Jocelyn's Other Desk

The writings of Jocelyn Smith, aspiring author, soon-to-be lawyer, once and future politician, all-around opinionated twentysomething.

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Location: Orlando, Florida, United States

I'm a lawyer in Florida, working on three novels, a screenplay, and half a dozen pieces of fanfiction at any given moment.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

A Short And Simple Guide To A Complicated Issue: Fanfiction

As most who visit my blog know, I am a fanfiction writer (or "fanwriter" as I prefer it.) I decided to start this blog to deal a little more professionally and less personally after a number of major debates on various other blogs over the subject.

I shall post more detailed examination of certain issues pertaining to fanfiction in the future; to post them all here and now would take several hours, and I'm trying to start going to bed before 3 am.

The Basics of Fanfiction

  1. What is it? Fanfiction is a derivative writing based on a book/movie/television show/video game/pretty much anything, by (surprise) a fan. Fan takes his/her/its what'ifs/speculations/fantasies/twisted ideas about the original story and writes a story of their own about it. Usually without the original story author/creator's permission.
  2. Where is it? All over the Internet. Its birthplace is generally considered to be Star Trek fans, who back in the days before the Internet would write stories based on the show and circulate them in free magazines (called "fanzines.") Many major shows, especially in genre television, have multiple or "official" fanzines in addition to the Internet story archives.
  3. Who writes it? Fans of all ages and walks of life. On the whole, based on limited surveys done (fanfiction is still new in the eyes of the academic world, and only now is it starting to get major studies done on it) the majority of fanwriters are female and between the ages of 15 and 30.
  4. Is it legal? (This is the question that spawns all those debates) That is still VERY up in the air. Copyright law doesn't directly address fanfiction, and there is a fair-sized body of law both for and against the legality of it. Some authors issue a blanket approval for it, making life easier for fanwriters, and others send "Cease and Desist" letters to fanwriters.
  5. What kind of stories is it? All kinds. Some stories speculate on the conclusion of a cliffhanger or write the romance between two characters the fan wants to see together or try to write the "missing moment" that happened between the lines/behind the scenes. Yes, some of it is downright pornographic.
  6. Is it child safe? Unsupervised on the Internet? NO. Didn't expect to hear that from a fanwriter, did you? Some archives of fanfiction, depending on the show/book/movie, have careful ratings requirements and moderators who supervise what gets posted to make sure it's all family-friendly, but many DON'T. If your kid just ADORES Harry Potter and wants to read fanfiction while he/she waits for Book 6, check out the sites VERY CAREFULLY. It's hard to tell at first glance which online archives are safe and which have porn mixed in. Such are the risks of the Internet in general.

So there ye have it. The bare bones. I know that one group of concerned parents attempted to create a blog where they could discuss the potential risks and legalities of fanfiction and wound up buckling under a horde of trollers.

SO...I invite you now. I have a thick skin, respect for differing views, and an open mind. I have also been reading and writing fanfiction since I was ten. If I don't know the answer to your question/concern, odds are that I know someone who does.


Blogger Fandom Rebels said...

Hi Jocelyn. Nice summary. The Jammers already know all this and would probably dispute some of the gross generalities. They really do want a lawyer in fandom who likes fandom to comment on the Canadian law. They aren't planning to quote you to any congresspeople.


BTW, a couple of us were wondering how a young democratic woman with a post grad degree who wants to be a politician could NOT know who Geraldine Ferraro is.

Do you know who Shirley Chisolm is?

Slim Pickens is a classic. An absolute classic. He really is.

You can delete this comment. It's okay. Don't mean to give you trouble. Just giggling a little.

12:23 AM  
Blogger Jocelyn Smith said...

They are free to disagree. Sorry I haven't posted about the Canadian law yet, I've been too busy telling obnoxious customer stories.

Actually, the reason I don't know Ferraro OR Chisolm is I am terrible at remembering names. If you were to reference something a person had DONE or a song they had sung or a movie they'd been in, I'd say, "Oh, yeah, I know that!"

Just not their name. What can I say, my brain is like a sieve.

No worries, m'dear, you can disagree with my opinions of fandom or laugh at my faulty memory all you want. I would not have made it this long in law and politics if I was easily offended.

12:26 AM  
Blogger Fandom Rebels said...

Both Chisolm and Ferraro were/are in your line of work.

Regarding the rest. Nobody over there is a kid. And they're not unknowledgable. That's the point. For some of them, their first introduction to all this was a shock, but they came up to speed fast. Bright lot, most have a lot more life and professional experience than you. They aren't a bunch of crazed parents who need their hands held or somebody talking PR to them.

They are truly interested in your opinion and your thoughts. It's not a matter of agree or disagree.

Chisolm was a black woman who ran for president in 1972. She died this year on New Year's day. There was a fair amount of coverage on her when that happened. An activist who did what she did knowing she didn't have a snowball's chance in hell of winning, but did it to make the point.

Geraldine Ferraro was Walter Mondale's running mate for the 1984 presidential election. She was a NY State representative. We understand you were probably still a toddler then, but her contribution was tremendous, even though politicos took it to mean that american voters would never vote for a woman.

In many respects these two ladies helped lay the foundations for Hilary Rodham Clinton if she makes a bid in '08.

It's your line of work, so it surprised us you didn't know.

If I say Dr. Strangelove, does that help you with Slim Pickens at all?


12:54 AM  
Blogger Jocelyn Smith said...

Regarding my "knowing" certain major persons in history/politics:

therein lies the difficulty, as soon as you described them, I recognized them. I just can never remember names.

And I've posted a new entry in my blog detailing my analysis of US vs. Canadian law, so have at it!

(Pardon the length--I am very long-winded.)

12:56 AM  

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