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I Write Fanfic

My apologies for the tardiness of this post. I was up until 0330 last night writing. If you know me, you know that my usual bedtime is around 2300.

Hi, my name is Jason, and I recently committed a heinous sin.

Very seldom do I get a chance to hang around friends. Or people, for that matter. I am, by nature, a recluse. I mean, I like people, but I don’t actively seek them out like most others do. I’m content in my office, typing away, creating conversations in my head that will eventually (or not; my new editors are ruthless) make it into a book. You can probably guess that I’m not the best public speaker, either, given the mass amount of alcohol I have to imbibe just to be on panels at a con (though that leads to amazing stories of “Jason did something stupid…” which is usually followed by “…and then he went to the hospital.”).

The downside of drinking at a convention with people you like is that you tend to get a little more truthy than you intend to. This past weekend at Libertycon something similar happened. I made the most dreadful of mistakes, and to a writer I admire greatly as well:

I admitted that I wrote fanfic in her universe.

Now before you go off the rails, let me explain. I’m mostly ambivalent when it comes to fanfic. I don’t mind people writing slashfic about my characters, or using a setting in one of my universes to write a story in, so long as they’re not trying to make money off of it. The IP rights to that belongs to me (and, to a lesser extent, whichever publisher still retains the first refusal rights to that universe), but I can’t really stop people from doing it. A clever filing of serial numbers, a character name change or two, and bam! there it is. No harm, no foul. Hell, every story (according to modern English professors) originated from somewhere else. It’s our job as writers to get out there and put our own clever little twist on the story to make is ours.

Anyway, back to my drunken confession…

(another side note: I wasn’t drunk, per se. I was loaded up on oxycodone due to my knee injury. I’d been in constant agony since Thursday at that point and I was almost ready to saw my leg off right then and there. Alcohol makes me brutally honest. Painkillers make me feel fuzzy and like I’m not entirely there, which is what they’re supposed to do. Yay for dopamine receptor blockage!)

I was at John Ringo’s Dead Dog Party and was chatting with my favorite Crazy Portuguese Writer when I suddenly said “I have to admit something to you. Please don’t kill me.”

Crazy Portuguese Writer – “What did you do…?”

Me (shamefaced) – “I wrote a fanfic story in your Shifter universe. I’m really sorry!”

To her credit, Sarah didn’t fall over and laugh at me. Or kill me (hey, Portuguese, man… you never know which end of the sword they’re going to hit you with). But then I told her that it had turned into a book… well, let’s just say I’m pretty sure she was amused by the idiot Spaniard.

Here’s the thing, though – I didn’t write it to make money off of it. It was just an exercise in writing that turned into a freaking book. I sometimes do this to help break through on other projects that I’m stuck on (Kraken Mare, for those of you who are curious… I was stuck on Kraken Mare) and can’t seem to shake the world I’m writing in. Going over to someone else’s world and writing a fun little story as an exercise really does help. It breaks you out of the monotony and “sameness” that you might fall into sometimes. You have to follow someone else’s rules, and that means you have to find ways to make the story and characters work without breaking canon.

*sigh* You should also probably not be around the author whose universe you’re writing the fanfic in if you’re inebriated and are honest to a fault. Sometimes it’s not that funny. Again, to her credit, I’m pretty sure that Sarah knew I wasn’t trying to steal her idea or universe and was very gracious in not smacking me over the head (or it could have been because she was holding a baby in her arms and could only kick, and since I already had an injured knee, she took pity on me). But some others are so overzealous about their IP rights (and rightfully so) that someone who meant well or was doing something they thought was harmless could bring down the vengeful fury of a pissed off writer.

But for a professional to write fanfic treads on a line that is very fine. It’s why I was so reluctant to tell Sarah about it in the first place. H.P. Lovecraft died penniless, while Edgar Rice Burroughs managed to get California to name a city after his creation and then make money off of it.

There’s a lesson to be learned here…

Now for the promo stuff. Jason Cordova is an author who writes about monsters, spaceships, and kickass women — all in the same book even! Too much awesomeness packed into one book led to him deciding that, from July 3rd to July 5th, he would give away a short story over on Amazon. Yes, that’s right, once more is The Dead of Babylon available for free. For this weekend only. 

Oh, he’s also a 2015 John W. Campbell Award finalist. He got the paperwork and everything just this week. Yep, he’s official.

  1. Eh. Worked out all right for Ringo…

    July 3, 2015
  2. Hey, don’t knock it. From fanfic are built great licensing empires!

    Is it wrong to write fanfic of your OWN stuff? I did that. 😀

    July 3, 2015
    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard #

      IMO it isn’t “FanFic” if the creator of the original work does it. [Wink]

      Of course, IMO it isn’t “FanFic” when the creator of the original work invites people to write in his/her universe. [Smile]

      July 3, 2015
  3. Uncle Lar #

    But Sarah really likes you. You dropped out of contact for a few days about a month ago and she started right in, “where’s Jason? Has anyone heard from Jason?” Exceedingly odd, as we all know the historic relationship between the Portuguese and Spanish.
    But then as we all know she is after all both odd and a sweetie. Even if she does refuse to admit to any limits whatsoever.

    July 3, 2015
    • I suspect it was more a “nobody gets to beat on my cousin but me,” kind of thing. Speaking of which, is Jason a member-in-vile-standing of the ELoE, yet? I haven’t really been been paying attention, as my membership application continues to go unanswered, but I expect the Bastid Spaniard should at least merit a junior membership. Especially considering his theft of all the white women Campbell nom from someone of the proper skin tone greater literary merit.

      July 3, 2015
      • I’m going to make that t-shirt one year.

        “Cordova – Stealing all the white women since 1978”

        July 3, 2015
      • Uncle Lar #

        I think the official mechanism for membership requires that you be branded such in a post from a known puppy kicker. I myself have been cussed out by an assortment of their minions, so my status is still unclear. I may have achieved entry through the back door with family connections. You see, Sarah publicly adopted me as her crazy Uncle Lar in front of a room full of people at Liberty. Of course it was Sunday morning and she was in full zombie mode after days of running full steam, so her recollection may be a tad fuzzy.

        July 3, 2015
  4. I am told that I reached adulthood only by repeatedly invoking the ‘maternal instinct’ in keeping my Mother from killing me. Always wise to approach a woman with a baby in her arms when you have a confession to make.

    July 3, 2015
  5. Congratulations on being on the short list! That’s awesome.

    As for fanfic, Lady Chesterfield’s (?) words (re something else): “As long as they don’t do it in the street and frighten the horses…”

    I would think, though, that if you are in with the Lady Sarah, you are in for good – and would have to do something far more heinous or egregious to incur her final wrath. She seems a good sort.

    July 3, 2015
  6. Max #

    I think a lot of people would be surprised how many of their favorite authors write fanfiction. It’s a more common trait than anyone wants to admit, I think.

    As the market shifts, and more and more authors openly declare “Yes, I’ve written fanfiction before” however, I think we’ll see the public start to realize what it is.

    After all, what is most Star Trek or Star Wars literature that didn’t start out as the author saying to themselves “Hey, I want to write that?”

    July 3, 2015
  7. Sigh. SO wish there was a formal process for becoming a member of ELoE. Maybe I can claim status as Unindicted Co-Conspirator? That would work for me.
    But, with respect to FanFic. I don’t write FanFic; I write FanNonFic. That’s what reviews are, right? And today I got an email from Amazon telling me that my reviews of books obtained through KULL will NOT be marked as ‘Verified Purchase.’ That ONLY matters if it is true that the weights assigned to reviews are weighted in favor of Verified Purchase. The reviews boost the books on the list, based on some unknown formula, and there is some algorithm also for ranking reviewers. I believe that last is heavily influenced by the number of people who check the ‘Helpful’ box on the review, as well as the number of reviews written. What I DON’T know is whether Reviewer Rating has ANY impact on where the books appear on the list. Right now, my reviewer rating is 43,551; When I started, it was 14,360,604. Does a review by someone in the top 500 list count for more? Don’t EVEN know who knows that. Maybe it matters.
    At any rate, I reviewed Laura Montgomery’s latest book “Sleeping Duty” on Amazon yesterday, and blogged about it today. Here’s my blog post:

    July 3, 2015
    • I think Uncle Lar is right – for full membership you have to be proclaimed an Eeeeeevul purson by someone from outside the group (like the _Guardian_, or certain bloggers). I think minionhood can be assigned by teh actual Evil League members, though. I have not been able to locate my application packet since I got back, though, so my memory might be a bit fuzzy. (Rumors that the hood for minions comes with your choice of horns, halo, or real baby-seal-fur trim remain rumors.)

      Thank you for your reviews. They really do help put books on the map, so to speak, with potential readers.

      July 3, 2015
      • I don’t think we need validation from the SJWs. In fact we don’t need any validation whatsoever.

        July 3, 2015
        • Well, I’m gonna go with Unindicted Co-Conspirator, because I am, and because it falls into the Stolen Valor category if I claim membership in the Evil League Of Evil. So, ELoE-UCC is ME!

          July 3, 2015
      • Just go on over to 770 and start stirring, Unc.

        July 3, 2015
    • I get a little nervous reading about the reviews being rejected because Amazon determines that you’re a friend of the author. That would knock out all but my worst reviews, if they start doing it retroactively.

      July 3, 2015
  8. I believe the usual deal for published fanfic is something like Kindle Worlds, where the original author gets half and the fanficker gets the other half. Sometimes gratuitous co-author credit for the non-fanficker.

    Honestly, since Sarah needs money and is recovering, and since Baen doesn’t have room on its publishing schedule till 2042, wouldn’t it be logical to inquire whether Sarah’s Baen contract includes related materials in the Shifter universe? Maybe offer it as a ebook-only exclusive?

    Otherwise, get with the filing off of the serial numbers, I’d say, and publish that puppy. It worked for Naomi Novick; and Bujold filed off the serial numbers before it even got on paper, which worked out good for her. (Not to mention her Five Gods universe, which is a fanfic of Spanish/European history.)

    July 3, 2015
    • > (Not to mention her Five Gods universe, which is a fanfic of
      > Spanish/European history.)

      And I’m still waiting for books #4 & #5 of that series, tho at this point I doubt she’ll ever write them.

      I’m in the process of filing off the serial numbers on my fanfic epic. The problem has been that I have to start from scratch and go back just to set up the situation that my fanfics dovetail off of. Otherwise, nothing will make sense. But after several years of on and off effort, I think I’ve got it all worked out. Here’s crossing my fingers…

      July 3, 2015
      • Wow. I should make off hand comments about my favorite authors’ unfinished series more often.

        Lois McMaster Bujold just announced a new Five Gods novella (Penric’s Demon), to be released by Baen sometime in the next week. Looks like Baen will be the publisher for the series from here on out.

        July 5, 2015
  9. Arwen #

    What town did ERB name?

    July 3, 2015
    • Tarzana, California

      July 3, 2015
      • Arwen #

        Thanks. That is cool.

        July 3, 2015
      • Draven #

        Where i went to college! 😛

        July 4, 2015
      • I grew up in SoCal and didn’t realize that Tarzana was named after Tarzan until I left for college.

        July 4, 2015
  10. Laurie #

    Personally, one of my biggest fantasies on making it as an author is for people to write fanfic in my universe.

    July 3, 2015
  11. I was rather puzzled over one con I went to as a pro. They put me on a fanfiction panel. I’ve neither read nor written (ok, there was one short story but it wasn’t really fanfic) it. I was told they put me on the panel because I wrote stories with mythological beings in them, and that was fanfiction. ooookkkk….

    July 3, 2015
    • Never thought about it, but here in Japan we have uchiwa (home fan, which is the big one that doesn’t fold) and sensu (folding ones) with a range of styles and prices, so obviously we are all set for true fan fiction. Probably best used when the romance gets hot and heavy, or it’s just a sticky summer… I can just see it. “His uchiwa was large and stiff, so I held my sensu relaxed and demure, and we made a fine breeze together.”

      July 3, 2015
  12. I see the damaged Spaniard was a little to far gone to remember what I told him. I told him I want to see it. And if it’s good, or can be made good with judicious edits, we shall talk to the boss lady about publishing it.

    July 4, 2015
    • TOO d*mn it. Typo not ignorant of grammar.

      July 4, 2015
    • Draven #

      Oh, he didn’t mention your response:D

      July 5, 2015
  13. Wayne Borean aka The Mad Hatter #

    I admitted that I wrote fanfic in her universe.

    So? If you don’t want people to write FanFic in your universe, don’t publish. It’s as simple as that.

    July 6, 2015
    • There’s fanfic, and then there are people who write fanfic and try to make money off of it.

      July 6, 2015
      • Wayne Borean aka The Mad Hatter #

        You didn’t say anything about trying to make money off it. That is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish.

        July 6, 2015
        • “But for a professional to write fanfic treads on a line that is very fine. It’s why I was so reluctant to tell Sarah about it in the first place. H.P. Lovecraft died penniless, while Edgar Rice Burroughs managed to get California to name a city after his creation and then make money off of it.”

          Next time I’ll write dissertation about it.

          July 7, 2015
          • Wayne Borean aka The Mad Hatter #

            But for a professional to write fanfic treads on a line that is very fine.


            Seriously. Everything that you, me, or anyone else has EVER writen is inspired by what they’ve read in the past. I read your novel ‘Corruptor’ and really enjoyed it. While reading it (like I do with everything else I read) I tried to pick out what your inspirations were. I may be right or wrong on what I think inspired you, but I’m right in knowing that you were inspired by something you’ve encountered. We all are.

            The problem comes when we don’t make it our own, or when we don’t realize what our inspiration is.

            July 8, 2015
            • Okay, fine. Let’s do this for the benefit of everyone here.

              Inspiration: the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.

              Fanfic (short for Fan Fiction): fiction written by a fan of, and featuring characters from, a particular TV series, movie, etc.

              Using anything for inspiration is part of the creative process, yes, I’ll agree with that. I was inspired a lot by some Travis S. Taylor mentioned in passing in “The Quantum Connection”, as well as the Polish SciFi movie “Avalon”. However, since they were mere inspirations, it’s mine.

              Meanwhile, if someone takes, say, the characters from Firefly and put them into a book of their own, use their names, the worlds involved, everything, except it’s not from the author who created it and it’s not approved, then it would be fanfic. If that person used then turned around and had the work published, that’s plagiarism. I’m assuming you know the meaning of that word, right?

              I hate being forced to assume that grown adults are idiots who cannot tell the difference between something like plagiarism and inspiration, but if you insist on having me handle special snowflakes who are unable to distinguish between the two, then I will do so with the utmost contempt that this deserves.

              Go pound sand, Wayne.

              July 9, 2015
              • Wayne Borean aka The Mad Hatter #

                Which is my point. If you aren’t trying to use Sarah’s characters and settings to make money, why the upset?

                There is no ‘Fine Line’ as you put it. You are either stealing characters and settings, or you aren’t. If you are, you deserve a massive lawsuit for copyright and/or trademark infringement. If you aren’t, why are you so upset?

                I don’t write FanFic anymore. I gave up because it is too much work now. Add up the number of hours of Star Trek video, than the books, then the video games, and then try to write something which doesn’t conflict with something – it can’t be done!

                Even if it is a small series, with only a couple of books, you’re likely to still end up with conflicts. Some of the comments about conflicts on FanFic dot Net are pretty brutal.

                July 11, 2015
  14. Coming in very late, but the closest I have ever come to writing fanfic was writing a proposal for a Trek novel (outline and sample chapters) and sending it off to the then editor for such novels. Oh, wait, I once tried to do a “sequel” to the short version of The Witches of Karres (I had not known, at the time, that the novel version existed). Story fell apart in my hands within three pages.

    I think I could have done the Trek story because there was a wealth of materials giving me the kind of insight into the characters and settings that I just didn’t have with the other. And in the latter case working with someone else’s characters just put in a block that prevented me from creating my own characters and story consistent with what has gone before. Better, far better, to work on my own stories, I think.

    July 9, 2015

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