I follow one of my favorite author's blog. Recently she made a post about fan fiction and as I read it, just mere moments after she posted it, I cringed and thought to myself, "Oh wow, this isn't going to be good."
I'll be honest, I was a bit surprised by her tone in the post. I just knew it was going to cause a huge backlash. And, IMO, rightfully so.
OK, first, for those who don't know... fan fiction is basically fiction written by fans of something about that something. Like when I was 14 and I read the last of the Black Stallion books and I sat down and wrote 400 pages of story about The Black's previously unknown son out of a Shire mare. He was a huge black and white feathered stallion named Bolt, who had a blaze shaped like... well, you get the picture. I didn't know what that was, all I knew was I loved The Black and Alec and the world they lived in where dreams can come true. I read and reread, wrote and rewrote, and then one day when it was done I put it in a box and never saw it again. But it was an example of what fanfic is. I was a fan of the Black Stallion, I wrote fiction which took place in the Black's world, in which Alec and the Black made an appearance. I remember it as a deep, engaging story that was well written and full of drama. It was probably more realistically a pile of overly dramatic claptrap, but the world will never know for sure now, will they?
At any rate, I have had almost nothing else to do with fan fiction since then, aside from reading a few examples that were recommended to me for their sheer horribleness and mock-ability. I know some subjects have huge fanfiction communities... like Star Trek and Harry Potter. I know there are some skilled writers out there who write it. But honestly on the list of things I am even remotely interested in fanfiction ranks so low on the list that... lets be honest, it doesn't MAKE the list. I have no interest in writing it, reading it, or even really thinking about it. As Austin Power's might say, "that's not my bag, Baby!"
However, I know some folks for whom it IS their "bag" and I know how passionate they are about it, and about their source material and the people who create it. I know they take pride in it. and I know that being compared to a creepy old neighbor who might write porny stories about your 20-something daughter or a woman who seduces your husband (or comparing them to people selling your children into slavery as was done elsewhere) is going to ruffle their feathers. And despite the fact that this is one of my favorite authors who stepped in it... RIGHTFULLY SO.
And so it did. I've spent far too much time the last few days reading the insanity that followed once her post got sent around the fanfic world and it got me to thinking while I was cutting weeds to feed the goats...
I understand this author's desire to not see her characters used in fan fiction. I understand the fan fiction people's offense at her comparisons (I will be honest, before anyone else had even replied I found them cringeworthy myself). But as I thought about it I stopped to think of any of the number of things I have written that have never seen the light of day. What if they were published? And what if someone enjoyed reading it so much that they felt the overwhelming desire to write their own story about my character or world? How would I feel?
Well, the only thing I could compare it to was my art. A friend once sent me a picture of a tattoo made using one of my designs but changing it around, adding a lot, to where it was obvious that it had been born of my work but become a work all it's own.
How did I feel? Amazed. Touched. Honoured. Proud. Someone liked something I made and from that made something that they loved. It was not something i would have drawn, and in some ways despite the skill that was used it was kind of... over the top... but that didn't change the pride I took in knowing that someone liked something *I* made enough to make something *else* from it.
The thought of someone taking my characters or world and writing their own story actually made me a little giddy. Like the feeling I got when someone who loved my art asked me to autograph a copy of a magazine I'd been published in.
So, for future reference, if I ever sit down and actually put in enough effort to finish a book, and somehow manage to get it published, and people love it enough to want to fanfic about it.... GO FOR IT!
edit to add: she has now deleted the posts related to this issue, and turned off comments to her blog.