9.18.2006

Fan Fiction!

this is probably old news for many of you.

You just know there's money involved when the Wall Street Journal starts writing about it! Herewith their article on Friday about Fan Fiction!.

Link vacummed up from Media Bistro

57 comments:

Dave said...

I still think that it's the easy way out. The characters are established, the world they live in is presented, and all that remains is a half of the plot and dialog.

Not that there haven't been interesting stories or good writers. I know that Star Trek, Babylon 5 and Hellboy have novelizations out there, but that's commissioned work.

I'd rather stay away from it.

katiesandwich said...

This was an interesting read. I've read some information on fan fiction, but this piece was the most extensive. I see the points of both sides of the debate, but I try to look at it like I was a published author whose work was being written about with fan fic. I wouldn't like to find out that my fans were doing things with my characters that I hated. And if they were writing "prequels?" Well, what if I decided I wanted to write a prequel to my stories? How would that work? Because the way my story is written, it's very open to the prequel thing, and yes, if the series takes off, I might do that.

When I become published (because I WILL!), I don't think I'll get too snippy about fan fiction; I wouldn't want to lose any readers. But I still agree with what I've read in the past about fan fic. Why spend all this time writing about someone else's world when you can make up your own?

Ray Goldensundrop said...

At the same time, however, many fan-fiction writers shield their identities online and keep their pursuit secret from friends and colleagues. Meredith Elliott, who works at a theater company in Vancouver, British Columbia, has a following for her writings based on the TV show "House," but has only told her mother about her hobby. not anymore

"There's a sense of guilt. I always feel that I should not be using somebody else's characters and should be doing my own writing," she says. "But then I remember I am doing my own writing."


Well, not really. A great portion of writing fiction involves character creation and development. Meanwhile, one's butt is exposed to copyright infringement suits, and I suppose that'll happen when enough money is involved.

Some people realize what they're doing. Some, apparently, do not.

Ray Goldensundrop said...

At the same time, however, many fan-fiction writers shield their identities online and keep their pursuit secret from friends and colleagues. Meredith Elliott, who works at a theater company in Vancouver, British Columbia, has a following for her writings based on the TV show "House," but has only told her mother about her hobby. Honey, the whole world knows what you're doing now.

"There's a sense of guilt. I always feel that I should not be using somebody else's characters and should be doing my own writing," she says. "But then I remember I am doing my own writing."

This has to be the funniest thing I've seen all year long.

kathryn magendie said...

I've never heard of this.

I don't know what to say. I'm trying not to roll my eyes because they are going to permanently set that way, just like mom used to say. Got ...to...stop...the...eye...rolling.....arggghhh

I think I'll go read the "lemonade" thing to take the sour taste off my tongue, or is it sour grapes I'm tasting, *smack smack* -- Not sure. But I just hitched up a big ole sigh when I read that.

Now, I'm going back to the short story I'm writing - for whatever the "New thing of the Week" is, I just write what I write and hope for the best. yeehaw.

Anonymous said...

I. Am. Stunned.

My Harry Potter babies are still illegitimate, but I don't have to feel ashamed of them anymore?

Anonymous said...

Before I wrote my own stuff, I wrote fan fiction. It was my first try at fiction and a great training venue. I never made money at it as I found my own characters.

One of my favorite Sci Fi authors, Lois McMaster Bujold started with fan fiction, though she didn't make money in that area.

Anyway, whether you make money at it like Peter David, or just do it for fun, I think it's a legitimate option.

Anonymous said...

I've got to be honest. The idea of "fan fiction" kind of creeps me out. It's like real people are stalking fictional characters.

As a market, I would guess it's akin to blogging. If you get a huge following, it can elevate you above the unwashed masses because it implies you've got more going for you than just someone else's coattails. 99% of people doing it, though, will likely remain just noise. As it should be.

Rei said...

Oh great. If word about this sort of thing gets around, we'll have a million new teenagers pumping out bad fanfic, *and* thinking that they can get them published. Thanks a lot, WSJ!

Kate said...

Is this becoming a common trend, though? Somehow, I can't imagine agents and editors spending all of their time trolling the internet in search of brilliant fanfiction writers. Just because someone is good at telling stories with pre-existing characters doesn't mean they'll be able to carry a novel entirely on their own.

Sue said...

Perspective.

Fan fiction takes many forms and not all of it is "stalkerish" or "mental masturbation." The earliest published Star Trek novels were often fan works of high caliber. (I am talking about the novels published by Pocket Books, or whoever did them back then.) Many writers in SFF, at least, have either written fan fiction or read it. (Many editors at Tor read it!)

For some, fan fiction is the first serious foray into writing. Marian Zimmer Bradley encouraged it.

For the most part I don't write fan fiction because I like original characters. But I understand it.

Niamh Sage said...

I'd be a bit dismayed to see this become a legit market, actually. If fan-fic comes with a built in audience, that's got to be attractive to publishers. So where would that leave writers who create their own stuff?

Sorting out the contracts w.r.t. income sharing (with the original author) would be a bit of a nightmare too.

IMO fan fiction is a good vehicle for cutting your writerly teeth (my foray into ff showed me I could write something longer than a short story, for example). But I don't think it's the be-all and end-all.

Anonymous said...

It kind of creeps me out too, but I can't really put my finger on why. I guess I just hate the whole coattails thing. I personally think character development is the BIG part of writing...After I read a good book, I have lots of extra scenarios in my head about the characters and what could happen or what might've happened before. Would I really have those ideas if the setting and characters hadn't been created already? But like someone said, 99% of it will suck anyway, so I'll just keep plugging on...

Jessica said...

I started with fan fiction, and I still write it all the time and post it. My fan fiction stories are short stories, and I feel they're a great way to practice and experiment with my writing. I don't concider it anything serious like my own stories, but I still love to do it.

acd said...

Very old news! Just ask John Gardner about his villain-POV fanfic of Beowulf. Or read about March, Gertrude and Claudius, Wicked, or Rosencrantz and Gildenstern are Dead.

There are two trends going on here: writing new takes on favorite stories, and amateur publication that actually gets an audience. The latter is brand-new thanks to the Internets, but the latter has been around since before French troubadours started setting their romances in the courts of King Arthur. It's the availability of an audience (and the willingness of writers to do substantial work for free--which happens with original work too, as on FictionPress) that makes this an interesting issue.

Anonymous said...

Fan fic has been around forever. I remember the mimeographed stories you could buy at conventions ("cons," in the world of Trekkers).

Most of them are simple ways to pass the time. Some people have used them as springboards to other kinds of writing. And in a lot of cases, it's not much different than writing for an established book "series"--frankly, the folks who wrote for the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series did something quite similar and received very little recompense.

The only people who are going to make money on it are: (1) the people who are able to transition to writing for television/movies (Melissa Good, one of the first stars of the "Xena: Warrior Princess" fan fic lists, went on to write a couple of episodes for Renaissance Pictures), and (2) the people who discover that, if they really work at it, they can write original stories that people want to read.

This is more likely to be a good training exercise for genre writers--since most television series and films are genre-oriented--but an exercise it is.

As a graduate of not one, not two, but three graduate writing programs, from my experience the online fanfic communities work much like workshops. People talk about character, plot, pacing, story arc and resolution--and Dog help you if you get the details of Jeffreys tube scrubbing wrong!

Of course, it's a lot cheaper than a graduate writing program. And in the long run, probably about as useful--writers write, readers respond, the thoughtful improve.

Christine said...

Funny this should come up now. I've been involved with a group of writers, invited by an editor, to write stories based on HP's world, but NOT HP. Original characters and settings, but sort of the same 'rules' as apply in JKR's world. The stories all link together with a common theme.

I had a great time writing them, really for fun. Still had to work to come up with a plot and make sure all the pieces fit, etc... It was good writing exercise.


www.interdrama.com/wiz to peek.

Shannon said...

Something that wasn't addressed in this article, but is a big part of fanfiction is closure. There are some times when a beloved series just doesn't have the closure that some fans are craving. This generally happens when a TV show is canceled without a lot of warning - like Joss Wheadon's Serenity. The show got canceled before many of the major storylines could wrap up. So fans write stories to provide themselves with that sense of closure. It can also happen if there were a lot of things hinted at in the story but only superficially addressed. For example, the video game Final Fantasy VII is an excellent game with an amazing plot, but refers to a great deal of backstory that is never completely filled out. Fanfic can actually expand the universe itself by providing this backstory.

Also, not all fanfic uses the same characters - sometimes they only use the world it is set in. If nothing else, most fanfic also introduces new characters. In bad cases, these are "Mary Sues," or characters based on the fan's idealized version of him/herself. In good cases, these characters can be as fully realized as the original characters from the show.

It's a complicated issue altogether, both legally and creatively. This article actually seemed to do a pretty good job of summing it up.

P.N. Elrod said...

This is very funny to me. I've nothing against fanfiction, and only ask to have my stuff included out. I ask very politely, too!

The amusement comes in because I stumbled over a blog where I was accused of being a hypocrite. After having asked people not to use characters from my novels, I blithely wrote and sold a "fan fiction" using Quincey Morris from Dracula.

I've been spending entirely too much of my writing time trying to explain on my blog the concept of Public Domain to the uninformed.

If I'm a hypocrite, then I'm in good company with all the other writers and movie makers over the last few decades who have also used the characters from Stoker's novel.

And now I'm gonna go back to reading Fred Sabehagen's A Coldness in the Blood featuring You-Know-Who as the totally cool head honcho vampire.

Heeee!

Ryan Field said...

I know this will sound very sad, but I actually know someone who is writing this way and doesn't even realize it.

Agyar said...

Y'know, I'll bet fanfic boosts sales of the original work, like the Baen ebooks did.

I'm just sayin'.

cixddpr said...

I wonder if WSJ will do a late October piece on NaNoWriMo.

To a certain extent, the arguments for fanfic are similar to the arguments for NaNo. Personally, for me NaNo was a huge help. My first two NaNo novels may never get published, but they helped get me past a roadblock, and I am convinced that my third, which is essentially plotted and characters developed, will be in print on bookshelves in a couple of years. I've had some short fiction success recently as well.

I agree that fanfic will be the jumping-off point for some really good writers who would not otherwise know where to start. The article, however, focused on fanfic becoming a legitimate market. I don't think fanfic or NaNo will ever be taken too seriously, but they both will help good writers get past personal or professional roadblocks.

For me, NaNo helped me conquer my "inner editor" and allowed me to get past chapter three before abandoning my work. It turned out OK. Publishable, even, though not what a real reader would call "good".

I imagine fanfic helps some people build writing skills, and they later develop their own character and world building skills. It's not evil, but it still creeps me out.

Harry Connolly said...

This really is a basic impulse.

Anonymous said...

Fan fiction is based on the notion that the writer of the original work does not own the rights to their characters and story lines. This is bullshit.

Legitimizing fan fic is encouraging this unethical stance and I will never support this leech-like behavior.

In addition to the ethical/legal issues, there is a fair amount of disturbing fan fiction written about various fictional characters having sex. No big deal, you say? Fine, but personally, I wouldn't want my children googling Harry Potter and stumbling on a fan fic story where Harry and Draco end up in bed together. I did and wish I hadn't. I wish I could say this was an isolated instance, but it's not.

Yuck.

Jillian said...

I have a fundamental problem with the entire concept. I suppose I will be one of those authors who gets her lawyers involved.

I have the same problem with fantasy writers who have "orcs" in their stories (Tolkein made them up; orcs are HIS idea).

Fan fiction might be "fun," (?) but it ultimately lacks creativity and infringes on the author's original work.

I guess that makes me uptight about this sort of thing. So be it!

Beth said...

I usually prefer to lurk here, but I had to speak up this time.

Everybody knows that the best way to get better at writing is to write. Many of us also know that too many kids grow up hating the very idea of writing.

The explosion of fanfic, especially since the advent of the Internet, has encouraged more people than ever before to put their creative energies to work.

Yes, most of what's out there is godawful, but at least people are writing, and as others have pointed out, more than one pro-author started out by writing fanfiction.

Anonymous said...

You learn while writing. You can learn while writing fanfiction. You'll never make money at it, but you can develop your abilities and gain the confidence to attempt a novel of your own. It's entertaining, it's good practice, and because the feedback is so quick when you're posting to an on-line forum, you can really learn what works and what doesn't for your readers. In that sense, it's market research and a tutorial in public tastes for amateur writers.

As an example of the market research aspect of it, I predict that male-male erotica is going to make it into the mainstream for publishers of romance. "Slash" (which is usually written by women for an audience of women, surprisingly) is wickedly popular. There is money to be made there.

Maria said...

Mind you, most editors want nothing to do with fanfiction and they do not consider fanfiction a real publication credit. Fanfiction is a popular hobby for many and like any other writing it is a training ground. Know it for what it is.

I pulled this from the guidelines of a paying magazine--just to give you an idea of how most editors feel about it (as a submission):

"Again, I’m not going to limit what type of work we are looking for, I’m more interested in your voice than chosen format. If you send fan-fiction…I will kill you!"

Erminette said...

Condensed milk - keep a tin of caramalised condencsed milk in the fridge, and allow yoursefl a spoonful when you get a rejection - you'll start to look forward to them...

katiesandwich said...

Well, these comments have been very insightful. I never thought of Wicked as fan fic, nor other tales based on old, old stories, but I guess they are. And... uh, guilty! I did an interpretation of the Sleeping Beauty story and entered it in the Writer's Digest short story competition this year. Now I'm confused. Am I a hypocrite, too?

As far as the creating original characters thing goes, I don't thing Gregory Maguire cheated at all in Wickedbecause even though he based his story on an old classic, his characters are very different than the originals. I'd say he worked as hard on his characters as I do on mine.

Also, fan fic that doesn't touch my own characters, just takes place in the world I've created... I think I could deal with that. It's just that when you use my own characters... I know these characters. I mean, like better than I know anyone except maybe my husband. And depending on the day, I know my characters better than I do him, too. So for someone else to write about my characters would be, I don't know. They'd get it all wrong! They don't know why Grace doesn't want Daniel to call her Gracie! So I guess now I don't know where I stand. Thanks a lot, you guys!

Stacy said...

I clicked harry connolly's link, and I think the article says what I wanted to say earlier, but decided not to. Because some people just don't get it, and aren't going to get it.

As a writer, you either cling to the idea that the characters are 'yours', or accept that they are now part of something larger, something you don't and will never be able to control. You will never be able to take a character back; it just isn't possible. And it is a terrible, terrible mistake to feel that you somehow have the ability (much less the right) to tell people how to read your character. People bring their own experiences to the text, and trying to limit your readers to your experiences is [impossible] just plain stupid.

A writer who tries to control readers' minds and hearts never rises to the level of respected author in my mind, because their outlook is too small, too provincial; this is not a person that I can learn anything from.

Chumplet said...

Another form of fan art is art itself. Sites like deviantart.com have a big 'fan art' following, where teens and adults alike draw their favourite animated characters from Pokemon to Disney. Some of it is awesome, and although they are drawing characters that have already been developed, it must help them develop expertise in both rendering and computer graphics. My daughter contributes regularly, and I've finally persuaded her to start developing her own characters.

Morgan said...

I write fanfic. I'm not embarrassed about it. It's a good exercise, a way to help keep your writing muscles in shape, and I've read fanfic that's a hell of a lot better than some published fiction (particularly those tie-in novels). And whether you want to admit it or not, EVERYONE has written fanfiction at some point; you probably just didn't know you were doing it. We all begin writing by copying other people; no one starts off being completely original.

That said, I think this article is 1) way behind the times and 2) treading dangerously close to making it sound like writing fanfic is a surefire ticket to getting published. It isn't.

Fanfiction is a hobby and nothing more. It's not a threat to published authors, it's not an insult to the source material, and people worried about what The Children might find on the internet should supervise their net access.

Shannon said...

Fan fiction is based on the notion that the writer of the original work does not own the rights to their characters and story lines. This is bullshit.

It actually isn't bullshit - it all depends on how much time you give it. This idea of authors having "rights" to their characters is a product of modern copyright. They have legal rights, but they do eventually run out. The only line between good fanfic and legitimate literature is the amount of time the copyright has left. After that point, it is considered homage or a reinterpretation (as the author above said about Dracula).

As for creators having creative rights to their characters, that appears to end in the "literary world" after the author has died. A good example of that is Lost Girls, a graphic novel by Alan Moore, which uses characters from the Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, and Peter Pan in very different situations than those presented in the original stories. If the authors still held "creative rights" to their characters (or those authors' families did), Alan Moore would never be able to produce this. What complicates his particular work even further is that Lost Girls has a number of explicit sexual situations. So even though Moore is a very respected artist, what he is producing is in content closer to "slash" (sexual/romantic) fanfic than it is to traditional literature.

Which all just goes to show that fanfic is neither as bizarre or "unliterary" as people make it all out to be. Of course, Teresa Nielsen Hayden says everything I just said, but better, on the link above provided by Harry Connolly.

Anonymous said...

Fan fiction is not a legitiment market, but it really does allow aspiring writers to get the feel of writing and crafting a story. True, many settings and characters are pre-done for the writer, but that is sort of like a cake in a box. It gets writers in the flow and then they start adding in their own twists.

And if they were writing "prequels?" Well, what if I decided I wanted to write a prequel to my stories? How would that work? Because the way my story is written, it's very open to the prequel thing, and yes, if the series takes off, I might do that.

What the original author writes is called "canon" in the fan fiction world. Canon is law. When J.K Rowling brings out each new book and reveals new information, fan fiction adjusts and changes. And most importantly, no one is going to not buy the original work and make fan fiction more important than the original work. The fan fiction world is amazingly self-regulated. There are those called "canon-nazis" who call out inaccuracies.

In the end, fan fiction is a really good place to learn the craft of storytelling and story writing. It teaches proper grammar and spelling and respect for the reader. I am now writing original works and being paid for it, but I learned nearly everything I know about writing from reading novels and writing fan fiction.

And, yes, there are some amazing authors out there, hiding in the fan fiction world. I have been held captive at my computer for days while reading an epic by a writer who took a little known character from a book and created an entire story around him or her. I am not surprised at all that the publishing world would turn an interested eye in this direction.

Anna said...

Fan fiction is based on the notion that the writer of the original work does not own the rights to their characters and story lines. This is bullshit.

I'm not aware of anyone who writes fanfic with that idea in mind. Everyone I know writes it acknowledging that they are using fictional characters without the creator's permission. They know what they are writing is outside of what will be written. They aren't writing it because they think the author has given up control of something.

A lot of people who write fanfic do it because it's practice runs, it's got a built-in audience for feedback, and you can do things with it that you just can't do in original fiction.

Yes, it's true - it's a way of not having to flesh out the background of a character because that character is already fleshed out. But it means that things you write will have a good emotional reaction. One of the best HP fanfics I read is very short, told backwards... and only works because you already care about the characters. It would never work as a stand alone story - and isn't meant to.

I don't think that HP fanfiction is ever going to be something legitimate. But Star Wars, Star Trek, and Buffy already have "fanfiction" that is legitimate - I've been reading it since I was a kid. One could easily argue that every Star Trek book published is fanfiction.

And yes, there's a lot of HP slash fic out there. I'm sorry you stumbled on something that disturbed you without a warning for slash or adult content. A lot of fanfic writers do mention that in their warnings or have an age-statement before you can enter the site, but some don't, and that must be difficult for parents to deal with.

TMack said...

I'm learning every day from this blog. I've never heard of fan fiction per se. Sounds like an idea spawned by high school writing classes.

You make some very good points acd.

Stoppard's "Rosencrantz and Gildenstern are Dead" is a brilliant play. I prefer it to Hamlet, which is also very good. I also really like Ann Marie MacDonald's, "Good Night Desdemona, Good Morning Juliet".

Inkwolf said...

I write fanfiction. Mine are humorous semi-parodies on Harry Potter. They help me (and many other people) enjoyably pass a little time whle waiting for the next book to be published. They are my 'junk food' of writing, I can have fun with them and never give a damn whether they're marketable or hip or whether I've used a cliché or a hundred of them. And when I've finshed writing an episode, I post it online directly to its intended readers and get the instant gratification of feedback--people read it and write that they loved it and quote back all their favorite lines. Can you blame anyone for loving writng fan fiction? It's instant gratification.

If my own personal work ever does get published, as far as I'm concerned there could be no flattery greater than fans so eager for more of my world that they put themselves in it and create more.

M. Takhallus. said...

I Googled the name of a series I co-authored and "fan fiction" and came up with 45,000 hits despite having pulled the plug on the original series 5 years ago. So I have a hard time seeing why this is a bad thing. These people are keeping the series alive and probably still generating sales through Amazon and so on.

Yeah, some of the sites pair the characters up in ways that are, um, not strictly orthodox, but what am I going to do? Run around offering editorial advice? Write angry emails? Or sue a bunch of bloggers?

This is a relax and try to enjoy it situation. These fans aren't going to hurt anyone's bottom line, and they'll probably help a little.

pacatrue said...

My only two thoughts are:

1) People have always done fanfiction since they heard the first story they liked. Many people imagine what it would be like if Mr. Darcy showed up to their party on Saturday; they dream of The Count of Monte Cristo becoming reunited with Mercedes; etc. I spent most of my childhood with action figures based on characters created by George Lucas making up stories in my room, and I bet I didn't stick to Lucas' vision, since Boba Fett was usually the protagonist. Some kids are going to have Skeletor and Strawberry Shortcake making out - or Skeletor and Megatron.

What is different is that those things people have always done are now widely available for all to read, instead of just shared among friends. There's nothing creepy about telling stories about characters you enjoy. I think what bugs people is the idea that someone else's dreams of your characters might become as popular as your own dreams - though I can't think of any case of that happening. I did have a friend who enjoyed Star Trek Voyager fan fiction, usually slash, more than the actual Voyager TV show, but her dislike of the TV show wasn't due to her enjoyment of the fan fic. If anything, it kept her interested in the show until the scripts improved.

2) Writing can be high art. But creating art is not the only reason to write. For the large majority of people, fan fiction is a simple hobby. Sometimes it is good practice for them to later create art, but most often it is not. I think that's OK. Writing for fun, just like reading for fun, is allowed.

For the record, I neither read nor write fan fiction, just because there aren't any worlds I want to spend extra time in. I read HP, enjoy it, and then go do something else. But I guess I plan on being a fan fiction author one day in that two projects in the back of my mind are to write an update of the Norse myth of Balder, as well as a novel based on Dumas' character of Eugenie Danglars. I'm lucky in that no lawyer will sue me for such abominations.

s.m.o'shea said...

Fanfiction is actually a very good place for beginning writers to start out. The characters and setting are all well established, so the fanfiction writer only has to worry about maintaining the characters and can learn by practice and group criticism about things like plot development, consistent characterization, and voice and style. It will never be a moneymaking venture (except for in cases like Pride and Prejudice where the work is public domain and sequels can actually be published).

Aside from the learning aspect, fanfiction is a very good marketing tool. Fanfiction-based fandoms thrive long after something was published. It kept Harry Potter fans interested during their waiting periods and it keeps fans of other authors involved until those authors come out with new books. Otherwise, people might lose interest and wander away to bigger, better things, losing audience.

I learned a lot of my writing from fanfiction. I am by no means publishable yet, but I made a ot of progress in fanfiction because, not having to create my own characters and setting, I could concentrate more on effective wordplay and language and creative, believable plot development. I don't write it so much anymore, no, because it got to the point where I couldn't learn anything else there and needed to move on to bigger and better things. But my own favorable history with it compels me to defend it. There really isn't a harm in it. The fanfiction community as a whole has no mind to seek money for their writing. They write because they love it, because they want to do it and because they admiire a particular author's work.

FunkyPink said...

Wow! It's interesting seeing the perspectives on this.

I think that if I were a published author, to know that people out there had enjoyed my stories and worlds so much that they wanted to take a piece and make it their own? It would sincerely blow me away.

I mean, I'm only seeing great names here. Look at the list of characters and authors so far - wouldn't you be in great company?

Surely they only do it because they want more... More of what you created, and that's certainly not a bad thing.

... and I'd be willing to bet that none of the HP fanfic writers would swap a pretend book 7 for the real deal in a million bllion squillion years.

katiesandwich said...

Okay, okay, so fan fic isn't evil. (Seems like most of you would agree.) But there are some authors--Terry Goodkind and Kristin Britain are the two that come to my mind off the top of my head--who don't want people writing fan fic about their books. Whether you agree with them or not, don't you think that their fans should respect their wishes? I mean, I'll be the first to admit that I've pondered scenarios for the as-yet unreleased third Green Rider book, but even if I did take the time to write them down, I would feel funny posting them online because Kristin Britain says she doesn't want people to do that.

Ruth said...

There's another twist to fan fiction. A man named Brad Neely recorded a parody of the first Harry Potter movie, called Wizard People, Dear Reader. To listen to it, you play the movie but mute the volume and listen to the alternate soundtrack instead. He got in trouble with Warner or Disney or whoever produced the movie because he gave a live performance of Wizard People, Dear Reader for a paying audience at a theater. You can still Google it and download it, but I've never heard of anything else like it.

Anonymous said...

If you want to be a legitimate author, create your own worlds. No one has the right to manipulate a world created by a different author without permission and it's the same thing as stealing, or in the case of slash/shippers, virtually/mentally raping a character. If you can't come up with your own worlds that are interesting enough to keep you writing, then find another hobby.

GutterBall said...

I have no problem with fanfiction in general. I've penned a few bars of that music myself, mostly to practice a certain writing tactic or brush up on a particular skill. However, this WSJ article bothers me more than fanfiction ever could because it goes against the one tenet that was drilled into me since I first stumbled across a DragonBall Z story on the 'net.

"I own neither [insert title here] nor the characters therein. No profit is intended."

Most fanfiction authors put a disclaimer such as this before their work, though many of them grumble about it. Yet this WSJ article suggests that there might indeed be profit, or at least publication, in fanfiction.

Call me crazy, but isn't that where true copyright infringement comes in? When one party seeks to profit from the original party's product?

Otherwise, I agree with someone above who said that this is old news. Must be a slow news day on Wall Street.

Rei said...

Ruth: Oh, it gets better than "Wizard People", dear reader. A friend of mine in Denton took the original DVD of HP, digitally stripped out the vocals, synced up wizard people, and made it into a new DVD with a custom startup screen (including a great parody of the FBI warning, in pirate format -- the header is "Avast!") and music by "Harry and the Potters".

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to add something, as a *gasp* fanfic writer. Not ALL fanfic is based on books or tv shows. Some are based on celebs or athletes. Mine focuses on a music group, the characters are purely my own. And some of the genres writing is better then some of what's published.

randomsome1 said...

I agree with Niamh Sage in that fanfic is good for cutting your teeth on when you're a n00b writer. I got into fanfic and learned more about writing than I did in college. Searching for real crit with a real drive to improve has made me a better writer, and beta-reading for various authors jump-started me into editing.

There's problems that fanfic fosters in said n00b authors, though: you don't have to scenebuild as much, describe the characters as thoroughly, or characterize quite as strongly, as your readers are already familiar with the basic concepts. Then the crit an author gets is usually negligable, leading them to believe they're something awesome when the same reviewers will happily traipse over to the next story (which is about the author's OMGSPESHUL NEW HOGWARTS STUDENT that's half-Veela and Snape's daughter and falls in love with Hot!Capable!Wildly OOC!Tom Felton!Draco) and review it just as gleefully.

Then there's how the fanfic realm has made me aware of the number of people who don't care about an author's status as a blatant plagiarist--publishers included. Simon and Schuster, I'm looking at you.

Anonymous said...

No one has the right to manipulate a world created by a different author without permission and it's the same thing as stealing, or in the case of slash/shippers, virtually/mentally raping a character.

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

*wipes eyes* Hoo, boy. Get a grip. Yo; those are imaginary people. Rape is a horrific crime that happens to real live human beings, and applying the term to something as silly as fanfic is staggeringly crass of you.

As for not posting fanfic without the writer's permission, you're absolutely correct. A writer has the right to control his or her intellectual property.

The thing is, very few writers actively discourage fanfiction. Of the ones that do, generally the fans adhere to their wishes and refrain from posting any. There's always a small number of nitwits who will anyway, but nitwits are notoriously hard to communicate with. What ya gonna do? Just keep hitting 'em with the cluegun and the Cease and Desist orders.

The really huge fandoms basically do have the writer's permission to exist. The biggest one out there is that of Harry Potter, and J. K. Rowling has said she doesn't mind fanfiction. Therefore, we do have her permission to write it. Nyeer, nyeer.

Anonymous said...

As others have said, writing fanfic can be a good starting point for people who want to write because it teaches you about the need for consistent characterisation and solid plotting.

Many fanfic writers introduce their own original characters into their work, which teaches you how to create and maintain those characters and of course, there are people who create their own alternative 'canon' using a plot point or character and taking them in a completely different direction to that of the original book/tv show/film. It's interesting that the 'better' fanfic writers are the ones who most often go on to get their original work published.

Also, fanfic is a great way of developing a tough skin for the rejection slips - fanfic readers are not afraid of slamming work they dislike, often in a way that would make Miss Snark's Crapometer look like a candy wrapped, pink apology.

I can understand why some authors find fanfic icky but those who shut it down are (I think) damaging their own potential sales. Fanficcers are an active readership - they're the ones who are most likely to read any future work that you produce, and they're the most likely to buy spin off work and to go and see a movie adaptation. In advertising 'word of mouth' publicity is considered gold dust, and fanfic communities are a great way of generating and maintaining word of mouth advertising and keeping your work in the collective consciousness.

- Britmouse.

Niamh Sage said...

Ruth & Rei:

The scenario you're talking about (where someone mutes the soundtrack of a movie and dubs in their own) was done in Australia in the 80s and 90s by a group called Double Take (see here for info: http://www.anufg.org.au/doubletake.html). They generally did this with old or very B-Grade movies, and they used to put on performances at theatres (yes! For money!).

One film in this vein that was actually released is called "Hercules Returns" (also done by Aussies - see http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0107103/). It used the film "Ercole, Sansone, Maciste e Ursus gli invincibili" (1964) and was absolutely hilarious.

I don't know if I'd call that fan fic though - it seems much more like parody to me.

Anonymous said...

The comment in the article about lawyers advising authors to not read fanfiction because of the threat of ff authors claiming plagiarism took me a bit by surprise. That logic strikes me as a dog-chasing-his-tail scenario. The ff author is using the original author's creation without permission, but the original author is at risk if they write a scene resembling a plot point of a fanfiction tale? I suppose an original author could comb the ff archives looking for fresh material, but most ff is rather lacking in substance. Before anyone gets their nose hairs singed, I agree there are some very good ff writers who turn out some compelling stories, but they're the exception, not the rule. Still, it would take some nerve on the part of an ff author to cry "foul". It would also take some desperation on the part of the original author to resort to stealing from ff. But there are coincidences where similar plot points appear in different authors's work. So how do you know when the stealing began and who stole from whom? Looks to me like the traditionally published work has the leg-up here. Unless the original author took scenes word for word from a ff work, then a plagiarism claim is a tough sell. Plus, that would be professional suicide for a published author.

I'm trying to wrap my mind around this, and the best answer I can come with is that life isn't fair.

But, from reading the 'Making Light' post, it appears Marion Zimmer Bradley ran into some trouble in this murky area. So, what happened there?

Anonymous said...

nd it is a terrible, terrible mistake to feel that you somehow have the ability (much less the right) to tell people how to read your character.

Absolutely. I LOVE the idea of people reading my characters in utterly different ways. It's already been happening as my book goes through the publication process - people have very, very different takes on my narrator - and I love it.

If anyone ever tries to WRITE any of my characters, rather than reading them, I will do absolutely everything in my power to obliterate the person in every possible way.

It's not because I'd be scared that the fanfic would become more popular than the original. It's because I created these characters, I put everything I've got into it, they're mine more than any real human being ever could be, and manipulating them to give yourself a little buzz counts as fucking with Mama Tiger's cubs.

Inkwolf said...

I expect nobody's reading the comments here any more, but I made a discovery and wanted to clarify something, just in case...

I am the Inkwolf on CoSForums who writes Hogwarts Staff Meeting.

I am NOT the Inkwolf on LiveJournal who writes Sirius Black slash porn. Eep.

Anonymous said...

Inkwolf:

Oh, the horror! The shame! The guilt-by-association! ;-D

Mmm...Sirius slash porn...

*wanders over to LJ*

Word veri: neufun!

Anonymous said...

I do wish that people who think that writing fanfiction is "easy" because the characters and world are established would read something like "Wicked" and see how imaginative and original a writer can be when working in an established world created by another author.

Easy way out? I would guess that Maguire needed to do tons of research and combing through the Oz books to get a full picture of the world in which he wanted to write, and then on top of that, he fleshed it out far more fully than Baum. He also made it a fully realized world that adults can identify with; in the original books, Dorothy first saw this world through the eyes of a child who was a stranger to it. As such she did not see wives cheating on husbands or the role that religion played in the society or the political factions warring with each other over control of the nation. I highly doubt that what Maguire created was "easy" for him to do; he gave readers a rich and complex world only suggested obliquely by Baum.

As someone who's written fanfiction and is now moving into writing original works (in a world of my own creation) I know that it was far HARDER to write fanfiction because I was dedicated to doing it "right"--which is to say I researched the world like crazy and tried to fill in the gaps in the world to the best of my ability. Since I was writing in an incomplete canon (Harry Potter) I also inevitably speculated on many things that might happen in future novels--and when those novels were released I had gotten a lot of it right. (That's where research and attention to detail in the existing canon is so important.) My readers definitely appreciated the research I did.

Sure, there are fanfic writers who are all about the shipping and don't care about whether the characterization is true to the original books or whether they get basic facts about the world wrong (let alone spelling, punctuation and grammar). But many people ARE professionally publishing what amounts to fanfiction, whether it's because they are writing in universes in the public domain (like Oz) or because they are producing sanctioned works like the new Dune books, Star Trek books, etc. The writing in these works should be judged on its own merits, not dismissed because the authors didn't create the worlds in which their stories are set. If they get things wrong, readers who know those worlds intimately will howl with rage. Fanfic readers are notoriously hard on dilettantes who don't do their research in the universe in question.

As for authors who forbid fanfiction based on their work, if I manage to get published I can't imagine ever doing that, largely due to the way I've started out and built a loyal readership (who are now clammering for my original work). As it is, people have already written fanfics of my fanfics (yes, this actually happens). Since I do not "own" Harry Potter and did not get permission to write about him, however, I did not feel that it was my place to tell others that they could not build upon the stories that I concocted about a character I did not create. Unfortunately, I really hate most of the fanfics based on my fics. One in particular gives me the hives to even think about it, and that person has even used original characters of mine in his work in an unspeakable way. I've taken the philosophical approach to this and decided that it is good practice for me to grin and bear this particular idiot (and some others) while I'm an unknown in the publishing world and hope that, in the event I am published and readers write fanfic of my book(s), I am able to view this as a compliment to me and a testament to their dedication to the world I've created, rather than pulling the plug on the fanfiction and ending up feeling horribly hypocritical as a result. And maybe, just maybe, some other person writing fanfic in my universe will feel moved to do their own work and move to the next level. I know that I've been moved, motivated and educated by the concrit from readers and I want to pay that forward if I can.