My thoughts on fanfic

Here are my thoughts on fan fiction.

  1. I see no harm in it.
  2. We’ve all imagined fantasies about our favorite shows or characters.
  3. Some people choose to put their fantasies in text.
  4. Writing down daydreams is what writers do.
  5. I see no difference between playing a cover song of your favorite band for fun, and writing a scene with your favorite characters for fun.
  6. Regardless of your art form, copying and adapting it is a great training ground for people who want to do this professionally some day.
  7. It’s also fun.
  8. Using a large public platform to mock a person for something they do for the joy of it is seriously not okay.

And in answer to the anticipated question about if you can write fanfic in the Glamourist Histories? I would actually love that.* To me, if someone connects so deeply with my world that they want to stay in it, that’s awesome. I mean, that’s the way I feel about my favorite authors and, let’s be honest here, my novels are Jane Austen fanfic. I just wanted magic and sometimes a little more swashbuckling.

So fanfic? Fanart? Bring it on.

I will never make fun of you for it. Ever.

Edited to add, because it’s a darn good way of explaining fanfic to people who don’t get it:  Kayla Tucker says, “I think writing fan fics is the adult way of playing “make believe” just like when you were kid. We’d would pretend to be our favorite superhero/cartoon character/book character but would alter things about them to make it fit the image you have in your head. “I’m gonna be Batman! But I will have a tutu and my sidekick will be my cat and we will fight having to do chores!” That sort of thing.” (reprinted with permission)

*Insert legal disclaimer here. Just don’t sell it, or sue me because something I write winds up being similar, and we’re fine.

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22 Responses

  1. Bonnie Fox

    I adore you, Mary. And not just because the only writing I’ve done is fanfic of an obsure pairing. I think the actors reading fanfic would be hilarious- but willingly and with author consent.

    1. Sylvia

      What is this ‘consent’ thing you speak of?

      I’ve heard it mentioned time and again around the internet, often relating to sexy-times. Citing ‘consent’ is generally followed by rageful posts about people not letting other have fun!

      Clearly, consent is not something you want to waste time acquiring, when you can have so much fun without it.

  2. Kater Cheek

    The analogy of fanfic=coversongs is as accurate as I’ve ever heard.

    Covering songs they like is how many (most?) musicians learn. Also, it can help make a good song famous beyond what it’s creator can do alone.

    I think my main objection to fanfic is how squicked out I’d feel if someone wrote something slashfic. I imagine it’s a little how Carrie Fisher felt when fans told her they masturbated while thinking about her. Some fantasies are best left to private circles.

    1. Mary Robinette Kowal Post author

      Yeah, but I don’t object to people having those fantasies. Part of what bothered me about the Sherlock incident was that moderator forced the actors to read something that was sexually explicit. That’s part of why the original author was so appalled.

      Power imbalance? Check.
      Unwanted sexual content? Check.
      Deliberately embarrassing (by the moderator)? Check.

      Those guys were sexually harassed in front of their fans by the moderator. The author of the fanfiction did not, because she did not send it to them. That was all the moderator and the context in which she placed the fiction and the actors.

      1. Sally

        I wish the actors had taken a stand about not reading it, not on the grounds of gay sex, but on the grounds of not wanting to bring opprobium on the writer. But sexual harassment is a tough thing to respond to, and the lads probably decided to get through it quickly — like women do so often.

        I hope Ben and Martin, in future, just say “oh, we’ve done this shtick before, it’s played out, can we get on with some other questions?”

        1. Another Sally

          This is a very interesting point you make.

          When, as an actor, you agree to take on a role – and in the particular case of Sherlock, a role that has been played by numerous different actors in different incarnations, and in this particular incarnation it is infact little more than AU fanfic that found a screen budget – you lend (at least part of) your appearance to that role if not your personality. When a fic writer pens a story where that character shares a romantic / physical / sexual relationship with another character either in that work of fiction or another work of fiction they choose to crossover with they are documenting what they would like to see in that particular universe. They are not saying that they want David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, Ben Cucumber and Martin Freeman etc etc to get it on in this universe. (For example, as a character I love Gene Hunt from UK Life on Mars and have written fanfic about him, Philip Glenister, the actor who portrays him, leaves me cold). So yes, what Caitlin Moran did amounts to sexual harassment, she took a work from a fictional universe out of context and forced two people who just happen to share a physical resemblance with the two fictional characters in question to enact something of a sexual nature for what ended up being her own amusement,. Whilst they were promoting the fictional universe they play in they weren’t in character and were expected to be she left them no other alternative to go along with the ‘joke’ because they didn’t know how to say no, and how many times have we heard that in _this_ universe?

      2. Sylvia

        You mean sexual harassment can be verbal? It can consist of written material?

        *clutches pearls* Quick, fetch my fainting couch!

  3. Kara

    That is so gross towards the actors and the fanfic writer, augh. I’m totally on board with fanfic, but even if I loathed fanfic this would still be incredibly gross and harassment. Possibly it would be even worse if I hated fanfic, because why would I subject people to something I think is awful?

    (My unasked-for .02 on fanfic: to paraphrase John Frye, if the source is old enough people will praise it as scholarship, but if it’s recent people will label it as fanfiction.)

    1. Rob Bannister

      That was my main worry – taking money away from the original author. If as with cover records, a percentage goes to the “composer” and if it does not go so far from the original in terms of taste, then it’s fine, but if you, for example, as a newbie author had just got your first book published and half a dozen people thought “great idea” and quickly added their books based on your idea, you might feel a bit miffed.

      1. Mary Robinette Kowal Post author

        We’re talking about two different things. I’m talking about an amateur musician who plays a cover song for the fun of it. You’re talking about a band who is paid and paying in a professional venue.

        Yes, if someone were making money off of something that was recognizably my world and characters, then I would be annoyed. But if someone is having fun and sharing it with their friends? Seriously not a problem for me.

        1. Sylvia

          This is because you are a classy lady.
          Who, incidentally, writes great stories that people want to expand upon.

  4. Lila

    I was listening to Terry Kay read his recent Christmas story “The Promise Made Whole” and it suddenly occurred to me–this (and every Christmas story/Christmas carol/Christmas whatever I’ve ever read or heard) is Bible fanfic.

    1. Sally

      I read (and I’ll paraphrase badly here) someone who opined that the Book of Mormon is New Testament fanfic, the New Testament is Old Testament fanfic… it’s fanfic all the way down.

  5. Mary Alice Kropp

    I write fanfic. I’ve admitted to that before. Why? It’s a whole lot of fun. I also write my own fiction. As far as I am concerned, they are two completely different things. I would never, ever think of trying to profit from my fanfic. That is just unfair and disrespectful to the original author on many levels, nevermind the legalities involved. Most of my fanfic is written for me. It helps me because more writing means more learning. It is also a nice area to try out things that I may not normally write, or feel comfortable writing, as sort of practice runs, if you will. I write fanfic like I play the piano- probably not very well, but I do it for me, so who cares?

  6. Kelvin Kao

    That was an awful thing that the moderator did.

    And the whole Sherlock series is sort of fan fiction itself. Characters originally thought up by a published author? Check. Different spin to the characters and stories? Check.

  7. Pam Adams

    Sigh. Clearly, this ‘feminist’ author hasn’t heard of Joanna Russ, and her essay on Kirk/Spock slash fandom.

    1. Leonard C Suskin

      Pam Adams – why would you think that? IT might be that she knows but it wasn’t relevant to this discussion.

      I’m also not sure why you put feminist in single quotes. That’s an odd choice.

      Aside: for those interested, I tossed a little micro MRK/HCA fanfic at the end of my blog post on because it amused me to do so after MRK’s comment that Glamourist Histories fanfic would be OK with her.

      My post ie here for those interested. For those not, it’s in the same place.
      http://czhorat.blogspot.com/2013/12/fan-fiction-culture-matchsticks.html

  8. Tyro Vogel

    Hey there,

    I’d never read a fan fiction story I’d thoroughly enjoyed (obviously, I haven’t read enough), but I decided to write a story set in the Fallout video game universe a few months ago, and had so much fun that that I’ve quickly graduated to a Sherlock Holmes / Doctor Who / Star Wars crossover. 😉

    I’m posting the latter in parts on my G+ stream every Tuesday, and people seem genuinely like it! Heck, *I* seem to like it, and that’s enough for me.

    The reason why professional writers don’t write fan fiction is because they’re busy writing things that sell and make them a living (and those who do, write it under contract). Since I’m in no position to be making a living from my writing … well … what’s the worst that can happen, right?

    Peace & love,
    Tyro