Diana Gabaldon, one of my favorite authors, has created a Blog post which is currently receiving a tempest of comments on the subject of Fan Fiction.
I must admit I have never understood FanFic. I have known many people that write it and read it, and they all seem a little obsessive to me. I am likely to get flamed for this, but it is the truth. Each one of the folks I have known seemed to feel a real need to insert themselves into their favorite stories in some way. I don't feel this need. For me, when I read really good fiction it is an immersive experience - I wouldn't want to think of additional material for fear of breaking the bond I feel with the original.
I find interesting the types of exchanges that are occurring:
Diana: The thought of my characters used pornographically disgusts me.
FaFic Apologists: Well YOU have them get raped and abused and they have LOTS of sex.
Diana: I feel as if my hard work is being stolen, and my ideas violated.
FanFic Apologists: You called us thieves and pedophiles.
Diana: FanFic a gray area in Copyright law.
FanFic Apologists: We only do it because we love the source material, and we only sell it for charity.
Diana: People should write original stories, not plagiarize others.
FanFic Apologists: You are mean for not wanting us to plagiarize your characters - we will never read your books.
Although I find most of the arguments childish I must say that the FanFic community is adamant that they (mostly, or 99%, or 7/8ths) are reasonable people that will not write stories using characters of an author who objects.
If this is the case Writers of Fan Fiction, I challenge you: NEVER post a story you have written using another author's characters without FIRST getting permission. This way, you can write all you want at home, but when you want to make it public (ie: post it on the internet) you only do so after having received the original author's blessing. This would keep the process honest and remove the copyright infringement issues that Diana is most concerned about. It does not infringe on your right to explore the ideas you are inspired by, and it makes a clear legal pathway to punish those writers (some, 1% 1/8th) that do not have respect for the source author now.
If my book does get published, it is likely to attract fanfic (fantasy/magic/romance stories tend to) and I just don't know how I would react. Just now, my sympathies lie with Diana. There is something vaguely creepy about letting someone else put their hands all over my characters.
Edited to add: Comments have begun arriving, and the first two are personally insulting. I will post them all, because I was hoping for a dialogue, and I don't want to list only those folk that agree with me. It would be nice however, if comments were constructive. If I am being naive, tell me and educate me.
"I have an opinion. It happens to be the right one. That is, until you show me something I did not know that causes me to change my opinion. Then... I have an opinion. It happens to be the right one."
Edited to add: a shamefully dropped comma. Tempers seem to have cooled a bit, although both Diana and I are still getting the occasional "I'll never read your writing" comments, the name calling seems to have mostly stopped. There have been some really wonderful comments that have helped me to understand the world of fan fiction better. I think, if we can all calm down that we can find a gracious way to get along.