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Fanfic: At The End of the Day

The Internet seems to be having one of its periodic cycles of wank about fanfic -- or maybe it's always there and I only notice it periodically -- so this would probably be a good time to mention that I used to be anti-fanfic (and personally squicked by the idea of people writing about my characters), but no longer am. I've seen people pointing out that my original feelings on the matter were rendered pretty hypocritical by the publication of Plastic Jesus, and they are right. I wrote Plastic Jesus during a spell of creative bankruptcy and am not proud of the book (except for the illustration of Amsterdam -- I wish I had the original of that). If I had it to do over again, I wouldn't publish it. (Not to take anything away from readers who enjoyed it; I've learned that one should always appreciate enjoyment of one's work. Took me a while, but I think I've got it now.)

It's not so much about Plastic Jesus, though; it's just about getting older and encountering real troubles and realizing that, as theferrett eloquently pointed out today, people being inspired by your characters and wanting to play in your world is a pretty goddamn luxurious "problem" to have. It doesn't matter, it doesn't do harm, and the loss-of-copyright bugaboos that scared a bunch of authors (including me) some years back appear to have been inaccurately reported and (probably) wildly exaggerated. So I hereby apologize to everyone I've ever been a douchenozzle to about fanfic. I hope I wasn't too much of one; I know I've expressed some very cranky general opinions, but I don't think I've ever actually been mean to anyone who wrote/wanted to write about my characters. (I imagine the volume of PZB fanfic is minuscule compared to most fandoms anyway.) I still don't want to actually read it, but obviously the world has moved on in regards to this issue and my attitude needs to catch up or else I will only needlessly insult readers or would-be readers. The FAQ on my website does not reflect this change in attitude because I'm a lazy bum who never updates my website, but the next time I do, it will.

Comments

( 34 comments — Leave a comment )
tekalynn
May. 8th, 2010 11:07 pm (UTC)
Thank you.
docbrite
May. 8th, 2010 11:20 pm (UTC)
You're welcome!
nihilistic_kid
May. 8th, 2010 11:09 pm (UTC)
Yes, but how do you feel about fanfic in which Nothing goes to Hogwarts and has sex with Harry Potter?







Because I'm on my tenth volume of stories...

Edited at 2010-05-08 11:13 pm (UTC)
docbrite
May. 8th, 2010 11:19 pm (UTC)
I approve of that ship.
sylphslider
May. 8th, 2010 11:11 pm (UTC)
I and 17 other people used to write Valdemar fanfic (Mercedes Lackey) through her official fan club back in the early 1990s. Part of the rules involved sending the fanfic to Lackey in addition to each other, and we had to produce something every two months, etc. etc. We kept it up for two years and then Lackey's lawyers convinced her to have us stop doing it. She was afraid she might accidentally use one of our characters or plotlines and then someone would sue her. I think we were all too much in awe of her to have done such a thing (I was 17 at the time). She did use the name of one of my characters in one of her books one time and I was thrilled that she did so. I saw it as an honor, not as a theft of my creative work.
docbrite
May. 8th, 2010 11:20 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I can see how lawyers and agents would hate that. It's pretty much their job to hate anything that doesn't directly make $ for their client, let alone things that could potentially take it away. She sounds awfully sweet about it, though.
sylphslider
May. 8th, 2010 11:29 pm (UTC)
She was very classy about the whole thing. We organized, established parameters (like no changing major plots, etc.) and asked her permission before we even started. I think that helped - that we respected her wishes about it. Also, we weren't writing slash and we hardly ever used her major characters.
chris_walsh
May. 9th, 2010 12:18 am (UTC)
It's pretty much their job to hate anything that doesn't directly make $ for their client

That may be why I got reminded of Stephen King's "Dollar babies," the short films he's allowed of his short stories; King admitted his lawyer didn't like the idea. I was wondering why this was bringing that to mind, because it's not at all a related issue, as it's translation from one medium to another instead of straight writing-in-another-writer's-world. I've seen a few of them: the one standout being, not surprisingly, Frank Darabont's "The Woman in the Room."

I'm glad most of the fanfic writers I know are both A) very aware of the pitfalls that worry a lot of authors about fanfic and B) write original stuff too. Writing just fanfic seems a non-fulfilling thing.
docbrite
May. 9th, 2010 12:30 am (UTC)
I just sold a "dollar baby" to a filmmaker friend, but I don't think I'm supposed to talk about specifics yet.
chris_walsh
May. 9th, 2010 12:33 am (UTC)
Hey, neat! I hope the result is satisfying, for you and the friend.
morbid_curious
May. 9th, 2010 01:47 am (UTC)
Interesting situation. While in a slightly different domain, I've been a roleplaying game geek for many years and spent quite a bit of time hanging out online with the freelance writers of a particular tabletop game. The boundaries are a lot more blurred there though, in that you have multiple authors working in (or on) the same universe, and a fair number of those freelancers started as fans whose submissions they picked up and ran with. I'm glad we had the level of trust we did in that community.

In terms of my contributions being picked up, I had a character name used in one of their sourcebooks and I contributed some background research for a serious game system rewrite in their latest edition. My "royalties" were in getting a system that didn't suck :-)

Nowadays, I'm writing for a completely new (computer game) setting. I think if fanfic turns up of anything that I write, that'll be a positive sign. Not sure quite how I'd feel about someone deriving a commercial work from it, though.
docbrite
May. 9th, 2010 01:54 am (UTC)
By "fanfic" I mean specifically "not for money." So no, no commercial ventures. Or at least no written ones. There's a perfumer who sells a line of Lost Souls-character-themed essential oils, which I think is pretty cool (though I did basically demand a free sample, which they very graciously provided).

(Perfumer, are you out there? I'd like to link to you, but I lost most of my links when I switched browsers.)
morbid_curious
May. 9th, 2010 04:35 am (UTC)
*nod* That's my understanding of fanfic too, and that's a good distinction to be understood.

Searching for such things via Google, I can't find the perfumer in question. It's not someone like Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab though, is it? I hear they do some character-themed scents.
witchouse
May. 9th, 2010 05:33 am (UTC)
Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab?
indilwen
May. 9th, 2010 06:00 pm (UTC)
What, no Exquisite Corpse perfumes?! ;)
If you ever dig that link up, I would love to see it.
laufeyette
May. 8th, 2010 11:31 pm (UTC)
♥♥♥
jeffpalmatier
May. 9th, 2010 12:02 am (UTC)
What surprised me at the time was when you mentioned the idea that allowing fanfic could lead to loss-of-copyright, which surprised me. I thought how if that was the case, then you were being reasonable in saying how you'd have to take legal action. I'm glad that possibility of losing copyright is apparently not true or not likely or whatever.

I recently read an interview with the author of Brokeback Mountain in which she related all the awful fanfic she received and how horrified she was by people telling her they thought they were 'fixing' her story by writing different endings. I can see why that would irritate the creator, although I found it funny people thought she'd react positively towards somebody else fixing her fiction.
mastadge
May. 9th, 2010 12:18 am (UTC)
I wonder how she'd have felt if someone had hit on an ending that she recognized as actually superior to hers!
tamago23
May. 9th, 2010 07:10 pm (UTC)
Depends how graceful she is about the possibility. As one example, Stephen King has readily said that the ending Frank Darabont came up with for the movie version of The Mist was superior to the ending King came up with for the original short story. (The actual quote from King: "I love this ending, I think it's perfect for the story and I'm sorry I didn't think of it.") So it's certainly possible for authors to be gracious enough to recognize when someone's done something even better with their work.
theferrett
May. 10th, 2010 05:38 pm (UTC)
Chuck Pahlaniuk said essentially the same thing about the movie version of "Fight Club."
chris_walsh
May. 9th, 2010 12:25 am (UTC)
I recently read an interview with the author of Brokeback Mountain in which she related all the awful fanfic she received and how horrified she was by people telling her they thought they were 'fixing' her story by writing different endings. I can see why that would irritate the creator, although I found it funny people thought she'd react positively towards somebody else fixing her fiction.

Even I've felt that impulse occasionally (the one moment that comes to mind was seeing the first Mission: Impossible film and wondering if there were bigger, deeper reasons for Mr. Phelps to have gotten disenchanted), but I'd do that just as an exercise, not as something to go "Hey! Author person! You did that wrong! Here it is all fix-ed-er!"

Issue six of Sandman is kind of about that pitfall, with the waitress concocting her stories in which she makes the lives of her customers conform to what she thinks their lives should be. And yep, now it's even clearer to me how obnoxious that is.
ghostangel
May. 9th, 2010 03:43 am (UTC)
...Is it just me, or is sending unsolicited fanfic to an author INCREDIBLY rude? I suppose it gets done, obviously, but I would be offended in the author's shoes, just on principle. One thing to say "I don't want to see it" and have your fans respect that, and a whole another thing to force it down the author's throat. :/
glasshouses
May. 9th, 2010 03:52 am (UTC)
It's not just you. Waving transformative materials under the noses of authors, filmmakers, actors etc. is not only rude, but just plain stupid.
ghostangel
May. 9th, 2010 07:07 pm (UTC)
It kind of freaks me out that some people think that fandom should be rubbed in the creators faces. Personally I'd rather be in my tiny piece of fandom, and leave the creators alone. Its like going up to them irl and rambling on and on about say, your sexual fantasies. >_<

If they stumble upon it fine, but don't leaaad them to fandom and don't shove it in their faces :/ Rude people are rude.
glasshouses
May. 9th, 2010 03:55 am (UTC)
There is sometimes confusion with trademark (which you have to 'vigorously' defend or risk losing) and copyright, which you can selectively enforce.
ghostangel
May. 9th, 2010 03:40 am (UTC)
Being around the fandom for like...I dunno, 10 years or something, I don't remember you being too dickfaced about it except that you didn't want to see it or read it. Compared to the ashfall that was Anne Rice's C&C fest back in the day, it was a tame reaction I think. I think we pretty much kept to ourselves though, at the most there was a dozen of us back in the day, I think now maybe there's 2 or 3 left, I can't say I've been active in it for like 5 years tho, so I can't say for sure what anyone else thinks, just what I experienced at the time when you did it.
chn_breathmint
May. 9th, 2010 02:18 pm (UTC)
I still write fanfic on very occasional basis, usually on request from friends, and I confess I did have some fic-ish ideas about Drawing Blood - mostly in trying to replicate the descriptions of Birdland in comic-style art.

I never did do it, but if I do I wonder if you'd like to have a look at it.

- Mel
indilwen
May. 9th, 2010 06:04 pm (UTC)
As a sporadic fic writer, thank you :)

I've seen all different types of reactions to fanfiction, from Naoko Takeuchi ("Send me some!") to Anne Rice (OMGWTFNO), and I always thought that your original stance on fanfiction, while it stung a little, was classy and well thought out. I think this one is, too. Thanks again!
everydayalways
May. 9th, 2010 08:27 pm (UTC)
I write fanfic sometimes... In fact if you go to my journal, it's all it is because this is my slash fic account... (Even the name is a reference to it) but I only write about real people... which some could say is even worse than basing it off fiction, and some would say is better... I dunno.

All I know, I used to be anti-fanfic too, until my friend sent me an incredibly amazing chapter fanfiction about Bam Margera and Ryan Dunn, bwahahaha.

Anywhat, I just thought I'd comment. I kinda keep my fanfic love secret because a lot of people don't understand it, and I don't even totally understand it... But I love writing about people I'm sure are actually bumpin' uglies in reality.
witchouse
May. 10th, 2010 07:58 am (UTC)
Out of curiousity, what do you think about people 'borrowing' a character of yours and having them make a cameo appearance in a short story or novel? Naturally, if it was done without consent that would basically amount to theft, but I wonder about it given that at the beginning of Lost Souls you mention that you borrowed Ashley and Arkady Raventon from a friend. I know that borrowing a friend's character is a lot different to 'borrowing' a character from a novel you like/author you admire, but I'm just curious as to your take on this.
docbrite
May. 10th, 2010 06:04 pm (UTC)
Well, I did get permission from my friend to use those names, and they weren't characters she had written a great deal about. So it's something of a different situation, but as long as Nothing's (or whoever's) appearance was obviously an homage rather than a rip, I'd be cool with it. However, if the author's agent or editor caught the reference, they'd very likely ask that it be removed just in case I was some kind of litigious freak.
witchouse
May. 11th, 2010 03:53 am (UTC)
Nice :) - thanks for answering. Also approve of the term 'litigious freak'. haha
scumpi
May. 10th, 2010 05:53 pm (UTC)
I like that.
ruthanneiq
Oct. 13th, 2011 06:05 pm (UTC)
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( 34 comments — Leave a comment )

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