyle's head, but his publishers offered him a lot of money, and so he brought Holmes back to life— if a fictional existence can be called life. I thought of this because writer Diana Gabaldon has posted a complaint about fan fic on her blog. Conan Doyle didn't have to contend with the Internet. People who like a book, a movie, a series, etc. often congregate, either in person or online; and sometimes those fans indulge in writing their own versions of the characters' stories. In the pre-Internet years between the cancellation of the first STAR TREK series and the first movie, fan fic played a role in keeping the franchise alive in people's minds.

I have mixed feelings about fan fic. On the one hand, clearly a writer should own his or her own work. On the other hand, the writer's livelihood comes from the fans' pockets. Calling fan fic “immoral” — as Gabaldon does— seems, a tad ungracious. On yet a third had, arguing for ceding any control to readers because they love a work is more venturing into quicksand than walking on a slippery slope; you could be sucked under in no time.

So, what do you think about fan fic? Does it have any right to be?

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( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 4th, 2010 07:00 pm (UTC)
I liken fanfic to an RPG based in the world someone else created. If you keep it private, that's one thing, but when you start putting stuff on the net, you can expect repercussions from the author.

If an author says "no thanks" to fanfic, you should respect that author's wishes. However, if an author ropes a section/time period of the world off and establishes a few baseline rules (Anne McCaffrey did that with Pern fanfic a long time ago), then fanfic can flourish without fear of bonking heads with the author.
May. 4th, 2010 07:09 pm (UTC)
That sounds like a reasoned approach. I once heard someone ask Lois McMaster Bujold why she wouldn't license her Vorkosigan franchise if she didn't want to write any more Miles books; she said her work was the only thing in her life she didn't have to share. I could see that, but I could hear the groans from Miles-lovers all around me. Sometimes the writer/fan bond is a peculiar kind of love-hate relationship.
May. 4th, 2010 07:18 pm (UTC)
Fanfiction isn't a new idea.

A century ago if someone liked your story, they would write a sequel and send to their friends. It was simply something people did. Especially with Jane Austen novels.

The idea of the writer owning the text is a relatively new concept.

I think that fanfiction greatly benefits the author.

I don't think that Harry Potter or Twilight would have been anywhere near as popular without the thousands of early fanfiction writers that push those novels.

I think that as long as it is not sold and the owner of the rights is clearly identified in the credits then it can be a helpful relationship.

What was the difference between Space 1999 and Star Trek? Why did one show get a second chance? You could argue it was fanfiction.

I suspect that more and more the larger franchises will be encouraging such things and we will end up seeing them co-opt such stories.
May. 4th, 2010 07:42 pm (UTC)
>What was the difference between Space 1999 and Star Trek?

Definitely more active, vocal, articulate fans on the STAR TREK side— and the Starfleet women's uniforms didn't hurt, either. -)

May. 4th, 2010 08:08 pm (UTC)
I personally dislike fan fic as a reader, but I guess it has its place and some people enjoy it. As a writer, I'd be all for it if it helped get my work out to a larger audience!

I guess I'd love to have that problem as well!
May. 4th, 2010 08:11 pm (UTC)
Yeah! Sort of like having too many yachts, or too many Rolls Royces!
May. 4th, 2010 09:15 pm (UTC)
In these litigious times, I can see why a character's creator wouldn't want to read it, for fear of being accused of plagiarism, but in the case of an author who's dead - and therefore less likely to write anymore stories about that person ;) - I can't see a problem with it.

As a matter of fact, one of the best Holmes stories I ever read was fan fiction. I forget the title, but it dealt with the Whitechapel murders (aka Jack the Ripper).

May. 4th, 2010 11:21 pm (UTC)
Interesting. I don't think I've read that.
May. 5th, 2010 10:57 am (UTC)
I read it back in the 70s. One of these days I'll seek it out for another reading.
May. 4th, 2010 09:27 pm (UTC)
I don't read fanfic, myself, but I think it's ridiculous to call it immoral, or even get your panties in a twist over it. It's free advertising to boot. I don't think Ms. Gabaldon is losing any readers to fanfic. Nor are her books suffering.
May. 5th, 2010 01:42 am (UTC)
I have no problem with her saying illegal because technically it is, but immoral really struck me as over the top.
May. 4th, 2010 11:13 pm (UTC)
I don't read fan fic, but I don't have a problem with it. I think when we make movies or write stories that are sooooo obviously using Jane Austen, Shakespeare, etc as the foundation it is kinda like fan fiction. I think the fans need to acknowledge the source.
May. 5th, 2010 01:42 am (UTC)
I think they do acknowledge the source, but the source doesn't acknowledge them!
May. 4th, 2010 11:37 pm (UTC)
I have mixed feeling about fanfic.

I've written tons of fanfic based off of Roger Zelazny's Amber series (and cheated on him with a couple of other authors). I was published in Amberzine #12 and helped copy edit the last edition. BUT, I feel like it is my dirty little secret, that fanfiction writing is not REAL writing.

Eventually, I decided that if I wanted to continue as a writer, I would have to creat my own world and stop borrowing everyone elses. Only then would what I wrote have merrit.

I think fanfic has its place. Movies and books have sold more copies because of the fan following. To me, it is a great complement to the author when fans like their world so much they want to write in it.

My biggest complement, though, would be if folks thought my world would make a great RPG.
May. 5th, 2010 01:41 am (UTC)
I think it's "real writing" but only in the sense that copying a Van Gogh or a Renoir for practice is real painting. I don't think I ever envisioned any of my work as an RPG but that might be more because I haven't ever played one.
May. 5th, 2010 02:25 am (UTC)
LOL, it's the box I'm comfortable in. When I get stuck, I stop and thing, "Okay, what would we do next in a game." When I was world building, I had to break it all down into game terms to build it and make it functional.
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )

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