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Fanfic and flying under the radar

stakebait wrote
Been thinking more about this. What makes it [fanfic] not public is the attempt to fly under the radar of the Powers That Be, right? Or at least not actively draw their attention? Though how much that's done varies quite a bit from creator to creator. I know of at least one mailing list, read and posted to by the author, where fanfic is simply labeled "fanfic" so she can avoid reading it, but there's no attempt to pretend that it doesn't exist.

I've been thinking more about it as well. This is less an answer to your question than it started out being, but it is a more methodical examination of my own reaction.


What makes it less public is twofold, for me. Radar is part of it, but not by any means the whole. Let me try to express it. Let me take a whole new post to do it, because I've outrun my word limit. Again.

PART ONE

Fanfic is not a critique, nor is it a review of what exists; fanfic writers are certainly capable of doing book critiques/reviews or movie/tv critiques/reviews, but no one calls those fanfic. Both critique and review consider the text at hand (or the show at hand), assessing what's there, and giving their (hopefully but not always) informed opinion on it. There is a dialogue of sorts between some of these reviewers and the creative person(s) at the other end; there is a dialogue of sorts between some of these reviewers and the fans of the work in question. But if the review has some heat or love at its heart, it's still about the work as a whole. I don't consider this a dialogue in the standard sense; I'm now using dialogue in the sense that you used it originally, so if I stumble in that, bear with me.

In some instances, I think there are parodies or even satires -- but I don't consider those to be fanfic, and this could be because my definition is way the heck too narrow, i.e. I'm ignorant. Parody usually reflects the original work as a whole, and some understanding of the original is necessary in order for the parody to work at all; I consider parody a broad commentary, because that's the point of parody. Well, and also to make fun of the audience reaction. Digression.

Fanfic, rather than being a (theoretically) objective form of that dialogue or response, is much more of an emotional dialogue; it exists first between the reader and what they draw out of the primary work, and second, in the text they create. It explores other possibilities and permutations (if I understand what you've said correctly) that the original work did not -- or hasn't yet. Or never will.

But much of fanfic is essentially fiction, with serial numbers, and its aim is the aim, in many ways, of the original work, because if it didn't have some of that same feel or tone it wouldn't be fanfic. Because of the serial numbers, there is a need to fly under the radar. I would argue that it's that need that allows fanfic to thrive, although it does keep it out of the public eye to a greater or lesser extent. If you don't know anything about it, it's invisible; once you do, it's everywhere. Okay, I really have to stop with the digressions.

Having said that, let's go back to the need to fly under the radar. This is partly necessitated by legal convention, and as the copyright holder, I cannot outright decry it, for a variety of reasons, one being, I have some attachment to my copyright.

What happens under the radar is of less concern to me than what happens above the radar. There are things I would not want my characters to say or do. Obviously, when I'm writing, I have say in this (although, creative process being what it is, not 100% <wry g>). If someone is writing fanfic based on my characters or in my universe, what they want the characters to do is part of their emotional response. And -- beneath the radar -- this is a valid exploration; it's a little like daydreaming in public, which, in many ways, is where the heart of many stories start. The work comes after.

But if you remove the protective layer, which we'll call the radar level, I would feel a lot more ambivalent, because there are ways in which I would not want my characters to be represented to my readers, many of whom still don't own computers (I know, I always find this a bit shocking; it's stranger, to me, than not owning a telephone or a television but I digress, as always). In the public sense -- in the way my vision is present as my vision to the universe, or the small slice that reads my books <wry g>, and speaking with no delusions of grandeur (although I can't speak for other types of delusions), I can clearly state that I want my vision of my creation to be the canonical vision. I realize that's a lot of genetive use there.

Let me sum it up in a less unwieldy fashion: I do not want other writers defining canon in a universe I create.


PART TWO

But part of the difference in my reaction, part of the sense of "public" or "legitimate" stems, in part, from the medium through which the original property is first presented. Joss Whedon approves of fanfic, but he's doing Television, and I bet he'd be a lot less happy if fanfic writers were to get together and produce and air their own version of Buffy. A lot, as in lawsuits and really ugly things, and I don't think he'd be hands-off at that point.

Many of the people who watch the show will never read the licensed spinoffs, and they'll also never read the fanfic. Both the spinoffs and the fanfic fill a smaller role than the original broadcast did. It's accepted that what happens in the textual presentations or the comic books or the fanfic, etc, licensed or not., are not canonical; they can be ignored or changed or overturned at the whim of the licensor. In a sense, the spirit of generosity that allows the fanfic to exist can only be generous, in my view, because of that -- the other works are not canonical. They don't change anything. They don't touch or mark or move the original, and they don't open or close the avenues the original series can move in. The creator feels free to ignore them entirely.

When you're dealing with fanfic based on written work, you're suddenly dealing with the exact same medium, which is why I think more tension exists.

I don't know any writers who hate filksongs inspired by their works. I don't know any writers who hate art inspired by their work. Or costumes. Many would be perfectly happy to have RPGs or Television shows based on their works (if they were paid <g>).

But none of these media are the primary medium for the creator -- the text, in the case of books, is.

Knowing that canon is decided by me (and knowing that some people won't always be happy with the decisions I make) gives me the same comfort zone that someone producing television shows would have. Reviews, critiques-- these don't really change the way people view the original. Are they public? Yes. But in some sense they relate to the canonical work.

They make no attempt to change the work; they can savage it, they can praise it, they can dissect it for meaning -- but they're not there to rework to it; at most, they can shift the way we view what's already there. In this sense, the work is the point of the discourse. And as all writers know, once something is published, it's public, and people can say whatever the want about it. We're prepared for that. That's the sense of "public" I assume when I see the word.

In the case of fanfic, the work is the stepping stone, the foundation, the thing people stand on while they branch out; the anchor to which they tie their own skills, developing their own voices and abilities. At this point in time, one can sort of assume that readers and writers of fanfic have read or watched the originals, so there's a certainty of informed creation, even if the creation is not canon.

But were the fanfic based on novels to be published as novels in their own right -- without any vetting or interference from the original author -- there's no guarantee that new readers would be so informed, and the canonical understanding of a creation that originated elsewhere -- like, say, me -- could shift radically. A book, after all, is a book, and it sits on the shelf, like other books.

And I'm sorry if it makes me sound hideously selfish -- and I'm aware that it probably does -- but the right to set canon is incredibly important to me.

Comments

( 88 comments — Leave a comment )
necessaryspace
Oct. 20th, 2004 12:16 pm (UTC)
**the right to set canon is incredibly important to me** That doesn't make you sound selfish. It makes sense. You created the world. You created the characters and the plots. All of which can be incredibly difficult.

You put the work into all of that. Fanfic plays with what's already there. The effort put into writing that is nowhere near the effort in creating something original.
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stakebait
Oct. 20th, 2004 01:41 pm (UTC)
Depends on the original. And on the fanfic too, I suppose.

What makes fanfic easier for me than original fic is my entitlement issues: I don't feel half so egotistical in writing fanfic to the demands of a pre-existing audience. Writing original work implies that I think someone should care about my own POV, which the backbrain translates as selfishness and cuts the words off dead. But that's a separate neurosis and shall be told another time, in my own journal.

Apart from that, it's like free verse versus structured verse -- some people find one easier, some the other.

The thing is, it's easier to get away with fanfic that's not done as well and still find that pre-existing audience. There are juried sites and edited zines, but people will read you without them. Whereas original fiction pretty well has to get past a gatekeeper to get anyone's attention.
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msagara
Oct. 20th, 2004 01:15 pm (UTC)
It should be. It's your world and characters. The canon is set by you in the act of writing it and putting it out into the world. Beyond that what anyone does with it is up to them. I write fanfiction in Star Wars, which as a franchise has hit just about every medium that it can be, now. Books, movies, comics, cartoons, television, marketing of every type of item imaginable. I have never presumed that 'my' take on a Star Wars character is a canon one, nor that it ever supercedes that which the original creator(s) did.

I'm fine with that -- but I'm not -- for the reasons stated in the post above -- fine with publication of the fanfic in the same medium as the original text. I'm not fine with people turning the work in to a commercial venture that I don't have say in, because almost by definition in this society, it's the commercial venture that defines the canon.

And I can certainly see that it's an issue that people feel strongly about. Where the medium differs, I do think it's less of an issue.

Stories are so much a part of the world and our culture that I don't think they can be owned, not really, and the attempt to control them, or more properly, what people do with them, is a futile exercise that will only raise blood pressure.

Sort of. The Buffy franchise doesn't control fanfic, and it never will. But it does control anything you have to pay money for, and it always will (if it knows about infractions). It's something you accept if you want to write in their universe and get paid.

If you were to publish a Buffy book of fanfic, the appropriate lawyers would eat you alive. So in this case, they're don't care what stories you tell yourself, they only care about the money that those stories don't make <wry g>. The same can be said about Star Wars fanfic, etc.

In either case, they're not trying to control what stories are told, just what venues they're told in.

I'm embarrassed to say that I don't actually know what the copyright extension act by Disney is; I remember Cory Doctorow talking about it, but I don't actually remember the content, only the hyperactive intensity <wry g>.
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dark_geisha
Oct. 20th, 2004 12:24 pm (UTC)
I think you've nailed why the idea of fanfic based upon tv shows, comics & movies doesn't really bother me, but why fanfic based upon novels makes me squeamish. I think because I accept the novel as canon and don't need any other written form to fortify that. Obviously this isn't the case for other people.

However, something you brought up yesterday -- the idea of spaces and unexplored regions in storylines. That's more common in comics and tv shows, in my opinion. There are some gaps in the story presented by those media forms. In that respect, I understand why fanfic crops up. With novels -- and maybe this is a result of my own writing -- I don't see how there are gaps.

And no, I don't think it makes you sound selfish at all. In the end, it is your story and if there were no you, there'd be no story.
haikujaguar
Oct. 20th, 2004 12:54 pm (UTC)
You have touched upon something which I've been meaning to write about but haven't had the time, which is the concept that transit across media is transformative.

A piece of writing adapted for performance is transformed. A piece of art about a written character is a transformation. Moving across the media boundaries changes things, and sometimes that change creates conditions conducive to non-canonical variations that are not damaging to the canon.

At some point, I'd like to think more about the topic. Later. Maybe you can riff on it! :)
zhaneel69
Oct. 20th, 2004 12:58 pm (UTC)
I complement you on this.

I've struggled with how I feel about fanfic. I like some TV fanfic stuff (SG-1, most notably). There is very little written FanFic I like [Very Secret Diaries, which isn't really "written" except that the books came first; and a slash Harry Potter with Naked Quidditch Calendar, which was too funny in my opinion].

I've read the book tie-ins of the Star Wars universe. And it was interesting to me. Some I liked. Some I didn't. And some authors couldn't seem to keep their hands off the "new" characters from other authors without twisting them, though they kept the trilogy ones fine. I've never read the fanfic off those tie-ins, but I'm willing to bet some of the authors came up through those ranks.

TNH at Norescon 4 talked about how FanFic can be a great training ground and that many, many of the authors writing pro now have done at least one fanfic. However, she didn't address the copyright issue.

Out of curiosity, does anyone know if the stories from Mercades Lackey's anthology of Valdemar came out of her "Queen's Own" fanfic list? [having looked up her stance since yesterday, I know she prefers no fanfic outside that list]

Zhaneel
msagara
Oct. 20th, 2004 01:24 pm (UTC)
Out of curiosity, does anyone know if the stories from Mercades Lackey's anthology of Valdemar came out of her "Queen's Own" fanfic list? [having looked up her stance since yesterday, I know she prefers no fanfic outside that list]

I can answer that, for at least three of the stories in each book. No. I didn't even know there was a list <wry g>. The anthologies are, of course, vetted by her, but a number of the submissions are invitations that ago through Tekno books. They take the stories they ask for and pass them on to Misty; Misty will either accept or reject those stories, and the ones she accepts, get published.

I believe there are also stories that she solicits directly. I'm one of the Tekno invitees. I'm very proud of my first story for her Valedmar anthology Sword of Ice because I know that one worked for her readers (right tone); I wasn't happy with the tone of the second story, because it wasn't quite right.

And if I'm going to play in someone else's sandbox, there's no point if I'm not, well, in the sandbox <wry g>.
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twiegand
Oct. 20th, 2004 01:07 pm (UTC)
You have a very good point. You have not only set the rules but you have created the game. It is your choice as to who gets to play that game. If it was created with the intention of it being a private interaction between you and the page, I see no reason why it shouldn't remain that way. If you create a world that is developed with an open invitation to others to come and join the game then all is fair WITHIN the limits you set. It comes down to what you decide is proper or permitted for your work. I am just grateful for the pass that you have extended to us that allows us to share in your vision.
stakebait
Oct. 20th, 2004 01:24 pm (UTC)
No, it doesn't make you sound selfish at all. I don't even think I'm disagreeing with you. I'm not itching for the right to publish my fanfic as a novel -- if I were, I'd be trying to network my way into the licensed spin offs business. I totally agree that it's the right of the creator to set canon.

I wouldn't want fanfic to be part of the canon. It would make canon an unknowable mess, branching off from every turning point in all directions, and hence make the future fanfic writer's task impossible.

I guess part of what I'm saying is that, to me, published on the Internet or in a zine could be both public enough to partake of the artistic conversation and still different enough from your novels to make the distinction you're talking about intuitively clear, even without the standard disclaimers.

Actually, I also think two published novels can be that different -- f'rex, the Frank Herbert Dune books versus the Brian Herbert Dune books. But I don't feel strongly enough about that to argue for it.

Fanfic is not a critique,

Sometimes I think it is -- a critique in fictional form, showing what the reader thinks was missing or wrong, not unlike a traditional parody, except by adding or fixing what the writer thinks is missing instead of exaggerating what is there. Like the Wind Done Gone, which was ruled a parody, but is hardly Bored of the Rings.

Not that I think all fanfic, or even most, falls into this category. But I do think it exists.

But if the review has some heat or love at its heart, it's still about the work as a whole.

some understanding of the original is necessary in order for the parody to work at all;

Some understanding of the original is necessary for fanfic to work too. In my experience, more understanding of the original is needed for fanfic than for review (which can focus on small or beside the point aspects) or for classic parody, because it's quite easy to mock the surface without understanding the substance.

Of course, quite a lot of fanfic does not work, and that may very well be because the writer doesn't understand the work, or is letting her wishes distort that understanding -- or just isn't a very good writer. But those things are true of parody and reviews as well. I'm not quite sure I'm getting the distinction that "the work as a whole" is meant to be making.

I agree that fanfic is a more emotional dialogue than review -- that's partly why I value it, because one of the things it says that review has trouble with is what emotional reaction the canon produced. I don't know that it's more emotional than parody, or just a different range of emotions, though I suppose mockery is inherently more distancing than love.

It explores other possibilities and permutations (if I understand what you've said correctly) that the original work did not -- or hasn't yet. Or never will.

Often. Other kinds try to recreate as close to canon as possible. But it has to be somewhat different, or it's just plagiarism.

one being, I have some attachment to my copyright.

*nodsnodsnods* Of course you do. I'm hoping, if/when I'm able to publish a novel, to do so under a Creative Commons license which would allow noncommercial derivative works with attribution and retain the rest of my rights.

Digression: I only know of one first novelist (Cory Doctorow) who published under a Creative Commons license, so I don't know how possible that would be to negotiate. And right now CC either allows derivative works only, but can be for profit, or nonprofit only, but including verbatim copying as well as derivative works. I did ask for a nonprofit sampling only license when they were developing it, but it didn't happen.) End digression.

property is first presented. Joss Whedon approves of fanfic, but he's doing Television, and I bet he'd be a lot less happy if fanfic writers were to get together and produce and air their own version of Buffy.

People do make fan videos, mostly by reediting footage. I don't know how Joss feels about it. Lucas Arts had a contest for Star Wars fanvids, though, so I don't think objection is a universal reaction to work in the same medium.

continued in next comment
zhaneel69
Oct. 20th, 2004 01:52 pm (UTC)
I'm not quite sure I'm getting the distinction that "the work as a whole" is meant to be making.

Speaking for me [not Michelle]:

The review doesn't focus [generally] on one scene or one character or one plot line. It focuses on the entire book.

FanFic, IME, tends to take a very narrow plot-line or character. Maybe my experience is to the contrary, but that is what I've seen.

Frex:

An SG-1 fanfic that expands on the 100 days episode. So it is confined to that one episode, not the series as a whole

A short story in Terre d'Angel about one of Phedra's single-time clients. That story is about the client and doesn't span the triology.

While I agree that for a fanfic to work, one has to have read majority of the body of work to have the underpinning assumptions down, the story itself is generally a pretty narrow topic.

Zhaneel
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msagara
Oct. 20th, 2004 02:52 pm (UTC)
No, it doesn't make you sound selfish at all. I don't even think I'm disagreeing with you. I'm not itching for the right to publish my fanfic as a novel -- if I were, I'd be trying to network my way into the licensed spin offs business. I totally agree that it's the right of the creator to set canon.

I have to say that the licensed spin-off is so very, very restrictive I think it would be hard to write for if you've had the freedom to go in any direction you want. I don't think it's easier, fwiw, to write fiction based on other people's work. For me there's so much that can't be said or done, and the fact that very little is allowed to change kind of puts a big damper on my creative drive.

I wouldn't want fanfic to be part of the canon. It would make canon an unknowable mess, branching off from every turning point in all directions, and hence make the future fanfic writer's task impossible.

I laughed at this. I'm thinking, of course, as an original fiction writer -- you're thinking as a fanfic writer. But either way, it would be tangled and impossible to follow. Does fanfic follow its own canon, out of curiosity?

I guess part of what I'm saying is that, to me, published on the Internet or in a zine could be both public enough to partake of the artistic conversation and still different enough from your novels to make the distinction you're talking about intuitively clear, even without the standard disclaimers.

From that perspective, I can see your point.

Actually, I also think two published novels can be that different -- f'rex, the Frank Herbert Dune books versus the Brian Herbert Dune books. But I don't feel strongly enough about that to argue for it.

Let's. Not. Go. There.

Fanfic is not a critique,

Sometimes I think it is -- a critique in fictional form, showing what the reader thinks was missing or wrong, not unlike a traditional parody, except by adding or fixing what the writer thinks is missing instead of exaggerating what is there. Like the Wind Done Gone, which was ruled a parody, but is hardly Bored of the Rings.


I think we're using the word critique in different ways. If I wrote a Buffy story -- no, wait, I did -- there was no intent to critique behind the conception of that story; it was purely filling in space between episodes (but two of my favourites, back to back). I wasn't evaluating the show, I wasn't evaluating the form of the show. I was writing a story. I've written critiques and rants about Buffy, otoh. I don't consider them in the same light. If someone asked me about the fiction, it wouldn't occur to me that it was part of a larger discourse. On the other hand, if someone asked me if the fiction was worth less than the opinion pieces, or more, I'm not sure how I would answer.

Oh all right, I know exactly how I would answer. I would say: in the case of the fiction, it depends on the reader. Writing is only half of the process; being read, the other half. In the case of the opinions: they're mine. They are what they are. They don't depend on the interpretation of a reader for their existence or the spark of life that drove them.

Next rock
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msagara
Oct. 20th, 2004 03:00 pm (UTC)
I agree that fanfic is a more emotional dialogue than review -- that's partly why I value it, because one of the things it says that review has trouble with is what emotional reaction the canon produced. I don't know that it's more emotional than parody, or just a different range of emotions, though I suppose mockery is inherently more distancing than love.

This is another point of interest that causes me to stop and think a bit more carefully. It hadn't occurred to me (because, as I've said elsewhere, I don't read fanfic) to look at it in those terms. I'll read usenet newsgroups, and I can pretty much glean what the emotional reaction is based on the comments/diatribes there -- but this is a more subtle take, and possibly a more complete one. It seems to be largely a single gender take, as well. Or am I wrong, in that?

I consider mockery more distancing than love; affectionate mockery is possible, but it's usually twined with something more substantial in terms of story.

property is first presented. Joss Whedon approves of fanfic, but he's doing Television, and I bet he'd be a lot less happy if fanfic writers were to get together and produce and air their own version of Buffy.

People do make fan videos, mostly by reediting footage. I don't know how Joss feels about it. Lucas Arts had a contest for Star Wars fanvids, though, so I don't think objection is a universal reaction to work in the same medium.


This is true enough -- but those aren't shown in the same context. They're not shown in the theatres; they're not racked with the DVDs. In fact, in the Lucas Arts case, the parallel between book and etext and movie and fanvid might be closer.

msagara
Oct. 20th, 2004 03:01 pm (UTC)
I agree that fanfic is a more emotional dialogue than review -- that's partly why I value it, because one of the things it says that review has trouble with is what emotional reaction the canon produced. I don't know that it's more emotional than parody, or just a different range of emotions, though I suppose mockery is inherently more distancing than love.

This is another point of interest that causes me to stop and think a bit more carefully. It hadn't occurred to me (because, as I've said elsewhere, I don't read fanfic) to look at it in those terms. I'll read usenet newsgroups, and I can pretty much glean what the emotional reaction is based on the comments/diatribes there -- but this is a more subtle take, and possibly a more complete one. It seems to be largely a single gender take, as well. Or am I wrong, in that?

I consider mockery more distancing than love; affectionate mockery is possible, but it's usually twined with something more substantial in terms of story.

property is first presented. Joss Whedon approves of fanfic, but he's doing Television, and I bet he'd be a lot less happy if fanfic writers were to get together and produce and air their own version of Buffy.

People do make fan videos, mostly by reediting footage. I don't know how Joss feels about it. Lucas Arts had a contest for Star Wars fanvids, though, so I don't think objection is a universal reaction to work in the same medium.


This is true enough -- but those aren't shown in the same context. They're not shown in the theatres; they're not racked with the DVDs. In fact, in the Lucas Arts case, the parallel between book and etext and movie and fanvid might be closer.

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rowyn
Oct. 21st, 2004 11:50 am (UTC)
Sometimes I think it is -- a critique in fictional form, showing what the reader thinks was missing or wrong, not unlike a traditional parody, except by adding or fixing what the writer thinks is missing instead of exaggerating what is there. Like the Wind Done Gone, which was ruled a parody, but is hardly Bored of the Rings.

Or Wide Sargasso Sea, a "prequel" to Jane Eyre written a century later (I disliked Wide Sargasso Sea, but that's me. Or Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon. Or, y'know, the majority of Shakespeare's plays, though he usually filed the serial numbers off so maybe they don't count. :D

There's actually a subgenre of Literature with a capital L that is, essentially, fanfic of old works in the literary canon. Perhaps authors get away with this more easily than fanfic of contemporary works because they are considered a kind of "updating"; the author is taking a feminist or non-colonial or otherwise "modern" view of the text, and running with it. Sometimes in the opposite direction.

Like so many things, there's an awful lot of "grey area" in the realm of building off of someone else's ideas.
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stakebait
Oct. 20th, 2004 01:27 pm (UTC)
In a sense, the spirit of generosity that allows the fanfic to exist can only be generous, in my view, because of that -- the other works are not canonical. They don't change anything. They don't touch or mark or move the original, and they don't open or close the avenues the original series can move in. The creator feels free to ignore them entirely.

Absolutely. And I wouldn't ever want that to change. It would just be nice to think that I could put my real name on my writing and not risk a law suit for it, and not worry that in this very discussion I'm breaking the ettiquette of fannish self-preservation by indicating to some PTB that my journal is a place to start looking for this stuff.

When you're dealing with fanfic based on written work, you're suddenly dealing with the exact same medium, which is why I think more tension exists.

There's been tension in the film medium too, from time to time. But you could well be right. I've only written a couple pieces of bookfic, one in a fandom for a former fanfic writer who encourages fanfic, and the other so under the radar that I'd be surprised if anyone read it.

Reviews, critiques-- these don't really change the way people view the original.

Sometimes they do. Sometimes they've changed how I view an original, by shifting the context in which I see it.

Are they public? Yes. But in some sense they relate to the canonical work.

And fanfic doesn't? I don't get that.

They make no attempt to change the work; they can savage it, they can praise it, they can dissect it for meaning -- but they're not there to rework to it; at most, they can shift the way we view what's already there.

Oh, I see. They relate to it as is. But parody does change it, while still relating to the original. This is why, to my mind, fanfic *is* parody -- albeit the unfunny kind, like the Wind Done Gone.

In the case of fanfic, the work is the stepping stone, the foundation, the thing people stand on while they branch out; the anchor to which they tie their own skills, developing their own voices and abilities.

*nodsnods* Yes, I agree completely. But I guess, to me, that's part of why I used the term artistic conversation -- not just the analysis of a particular work, but the way one work inspires the next work inspires the next work, in agreement or in rebuttal, or some of each.

Some of my favorite pieces of art are reworkings of other pieces of art -- Grendel, Till We Have Faces, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Wicked, etc. A lot of those originals are in the public domain, of course. And some of the others use other's characters in ways that the courts have, in the past, allowed. But it's getting harder and harder to do that.

And since it now takes longer than a human lifespan to get out of the public domain, it strikes me as too high a price to pay that people can live and die never being able to react, in fiction, to the fictions that moved them most. I don't think anyone would mistake Wicked for L. Frank Baum's canonical take on the wicked witch of the west, even though they're both novels, precisely because the canon was the stepping stone to a new voice. And I would be very sorry not to have been able to read it.

At this point in time, one can sort of assume that readers and writers of fanfic have read or watched the originals, so there's a certainty of informed creation,

That's not always true. There are people who will follow a favorite fanfic writer to a new fandom. However in spirit you're totally right. It's extremely rare for them not to then go out and get the canon and become familiar with it. And even if they don't, they're certainly aware that there *is* a canon that this is merely riffing off of.

No conclusion to come to, I'm just noodling along as best I can.
msagara
Oct. 20th, 2004 03:24 pm (UTC)
It would just be nice to think that I could put my real name on my writing and not risk a law suit for it, and not worry that in this very discussion I'm breaking the ettiquette of fannish self-preservation by indicating to some PTB that my journal is a place to start looking for this stuff.

This makes sense. I write under two or three names -- Michelle West, Michelle Sagara, and Michelle Sagara West (the latter not on purpose, but it happens anyway <wry g>). I would not, however, mind writing under a different name again -- I kind of want the stories to be written, and to be out there; my name is sort of an afterthought. If that makes sense.

This isn't in any way meant to diminish the desire to be associated with your own work; it is work; I can't imagine that it's hugely less work than the work I do. Well, okay, SUN SWORD was 420,000 words long (the last of six volumes on its own, that is), but in principle.

Oh, I see. They relate to it as is. But parody does change it, while still relating to the original. This is why, to my mind, fanfic *is* parody -- albeit the unfunny kind, like the Wind Done Gone.

I don't consider most fanfic to be done with an intent to poke fun, which I generally consider parody to be. Sometimes the "fun" is just cruel, but there. The changes made are changes that are recognizeable riffs on what's there. I don't consider the emotional intent of parody to be the emotional intent of most fanfic -- but I don't read fanfic, so I'm making base assumptions that could be entirely wrong, wrong, wrong. Sadly, it would not be the first time I've been wrong.

In the case of fanfic, the work is the stepping stone, the foundation, the thing people stand on while they branch out; the anchor to which they tie their own skills, developing their own voices and abilities.

*nodsnods* Yes, I agree completely. But I guess, to me, that's part of why I used the term artistic conversation -- not just the analysis of a particular work, but the way one work inspires the next work inspires the next work, in agreement or in rebuttal, or some of each.


Ah! Got it. Literary dialogue! The light dawns. I have, in the words of Pratchett, a mental sunrise. Where each particular fandom is a microcosm of the larger literary tradition.

Some of my favorite pieces of art are reworkings of other pieces of art -- Grendel, Till We Have Faces, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Wicked, etc. A lot of those originals are in the public domain, of course. And some of the others use other's characters in ways that the courts have, in the past, allowed. But it's getting harder and harder to do that.

Part of the reason these work so well, though, is that those works are widely enough known that there's a resonance; the work comes as a revelation that's almost mythic or archetypal in force. It's not a literary dialogue, but a dialogue with our past, with our possible naivete, with what we've bought into at other times.

Fifty years from now, if Buffy were part of the collective cultural psyche, it would be possible -- I think -- to have that same overarching effect. I know that it wouldn't be possible for it to have that effect on me at the moment, because Buffy is of this moment; the time for turning that over, for seeing what lies underneath and is relevant to a different generation with different myths and experiences, isn't yet; she's ours.

No conclusion to come to, I'm just noodling along as best I can.

Me too. The point about public domain is a good one -- but for me, I see the later works working because the note of cultural relevance, the shift of perspective, is in part generational.
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prettyarbitrary
Oct. 20th, 2004 02:35 pm (UTC)
Dear God, no! No one should have the right to earn money off your work without your permission, or act as if it's their right to change it. That's where most fanfic writers draw the line (except for the tiny minority who inevitably show up, act dishonestly, and spoil things for everyone else).

Granted, there are some who write fanfic because they don't like something the author did, and want to pretend to change it. But 1: they almost certainly wouldn't try and claim the right to do so officially, and 2: most fanfic writers are doing it because they love the original work and simply want to revisit it.

I can't imagine how someone would call you selfish for what you said. :)
matociquala
Oct. 20th, 2004 04:14 pm (UTC)
I may have missed something somewhere (probably did), but where is the fanfiction that is being published in a form that could be mistaken for a quote real unquote book?

Or is this a hypothetical?

And I agree wholeheartedly; if somebody is making money off my work, call me a capitalist swine, but I want a cut, please.

Cats gotta eat.
(no subject) - msagara - Oct. 20th, 2004 07:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
andpuff
Oct. 20th, 2004 05:08 pm (UTC)
You do find yourself in the most interesting places, don't you? *g*

For my part, you (this would be the general 'you' as opposed to the rather specific 'you' in the previous sentence) may write fanfic about my stuff with my blessing as long as you reap no commercial benefit and you don't suggest I read it. (And, as it happens, no ever has -- suggested I read it, that is. Although there was some discussion years ago about THE FIRE'S STONE being thinly disguised Pretender's slash. Which it wasn't because I'd never seen an episode of THE PRETENDERS. Still haven't. But I digress....) If you do artwork, poetry, or filk... different story. Different medium and I consider it a reflection rather than an extension of the original work.

I think opinions are generally more flexible on media based fanfic because the source material is already seen as having been produced by a committee. For every television episode, multiple people have a hand in writing it (even when there's only a single name in the credits) then the director interprets, then the actors, then the editor, then the music director. (set decorator, props, makeup, carpenters, lights, craft services... Okay, maybe not craft services but I'd argue that a well-time coffee could change the energy in a scene.) Ownership isn't particularly clear cut (in a creative rather than a legal sense where it's entirely clear cut) and fanfic becomes just another layer.

In text, there are only two people involved. I think sometimes fanfic is seen as something that comes between the writer and the reader.

And I think I'll quit before I actually type out the analogy that just popped into my head... *g*

Besides, the game's about to start.
(Deleted comment)
msagara
Oct. 21st, 2004 04:09 pm (UTC)
Re: A tangent to our earlier conversation
I thought perhaps it would help, should you wish to dip a toe in, in understanding how 'fannish' people view lj and their fandom. Some of the dynamics, if you will.

If not, not. :)


Thank you! I've just bookmarked it for reading because I am interested in the dynamics and in the crossover between LJ & fanfic & fandom in general; obviously, I started my LJ for slightly more mundane reasons <cough andpuff cough janni;>, so it's sort of like a curtain is slowly being pulled back.
bwappo
Oct. 22nd, 2004 10:59 am (UTC)
I understand you not wanting others to set canon in your universe. I feel that a writer doesn't really have control over that, and more importantly, doesn't need control over that to be the sole provider of canon. For example, I love the original Dragonlance trilogy written by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. Many, many authors wrote many, many stories in the same universe, with the same publisher, using some of the same characters. Basically, its professional fanfic. Some of it I really enjoyed, and some I didn't (just as there were some Weis/Hickman Dragonlance works that I didn't like). That doesn't change my opinion about the first Weis/Hickman Dragonlance trilogy. In film, many actors played James Bond or Batman; another good or bad actor in the universe didn't dilute the performace of the previous actors.

As an analogy, companies worry about and protect their brands from dilution by imitators. Authors are their own brands. Their books are products under that brand. Someone can make similar products with similar parts or ingredients, but they're not originals. Michelle West (tm) brand characters will never have the same content or context as Elvis Impersonator (tm) brand versions of the same characters and universe. Fanfic can be anything from treasured to reviled to ignored. If it were possible for people to publish works in your universe, even against your wishes, their works would stand or fall on their own merit. Works that stand would enhance your universe. Works that fall would, by comparison, push your work that much higher. But I don't think they would affect your brand.

Assuming it were even possible for someone to duplicate your style to the point where a given reader wouldn't be able to tell whether or not you wrote the derivative work, authorship (your "brand") implies a safety and comfort in a universe. Anything you write, I know you intended. If someone else writes in your universe, I have no guarantee that you include their treatment of your universe as part of your universe. Regardless of whether or not I think it's cool that one of your characters gets abducted by the Tribe of Snuffleupagus in someone's fanfic, only you can give me the opportunity to get to know and grow with your characters and your universe in the way you choose. Other authors can give me their vision within their version of your universe, but that's within their "brand". That's why I don't think authors really need control over their universes to set canon. By default, I think readers assume each author owns and defines their own canon, regardless of whoever else may write within an author's universe.

Now, I probably have an unusual perspective; I study interactive games. One of the great challenges that story-based games face is that, by default, the author has little control of the main character (the player). Authors (i.e. game designers) create the universe in such a way as to make it inviting for players to "write their own fanfic", as it were. To be sure, most video games aren't story-based. But it's interesting that all video games face the same "active audience" issues that books, movies, and other media have. In that sense, fanfic is merely a way of making a story a little more interactive.

This is all in my head, and maybe I've separated myself too far from Real Life. Do you think readers tend to assume that different authors share the canon of a universe if the authors write in the same universe? Or for a character? If you read a series of books done by multiple authors, and you read a book you don't like, would you tend to avoid the series, the author, ...both?

This thread really has really made me think hard about author and reader roles. ...Thanks everyone!
alfreda89
Oct. 24th, 2004 11:35 pm (UTC)
Hummm...
Let me sum it up in a less unwieldy fashion: I do not want other writers defining canon in a universe I create.

I'm too tired to jump into this lovely conversation, but this does sum up my feelings on this, I think--it's what as a writer most concerns me. Also--I've been told I have a distinct "voice", part of the reason I've never sold any tie-in novels. I'd be afraid someone would mess up the voices of my characters in my head.

I loved "The Very Secret Diaries", but have not read her Harry Potter stuff--slash Harry/Draco doesn't interest me. Although I wouldn't be surprised if Draco comes around to fighting on Harry's side before it's through...

I've written one fanfic--a short stream of consciousness novel slotted into a TV series that I needed to get out of my system--and never showed to anyone. I condensed and made a synopsis to try and sell it, but the publisher was hiring only their own stable of writers, so not sure it was ever considered--only saw Del Rey people doing the writing.

Someone mentioned being annoyed when the writer seems to change the universe out from under fans? (I went back to the root post, so can't see it right now.) This brings to mind three things--one, reading a novel, after over 100 pages of what seemed to be a pure fantasy novel, no hints of SF anywhere, a character suddenly finds a spaceship. This annoyed me so much I never finished the novel--and it was from an otherwise pretty good writer.

On the other hand, Tepper slipped the SF element into her True Game books so slowly it worked for me.

And then a third thing--I haven't read the latest "Anita Blake", but I understand that many fans are furious about the personality mending among the three protagonists of the book. Yet from what has been described to me, and the novelette I saw from the book, this makes sense in the evolution of magic/the world/Anita's expanding powers. I'm not saying I would have done it that way, myself, but I can see why Laurell thought it might go that way, and chose that direction.

She's the author. Her world, her book, her call. People can choose to buy it or not (book or idea) and can debate all they want among each other. They can send her fan letters and scream that they're unhappy. But constantly harping on this ad nauseum is foolish--the book can't be "unwritten" except by that "Ooops, it was a dream" dodge most of us hate, except in parody of the most famous example on TV.

Fanfic is a special niche unlike anything else. I know writers who have written it and have a special affection for it--have even moved into writing tie-in novels of favorite series! But I suspect most of us feel the same way, bottom line--this is our advice for how to spend your time, if you want to become a writer.

Write your own stories, with your own world and own characters. Share something of *you* with us, as we have given to you.

If you only wish to please yourself in an amusing hobby, then quietly write on and share fanfic with friends.

Songs or artwork about my characters? I don't think I'd find it threatening...I'd see it more as being creatively inspired, as opposed to TV/movies, where they'd better buy the rights first.

And now, sleep....

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