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Into the fray

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that GRRM has now gotten involved in this lastest fanfic discussion, since he's voiced loud opposition to fanfiction in the past, and Diana Gabaldon was published in the last collection he edited. (Which, possibly ironically, is the book I'm reading right now. Just for the cherry on the "authors who are connected with fic, pro and con" sundae, Naomi Novik is in it, too.) On the whole, his arguments are more reasoned than hers -- at least he doesn't compare us to a bunch of violent criminals -- but there is one point that I absolutely must take issue with.

Furthermore, we HAVE to do it. That's something no one addressed, in those thousand comments about Diana's blog. There was a lot of talk about copyright, and whether or not fan fiction was illegal, whether it was fair use [...] but no one mentioned one crucial aspect of copyright law -- a copyright MUST BE DEFENDED. If someone infringes on your copyright, and you are aware of the infringement, and you do not defend your copyright, the law assumes that you have abandoned it.


I allow that this would be a really strong argument against allowing fanfic if it were true. But guess what? It isn't.

This particular misconception comes up a lot in debates about fanfic. While it is generally true of trademarks -- if you don't defend them and keep people from using them as generic terms, you can lose them; that's what happened to xerox and kleenex and aspirin, for example, and that's why Google fights against the use of "to google" as a lower-cased verb -- it is not at all true of copyright. As of 1978, in the United States, any creative work placed into a fixed form is, at that point, copyrighted to the original creator. This is true regardless of whether the creator asserts copyright on the work, registers the copyright with the Library of Congress, or defends against unauthorized use. That copyright is yours, and nothing save the passage of time (as of now, 70 years after your death) or your decision to sell the copyright to someone else or release it into the public domain can change that.

I can understand why published authors might be queasy about fanfic, and I don't really judge anyone for disallowing it (practical issues with attempting to do so aside). But I don't think it's too much to ask them to base their positions on actual facts.

Edited to add a link to this beautiful defense of fic, a list of what fanfic is and is not that rings perfectly true to me. Strongly recommended.

Comments

( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
oswulf
May. 8th, 2010 09:35 am (UTC)
Were you the one that pointed out a while back that Joss Wheedon had actually suggested fanfiction as something for Buffy fans to do between seasons?

But my thoughts of late have not been so much about fanfiction's virtue as its value for me personally. I'm not sure I want to be limited by somebody else's characters and realities.

There is very much the matter of ready-made audiences though. I sit, analyzing the pathology that drives me to have a sense that _someone_ out there is actually reading what I write--and without the ready-made audience of fanfiction that doesn't exist.

I'm not awash in the argument of the virtue of fanfiction, I accept its virtue and move on. My inner dialogue is on its value to me personally. And I don't know. Not sure either way.

Oh, and I'm constantly using 'google' as a verb. Does it soften the blow at all that Google is the search engine I almost always use?
owlmoose
May. 8th, 2010 10:10 am (UTC)
I don't remember saying that, but I might have; Whedon is very fic-friendly. I think TV creators tend to be more amenable to the idea because they're used to other people working with "their" creations -- almost no TV shows are written by one and only one person.

Fanfic isn't the natural creative outlet for everybody, just as there are plenty of fanficcers (myself included) who are not particularly drawn to original writing. But if your main issue is the lack of an audience, there must be outlets for that with original fic. It might take more work to find a writers' group, but I'm sure they're out there. Of course, not being a writer of original fiction, I've never gone looking. The only place I know much about is Fiction Press, a Fanfiction.net-style archive, but I don't know how easy it is to find readers there.

I do understand the need to be read, though. Very much so. I fear that I am a little pathological about checking hit counts and watching email for reviews, especially right after I post something. If my first stories hadn't found a small audience, I don't know if I would have kept writing. I'd like to think I would have. But it's hard to say.
taricalmcacil
May. 8th, 2010 02:40 pm (UTC)
I agree with you that TV and movie creators are much more fic friendly. After all, there are so many Star Trek series, Star Wars series, and Stargate series, what are they other than creator authorized fan fiction? I don't think I've ever come across a TV entity that was truly against fan fiction. Hell, if you go to ff.net, I believe the entire list of material you may not borrow from is a list of authors. I don't think there's a single television series on the list, but the guidelines access is down for maintenance, so I can't be sure.
owlmoose
May. 8th, 2010 03:29 pm (UTC)
The only property with multiple authors on that list, best as I can remember without checking, is Archie Comics, which is known for being fanatical about protecting their copyrights. I agree that it's hard to draw a line, at least in terms of quality, literary merit, etc. between authorized tie-in books and fic, although it can be fun to watch people tie themselves in knots trying...
rabbitprint
May. 8th, 2010 12:31 pm (UTC)
I've been following this debate off and on thanks to your updates -- thank you for that, by the way! I tried coming up with a comment and instead started rambling on and on, so I'm moving that over to my journal to avoid spam. But I wanted to say thank you for helping keep us all in the loop. :)
dreamflower02
May. 8th, 2010 09:06 pm (UTC)
First of all, thank you for linking to my post, and for your kind words about it.

And second, thanks for the link to GRRM jumping into the fray. Now I feel the need to go off and post about his little rant.

I noticed that GRRM has a lot more sycophants than DG.
dreamflower02
May. 8th, 2010 09:53 pm (UTC)
BTW-- I just made that second post here.
owlmoose
May. 8th, 2010 09:59 pm (UTC)
You're welcome, and you're welcome! I try not to care too much about what pro authors think about fic, especially since I tend not to write in book universes anyway, so it doesn't directly affect me or my work. But when two of my favorites wade into the morass, and one takes a position based on a blatant error, it's hard to resist.

Thanks for the link to your follow-up; I'll go check it out now.
dreamflower02
May. 8th, 2010 10:07 pm (UTC)
Well, my main fandom is a book-universe, but the author has been dead for decades (not to mention his having stated once that he hoped other people would play with his legendarium). I've written two fics for Yuletide in other fandoms, both of them book-based, both with safely dead authors.

So I suppose that it doesn't affect me that much either-- except I *do* like to read fanfic in other more contemporary fandoms, and would be very sad if they went away due to fears of "what the authors would say".
vieralynn
May. 10th, 2010 12:19 am (UTC)
Why does it seem that the loudest cries against fanfiction come from a group of SF/F writers? ...or have I just failed to stumble over mystery writers, literary writers, political thriller writers, etc., who express loud distaste for fanfic?

Over on fanfiction.net, fic based on the following authors' works aren't allowed and those authors are:

* Anne Rice - Vampire/Gothic
* Dennis L. McKiernan - Fantasy
* Irene Radford - Fantasy
* J.R. Ward - Parnormal Romance
* Laurell K. Hamilton - Fantasy-Romance
* Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb - Romance
* P.N. Elrod - Fantasy
* Raymond Feist - Fantasy
* Robin Hobb - Fantasy
* Robin McKinley - Fantasy
* Terry Goodkind - Fantasy

Lots and lots of fantasy?! Also, most of them are from the baby boomer generation and I think most of them are american (but I didn't check...).

So, what is it? Do fantasy writers believe that all of their hard work creating a mythos/world means they must protect it tooth and claw? Even if they themselves were (quite likely) influenced by prior fantasy works, including mythos that is in the public domain/cultural sphere such as vampire lore, etc.???

My mind. It is baffled. Just baffled.
owlmoose
May. 10th, 2010 12:53 pm (UTC)
McKinley is British. I don't know about the others, but I agree with your sense that most of them are American.

My first thought is that, at least in Western media fandom, more fanfiction is written about SF/F properties than those of other genres. So SF/F writers are more likely to think of fic as an issue, maybe? If you look at Fanlore's list of authors with fic policies, both pro and con, there's notably more authors associated with SF/F than otherwise. So it might be purely about numbers. I definitely agree, though, that for writers of SF/F, particularly the sort of epic fantasy that owes a serious debt to Tolkien, are in an odd position, at best, when they rage against fic.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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