A TL;DR Opinion on Fanfic

19 Mar

I can’t play this week’s Broke and Bookish game because the only books I have sitting unread are in my immediate to-read pile. Without too much information, basically life throws you curve balls when you least expect it, and it took me until last year to have extra spending money for books. I’m good now, but it’s not like I have That One Book sitting there, making me feel guilty. Even though I’m kind of addicted to bookstores in general, I read what I get and, I’m happy when people lend/give me books. I also like to reread books (but not right away) so I kind of just made do rereading what I had, and, in its own way, it was kind of a mixed blessing because it’s interesting to revisit something when you’re already familiar with it or at least have an idea whether or not you liked it.

Anyway, just to plug a bunch of us are going to be at CTR  doing an hour-long chat on Saturday, March 23 from 7-8pm EST – so if you have any questions you wanna slug at me or a few of the other Burst/Champagne writers, come on down! I’ll be on-call at that time, so I might be That Jerk who doesn’t show up, but hopefully it’ll be a quiet night on the radio.

So without further ado, here’s a topic that divides writers:

To Fanfic or not to Fanfic?

This is brought to you by the fact that I saw Oz: The Great and Powerful this weekend. I’m not saying it was the greatest movie or adaptation, but it was aesthetically beautiful and I loved the creativity that went into the backgrounds, costumes and especially the work that went into the China girl and Finnley. I’m not a huge Oz fan – I did however watch the Japanese anime when I was a youngun’, and I read Wicked and at least a few of the canon series when I was in elementary school – I like Oz in general, but I won’t say it’s my favorite series, ever.

Now, I know that it might come across as a little bit presumptuous for me to talk about fanfiction considering I’ve been a published author for less then two months now, but this is my blog and I’ll talk about what I like.

There’s a lot of complainin’ on the internet about fanfiction lately. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, basically it’s taking someone else’s idea (usually a book or a movie or whatever) and telling their own story taking someone else’s character, world, and admitting to it. Some authors like it, some abhor it, others are just scared that they’re going to be bombarded by Rule 34 or get sued. The way I see it, is that my happy-meal generation got toys that went with our half-hour commercial, and we acted out our own adventures. Or: people will think about what-if the character went down the other road then what the author said, so I had better get used to the idea. That’s not to say I have to like it, but I think it’s kind of like the option of free speech: I don’t have to agree with what you say, but I think you have the right to say it deal. Personally, I think that fanfic is mostly harmless, at the best it’s free advertising for the author, at its worst, we have fans who get egos about things who think their work is as equal to the authors and they know better, but hey, I’d rather have respectful discontentment and discussion then cheerful stepford BS any day. (Ever been part of a fandom and seen a shipping war? All I have to say is that it gets nasty).

Are there authors who dislike fanart? (Not individual works, as a whole)

The best argument I ever heard against fanfic is that ‘I don’t see why anyone would waste time putting so much work onto something they can’t publish.’  Recent best-sellers proving that the Replace-All function on MS Word is a useful tool, I think that fanfic is useful in starting you in the right direction. The danger, of course, becomes when you take for granted the world and character building of other authors and ride off audience expectation. Another argument I have against that is even though I thought my first novels were OMG Brilliant…! If they survived, really don’t think anyone would bother publishing those, either.

One piece of advice a lot of writers told me when I was in Uni was practice writing by stealing another writer’s style. Okay, they said mimic, but the point was I wasn’t only writing using my incredibly bland random voice because I really didn’t have one yet. I can’t speak for other writers, but I practiced learning how to write by copying other writer’s styles because I had no idea what I was doing. It was helpful – and there are writers who made names for themselves going back and addressing the works of the dead, I’ll pick on Jane Eyre because I can. It sounds like it’s inevitable that even if I, as a writer, put the kaibosh on it while I’m alive and people respect it, after I’m gone, someone might take it upon themselves to view my works through very different lenses.

Another  argument I’ve heard is money – and hey, I can’t blame the writers who are making a good living. (My honest policy on this is inspired by a quote from George Orwell – if I’m dependent on a paycheck, I can be censored. If I don’t need to write to eat, I’m no longer motivated to put out something I’m unhappy with). This is another topic to discuss (Virginia Wolfe, however, discussed it at some length) but bear with me: while I think it’s safe to say that we should be protecting artistic property, the minute I unleash anything it’s open for criticism. If I allow discussion, why not allow alternative ideas, or, an exploration of character?

I know the internet is a big scary place and a cesspool for the lowest common denominator, but we shouldn’t be scared of creators and fans in the same space.  Maybe your average fanfic is really a lemon fic about the ‘real’ couple hooking up or giving Sherlock Holmes a pet dinosaur but that isn’t to say we haven’t seen adaptation from media to media where we alter things because they just don’t transfer well (look at your average book to musical adaptation) but once you start opening the big scary box of adaptation, you open the doorway for interpretation. And at least in my opinion, novels are a lot more open to interpretation as compared to other forms of media. The author could turn around and say, “I don’t like this, but at least I’m being compensated for my idea.”

In short, I think fanfic is an interesting way for a community to grow and discuss things. I think the major dangers are when the fans think they know better then an author, or the fanfiction becomes canon with a small (or majority) of the regular fandom.  The other danger is when you have, in particular a young fandom, looking up stories that aren’t categorized properly. Please please please – adhere to whatever rating system is in place for whatever community you post in.

If fanfic helps a writer develop or inspires them to an original work – so much the better!  Be respectful of one another, and you’ll have no problems from me.  But please – if you decide to alter your story into an original novel, do more then just change a few names with that replace-all feature. The internet is a scary place, and someone, somewhere, will have a copy. And no, taking someone else’s work and changing a word here and there is not creative.  Unless you’re into parody, but, that’s another topic for a new day…

One Response to “A TL;DR Opinion on Fanfic”

  1. Heather Geoffries March 19, 2013 at 2:21 pm #

    I enjoyed the blog. I have rewritten ending I don’t like or dabbled in other authors worlds but only with my MUSE group for fun. I don’t mess with the fanfiction sites that take it too seriously but it is a fun way to stretch your creativity.
    An interesting topic. I shared on my Social networks. ^_^

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