Today’s topic, my first Writing Weekend post, is how I feel about fanfic, specifically the idea that someday there might be fanfic based on my work.
First, definitions. I’m assuming most people reading this blog are familiar with fanfic, but just in case, I’ll start by saying that fanfic is any work of fiction that builds upon a fictional world created by someone else. I don’t know that any real statistics exist, but from my observation I’d say that the vast majority of fanfic focuses on science fiction/fantasy media. There’s loads of Star Trek, Buffy, and Harry Potter fanfic, for example. But if you look for it, you can also find fanfic based on shows like Castle or books like the Aubrey/Maturin series.
Why do people read and write fanfic? Often it’s a way of exploring possibilities only hinted at in the story canon--which can mean anything from explicit scenes of the hot sex Castle and Beckett will have when they finally get together to a detailed story of Hogwarts when Harry’s parents and Snape were students there. It’s also a fun way to make worlds collide--Buffy can meet The Doctor, or Richard Sharpe from Bernard Cornwell’s novels can meet Temeraire the dragon from Naomi Novik’s.
Fanfic, for obvious reasons, inhabits a legal gray area. If you tried to publish it for profit, it’d be a copyright violation, but the general consensus is that if you just post it on the internet for free and include a disclaimer crediting the creator/owner of the fictional world, it’s OK.
As an aside, once a work is out of copyright, the game changes. Wide Sargasso Sea is Jane Eyre fanfic. March is Little Women fanfic. And then there's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, plus more Austen sequels and reworkings of her novels from the hero's perspective than I can count.
Living authors, however, vary greatly in their comfort level when it comes to fanfic about their work. Diana Gabaldon, whom I’ve met in person and can attest is a delightful person and very supportive of budding writers, spoke out against it this year, though the post in question is no longer available on her blog. Naomi Novik, by contrast, was a fanfic writer before she produced her original work and is very supportive of fanfic.
I’m not going to rehash the many debates over the morality and utility of fanfic. If you’re curious, google either of the authors in the paragraph above plus “fanfiction” and you’ll see the range of opinions. I’ll just say that I’m very much on the Novik side of the continuum. If you want to write fanfic based on any of my fictional worlds, have at it with my blessings! I can’t imagine anything more flattering than someone loving my characters or world so much they couldn’t resist playing with it themselves.
But I won’t be reading your fanfic, for the following reasons:
1) The worlds I create are complete enough to satisfy me in my own imagination. When I read fanfic, it’s to enjoy speculation on what might be happening before/after/alongside the canonical work. With my own canon, I already KNOW what’s going on off the page.
2) It’s always possible that someday I’ll be writing a series, and a fanfic writer’s guess about what’s going to happen in Book 3 of the trilogy is close to reality. I don’t want to feel obliged to change my own vision, or have the fanfic writer think I stole her work. If I never see the stuff, that’s not an issue.
3) I write Napoleonic-era adventure stories. I have as-yet unpublished works with Wellington and Napoleon as major characters. If/when those stories sell, some fanfic writer is going to slash those two. (For the uninitiated, that means writing stories with them as a romantic or erotic pairing.) Because that’s what happens with enemies in a lot of fanfic. And I don’t want to see that. If I did, I’d have to come murder the writer with a spork, then gouge out my own eyes with the same. That is just not a pairing that would work for me. At all. Ever. Ick.
In summary, I’m pro-fanfic. Go out there, be creative, and have fun--just don’t tell me about it!