This site will work and look better in a browser that supports web standards, but it is accessible to any browser or Internet device.

Whedonesque - a community weblog about Joss Whedon
"Very sweet she was, like clover and honey."
11973 members | you are not logged in | 30 September 2020


March 18 2006

Fan fiction is unworthy of you. Don't do it. Author Robin Hobb (Meghan Lindholm) crushes fan fiction and slash writers, but her rant "does not include professional authors writing...Buffy the Vampire Slayer stories." To read the essay, enter the attic and click on the madwoman's red shoe.

"Romances are invented, gender identities changed, fetishes indulged and endings are altered. It’s not fiction becomes personal masturbation fantasy in which the fan reader is interacting with the writer’s character. That isn’t healthy for anyone."

In contrast, Joss Whedon has openly encouraged his fans to "Write fan fic."

Edited: On behalf of Robin Hobb's camp, I have changed the link because "her intent in posting it on her site is for people to access it through the madwoman in the attic, to get the idea that it's a rant and purposely over the top. Anyone accessing the essay elsewhere or via a direct link is getting it out of context."

Some of the fan fiction I have read is vastly superior to any of the Official books I have purchased. This woman should get over herself. It's just her opinion...and you know what they say about those. :D
*eyeroll* is about all I hate to say about this.
I used to love pretending to be Catwoman or Wonder Woman as a child. I'd dress up in something ridiculous and make stories. It was ace!

Am I going to be sued for copyright now? I didn't mean to get continued enjoyment without the creator's permission!
Hm, honestly I think she secretly fears that some stories would be superior to her own. Personally I would be humbled if anyone would ever write fanfic of my stories( if I ever get them published that is.) As long as they don´t earn money and don´t try to claim they invented it, I see no harm.
"Fan fiction is like any other form of identity theft."


I was willing to give her a chance but I can't get past this line. It's too funny! That's like calling a pin prick mass murder.

I will say this though. I don't read much fanfic anymore because what I was looking for was stories that continued the world, and oftentimes writers take liberties with the characters and settings rather than try to build faithfully off what the original author had penned. So oftentimes I come away with the thought that if the writer wanted to tell THAT story, why didn't they just make up their own characters?

All fan fiction has a right to exist. Even the slash. Even the badly written stuff. Especially the crossovers, those are the best. However, very little fanfic can justify its existence if the only measuring stick given it is quality. Most of it just hurts to read, because I catch myself thinking I coulda done better.

The draw of fanfic is that it has a readymade audience. I have characters and story ideas and settings I've created myself, but who would want to read any of that? If you tell a Star Trek tale, there are potential readers already on the same page with you. They already know when you type "blah blah blah Kirk said" you don't have to spend several paragraphs summarizing Captain Kirk's life. People already know. They even already know he's a captain. ...or admiral, depending on the time your tale takes place.

But I find I object to "Mary Sue" fanfic, and a vast majority of fanfic involves the author literally stepping into the shoes of their favorite character and behaving as THEY would in that situation, not as Buffy or Angel would. I'm guilty of that myself. When I have in the past attempted fanfic, I find myself drawn to writing from the perspective of my favorite character. I lean towards Xander and observe things from his POV in a scene. Still I tried to be true to established canon and not throw into the mix that say, Dawnie's favorite color is purple because my favorite color is purple.

[[for the record, there is a diff between Mary Sue and putting oneself in the character's shoes. I mean, how can a writer understand the character without doing so? True Mary Sue fanfic involves creating a character who is essentially a narcissistic mirror image of the writer him/herself. I'm guilty of this one too. Wrote a Buffy fanfic called "The Consecrated One." Guess who THAT was? Thankfully it's never seen the light of day and never will. But oftentimes writers will put themselves into a character so much that the character ceases being the canonical character and becomes Mary Sue in drag.]]

Okay. Lemme try to read a little more of it. I'm honestly trying to give her the benefit of the doubt.

"...then karaoke is the path to become a singer, coloring books produce great artists, and all great chefs have a shelf of cake mixes. Fan fiction is a good way to avoid learning how to be a writer."

Oh well. So much for that. This woman needs to cut back on the drug usage.

For many aspiring authors, writing fanfic is an excellent exercise in examining plot and character and all the elements needed. One can opt to dissect that which came before to see how writing successful stories is done. It also allows writers to explore concepts and ideas that they can't get out of themselves in other "original" ways. Then, hopefully, they'll someday take off the training wheels and manage to write original work that does get noticed. Although, the odds of being heard in the maelstrom of today's literary industry, with corporate interests controlling mass publication, is very slim.

That's what makes the Internet so powerful, while simultaneously further diluting one's chance to find an audience. It's not as easy as Robin Hobb tries to make it. She just dismisses all of it. Fanfic has a powerful place in the furtherance of storytelling for mankind's future.

One could argue that the tv series Xena was fanfic honoring greek mythology. The fact that greek mythology has never been 'protected' by copyright shouldn't dismiss this travesty of justice.

[ edited by ZachsMind on 2006-03-18 19:25 ]
The writer seems to think all that fanfic consists of Mary Sue stories. Yeah, that's insulting.

The thing that tends to throw me out of the fanfics I've read (and any of the Official books that I've browsed as well) is that they don't catch the voice of the characters. It's always difficult to write someone else's characters, but it's probably especially difficult in the Buffyverse, where each character has a very distinctive voice. Can you read a line of dialog and know who said it? If so, you've got it. If not, get out get out GET OUT!!!
Fan fiction is a good way to avoid learning how to be a writer.

Ya know, by this woman's standards, all the Buffy and Angel staff writers are fanfic writers. They just used Joss's characters, Joss's settings, Joss's mythology. Bunch of hacks.
Okay, I know I'm going to be in the minority here, but based on all the fanfic that I've read, most of it is pure rubbish although I'll have to admit some of it actually rises to the level of mediocrity. Having said that, Robin Hobb is just bonkers! I think that fanfic is really just a way for us to share our story-inspired daydreams with others. It says much more about the writer than it does the world they've usurped. I think fanfic is (for the most part) a good thing. I hope that Ms. Lindholm will eventually change her mind about fanfic.

[ edited by JoAnnP38 on 2006-03-18 19:33 ]
"That’s not flattering. That’s insulting. Every fan fiction I’ve read to date, based on my world or any other writer’s world, had focused on changing the writer’s careful work to suit the foible of the fan writer. Romances are invented, gender identities changed, fetishes indulged and endings are altered. It’s not flattery. To me, it is the fan fiction writer saying, “Look, the original author really screwed up the story, so I’m going to fix it. Here is how it should have gone.” At the extreme low end of the spectrum, fan fiction becomes personal masturbation fantasy in which the fan reader is interacting with the writer’s character. That isn’t healthy for anyone."

Absolute rubbish. I admit i've read a number of Buffy and Angel fanfics where i've questioned if the writer actually knew anything about the characters they were using, simply because the developments in the story were so totally out of character is wasn't even funny, but i've read just as much very good fan fiction, some actually better than the published books, where it is very clear to me that the writers in question knew the characters they were using very well and stayed well within the realms of possibility that the series had established.

I've written a number of stories myself that, whilst hardly to the standard of Mutant Enemy, are absolutely true to what i have seen on the shows. No sudden romances between Willow and Giles, no having Jenny's death reversed, no making Buffy act any different to how she would have done on the show. I try my best to make the characters act and react exactly the way Joss would have done in my place.

The only form of fanfic i personally don't like is slash. Having Angel end up in bed with Spike or Buffy going down on Faith is not my idea of writing a good slayerverse story and i have no desire to read about that either. Buffy and Spike together, fine. Willow and Tara? Not a problem. If it had been stated that Xander had fallen in love with Clem i'd be all for that but writing characters whilst totally ignoring established facts such as sexuality holds no interest for me. Having said that, i'm not going to rant about how i wish others wouldn't write these stories. You want to? Go for it.

Much of what the author states in this article is technically true but when an author of fiction holds laws of copyright to such a technical level then i have to question whether or not she has forgotten about why it is so much fun to write in the first place and the real reasons why we are drawn to continue the stories of the fictional characters we fall in love with. Because creativity should never be stunted by laws or anything else. My writing a story to continue the events of Not Fade Away will never prevent Joss from doing the same and certainly will never get in the way of any financial or creative benefit Joss may gain from it.

Everybody has the right to write a story and everybody has the right to choose the content of that story. If a television show or movie has made such an impression on your life that you want to write something along those lines then you are entitled to do so. You are not entitled to make a profit from said story of course but then that isn't what fanfic has ever been about.
What a load of crap. She seriously needs to get over herself. I don't read fanfic and I don't write it. But for those people who like doing both, I say enjoy the hell out of it. Her analogies are off too. Fanfic is not like walking up to the Mona Lisa and drawing eyebrows or word balloons on it. It's like going home and painting your own version of the Mona Lisa with eyebrows and word balloons on it. And if it were ever framed and put in a museum, I doubt anyone would say: "Hey, I didn't know DaVinci did this other version of the Mona Lisa. It's not as good." Besides if you did your own version of the Mona Lisa with changed eyebrows and word balloons added, framed it, and hung it in a museum? It would be Dadaism.

Guess she's never heard of a spec TV script, huh?
Wow and the crazies just keep on coming. My eyes are hurting from her article. There will always be good fanfiction and not so good. Newbies that are just starting off obviously are not gonna be at the I've-been-writing-for-10years level but you always got to start somewhere. I've read some fanfiction that isn't in character at ALL but I've also read some stuff that Joss would deem worthy.

As for saying that fanfiction doesn't help writers actually become writers is horse dung! I personally think trying to write for another verse other then your own is a 10 times harder. If it is your own verse the readers are going along on the ride with you for the first time. There is no back history that you must follow or dialogue that must fit the right character. When you do fanfiction you need to stay in character, follow the foundation that has already been laid. Ensure that when you have a character speak or react that it is indeed TRUE to that character.

If/when I get published (trying to think positive here) and my verse was as popular for fanfiction as BtVS, Ats, ST:TNG...etc. I'd feel so honored. I wouldn't look at is THEY ARE RUINING MY VERSE but rather these fans love my characters so much that they can't get enough of them. Sure they may not always be how I would write it but WOO HOO they love me! THEY REALLY LOVE ME!!!
Having read that I now want to go out and write lots of fanfic. Do you think that makes me some kind of deviant?
JoAnnP38, yes, there is a lot of bad fan fiction out there, but there is also some really beautifully written fic, which I would call way above mediocre. Often they are by creative writing college students, who very may well be professional writers someday. (Not that that is the indicator of good writing of course... although it seems to be for Robin Hobb.) You just need to search for the good fan fic writers.

I am very picky about fan fiction. Again, not like it really matters, but I went to an arts high school for creative writing and now I am majoring in English with a concentration in creative writing in college. I won't just read "medicore" stories. It needs to be well written. Sometimes it is frustrating trying to find those gems of fan fic, but they are definitely out there. I seem to find them the best writers in the Remus/Sirius fandom from Harry Potter, but I may also just be more into that fandom so I find them more.

I have never read a published Buffy novel that I liked. No offense to people who like them, but of the ones I've read, the plotlines have been ridiculous and they are not at all true to the show and its characters. They use ridiculous words (also used in bad fan fic) to describe the characters (like "the red headed Wicca" instead of just saying Willow) and employ many other bad writing techniques.

I have better luck finding good fan fic than good published fan fic. Because that's all those Buffy novels are. Sorry, Robin.
She is just so incredibly wrong.

I am an avid fic reader, not a writer, so I think I can be objective when I say that not one of the official Buffy books can hold a candle to some of the great fan fiction I have read.

Yes there is some bad fiction written. Its easy to tell and you simply can stop reading it. Story lines I know I won't like are usually warned about before you even start reading and you don't even have to start.

As far as canon, hardly any of the official Buffy books have followed canon. They either go alternate universe or they try to be canon but almost all of them eventually get "Jossed".

Fan Fiction feeds me. Sure I would like more Buffy verse, but I am most likely not going to get it. The official books don't do it.Comic books are like a piece of candy when you are hungry for a meal. Not cutting it.

Fan fiction writers are doing a person like me a tremendous favor and I am very grateful.
Might also be worth pointing out that a sizeable majority of published fiction is crap. If you're going to judge all of fanfic based on Spike/Mulder slash or Mary Sue stories, then I get to condemn all of science fiction/fantasy because of John Norman's Gor series and Piers Anthony's soft child porn books.
To an extent, I agree with her, but I wouldn't be so vitriolic about it. I simply ignore it, and would never confuse it with the work of the actual writers. Most fanfic is junk. Most of it is stuff that makes me embarrassed for the writers. It is kind of like public masturbation.

Still, I don't see it as an insult to the creators of the characters and the premises of their stories. As long as nobody else tries to claim the fanfic as warranting monetary compensation, it's little more than a variation on the tradition of the telling of folktales by a campfire. People do it to entertain themselves and their friends close to them . If it inspires them to create and write for their own characters, then maybe it does serve the purpose of practice writing. If all they ever do is write for themselves and the few people who read it, and never progress beyond that, nobody is getting hurt - not even the originator of the stories that inspire fanfic. The originators still remain alive. Fanfic doesn't deprive them of food or shelter. Fanfic doesn't make them into bad parents, cause people to go on killing sprees, start wars, or invoke the wrath of God or nature.

The woman has lost perspective. Yes, her books are a result of a lot of painstaking planning and hard work, as are anyone's written works; but nobody is going to confuse fanfic with her own work.
I'm so with you Xane. I've read a lot of Buffy books, but none of them came even close to some of the fanfiction I've read; where the author painstakingly tried to re-create Joss's world and follow his rules of character and myth.

Yes, some fanfiction sucks. Some of it is indulgent, but who doesn't have the right to indulge in a fantasy once in a while?
It's not about changing the author's original work--it's about asking 'what if?'

And no one connects fanfic to the original author. Puh-lease.
nobody is going to confuse fanfic with her own work.

That's what I was going to say. I've never heard of anyone confusing fanfic with the real thing, or assuming events in fanfic are canonical.
I found this in Ms. Hobb's FAQ section:

I've created artwork based on your characters or world. Can I display it on my website?

So... creating artwork based on another person's world and situations is fine, but basing stories around said characters and situations is a form of identity theft? What? Reading through this, it seems the only difference between legitimate work and fan fiction to Ms. Hobb is a commission paycheck. Your generic Buffy book on the newstands is more legitimate than the 1000-page opus a fan spent two years on because the book has a publisher's label on the spine?

I've spent roughly two years writing teleplays for Buffy/Angel continuations (*cough*, and I can guarantee I've put as much thought into the stories -- from individual stories to season-enveloping arcs -- as Ms. Hobb has into any of her original fair. And her Buffy books? I doubt she's stayed up for 48 hours straight to catch a deadline.
What a bitch.

I'll write my Oz spin-off Full Moon Delight and my Firefly/Serenity continuation if I damn well please, thank you very much. I take writing these things as seriously as I do my own work...and yes, I also write my own original work.

Remind me to never read anything she ever writes. Ever.
Dark Shape, I'm not sure how you could possibly know that you put as much thought into your Buffy/Angel continuations as Robin Hobb puts into her original work. You are working with someone else's world and someone else's characters. If you don't realize just how much easier that makes the process of writing for you, then I'd suggest you find out by writing an original story.
I don't generally like fan fiction and I agree with the author that it's probably not the best way for someone to develop their writing skills, but everyone has the right to write fan fiction if they enjoy it.
i'm an aspiring writer- writing a novel now etc- and i can't WAIT for someone to write fanfic about my work! I think its funny, and flattering- and bassically all it means is that people really like your characters and want to spend more time with them. and the only people who ever read fan fic anyway, are people who've already read your work, so its not like its actually making people think it IS your work...

i don't know, i just don't get her opinion at all!

i can't wait for people to slash my characters:) i think its fun/funny.

and yeah- it doesn't teach you to be a good writer. but thats not really what its about anyway...
If you don't realize just how much easier that makes the process of writing for you, then I'd suggest you find out by writing an original story.

Erm, I have. I'm not much one for prose, but in terms of screenplays/teleplays, Buffy/Angel are my only ventures into fan-fiction. I know very well how much thought goes into an "original story."
The only really interesting part of her rant is the coloring book analogy. I've only written one TV spec script so far (it was for "The Simpsons" back in the early days, and we had a tenuous "in" with the show.) It was by far, the easiest fictional thing I've even written, since the characters were already created.

In retrospect, it wasn't that great and the Simpsons folk were no doubt right to reject it, but it did give me an insight into how it was possible for the sheer volume of TV material to be generated. It in no way lower's my estimation of the many fine TV writers who work on other people's shows (then I would be denigrating Joss, David Chase and David Milch -- they all spent many, many years writing other people's characters) It's just really was a relative breeze compared to writing an original spec screenplay and is probably a big part of what allows them to churn out the sheer volume of material that TV requires.
At first I thought Succatash made the title of this post little dramatic but realized that she actually wrote that. Sheesh. I'm not one for reading or writing fanfic so I don't have that much stake on it, but if any of you guys need to borrow my pitchfork you're welcome to it.
"If you don't realize just how much easier that makes the process of writing for you, then I'd suggest you find out by writing an original story."

Can't say I agree with that 100%. Like others have mentioned, taking an existing character and pulling if off believably is pretty damn hard. Many of the tie-ins stories associated with this verse can't even nail it and they're professional writers.

ETA: I guess I should clarify...It SEEMS like it's hard since whether it's fanfic, tie-in novels or even the show itself, we often see times where you want to say, "Huh, why did they just do that? That makes no sense."

I enjoy fanfic. True, a great load of it IS written by what can often appear to be illiterate folk with some whacky fantasies. However, some of the stories I've read have been done quite well. In my opinion, some of the best delve into things we never got to see - ex: post Glory, BEFORE they bring Buffy back, etc. and explore what might have happened emotionally with the rest of the gang.

Also true, it's hard to tell what you've gotten yourself into when you start to read a fanfic, there are some doozies out there. I also agree that sometimes the writers should have taken that extra step and made the characters original, when they've taken characters we know to places they would have never gone in a hundred years and for unexplained reasons. Does that mean people shouldn't write fanfic? Heck no!

"and yeah- it doesn't teach you to be a good writer. but thats not really what its about anyway..."
I completely agree with that. People do it for a ton of reasons, and that probably isn't one of them! :)

Good or bad writing aside, I think fanfic IS flattery and agree with Joss on that one. People want the 'verse to continue and so it does.

[ edited by Grace on 2006-03-18 22:02 ]
I think I may be in the minority here, but I can see her point. She's saying that she doesn't appreciate when people take her world and charecters and play around with them. While she uses examples of Buffy/Harry Potter/Marion Simmer Bradley, she's really just expressing her own opinion that she doesn't appreciate it when other people do it to her work. She created it, she can have that opinion. She's also not actually going out and suing every fan fic writer for coyright infringement, she's simply pointing out that *technically, legally* people don't have a right to write fan fiction and publish it on the web. Because putting it online is a form of publication, and she didn't give permisson for that.

I personally don't read fan fiction, or even the published novels, of my favorite 'verses. From my brief forray into the world of fan fic, I learned that I prefer cannon. That's my preference. So I can't speak to the quality of fan fic out there, but trying to say that writing fan fic will help you be a better writer is partially true at best. It's better to read works that you enjoy, dissect them for what you think is good/bad, well/poorly done, and find out what exactly makes them good. You can practice writing a scene with established charecters using fan fic to test the waters, I suppose, but saying it's going to help you learn to structure your own stories is silly. You don't need to learn how to seamlessly add essential details about what makes that charecter tick, because your readers already know the charecter. That work is done for you, and you're learning nothing by not doing it yourself.

This is not to say people shouldn't write fan fic. If it's something you enjoy doing, then do it. And if you know the author /creator encourages - or just doesn't care if people write - fan fiction, then put it out on the web and share it with others who enjoy reading fan fic. But it seems this author has made it clear that she doesn't appreciate it. I just wouldn't call writing fan-fic a right; the law pretty clearly states that it isn't.

She's stated right in the beginning, this was supposed to be a place where she can direct people who disagree with her view of fan fic to see her arguments against it. What she says is her opinion. I think she's defended it well, and now people know what she thinks and why. I can respect that.
Robin Hobb (or Megan Lindholm) wrote Wizard of the Pigeons so I'll forgive her anything.

That said, while a fanfic avoider myself, I have a couple of points to add. When she permits artwork based on her writing to appear on websites she is expressly permitting actions that might otherwise be in violation of copyright. But by doing so, she's exercising her right to control her own copyright, in this case in favour of the public (which is nice of her). Most fanfic writers don't allow creators to exercise that right - they go and do it anyway without permission, which isn't a good thing.

The second point I'd like to make is that a certain Mr Whedon (never heard of him? Check the URL!) is on the record as advocating fan fic "I obviously can't read [fan fiction], but the fact is there seems to be a great deal of it, and that's terrific. " , because he realises that it builds audiences, communities and fills a creative need in some people. He's one of the good guys. But again, if that's how he wishes to exercise his copyrights, then YAY!, yet it's also a good thing to respect people who choose to exercise their copyright differently. They did the hard yards already, and if they don't want you coasting in their wake, then it's rude to the person who inspired you with their work in the first place to ignore that.

Finally, the reason I'm anti-fan fiction is that all the time taken to write it is depriving the world of time spent on more original stuff. Media tie-ins take up too much space in bookstores as it is, and they're pretty dire quality most of the time. Dammit - write your own stuff! It could make you rich, and it'll give me some else to read or watch or listen to or have my brain twisted by! I want to be hanging out in :-)

Blah blah blah. I do go on, don't I?
What a bitch.

UnpluggedCrazy: I don't want tp see language like that used here. Play the ball, not the person. We do not bash the writers of articles here.
"I think I may be in the minority here, but I can see her point. She's saying that she doesn't appreciate when people take her world and charecters and play around with them. While she uses examples of Buffy/Harry Potter/Marion Simmer Bradley, she's really just expressing her own opinion that she doesn't appreciate it when other people do it to her work. She created it, she can have that opinion. She's also not actually going out and suing every fan fic writer for coyright infringement, she's simply pointing out that *technically, legally* people don't have a right to write fan fiction and publish it on the web. Because putting it online is a form of publication, and she didn't give permisson for that."

I do also see her point, even if I tend to lean the other way. There's the legality of it and there's reality. In the defense of fanfic writers pretty much everywhere, almost every fic I've ever seen makes great effort to point out that they did not invent said characters, they're just playing. It doesn't make it anymore legal I suppose and yes, it's without permission, but I think the fan fic writers are showing their respect by making it that obvious they're just playing with a given set of existing characters. Should they go get original? Probably, but they're writing fanfic to continue this verse, not create a new one.

I was just talking to someone today about office sports "pools." This particular convo was about March Madness. Apparently there has been some talk this week about how much time and effort gets spent AT work filling out the brackets and wagering. That technically it's illegal. However, how can one crack down on it and is it worth it to do so? I think that unless a company specifically prohibits the wagering because of the cost to the company in lost man hours it's a lost cause. There is no global answer. I think this is similar. It may be wrong, but as long as the internet is out there, it's going to continue and unless someone is blatantly profiting from someone else's characters, all one can do is state their opinion on it, which is exactly what RH has done.

"Anyone who read fan fiction about Harry Potter, for instance, would have an entirely different idea of what those stories are about than if he had simply read J.K. Rowling’s books. In this way, the reader’s impression of the writer’s work and creativity is changed."
I agree with everything RH said about copyright, etc. but this one part I disagree on. I know the difference between fanfic and the "real thing." One doesn't affect my opinion of the other.

[ edited by Grace on 2006-03-18 22:23 ]
There are some professional published writers who write Spuffy and Spike fan fic--but not professionally.

To be honest, quite a bit of the fan fic I read totally beats any of the BTVS books they sell. Of course, I only read highly recommended fan fic and I haven't read any bad.
Read her complains some time ago. I see fanfiction as a form of feedback.
Sorry Simon, that's how I feel.

I didn't mean to offend you or anyone else that runs the site, but that was my genuine reaction to reading her insane rant.

[ edited by UnpluggedCrazy on 2006-03-18 22:38 ]
I write fanfic, I also write original work. I run websites - fic archives, fic awards sites and others. In my position I'm aware of the copyright issues involved with the use of a universe someone else has created for their own ends in the form of fanfiction or fanart - which The Dark Shape has already pointed out this woman has no problem with.

Part of me can understand where she is coming from, I can sort of see her point.

And then my inner beta-reader kicked in when I saw this:

You certainly have a free speech write to post your own fiction on the Internet or anywhere else, and I heartily encourage you to do so.

A free speech write

The woman is ranting about how fanfic writers aren't proper writers (such as she considers herself to be) and she makes a basic mistake like that.

*shakes head sadly*

Ms. Lindholm? Your point, such as it was, was lost in bad grammar.

[ edited by Mara on 2006-03-18 22:43 ]
IIRC, Robin Hobb's main personal experience of fanfic is of a number of people strongly disliking the way she ended her "Farseer" trilogy and cooking up their own versions, which I suspect has coloured her view on the subject.
Several points. There was no such thing as copyright law until 1710, when in England the Statute of Anne became law. It had everything to do with the rise of the printing press and, literally, "copying"--because before that, copying had to be done by hand and hardly anyone could write, anyway. There wasn't a profit motive, and that wasn't what writing was about. When Shakespeare was writing his "original" plays, he swiped plots, characters, concepts, and this was fine. There wasn't the same concept of "originality." Broadsheets regularly bawdlerized and simplified the "classics" and republished them for public consumption, and for ages, popular drama and tales involved the reinvention and recirculation of stock characters. In medieval romance, for example, the patron would ask an author "give me a lancelot and guenivere story that illustrates the principles of loyalty and chivalry." The writer would write one;what would be his (or hers) would be the style of telling. Our ideas of "creative originality" didn't really emerge until the 18th century--most people date them to the rise of Romanticism.

The first "fan fiction" was inspired either by Sherlock Holmes or Jane Austen around the turn of the last century.

Now--about fan fiction and current copyright law. It hasn't been tested in court yet. Contrary to what this author is claiming, copyright infringement has everything to do with the market. You have to be able to prove damages--and although not publishing for profit does not necessarily clear you, it does make it more difficult to prove damages. A writer would have to prove that fan fiction fills a market niche that would otherwise be filled with the copyright material. A Buffy tie-in writer might claim this, but really, what fanfic writer wouldn't go out and watch a new episode if one came around? Fan fiction might lose, but it isn't cut and dried. It would lose for sure if it were being sold or presented as original.

Interestingly, parody and satire is completely protected by fair use. So, poke a little fun in your fics. It's good for everyone, and snark is *so* true to character. As for my own 2 cents, I would like to suggest that fan fiction represents an interestingly "pure" scene of writing--international communities form for the sole purpose of writing, discussing writing, critiquing writing, and discussing the work of others. If these writers were only writing criticism--even if completely wrong-headed criticism that misread all the works--it would all be protected.

In closing, any published writer who thinks he or she could possibly retain "absolute control" over published works has no understanding of what "reading" means. Everyone changes and interprets what they read or watch. Obviously. The better it is, the more open to interpretation it is. If you want absolute control, don't ever show your stuff to anyone. I would even say, if you want absolute control, don't write at all, because I don't think that's how language works.
After reading the first comments, I decided to not read the article itself. It would probably be a waste of my time.

Some people just don't get it?
Except, you know, karaoke is good practice, many artists start out using coloring books, and chefs don't necessarily bake.

Nobody's saying that fanfic should replace source material, but how is wrting something rather than nothing not a good thing? I know three published authors who have all written fanfic, before and after publishing. Does that make them bad writers? No. In my opinion, their fanfic was as well done as anything they wrote professionally, and their professional work is as good as, if not better than anything out there.

Then there's the whole "what if I don't want to be a professional singer, artist, chef or writer? What if I just want to have fun?" Then what's the harm? Karaoke is only going to harm your voice if you're not careful, coloring books will only hurt you if you get a paper cut, cake mixes have transfats and high-fructose corn syrup, but still taste good. Fanfic? It's amusing and fun, and the only danger is to your high blood pressure when you read rants like this one.

Then you have the old argument about William Shakespeare, John Gardner (Grendel), & Gregory Maguire (Wicked)... co-opting other works is respected in some circles. Is Andy Warhol less an artist for painting soup cans? Does the fact that Henri Matisse used cut paper mean that no other "serious" artist is allowed to without someone calling them a rip-off?

There is poorly written stuff everywhere, published, authorized, scripted, fanfic. The trick, if you want to read it, is learning to sift through the dross. If you think you can write better published, authorized, scripted or fanfic works? Do it. Don't lambast people who try. If it makes you feel better about reading fanfic, consider it all AU, which it technically is.

Obligatory disclaimer: I write mostly fanfic, but I do write original fiction as well. And I sing, cook and make art, in addition to being around artists, chefs, musicians and writers all my life.
Don't notice my screen name, don't notice my screen name.

I think she has a point - the "masturbation" comment is why I avoid fanfic and slash/fic alike. I masturbate enough without fanfic help. Wait! Er... uh, I mean... oh, well.

She also encourages us to learn to write our own stories instead of ripping off others', which I think is admirable and something that needed to be said.

As a fan of hers, I can appriciate her careful construction of characters like The Fool. I would hate to see that painstakingly (and quite wonderfully) created character ruined in some fanfic who's only goal is to "answer" questions the author purposly left unanswered. So that's why I don't read it.
Y'know, each time I read an author's diatribe on fanfiction, I cringe. When I was a kid I cut my eye teeth on original fiction *and* fan fiction. I knew I wanted to be a full-time writer someday, and I wrote fanfiction as well as my own stuff. I used fanfiction to explore the human condition and to explore the different ways (ready-made) characters could respond to difficult situations. So what happened? Well, now I write adaptions and I write my own original pieces. Plus, I get paid for it. Sometimes I write fanfiction under another name, too.

Sure, writers have the right to protect their own work, and if they're uncomfortable with junior writers or amateurs using their material they should say so and amateurs should respect those wishes. On the other hand, those writers really have no right to tell others that their way is "the only way" to write. That's not possible - we're all individuals. We all write differently. And if someone writes well and gets paid for it, who are we to tell them that their way isn't working? 'Sides, some of those tv tie-in writers were fans first.
Uh, Mara, it's called a typo. Bad grammar is something else entirely.

I think the article is a rational discourse upon why Robin Hobb objects to people writing fan fiction of *her* work. I think many of the points are perfectly valid. While people may feel that someone else's world is a legitimate playground for their narrative skills, it isn't necessarily rational to DEMAND the person who created that world to feel the same way--and be "flattered," yet.

A lot of posters are taking an extremely narcissistic view of this. The fact that you would be flattered if someone else wrote fan fiction of your work does not mean that every author must feel flattered. The author is expressing how she feels about fan fiction of HER work, and of fan fiction in general, and both are her own, individual, valid opinions. Which means that you are free to disagree, but calling her a bitch? Is kind of losing it.
I think she has a point - the "masturbation" comment is why I avoid fanfic and slash/fic alike. I masturbate enough without fanfic help. Wait! Er... uh, I mean... oh, well.


It's true that some fanfic is masturbatory (hey look, I made up a word...I think) but some is spectacular in telling a story, and should be credited with its due. That is where the problem lies tho, net publishing really has very little credence to it.

For example, I read a few years ago, a fanmade prequel to Gladiator, that was so much better than the original story. I encouraged the writer to contact the studios to see if there was any interest, as it was so freaking fantastic. She unfortunately recieved a cease and desist letter. I'd never encourage her to do that now, I know a little better. Mercifully she never did cease, and I got the end of that story and some new ones. I don't read a lot of fanfic, I like to be referred to it by others, but some of it I have enjoyed immensly.

Anyways...what's a little wank between friends?
what's a little wank between friends?

A sticky situation?

In terms of fanfic, I'd argue that if the creator of a piece of art requests that no one writes fanfic based on their work then it is good manners to follow their wishes.

It may be that fanfic is a great tribute to a work of art or it may be that it is an imposition on the intellectual property of the artist. Of course not everyone needs to agree on the answer, but it seems narrow-minded not to acknowledge that it is a reasonable question.
Anyone who read fan fiction about Harry Potter, for instance, would have an entirely different idea of what those stories are about than if he had simply read J.K. Rowling’s books. In this way, the reader’s impression of the writer’s work and creativity is changed.

So, here's my problem with this. People who read fan fiction based on, let's run with the example the writer has used here, J.K. Rowling's work are (more often than not) people who are already familiar with the Harry Potter Universe. The same (usually) goes for people who write fan fiction based in that universe. No one's idea of how the Potterverse actually is is being changed by the reading of the fan fic, because these are people who are at least vaguely familiar to the 'verse by way of either the books or the movies. So for her to assume that some newbie is going read them and start believing that that is what the writer's world is truly She obviously doesn't know how the fan fic world works.

Besides, ff writers put up disclaimers for a reason, they are stating that what they are writing has nothing to do with the established canon of the universe in which the stories are based, that is, this is their own imagination running rampant, not actual canon.

I'm thinking that I didn't make any sense.
This subject has always interested me, and I have to wonder what some of the published Buffy tie-in writers think about this. I'm pretty sure some of them were writing fanfic before their work got picked up. I mean, I'm a writer by trade, just not in fiction. I've dabbled in fanfic. Some of it (my work that is) just plain sucked. Others, I was kinda proud of. I would imagine that she doesn't have a problem with the fanfic that sits in people's diaries. It's the stuff that's "self-published" on the Web. That's where the copyright issue comes, I think.

She, of course, has the right to exercise control over her creations. I often think, however, that stifling fan-based activity is short-sighted. (I'm remembering all the -- was it XFiles, Star Trek? -- fan sites that were closed down in the early days of the Web. It was done in the name of copyright, but I think it was shortsighted.)

I think part of the issue here is the slippery-ness of the Web.Is it published if it's on the Web? It's not the same as something that sits in your diary at home, but it's also not the same as something that gets printed at the publisher. It's even less than a vanity press might be.

So where's the line?
I'm a huge fan of Robin Hobb's, but I think she's wrong in this case.

I think one thing to keep in mind is that many of the great works of literature were re-tellings or expansions of older stories. Some of the people who frequently did stuff like this were... oh I don't know... Shakespeare and Goethe. I wonder where they'd be with today's copyright laws.

I freely admit that most fan fiction isn't very good, but some is and fan fiction does motivate people to start writing when they otherwise wouldn't.
I think part of the issue here is the slippery-ness of the Web.Is it published if it's on the Web? It's not the same as something that sits in your diary at home, but it's also not the same as something that gets printed at the publisher.

Internet copyright has been a hot topic recently - as the controversy of Google having searchable public domain books is showing.

There was a whole huh-bub over electronic rights when e-books and downloadable texts started becominng easily accesible. Those rights had never been negotiated in contracts, and both book publishers and authors were asserting the rights to make money off of the new form. Now, electronics rights are part of the standard book deal, along with movie rights, and reprinting rights.

And Ilana, right/write is not a typo. It's using the wrong version of a word, which is a grammatical error. Typing "hyr" instead of "her" or "the the" instead of "the" is a typo. (And I have a friend who still insists that "teh" is a typo, no matter how intentionally I spelled it) /nitpicky-ness

As for historical examples of Shakspeare and others taking popular charecters/myths from history and writing stories about them - even modern copyright law allows for that. It's why copyright expires after 75 (I think!) years. The copyrighted material then becomes public domain and anyone can use it. You think Lexus pays the estate of of Mozart if they use a piece of one of his symphony's in their commercial? Nope. Because it's considered public domain.

[ edited by Arielle on 2006-03-19 01:55 ]

[ edited by Arielle on 2006-03-19 01:57 ]
Her other examples have been torn apart, but while we're on the subject of porn:

"I have a free speech right to put my fan fiction on the Internet."

Do I have a free speech right to write pornography and post it under your name?

Exactly Emma Frost. It's not like someone just referred to Buffy would type "buffy" into google and get fanfic pages that look deceptively like canon material. I tried it with buffy and "Harry Potter" and saw nothing that could fool a newbie. You pretty much have to seek fan fiction out to find it, and even then it's clearly marked.

If I published "A Magical Night: When a Vampire and a Carpenter Meet" and said that I was Joss, then there would a problem. But I think in this extreme case, even new fans would know that Joss wouldn't write a story about Spike and Jesus getting together. Of all the fanfic I've seen, there hasn't been one that tried to pass itself off as being from a canon writer.

It's the stuff that's "self-published" on the Web. That's where the copyright issue comes, I think.

I think you're right, but as was mentioned previously, copyright law was not designed to protect authors from internet fanfic writers, so using it as an example of why those who do it are wrong is a bit of a cop-out argument on her part.

My advice to a person like this would be: "Dude, chill out". Now if you'll excuse me, the Savior and the vampire with a soul have some lovin' to do!
And may I just add that no one should ever learn to write by writing fanfic. Neither should there be spec scripts for aspiring televsion writers or -- and I can't stress this enough -- the drawing of existing characters by comic book artists. Can you imagine how the guy who draws Spider Man would feel if someone ELSE drew him too?

Uh, I'm in the wrong thread, aren't I?

joss | March 19, 01:34 CET

From Joss in this thread. Re-posting here, so I can respond, not that I have even a candle of legitimacy to hold up to Joss, but here goes:

Collaborative writing like TV and comics may be a slightly different experience than writing novels. Someone who's done both would of course have a better idea than I, who have done neither. But from listening to people who have done both, I can see where a novelist feels a lot more ownership in their charecters than someone who has always collaborated with another artist - either other writers and actors when creating TV and movies, or pencilers and colorists when creating comics.

I'm not saying either opinion is more correct than the other. And Robin Hobb may be doing a disservice to her world when she dismisses fan fiction, but if she's never had to share how she sees her charecters and her worlds before, then at least I can understand how she has come to the opinion she has had.

Of course, this feeling isn't limited to novelists. Hasn't the illustrious Alan Moore removed his name from all movies made of his original stories, (correct me if I'm mistaken here) because he doesn't agree with the direction the directors and screen adaptors and actors took his work? Isn't that similar (of course not exactly the same) to what this author is saying about fan fiction? That she'd rather not have these charecters/this world used this way, and since it's her work, her name is inherantly associated with it?
I've enjoyed this thread and learned some things from it.

I particurlarly like the point someone made about fanfiction not being akin to drawing on the Mona Lisa, as Hobb said, but of making your own drawing of it.

I don't think I'd be as devoted to Buffy and Angel if it weren't for fanfic and the sense of community it engendered. Following a superb writer I found led me to Live Journal and eventually here.

I do some fanficing myself and what strikes me about the Jossverse is that almost every character that comes on the screen has a story that can be told. I've done drabbles about Rusty the security guard who was almost frozen and the girl Percy took to the party where Willow found a dead guy. I'm sure a whole story could be written about Merle, a demon at the wrong place at the wrong time. I mean, the well at Jossverse is very deep.
Except, you know, karaoke is good practice, many artists start out using coloring books, and chefs don't necessarily bake.

Yes, this is the problem with Ms. Lindholm's arguments for me. People do practice a craft, or even a hobby, by copying examples they like in that field. Go to any art museum, and you'll see art students everywhere with easels or sketch pads drawing copies of the paintings on the wall. It is a good way to learn, so this argument does not hold up, as far as I'm concerned.

Also, Ms. Lindholm mentions that "we don't draw eyebrows on the Mona Lisa," but people do use the Mona Lisa in all sorts of ways: as satire, advertising, drawing practice, etc. Another argument that doesn't hold up.

I also agree with several people on this thread that it is easy to tell the difference between fanfic and something written by the original author/canon, and there is just no way to mistake slash for canon. I absolutely do not change my opinion of the original based on what I thought of the fanfic. I do have to agree most of the fanfic I've seen is not real great, but some is good; for example, I know that there was a writer of a few episodes of Xena who had started as a fanfic author. So, again, easy to tell apart, good training -- Ms. Lindholm's arguments do not hold up.

I can agree that Ms. Lindholm has every right to ask her fans not to write fan fiction based on her writing, because it is her personal preference that they don't. I don't think she has a write right ;-) to present herself as THE authority for all writers, or to address all fans of all writers.
"And Ilana, right/write is not a typo. It's using the wrong version of a word, which is a grammatical error."

I'm sure Robin Hobb knows perfectly well which the correct version is, but I suppose only someone who actually read her books would be sure of this.
To take a somewhat entirely different tack on this, I don't read fanfic, ever, and I blame Splinter of the Mind's Eye.

SotME is a Star Wars continuation novel, written by Alan Dean Foster. I love Foster's writing. Some of it's junk, but for a prolific career as he had, it was pretty fun stuff to encounter in my middle school years.

But Foster's SotME couldn't possibly envision where Lucas was going with his stories. Reading it after I'd seen ESB left me thinking, "Wow, that was a dumb story that didn't have any of the nuance of the real Star Wars universe." Mind you, I'm not a huge Star Wars fan--never read any of the novels, etc.--just a guy who watched the movies. (And, of course, someone who wishes Lucas wouldn't've jumped the shark with the Ewoks, but most of my favorite authors do that at some point...)

That experience pretty much convinced me that in general no one but the original author had any business writing a story set in another author's world. More specifically, no one has any business sharing a story they wrote using another author's world.

Thieves' World was cool BECAUSE it was written by a ton of different, good people. But the world was intentionally anarchic, so that the loose connections and continuity wouldn't be that big a deal. TW is a lot like many TV shows--the world is set, but each author gets to go off in whatever direction (within reason) he or she wants.

Currently, I'm reading George R.R. Martin's A Feast For Crows. It's got all sorts of room for backstory, because it's such a complex world and he tells so little of what actually happens. But I wouldn't touch any fan fic in that world, because I respect the author's integrated sense of a world.

Maybe there's a bit of my Role Playing heritage coming in here, but I have never attempted to recreate the characters and settings I admired--It would be so much more fun to make up my own world that captured the themes and ideas I loved out of other authors' works.
The point is not that people have an inability to differentiate between fanfic and the real thing, but rather that all non-canon works may have the potential to impinge upon the creative purity of the initial work. Thus Joss won't see any of the Harry Potter films until he has read the seventh book because he does not want his relationship with the books to be influenced by anything other than the books. This is surely a reasonable position to take.

This might suggest that those who prefer to avoid fanfic should simply do so and in many cases that's fair enough. Except, if an artist prefers that fans should not write fiction based upon their works then that should be their choice to make. If he or she believes that fan fiction dilutes or undermines their work then they should have the right to choose whether others write it. Right?
If I published "A Magical Night: When a Vampire and a Carpenter Meet"

*snort* I thought you were referring to Charisma Carpenter but the Jesus thing would be really funny too.

You have all stated my exact thoughts quite succinctly. Now please edit them to be completely different opinions. They were mine originally and I don't appreciate you publishing them in this forum.
Ho-Hum. What a tired old debate. While I'm sure she's a fine author? I simply don't have to care what she thinks. And guess what? I don't.
I once heard a saying that proclaimed that "90% of everything is junk" (though it wasn't "junk" when I heard it). Fanfic is no different. The vast majority of it is self serving nonsense, with 10% brilliance that will one day show it's full strength in their own works. Of course, this goes for professional work as well. 90% of professionally made mainstream is garbage as well, with the 10% being the part Joss inhabits (and is King, or at the very least an eccentric Duke who marries trees).

The only real difference is that there is so much fanfic that finding the gems means wading through a great deal more poo. Some may never hit those gems and only ever see the rubbish it's nestled in. It's unfortunate. Of course, you ever suffer though someone explaining her 12 part epic about Picard's secret love-child who is a new and fabulous Starship Captain who becomes the great love of Riker's life before they time travel to save the life of Kirk, and Riker and Kirk have to fight over her... you might have the will to wade stripped from you.
I don't read fanfic for any of Joss' stuff, but I have been reading Star Wars fanfic for almost a decade now. Yes, 90% of it sucks, but the good ones are worth it. And honestly if not for fanfic, I probably wouldn't have stuck with SW for as long as I have, nor have spent quite as much cash on the franchise as I have. :D

In the case of books, I do generally believe one should respect the wishes of the author. And most them just say 'no fanfic, please' and leave it at that. I've been semi-active in two such fandoms and in both cases the fans were very good about respecting the wishes of the authors.

I've read Robin Hobb's books in the past and quite enjoyed them... However, thanks to this ill-conceived rant I haven't bought her latest work, nor do I plan to. If that's how she considers her readers, I'll pass.

For another perspective, author Karen Traviss (who writes Star Wars tie-ins, among other things) has written several times on the positive aspects of fanfic.
Apart from everything that was mentioned, what struck me as odd, what that miss Hobb in her rant seems to assume that fanfic is only created by people who want to change something in a story. I don't think that's true, even though I haven't written any fanfic and I don't read any either

Well, apart from fanfic in a weird cross-over event we like to call 'Survivor' over on the dutch sci-fi and fantasy newsgroup I read and post, where two women host a 'survivor' once every two years in which characters from our favorite on-topic tv-shows are placed on an island (or something similar). They write (often hilarious) daily reports of what happened, 'newspaper' and 'tabloid' articles about what's going on on the island and 'interviews' with the people that get voted off. There's bunches of websites and campains for the various characters/contestents done by the posters in the group (last edition, I hosted a campaign for our very own Fred and the edition before that I did the same thing for Giles. Yep.). Then, like in the actual survivor, we vote one character of the island each round untill we have one winner left. Now, obviously, that's not your standard fanfic (although the girls who do this are amazing writers who should consider writing professionally), but still. People have been known to take a day off from work to meet a voting deadline (because there's a whole lot a strategic voting going on which means it's better to vote closer to the deadline - no really, I'm not making this up), so it's very addictive and obviously has some quality and brings something new and fresh. 'Thankfully' it's only once every two years during summer (which, of course, makes it more special).

Uhm, wow, I've totally gone off on a tangent which is possibly highly confusing and not very relevant. Heh. Sorry guys.

Anyway, getting back to my point: sometimes (I'd actually say, quite often), fanfic is just a way to get to be with the characters you've grown to love. And the only way to do that is respect that canon that's readily available and build your way from there. Changing what you didn't like, or making the characters do things they normally wouldn't is certainly a part of fanfic. But it's not all the fic that's out there.
They write (often hilarious) daily reports of what happened, 'newspaper' and 'tabloid' articles about what's going on on the island and 'interviews' with the people that get voted off.

GVH, that *rocks*! It's like the thread where we've been debating Buffy versus Batman (which is also a form of fanfic, now that I think about it!), but taken to the next step. Awesome! :-)
someone mentioned collaborating- and how writing comics or tv would make you more open to someone using your characters for fanfiction than being a novelist... but I feel that writing fanfiction is entirely different then say publishing a book using someones characters. I said before, i would love if some day people were writing fanfiction of my characters- however, i would feel very upset if someone published a book using my characters! (copyright issues aside-lets pretend that doesn't exist for a second).
fanfic, feels like playing to me- they're playing with my characters, fantasizing, whatever.
writing a real book and getting it published, then they're hurting my characters- because then they're trying to say its cannon. whereas in comic books, other people will publish books with your characters all the time and make it cannon...
and that is why i will never be a comic book writer! i couldn't take other people doing strange things to my creations in an official manner.
Kate, please capitalise your posts where appropriate, thanks.
Ah, fan fic. I've read a lot, I've written a few, and I agree with RH that crap abounds. And then there's the stories of great nuance, creativity and power out there that do honor to the 'verses that inspired them, and -- as others have already said -- even put some officially canonized efforts to shame. (Good luck finding them, though, as I learned early on. After trawling through reams of garbage, I unearthed my first gem; a recommendation from someone whose taste you trust can be the golden shovel that makes the job easier.)

Interestingly, it wasn't the bad fic that motivated me to try my hand, but the good. I knew I could do better than the worst I came across, but the good fic was inspirational because it was less daunting than anything written by a professional, but well done nonetheless. And having been accomplished by a peer -- a fan like myself -- meant that emulating their level of skill was a reach-for-able (if not necessarily attainable) goal. Plus, I made some awesome friends and contacts through correspondance dealing with fan fic that, if nothing else, would have made the involvement worthwhile.

Collaborating with other writers was extremely helpful to me in a professional capacity, as was beta'ing and being beta'ed. Learning to be clear and effective is vital when you're discussing the minutae of an established 'verse with people who a) live thousands of miles away and b) speak English as a second language. (And don't we all practice that skill here everyday?) Now I write and edit as part of my work, and I'm considering how freelancing outside of that could develop into something even more original.

To be fair, I can understand (or try to) the position of being an published author who, for whatever reason, is uncomfortable with the perception that others are "changing" her world/characters through their own personal interpretations. Even if I disagree with the perception that anything is actually being changed, she's certainly within her rights to request/demand that her readers not use her creations in any sort of adaptive or subsidiary manner. But to my mind, by doing so she's also attempting to circumscribe the degree to which her readers may feel able to "fall in love" with her creations, which actually hurts her more in the long run.

Joss has never told us how we should feel about what he's made, because I think he understands what loving someone else's creations is like, and how limits can't be placed on emotions stemming from private experiences of art. For all we know, there's fan fics on the web (even bad ones!) that've changed the course of someone's life for the better. Maybe a RH book has the power to do the same? Unfortunately I'll probably never feel compelled to find out, because just reading this article has made me feel as though there are rules to enjoying what she's created that I must, as a reader, be willing to accept. And I don't wanna.
I was just about to repeat what "fr0g" wrote above: much of supposedly classic "great literature" is derivative of previous writing. What Ms. Hobb may forget is that training in all creative endeavors— from painting, sculpture and even writing— starts with the imitation of style and substance of other artists' work. Her rant begins with an admission that she's not rational in her feelings on fan fiction; I'd suggest that her concern is more a matter of loss of control, and thus rights, to ideas and characters she has created. There's a legitimate worry, if someone goes on to attempt to publish and profit from someone else's efforts. But, AFAIK, fanfiction is written for the sheer pleasure of writing, and without claim or interest to sell. Go after those who publish stolen or plagiarized fiction (*cough* Dan Brown)-- but leave the poor fanfic writers to their self-education in storycraft.
Except, if an artist prefers that fans should not write fiction based upon their works then that should be their choice to make. If he or she believes that fan fiction dilutes or undermines their work then they should have the right to choose whether others write it. Right?

I think that's an interesting point, and not just on a theoretical level. There have been writers who have actively gone against writers dabbling in their universes; Anne Rice, not a paragon of stability, and her lawyers sent out cease and desist letters to stamp out all fanfic on the 'net about her vampire books. It caused a pretty big ruckus years ago and alienated a lot of her more hardcore fans, but she didn't care. I don't know whether that was within her legal rights, strictly, but just the threat of a lawsuit is enough to shut down websites, achives, etc.

I think the problem I have with Hobb's and Rice's position of authorial supremacy is that that sort of delicacy of feeling is sort of... irrational. Once a creator puts something into the world, in a very meaningful way it ceases to be his or hers entirely. I bet even more writers hate bad book reviews than fanfic, and yet they can't convincingly argue that newspapers and magazines don't have the legal right to print unflattering and subjective opinions to their work, though they might want to. Creators can't control how their readers interpret their work (here, I'm giving a small thought to Marx, an academic, who thought he was writing a treatise about the economic destiny of civilization -- you don't think if he could have he wouldn't have leaned out the window at the Bolsheviks and told them he didn't mean it). They can't control the physical body of their work once it's bought; I bet seeing the book you slaved over on the 25 cent table at the library sale stings. To have the sort of absolute authority over a created universe and characters that these writers desire is akin to me as them trying to get to pull some of their more negative reviews: understandable on a basic human level, but ultimately irrational in the real world.

I think the choice of whether or not to "pollute" the creator's vision (with fanfic or silver screen adaptation) lies with the consumer. Joss can happily and easily avoid the HP movies; many people in this thread have commented that they don't read Buffyverse fanfic. I myself am an avid slash reader but I don't enjoy Buffyverse fic myself -- I so vastly prefer the canon. And it's my choice to avoid the new V for Vendetta movie because the original graphic novel is my favorite Moore work ever and the reviews have not been promising.

[ edited by dottikin on 2006-03-19 16:54 ]
I want to start by saying that I am not a fan of fan-fic. I don't have any issues with it, but I just haven't been interested in reading it.

What Robin Hobb (Meghan Lindholm) doesn't understand is that fan fic, fan art and fan vids tend to bring an added level of energy to a given fandom. Instead of fans talking about an author only when a new book comes out or an author makes an appearance, they have something they can discuss more often.

I also question why she allows fan art but not fan fic? Both are derivative works.

This article leaves me wondering whether I will purchase any more Robin Hobb novels.
Anyone who read fan fiction about Harry Potter, for instance, would have an entirely different idea of what those stories are about than if he had simply read J.K. Rowling’s books. In this way, the reader’s impression of the writer’s work and creativity is changed.

I'd actually have to agree with her on this, at least when it comes to the Harry Potter fandom. I can't even count the number of people who think Draco Malfoy is sexy and/or a good person, but just misunderstood (think Spike or VMars's Logan Echolls). This is entirely because of fanfic. Jo Rowling has actually commented on it, amazed that so many fans see the little jerk that way. And then there's the Harry/Hermione relationship -- the two have never even been hinted at as more than good friends in the books (and Rowling has again expressed surprise that people can't tell Hermione likes Ron, not Harry), but tons and tons of fans are convinced they're going to end up together in the end (partly because of fanfic and partly because of the movies, which really give off that vibe). I haven't seen anything like this happening in other fandoms; maybe it's just that many HP fans are young and impressionable or something, but fanfic definitely does seem to have colored how many of them see Rowling's characters and world.
#1: In response to...

If I published "A Magical Night: When a Vampire and a Carpenter Meet" and said that I was Joss, then there would a problem. But I think in this extreme case, even new fans would know that Joss wouldn't write a story about Spike and Jesus getting together.

When I read this, I thought you were initially talking about Spike/Xander or Angel/Xander, which are not uncommon pairings for slash fic. Ick. Not meaning to demean slash writers, as there is some great slash fic out there and I've read a bit of it, but I really do feel that slash fic is the least defensible type of fanfic--even worse than the "Mary Sue" stories--falling closest to the masturbatory fantasy. I mean, come on. If you're going to write it at all, at least make sure it involves Willow in some way. (I am, of course, only partially joking.)

#2: As so many have previously pointed out, fanfic is NOT all garbage. If anyone here has read BtVS/AtS fanfic by Yahtzee, they will know exactly what I mean. Some of her stuff (and I single out her Angel fic "A Stitch in Time" for special mention) is good enough to serve as a template for episodes or miniseries of the show in question. Everyone who reads fanfic has had that magical experience of finding a story that takes you back into the universe, a story where none of the characters are ill-served and the plot is so breathtakingly perfect that you lean back and say, "I'm sure Joss (or Gene, or J.J., or whoever) would approve."

#3: In response to....

"90% of professionally made mainstream is garbage as well, with the 10% being the part Joss inhabits (and is King, or at the very least an eccentric Duke who marries trees).

Oh, yeah. Joss is the Duke of Mainstream, baby! He's A-Number-One!

Sorry, but someone had to say it. Especially with Isaac Hayes in the news being a hypocrite.

#4: At times in her rant, Ms. Lindholm strays well beyond the bounds of rationality in ways that ill befit a published author. She is a bit like a person--very protective of her own lawn--who happens to see a person walking along the edge of it, and is worried that said person will somehow kill some of the grass and ruin her perfectly manicured lawn. While it's her right to feel that way, and while it's understandable, I maintain that anyone wold see it as bad form for her to lean out the metaphorical window and yell, "Hey! YOU! Get off my lawn right now or I'll sue you! This is private property! You'll wreck it if you don't get off! How would you feel if I sent a bulldozer over to YOUR house and drove it all over the lawn, and then demolished the house? HMM?!" and so forth. See, that kind of foaming-at-the-mouth reaction would probably get me to remain on the lawn for a few moments longer, and maybe even scuff my shoe along the grass. Sure, it's bad manners, but it tweaks someone who's being unreasonable, and I never get enough of that.

#5: Seacrest...OUT!

I wonder if borrowing catchphrases is acceptable...
Truly, both Robin Hobb (Meghan Lindholm) and Yvonne Navarro (author of another narcissistic rant about her belief that the only people who had the right to gve her books poor reviews were people who could have written better books themselves!) need to get over themselves. That's all - neither are giving the world books that will change the face of literature nor initiate a new genre of writing style - the rare few who do that are the only truly "original" writers. Everybody else is derivative to some extent or other.
Everyone had said everything. To recap the ones that apply to me:

She has a right to her opinion.
I do not read fanfic. I do not write fanfic except occasionally in my head (because I have been doing that since I can remember. )
Kareoke, coloring books and cake mixes can be good tools for learning depending on your level.

Original thought: (trumpets sound)

I wonder what her opinion is of what Eric Flint has been doing with the 1632 series a la the Grantville Gazette. (

For anyone who is not familiar with it, he has organized the fanbase and more specifically the fanfic writers into potential contributors to the created 'verse. Fans can pick or create a character {Many are off limits as they are claimed by others. There is a chart.) write and submit a story on the forum that is specifically for that purpose. It will be read and evaluated on the forum. The author can rewrite the story as many times as needed and discuss it on the forums. If it is finally judged worthy it may be published in the official on line magazine The Grantville Gazette or one of the published books. Either way, it becomes canon.

I have read the Grantville Gazette and the stories really are very good. One does need to read the original books first to get the 'verse. After the original 2 books things are being told all out of order and all over the continent so it does not matter too much where you go from there.

I don't know, it sounded like a way for the fans to become better writers...and published ones at that, but what do I know? It also sounded like a smart way for a writer to control and expand his verse and do something creatively and educationally good for his fans. It sure beats complaining about them.

I also wonder if anyone will read this. I am always sooooo late to the party. Oh, yeah party on the other thread. Got to get back there.
I've seen this debate happen many times, and no one side will ever convince the other.

I don't agree with Robin Hobb and other fanfic haters, but I'll respect her wishes and not read or write fan fiction based on their work. In fact, I'll avoid reading her work altogether, just so I don't accidentally get an idea that doesn't belong to me.

There are many pros who support fan fiction. I'd much rather spend my time and money on their efforts, rather than on someone who takes the time to write long rants insulting me.

*Goes to add Joss's latest quote to fanfic supporters page.*
To follow up on the idea of art students learning by sketching great works--which resonated with me a true--it strikes me that the problem with fanfic isn't writing it at all.

It's sharing it.

There are a lot of excellent amateurs in any creative field--music, art, writing, whatever. They have teachers or trusted others (spouses, parents, etc...) who coach them, or perhaps someone who just happens to experience a finished work. They are then prompted to share their works, and begin to realize that other people actually like their stuff--they may have set out to be a professional, or they may have just been creating to satisfy thier own previously unmet inner need.

The gripes with fanfic seem to be that many of the people who write fanfic are completely devoid of humility--they share their own work, and actually have a narcissistic expectation that it might benefit or interest others--like bloggers of the creative world, if you will.

The line isn't really writing it or not; it's the discernment that so many fanfic authors lack, the insightfulness and humility to stay away from any attempt at publicity. Harsh? Not really. If the fanfic author "needs" to write, or is practicing to be a professional, or whatever, then his or her audience should be limited to trusted others, as my son's crayon drawings are only viewed by his preschool teachers and family. If, on the other hand, the fanfic author is writing for publicity, status (even within a fan context), or in aspiration of achieving professional status, then he or she should be open to any negative criticism the author or anyone else exposed to the material wants to level at it.

The problem with fanfic, as I see from these comments, is that there's so much bad stuff floating around which the authors don't have the insight or common decency to self-censor.
I think that by railing so loudly against fanfic, she's actually giving it power. Many a fanfic writer has been spurred to action by a well-timed insult, and I imagine that some are already typing madly even as we debate this.

And I think she's wasting her time. No matter how much manure she shovels out of her book barn, her horses, er, fans will simply produce more. Wiser authors, like our Joss, realize that even manure is good for *something*.
Hey kids! Nobody write fanfic now, hmmmm, 'kay?

(Up spring 24 fanfic websites. Where not only do the authors masturbate the characters, but the characters masturbate the authors, and each other. It's a new kind of fic... I call it 'This Fic Has A Thing. Now die!').
Just an example of how someone actually did paint the Mona Lisa with a word bubble.

Ctrl + F for "Mona". I wish there was picture to offer, but there isn't one available on-line.

Cranberry, I respectfully disagree that people see Draco Malfoy (or Spike, etc.) as a sexy, misunderstood character because of fanfiction. It has been my experience that people see what they want to in certain characters, just because this is the way they perceive these characters when they read the original stories (or watch the original show, or movie). A writer can be as explicit as they like when they create a character about that character's personality or motivations, but ultimately, it is up to the reader to understand the character as such. A reader is able to choose to disregard that portion of the description and, instead, super-impose their own beliefs about the character while they are reading the original story. In my opinion, fanfiction comes after that, when a fan has his or her opinion of a character defined, and writes a story to reflect his or her opinion. And that story tends to generate interest, typically, in other fans who share that opinion through their own, similar interpretation of that character.

[ edited by Judy on 2006-03-20 09:27 ]
Judy, I agree. Fanfiction is the distorting mirror of the canon.
This is such an old argument. I thought that I read this thread last year at this time. I like Robin Hobb's writing - she has done a couple of really good series. She has a right to her opinion - I don't think she's crazy, insane, a bitch or illogical because what she wrote was found in her RANT attic - with a warning before hand. I won't read fan fic written in her universe out of respect for her wishes. But I will read fan fic in the whedonverse and in due south - the creators don't mind fan fic and THEY created those worlds. So the fan fic has their blessing. To me - it's kind of that simple. I am vaguely recalling the last fan fic discussion here - didn't someone mention the bible back then? Was it me who mentioned that?
*goes back to feeling kind of old*
" I am vaguely recalling the last fan fic discussion here - didn't someone mention the bible back then?

There is Bible fanfic? Gee the original is never enough with any good book, I guess. ;-)
Fanfics of the Whedonverse (the only verse I follow..) have never bothered me, but I won't ever read them for the reasons listed in the article. I agree with them wholeheartedly. I personally believe that there is a truth to an author's work or vision that is disregarded when someone else decides to throw their own desires into the story, even if that desire is pure and full of hard-fought continuity. For the Whedonverse (a masterpiece of collaboration from many talented people) my concern isn't so strong because it thrives on that interaction. But my undying allegiance to Whedon himself keeps me from reading other people's work with his characters because I consider his canon pure.

My indigntaion reaches Hobbe's level at the thought of Patricia May Dolling-Mann's decision to write (and publish) sequels to Far From the Madding Crowd and Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. Hardy, long dead, is my favorite author and I can't imagine why someone would decide to add their own continuation to two of the greatest novels in the English language one hundred years after they were published. It feels so wrong to me. Who has the right to decide what happens to Oak or Tess after Hardy has ended their stories? I think it is disrespectful to a classic author and I think it is a perversion of his truth. I think Hobbes considers fan fiction based on her vision a perversion of truth.

I feel similarly about fan fiction (thought not nearly as strongly), and honestly.. Hobbes needs a little love in this discussion. I respect and applaud her views on the control of her own work, and I think a true fan of hers should consider her commitment to the purity of her writing to be laudable.

This thread has been closed for new comments.

You need to log in to be able to post comments.
About membership.

joss speaks back home back home back home back home back home