Ramblings from the Desert

The man who trades freedom for security does not deserve nor will he ever receive either. ~Benjamin Franklin

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Location: New Mexico

Author of the urban fantasy novel, The Music of Chaos, and the paranormal romance, The Canvas Thief.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

How to Unleash a Comment Firestorm

Criticize/discuss fan fiction. Lee Goldberg stirred up the masses here and here.

What is fan fiction? Well, let's say, after watching yet another episode of "Lost" where vile Shannon violates my man Sayid, I decide to do somethin' about it. So I pen my own episode where Shannon, on her way through the jungle to the Hayden Christiansen School Acting, is jumped by the Iron Giant and ripped limb from limb. To spice things up I introduce a new castaway, who, not surprisingly, is a lot like me only much better looking. Sayid, naturally, lurves me/her. Voila! Fan fiction. (And a hell of a lot of Mary-Sue-ism.)

The problem. Sayid and Shannon aren't my characters. The Island and Lost are not my worlds. So thar be a whole lotta copy write infringement happening.

The question? Is it a big deal? Lee Goldberg doesn't seem too keen on it. Judging from her comments, neither is Holly Lisle.

OTOH, Anna Genoese, Tor Editor, is a fan of the stuff.

My two cents: Yes, it is copy write infringement. And no, contrary to what some lackwits say, fan fiction writers do not have more emotional involvement than the owners of the characters and milieu.

"Fan fic writers have no deadlines, networks/producers/actors to please, and often have a better grasp on the characters and their history than the tv writers usually because We Are more Emotionally attached."

(Honey, I have looong conversations with my characters. They go to the grocery store with me. They make snarky comments during dull meeting at work. They criticize my driving. I had to reverse my decision to kill one off because it depressed the shit out of me.)

Fan fic writers do not have any inherent rights to an author/series' characters. Internet sites with fan fiction exist because most publishers/authors/producers choose to ignore them. Some, however, like Anne Rice, come down on fan fiction with legions of lawyers.

But, frankly, if an Improbable Child section popped up at Fanfiction.net, I'd be rather flattered. (If, however, someone tried to pass off my characters and world as their own, I'd sic my pointy-toothed lawyer on 'em.) For various reasons, many legal, I wouldn't go read any of them. Besides, I wouldn't want to read stories where my characters are doing stuff that goes against their character, i.e., slash fiction. (No, I'm not a homophobe. Peruse this blog for proof.)

Fan fiction is written by people who can't get enough of your characters. The vast majority is crap, replete with Mary Sues, and just about every other writing sin you can think of and some you'd never imagine. (While working at the craptastic County job, I wasted many a taxpayer dollar at Fan Fiction.net. Talented writers post there; the majority are a study in what not to do in fiction.)

For the beginning writer, is this a good way to build your career [writing fan fic]? No, because it's not your own work, it's not legal, and not something you can market. Is it a way to get your feet wet, a writing exercise as it were? Maybe. But, ultimately, if your goal is to improve your writing, you need to venture out on your own. Take a look at the type of commentary given to the stories at Fan Fiction.

Random Sampling:

I'm loving your fanfiction! You must continue writing or else I shall die... Yes, I'm sorry, but I must threaten.

nice job!keep it up!

'Ello! This is quite interesting! Keep writing!

Nice stuff, but utterly worthless to a writer who cares about the craft. A real critique is "ouchy." Some critiques make you sit in the corner, curled in the fetal position, rocking back and forth. Real critiques can do wonders for your writing. Empty praise? Not so much.

Anyway, I'm off to continue on HallowBone Holiday, dreaming someday my work will generate the sales (and fan fiction) to buy me an island in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand.

More later...



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