Of Fans and Fiction

Fan fiction. Why am I thinking of that? Probably because George R. R. Martin was in town the other day and the papers picked up on his views on the subject. He’s against it for a variety of reasons if you didn’t know. And no, I didn’t run along to get my series of ASOIAF signed because I’ve never really seen the big deal about autographs and also because I believe you should never meet your heroes/role models/idols/anyone you look up to. Hang on to your delusional dreams, you’ll be much happier. Also, never rewatch your favourite childhood shows. You’ll be crushed.
Fan fiction, good or evil. Apparently Marion Zimmer Bradley found out the hard way the sort of legal problems you can get into. But I can think of at least two series of ‘fan fiction’ that went on to become ‘original’ best-sellers. You know the ones I’m talking about. And then there are licensed continuations of a series, like Brandon Sanderson picking up the Wheel of Time where Jordan left off, or Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson finishing off the Dune series, and then some. You can make your own mind up about those.
Fan fiction is actually even more common than that, think the Star Trek and Wars universes, that have been thoroughly populated by dozens if not hundreds of different authors across a half dozen mediums, And a lot of that is considered canon but it’s really fan fiction isn’t it? Particularly if you grew up loving the original or source material. My film and TV background is starting to show here, because I’d throw most TV shows into that category, when you have the original creator or source material and then a group of writers who pull together the episodes. Particularly once the story or characters start to wander into unknown territory.
My opinion is probably a bit uninformed, as I haven’t even had to think about potential legal ramifications of fan fiction. I’d probably be kind of thrilled the first time I found fan fiction of my own work, but that would likely involve googling myself and that’s narcissistic isn’t it? I’ve only done it to check the website was showing up, honest!
I’ll also admit to going through a fan fiction kick and period myself, both writing and reading. And yes there was a Mary-Sue element which now I really despise. Ego much? My problem even back then, as a teenager, was the same as it is now. Continuity. It’s very hard to grapple with someone else’s characters and make them act in character. That obvious solution or action you were screaming at them to take? That’s what defines them, how they act and react to the story. That’s when you know you’ve got a handle on your characters, when you’ve boxed yourself into a corner with the way they deal with the situations you put them into, when they won’t do what you want because that’s just not them! Frustrating huh? All knowing or super-powered character fiction just doesn’t work…unless you’re Sherlock Holmes or Superman…hmm, have to think about that for a minute then.
Fan fiction is probably a sign you’ve had some success. Someone likes it enough to imitate it and you’re not putting it out fast enough to keep up with demand. The same as vitriol, if someone hates you enough to follow stories or posts about you on the internet and comment vociferously all the way insisting on an abject dislike and dismissal of everything you strive for…gotta be doing something right. And if nothing else it keeps the trolls happy.
Here’s another thought while I try and unbox myself from this particular corner. Sequels, continuations, spin-offs for sure. Once you’ve created that original work…isn’t any further work fan fiction? Even if it’s by the original author? Isn’t it all…I wonder what would happen if…

Either way I’m putting my lawyer on speed dial.



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