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05 May 2010 @ 09:29 am
*sigh* Wow, this got REALLY long.  
Let me start this by saying, I LOVE the Outlander books.  So much, that reading DG's recent post about the moral evils of fanfiction, kind of hurt.  Now, to be fair, the impetus for her post was a young woman auctioning off a to-be-written fic specifically involving James Fraser (of Gabaldon's series) with proceeds from the auction to go to help another young woman (who I assume is a member of fandom) in her fight against breast cancer.

This hits that legal infringement area of making actual money from fanfiction.  I've seen references to fandom auctions for charity before.  Larger scale, 'go bid here on a fic from me in any of the fandoms I write', sort of things.  And if memory serves, the money in these cases never actually touches the fic writer - it's all donated straight to charity and the writer writes their fic, or makes their vid to the donator's request.   So...I don't know.  On the one hand, good cause.  On the other, technically it kind of does cross that whole money line.  

But that bit about the girl and the auction is all the way at the end of DG's post.  The rest of it lists what she sees as the most common fic writer arguments for writing fic, and then she argues against each point.  And reading them, I felt a little insulted.  It seems pretty common that those authors who intensely dislike fanfiction tend to have very little understanding, or real knowledge of what fandom is and why people are part of it.  They take offense at what they see as infringing on their property, and stealing their characters.  In this case, she seems equally as offended by BAD fic writing as she does by the actual existence of the fic in the first place, which is...I don't even know what to say about that.

There are plenty of published authors these days who were at one time, or in some cases still are, active parts of fandom.  Naomi Novik, a best seller like Gabaldon, is probably one of the best known and most active.  I come across articles like the post linked above, and it feels like that POV on the subject of fanfic is antiquated, and hopelessly ignorant of what fic writing really is, and why people do it.

I have talked before about things I've learned about writing from writing fanfic, and I'm sure I've covered my overall thoughts on fanfic and the morality of it (since I write it myself, those opinions should be fairly obvious), but after reading a post that so obviously loathes it by an author I have always respected, and whose writing I adore...well, I just can't let it go.  I feel like I have to offer a countering view.  

First of all, I feel like I should lay my history out there, as I know there are some newer readers to this journal who are likely unaware of it.

In late 2002, I'd been writing/rewriting/revising the same book for...five years?  Six?  It's "that book".  The one that will never see the light of day.  That first book some writers never get past, the one they think is so special, someone will have to see its brilliance and publish it!  (I was so very young and ignorant!)  I hit a wall with it and had what one might call writer's block.  Of course, I'd totally created this situation myself by focusing so hard on the one book, I hadn't written on anything else in years.  

Months went by, and I didn't write.  I was stuck, and I didn't know how to get past it.  But, I thought, surely writing something fun, just for me, without even the prospect of publication, that would be okay.  So I wrote some fic.  And it was more fun writing it than writing on the book had been in, well, years. A friend I met online read it, and convinced me to post it so other people could read it.  I got a ton of feedback.  Before this, I'd begun to lose faith in myself.  That book wasn't going anywhere; despite my multiple rewrites and revisions, it was still hopelessly flawed.  This was my dream, but doubt had begun to creep in.  That response from people who loved my fic rejuvenated me with hope.  I wrote more.  For the better part of a year, all I did was write fic.  

And I learned a lot about characterization, story structure, conflict, rising action, dialogue.  I learned more about writing in that year, than the previous two or three together.  More than that, I loved writing again, and I believed in myself.  Enough, anyway, that I finally started a new book.  I worked on those first few chapters, and they felt good to me.  But I wanted to avoid all of the rewrites of that book of old, so after the first few chapters were done, I went back and reread them, decided what needed to be changed, and rewrote them.  And then did it again.  And then stalled.  In October of 2004, I decided to give myself a kick in the writerly butt.  I signed up for Nanowrimo for the first time.  It was a complete failure.  

You see, I had signed up for a workshop with a professional editor towards the beginning of Nano.  I paid money for it, I sent off my first chapter, I attended it and waited with thirty other people to find out what a real pro thought of my writing.  As fate would have it, mine was the very last critiqued.  Everyone in my little crit group of five or six people loved it.  Oh, sure, they had some nitpicky crits, but when it came down to it, three of them asked to read the rest when it was done.  I should stop here and say, I wasn't totally naive at that point.  I'd submitted a handful of short stories over the years, and experienced rejection.  I'd had success, finally, and the husband and I had a co-written Star Trek story published in the Strange New Worlds anthology. I knew enough not to expect glowing praise from the editor.  But I was completely unprepared for how much she hated it.  After my fellow workshoppers' response, I had some cautious hope.  But not only did she hate it, she held it up and ridiculed my writing, my description choices, and my MC.  She shredded it to the point where the room was absolutely silent.  That awkward kind of silence where no one knows what to say.  No less than a dozen people approached me afterward, to ask me if I was okay, if that tells you anything.  I'm pretty sure no one else got asked that question even once all day, and I was asked repeatedly, by people I didn't know.  

And I really thought I WAS okay.  So, this one editor hated my writing.  So what?  Someone else will love it!  Writers experience more rejection than I think any other field.  We have to become immune to it.  I really thought I was.

Until I went home, and tried to keep going with Nano.  I couldn't work on the book.  Everytime I opened that Word doc, I felt ill.  Apparently, I was a lot more affected than I'd thought.  So, instead of working on Starlight & Shadow, I wrote fic.  Once again, I remembered how to love writing again, by writing fic.  

A year went by.  Nano came around again, and I had NO intention of signing up.  I didn't even have an idea for a project, and I had no desire to go back to S&S.  Bu then November first came, and I found myself with an open Word doc writing...a first chapter.  I wrote over 3,600 words in one day, and when I was done, I thought "I guess I better go sign up for Nano".  I made the 50K in one month goal, and kept writing.  By June, I had finished the first draft.  

Fanfic became few and far between, as novel writing took over my life.  But sometimes, when I just need a break, I'll set aside the books and just write 10,000 words of fic.  For fun.  Because I don't feel any pressure when I'm writing fic.  Because it helps me recharge.  Because I love it.

You can see, fanfiction is a very personal thing for me.  I love it, I adore fandom, and someday when my stuff is published out there, I will be flattered as hell if someone writes fic for it.  My only regret is that legal reasons will keep me from reading any of it.  (I'm pretty sure that's how that works.)

So, in DG's post, she had a list of things she saw as the reasons people write fic, and her rebuttals for each of them.  My paraphrasing of her list and her reasons, with my rebuttals:

1. It's okay to write fic, because fic writers don't make money off it. / It's illegal, period, and that makes it wrong.

Well....yes.  Fanfiction by definition is derivative work, meaning it derives from something else that usually is copyrighted, which makes fanfiction a violation of copyright law.  However, TPTB often turn a blind eye, or in some cases, even encourage it.  (Note above: my short story publication was a Star Trek story.  That entire antho was newbie authors writing in someone else's universe, with someone else's characters.  That's fanfiction anyway you slice it!)

Personally, if the owner of said property comes out and says "Do not fanfic my work", then I'm not going to.  I have never, for instance, written Harry Potter fic, though it is a thriving fandom.  Sure, maybe I don't know someone is against it, and I write fic in that universe.  That could totally happen, because I'm not out there looking for every author's view.  However, I generally keep my fic activities limited to movies and television, who all seem much more accepting of fanfic than authors. 

But in my experience, the people I know in fandom aren't saying "It's okay because I'm not making money off it."  They're smart enough that they KNOW it's still not legal, but they - we - are doing it anyway.  Not as any act of defiance, but because people have been fanficcing since Kirk first met Spock, and for the most part, TPTB seem pretty indulgent about letting us entertain ourselves, so long as we don't cross that line to self publishing the stuff and asking for money.  

Bottom line: are we really hurting anyone?  No.  In my personal opinion, having fandom play in your universe is a sign of popularity and success.  Sometimes it even brings new readers/viewers.  I know people from the old Alias days who read fic first, and were intrigued enough to go watch the show.  How awesome is that??  I want people to read fic about my universe, and then go buy my books someday!

2. I want to write, but don't know how, so fanfic is practice. / Suck it up and learn on your own; i did.

Okay, so for obvious reasons, this one really struck a chord with me.  I already knew how to write when I found fanfic, but I truly don't believe I'd still be writing today - or be as good at it as I currently am - without having written fic.  It taught me a heck of a lot, and as for her assertion that if you HAVE to write it, don't post it, well, feedback is an extremely valuable tool.  I learned what worked, what people really responded to.  From strangers who didn't love me, and weren't obligated by the bonds of family or friendship to tell me something was good.

Different people learn in different ways.  Not everyone who writes fanfic does it to learn to be a writer.  MOST people just do it for fun.  I was already a writer coming in, and I had plenty of experience creating my own characters.  But when I gave up on my own writing, the creative urge to write came out in a different way - fanfic.  Just because it never occurred to one person doesn't mean it's stupid or cheating for it to have occurred to someone else.  In some ways, writing fic and staying true to someone else's characters can be more difficult than making up your own.

I guess my biggest problem with her post is this: she personally hates fanfiction, but she is approaching her post as a response to ALL fic, not just fic set in her universe, using her characters.  She's making assumptions about fanfic and fanfic writers based on the handful of times she's ventured into fandom and seen fic based in her world.  As already stated, some authors think fanfic is fine and dandy.  Don't respond for everyone.

I've already stated several times "in my opinion" "I think", etc.  I am not responding on behalf of all fandom here.  This is all my own, personal reaction to her post.

3. I enjoy all of the feedback I get. / Of course you do, everyone likes feedback, but you're only getting it because you're using my characters.

Okay, so I can actually approach this statement from multiple sides.  Yes, of course everyone loves getting feedback.  And sure, people are going to read fic that involves characters they love.  They go looking for fic that does things the movie/TV show/book didn't do.  Oftentimes, it's a pairing they'll never get in canon, so they read fic about it.  However, they're much more likely to give feedback on a story that is well written than one that is not.  Spend any amount of time in fandom, and you'll run across those posts from readers with pet peeves.  "I hate x grammatical mistake/character flaw/word misuse/story trope."  The average fanfic reader is actually a great deal more discerning than they're being given credit for here.

Also, I HAVE posted original work.  Sure, I don't get the shower of comments, but I got consistent feedback, and in some ways it meant more because it was entirely my own world and characters.  But I still write fic, and I write it for the same reason a lot of people read it - to see things happen for and with characters I'd otherwise never get in canon.  Sydney/Sark.  Derek/Sarah.  I want to see Susan get to talk to Marcus on the Day of the Dead, damn it. (I still want to write that.) 

 4. But no one would read what I write with my own characters. / Depends on how good you are, and see, I wrote some comics for Disney once, so I can empathize with your plight.

Not...really.  

I've already addressed the whole "no one would read" portion.  

As for the rest of the response, I ask again, who is being hurt by fanfiction?  Okay, I get it.  She doesn't want it written about her world or her characters.  I solemnly swear never to write Outlander fanfic, k?  But who reads fic?  Other members of fandom who care about those characters.  Who writes it?  Fans.  People who love the stories and characters so much, they can't get those characters out of their heads.  DG admits everyone has done this.  Everyone has gone to a movie and walked away wondering what would happen if, as she put it, Elizabeth Swann chose Jack over Wil.  It's okay, so long as you only imagine.  In a rather cavalier statement about writing comics for Disney, she says she "gets it" because she's done it herself - it's fun!  Really?  But that's not listed anywhere in her seven reasons why people write fanfic.  If I was making a list like that, "Fun" would be number one.  Because it's fun.  Because it's economically thrifty, many layered fun, rather like playing a roleplay game with your friends.  How many of us gamer geeks have played favorite characters from books?  My husband's first character ever was Raistlin Majere, and he STILL plays him as a character in his D&D world.  Because...it's fun.  He enjoys it.  

Fanfic is kind of like that. 

5. I like the social aspects of fandom. / Go join an online fanclub or writer's group.

That really isn't the same thing at all.  And I'm think she probably doesn't realize that a lot of those author's discussion groups, ie fan groups, fan clubs, fan forums, etc, actually have a place for fic and fic posting, if the author isn't against fic.  Sherrilynn Kenyon's message board has a thread for that, for example.

Fandom is a special place.  A place where you can be with like-minded folks who don't think you're odd or some kind of freak for writing slash.  Even if some of them don't personally read it.  

Really, the friendships I've made in fandom have gotten me through some of the toughest parts of my life.  I can't possibly articulate everything fandom means to me., and no one who hasn't been part of it is going to understand, anyway.  

Oh, and as for the suggestion of writer's groups...I don't think Ms. G realizes that the majority of fic writers are not people with a personal desire to be published.  I get it.  As someone who DOES have that desire, it's hard to imagine other people putting as much energy and effort into writing something who have no intention of pursuing that path.  But they are legion, and no writer's group is going to be the right place for them.  Fandom is.  

6. But I love your characters!  Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery! / Quit trying to seduce my husband, you hussy.

Yes, imitation IS the sincerest form of flattery.  Although I don't really see fanfic as imitation, I DO see it as a very viable, very sincere form of flattery.  I can only hope my books will someday have a fandom.   

7. But you write slow and we get impatient. / Authors can't just churn out books and keep them good enough that you continue to love them.

True.  I am more of a TV show ficcer myself, but I can tell you that fic is what keeps my interest in a show during summer hiatus.  I just don't see that as a bad thing.  

 In conclusion, I totally disagree with the idea that fanfic is just a cheap rip off of the real thing.  Some of the best pieces I've ever read explore things that would never, ever happen in canon, and that's really the whole point.  Fanfic is fun, and it is flattery, and it builds interest in the original property on which it's based.  I just don't see the bad.  Sure, a few bad apples try to self publish and make money, but in my experience, those are rare, and all of fandom shouldn't be punished.   



 
 
 
KayJayUU: fandom iskayjayuu on May 5th, 2010 09:17 pm (UTC)
She has an update post -- well, half of one, she had to go to the doctor so said she'd finish later -- which is far less grating. I'll be interested to see what else she has to say.

But she did mention that writing fanfic "out of love of the characters and the story" never crossed her mind. Really? I mean, really? How could one who lives, eats, breathes their own characters, and has them take over her life, how can she not know that someone else can have that spark and passion as well?

Honestly, I don't know how professional writers who know nothing of fandom can live without the "squee". It's such an integral part of being in fandom, being a part of a whole, rather than living alone in that ivory tower of being "the author" and having "fans," instead of "friends."

In a way, I feel sorry for people like that.
rhienelleth: australia spaces betweenrhienelleth on May 5th, 2010 11:25 pm (UTC)
Yes, I saw the update. You mean, people actually write fic because they love the characters? For fun? You don't say!

I'm totally mystified that this is apparently shocking and baffling news. Why else would people spend their valuable time writing fic or making vids?

I just...ugh.
Dragonsinger: Writing - tinylegaciesdragonsinger on May 5th, 2010 10:39 pm (UTC)
I don't think I could have written a post more eloquently than you have here. I completely agree with your rebuttal and your reasons. I fell into fanfic for the same reasons you gave.

As a teenager, I had pretty much stopped writing original stuff. The well felt like it had dried up. And then, at 18, I discovered Highlander fic. I realized, other people make up stories about their favorite shows, too. And it's okay to write these stories down?

And so I started writing again...and it was empowering.:)
rhienellethrhienelleth on May 5th, 2010 11:31 pm (UTC)
Yes, totally empowering! :) I still remember the feeling of "I really CAN write. I'm not just spitting in the wind with this."

Reading the sort of assumption DG and other authors make about fandom in general and fanfic in particular is just injurious. It hurts. They've invariably jumped to all of these erroneous conclusions about why we write fic and what fandom is, without bothering to look any further than what they see is disrespectful behavior, when the reality is, we love and cherish the characters we write about. I woiuld be unspeakably flattered to find people writing fic about my characters, be it gen. het, slash, you name it.

Okay, so I do have issues with certain types of noncon and rape fic, but that's a personal preference.

Anyway, flattered. Unspeakably. IMO, ficcing and vidding are among the highest of compliments. People love your characters as much as you do!
Dragonsingerdragonsinger on May 6th, 2010 08:29 pm (UTC)
I know. I'd be amazed if something I created had a fandom. I'd have a Sally Field moment - "You like me. You really, really like me."
Anya: D.Gray-man - Allen {bright}madame_parker on May 6th, 2010 05:32 pm (UTC)
There's a post you have to read that pretty much says everything that fanfiction is;

http://bookshop.livejournal.com/1044495.html

It blew me away and it's really changed my view point on a lot of things.
rhienellethrhienelleth on May 7th, 2010 03:44 pm (UTC)
Wow, that was a VERY interesting read! Awesome, thank you!