Thursday, August 01, 2013

Fan fiction: Yes or no?

With the addition of Kindle Worlds to the lineup of sites Amazon has made available for the use of indie authors, the question of fan fiction, legitimate and legalized or otherwise, raises its head. I'm usually mum on the subject, but my opinion was recently asked and I didn't have much of an answer.

But I've been doing some thinking about fan fiction, and my guess is my opinion would not be a very popular one.

Frankly, I'm not crazy about it.

Now before someone jumps down my throat and informs me of all the great things about fan fiction and about how information should be free, etc., etc., let me add a few things. I do not hate fan fiction. I have no plans to try and stamp out fan fiction, which would be a useless endeavor. I'm not opposed to someone writing fan fiction about my own writings, though I would hope they would ask my permission or at the very least make me aware of it. I do not think less of those who write fan fiction. And I am not making any moral judgments about fan fiction or those who write such.

I simply do not understand fan fiction.

It makes no sense to me.

I'm a writer. I create worlds and characters and events. I do so with various themes, some at the front of my thoughts, some twisting around in the back of my mind. To my way of thinking, trying to write fan fiction would be like hamstringing myself. For me, writing is about creating something new of my own, not building upon the work of others. It seems limiting.

It's not that I can't understand a certain amount of joy in playing in others' worlds or with others' characters. But I have role playing games for that.

And working with other writers for a shared-world anthology or collaborating with another writer on a project doesn't feel like fan fiction to me, because we set out to intentionally work together to build something.

Maybe there's no difference. Maybe writing is writing. But it seems different to me. Maybe it's because I now write fiction for a living and I subconsciously separate my writing from fan fiction.

I don't know.

But I do know I've written three pieces, maybe four, of fan fiction in my life.

The first was a very short James Bond novel. I wrote it in fourth grade. I've still got it around here somewhere. It's absolutely awful, but every few years it's kind of fun to break it out and look at it.

The second piece of fan fiction I wrote was a Mack Bolan (aka The Executioner) novel I wrote when I was in Sixth Grade. It's also pretty bad, but it does show lots of improvement over that James Bond book. It also will never see the light of day.

The third piece of fan fiction I wrote was a Star Trek (original series) short story for a contest back in the 1990s. The writing is awkward, but that's okay since the story didn't win, place, or show in the contest and will never be seen by readers. I'm not even sure if I have a copy of this story. But I do think the plot was pretty good, the tale being a combined sequel to both the "Squire of Gothos" episode and "The City on the Edge of Forever" episode, two of my favorites.

Above I mentioned a possible fourth bit of fan fiction from me, but what I have in mind isn't prose writing. When I was in early grade school, I drew and wrote some of my own comic books. They feature familiar characters, mostly Marvel, but with some of my own creations thrown in. I have none of these now and wish I did. I'm sure they were stinkers.

So, I've done some fan fiction work. Yet I still don't understand the allure. If I'm going to write, I want the creations to be my own, at least for the most part. Maybe it's a control thing, but I'm usually not a controlling person.

What are your opinions of fan fiction?


Keith West said...

I'm not crazy about fan fiction for mulitple reasons.

One it's not the original author's work, so to my mind it's not canonical. Especially if the person writing it does things that don't fit my conception of the character, combine characters in a variety of sexual relationships the creator never even hints at, makes major changes to the characters or world (especially if the creator is still working in that universe), or uses the characters to make political or social statements at the expense of the story.

And then there's the quality of the writing itself. While much fan fiction is of professional level, and indeed many published authors start out writing fan fiction, Sturgeon's Law applies here as well. I don't have the time or inclination to sift through all of it when there are original worlds to enjoy.

I realize many people feel differently, and that's fine. But you asked, and that's my answer.

Urdu Novels said...

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Charles Gramlich said...

I feel much the same way. I'd rather write my own original stuff. I did a pastiche of Howard's Steve Costigan, but that was primarily to see if I could learn to write in another author's style. Otherwise I don't really see much reason for doing it.