Thank you everyone who participated in the animated discussion on fan fiction. A special thanks to those who brought new viewpoints and differing opinions; and to Marie, who went as far as to bring the discussion to another forum entirely.
Fascinating viewpoints emerged. I’ll summarize the main arguments:
- The social aspect. (I had completely ignored that aspect of modern internet-style fan fiction in my post. It is an important component. Fan fiction is another social medium like Goodreads, Facebook or Twitter. Apologies to all who use it, especially our beautiful teens. Of course you are fully entitled to your gathering places!)
- Different genres all called “fan fiction”. While I’m not sure I’d agree that parody is fan fiction (I see it as the opposite, actually, making fun of rather than honouring a work, even if it is meant good-naturedly), I’m quite sure retelling of folk tales is not. Folk tales are creative common; usually no author can be traced. They follow a verbal tradition which is simply extended by those who retell in writing. It would be fan fiction of whom?
- Different qualities of fan fiction. There are two distinct “styles” of fan fiction around today; one, whose tradition dates back to Victorian times, done with great care and attention, often by experienced or highly skilled writers; and then, that giant unedited free-for-all that resembles social media more than any genuine fiction arena. The latter is the one I was attacking in the previous post, not realizing I was trespassing into social media territory.
- Successful writers emerging from fan fiction. This has been happening all along, but I believe you can pick out their style and make a fair prognosis already based on the quality of their fan fiction. EL James, to be honest, is a phenomenon that has me gobsmacked. Someone once said that “your book doesn’t have to be good as long as it appeals”.
- The reader’s market… is after all the same. Who’d want to read fanfic about a character they have not met in its original setting? It follows that both fanfic readers and writers were indeed originally readers of published novels. But as it turns out, Penguin is quite rich enough…
- Competition for the emerging new author. It is easier to build a fan-base on someone else’s fame than try to raise one’s own. But as everywhere in evolution, this should not be a bad thing: It simply means that with stiffer competition, authors have to stand out even more to win the reader’s attention away from those well-established characters. The result should be better fiction.
The whole conversation has put me in the mood for starting a fan-fiction ezine. Feel free to post your ideas in the comments! 🙂