May 4th, 2010

Egyptian hieroglyphics

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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