The Fanfic Kerfuffle

Fanfiction, my people. Some authors like it. Some authors hate it. Some authors write it under assumed names. Some authors made their bones by writing it. It’s just there, a big part of my internet experience, nearly a ubiquitous presence since I liked Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings and knew how to use a search engine. Not all fic is created equal. There’s the good stuff and the bad stuff, the dregs and the gems. It was fun, being able to have more of these characters you loved, written by people who loved it as much, if not way more, than you did. No one tried to publish it legitimately, as far as I know. Every piece of fic I ever read had a disclaimer on it saying something like, “Characters belong to the the brilliant X, I am only borrowing.” Even the ones that were written better than the source material. You’d think it’s a pretty innocuous thing. Sort of.

Some authors of note despise fanfiction, claiming it makes them “nauseated” to think of other people writing using their characters. Eww, yes, the proles, the plebian mass of unworthy ickies daring to sully your precious babies with their grimy fingers. Yeah, also known as some of your most passionate readers, you ungrateful loons. My god, you’d think these authors hadn’t gone out of their way to make their creative work available to the general public. Are we allowed to think about characters, then? Have feelings about them? Please, tell us what level of emotional involvement is okay with you.

Some authors claim that they have to disapprove of fic because it would hurt their market share otherwise. Um, no. Again, see the previous point about some of your most passionate readers. They want you to write more so they can read more, and they don’t do this for the money. They do it for love of the characters, the worlds, the ideas, and the point of fic is that they are not stealing what you did, putting it in their own books for sale. No. They are, for the most part, respectfully and with full attribution, borrowing lovingly, and putting it back when they’re done.

Other authors say that they don’t really see the point to it, and encourage people to write their own stories. This is the argument I have the most sympathy for, but that’s just because I never felt particularly passionate about writing fic in the first place. But. And this is a big but. Authors, you created your characters and your world. You own them, as far as they can be owned. But you gave them to us, and if we love them enough that our love is translated to creative endeavor… well, you’re just going to have to cope. You don’t have to read it if you don’t want to.

I think fic writers should be welcomed affectionately, en masse. Fic writers are fans. Fic writers buy multiple copies after they wear out the first ones looking for nuance and meaning they might have missed the fiftieth time. Fic writers collect, obsess, get their friends into your work with all the fire of their enthusiasm. They are creative and brilliant and driven, and a lot of them have gone on to be published authors in their own right as they give voice to their own stories and their own worlds.

The authors who don’t like fic might as well be saying they don’t actually respect the people who love their books. And maybe they don’t. Maybe they’ve gotten too used to thinking of themselves as monolithic bestsellers, maybe they’re so wrapped up in themselves-as-authors that they’ve forgotten that a book only lives if it is read.

I’m with the fic writers on this one. There are some bad apples, obviously, but you know what? There always are. I happen to think the good outweighs the bad.

One thought on “The Fanfic Kerfuffle

  1. You’re completely right, fanfiction is the same as original works in that there are both good and bad writers. Fanfiction is fantastic for finding your own voice though, it allows you to write your own story lines but with the comfort of fully fledged characters. It also means you get to see endings that are not official, but still blow you out of the water.
    It’s also a great ego boost when the stats start going through the roof and you’re getting 1,000 hits a week, though my lack of updates means that my stats have dropped fairly low recently. But my point remains, I don’t think my original works would be as good as they are now if I had not had the practice, feedback and encouragement that went with writing fanfiction.
    Well done on a very well written post.

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