Sunday, 9 May 2010
Fan fiction - flattery or theft?
I came across it first when my daughter Rhiannon Lassiter was reading Anne Rice about fifteen years ago. The Internet was in its early stages then but she found a group of like-minded virtual friends, several of whom wrote stories using the characters and settings of Rice's Vampire novels.
It seemed harmless enough. But not to Anne Rice. In 2007, she issued this statement:
"I do not allow fan fiction. The characters are copyrighted. It upsets me terribly to even think about fan fiction with my characters. I advise my readers to write your own original stories with your own characters.
It is absolutely essential that you respect my wishes."
(You can read more about what followed here: http://www.angelfire.com/rant/croatoan)
Now Diana Gabaldon, author of the bestselling Outlander series, is taking a similar line:
"OK, my position on fan-fic is pretty clear: I think it’s immoral, I _know_ it’s illegal, and it makes me want to barf whenever I’ve inadvertently encountered some of it involving my characters."
Gabaldon's post here: http://voyagesoftheartemis.blogspot.com/2010/05/fan-fiction-and-moral-conundrums.html
received over six hundred comments in a less than a week.
A more emollient post followed the next day http://voyagesoftheartemis.blogspot.com/2010/05/fan-fic-ii.html
and received over five hundred comments.
As you can see, this subject arouses strong feelings. But not all authors feel the same as Rice and Gabaldon. In 2004 a spokesperson for J K Rowlng's literary agent said she was
"flattered people wanted to write their own stories" based on her characters. (But this did not extend to allowing the publication in 2007 of a Harry Potter Lexicon by Steve Vander Ark. Joanne Rowling and Warner Brothers won a court case in 2008 prohibiting publication).
Stephenie Meyer seems so far pretty relaxed about Twilight fanfic, even providing links to it on her website. (Some people have cruelly compared her own style to that of fanfic writers)
The major place to find this type of writing is www.fanfiction.net I might be flattered to have 78 Stravaganza fanfics going on were it not that Harry Potter and Twilight ones run into hundreds of thousands of stories!
I did start to read them in the early days but found when I was writing the next novel in my own sequence that I was actually writing pastiche Mary Hoffman, influenced by what I read. So I don't read them any more. But I'm very happy for them to exist, as long as I get a credit and the writers make no money out of them.