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flap, glorious flap - LOLMac
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flap, glorious flap
For anyone who might have missed the snarkfest:  Diana Gabaldon, whose Outlander novels I utterly failed to read (too many awful research howlers in the first three pages of the first book), has emphatically and publicly denounced fanfic and fanfic authors.  I'm not linking to her posts myself -- the links below do that -- but she ranks us with rapists, stalkers, white slavers, and pedophiles.  Way to endear yourself to both your fan base and your fellow pros, gal.

The nature of the online response is fascinating, since it reflects the evolution of fanfic -- the growing acceptance of it by pros, the growing recognition that it's part of fandom and part of the world of writing.  I also see it as another reflection of the shifting relationship between the creators of media and fandom -- there's been a lot of change and maturation there since I first tiptoed into fandom, heavens, 30 years ago.

All of which is a pretty highfalutin' excuse for enjoying a snarkfest.  When you get right down to it, I think some of the comments on Gabaldon's hissy fit are better written than her novels seem to be.  The more I've read about her books, the less inclined I am to read them.

Here's the post on Whatever that alerted me to the flap, and here's the post on Fandom Wank that has a very good wrap-up of it.  Here's a beautifully written open letter on the subject by Kate Nepveu, and here's a well-written observation on the hypocrisy of Gabaldon's denunciation of smut in fanfic.  And here's a lovely list of professionally published works that meet some element of the definition of fanfic, and here's a recently started list of authors and others (i.e., actor Paul Gross) who either support fanfic or are publicly Neutral Good about it.

The last item, at present, lists 67 75 in favour, including such minor luminaries as J. K. Rowling, Joss Whedon, and Arthur Conan Doyle.  Also Terry Pratchett, Tamora Pierce, Anne McCaffrey, Mercedes Lackey, Lois McMaster Bujold, Neil Gaiman, Cory Doctorow, John Scalzi, Diane Duane, Steven Brust, Katherine Kurtz, Stephanie Meyer (yes, rly), and Nora Roberts (who is on the fanfic.net 'no-fly list', but has publicly given her okay).

And the anti-fanfic list?  15 against, of which Anne Rice and Archie comics are the most notable, followed by Gabaldon.  Take those three away, and, well, you're not looking at the current Hugo nominee roster, or any NYT best-seller list.  ETA:  the list is now 16; I just added George R. R. Martin, who's very upset at how shabbily his Good Friend and Brilliant Writer Diana is being treated by teh intranetz.   Also, Gabaldon has pulled her posts, thereby Flouncing off her own blog.  I guess she didn't like the resulting heat when she set fire to the kitchen.
ETA again:  the 'anti' list will probably end up at around 25, as the current flap is pushing more pros to state their positions in public forums, and the lawyers have spooked a fair number of them.

I'll end with this delicious quote from this lovely post by Aja Romano, who attempted, unsuccessfully, to carry on a reasoned online dialogue with Diana Gabaldon on the subject:

"We get that you think fanfic is illegal. It's not; it's currently non-explicitly protected by the fair use clause of the U.S. copyright law; we've been over this. Ad nauseum. For about thirty years now. That argument is old, and in the meantime people are moving into their fourth decade of writing Star Trek fiction. Or new, revolutionary, earth-shattering novels with fanfic at their root.

"We get that you think fanfic is a stepping stone to being published. You're wrong. Fanfiction is not a set of training wheels, not some shameful awkward thing you do before you grow up and learn the ~true meaning~ of being a ~real writer.~

"Fanfic is brilliant, beautiful, faithful to canon, critical & powerful, hysterically funny, full of love, subtle, diverse, poetic, adorable, amazingly original, subversive, heartbreaking, progressive, homage-based, political, sharp, smart, satirical, incredibly complex, feminist, beloved by thousands of people, and transformative on a scale that's hard to describe.

"And it is written by some of the most incredibly talented people on the internet. Fanfic writers are bestselling and acclaimed professional authors. They are agents and editors. They are network television executive producers. They are New York Times journalists. They are Supreme Court clerks. They are PHDs and experts in their fields.

"All of us are still writing fanfic. None of us need training wheels or stepping stones.

"We get it. You hate fanfic. We don't care. We don't have to. Fanfic belongs to the tradition of reinvention and reinterpretation that each of the creators listed above has freely, fully participated in.

"And as of this moment, I'm one author who is too busy participating to stop and explain it to you one more time."

ETA 2:  Another, longer list of authors with specific policies against fanfic.  This one actually includes some names of significance.  Some of them are responding to What The Lawyers Say, others just plain don't like the idea.  Fanfic.net REALLY needs to get the No-Fly list updated.  (I've already emailed them once about it.  But you know what ff.pit is like.)

These are partial lists of the names that mean something to me:

Legal issues:  David Weber, Jim Baen, Orson Scott Card, Marion Zimmer Bradley (and she had good reason to be chary).  Also, by secondhand report, Roger Zelazny and Fred Saberhagen.
Don't like the idea:  David Drake, Alan Dean Foster, Robert Jordan, Esther Friesner, Ursula LeGuin, Patricia Morrison, Larry Niven, John Norman (don't barf!), Spider Robinson, Robert Asprin, Jack Chalker, Jasper Fforde (yes, that last one's a real pity, and has a hypocritical flavour to it).

BTW, there's one author on that last list who has not sacrificed any of my respect by her stance, and that's Ursula LeGuin.  I revere her works, and somehow, the thought of trying to write fanfic in her universe is, in my mind, akin to attempting to whack chunks off of a perfectly cut diamond.  You just don't.

'Beth
May 2010

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Comments
jokan From: jokan Date: 9th May 2010 23:13 (UTC) (Link)
It looks like she took her rant of the web. I hope someone saved it.
lolmac From: lolmac Date: 9th May 2010 23:39 (UTC) (Link)
Ah, I'm not surprised she pulled the posts . . . and I'm sure they've been saved elsewhere. In the opening salvo, she declared of fanfic "I think it's immoral, I know it's illegal, and it makes me want to barf."

The funny thing is that yanking posts like that off one's blog does not end the flap; it's just bad form, like any other Flounce.
curuchamion From: curuchamion Date: 9th May 2010 23:42 (UTC) (Link)
'too many awful research howlers in the first three pages of the first book'

Good grief, three pages?! And here I thought Diane Duane was sloppy to have ONE (fairly major) slip-up re the space shuttle launchpad in one of her Spider-Man books!

Other comments:

Hee, I didn't know Conan Doyle felt that way about fanfic! I suppose I should have guessed, with the number of Holmes "pastiches" out there... that's cool.

(Also, I love the bit about all those Greeks and Romans writing Iliad fanfic. I only knew about the Aeneid!)
lolmac From: lolmac Date: 10th May 2010 00:02 (UTC) (Link)
Yup. The books had been lauded to me because I'm "into Celtic stuff". It was actually about 2 and a half pages, as I recall -- by then, I knew that she had never been to either Scotland or Ireland, and also that she didn't know the difference between them. At that point I bailed, guessing that the rest of the book would be so full of similar howlers that I wouldn't be able to read it without cringing. I never reached the sadistic torture and graphic rape scenes. Just lucky, I guess.

I understand that, at the time she wrote the first one, she had never visited Scotland; and supposedly she's done so by now. Well, I've never been to either Belfast or Peru, but I took that as a mandate to be really picky with my research when I set novels there.

My own definition of fanfic doesn't extend to works based on mythology or legend or folklore, but that's just my definition. If the definition is extended to those sources, then yes, every single written version of any myth is fanfic, because an individual author put his own spin on something out of older source material. I could even denounce Aeschylus' version of Athene in the Oresteia as having written her OOC for his own ends. *g*
curuchamion From: curuchamion Date: 10th May 2010 01:02 (UTC) (Link)
... Good grief. I can't imagine not knowing the difference between Scotland and Ireland. ('Course, I'm part Scottish and part Irish, and obnoxiously proud of both - but still, if you know that little about a place, why write about it? *eyeroll*)

'I've never been to either Belfast or Peru, but I took that as a mandate to be really picky with my research when I set novels there.'

Really picky, indeed; I haven't been to Belfast either, but I'm quite surprised to learn that you haven't. "Up a Long Ladder" feels like it was written by someone who's known the setting all their life; it's got that tone of bittersweet love that marks songs and writing by native Northern Irish. I am truly boggled. In a good way.

(I haven't read your Peru fic yet, as it's not finished, but - rather OT - was the "Alpaca Cartel" throwaway line in Matriphobia Affair your doing? Makes me snicker every time. And I want the backstory now. *g*)

'I could even denounce Aeschylus' version of Athene in the Oresteia as having written her OOC for his own ends.'

Oh dear, now I'm going to be totally cracking up when I have to read and discuss the Oresteia in college... ;-)
lolmac From: lolmac Date: 10th May 2010 02:21 (UTC) (Link)
As I recall, she had conflated Irish info with Scots in a very Clueless American manner -- typical but egregious. It drove me nuts, as said.

And thank you for the comment on Up a Long Ladder! At the time I started writing it, I must have been studying Irish history, culture and music for 25 years or more -- but I still went out and did heavy research on the specifics I needed for the story. The background was background, and certainly helped, especially given how delicate the core of the subject matter was.

Good eye for the Alpaca Cartel! That was pure Lothi, but it was a tip of the pen to me and to Reverb. I howled like anything when I first read it, and she smirked.

The specific passage in the Oresteia is one in which Aeschylus has Athene spouting misogynistic sexist grandstanding -- he has her absolve Orestes of guilt in the murder of his mother, not because his mother was a murderer herself, but because women don't matter, and mothers are women. This is presented as a new paradigm of heavenly justice. Yay. Let's hear it for good old Golden Age Athens, bastion of repression, in which all are free and equal, as long as they're native-born landowning males of a certain class who haven't pissed off the status quo too badly.
lothithil From: lothithil Date: 10th May 2010 06:24 (UTC) (Link)
*grins and clacks knitting needles*
jokan From: jokan Date: 9th May 2010 23:45 (UTC) (Link)
Her rants were pulled from the wayback machine, but I found them in google caches. I have them in an ugly PDF format if anyone wants them. Only the first rant has comments included, over 500 I think, but probably not all of them.
alternatealto From: alternatealto Date: 10th May 2010 02:45 (UTC) (Link)

And that's another thing about Teh Internets that Ms. Gobaldon apparently doesn't understand: Nothing Goes Away. Ever.

In other words, if you don't want it read in perpetuity, don't post it. 'Cause once it's up, there is no more plausible deniability. Somebody will be able to find it again. Own your words, or eat them. Probably without sugar.

From: technoshaman Date: 10th May 2010 02:23 (UTC) (Link)
*chuckle* two of the last few books I bought were Nicholas Meyer's Seven Percent Solution and West End Horror, which (and you may know this already, but just for the record) are fanfic that E.P. Dutton thought good enough to publish. Among, as that final linked post notes, a bazillion others in the Holmsiverse.

One of my very very favorite short stories is Spider Robinson's Melancholy Elephants. You probably know the story. If you don't, there's the link. Spider was making the case for limitations on copyright with respect to time, explicitly, but the argument works as well for any number of variations, including fanfic.

Of course, the one argument that Aja leaves out is that fanfic is wonderful free advertising for canon. I got hooked on Spider by some folks that were doing Callahans stuff... and not only glommed those books but Stardance as well.

That is an odd thing, though. IIRC the vast majority of ficcers (and vidders) are women....

Edited at 2010-05-10 02:23 (UTC)
lolmac From: lolmac Date: 10th May 2010 02:39 (UTC) (Link)
Yep, read Melancholy Elephants when it first came out.

I often get comments on my stories along the lines of "Wow, I forgot how much I liked the show, I'll have to go buy the DVDs now . . . "
idlewild_ From: idlewild_ Date: 10th May 2010 04:07 (UTC) (Link)
Any time I feel too weird* about writing fan fiction I remind myself sternly that if it was good enough for Chaucer and Shakespeare, it's darn well good enough for me.

Good artists borrow, great artists steal, great fanfic writers take men with incredibly silly mullets and break our hearts with them?

*Good lord. Mother issues.
lolmac From: lolmac Date: 11th May 2010 01:18 (UTC) (Link)
Um, thanks? *G*

BTW, the Great List Of Great Derivative Works on one of those links . . . includes James Joyce's Ulysses. Of course.
bull_demon From: bull_demon Date: 10th May 2010 19:18 (UTC) (Link)
I may be insulting my own lack of literary variety, but I've never even heard of any of the authors listed on the "no fanfic" list.

I swear some of these people think they've created something "totally original," when in fact they've just taken ideas from others (previously published or "borrowed" from conversation) and slapped their name on it. Sure, they may do *different* things with it, but no work in this day and age is completely original anymore.

The authors against fanfic are just afraid the fans will come up with better plots, or may even have a stronger grasp on the characters then the writer's themselves do. Plus, one can't forget the almighty penny. Heaven forbid one of these rich writers misses out on a 5 cent royalty for the small handful of people that may actually read the fan fiction piece anyway.

It's sad -- authors want their readers to be enthusiastic about their work, but squash any attempt at the ultimate form of flattery towards their work.
lolmac From: lolmac Date: 11th May 2010 01:27 (UTC) (Link)
Most authors have better sense; the 'anti' list is much shorter, after all; and another blogger I read today (Catherynne Valente, another Hugo and Nebula nominee) pointed out that there's a pretty clear generational split: most of the current 'hot' SF and fantasy writers understand that it's a legitimate activity that shows they're loved. It's the previous generation of writers that has the cluster who are either clueless or hagridden by lawyers.

As I mentioned, the only one who I think is in the right to dislike the notion of fanfic in her universe(s) is LeGuin. The unique character of her writing is in itself an essential element to her worlds -- no other writer can or should write there, because there are no other writers like herself. She's just that good and that unique.
studyofrunning From: studyofrunning Date: 12th May 2010 02:37 (UTC) (Link)
I prefer fanfiction to legitimate fiction on all grounds. I have more favorite authors in my few fandoms than I do in all of original publishing. I like that I can actually know these people, because they're all just another random LJ person. I like the much greater variety in ideas, genres, and lengths than bookstores have room for. I like that we don't have sequelitis, because there's no reason to write a sequel to anything except your own personal feeling that it's actually a good idea.

For our reputation of being all Mary Sues having physically improbable sex, every big fandom has at least a dozen good writers. There's better writing on my flist than there seems to be in my local library. (And anyway, fandom has gen. Publishing pretty much doesn't, because sex sells. I like gen.)

Very relevant to the author's arguments, I like that we have ratings and warnings. Apparently, she writes...fantasy or something? So I'd pick up a book and go "yay magic!" and then there'd be sadism and rape in it. In fanfiction, that would have a warning right in the summary, which is basically our version of the front cover. Nobody will ever put that on a book cover because nobody wants to lose sales from people that aren't willing to to be seen buying or enjoying something with "warnings: rape, BDSM" printed on the outside. I don't really trust published fiction not to bait & switch me in that sense (and others).

There's more, but I don't want to get too rambly. Basically, we're awesome.
lolmac From: lolmac Date: 12th May 2010 04:22 (UTC) (Link)
Oh, but rambly is good! I like rambly! And I like the points you've made. I particularly like your point on sequelitis -- and since fandom cheerfully allows for multiple AUs in any given character set, the same character set can go through infinite variations. If canon is a straight line, fanon is a compass rose with infinite directional points.

Of course, there's an amazing amount of unmitigated crap in fanfic. And by a remarkable coincidence, there's an amazing amount of unmitigated crap in published works too. What a coincidence!

I've noticed that I'll re-read my longstanding favourite authors a lot more eagerly than I'll pick up new ones . . . I'm very eclectic in my genres in published works, but really good stuff is still realllly thin on the ground.
studyofrunning From: studyofrunning Date: 12th May 2010 21:08 (UTC) (Link)
Great point about infinite variations. We have this unfair advantage in that we can do any big, permanent thing -- kill all the main characters, blow up the most frequently used set, have couples get in fights so big they'll never forgive each other -- and then write a dozen more fics where that never happened.

Of course, there's an amazing amount of unmitigated crap in fanfic. And by a remarkable coincidence, there's an amazing amount of unmitigated crap in published works too.

Yeah, that's a great way of summing it up.
cflute From: cflute Date: 12th May 2010 18:23 (UTC) (Link)
If canon is a straight line, fanon is a compass rose with infinite directional points.

That's an excellent line that deserves its own icon!
lolmac From: lolmac Date: 13th May 2010 05:21 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you! That's a lovely icon also!
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