What’s wrong with Fan Fiction?

My oldest daughter is deeply “into” fan fiction.  She downloads it for free, reads it, and writes a fair share herself.  I don’t think she has uploaded any yet, but she shared some with me.

The strangest combinations come in to being in the Fan Fiction universe.  Harry Potter meets Gandalf for advice or as a mentor. (Actually that is a no-brainer as Gandalf is the twin of Dumbledore.)  Emma from Twilight meets the Teen Wolf and ditches her vampire for him.  Hermione gets paired off with Aragorn.  You get the idea.

Now there is only one thing that is legally objectionable about fan fiction.  The whole lot of it is undiluted plagiarism.  From a literary aspect, and from a point of view of new authors wanting to make their own unique voices heard, there is much to be objected against; but legally, I think that sums it up.  I tried to write some what I realize now was fan fiction, about the world of well-known German YA author Karl May when I was 11, and was told bluntly by my mother, “create your own darned story!”  I had been creating my own stories already but, thanks Mom, for the pointer!  I needed to hear it; it gave my comparatively lazy creativity a fresh kick in the hindquarters and I got on with writing my own darned story.

While I goggle at the creativity and unique ideas my youngster pours into different cross-over universes from different best-selling authors, both the writer and the publisher in me cringe, and so does the mother.  I tried to correct the error of her ways gently.  “Sweetie, EL James made a fortune recasting her fan fiction into a different genre and changing the characters’ names.”  (Let’s for once ignore the effect that if you recast a vampire acting like a vampire into a human male acting like a vampire, you turn him into the worst pervert.)  – “Yes, but Mom, you don’t understand.  This is Fan Fiction!”

I try a bit harder:  “Listen, Girla, you already invented a brand new character and she’s your story’s best feature!  And you changed the setting completely.  It’s really your story, not Teen Wolf anymore. Won’t you just rename the other characters, so that it can be all your story?” – “Naah… it’s them I’m writing about, not someone else.”

HarryParseltongueSometimes I can’t tell the difference between whether she’s telling me about her own writings or some other fan fiction she’s read.  My head spins.  I can’t remember whether that basilisk in HP2 actually ever spoke to Harry in Parseltongue or not.  I didn’t read the books (yet), only watched the movies, and only in their completeness years after they came out (why?  I was too busy writing my own darned series).

So when she asks, “so what do you think?”  I reply with the most detestable answer of all:  “Of what?”  Because honestly I can’t tell the difference anymore.  Ever since that, I’m the dense mom who will never understand The Teenager.  I’ve sinned even worse:  I’ve bashed the genre.  “I wish all that beautiful young creativity would go into dreaming up their own, new, unique stories.”  My internal publisher is craving to publish teenage authors, just as my inner writer in my own teenage years was craving to get published.  I want to give young ones that platform!  It’s the definition of P’kaboo!  But – not for stealing other people’s ideas.  Sorry.

My real objections to Fan Fiction:

1.  It’s stolen.

That is probably the biggest one.  Plagiarism, in the mind of a writer, is on the same level as burglary.  We spend years fine-combing our work to make sure we didn’t accidentally plagiarize someone. The ethics of fan fiction are totally skewed.  I wouldn’t walk into your house and help myself from your fridge, any more than I’d loot your characters, your world-building etc from your book.  And I wouldn’t tolerate you doing the same from my books either!

2. Flattery, or a problem?

With the recent post about MZB and her child abuse, I felt compelled to read up more about an author who, to be honest, shaped a lot of my outlook, my writing style and my take on fantasy in my teenage years.  (Somehow I always managed to ignore her very explicit sex scenes in favour of the rest of her epic style.  Had I known…)  I found some interesting things on her.  While she in her early writings published some fan-fiction herself in a fan-fiction magazine, she also allowed others to “take over” writing books in the Darkover world. This became part of the immense success of the series.  She supported fans who wrote fan-fiction in her worlds, and even boosted some into fame.

Of course, as author, it must be flattering if fans start writing fan fiction in your world out of sheer enthusiasm.  But there are limits to it:  While I’d take serious umbrage to fans changing the characters or relationships of my characters, it actually happened to MZB that a fan of hers published a sequel in one of her series that was so close in storyline to the sequel she herself was about to publish, that her own was never brought out.  That was when she pulled a stop to fans publishing books in her worlds.

Seriously, fans, you wouldn’t want to do that, would you?  Out-explore your favourite author’s world to the point that there is no more space for her to publish the next installment, in her own voice, the voice that made you fall in love with that world in the first place?

3.  It floods the market

From a purely mercenary point of view, let’s look at this:  Teens who read are usually voracious readers.  They are happy to explore new authors etc. When we were teens we had enough pocket money that now and then we could march into a bookshop and grab a brand-new book; for the rest, we lived in the library that was kept well-stocked for us.  We even requested titles.

Fan-fiction is being uploaded onto the internet for free, and downloaded for free.  Only boring adults and stupid teachers would have a problem with the quality of the writing.  We Teens are forgiving of poor grammar, because all we really want is the story.  And who would spend even 99c on a novel if you can download more stories about your favourite characters for free?  There must be over a million fan fiction stories and authors up there by now.  It’s a massive, giant free-for-all, but…  there is no more space for people who actually want to be paid for a unique story they wrote and put care, effort and professional polishing into.

4. Every corner of a “world” is coloured in.

With thousands of Harry Potter fan fiction writers, no mystery remains, no corner remains unlit, no dialogue remains unwritten – in HP’s world.  The musician in me baulks against all that noise, but it’s a hard one to explain.

5. New worlds are left unexplored and unread.

It takes a certain kind of laziness to want more all the time in the world you are so overly familiar with while ignoring stacks of new worlds that are being written into reality every day by real authors inventing their own darned stories.

6.  The publisher in me…

… would reject them all.  Why?  They are written in poor English; the ideas are copied or clicheed; no effort of thought has gone into creating these stories; the whole genre is one of plagiarism; so what exactly am I bringing readers that they can’t dream up themselves?

Watterson, the creator of Calvin& Hobbes, refused to sign any subsidiary rights.  His explanation:  He didn’t want Hallmark to corrupt Calvin’s character by making him wish someone Happy Birthday in some or other brainless greeting card.

On Facebook you’ll find memes that hijacked (illegally used) his brilliant drawings anyway, with or without permission.  Who is to control Facebook?  But it is a form of robbery as it rides roughshod over the creator’s wishes.  He didn’t want his characters to be misused even if he could earn money from allowing it; now people are doing it without him (or his estate) earning a penny.  It’s on the same level as taking someone’s ebook, copying it and making it available for free on Epub Bud without asking the author.  It’s, gee, thanks.

No, I don’t like Fan Fiction.  Thank you.


45 thoughts on “What’s wrong with Fan Fiction?

  1. Is this like all those Star Trek, and Star Wars novels?

    I started a novel about Thomas Covenant called Finding Donaldson when I thought Donaldson was not going to resurrect Thomas Covenant, remember?
    It didn’t get past the first chapter as Donaldson went and released the third Covenant series!

    • Oh, that’s right, I remember! 😀 Yes that’s one of the dangers being a FF writer. In MZB’s case the FF writer jumped ahead of her.

      TBH I haven’t really read those Star Trek and Star Wars novels but I’m sure I can buy them somewhere. Or are they downloadable for free? What we understood under “fan fiction” was something that plagiarized the world and characters but went through all the steps of proper publishing, not a first-draft messy manuscript chucked online for free. FF has changed, as a genre…

  2. “The whole lot of it is undiluted plagiarism”

    BUT you yourself happily published my ‘Memoirs of a Senior Replicator Technician’, which is pure Star Trek fan-fiction.

    Where does fan fiction end and original creativity begin? What about H P Lovecraft’s ‘Cthulhu’ mythos being carried on by August Derleth, by John Glasby… and by me! What about ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’ by Jean Rhys – is that a piece of Brontë fan-fiction? What about Eric Van Lustbader publishing ‘Bourne’ series novels after Robert Ludlum’s death. The list goes on.

    • All very good points, M! What about Sarasate writing the “Carmen Fantasie” on Bizet’s opera.

      You cannot compare your Star Trek spoof to what they call “fan fiction” today. I loved those “Memoirs”. Gods I laughed when she got that cocky Third-Louie back, and the “Hyper-Kitteh” is a pretty funny touch too.

      Perhaps what gets up my nose about the online fan-fiction “verse” (universe) is that shoddy component. The language is what you’d find on Twitter and Facebook – “there” is used for “their, they’re” and “there”, to name-butt one. Also, in “Memoirs” you used the bowels of the Enterprise as a backdrop, but all your characters were your own. The teen fan-fiction writers take over the main characters from those novels and make them do things that… might actually fall out of character, where the original author is concerned. I know I’d hate for kids to tamper with my main characters – but that is exactly why they write the stuff.

      And of course, last not least, what annoys me about that “verse” is that attitude. It’s all a giant freebie; I’ve heard more than one teenager say, “why should I buy a book from an author I don’t even know, if I can download thousands of stories for free about characters I already know and love?” That just kills any serious new authors.

  3. *emerges bemusedly into this strange new world* Fan fiction? That really does seem like something to get the breeze up about!
    It isn’t the same, though, as the ‘Flashman’ series by George MacDonald Fraser, based on the school bully of ‘Tom Brown’s Schooldays’, which was a send-up from start to finish. That is clever, and building on one tiny facet. Nor is it the same as the brilliant sequel to Erskine Childers’ ‘The Riddle of the Sands’ by Sam Llewellyn called ‘The Shadow in the Sands’, which combined a tribute to the original author with a continuation of a tale which needed one.
    No, I agree that this is a form of laziness whereby the would-be writer can tell a story without the labour of creating scene and background. It should be discouraged. Being denied access to media until cured should do the trick.

    • Thanks for backing me here!! 🙂 I agree, it is completely not the same as e.g. “The Shadow in the Sands”. A book that has the author’s own storyline, characters etc, but continues in another’s setting is a tribute rather than plagiarism. I see Marie’s “Memoirs” in the same light. It was 100% her own story, except for using the Enterprise as backdrop.

      A skit, such as “Vampires suck” which spoofs “Twilight”, is also not in the same category as it takes quite a bit of creativity and can stand alone and still make people laugh who are even just vaguely familiar with the genre of the original work.

      What teenagers do to the internet is beginning to remind me a bit of a child-led household, or a teacherless boarding school. Anything goes, there’s no such thing as manners or interpersonal respect, piracy is rampant, and the law of the jungle prevails. “That can’t go well,” said Radomir Lascek. “Keep an eye, Federi!” (The gypsy rolled his dramatic eyes.)

    • Funny, I was about to mention George McD F in my previous comment. The difference there is that he wrote about the adult Flashman with scarcely a reference to Rugby school. I don’t think this can be thought of as ‘fan fiction’, even by extension. Van Lustbader’s ‘Bourne’, on the other hand, inhabits the same ‘verse’ as Ludlum’s, arguably Derleth’s characters inhabit Lovecraft’s sub-universe, and so on. Whereas Fraser’s characters don’t.

      Neither does this one, but you all know who he is and where he went to school: http://mairibheag.com/2014/01/05/introducing-agent-delta/

      Actually I feel that fan fiction is now a recognised phenomenon, if not a genre, and cutting it off would be tantamount to cultural fascism. It makes the literature, TV, and flim an audience-participation area in a way hitherto unimagined, and from its practice will come a handful of people who never knew they could actually write. Come back in 20 year’s time and ask a random collection of successful authors whether they did fan fiction at any time…

    • I’m very glad about these discussions following such a post.

      Of course, and not only in 20 years’ time. (Though one could argue about the value of EL James’ opus, one cannot deny that she is a successful author, at least financially and in fame.)

      Cultural fascism, I don’t know. Is there such a thing, or is it simply differing tastes? The post is entirely an opinion piece. I as publisher would not accept the quality and content of what most of them throw online; as a writer, while I’ve written crappy pieces too, I either destroyed them or deleted them or buried them so deeply because I don’t want anyone digging after my death and finding them & associating them with my name.

      The difference of that teen, first-draft, 100% plagiarized fan fiction “verse” and your pieces in fan fiction is one of quality and personal standards. It’s like comparing, say, a toddler’s crayon drawing to a work by Han van Meegeren and then stating they’re of the “same genre”. No. Distinctly, no.

    • It’s not about taste – de gustibus non disputandum est. The suggestion, even in jest, of cutting people off from a medium, is what I was objecting to. There are plenty of things in art and literature that are not to my own taste, but I have to grant them their place in ‘art’, as to do otherwise would be downright arrogance on my part. In the case of fan fiction, I have to grant also, the producers’ access to the base of their work – the work they are paying tribute to (read ‘plagiarising’ if you wish, though I would even argue about that, as there is no pretence of originality, except perhaps in a plot line, in fan fiction).

      Thus I think one day someone will come along and write about Dominance and submission, and do so much better than E L James, whose work I consider trash. But the second-comer will have to endure being compared to James – even if judged better – whose place is secure, along with her income. I consider Dan Brown to be trash, by and large, but grant him his place too. I consider everything Barbara Cartland wrote, right down to her shortest shopping list, to be trash, yet if I was writing a history of popular 20c literature she would command several pages, and rightly so.

      Meanwhile, as regards fan fiction, I would never claim a piece of mine was in a separate genre to others’ work. Value judgments (de gustibus…) are another matter entirely.

    • Value judgments cannot be disregarded when one takes into account the sophistication or otherwise of who provides such judgment. A young child may well regard Dr Seuss as infinitely superior to Shakespeare’s sonnets – but are they really in a position to give that opinion? Similarly, particularly with music, a majority lock themselves into progressing no further than a taste for fundamental repetitive rhythms. With art, literature and music one needs to consider, quite objectively, whether the product is a pale repetition of what has already been done – at the one extreme – or a pretentious venture into meaningless rubbish at the other.
      The semi-literate plagiarism which seems to characterise much of the ‘fan fiction’ should be stamped upon. Either the adherents should be encouraged to use their talents to better effect, or to acknowledge that they don’t have any and take up something within their intellectual capabilities, like playing Bingo.

    • Col, you are classic – “playing bingo”! 😀

      Yes, that’s what I’m trying to do at least where I do have influence – encourage them to tighten their writing, clean up their grammar, get truly educated and use their own ideas. I influence perhaps one or two of these young sparks… who, you never know, may become truly great writers in the (possibly even near) future. But to be “great” doesn’t fall into one’s lap, at least the grammar must be correct…

    • If not correct, it is like music – you cannot break the rules successfully unless you are totally familiar with them. One can almost always tell the difference between deliberate playfulness or innovation – and plain ignorance!

    • I’m in fact hoping that a lot of really good SBDM writers come forward and publish and flood out Mz James. (I’m wondering if she even meant to write SBDM. Her original had vampires in it.)

      Sorry, arrogance is part of me. 😉 And proud of it. I’m with Col, we as carriers of the culture need to reach as high as we can (which I know you do, and your prize-winning short-stories prove, time and again) and not condone people throwing half-baked efforts online under the excuse that it doesn’t have to be good because the reader is lenient. The reader of self-same opuses will grow up, and begin to realize that there must be more to literature than mediocre first-time efforts.

      Perhaps calling your pieces “tributes” rather than “fan fiction” nails it more accurately. I think the genre of fan fiction was corrupted by this online freebie phenomenon. Fan fiction used to have to go through the publication process of fan-zines, and I’ll bet all the mediocre attempts didn’t make it past the editor.

  4. Pingback: What’s wrong with Fan Fiction? | lbushman

  5. I should say upfront that I’m pretty much completely unfamiliar with fan fiction. I haven’t read any (aside from the first Fifty Shades book, just to see what the fuss was about) and it doesn’t really appeal to me; I imagine it would be, as you said, full of bad writing and bad grammar and teenage romantic fantasies. But I don’t think that makes it bad.
    Entering another author’s world, building on it, exploring their characters, creating new story lines based on someone else’s groundwork: I would expect that these things to enhance, rather than dull creativity. Creating with training wheels, as it were. It’s scary creating a world from nothing, and intimidating to the novice writer. Piggybacking off someone else’s work is like diving off the side of the pool before you get the courage up to use the diving board. Which, for many people, may be a necessary step. For me, as a teenager, a lot of my best work and most creative growth came from assignments that involved imitating an author’s style: getting into the work and examining its structure really helped me to understand what made a piece work, and made me a stronger writer when I was writing my own stuff.
    Of course there are plenty of fan-fic authors who never graduate to other writing, and that’s ok. If people find the fan-fic world compelling and fulfilling, why does it matter if we don’t understand it or appreciate it? I really have to disagree that it’s a threat to traditional publishing (not that traditional publishing isn’t under threat, but I would struggle to blame fan-fic for it). First of all, like you say, very little of it is publishable, and very little of it would ever appeal to a wider audience. Secondly, are teenage fan-fic authors the demographic that would be purchasing lots of books by new and unknown authors? I know that I, though a voracious reader, never bought many books until I was living on my own. I read what we had at home, or what we were reading in English class, or what I found at the library.
    I also spent A LOT of time reading what my friends were writing, and sharing my stuff with them, and staying up late giving each other very serious critiques of the works. I’m sure almost all of it was self-indulgent, derivative, angsty drivel, and no more publishable than the works of fan fiction that your daughter admires. But it was a learning process. If your daughter wants to write fan fic, and you let her, and you admire what’s good about her writing without seeking to change it into something that you find acceptable, what’s the worst that could happen?

    • Hi Dunaganagain, thank you for commenting! It is a pleasure having a teen weighing in on these things, and sorely necessary.

      Well done with your writing, in the first place. Yes, I’ll grant doing all the creating may be a bit scary for some young writers. I believe possibly the stakes today are higher than they were back when my mom told me to “write my own darned story”. People are a lot more aware of plagiarism and “been done”; originality is stressed until it is ready for the nuthouse. Fan fiction may present some sort of haven for young writers where they can explore their ideas safely without being judged for lack of originality.

      As for copying established authors’ styles in exercises, that reminds me of what young painters do too: They copy the works of the great artists of the past to get a closer understanding of their techniques. There is nothing wrong with this, especially if you can internalize the most successful elements of each style and then apply them within your own voice.

      TBH I can’t really see that traditional publishers are under threat. Penguin and Randsom House have joined forces; the scene is pretty similar to the Coca Cola Company buying up just about everything that is a beverage and then some. They also own a number of vanity presses, where authors get pressed out of their moneys while forfeiting their chance of ever being taken up by a big publishing co. I’m quite sure the “author-services” proceeds from the vanity presses finance a lot of traditional publishing of those select titles. The Big Five pretty much call the shots, like with every other near-monopoly.

      Indie presses are also not exactly under pressure; they only have the interesting battle for publicity and acknowledgement on behalf of their authors. The person that is under pressure is the author himself. Especially the self-publishing or unknown author.

      The funny thing about my teen daughter is, she is very particular with her spelling, grammar and expression. Her ideas are also very unique; what frustrates me as a mom is that I want to see her strike out independently without the crutch of other people’s “verses”. She can! Many young fan-fic authors can. Take the leap and give it that extra effort, and then be brave and submit! Because I can tell you that publishers all over are dreaming of publishing teenagers. Imagine catching an author that early! 🙂

    • Haha, sorry, I gave the wrong impression when I wrote “as a teenager”–I meant “when I was a teenager”. I’m in my 30s now; I was a teenager in the 90s, but before the internet age really got underway. But I’ll take your “well done” anyway, since I need all the encouragement I can get!

    • The only thing I’ve published is a scientific paper (I’m a biologist). But I’ve been working on a novel for the past two years (currently on the third draft) and am hoping to have it ready to shop to publishers or agents within the next year.

    • Yay! Hats off! Scientific papers are a devil to write, what was yours on? I never published even one, never got that far. Which genre of novel?

    • My book could probably be classified as speculative fiction, though I would prefer to see it as mainstream/literary fiction (though I kind of hate the term literary fiction since it often seems to be code for pretentious).
      It was on the ecological effects of salmon farming in Ireland. I’m not the first author so I actually contributed very little in the way of writing. Science is/was a second career for me, when I realized it was going to be very difficult to support myself as a visual artist. I haven’t geared my career toward research though (most recently I’ve been working for an aquarium, but now am unemployed because we just moved to the US and I’m looking for a new job), so there probably won’t be many papers in my future. What kind of science did you do? Are you still a practicing scientist or is writing and publishing a full-time gig for you?

    • Not a practicing scientist anymore, but I still love to read up and delve into things (and stir trouble on my blog 😉 ). I was in medical genetics. How does that Salmon farming work out? I read recently that farmed fish (salmon, trout etc) has elevated pollutant levels due to overcrowding – but surely that has more to do with the water quality? I have a friend who went off to the Cape to research into Abelone farming. The greenie in me loves this kind of thing as I’m hoping it will bring down the wild Abelone fishing. Our Abelone banks are practically stripped empty.

      I publish in the nights – by day I run a violin studio which replaced my genetics income back in 2001.

      Good luck, hope you find a good job soon, and strongs with your visual art. My daughter – the same one that writes fanfic – is actually doing art and design as her main subjects, so we’ll start seeing next year how that works out.

    • Salmon farming is pretty ecologically suspect. Because they’re carnivores, they get fed a lot of fish or soy protein (which is a very inefficient use of protein, and lots of little fish get caught and fed to the bigger fish, when we could get the same amount of food with less ecological impact by just eating the small fish). Then there’s a lot of nitrogenous waste, which filters down to the sea floor. That’s what we were looking at. What happens is you get blooms of algae and other opportunistic feeders that thrive on the nitrogenous waste and use up all the oxygen in the substrate (silt, in this case), and everything dies. In the normal sea-loch substrate we would count hundreds of different species–mostly worms but also various types of molluscs and crustaceans. Under the salmon pens there might be ten or fewer species, and they were overwhelmingly dominated by one species of annelid worm that thrives in anoxic environments. Bad stuff because it has repercussions all through the food chain. The good news is that it looks like the environment can recover within a couple of years if you move the pens, so frequent rotation may be one possible solution. Be that as it may, I don’t eat any farmed carnivorous fish (or much fish in general). Farmed shellfish are usually the best option, environmentally-speaking, and I know wild abalone are doing poorly all over the world, so abalone farming could be a great thing.
      Incidentally, I also play violin! Not very well. I played as a child and just picked it up again. I wonder how many violin-playing former biologists that also write fiction there are in the world? Can’t be that big of a group. 😉

    • Yay! Welcome to the “club”! If you’re getting back into playing, have you tried the Mel Bay series? I particularly enjoy the “Complete Irish Fiddle Player” by Peter Cooper and “Gypsy Violin” by Mary-Ann Harbar. Of course, that is stepping away from classical a bit, but there’s lots of good material out there. At which level do you play?

      Glad to hear the abalone farms are a solution. I didn’t actually realize that salmon is carnivorous, of course they are, but one doesn’t necessarily think about it. I currently don’t eat fish at all – off all animal meats at this point (in rebellion to the “Paleo” diet, that’s so long ago I can’t remember what we ate as Homo habilis, and I’ll bet you the proponents don’t remember either!) 😉 Have you written other novels or is this your first? Are you published somewhere?

    • Whew, sorry it’s taken me so long to reply. We moved into a new apartment on Saturday and it’s kind of filthy, and also we don’t have any furniture or a car, so it’s been a pretty hectic week.
      I am almost an absolute beginner with regard to the violin. I got up to Suzuki book 6 back in my teenage days but now I’m down around 4. I’m more interested in folk music now anyway, but progress is pretty slow. I definitely will check out the books you recommend! I love Irish folk music; my husband is Irish and I lived in Dublin for two years when we first met. I’ve picked out a few tunes by ear but it would be great to have access to a bigger repertoire.
      This is my first novel (or at least the first one that I’ve finished a full draft of) so not published anywhere. I wrote a lot as a teenager and then stopped when I got to college, and only started again about five years ago. I definitely have a lot to learn but I’ve always been a voracious reader and I think this book has potential. We’ll see. It needs at least another draft and a half.
      I totally agree with you about the Paleo diet, so ridiculous. I actually did a fair amount of reading on primitive human diets for a microbiology experiment I conducted, and the Paleo thing is just totally baseless. It’s just a way to cut calories, and I wish people would admit to it.

  6. Too much amongst the foregoing with which I totally disagree, some of which makes me shake my head and whistle – mostly from someone I know, love, and respect. I’ve said my piece, and I stick to what I said.

    Anyhow, Lyz, I posted a link to a women’s writing group on Facebook, and got some lively responses both for and against fan fiction. I’ll email some of the comments separately, because I took screen-caps of them. One interesting ‘practical’ comment was as follows:

    “Oh…and while I’m about it…one the Red Ant page…that needs to be in a different color than green. It blends in with the green of the background and I couldn’t hardly see it or my Mac is color blind. Maybe me too. I’ve only had one cup of coffee today…I better have more.”

    I’m trying to figure out precisely what she means – oh, I think maybe the page heading.

    • Thanks for sending! A fascinating dialogue, and it makes me wonder whether I should do a follow-up post as I seem to have unwittingly offended a whole number of serious writers.

      As for the green – now that I look, yes, she probably means the page header, which is why I repeat the name in the header pic. This particular theme only gives one colour option, green, and one font option. Both annoyed me so I tried to blend them out. If one doesn’t have a completely even-coloured background pic, this header tends to disappear. If my header graphic is not displaying on her machine, this may be a problem. Is it possibly a mobile phones problem? (The downgrade of the internet onto mobile phones and the web layout limitations that go along with that are driving me nuts.)

  7. Its clear to me that most of you posting have missed out on the real intent behind fan fiction. Its not about plagiarism, or quality. Its about being so enthralled with a fandom, that you have to create your own way of interpreting it. When I was younger, I started out by writing stories about my favorite band. That morphed into writing about Harry Potter, and other things, and eventually I started building my own characters.

    Personally, I think its a great way to learn the rules, even if you are breaking them in the process. As an author, I think if I could inspire someone to come up with their own scenario of a world I created, I would be honored that someone even took the time to think about it that deeply.

    You mention that it floods the market, and gives readers a free way to read, instead of buying a .99 book. This is absolutely true, but lets keep in mind that when you’re a teenager, you don’t have a whole lot of money to spend in the first place. Your money largely comes from your parents. If you want your kids to read “actual books” then give them money to purchase them.

    A problem still lies in the fact that when the next episode is over, I, as a reader, want to know more. I want all the corners to have a light shone on them. I want to go exploring. I don’t want it to stop. Fan fiction fills that gap and keeps me hanging on until the next book comes out.

    As a writer of fan fiction, its a way to develop your own voice, your own style and even your own readership. Just look at Cassandra Clare. She started out writing a very popular Harry Potter Fan fiction about ten years ago, and now her books have movies that have TV shows. Of course, she (like EL James and others) is an exception to the rule, but if she had not let her creative flag fly in the HP fandom, maybe she never would have tried to create her new saga.

    We are in a whole new world of reading consumption, especially when it comes to young adults. Fan fiction has been around for a long, long time, but when Harry Potter left us waiting with abated breath for each new book, it became clear that we as consumers had a lot more power than just waiting.

    As long as the fan fiction authors aren’t trying to make a buck off their borrowed characters, I think it should be encouraged and enjoyed.

    • Thank you for this. You are absolutely right. It’s about filling in the gaps, creating something after the story is over.

      You are completely right, the world has changed tremendously where reading and writing is concerned. There was a breathless moment when such a wealth of games and movies were around that some of us feared our children wouldn’t bother reading at all. It turns out, years later, that these forms of entertainment can indeed co-exist, and creating new environments is one of the best ways intelligent youngsters keep busy. Writing is one of the easier ways of doing this; it takes more technical skill to build computer games (though with “Minecraft” this has become rather easy as well).

      In the really big picture, all is well. Children and young people are using their creativity. The rest is really not that important.

  8. Jessica F Walker’s final point above is a valid one.

    Gipsika, you have twice used the term ‘throw’ in respect of uncorrected fan-fiction written in a fever of enthusiasm and instantly shared on-line. You and I both know that in our own area of writing and publication, revision and editing are of considerable importance. But – and it’s a big ‘but’ – absolute spontaneity is as legitimate in literature as precision, and has been since (at least) the day of Jack Kerouac. This triumph of enthusiasm over expertise is an integral part of the phenomenon of fan fiction; not necessarily an essential part, nor a requirement, nor does fan fiction preclude the taking of care, the making of revision, etc., nevertheless the enthusiasm is what marks it out. Heaven forbid that we should do anything to discourage that enthusiasm for hammering away at the keyboard!

    • 🙂 Now that I got to your original comment, M, once again you have a very valid point. Long live that energy! Musical equivalent: Improvisation.

      Perhaps I don’t edit my comments carefully enough and throw them online without enough consideration. It makes for a lively debate, but also for quite a bit of backtracking on my part.

      It’s a shame that Kerouac was so overlooked that he turned introverted, and when his success finally came, it literally overwhelmed him. A free spirit, going under.

      Perhaps an unedited first draft conveys that fresh, enthusiastic approach. In the case of most though, a quick spell-check would be indicated anyway. 😀

  9. Fan fiction is no different than sharing your love for the characters and playing ‘make-believe’ with them, just as you did as a kid. Plagiarism is when you copy something and pass it off as your own creation. If you tell a new story with known characters, it is not the same thing. It is your own imagination furthering the story. None of it is ‘canon’ so there is no harm, no foul, as long as it is not making money. But if it harms the characters and the narrative of the original author, it could be a problem, diluting their story. But something like Star Trek, with hundreds of writers, thousands of hours of video and film, is not going to be harmed by a few fan-produced stories or films.

    • That’s just about how it is. Watching how fanfic develops is like watching an evolutionary process (or participating in it if you are that way inclined). If you’re inclined to watch only, from a scientific point of view quite a bit can be learnt, on a sociological and cultural level. I agree that characters must not be harmed though. “No characters were harmed in the production of this fanfic storyline”. 😉

  10. A while ago I realized that my first book, The Friendship of Mortals, could technically be called a huge fanfic, because it immensely fleshes out H.P. Lovecraft’s story “Herbert West, Reanimator.” When I read that story I found myself wondering what could motivate the main character and the narrator, and eventually I wrote it all out, very roughly sticking to the original storyline, but adding characters, settings and scenes (lots of them).Then I wrote 3 more books that took the same central character (my version) in a completely different direction. I have always thought of that first book as a kind of tribute to HPL, however. Interesting post!

    • Lovecraft is just too gorgeous to leave alone. So far I have written: 1) one story that Lovecraft might have written, he’d he been female and gay; 2) one Lovecraftian fable, rather in the style of ‘The Cats of Ulthar’ (in fact that is generally the style I use for fables); 3) a long short-story in which Lovecraft himself travels across the sea to Scotland, to confront a man who has built a house on the spot where, legend has it, Pontius Pilate’s parents took him to be dedicated to Nyarlathotep, the Crawling Chaos. I think what you have done with Herbert West is catch the ball and run with it.

  11. Fabulous post, one of the best I have read in a while. You staked your ground (which Yours Truly, the Grammar Mafia, approves) but remained open to broader perspectives. The comment board became a mosaic of miniposts. I am all for standards, no matter the genre. And it IS a fascinating question, what the democracy of the virtual world has enabled all of us and any of us to participate in.

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