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Heh! Well-argued and thought-provoking. It's always made me snigger that Dennis McKiernan (whose first major published work was essentially a rewriting of LotR, which I loved for exactly that reason) refuses to let people write fanfiction in his world. Well, what would be the point, anyway, since Middle Earth is more interesting, but it does underscore your point about the false dichotomy between published and unpublished on grounds of originality.
Author's Response: I've read fanfiction of better quality than many published books. There is writing of a lower standard as well, true - but the act of creating, whether in someone else's world or your own, should never be frowned upon.
Storytelling has always been this way. Stories based on stories based on stories are our myths and legends. Shakespeare wrote his down. We only came up with the idea of intellectual property once money was brought into it.
Just because someone is published, that does not necessarily make them good (check Stephanie Meyer). It does mean that they reach a wider audience, and it means that they can call it their profession and not have to keep a job while they write, but they don’t have anything special that the rest of us do not. They are lucky. Repeat it. Understand what I’m saying because it’s important that we all know what success is, and what it is not. Success in artistic or literary terms is the act of passing on a vision to someone else who may or may not decide to reinterpret it, and that is the only thing that matters in the end.
Author's Response: "Storytelling has always been this way. Stories based on stories based on stories are our myths and legends. Shakespeare wrote his down. We only came up with the idea of intellectual property once money was brought into it." Excellent point. Thanks for reading, pippychick.
I'm of the opinion that some slash stories have more original plots than half of the het stories out there…
I have to agree. I was already up to *here* with het romance before I discovered fanfic. There are a couple of het authors I recommend, (Pink Siamese especially. That is how I want my het, although after o-ficcing het for years I cannot see myself ever returning to it ) but I read very little nowadays. My b/f is fine with my writing slash, actually, as I said 'You would need to be worried if I was writing het; it would mean I wasn't happy with you.' d;-)
In the summer an author, Diana Gabaldon publicly posted her extreme dislike of fanfiction based on her stories -- and then took it down after something of a backlash.
I recently stumbled on what I think was a journalist's blog talking about this brouhaha, and supporting fanfic. One of the first replies to it, from a published author was along the lines of 'Fanfiction is the worse kind of writing.'
I hit the roof, or would have had I not been trying not to laugh. There is really poor fanfic, true. There are also very poor published books. The rubbish that passes for bestsellers these days -- that is not good writing. It's froth; it's simple, easy to read and the masses don't have trouble understanding it. The da Vinci Code? Conspiracy theories have been topical for a while. Twilight. Vampires. Romance. Tick the boxes.
What is there for me on exactly then; some-one who wants good M/M fantasy, or *real* het erotica, that is erotica that I as a mature woman can understand, which does not have more than a nodding acquaintance with romance, if anything. (Oh, hai again, Pink Siamese d;-) )
Oh yes, I forgot. I also want wordsmithing, elegant prose, vivid characters, and good plots.
No, wait; there are a very, very few. Ellen Kusher springs to mind with her Swordspoint series. Storm Constantine's Wraeththu gendertwist work, Monet and Bears 'A Companion To Wolves', Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel series. But that's a drop in the ocean of average, tailored-for-the-masses-books churned out by the publishers. (I don't blame the authors, I do blame the publishing houses going for the money. There are superb unpublished authors out there, and some write fanfic.)
I did post on that blog, 'in defense of what we do' saying that finding fanfiction was for me, like discovering buried treasure. The top notch Fanfic authors write what I want to read, and at the standard I demand. Publishers, until you start going for quality and maybe accepting there's a huge market for good slash, and real erotica for women like me, forget it; I am reading fanfic. I know what I want and I find it primarily on fanfic archives. The authors are not scared to push the envelope, they don't have to worry about being rejected by publishers for being too controversial. They write what they want, and for love of it, and I support fanfic fully. Some of the authors are true stars, and I support and recc them whenever and wherever I can.
Agreed! I am in complete agreement here.
Your take on Mary Sues is fascinating to me and I can see where you're coming from. Doesn't stop me from enjoying the mocking of Sues (though not of Suethors, never that), but I can definitely see where Mary Sues can be fulfilling a need of some sort in people's lives. I've certainly written my fair share of Mary Sues at that age (though I confined them to my roleplays).
At any rate, thank you so much for posting such a well-thought-through and well-written defense of fanfiction. Kudos.
Author's Response: Actually my take on Mary Sue was influenced heavily by the wonderful and wise SpicedWine - I think my strong dislike of them was down to the knowledge that I'd written them myself :P and you're welcome, thanks for reading!
I am positively addicted to fan fiction and could not imagine writing of a better quality than I find here. I am grateful, so very grateful to all the fine authors here who have given bits of their heart and soul in their superb writing.
You fine and gifted writers have made me laugh and cry. I have thought about stories from this site for days, the skilled and finely crafted works making me know and love the characters as if they had been part of my own life.
So all of you, keep writing.
I love you and cannot thank you enough for the wonders you produce and the joy you have given me!
Author's Response: Hi laydjane, thanks for taking the time to read the essay! I'm glad fanfiction has given you so much enjoyment - it certainly has me. Keep writing and keep reading :)
But one thing fanfic doesn't accomplish is learning to create your own world
I respectfully submit that there are very few authors out there who can 'world build' in the style of Tolkien or Frank Herbert. If you mean the *history* of Tolkien is there for us to draw on, in what way is that different to writing a historical novel? If we write a story set in the Crusades, as I did years ago, I studied the history for five years and made sure my work was accurate, but within those historical events I wrote my own story. It's not original fiction in that case, if some-one writes a story about Anne Boleyn or Elizabeth I, since they were real people with real histories.
Also, Tolkien was very good at *not* writing in depth about characters or events; even something as terrible as the Dagor Nirnaeth Arnoediad and the War of Wrath were more written from a distant third person omniscient POV without getting down into the blood and dust and pain and death - and that is where a fanfic writer steps in. We open these events and people out. A lot of Tolkien's characters might as well be OC's since we know scarcely anything about them - look at Jael who concentrates on Thranduil. There's not much about him in canon, so she wrote it and made him into a *real* character with a complex history. As for myself and other AU writers, we use the history and geography of Middle-earth as a base for our own plots, just as a writer of historical fiction will use *real* history and real historical characters as a foundation for their published stories.
Wonderful, Narya! Your Mrs B sounds like my grandmother. :D
Now that *is* interesting. Although my last couple of English years are lost in the mists of time, I don't believe we ever did anything like that, (all I do remember is Paradise Lost, Agamemnon and Shakespeare, and my books are long lost, but that is an excellent and rather vindicating (if vindication is needed, which I think it is not) discovery, that a wonderful English teacher was encouraging you to think outside the 'box' of fiction, to alternate endings for classic literature.
Author's Response: Sounds like you did a more lit-based course, like I'm doing at uni. Ah, Paradise Lost - I do that next semester. And yeah, Mrs B was fabulous :-D thanks for the review!
Nice thought! Viewed in this light we all wrote a lot of fanfiction in school! ...but I guess, we never got hooked on it until...you know the rest :-)
Author's Response: Indeed :-) like I said, I never thought of it as fanfic either. Thanks for the review!
Goodness, what an abseloutely fascinating point you have made!
Honestly, I am really in the impressed with the way you drove the argument home, bravo!
Also, your English Teacher sounds amazing and I think everyone has at least one teacher that left such an amazing affect on their students though mine was a Biologhy teacher, she still inspired me a great deal though :)
Author's Response: Oh she was amazing alright...I was lucky to have a few teachers that made that impression on me :-) thanks for the review!
Awhile back I came across a story in a Southern Lit anthology that turned out to be a fanfiction based on one of William Faulkner's short stories (A Rose For Emily). I squeed so loud that I startled my mother. ;) But yeah, derivative works have been around as long as...well, as the works they're derived from. Neil Gaiman wrote Chronicles of Narnia fanfiction ("The Problem of Susan") and of course there's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. The film 10 Things I Hate About You is a reinterpretation of Shakespeare's The Taming Of The Shrew. So yeah, the list goes on and on. I'll continue to maintain that people who loathe fanfiction feel threatened by it on some deep level. I suppose on some level it kills the myth of being "original," and an insecure artist is usually the first to tell you how "original" their original fiction is. At bottom everything is derivative, either from art or from life.
Author's Response: Oooh - what's the name of the Faulkner-based story? And I think I need to read "The Problem of Susan" too; is it about how she grew away from the other three children? Gah, I guess I'll read and find out. " I'll continue to maintain that people who loathe fanfiction feel threatened by it on some deep level" - probably true, but I wonder why they feel that way?
Heh, I've read much better things than Christopher Paolini on here, though I have nothing against him. Well, not SO much. Okay, a lot. But anyhow, I love this site and the people on it are simply great and great writers.
Author's Response: Haha I have nothing personal against Paolini - I just wonder whether he would have been published at all had his parents not owned a publishing company!!! I agree with you; this is a very friendly site and there are some extremely talented people posting here.
All I can say, at this moment, without contributing to the round robin (which I shall do momentarily) is Thank You! :) You shall have my whole thoughts on this soon.
Author's Response: You're welcome, Bunny Plots; I'll be interested to see what you think!! Thanks for the review.
This was interesting because I had a similar discussion with my husband the other day.
I told him I feel like an outcast because I love writing fanfiction, yet I don't feel like I can share that with people I come in contact with everyday. Being a mother you are always worried what people are going to think.
My husband said to me that writing fanfiction is no different than people who are heavily into sports statistics, sewing, model railways, fashion, any form of obesession or passion or any hobby.
Your friend will no doubt have a hobby or an obsession that others might raise an eyebrow at or think boring or geeky. It's all relative.
But you really brought it home in your essay and I loved all the points you made. And books like Harry Potter borrow devices from Tolkien's own writing, hell almost every fantasy novel has borrowed his ideas.
Many of these people who write on this site, like Xfanarix could be published in my opinion. Just because it happens to fall within a predefined world really doesn't matter. It is still excellent writing regardless. But some people aren't adventurous and they want to be part of the accepted norm, even if it stifles creativity. And it does.
And I agree about the Mary-Sues. The whole name Mary-Sue pisses me off, because it's just label given by someone who wants to feel superior. People need an outlet for their writing, especially teens, and they should be allowed to express themselves in any manner they choose. Those who make fun of them are obviously childish and have an inferiority complex. I say that as a mother who nurtures a child, so should we nurture writers and support our fellow fanfiction writers.
Many of them grow and learn from the seasoned writers and produce outstanding stories. Even if they continue to write Legolas romances so what? There are no rules and if we restrict them then we are now stifling the very creativity we value.
I started by writing Mary-Sues. I still write them when the mood takes me, but I call it romance because Mary-Sue is just a stupid name. Internet speak has a lot to answer for in my opinion.
In the end, we do this for the love of it and like you said we keep the Professor's memory alive. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
There is no such thing as a purist. Tolkien is the only purist and his writing the only canon. Anything outside of what he wrote, no matter how supposedly true to the character or his ideas, is fanfiction, because we do not know if he would have agreed with our assessment of the character. I say this as one who writes mostly within the framework of his stories, but never would I have the ego to say that is canon. It is simply an interpretation and so it is with everyone else.
I hope your essay gives strength to those who waver because someone has judged them by what they write or want to write. It inspired me and I thank you for sticking up for what you believe in :DDD
Author's Response: Hi!! I'm really sorry it took so long to respond to your review, I didn't realise it was there. I must have missed the email notification; as I've said on LJ, my hotmail account's been playing up something chronic over the last few days. I'm really glad you enjoyed the essay and agreed with the points; I'm amazed at the number of people who've posted their own thoughts, both on the Round Robin and in the review section. It seems to have struck a chord, which I'm really pleased about; I thought there must be a fair few people out there who were scared of what people would think about their fanfic hobby, but you're right that it's no more geeky than sports stats or making model railways. It's something that gives us all a lot of pleasure, and we should be proud of what we do because (as Pink said in her contribution) we are all writers here - REAL writers, whatever others may say. Thank you for your review, and I'm sorry it took me so long to respond!
Hey, I looked up for writer´s sides, too. Frankly, I found them boring.
I´m studying phiolosphy, believe me, I know about egghead arrogance...
And a real writer doesn´t write trash... which means translated
"NO FANFIC ALLOWED", which moreover often means Fantasy in general.
So I skipped these sides, maybe I should skip these people, too... I´m really annoyed,
I accept every stupid hobby my friends have, but I have to justify myself...
But maybe they are just jealous, not being able to unleash their imagination
and to put it into fitting words....
I seemingly have to be glad my first story was a HET story, if it had been slash they
probably would have brought me to a funny-farm...
"They're too busy talking about it." If you have a name as a writer, you´re a god, if not,
they´ll stone you...:-)
"A writer writes." If not how could she ever get some experience?
"...tell these people to fuck off." yeah, I f*** hate them, too...:-)
"You have nothing to be ashamed of. Nothing." Thank you for these words.
I'm so glad you chipped into this! :D
With fanfic, gratification is instant: You “publish” your storie with the click of a mouse, and literally within hours, you will see the hit count on your story, and begin to see the reviews come in.
And you can experiment: drabbles, dribbles, poems, ficlets and vignettes and character studies; strange POVs; AUs; long and rambling WIPs which you can begin to publish long before you even know yourself where they are going! There’s no market for any of that in the conventional publication world.
I never really thought of it that way before, but it's true - it's great knowing that whatever you publish, it's almost certain to be read and reviewed. I especially sympathise with the "long and rambling WIPs" bit; my two main fics are both WIPs and I'm having a great time just letting them take off in the direction they want to go in, as well as getting unbiased and helpful feedback along the way.
Because there is never enough canon.
Because there are always alternate universes to explore.
Because there is always hurt that needs comforting.
Because there is always the chance to see your ‘ship come in.
Because we love the characters and the world and the story, and we never want it to end.
I love that. And it's so very, very true.
Thanks for adding your thoughts!
Enjoyed reading your essay. I agree that fanfiction has been a good place for many writers to hone their skills, get fb and find fellow fans. Discovering a community of people from around the world has been an unexpected side benefit of doing this. I particularly liked your list at the end. You are right, I've read authors and stories that were much better done in the fan realm than many published books I've read.
Author's Response: "You are right, I've read authors and stories that were much better done in the fan realm than many published books I've read." - I've had several conversations with xFanarix about commercial publishers catering to the lowest common denominator, resulting in much excellent and original work being squeezed out. They don't necessarily print the best stories; they print what they know will sell. I'm glad you enjoyed the essay - thanks for reviewing!
Thank you so much for your comforting words!!! I´m quite new here, and quite a newbie in publishing stories anyway. So I was proud of my first story and told some of my friends. What happened?
Since then I stumble from one f*** justifying situation to the next.
Just a moment ago I recieved a mail of a good friend of me, telling me
"Well, yeah, I read your story, but ...I have not so much time to read for I know what life is all about and see life more realistic." Great. So I´ve got my head in the sky and I don´t see life in a realistic way, ´cause I write?
She was too polite to say say "geek" or "nerd" or "mad", but I´m sure these are the right words for describing her thoughts. It was just stupid to tell anybody about my writing! I won´t do that again.
Author's Response: "It was just stupid to tell anybody about my writing! I won´t do that again." - Have you read Pink Siamese's contribution to this round robin? I felt similarly to you, but her "I am a writer" mantra stuck with me and I feel so much more confident now about what I do. And I've had the whole head-in-the-clouds lecture, too; I say ignore it and go your own way. Welcome to the site, and thanks for reviewing! :D