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

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Defending Fanfiction (Again): Meriting A Post Of His Own

One F. O'Brien Andrew appears to have a few bones to pick with my hobby:

If you aren't creative enough to make your own world, you can always write fanfic.
If you aren't intuitive enough to make your own characters, you can always write fanfic.
If you aren't good enough to devise your own backgrounds, you can always write fanfic.
But you can't be an artist when all you do is photocopy other people's work.
You can't be published if what you wrote is hung on other people's creations.
And you should be ashamed to even try.


True, Frank, (mind if I call you Frank?) all true. If you lack some aspect of creative ability that prevents you from taking that plunge into "creating from scratch" (or as scratch as original writing gets, these days), you can stick to fanfic if you wish.

But I double-dog-dare you to find a fanwriter who doesn't also write or plan to write original material.

You see, Frank, it's like this:
  • Many people are creative enough to make their own worlds. I'm in the outline stages of a sci-fi novel, the first draft of a historical fiction with rather limited research sources, and the outline stage of a Biblical fiction set in modern America.
But those same people may also write fanfic...because it's fun. And because they enjoy and are inspired by another fictional world enough to take a little creative romp in it.
  • Many people are intuitive enough to make their own characters. I've made Paulina the king's scholar's daughter, Aiden the cynical detective, and Dan, the enterprising and adventurous columnist in a future where men are scarce.
But those same people may also write fanfic...because it's fun. And because they enjoy and connect with their favorite characters enough to want to hop inside their heads.
  • Many people are good enough to devise their own backgrounds. I've devised a future where life and death in space colonization hinges on the economics of sponsoring businesses, an Italian scholar who raised his daughters in his craft instead of finding a male student, and a 2000-year-old conspiracy among the Church leadership to conceal the importance of women (yes, I know that sounds familiar, but it's a different conspiracy.)

And those same people may also write fanfic...because it's fun. And because they enjoy other stories enough to want to explore "gaps" in the background or other possibilities.

  • You can't be an artist if all you do is photocopy other people's work. Quite true. Who the hell is claiming otherwise?

But many artists find inspiration for their work from other works. The story of The Wizard of Oz from the Wicked Witch's point of view is now a bestselling novel and an award-winning Broadway musical (with an absolutely-killer soundtrack that I listen to at least once a week.)

  • You can't be published if what you wrote is hung on other people's creations.

See my statement above. You can. And many people do. But I don't know anyone who ever tried to publish an unauthorized derivative work. (Well, a guy name Pickett tried, and failed, in a court case called Pickett v. Prince.)

My historical fiction and the character of Paulina comes straight out of Roman "histories" by Plutarch and Livy.

  • And you should be ashamed to even try.

Sorry, I'm not. I'm not ashamed of where my inspiration for my novels comes from, and I'm not ashamed to enjoy and connect with the works of others. I'm not ashamed to jot a few ideas of my own about those works and share them with other fans.

Deal with it.

1 Comments:

Anonymous F. O'Brien Andrew said...

Someone was nice enough to email me and tell me that you have quoted PART of what I said. I thought I'd stop in and post the rest.

Regarding the writing of fiction based on other people's worlds or characters, often called fan-fiction or fanfic.

Writing fanfic is a good way for children to get started in writing because it teaches them to think about how different characters see things. Something a lot of children can't do intuitively.

Fanfic is an ok way for regular people to be creative and express themselves so long as they keep it to themselves. It is not ok for someone to write fanfic and pretend that it is their own creation. People need to understand that there are a lot of writers out there, barely making a living with their worlds. When you post fanfic on a web site, you have eroded away some of their property. Fanfic writers should not post, publish or try to sell their fanfic because it is, in the end, not entirely their work and it damages the people who put in all the creative effort.


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What I would change about the above, is to remove the word children and insert the word people. After all, anyone can learn the basics of writing by starting with fanfic, not just children.

The rest of it stands as is. If you keep it to yourself, no one will care. If you circulate it, post it or try to sell it, you have injured the creator and that you should be ashamed of.

11:31 PM  

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