fanfic – good bad or indifferent?

As I suspect all of America is wrapped up in the who-will-grasp-the-poisoned-chalice fascination, I will probably have almost no readers for this. (Yes, I am sure many of you will be able to tell who should, and why, and how they’ll detoxify it. Perhaps so. I’m a foreigner, and the subtleties of it all are beyond me. I can explain African politics, which often seems to involves one man, one vote, once, and then makes the ‘winner’ and their cronies very rich and the country into a festering disaster area. That’s the level of my grasp. I don’t think I’m ready for the complexities of long-term working politics just yet.)

Another area which I fail to grasp is Fanfic and, as it is less likely to result in partisan positions, I thought we could talk about that. It seems to divide authors just as badly. There are those who say they are tremendously flattered (but will not admit they read it, or know it exists, to protect their copyright – which may not be true, strictly speaking) and others who go completely JKR-lawyers (which is like librarian poo, only far nastier, with frothing) at the very idea that someone could dare step on their hallowed turf. How will anyone get their characters right? And THEY were planning to develop Freddy Funnyface-Smyth later. Maybe.

As usual I find myself sitting in both camps and neither. I’d love to hear your thoughts on Fanfic – both on writing it, and on having it written in your worlds. How you’d feel about it. My own take is of course, that I couldn’t give a toss– as long as you don’t try and claim it is your world and your characters, and that what you decide to do with them is canon. If I did write any more I would simply ignore it and continue with my vision of the story, the characters and setting. I’m -sorry- very unlikely to read it, because then I might get annoyed at the BDSM relationship you have put Freddy Funnyface-Smyth into, or the illogical progression of the socio-politics of my world. Or your rotten grasp of economics. I am (and I admit this quite cheerfully) unlikely to think you’ve written my โ€˜children’ as well as I could, even if you have. But then, I am a little biased. But maybe I’m just too boring for anyone to wish to write in my worlds. Or too complicated to be worth the effort.

37 thoughts on “fanfic – good bad or indifferent?

  1. I would love it. Might read it, but probably not. Okay, probably would.

    I certainly think it would be flattering. Just getting people to read the books is hard enough though.

  2. I think a lot of the author reaction depends on what they have experienced (or heard) about raging fans attempting to hold up the authors for “stealing” ideas from them. Just because the fan happened to write about Freddie’s little obsession, if the author accidentally writes something that seems similar in any way, shape, or form — the fan may grow testy about the whole mess. Which tends to poison the author’s fun. So — authors who have had this happen, or heard of such cases, are likely to say, “No playing with my world, characters, or even getting close to it.”

  3. I like the phrase “grasping the poison chalice”. The presidency seems to me to be one of the biggest booby prizes around. The job sucks, and nobody with the sense of a sponge and the sanity of a crazed baboon would touch it. Which might explain a lot about the job candidates who get to the hiring committee.

    As for fan fic, I wonder if it could be used to find collaborators. Write an outline for a story you know you won’t have time to write, and see if anybody else implements it well enough.

    1. (chuckle) I admit it was my reaction to looking at the state of Australian politics and the world economy. I suspect _here_ that it’s a case of which ever of the two major parties wins, they will either make it so much worse, that no-one will vote for them for a couple of decades, or the medicine to fix the situation is going to be so nasty and take so long to take effect (because we’re in a hole of some size) that no-one will vote for them for at least another two decades (by which time the fixes will be undone and the country will be in the mess again). If I were either of our local parties I’d be saying to the other ‘don’t you think it would be sporting to let the Greens (inner-city environmentalist, far left party) win for a change?’

      The collaborators idea is not a bad one, you know. It’s basically what Eric did in the 1632 universe.

  4. I live in an area with a commodity and export based economy, so anything political means that we tend to duck and cover until the storm passes, then see what can be salvaged.

    I started with fan-fic but only in the privacy of my now-destroyed journals. So I think that fan-fic is OK if you keep it to yourself. I have mixed emotions about people who post fan-fic on the ‘Net unless it is on one of the sites where there are some content controls. Should someone decide to set fan-fic in “my” worlds, I’d probably ignore it unless a third party brought it to my attention that the fan-fic had explicit sexual content or included my most important characters.

    1. My attitude to fanfic in private journals is rather like my attitude to sex. As long as it is consenting adults, and no minors or animals, do whatever you like. I guess it would be a little awkward if Goth from the Karres books suddenly became vastly famed as the porn queen from the Venture… ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s a risk, but really what are the chances of a fanfic story wildly eclipsing the original? And surely if it does, you can step on it?

      1. Hum… Venus on the Half-Shell? Wasn’t that the book by “Kilgore Trout”? Not sure why this reminded me of that bit of SF lore, but…

  5. I love fan fiction. Especially if the author has gone off the deep end, and/or hit the Stupid Button. (It happens! Sorry, but it does.)

    From the fans I hear raging about it, I have one response: if you don’t like it, don’t read it. Not that hard.

    I’ve heard authors claim that they get harassed by people who write fan fiction and say the author stole ideas– news flash, that happens if anyone talks about your stories at all. Evidence? The same people complaining about it a few weeks before….

    People are jerks at times. Even if they like your books, they can be jerks.

    Some authors do pick up ideas from fans. Newsflash: ideas are free. When they pick up a fan fiction, copy-edit it and publish it as their own, you’ll have a point.

    Kinda disjointed. But so are my thoughts….

    1. Have some super-glue. It sticks all sorts of things together ๐Ÿ™‚ (ideas may be a bit flexible. It doesn’t do that well on flexible things.) Authors always surprise me by hitting the stupid button (the part that surprises me more is the number who do it, and the number who behave like sheep). I keep wanting to say (despite evidence to the contrary) “You wrote a book. That’s hard. You really must have more than a room temperature follow-the-herd IQ.”

      I’ve got one really really jerkish fan. He worries me. Some of the others are shall we say, socially maladroit, but I seem to attract a brighter nicer class of readers than average

      1. Worse than being flexible, mine sometimes split up if I look too close. Usually only happens if they’re gray, though– black or white are pretty solid. (which is what lead to my theory of If It’s Confusing, Look Closer)

      2. I’m mildly shocked at only having one real jerk of a fan; heaven knows my (*steals phrase*) social maladroitness goes into jerk territory at times, and you write really good stuff. I would’ve guessed the larger number of readers would make for a larger jerk-number, but I’m pleased to be wrong!

        1. Well I only have one who stalks me obsessively, has tried to get my home phone number etc. and that’s at the level that it bothers me. I dunno, ‘jerk’ may be too subjective a term. I’m easy-going and try to see the intent behind comments. It’s very difficult to actually quite hard to make me mad, and then I get get cold, calculating and nasty, rather than hot and bothered, which leaves bodies rather than people still following me ;-). So what might get a thin-skinned or insecure author rating someone a jerk, just gets me to shrug. I’d like to delude myself that most of the people who think I write really good stuff (thanks ;-).) are people who are able to get it, and I’m going to like talking to. I have a few (very few) fanatical buy-anything-you-write-and-read-it-more-often-than-the author fans, and when I meet them, they usually leave me feeling a bit inadequate, and that I must be a terrible disappointment in the flesh, because what they’re seeing is what my books bring out of them, which is more than I put into it.

        2. Sci-fi may have fewer jerkish fans and far fewer really-creepy-go-away-I’m-calling-the-police fans than other genres, just from the anecdotes I’ve heard. Social maladroitness is one thing, but some of the romance writers get stalked. One well-known regional romance writer I know won’t do signings unless she has someone to run interference and act as a semi-official bodyguard.

          1. to be my usual cattish self the authors I have heard complain about it tend to be the writers of strawberry flavored soft center fantasy (and occasional writers of crunchy frog ripple fantasy) rather than hard sf.

            1. To be unfairly even handed (it’s like devil’s advocate, but phrased to amuse me), I notice women authors (even in fan fiction) attract more buy-a-gun fans, and romance authors double-so; fantasy has a higher rate of romance-type plots, so maybe that’s the angle?

              1. Well I hope it’s not more women authors, because my conclusion meeting yours would suggest more men are shall we say… stupid. Yes, that’s it, stupid, as the average stalker-buy-gun types are a more than a few pennies short of sixpence in the brain dept. And it would also suggest more women write books the my-lips-move-when-I-read stalker types can actually understand enough of to read. What I mean by strawberry soft-centers was the standard fantasy wiccan womyn type fantasy, rather than romance. Politically correct, predictable, party line, require no brain, magic at the level abra-cadabra get out of jail free cards. Some romance fits this too, but as quite a lot of my books do have romance themes, and I haven’t hit a lot of it (whereas a couple of authors whose books are roll-your-eyes feeble ‘magic’ have had threats for betraying the secrets and begging for the secrets…) I loftily put it down it down to being able to appeal strongly to a few sandwiches short of lunchpack type. I believe this with the same arrogance that led me to believe WE had avoided the terrible twos with our superior first child, superior child rearing, and excellent communication. When it hit with double force at 2 years eight months… I was forced to admit I was an idiot. And this may be the case here too.

                1. I had Mercedes Lackey in mind as the closest to Strawberry; I believe we were thinking roughly the same. She stopped writing her Guardian series because of the crazies it attracted, IIRC.

                  That said, the stalkers don’t have to be male, although that adds a new level of crazy scary, and an additional motivation. They just have to feel like they’re getting access to something that’s inherent in the author, and women tend to be more likely to write something like that.

                  The stalker-types I’ve met online seem to be an obsession looking for a target that feels safe. Women tend to be high priority on the “safe target” list.

                  1. Yes, Lackey did stop the D. Tregarde series for that reason. Some really sick people emerged from the woodwork and she said she did not want to encourage them (I suspect it was the neo-Aztec book that did it). I was very surprised when the novels were reprinted.

                    Dave, thanks for the mental image of the soft and fuzzy quasi-Wiccan idea. It turned into the basis for a story last night. The story won’t be quite so warm and fuzzy when it gets finished, though.

  6. Writing Fan Fic cvan probably be a useful training aid. The characters are and world are set, so you can play with stories and motivations and plot. I wrote a Pern Fan Fic. I occasionally had an idea to write down, triggered by something I read, that came out “inside that universe” so to speak, but wasn’t ever written further in that universe. Wrote one short story with shifters of Sarah’s style in it. But mostly, If something evoked an image or idea, I’d write it in a world of my own.

    Now, I’ve no clue how I’d react to stuff writen in one of my worlds, with my characters. I suppose it would depend on how true to _my_ ldeas the story was. From round-robins and amateur collaberations (remember Outlaws of the Solar System, Doctor Simon von Monkenstein?) I’d say I’d probably run screaming away, swearing that in the next book I was going to do such a good job on that _no-one_ could ever so hideously misunderstand the relationships between those characters.

    1. Well, I suppose, at some level, all writing is fanfic. I certainly have derived elements from various authors I admire, and I gather some at least did the same. The collaborations – as the evil genius Von Monkenstein would I suppose it might depend on whether you cared if (evil chuckle) after what you done to ze characters, some fool burned zem to a crisp with a chamomile tea powered ultra-laser. (ie. there are serveral of my boos where I’m done. I’m proud of what I’ve done, but I am never going back.

  7. Not published, but I understand some of the dislike of fan-fic. I have characters in my mind and know how they’d behave/react/think. Some of my characters are religious so if somebody wrote one of those characters as a “religion hating atheist”, I’d be quite annoyed.

    1. Well, yes, I can see that – but surely for anyone to take them seriously they’d have to do such a job of ‘changing’ the nature character… or it would be same name, not the same person?

  8. Like TxRed, I started with fanfic and none of it survives except in the deepest, darkest recesses of my nightmares. The good thing about writing it was it gave me the chance to think about being a writer as well as the opportunity to begin learning the craft by using characters I knew. In other words, it wasn’t quite as daunting as starting something from scratch. Of course, the fact I was late elementary/early junior high might have something to do with that as well.

    The problem with fanfic today is that it is online and that means it will always be somewhere it can be discovered. The curreent example is Fifty Shades of Grey which supposedly started out as Twilight fanfic. The author now denies it, but there are those out there who claim to have copies of the original — and who freely copy sections of it to prove it.

    From an author standpoint, I’d probably be both flattered and horrified if I discovered fanfic of any of my work. Flattered because someone liked it enough to want to play in my world. Horrified because there is so much BAD fanfic out there. Then there is the fear that someone would claim I’d stolen their idea from a piece of fanfic when I wrote something my next book in that particular world.

    I guess that’s all a round-about way of saying I’m torn. Sigh.

  9. Fanfic? Hmm. My attitude pretty much comes down to “Sturgeon’s Law is too generous”.

    I’ve participated in a couple of open-universe story series, and even originated one once, with mixed results. I’ve gotten thoroughly hooked on (but have not myself written for) Eric Flint’s “Ring of Fire” ‘verse, where between the printed spin-off novels and the electronic zine for shorts, it seems like everybody who can competently and interestingly string sentences together (and a few, IMHO, who don’t quite qualify on the latter test) gets to play. But those aren’t really the same thing as what most people mean by fanfic.

    I’ve also read fanfic of the more traditional meaning that was indisputably excellent, and sometimes demonstrably superior to the contemporary quality of the source material. (Who knew, for example, that setting a modernization of Casablanca in Galveston of the X-Files universe would actually produce something worth reading?)

    How would I feel about it if something I wrote (in a private universe, that is) got fanficced? Hard to say…it’s never happened. The sensible thing would be to be thrilled that folks cared enough to invest their own talent in my world. More likely, I’d see it, see everything they got “wrong”, and get upset. Which I both implicitly and explicitly concede is irrational.

    So I’d say:

    1. Fanficcers, don’t post your fanfic anyplace the owners of the source material are likely to see it, unless they’ve invited folks to do so. Whatever their attitude about the morals of the thing, they’re likely to be less thrilled with it than you are, or even other readers are.

    2. Authors, don’t get too upset about it. They’re not claiming your work as their own. They’re almost certainly not producing stuff that’s a market substitute for the real thing (and if they are, that’s a signal that you need to shape up, not one that you need to call a lawyer!). If you don’t want to read it, then don’t read it.

    1. I’d say – for me as an author – the key would be honestly admitting the derivation. If you start of twilight fanfic… don’t change your mind later.

      As a writer… I’d say fanfic of dead authors is not only acceptable, but a good thing, as it keeps the original earning for their families.

      1. Considering how many bestselling books in sf/f either started out as fanfic, or budded off of fanfic universes after getting all the serial numbers removed, your suggestion would remove quite a lot of enjoyment and sales, as well as a few awards.

        1. Which kind of raises the question of when is fanfic not fanfic, eh? I mean, I suppose someone could argue that many volumes of the fantasy genre are Tolkien fanfic, and yet, if you do it right, people don’t point and say, “derivative!” (or at least, not too loudly). But if you have the halflings, the dwarf, the orcs, the walking trees… somewhere in there, you slip over the line into obvious fanfic. What do you have to do to “remove the serial numbers?”

  10. Fanfic? Love it, have written it, read it, and if anyone ever writes fanfic about my original stuff, I will do a YES!-fist-pump-in-the-air because that would mean I had fans who really loved my stuff and whose heads were so full of my characters they couldn’t wait for the next book. (Would I read it? No, for a number of reasons, but I’d love to have people tell me about the trends.)

    Fanfic costs an author nothing, and counts as free advertising and encourages the fans. Are there problematic fanfic writers out there? Yes, but there are problematic fans in general. As long as there’s no risk of the author losing the copyright and no one tries to hijack your characters to make money off of it, I see no problem.

  11. I like some fanfic. I’ve read some very interesting stuff based in the Dragonlance universe when they pulled their 5th Age stunt that was far better than the publisher was putting out at the time. Granted, this was more of playing in someone’s sandbox than actual fanfic (because they weren’t using the main characters, just using the world), but it was good stuff and highly entertaining.

    OTOH, if someone went out there and stole one of my characters to write some fanfic, I’d be pissed. I’m a bit possessive, so if someone wrote one of “my” characters, I’d probably protest loud and vocally.

          1. True. But again, it’s why I stated that “in the sandbox” doesn’t bother me as much as “taking my lead character and going that-a-way with her” does.

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