On Writing

This has some writers I know fairly het up: Link.

Fanfiction:� �It creeps out most of the authors I spoke to (a few, it should be noted, have no problem with it and knew of several novelists who got their start writing fanfiction). They’re all struck by the double standard — it’s okay for fanfic writers to steal your work, but if they see something similar to one of their stories in your book they’ll threaten to sue (or write very nasty letters). They said if the fans truly respected the author and his work, they should ask for permission before disseminating fanfiction (it’s not the writing that bothered them, it was the “publishing” of it on the Internet). The authors I spoke to said they don’t complain about fanfic or publicly forbid it because they are terrified of the blacklash, of getting deluged with hate mail. Instead, they close their eyes and pretend it doesn’t exist.

Leaving aside the whole point that if you’re not making money from screwing around on the Internet, you’re not depriving the author of anything, so calm the fuck down: The reason I’m bringing this up here (it’s rather like your parents coming to school) is that I noticed a similarity in what this author was saying and what many journalists say about bloggers. How dare they? How dare they aspire to inform others? That’s OUR world. Get out.

I think it’s partly fear of having wasted all that money on college tuition, frankly. If any yay-hoo on the Internet can do it, then why the hell did I pay Northwestern WAY TOO MUCH to teach me how to write? There’s an academic fear of blogging because insecure people feel in some way it delegitimizes them, as if good writing was something people still didn’t need instruction in (as she demonstrates by leaving that preposition there and writing that atrocious sentence in the first place).

It’s also based, like this author’s assertion that fanfiction “creeps out” most authors, on a fundamental misunderstanding of what fan fiction’s purpose is. I read scads of great Harry Potter stories on the Internet a couple of months ago. They inspired me to go out and see the movies and buy the books and devour them like a pig, thus ensuring JK Rowling got money she is more than entitled to. Fanfiction isn’t a way to supplant the current means of entertainment, like illegally downloading music. It’s a way to perpetuate a community of fans, more than anything.

Journalists have the same misconception about bloggers, commonly. We’re not here to take over, despite some people thinking that their bullshit is a news service. At best, yes, we break stories, like John Aravosis and the Gannon story, like the Apple blogs under seige right now. But mostly? We provide activism, discussion, opinion. We push points of view, grind axes, and do so without the need to apologize or obfuscate. The question shouldn’t be “how is this going to hurt me?” The question should be “what is this?” They don’t know the answer to that, I’m not entirely sure we do, so pre-emptively smacking us around for doing things we don’t even want to do is about as silly as Anne Rice having a hissy over somebody rewriting her tripe into something readable as a volunteer service to humankind.

Oh, and to get back to Mr. Goldberg’s little fit here, not all authors and creators are “creeped out” by fanfiction. Some of the best actually enjoy it.

“As far as I’m concerned, fan fiction (that is, fiction written for fun, or non-professionally) should feel free to go in whatever direction it feels like going. If you want to write a story about Starbuck being Adama’s illegitimate daughter and how she’s carrying on an illicit affair with Laura following an accident which flings them across time and space to the Ponderosa Ranch, be my guest. It’s certainly no further out there than the K/S stories in Trekdom which detailed the sexual and romantic liasons between one James Kirk and one Mr. Spock.

“If you’re inspired by this series and these characters and you want to turn that inspiration into artistic expression, I’m proud and hope you enjoy the process.”