on the topic of Authors Behaving Badly . . . .

So Diana Gabaldon’s ill-advised polemic against fanfic?

If you want to know my general opinion, I could just point you at this whole segment of my short story output, but I want to particularly highlight “The Gospel of Nachash” (an AU take on Genesis) and “The Last Wendy”. Because both are absolutely born of the fanfic impulse: looking at the existing story and thinking, “But I have something I want to say in response.” So clearly I believe that impulse is a valid one.

My policy on fanfic (or fan-anything) of my work is here. Short form: go right ahead, so long as you don’t profit or get in the way of my ability to profit. If you’re ever in doubt, ask, and I’ll let you know if the project in question is okay.

Frankly, I think it’s flattering. That anything I write could inspire someone else to their own art? Is amazing. I’m hardly going to spit on the result.

0 Responses to “on the topic of Authors Behaving Badly . . . .”

  1. la_marquise_de_

    Once my characters are on the printed page, I’ve shared them. They’re there for readers to imagine too, and their versions will probably all differ in some way from mine. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to write LWG fanfic, but if they did, I think I’d feel as you do.

  2. stormsdotter

    Fanfic happens. As long as the authors don’t read it, everyone’s fine.

  3. wadam

    So … what does Diana Gabaldon have to say about fanfic?

    • aulus_poliutos

      Yeah, always teaser posts and no links. 😉

      I admit I have mixed feelings about the issue. Sure, it would be flattering, and for a lot of people fanfic is the way into original fiction, so I’m not against it (heck, I’ve written some LOTR ones myself). But if you look at some of the output …. I don’t want my characters to go through that sort of non-English character assassination.

      I think I’d be ok with fanfiction as long as no one makes money out of it. Just don’t show me the bad ones.

      I won’t mind reading a good Roderic/Kjartan slash fanfic, those two are tempting me to write one. 😉

      • Marie Brennan

        As someone else pointed out in a discussion I was reading, it’s not much different from coming across a review of my work and wondering “what book did she read?” What my words produce in somebody else’s head may not be what I intended at all. But at least if they’re writing fic about it, that probably means they enjoyed the original story . . . .

    • Marie Brennan

      It was late, I was tired, I was lazy. 🙂 Here you go.

      • aulus_poliutos

        While not all fan-fic is pornographic by any means, enough of it _is_ that it constitutes an aesthetic argument against the whole notion.

        Erm, excuse me while I try to overcome that sudden giggle fit. 😉

  4. celestineangel

    I am so glad to hear this. With so many authors taking the “anything you might do is in violation of my rights as an author,” it’s refreshing to know there are still authors who find it flattering. I know I would, if I were published. 🙂

  5. midnight_sidhe

    My feelings about fanfic are very different from yours (and the others expressed here), but even so, I completely agree that Gabaldon was way out of line. I have a lot of sympathy for people who feel the way she feels, and I don’t think she should have to pretend she doesn’t feel that way. That said, her manner of expressing her opinion was… well, “ill-advised” is putting it mildly. There’s just no excuse for insulting one’s fans like that. She could have found a gracious way to say how she felt while acknowledging that she’s glad to have inspired people, or something. You can admit that something bothers you while still appreciating that the people doing it have the best of intentions and you’re flattered by the sentiment even if you really wish they’d stop.

    • Marie Brennan

      I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

      My objection to Gabaldon was mostly about her insulting manner, and secondarily about the ways in which she revealed a lack of understanding as to the fanfic community. If you’re going to rant about something, after all, it’s better to hit the target, yes?

      • midnight_sidhe

        If you’re going to rant about something, after all, it’s better to hit the target, yes?

        Yes indeed! Otherwise you look quite foolish, which doesn’t really help in getting people to take your points seriously.

        I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

        Crikey – I seem to have written a mini-essay, which was not my intention, and for which I apologise. I’m not sure this will all post as one comment.

        I have very mixed feelings about fanfic, and it’s hard for me to think about it objectively because a lot of it has to do with me having rather extreme personal space issues. My original ambition in life, from age six, was to be an author, but I changed my mind about that when I was older after realising that I didn’t think I could handle what comes with success: the thought of someone else using my worlds or characters was too upsetting. (There were other reasons too – it’s not quite as silly as it sounds – but this was a large part of it.) It’s hard for me not to project that on to published authors when I hear of other people using their work and then feel somehow affronted on their behalf. (Also, I know that plenty of fanfic writers respect an author’s wish that their work not be used, and if everyone were that way, my opinion would probably be very different. But there’s also a number of fanfic writers who don’t care about the author’s feelings, and somehow the existence of the latter group ruins it for me.)

        The other thing that I have a hard time factoring out is that I don’t really understand the appeal of it as a reader or writer either. I’ve certainly made up stories about someone else’s characters before, but only in a casual in-my-head sort of way. If something an author does inspires me, it makes me want to take a specific idea and see what I can make of it; the result is often very different from the source material. Obviously plenty of people feel differently, but this sort of incomprehension on my part makes it harder for me to decide how I feel about it.

        That said, I’m also aware that everyone builds on the people before them, and that a lot of the greatest contributions to world literature weren’t really “original”. There’s no correlation between “originality” and “quality” anyway. Fanfic is clearly a very human thing to do, and people have a good time with it, and it’s produced some brilliant results; all of these are hard to quibble with.

        But, swinging back again, the community aspect of it bothers me. I’m really not sure why. There’s something about whole sites devoted to fanfic based on a particular series, and people actively searching it out, and so on… I don’t think I can articulate what it is. If people just wrote fanfic on their own, for themselves, and maybe occasionally showed it to their friends, I’d feel differently about it. I’d still have reservations, but I might be able to accept them as the product of my own idiosyncrasies and leave it at that.

        So: really mixed feelings. There was at least one other thing that occurred to me writing this, but I can’t retrieve it now, and this is already very long for some reason. I’m sorry about that.

        • Marie Brennan

          Interesting. You’re right that your feelings on the matter are fairly different from mine, but I’m not about to tell you you’re wrong; there’s no “right” or “wrong” with something that boils down to personal reaction. You acknowledge what I feel are the important points (such as the way literature has often been a dialogue between texts anyway, even to the point of being fanfiction in all but name), and I have no need to argue with the rest of it. Mileage varies, and all that. Thanks for expanding.

  6. gothicsparrow

    I get the feeling that a lot of the authors who are actively against fanfic don’t have much understanding of it- I’ve never seen arguments specifically against, say, writing new characters in someone else’s setting, which most of my fanfic has been, with no sex at all. From my point of view, no one who’s written a fanfic rant I’ve read has given a reason relevent to my fanfic experience to discontinue writing it. I think the only good reason I’ve ever seen given was ‘because it makes me uncomfortable to have other people playing with my characters.’ I have a lot more respect for someone saying ‘please don’t fanfic my work because I personally don’t like it’, rather than going into all these bullcrap reasons that one shouldn’t write fanfic.

    • Marie Brennan

      “New characters in someone else’s setting” is exactly what my own early fanficcy-style endeavours were. Most of them didn’t get written down, but the two major undertakings were an immortal in the Highlander setting, and my own tribe of elves in the Elfquest setting. Both featured appearances by canon characters, but mostly I was exploring the implications of the worldbuilding, because I found them thought-provoking to play with.

      I personally have no objection to an author saying, “I would prefer you not fanfic my work.” And in fact, I think it would be the courteous thing for the fanfic community to respect that (which some, but not all, do). But yes, many of the people who indulge in polemics against it reveal how little they understand the thing they’re objecting to.

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