Wednesday, May 5, 2010
There's been some discussion on the Internet about Diana Gabaldon's disapproval of fanfic. I read about this first on the Absolute Write forums and then on Maria Zannini's blog.
The debate is an old one. I didn't really like the idea of fanfics until last year, when I was burned out from a slew of rejection letters. Suddenly I wanted to write a story that wouldn't be rejected.
So I wrote some fanfics. I enjoyed it, and it revitalized my interest in writing. Since there was no pressure to publish my work, I could experiment with different styles. After a few months, I resubmitted my manuscript and got an acceptance letter.
As a result, here's my take on fanfiction.
Objections to fanfic : what I agree with
1. Lawsuit potential
In 1992, a fan of Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover novels claimed that the latest Darkover book stole an idea that she had sent to a fanzine Bradley ran. Because of the legal complications that resulted, published writers are warned not to read fanfics.
I think this is a case of a few bad apples spoiling it for the rest of the barrel, but it's also something published writers have good reason to be concerned about.
2. Copyright infringement
Using someone else's characters without permission is copyright infringement.
It makes me wonder, though. If I were to take characters that are in the public domain, such as Jane Austen's, and publish a novel about them, why would that be more acceptable than my writing a fanfic? Surely I don't have permission from Jane Austen to discuss her characters' love lives or to make said characters vampire slayers.
It seems to me like a moral grey area, though I'm willing to be corrected on this.
Also, there's copyright infringement which robs the writer (such as piracy, which I'm completely against). I don't think fanfics do this. Instead, when they're good, they can encourage and maintain interest in the original material.
Objections to fanfic : what I don't agree with
1. "Why not make up your own worlds?"
This is like saying to someone who likes singing karaoke, "Why not make up your own songs and music?" It's missing the point. Sometimes the fun is in telling a story set in that particular world, with those particular characters.
If I wanted to have an adventure set in a world of Gothic horror, I'd play Ravenloft. If I wanted to write a story about a battle between giant robots who turn into vehicles, I'd write Transformers fanfics (which, incidentally, I do). If I wanted to be published - and it's by no means a given that everyone who writes fanfics wants this or should want it - I would come up with my own worlds.
Which I also do.
2. "Most fanfics are poorly written."
Can't argue with that, though a lot of manuscripts in the slush pile are also poorly written. I've read fanfics that were beautifully crafted, published novels that weren't, and vice versa.
Besides, there are sites like Fictionpress, where original work can be posted to the Internet. If the quality of fanfiction is an argument against it, surely the quality of original work should be criticized too.
3. "It's disrespectful to the source material."
That depends on the fanfic, IMO. I've read some that were horrible, some which left me indifferent, and some which I loved. I think it's overly emotive to say that all fanfic "tramples" on the original work.
But personally, I would always respect the writer's wishes regarding the world. There are a few Song of Ice and Fire fics on the web. I wouldn't even look at those, because George R. R. Martin doesn't approve of fanfics regarding his work.
So if I ever reach the point where other people want to write fanfics about my work, I'd be fine with it, as long as they weren't making money from such fanfics. I would never read them. But I'd hope other people did.
What are your thoughts on fanfiction?