Monday, May 03, 2010

Lady Diana Starts a Sh*t Storm

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.


Northen Light36 said...

"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."

"There is something vaguely creepy about letting someone else put their hands all over my characters."

IF you get published, you have nothing to worry about. That attitude alone will keep fans away.

theLiterator said...

I have to say, as a prolific fic author, that given the quality of this blog post I would never be able to read anything you wrote deeply enough to want to interrogate the text through fanfiction, so you probably have nothing to worry about from me, at the very least.

Stereosleeper said...

I'm sorry, but there's such a huge relation between fanfiction and original work that if you don't "get" fanfiction, I don't think you're much of a writer. There are multiple essays and informative documents on the Big Bad Internet about this, go have a look around.

Also strictly speaking about this post in itself, your "Fanfic Apologist" is clearly a mockery, and the whole thing is biased to the point of ridicule. Are you narrow-sighted? Or did you pick and choose which replies to use as "evidence" to the "immorality" of fanfiction authors? Sure looks that way. Please, be fair. Do not be condescending and pretend that we are all twelve years old.

To drive the point home: my friend, you are effectively safe from fanfiction, at least from those of us who know your contriteness, because no one will want to touch your mentality with a ten foot pole.

Chip Michael said...

Northern Lights... sorry, MOST readers don't even know about Fanfic, or if they do they don't bother reading it. IF fans stay away from the book because an author wants to have some control over the characters they have worked hard to create... good riddance.

Stereosleep... no, there isn't a huge relationship between the original authors work and fanfic. Authors create original works, fanfic authors just write fantasy (and not very good fantasy at that)

IF fanfic authors were real authors they'd write their own books. But writing your own stuff is pretty difficult and incredibly daunting. So, I understand the attraction of wanting to borrow someone else's characters - the hard work is already done. And if it's pornography you want to write - why do you need to borrow someone else's character? Just write your own because it certainly doesn't have to have any depth to be erotic.

Anonymous said...

@Chip Michael:
"IF fanfic authors were real authors they'd write their own books. But writing your own stuff is pretty difficult and incredibly daunting."

Strange as it may seem, there are actually a number of professionally published authors who ALSO write fanfic. Because (funnily enough) they LIKE writing fanfic. As well as writing their own stuff.

Please stop saying that all fanfic writers are lazy and don't know how to write.

Anonymous said...

(... continued)

"NEVER post a story you have written using another author's characters without FIRST getting permission."

No. As I already told you on Diana's blog, you have no right to impose undue restrictions upon fans. Fanfiction is not illegal, and fans respect the will of authors who publicly object to fanfic of their work. This is enough. Imposing further restrictions is what would be immoral, since it would needlessly restrict the creative expression of fans.

Also: every would-be fanfic writer asking for the permission of the author is simply not realistic. For one, just think of the language problems! How is a Polish fan supposed to ask a Costa Rican author for such a permission, for example?

"There is something vaguely creepy about letting someone else put their hands all over my characters."

As we've told Diana time and time again, there's an easy solution to this: make a public statement that you do not want fanfic of your works to be posted anywhere. And if fanfic pops up anyway (because not everyone will notice your statement right away), then send a lawyer after the writer. Your fandom will catch on very quickly.

I must warn you, though: nowadays, there's very often a direct correlation between the size and enthusiasm of a fandom and the amount of fanfic it generates. By stifling fanfic production, you would also stifle fandom growth or even survival, as you would suppress a MAJOR means for the most fanatic of your fans to share their love for your works. So think long and hard before making such a decision.

I hope I did not come across as aggressive, as I really only wish to explain and possibly help you understand us fanfic writers a little better.

Anonymous said...

Let's try again, shall we?

"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."

Well, yes, we are fans, which comes from the word "fanatic" ;)

"Each one of the folks I have known seemed to feel a real need to insert themselves into their favorite stories in some way."

Careful here! Self-insert!fic is only one type of fanfiction, and not the most respected one at that. A lot of fanfic writers don't insert themselves in their work at all. Don't make the mistake of generalising. (Also: a HUGE amount of original fic is blatant authorial self-insert ;) )

"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."

Fine, no problem... but surely you can accept that not everyone is like you, and that being different from you is not necessarily the same as being *wrong*?

"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."

... And? I sincerely don't understand what the problem is here. If Diana writes porn with her characters, then how can she morally condemn other people for doing the exact same thing?

"Diana: I feel as if my hard work is being stolen, and my ideas violated.
FanFic Apologists: You called us thieves and pedophiles."

You are being disingenuous here. She made very clear comparisons between writing fanfiction of her work and acting like thieves/stalkers/husband-stealers.

"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."

I don't remember any of us giving this answer to this comment. We said that, yes, but not in relation to this particular concern.

"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."

Hum, no, this is not what we said. We explained that fanfiction is not plagiarism, and some of us also said that we would not read her books because of the insults she showered on us as fanfic writers.

(to be continued...)

Anonymous said...

Chip Michael,

"IF fanfic authors were real authors they'd write their own books."

Many of us do. I wrote my first book before I turned eighteen. It was never published because I wrote it only for myself, but I have been an original and fanfic writer since I was ten or eleven. Fanfiction is only one type of writing I engage in, as is the case for many other fanfic writers.

"And if it's pornography you want to write - why do you need to borrow someone else's character? Just write your own because it certainly doesn't have to have any depth to be erotic."

That may be your opinion, but I couldn't disagree more. Superficial porn is the antithesis of erotic to me.

Des said...

I issue YOU a challenge:

Read some fanfic before you make up your mind about it. Pick carefully. Imagine you are in a bookstore or a library, and the shelves are full of really crappy books, but there might be one or two that are very much worth reading. Find those. Read them.

And then if you still feel that way, sure, post your INFORMED opinion.

Don't judge a book by it's cover. That's my challenge to you.

Northen Light36 said...

Chip Michael,

Are you new to the internet or just to the concept of fandom? Fanfic has been around since the early days of Star Wars, at the very least.

Take a look at the website, see how many readers and viewers DON'T know about fanfiction.

*amused* And, as a former fanfiction writer turned novelist, I'd welcome you to investigate just how many fic writers turn author.

Or even just how many authors welcome fanfiction. Jim Butcher, J.K. Rowling, James Patterson, Mercedes Lackey are just the first handful of names to spring to mind.

Authors who support the interrests of their fans tend to be a great deal more liked. And people who do their research tend to look less foolish on the net. However, since I do believe that arguing with fools brings one down to their level, I will bow out at this point and permit you to have the last word.

Anonymous said...

Just in relation to Chip Michael:

It depends on what genre the original work is written in, to be honest. The reason the readers of Diana's work have such a "WHAT? STEALING. NEVER READ IT, BUT STEALING!" reaction to it - whether it's stealing or not - is because her genre is historical fiction.

Science Fiction and Fantasy in specific (which, honestly, even given the time-travelling aspect, the Outlander series is not,) are where a majority of fanfic writers find their home.

There seems to be an odd sort of mental leap that everyone is taking - that if fanfiction writers were 'real writers' they would write their own fiction. The thing that's in that gap that's being lept is, perhaps, the most important part.

You write what you love. You write what you want to write, or in some cases what you have to write. What's in your mind. What you think about. It's not sitting down and saying. "Alright. I'm going to write something. Hm, what am I going to write about? No idea." It's "I have this amazing idea, and I want to write about it." You may not know what's going to happen, you may have a plot arc, but in general, you write about what interests you -- and, for some people? They just don't want to write about something they personally created.

Is that so wrong? If so, why? If my friend writes (and she HAS) 50,000 words of fiction that takes place in the Star Trek Universe so that she can explore relationships and how the universe shapes them instead of having to spend that same time and energy coming up with world building rules (which is not her passion) who are you to tell her no? Who are you to say she's less of an artist, especially when she is in no way, shape, or form regurgitating past plot points.

And, the most important part she is making a derivative work that is allowable under Fair-Use, and all that she is getting from it is possibly some individuals on the internet who read it, like it, and (one out of one hundred times, because comments are rare) tell her so.

Why is it wrong? It's a new story. She's not making money. She enjoyed writing it. She enjoyed exploring her love of the source work. Others enjoyed reading it. In no way are any of the people involved not already reading/watching the source material. It's not costing fans. It's not costing money. It's not making money.

What's the issue?

Doug Hagler said...

I think that fanfic might be too broad a term. It seems to refer to a lot of things:

1. Fiction written in a published setting, or using published characters, which expands on the story already told. There is lots of this set in Middle-Earth, for example, or any number of other successfully-realized worlds.

2. Fiction written with the express purpose of gratifying the fanfic author - blatantly inserting themselves into the story (which is just bad writing), creating sexual relationships between established characters (slash fiction, etc.).

In the first example, in Middle-Earth specifically, it was actually Tolkien's published express intent that his stories be so deeply realized that they inspire other people to share in his work of "sub-creation", to write Middle-Earth stories after his were done. There is definitely a way this can be homage, and there's no reason it would be worse than most writing, which is probably bad (since what, one in every million stories gets published or something?)

The second example is just author-gratification. I'm not sure I'd want to publish it to the internet, but it's just fantasizing about a story or a setting or a group of characters. Everyone does this - who hasn't imagined themselves as the main character in a film or book? Some people just write that story down.

In (1), the "fanfic" can be as good, or better, than the original. I'd be shocked and flattered if anyone ever took up a story I had written like this. All it can do is build more fans of what I originally did. No one who's a big enough fan to read fanfic will read fanfic *instead* of what the author is actually writing.

In (2) it is probably deeply hampered by the author's self-gratification, which would limit the quality of *any* story, but as for me, who cares if people want to write it? Again, it's just fans being fans. And again, regardless of the quality of either, it can only serve to build a fan base for the original work.

In short, authors *need* people to geek out and obsess about their work. Those are the alpha-enthusiasts who will get others to read your books.

Margaret said...

Okay, so I'll write Harry Dresden fanfic, as Jim Butcher has given fanficcers his blessing.

Anonymous said...

Oh, shut up. We don't need your approval and arguing with you is a waste of time. Time I will indubitably spend being a thieving pedo plagiarist.

Belle Gunness said...

Eddie, perhaps you'd get fewer insulting comments if your reading comprehension were better. It was explained to you multiple times in Gabaldon's post that fanfic is not copyright infringement.

Also, I have to say that I would not be interested in reading an author so delicate that she can't spell out the word "shit" and that she compares fanfic of her books to sexual assault. This is not meant as an insult, merely a statement of fact.

Chip, I'd like to see a source for your claim that most readers don't know about fanfic. I'd say that by now, with a plurality of readers online and fanfic having broken into the mainstream media, that most readers at least know of its existence.

I would suggest that both of you read this essay — by a bookseller, no less — laying out the long and honorable history of derivative works of fiction. Note that a publisher is not necessarily an imprimatur of quality.

Finally, given that Jamie Fraser is based on Jamie McCrimmon from Dr. Who (which is about time travel), and given what Jack Randall did to Jamie Fraser... it could fairly be argued that Gabaldon writes Dr. Who rapefic.

Ellethwen said...

Way to over-generalize. But I've spoken enough about what I think of this whole thing in my blog post, so whatever.

And I have to agree with others: If this blog post is reflective of your normal writing, I think I shall avoid any book you may publish.

Now excuse me, I'm off to write some Percy Jackson fanfiction...without asking permission.

Eddie Louise said...

I just posted this on Diana's blog.

Many of the Fan Fic folks have pointed out that fan fic has been around forever, and that is true.

The new factor is the internet. The very platform that they smugly claim non-fans know nothing about.

Read the arts papers, the writer's mags and the legal blog dedicated to the issue and you realize that the effect of the internet on copyright is a very hot topic.

It is the act of posting fan fic on the internet (a public forum) that creates the 'gray' area.

I find it 'icky' that some people like wet play in their sex lives - however, they don't do it in public so it has no effect on me. 'Icky' fan fic would also have no effect if it was not posted in a public place where it essentially 'lives' forever.

This is where any modern author faces a conundrum. Thanks to Google it is entirely possible that someone searching 'Claire & Jamie' will come across writing that the author thinks is 'icky'. Does she have a right or a responsibility to do something to protect her interests and her creations? Remember, character licensing is now common for TV and Movies, and it is a burgeoning conversation in books as well. With the emergence of e-books, this copyright issue is only going to become more hotly contested.

This is why I earlier suggested that fan fic writers get permission to write. The suggestion was poo-pooed by many, but let me outline it in more detail. I think it could be a working model that the entire writing community could adapt that would solve all this backing and forthing and name calling.

1) As part of their first writing contracts, each author would be asked to create a fan-fic policy.
2) These policies would be either published to the internet, or maintained by the publishing house and fan fic authors could call to discover before posting any writings in a public venue.
3) Fan fic writers are free to write anything they wish and to share with anyone they choose in person. The only restrictions would be on publishing fan fiction in a public venue.
4) Some authors would have blanket policies - Anything I write is/is not okay to write fan fiction on. Some would have specific prohibitions - No erotica or Porn. No combining my characters with those of other writers. etc.
5) Finally, for those authors that want more control they can institute a policy of direct approval of all stories.

I want to be very clear - I in no way think an author has the right to stop anyone from writing fan fic. It is only the posting in public that creates an issue.

I tried to read fan fic many times, because I have friends that write it. In the whole it did not appeal to me. But as an author, the vested interest I have in my characters means I have a vested interest in what is said about them.

By creating a cooperative atmosphere between authors and fans who wish to write fan fic it would solve many of these negative scenarios that we are bandying about here.

For example Fan Fic writers say 'just tell us', but that is an after the fact situation. Perhaps after an author has been offended.

Authors say 'just ask us' but that is a before the fact situation - before inspiration has struck.

By getting all authors involved and make fan fic policy statements easy to access authors are spared offense and fans can write based on inspiration following an easily accessible guideline for their favorite author.

I think it is a win-win that acknowledges both sides with respect.

Ellethwen said...

But Eddie, are you losing money by people writing fanfiction? Is Ms. Gabaldon? Is it really just because you find the whole sex thing icky? Than don't read it. No one's making you. In fact, most websites have policies stating that authors most include notices about graphic violence or sex, and if that policy is violated, then the work is taken down and/or the author suspended/banned. Fanfiction websites have some pretty strict rules on what they allow, and many even include a policy where authors must include a copyright disclaimer.

More importantly, this is not a deal of "it's the internet". This is a question of whether writing is protected under Creative Commons and Fair Use. Parodies and satires are protected under Fair Use, so if I want to parody Outlander, Ms. Gabaldon cannot stop me because it is my legal right.

I release all of my writing under Creative Commons, specifically a noncommercial, derivative, share alike license. This means that authors can use my writing for their own inspiration, but they can't sell it, and it has to be released under the same license as mine. I don't have a problem with people using my writing because I recognize the fact that my characters aren't real and it won't hurt me if they get hurt.

So basically what you say is it's not okay for fans to do something for free that they enjoy out of their love and respect for the author? Goodbye, most movies...many games...all of Shakespeare...the Divine Comedy...karaoke...Mark'e all gotta go now.

It's okay for you to write your characters in sexual scenes, but it's not okay for others. I see the logic.

Eddie Louise said...


"It's okay for you to write your characters in sexual scenes, but it's not okay for others."

Yes, that is exactly what I am saying.

I am not precious about sex, but I have been raped. To write a rape scene myself I agonized for months on finding language that would not 'glamorize' rape. To me rape is never sexual, is always about power and control.

If someone used my characters to write a rape fantasy that is designed to illicit sexual pleasure I would have problems with that. Not that I don't understand that some people can genuinely view rape as exciting. But for me it is anything but, and to have characters I created used in such a manner would be disrespectful as well as distasteful.

So, yes, I feel I should have some say in the matter.

I can't realy think that true fans would be offended by that.

Ellethwen said...

I have been raped too, Eddie. The problem is, not all sexual scenes are rape. Is that what you are saying? Because it is wrong.

I understand your desire to not have your characters involved in a rape-based fanfiction, but remember, no one is making you read it.

Eddie Louise said...

In the voluntary cooperative system I have described, I could specifically prohibit rape-fiction based on my characters.

If what you and others from the fan-fic community have stated then 99% of writers would abide.

I could then feel free to issue C&Ds to the 1% who did not.

It would stop the general vilifying of an entire community that happens now and would not punish genuine fans.

Anonymous said...

@Chip Michael said...
IF fanfic authors were real authors they'd write their own books. But writing your own stuff is pretty difficult and incredibly daunting.

End of paste.

Guess what. I am :) I'm multi-published in original fic and write fanfic. My original fic is not self published and is released from a reputable publisher. Sales are steady after three years. Does the fact that I *also* write fanfic make me less of a professional author? I don't think so.

There are many authors who also write or formerly wrote fanfic, among them Naomi Novik, Jean Johnson, Susan Wright, Cassandra Clare, and Eric Flint, who co-writes stories in his universe with fan writers.

Quite frankly, these authors are just as legitimate as Ms. Gabaldon or myself. We all have copies of books we wrote on our bookshelves, and we all have royalty checks we get to cash.

Anonymous said...

(Here via one of my fanfic-writing friends. ;))

As some people have mentioned, there are professional authors who also write fanfic. I am one of them. I am a novelist. I write my own novels, and I co-write. My co-author and I have two books under publishing contract; the first book is currently being edited by our publishers, and should be out before too long.

That being said, my co-author and I met eight years ago through writing fanfiction. I have written a tremendous amount of fanfiction over the years--in many different fandoms. I have never written anything if the authors had requested that no fanfic be written for their characters and I would not do that.

I do not write fanfic to try to ride on anyone else's success. Why do I need to? I have a publishing contract, and I got by doing my own work and research into publishing companies, composing query letters, the whole nine yards.

As someone else stated, "self-insert" fics are a tiny section of the fanfiction community, and most people don't like them. Fanfiction gives people an outlet to explore characters they loved, a world they loved. There are "AU" fics (alternate universe) where someone wonders "What if Voldemort had never found Harry when he was a baby? What might have happened?" and they write it. There are stories that are left untold ("this story is done and Character A never found his mother...what happened to her?") and thus a new story is created by a fan who has an idea. Sometimes a fanfic author writes a one-shot, just a short little piece. Maybe it's a "missing scene." (They read a book and the characters were traveling for a week...maybe they wanted to write something that could have happened during that week.) Maybe this one-shot takes place after the book/movie/tv show ends. (We know that character A and character B got married...what was their wedding like?)

I am currently finishing up a very long, chaptered fanfic. At the same time, I am writing my next original novel. And I should be working on editing my co-author's and my third novel, but my brain's a little fried on editing right now. The way I work, I can't just have one project going at once. I have to work a little bit on something, then switch to a second story, or else I run dry on just writing one thing. Yes, I could write two original stories at once, but the fact is, I love engaging in other fictional worlds. In some ways, I've found that it can be harder writing someone else's characters, especially when there are an incredible amount of hardcore fans. They scrutinize characterization a lot more.

(continued in next comment)

Anonymous said...

(continued from last comment)

There are people who write fanfic who are amazing storytellers, who have fantastic grammar and spelling, and who can weave plots that keep me spellbound. Then there are people who write fanfic and I can't even get past the first paragraph due to all the grammatical errors. (I have also done work as a professional editor.) But if they are exercising their imagination and creativity, and if they learning how to be better writers, then I have no problem with that.

As soon as my book is published, I will be thrilled if people decide to write fanfic about it. Am I always going to like the way they do it? Of course not. There are certain subjects I don't like to read, but that's okay. Maybe someone will write two characters together who I know aren't ever going to be together. Maybe they will kill one of my characters off in fanfic. Fine. If anyone writes fanfic at all, I will take it as a huge compliment. They liked my story enough to want to actively engage in it. I hope that someone can fall in love with a character I created that much.

If there are authors who do not feel that way, and who do not want any of their fans ever imagining something else or touching their characters in any way, then of course that is up to them. I'm not going to judge or condemn. I won't lay a finger on their world or their characters.

I do know, though, that writing (and reading!) fanfic did--and still does--help me grow as a writer. And engaging with fanfic readers has taught me a great deal about the kinds of stories people read, the clichés that drive most people crazy, the ups and downs and ins and outs of the fandom world. For me, as a professional writer, it's been important in seeing and knowing how different people react to certain things.

I hope that in the future, fanfic can be something that my own readers can use to actively engage in their imaginations, in my stories, and with me.

But these are just my thoughts and opinions on the matter. :)

Eddie Louise said...


Thank you for that thoughtful comment.

I think if this type of conversation can be opened up between the fan fic and non-fan fic writing communities we can create a solution that is supportive of all.

Stereosleeper said...

"The new factor is the internet. The very platform that they smugly claim non-fans know nothing about."

No. Please, no.

Please do not invent facts or generalize to such an extent. Where did you get this information? I would like a list of references, please.

Obviously fanfiction authors know non-fanfic readers know of the internet as a media platform where fanfiction is shared - fanfic authors do not just spring into existence from Zeus' forehead. They were once non-fanfic readers/writers as well.

You are saying that it's the public publication that bothers you? Unfortunately it is the only available platform. What do you suggest? A mailing list? Well, the adverts and description for that would no doubt irk you as well, since the mere mention of unread fanfiction clearly does. And how do you know they're not making money! Or you're just curious as to what's going on. You're going to have to investigate, won't you? And that means -- being exposed to fanfiction! The same as you are now! Ack! Therefore this whole argument is invalid.

Want a solution?

Avert thine eyes. As a classic fanfic saying goes - don't like, don't read.

If you prefer there not be any fanfiction about your original work - say so. And the true fans will respect your wish. That is all you can do. Otherwise you are spitting on the rights and freedom of speech of others.

As to your "challenge" - you are also assuming every author is available for contact since their companies handle public communication. You may argue that nonetheless, without permission, they can't write fanfic. Therefore, not contacting the author equals no fanfic, which is good for you, right? It's also unfair. And you want to think you're fair and correct in this situation, right? So get together a personal contact list of every single author in existence and then you'll have a deal.

PS - I do not mean to be rude or accusatory, but I cannot find myself responding any other way when affronted with this. I mean you no disrespect or ill will.

Anonymous said...

I would take you much more seriously if you hadn't made a glaring grammatical error in your very first sentence.

If you're serious about being a writer and not a poser, then LEARN TO USE COMMAS AND DEPENDENT CLAUSES CORRECTLY.


Tim said...

If my book does get published

I'll remember your name, and will not support you in any way, shape, or form. I'm not going to argue with your points because arguing on the internet all leads to the same place. Think about how difficult it is to be published and how many books you are competing against and then think seriously about what your stance against your potential fans should be now and in the future.

As someone who has read I'd day in the neighborhood of 100,000 fanfics, and say ~1,000 books, I can say the well-written fanfiction outstrips the books by a wide margin in creativity and expressiveness. They are not restrained by a lot of the editing that has to take place to make books marketable to larger audiences.

Also, there is this hilarious market of books that is only fanfiction. Perhaps you've seen Star Trek novels or say, comic books? Good luck working in any area but the tiny little one you seem to have picked.

Irukandji said...

And if it's pornography you want to write - why do you need to borrow someone else's character? Just write your own because it certainly doesn't have to have any depth to be erotic.

Your mileage may vary, of course, but as far as my libido goes this is absolutely untrue. I love smutty fiction -- the smuttier the better -- but smut without psychological depth and narrative context is about as titillating as the back of a cereal box.

Eddie Louise said...

Stereo: Thank you for pointing out my useless generalization. When I said

"The very platform that they smugly claim non-fans know nothing about."

I meant to say "The very platform that many making comments on Diana's post smugly claim non-fans know nothing about."

Many of us on both sides of the discussion were a little heated at the beginning and made too much use of superlatives. I apologize for my own conflations.

I am not afraid of being exposed to fan fiction. I have read many stories over the years. As I have stated, I just don't find it my cup of tea.

I also REALLY think that if the fan fic community and the publishing/author/agent community began a discussion that a standard could be reached that would accommodate everyone in a manner that ended the 'gray' area and created a broader understanding.

I know such a thing does not exist now. But what if agents and publishers began talking about this with their authors? In a few years it would be possible.

In the meantime I do not believe in stopping fan fic, or even attempting to stifle it. I could foresee rather that things continue as they are until such time as there is a better way to handle it for all concerned.

I believe as well that a 'better' way can only truly be achieved by cooperation from both sides of the fence - original authors and fans.


Eddie Louise said...

ellid: Thanks for the grammatical correction. As a writer I am always trying to improve my 'out of the gate' writing.

Every bad habit I fix now means less editing later. I have a feeling that it will be a lifelong struggle, but I willingly take it on.

Stereosleeper said...

Thank you for your reply. Including necessary information is obviously a plus so that you don't get called out on things that aren't true. I apologize for assuming you've never read fanfiction, I had been led to believe that was the case.

As for some author/fan agreement, well, the fact is that such could hardly be restrained to fan FICTION, and, unless unbelievably specific, would lead to other fan work as well. Which leads to freedom of speech... and we all know where that goes. I am not in law school, therefore I cannot assume to create a mock draft of such an agreement. Were it really that simple, it would exist by now, yes? I apologize for the vagueness here, but I don't want to make up facts.

As a side note, many readers incorporate their image of the author of the story they are reading while they read it. Some don't, but some do. Personally I try not to delve into the life of an author lest I find something that leaves a bad taste in my mouth - i.e. Orson Scott Card. I can now never read Ender's Game without a good handful of revulsion. That connection is unavoidable. Hence, voicing opinions such as "I think X is disgusting, it makes me vomit" when X is a personal, arguable opinion will negatively impact an author for sure. Using other author/fanfic cases for an example, simply saying "I'd rather you didn't, but if you must, don't bring it to my attention, and credit me and don't make any monetary profit" is more than enough. It's the implied standard for all series as understood by fanfiction authors actually, whether they state their stance or not. At least, the authors that know what they're doing and aren't ten. Bad fic is unavoidable.

As a parting thought - no fanfic is ever written out of anything other than love. I would not waste my time writing an epic multi-chaptered plot about characters from a book I hated. Even if at the end of the day it's not your cup of tea, their intentions were the best.

Good luck to you and your future pursuits.

Aric Clark said...

Wow. Took on the fanatics and it got all fanatical up in here.

I confess I've always been bored by things which are derivative. I'm not interested in sequel 12 of a game I loved. I don't get thrilled about the next Hollywood blockbuster 80's remake. I think fanfic (and I have read some though doubtless not as much as those in this thread who write it) is often dull and I've struggled to endure the Harry Potter fanfic of friends for the sake of our relationship. There is a reason why the word 'derivative' has negative connotations, and the word 'original' has positive connotations. Most of the time things which rip off other people's ideas are not as good. There are exceptions which prove this rule, of course.

But I do believe Diana Gabaldan is mistaken about the legality of the issue, and I don't think its feasible for fanfic writers to ask permission. I think it would be great if publishers or fanfic sites or some other independent party wanted to create a database canvasing every possible active author's opinion about their material being used as a source of fanfic, and true fans could use that to guide their judgment in what to write. In fact, I think an independent party is probably the best solution since it is unlikely publishers would want to weigh in on this subject and not every author will have a comment either. The best we can probably manage is a voluntary database sort of situation.

Eddie Louise said...

This is a cross posting from a discussion board where I commented:

I have been really thinking about this, and one of the main arguments the fan fiction community has used to try and invalidate the hurt feelings of authors whose characters have been 'used' is the success/prevalence of derivative works such as Wicked and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Del said:

Authors are like parents to their characters. They give birth to them, they nurture them to make them grow, they stick by them and encourage them until adulthood, and then they let them go out on their own into the wide wild world.

I think I can answer at least to this question why Diana could love Wicked but resent fan fiction of her own stories. Frank L Baum really had sent his grown children into the world. He was no longer 'parenting' them. (In fact, he was dead.) He had no further interest in their development.

Diana is still actively parenting her creations. Yes, she has sent them out to 'school' so they spend time out of her sight, interacting with others, but at home she is still actively shaping their lives, striving to give them the best possible life through hard work, consistency and love.

I can think of no worse situation than to find that I had to change my story to avoid plagiarizing a fan fiction (ala JK Rowling according to comments - I didn't do the research *blush*). It is like a forced Do-Over.

Although many fans have stated unequivocally that FF does not harm the original; if the above anecdote is factual then this isn't wholly true.

This is why I am a big advocate of discussions such as the one we have been conducting here. Authors need to understand that fans do what they do out of love. Fans need to understand that authors do not react out of simple selfishness, but out of a desire to be good parents to their characters.

I am sure I could learn a lot from Whedon, Gaiman et all. These two, at least, have both done extensive work in film and television where collaborative writing is the norm. They are used to 'sharing' their creations. For some of us, those 'closeted garret' types, the idea takes a bit of getting used to.

Finally - I have read many comments along the line of - 'Don't like it - don't read it'. I find this sentiment simplistic. The easiest way to keep tensions high, to create misunderstanding and to build prejudice is to refuse to get to know your neighbors. Although I don't think I would ever want to read FF of any project I was currently working on, I think it would be very instructional to read what authors that write similar fiction inspire.

We have been doing a pretty good job here of getting to know each other - I think we should not only keep it up, but spread the word. Del and Lisa - I have been copying your very thoughtful posts to friends that were so angry at the fans they swore to cut them off forever. It has helped change some minds. Any chance you might take some of the responses here that made sense to you and post them on the fan boards?


Anonymous said...

I think that fanficwriters have already tried to reason with you, so I'll leave the bulk of your article alone. But that "please calm down and talk nicely!" argument is garbage. delwynmarch has been trying, and let us not forget that the name calling came from Diana first.

And...I'm not sure if you realize, but some people write both original fiction and fanfiction.

BTW: the first two comments are constructive. They are telling you: "If you get published with this attitude, as a potential reader, I don't want to buy." Consider your stance.

Anonymous said...

"Although many fans have stated unequivocally that FF does not harm the original; if the above anecdote is factual then this isn't wholly true."

I assume the anecdote above was talking about 'JK had to change a plot point because of a fanfic!', correct?

I am fairly sure that the anecdote is utter bollocks; however, it sounds similar to a controversy involving Marion Zimmer Bradley: Bradley reads a fanfic story of her novel, subsequently publishes a sequel to the novel, is involved in a lawsuit with the author of the fic who claimed royalty rights to the sequel. However, it cannot be emphasised enough that that was a single incident, and that the case was complex (not to mention half rumour), and I think it's highly unfair to look at a single incident of (possible) negative impact of fanfiction and use it to describe the overall impact of millions (yes, millions) of stories written by hundreds of thousands of fans.

In fact, I think the overall impact of fanfiction is not neutral, but positive, especially with regard to books. Consider the following scenario: Foo is a highly regarded author in the Harry Potter fandom; Fi is a fan of Foo's HP fic. Foo then writes a story based in the universe of Lois McMaster Bujold, and puts it on their site/journal. Fi has never heard of Bujold, but reads the story because if it's written by Foo then it's probably excellent. Fi enjoys the story even though they don't know the characters, and decides to buy the first three books in the series to find out more. Bujold has not only gained the revenue from the purchase of three books, but a fan who will probably buy the rest of the series, books in other series, and, if they become properly involved in the fandom, attend conventions that Bujold is speaking at, etc. A reader gained through fanfiction is likely to be a high-intensity reader who will put more time/effort/money into the author than one might expect, precisely because being deeply involved in fan activities is what they do. So, a net gain, a pattern which is repeated thousands of times and far outweighs a handful of negative incidents that were more related to the behaviour of individuals rather than the concept of fanfic itself.

Eddie Louise said...

Silverflight and Nacbrie, thanks for joining the conversation.

Actually, delwynmarch is part of the reason that I have wanted to continue to talk because her reasoned approach and willingness to answer questions has been most welcome.

I have posted additional thoughts in my comments here - maybe I should make a new BLOG entry as my education continues.

As for the few bad apples theory - I agree. There are only a few circumstances - but 20 years ago fan fiction was only on a few boards - most was shared privately. But now, as we all become more adaptive and technology keeps pace with our hobbies there are millions of stories available on the web.

This is why I think the fan fiction community and the community of authors should enter a dialogue.

The old adage is '1 bad apple spoils the barrel' and delwynmarch has convinced me that it would be a bad thing to have all fan fiction under the gun in anyway.

I am thinking of the mentally challenged woman who sued McDonalds for coffee burns when she placed a steaming cup of coffee between her thighs while driving. Because of her, coffee can never be that hot again.

Currently, there is no controls on the internet - imagine a bleak future where Net 2.0 has failed, and the Supreme Court has turned all content supervision over to the big communications companies. In that instance, anything that could be perceived to harm profits would be stopped. 1 bad apple and nobody gets to publish fan fiction.

Now... before I get flamed for this, I realize this is a 'Chicken Little' kind of what if, but is there any harm in our communities working together to protect everyone involved from the bad apples?


Anonymous said...


"Finally - I have read many comments along the line of - 'Don't like it - don't read it'. I find this sentiment simplistic."

It might be useful to break down reaction to fanfiction into two objections: "I, personally, find the idea of people using my characters in their own stories to be objectionable and a violation," and "I do not want fanfiction to be associated with my works and for other readers to find fanfiction alongside my works." Two very different things.

To the second part: publish a statement saying 'I do not want people to write fanfiction based on my characters'. Contacting may also be helpful; they have a 'no fly list' of authors who do not wish for fanfic based on their works to be published on the website (a brief note: is the largest archive of fanfiction of the internet, however it is 98% crud. If you'd like to explore some fanfiction stories based on source material you're familiar with, is a much better place to start - the general calibre is much higher and its organisation is better).

To the first part: I'm sorry and disappointed that you have that reaction to people wishing to express themselves using your works. You're entitled to your feelings - however, short of slapping lawsuits on everybody 'don't like it - don't read it' is about all you can do.

Fanfiction stories (and other forms of transformative works, e.g. fanart, fanvids, etc.) are capable of as much, if not more, emotional depth and character complexity as the original works. They are a valid and essential part of my interaction with source material, everything from brief character studies to short erotic snippets to breathtakingly overarching 300,000 word epics that have a much sounder grasp of characterisation and worldbuilding than the source (Stargate Atlantis, I'm looking at you). I am sorry that you do not feel this way, but please do not dismiss and deride it without first taking stock of what you are talking about. If you would like some recommendations for fanfiction stories in a named fandom, just ask. If you would like essays detailing what fanfic hopes to or should achieve, or why fans interact with the source material and each other in the way they do, or the legality of fanfiction, or the morality of fanfiction, then just ask. We're happy to give information, but we're not happy to be name-called, dismissed, and insulted.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, posted the second part before I saw your response.

I think fanfic is sufficiently transformative (and cross-juristictional, remember; US copyright is not EU copyright is not etc etc; a Brazilian author writing a story about a Japanese manga published on an American server = headache) for a single 'bad apple' to be insufficient to challenge it ~legally~ - on a cultural and community level is another question, though.

I don't know if a structured database-type thing would work at all (far too complex for something as spontaneous as fandom community), but greater legal clarification as to the rights of transformative works is something that the community is already campaigning for - the Organisation for Transformative Works, for instance.

Eddie Louise said...

I am moving this discussion onto a new post.

I think some details are getting lost in translation due to the nature of my first post.

I've done some thinking and learning sense then - hence the new post.


flamingsword said...

Having read through a bit of the recent commenting, I think what's missing is recommended reading. If you think porn and hack writing are all that are available in fanfiction, maybe re-education is in order.

Read | freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose | by synecdochic. Familiarity with StarGate: Atlantis is helpful but not necessary for the characterization of this story told in negative space.

Anonymous said...

Sugar, if you don't want people to put their hands all over your characters perhaps you are better off not getting published. No matter what you write, it will get misinterperted. English Literature students all over the world will look at your work and pull it apart. They will take the relationships of the characters and use them to peer into your own sexuality, your psychology, and everything else they possibly can. They will say that characters are implied to be gay, or sleeping with their fathers, or anything else that can possibly derived from the text. What's so differant between that and writing a story for fun? Both have equal violations of characters, as you stated.

Tris said...

Joining the party very late, but here I am.

Personally, I like fanfiction. I have been developing my original fiction skills with drabbles, but I mostly don't have ideas for it. I write fic for a specific series of games, and I find the joy of fanfic is in taking these characters and really looking at them. I can look, and think about them, and wonder what was going through their heads, and what might have happened if things had gone a different way. I can take these characters and think about how they would act in different situations, how to keep characterization steady, and what they really might say. It lets me lear to roll with these characters, and I find that it involves almost more skill than writing original fiction. I'm slightly uncomfortable with writing original work, because I feel like I can change the character. I don't like that, so I write fic and I have to keep with the personalities I'm writing.

I feel like you haven't given fandom a chance. All the communities I'm on are mostly (there are always a few) populated by polite and thoughtful people who are willing to discuss. Really, a huge problem with fanfic writers is when people say that because we are writing G-rated fic that explores what happened to an side character after the main party moved on, or what was going through the character's head when they did something, we are all rapists and pedophiles.
Generalizations based only on the bad side don't give us a chance!

Anonymous said...

I know that this post has been pounded into the ground, but there is one thing that bugs me on every one of these wanks.

Even people who are trying to defend fanfic seem completely willing to list slash fanfic as no more than a smutty pseudo-self insertion fic.

It isn't. The very fact that it has a M/M pairing isn't a bearing on it's writing. It isn't a judgement on it's brilliance. It is just a list of who is sleeping with who.

I read slash fanfic. I am also extremely discriminating in my taste. Slash is done for the same reason as other fanfiction, because you love the characters and you want to explore the possibilities between the characters.

Fanfiction is done not because of a flaw on the author's part, but because no one person could explore a universe alone. We seek out points that haven't been written. We write AUs. We look through a fresh pair of eyes. And maybe some (a good chunk, honestly) isn't very good, but I would never leave Fandom, because those few that are left take my breath away.

I find this post rude and overly-generalizing, but I suppose you've already figured that bit out.

Eddie Louise said...

Hey there caecandy:

Thanks for joining the conversation.

I hope you will take the time to read the comments and the other posts about fanfic on this site.

The tone was somewhat rude and overgeneralizing at the beginning of the conversation - on all sides. Everyone had their dander up.

But - we did calm down and I learned to better understand the impulse to write fanfic.

I have to say, for myself I do not feel the need to explore an author's universe further. If the book was satisfying, it feels 'complete'. If it was not complete, it does not grab my attention enough to spare it another thought.

That being said, I was also never the type to need to take apart a radio to see how it worked and I hold nothing against those people.

So... my personal attitude towards fanfic has migrated somewhat.

As fas as Slash - I can't really comment because it is an area of fanfic I am really ignorant about. I am sorry that anyone ever feels denigrated tho!

Anyway - thanks for coming by!