Fan Fiction Is Fiction

Another (published) author has come out against “fan fiction”: Diana Gabaldon publicly declared her disgust, disdain, and delusion that fanfic is illegal in a series of posts on her blog. Those posts have since been deleted, but copies can be found on Fandom Wank here or in Google cache here.

It is becoming a perennial thing here on the Heretic Loremaster to declare that fan fiction is fiction. As in the fact that fan fiction is the same as regular fiction (if there is such a thing), only it goes under a different and derogatory name. And as in the fact that treating “fan fiction” and “fiction” as separate is itself a fiction.

I must confess a growing weariness of pointing out to people smart enough to know better (like Ms. Gabaldon) that fan fiction is fiction. Until relatively recently, what would today be termed “fan fiction” was the norm, not the exception. In the Middle Ages, for example, it was more common than not to lift ideas, characters, and whole stories from existing, often contemporaneous, works. This doesn’t even begin to touch on how many stories are derived from myths. In fact, if you think back to the root of creating fiction, there is a knot of people gathered around a fire as one tells a story … or I should say, retells a story. The art was as much–if not more–in selecting, recasting, and expanding upon existing details as it was in adding original changes. I believe that it is a human drive to respond creatively to what moves us the most.

So what happened? When did “storytelling” become “fan fiction”? Ms. Gabaldon’s posts get to the heart of this: when we began to commodify creativity, when we began to draw boundaries (in the interest of making money) around my ideas, my characters, my stories. Interestingly, Ms. Gabaldon–like notorious “fanfic” detractor Robin Hobb Lee Goldberg*–used to make her living writing other people’s characters. Watching her justify that in the face of her ignorant stereotypes of fan writers as oversexed, lazy, bad writers too stupid to create their own fiction is unsightly. You see, like Robin Hobb Lee Goldberg, she wrote her own version of fan fiction for those who “owned” those characters already. There was money to be made for someone, so that made it okay.

* I originally–and mistakenly–identified Robin Hobb as the author who had tried some rhetorical gymnastics in justifying a career spent writing other people’s characters (Monk and Diagnosis Murder) alongside an utter despise of “fanfic.” A blog post discussing this can be found here. Lee Goldberg and Cathy Young have a very interesting (and more than a little wankish!) back-an-forth across multiple posts. Anyway. I misidentified Robin Hobb and apologize to her and to my readers here for being lazy and relying on my memory rather than digging up links to back myself up. Robin Hobb’s original rant against fanfic, via the Wayback Machine (having gone the way of Ms. Gabaldon’s anti-fanfic posts) can be found here. Thanks to Mervi for asking the questions that turned up my mistake!

Now, I will pause to say that I do not oppose in any way a creator’s right to make money on her or his creation. In fact, contrary to many citizens of the Internet and many members of my own generation, I believe strongly that if you like an artist’s work enough to want her or him to create more of it, then you owe that person a fair payment for that work.

But this is a different issue. No one is arguing Ms. Gabaldon’s right to make money on her books, and no one is trying to cash in on her creations; people are responding as people have responded to creative work since the first group of people crouched around a fire to swap hunting tales. That intelligent, creative people fail to understand the need to respond creatively to the stories of others is astounding. That intelligent, creative people make the sorts of slanders against those who respond in such a way–as Ms. Gabaldon makes against “fanficcers”–is disgusting.

In her essay What Fanfic Is (and Isn’t) to Me, Dreamflower points out the difference in how most people respond to creative work and how artists (which includes writers) respond:

You can pick up a book or turn on the TV, and you can sit there and consume what you have been given, and then close the book or turn off the TV and forget about it. Or you can interact with the book or the show, by imagining new scenarios or new ways of looking at what you’ve been presented with.

Most people consume the creativity of others. They buy books and pay for music downloads and sit through television programs that are 25% advertisements and maybe talk at the water cooler the next day about what they’ve read/heard/seen but, otherwise, never move much beyond consumption. Ms. Gabaldon herself points out that creative people find inspiration anywhere. For pity’s sake, I find stories in the swirls of fake marble on my bathroom wall. I can’t help but to lift an eyebrow at the notion that, in Ms. Gabaldon’s perfect world, we would legally and morally be able to respond only as consumers to the creative work of others.

Responding creatively is in us. And, culturally, I believe that we remain a species whose very nature assures that creation will, in part, be a collective act. Until fairly recently, that was just creating; we didn’t need any special or derogatory names for retelling another person’s story. When creators and the companies that profited from them realized that they could inscribe tight boundaries and claim “ownership” of stories that, in fact, are the product of the thousands of collectively derived myths, stories, and archetypes that define our culture did we end up with the sneering term “fan fiction,” the heart of which is fanatic, implying instability, obsession, hysteria (the latter particularly interesting given that “fanfic” writers are predominantly female). In reality it is, and will always be, just fiction.

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23 Responses to “Fan Fiction Is Fiction”

  1. Tristan Alexander says:

    OK, I didn’t read ALL of this, but the idea that “fan fiction” is ILLEGAL? That is just stupid and worng. Even if an author does not want people o “use” their worlds or characters, SOME authors give their blessings to do so…how can THAT be illegal then? People disrespect intelectual property all the time and use false arguments to say it is OK, but “fan fiction” is not the same as that. It’s like me doing a painting inspired by the Sistine cealing, it’s NOT the celing and clearly NOT Michelangelo…but it’s also NOT illegal!

  2. Oshun says:

    Life is weird sometimes. A lot of people I know who write fanfiction wrote it before they attempted to write anything. Johnny-come-lately that I was to the party, I had been writing to make a living for decades before I took up writing fanfiction. I never had that hang-dog attitude that the detractors of fanfiction go after like a vampire smelling blood when they attack its writers. My kids made fun of me and I laughed right back at them—ignorant little twits! I knew that there has always been fanfiction or as you define fiction based tightly or loosely upon stories told before. Unbecoming, ungracious, and really counterproductive: the whole name-calling thing. Who do they think is buying their books? I’ve talked the question to death over the last week and have nothing new to add. Just wanted to pop in and say I like your comments very much. I really have to get back to what I was doing—writing up my notes on my recent lunch/interview with Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman, two terrific writers, award-winners both of them in the field of fantasy/sci-fi writing, who appreciate that they have readers who might like their work enough to write fanfiction based upon it.

  3. Mervi says:

    Not going to argue the actual topic here (I see good reasoning on both sides) but I do have a question.

    “Interestingly, Ms. Gabaldon–like notorious “fanfic” detractor Robin Hobb–used to make her living writing other people’s characters.”

    I don’t know enough about Ms. Gabaldon’s career to comment on that, but I’d like to know what you mean by Robin Hobb making a living writing other people’s characters. Because if you’re referring to the Liavek books… I think a shared universe, especially one that is edited and published by a company (which means there are contracts and money being paid) is not the same thing as “fan fiction” (or what that is generally understood to be) because there’s an agreement between the authors to use each others’ creations.

  4. French Pony says:

    So what happened? When did “storytelling” become “fan fiction”?

    Nineteenth century — the rise of Romanticism with its associated cults of Originality and Genius. One of the many reasons that I’m not necessarily a fan of that aspect of Romanticism and what it’s done to the Western conception of art.

  5. Ithilwen says:

    Yes, the whole business DOES get tiresome. I think the thing that I find most discouraging is the ignorant assumption on the part of many anti-fanfic folks that writing derivative fiction is a priori less creative than writing original fiction; that fanficcers are nothing mreo than lazy copyists. Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern are Dead and The Once and Future King are less creative than Eragon or The Sword of Shanarra? Really?!

    Of course, the anti-fanficcers will argue that my two examples above are different, because they’re not technically fanfiction. But the only differences are trivial ones; they’re derivative fiction, all right, just derivative of material already in the public domain (a purely legal, not creative, distinction). And they’re better-written than 99.99% of fanfiction. Of course, they’re also better-written than 99.99% of original fiction as well, but too often that’s brushed aside. If the anti-fanficcers are going to use the contents of the Pit of Voles in their arguments against fanfic, then I claim the right to bring in the contents of every major publisher’s slush pile to bolster our side of the argument.

    Whatever arguments can be made against fanfiction (and I do have to allow there are a few reasonable ones), lack of creativity isn’t one of them.

  6. Dawn says:

    Tristan: You are exactly correct; “fan fiction” currently occupies a big legal gray area as far as fair use is concerned. No legal decision has ever been made concerning it, and both sides of the debate tend to like it that way, since neither side wants particularly to lose (and give absolute power to the other side), and there really isn’t any way to say which way such a decision would go.

    Mervi: Diana Gabaldon used to write text for Disney comics or somesuch. Robin Hobb used to write books set in an existing universe, kind of like those Star Wars paperbacks that you can buy at the bookstore that are not authored by Lucas but are licensed by him. Hobb posted a rather infamous essay entitled “Fanfic Rant” in which she acknowledged as much (with the excuse that she was being paid! so that made it okay!). I don’t remember the universe in which she was writing. I’m at work right now and all of the links I’m trying to find more information about that essay are blocked, but I’ll get a decent link for you when I get home. :)

    French Pony: Of course, those concepts also make it easier for publishers to “own” and therefore profit from artists’ work as well. I don’t know enough about the subject to say that there’s a connection, but it’s an interesting question.

  7. Ithilwen says:

    Mervi, the distinction you mention between the Liavek books and fanfiction isn’t a creatively meaningful one (although it may be a valid legal distinction). Writing stories featuring characters you didn’t personally create is writing stories with characters you didn’t personally create, period. It’s derivative fiction, whether the characters in question are in the public domain, the author has permission from the creator to use them, or the author is using them without the express permission of the creator. An authors who’s clearly written derivative fiction herself is in a poor position to label other writers of derivative fiction as “uncreative” (with both Ms. Gabaldon and Ms. Hobb have done).

  8. Dawn says:

    Ithilwen: I, too, have to raise my eyebrows at the “but fanfic is baaaad writing most times!” trope that inevitably seems to surface in this debate. I wonder if these writers ever sat through a university creative writing course where they had to read the work of their classmates or ever worked at a literary journal where they had to read the “best” work of wannabe published authors. Most creative writing isn’t very good. (I do think there is something good to be said for anyone with the courage to try, though!)

  9. Ithilwen says:

    As for the legality of fanfic: there can’t ever be a definitive ruling either way. Is the story fundamentally transformative, is it parody, does it quote too extensively from the source material, does it use specific characters, plotlines, or locations from the original source, could it potentially be confused with the original source material, does the author openly acknowledge the original source, etc… the answers to those questions are going to be different for every fanfic, and those answers play a big role in determining the legality of the pieces in question. Ironically, it’s the fanfics which most offend the original material’s authors which are likely to be on the firmest legal ground, and the ones which are the most respectful of the original piece which are likely to be ruled infringing! I doubt the Tolkien Estate approved of Bored of the Rings, but the National Lampoon was legally able to commercially publish it.

  10. Origami says:

    Even if an author once wrote fanfiction, he or she has still the right to change his/her mind for good or bad reasons.

    There are good arguments for both sides. Though I tend to the pro-fan-fiction fraction, I wouldn’t hold it against an author, if he dislikes it. I also wouldn’t write fanfiction basing on the works of such an author and publish it (actually I do write, but no fanfiction) on the internet (though I would share I with my close friends ;)).
    But even if you don’t like fanfiction, there is absolutely no excuse (and reason) for insulting people, like Gabaldon did. Here posting was disgraceful. A little less emotion and a better behaviour and instinct (“would I like to read that about myself on a webpage” is always a good question to answer with yes, before pressing the send-button) would have helped. You simply better don’t insult people on the internet. Especially not your fans, no matter how stupid, boring or clumsy their efforts in fanfiction may be. Or else you shouldn’t wonder about the (rightful) storm, your rant raises.
    Well, I do read works of authors, who don’t like fanfiction, but I surely will never touch a book written by someone, who insults his/her readers for writing some.

    @Tristan Alexander
    “SOME authors give their blessings to do so…how can THAT be illegal then?”

    Though I agree, that writing fanFiction is not illegal according to todays copyright. If it was illegal to write fanfiction, that just makes the difference: If the author agrees, it’s no longer illegal. But that doesn’t mean it’s also o.K. for those, who don’t give their permission.

  11. Ithilwen says:

    Exactly, Dawn. Most writing isn’t good. The only distinction between fanfiction and professionally published fiction is that professionally published fiction has literary agents and editors who weed out the chaff before readers can see it. Fanfiction, on the other hand, is the slush pile of the internet. There are pearls there, but they’re buried under incredible amounts of sheer dreck.

    The bit that drives me crazy is when the anti-fanficcers inevitably ask, “But why don’t you just write your own story using your own characters?” Uh, because that would be a completely different story? Somehow they seem to recognize that Stoppard wasn’t just copying Shakespeare, or T. H. White mindlessly aping Mallory, but they fail to see that the same can be said for the best fanfic writers. I honestly get the feeling that many of them have never read any good fanfiction, which is why they keep bringing up aesthetic arguments rather than purely legal ones.

  12. Rhapsody says:

    What struck me in this debate and with this blog entry written is that, yes big authors like her do appreciate fannish tokens. She said she didn’t mind the bobbleheads based on her characters and George RR Martin says he loves fanart. But when it comes down to writing fiction: it is forbidden. I find that an immense double standard, as if nobody is good enough to write fiction as they can. A fan in their eyes could never achieve that level with their creations as they have. So apparently when someone draws their characters and get stuff horribly wrong, its aww ok, but when fans put their appreciation to ‘ paper’ it is immoral. It irks me, it feels to me an elitist stance in a way and it rubs me in the wrong way. Fiction is fiction, whether fan is added to it should not make on iota a difference. Imho of course.

  13. Dawn says:

    Ithilwen: You are right about the myriad factors that would have to be considered (and decided!) in order to make a decision on the legality of fan fiction. And it is ironic that the Feanor/Melkor Victorian romance novel would likely be “more legal” than the canonical retelling of the Fellowship’s journey! 😀

    Somehow they seem to recognize that Stoppard wasn’t just copying Shakespeare, or T. H. White mindlessly aping Mallory, but they fail to see that the same can be said for the best fanfic writers.

    Exactly! I prefer to write original fiction. But I do (as you know 😉 ) quite a bit based on Tolkien as well. They scratch different itches for me. My Tolkien-based work is usually written to comment on some aspect of the text that I find interesting (or disturbing). A lot is written as well for gifts for friends … again, a completely different motive from my o-fic writing.

    At the end of the day, though, I have a major problem with the attitudes of certain published writers concerning “bad” writing, especially the notion (that Gabaldon put forth in one of her posts) that “bad writers” should somehow be suppressed and that the poor quality of fanfic in general is a good reason for wishing it away. I sometimes wonder if any of these writers stop to consider for a moment that they are wishing away an activity that is every bit as enjoyable–even essential–for writers who simply lack their literary talent. Even as I don’t want to read ff.net drek, I hope the writers who produce it have an awesome and fun time with it … and maybe that practice will pay off someday! :)

    Origami: You are right that authors have the right to change their minds and that they don’t have to answer to me–or anyone else!–when they do. :) It’s just particularly ironic that two authors who have now gotten themselves a reputation for being stridently anti-fanfic used to write for-profit derivative works. To me, it also suggests that some professional writers have evolved from seeing creative works in artistic/creative terms to seeing creative works primarily in economic terms, which I find troubling.

    I also don’t fault authors for disliking fan fiction about their work. Being a writer myself, I can imagine that it’s jarring and upsetting to find that readers clearly don’t “get” what you’re trying to do with a character/idea or miss the larger point of a story in favor of fantasizing about a pairing you didn’t intend. I don’t think that published authors (or anyone!) must like fanfic … but I also think that trying to manage what goes on in your readers’ imaginations is a lost cause, and anyone who feels so passionately about keeping “her” world or “her” characters pure and untainted by the imaginings of others (as Gabaldon suggests when she complains of the possible implications of “competing canons” when fans produce stories she hasn’t written yet and other fans incorporate that “fan-canon” into their own thoughts about the story; so they don’t discuss what-ifs on the discussion groups she recommends?) probably shouldn’t be sharing work publicly in the first place. Writers, if anyone, should understand that what we imagine often must make it’s way to print (or pixels!). People haven’t risked imprisonment and death to write if the drive to create was that easy to suppress.

    Rhapsody: That is an excellent point and one I hadn’t considered. And you are right, I think, that it smacks of elitism … or perhaps insecurity? Being outdone by a fan fiction (ick!) writer?? Wow … that’d be hard for these big authors to swallow. 😉

    It also makes me wonder why they understand how some readers need to respond creatively using artwork but can’t understand how the same urge would drive some fan-writing. How can this be? They’re writers, for pity’s sake! Have they never been kept awake at night by the Story That Won’t Shut Up? It’s baffling.

  14. Ithilwen says:

    Anything worth doing is worth doing badly! You’re right, Dawn; imagine the same “but so much of it is crap!” argument against fanfic being leveled at other things we all do. If you can’t play a sport at the Olympic level, you should just sit on the bleachers and watch. Only professional chefs should be allowed into a kitchen. Karaoke is wrong, wrong, WRONG! For some reason our culture tends to devalue activities performed primarily for pleasure rather than for monetary gain; we seem to think everything humans do should be professionalized in some manner. Fanfic draws more than its fair share of ire in part because it runs so resolutely counter to this ethos.

  15. Michelle says:

    I find this whole discussion disturbing, probably because I’m a big Gabaldon fan and my need to like her is clashing with my beliefs on fanfic here *sighs*. I admit I haven’t read through all those posts and threads because I was on vacation and didn’t feel like reading through tomes of commentary after getting home. But even only knowing the gist of things makes me sad on so many levels. I can fully understand an author’s kneejerk reaction to seeing fans “doing stuff” to his/her characters. What I cannot understand is making insulting claims without knowing what you’re talking about. It doesn’t take much to find good fanfiction. It doesn’t take much to realize that there are talented writers out there who write fanfiction.

  16. Origami says:

    Dawn: I agree that it sounds kind of unconvincing if somebody complains about fanfiction, having written in other authors worlds before. 😉
    Still, I also see a difference between authorized works and unauthorized works. What Hobb and Gabaldon wrote before, was authorized. I wouldn’t focus on money, though their early works earned them some. It’s only that they needed an authorization to sell those stories. You don’t need an authorization for fanfiction. So the focus lies on authorization, not money.
    But apart from money, there are other good reasons to dislike fanfiction. Surely not the bad quality. Bad quality is no privilege of hobbyists and who of us hasn’t read abysmal writing made by professional authors too? :(
    It’s a quite arrogant attitude, to assume otherwise.

    “but I also think that trying to manage what goes on in your readers’ imaginations is a lost cause”

    100% agreed. Such kind of thought control (or only to claim it) is ridiculous. As soon you publish and “let your baby out in the world”, you give up control. For the benefit of sharing your stories with others and give them fun and get yourselb feedback.
    It also denies, that other peoples stories have always been an inspiration to the next generation of storytellers. Certain plots took centuries and several new attempts, till they were a great reading. Copyright is quite a new invention (and a good one). I prevents rip-offs like unauthorized copies or plagiats. But it’s not intended to surpress art.

    I also think that those authors, that spit on fanfiction, harm themselves most. Maybe they won’t mind, if they sell a few hundred or thousand copies less, still …

    @Dawn
    Right. As if marvellous authors (or painters, or actors …) started as such from the scratch, without practising and learning or just from practising alone in their attic chamber.
    As if people without a top skill have no right to perform music, paint, write or run a marathon or to do this only behind closed doors. This attitude is so much against the core of arts and human nature, that I can’t believe that intelligent people might even consider it.

  17. Origami says:

    Sorry, last part was ment for Rhapsody 😉

  18. Rhapsody says:

    Dawn: I had to think of Strikethrough and I had this impish thought on how DG would react if an enthustic fan would sent her a very pornograpic image of her pairing. *shakes her head*

    Hi Origami, *waves*

    As for money vs authorisation… I think what made me shake my head was that first Gabaldon trotted out the statement: make up your own characters if you want to write, then went on about how she wrote Disney characters (not her characters and within strict) guidelines and then, as the icing on the cake, mentioned that she earnt a good dime with it. o_O

    To me it felt so contradicting to what she said before you know (rephrased as: you should not write with other characters because it is immoral). To me it felt that she wanted to show those immoral writers that she was of such quality that she was authorised to write Disney characters, worship me.

    Then on the matter of authorisation. On the compuserve boards of miss Gabaldon, there is a comment by DG where she says: basically writing historical characters is fair game (doesn’t matter when the family member died), you do not have to ask permission of heirs/family prior. So it is okay to rewrite family canon to your liking sans authorisation of the family then? Family members have to speak up and object if it bothers them so much, but who will inform them of the author’s intent when they claim copyright over something that is your family history? Yet when it comes to the characters of your mind, your creative children you have to ask permission of *every* author? Honestly, I find this a huge double standard. If you as a writer find authorisation so important, then at least show the same courtesy to extent the same grace to the family members that still keep the person in their living memory. Miss Gabaldon never answered the question (as far as I know at this moment) if she did ask the family Grey who also hold the title of Lord & Lady Grey permission to add a character Lord John to the family history in her books.

    I do think it is all about business and protection of income: no publisher would want to take the risk of publishing something that an author claims as his own, if the exact same version went online written by someone else. DG herself sought out the fanfic after a friend tipped her, what she should have done was: oi, if it bothers me so much, better issue a short statement and do ask people who inform her not to point her there again.

    This attitude is so much against the core of arts and human nature, that I can’t believe that intelligent people might even consider it.

    It is, art is art is art. Painting and drawings = art, writing= art, composing music=art and so on. No artist can claim to be truly original, we are all influenced by what is around us, what we have learnt, read, been taught in the past. In the past there was more of an apprenticeship, Rembrant had plenty of apprentices who were instructed to copy him exactly to master the craft. A writer has to start somewhere, be it with their own original ideas or learning the craft by playing in the sandbox of another for a while.

  19. French Pony says:

    The very first class I took in graduate school discussed the growth of copyright as an industry, and one of the biggest takeaway lessons from it is that the legal concept of copyright has never kept up with human creativity. New artistic forms, new technologies to reproduce and disseminate the art, new concepts of what art is . . . copyright can’t keep up.

    Once originality is enshrined as both a cultural virtue and a commodity, the idea of copyright is going to have to arise. But once it does, its slow and unwieldy nature will always hamper as much as it protects.

  20. Dawn says:

    Mervi: Sorry for taking so long to get back to you about that blog post. I was mistaken; the professional author and fanfic hater who used to write derivative fiction and attempted to defend his stance was Lee Goldberg; the blog post that discusses that is here. Apologies to Robin Hobb for misrepresenting her (even though I still think her stance on fanfic is despicable).

    Her post “The Fan Fiction Rant” has been removed from her website, but it is available via the Wayback Machine here. It makes Ms. Gabaldon’s ignorant posts look sweet by comparison.

    I will reply to everyone else’s comments shortly … it’s T-1 for the semester, and I’m mowing through schoolwork at the moment! :)

  21. Emerald says:

    I think the whole thing is ridiculous. If Diana’s going to get her pants in a bunch because some one is devoted enough to her story to let their creativity blossom and and attempt to write their own work in honor of her books, she should be flattered. Granted, there is a difference between a work of art and Mary-Sue, but if someone is taking time time to create something they feel is even a shadow of the story they love so much, more power to them.
    A simple “I don’t like fanfiction. Don’t write it based on my stories.” would have sufficed. I find it hard to believe that she really didn’t know she would offend so many people.
    It’s not like they are writing for profit! They simply want to write stories that other people can enjoy. They dont want money or recogniton, and they certainly don’t want to undermine the author. Then they wouldn’t get to read new stories from the world they love so much. I was under the impression that a copyright violation was when someone sought to profit off of someone else’s work, or else duplicate it without royalties.

  22. Erfan says:

    What shines through for me on reading this is the support for writing, for creativity, and for stories in what you say, and the appreciation of the myriad forms that can take, and has taken, over the years.

    Inspiration is an inner thing yet it can springboard of so much of the external. For some reason I kept thinking about the Morte d’Arthur and all the tales that have been collected, written, rewritten. Ditto, Greek myth, ditto… well, I won’t go on.

    Robin Hobb wrote a great drabble on the sources of inspiration as a writer, a clever turn on an interview, a question about her inspiration, and then the punchline that in the handshake that ended the interview inspiration flowed. In itself, it was a kind implied vampirism of inspiration.

  23. Dawn says:

    I was quite surprised (and happy!) to see some comments still coming in on this dusty old post. It keeps me on my toes when I’m deleting all the spam. :)

    Emerald: I don’t know enough about the intricacies of copyright law to say whether profit must be involved. That is certainly my impression as well, however.

    I think Ms. Gabaldon’s impression of “fanfic” comes from unexamined stereotypes rather than an honest understanding of the community. The outsiders’ perspective paints us all as either horny teenagers or horny cat ladies so out-of-touch with the world that we invent weird sexual fantasies about fictional characters to satisfy ourselves. Oh, and we’re all bad writers, and lazy ones at that.

    Granted, there is a difference between a work of art and Mary-Sue

    Is there? What would that be? Why does one have the right to create while the other does not?

    Erfan: I think the Arthurian tales are a great example of how “fiction” worked up until recently. Especially ironic is that most fanfic detractors would probably defend the works of authors like Marion Zimmer Bradley who continue working with those stories. They’d likely do so on the basis of some stories being in the public domain, but again, fellow writers, if anyone, should understand that inspiration isn’t stymied just because a work isn’t yet in the public domain. And even if they believe that fanfic isn’t legally defensible (a hard position to argue, imo), surely they can at least understand that, creatively, there is no difference between the two and try to avoid attacks on the artistic merit of fanfic and the creative abilities of fanfic writers.

    The more I study literature, the more I realize that the work I do based on Tolkien’s writings adheres closer to the literary tradition than my so-called original work.

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