Okay. I am really, really tired of professional writers - or maybe I should say published writers, since professional behavior is not these people's long suit, generally speaking - posting rants about how they don't like fan fiction and here are their random reasons why. (If they would just say, "It feels wrong. I don't have a reason - it just feels wrong," I still wouldn't agree, but at least I wouldn't have to question their maturity. It's when they try to justify their feeling that they start to sound like a seven-year-old explaining why his cousin shouldn't be allowed to come near his toys.)
So, I'm going to help you out, oh hater of fan fiction! No more do you have to embarrass yourself (and piss off rape survivors everywhere) with the inevitable reference to rape! (Please, someone, make a new internet law that reads: Here is what is just like being raped: being raped. Describing something that is not rape as rape indicates either a) the kind of irrationality where the flecks of foam are visible through the monitor or b) a total failure to understand what rape is. In either case, everyone should politely look away until you calm down. And buy a fucking dictionary.) No more do you have to issue legal proclamations that make it very clear that you don't understand what copyright is and, in fact, think of copyright as Captain Copyright, Defender of Whatever Rights You Feel You Should Have! (Note: Captain Copyright is totally fictional. Feel free to write stories about him defeating evil writers of fan fiction. Um, warning, though: that will be fan fiction.)
Sadly, this won't address my least favorite rant elements:
- Rants in which a published author makes it clear that she believes millions of people are writing fan fiction about her characters, when in fact there are four stories total in her universe, which makes me all hot with vicarious embarrassment, because she's just exposed her own screaming It's All About Me neurosis and made it clear she has no idea what she's talking about. It's a horrible two-for-one special in the embarrassment aisle.
- Rants in which a published fan fiction writer - someone who writes primarily tie-in novels in someone else's universe - announces that fan fiction is evil, because doing it for love is wrong, but doing it for money is right. This makes me make a frowny face, because that isn't what they said in Sex Ed.
Good Reasons for a Professional Fiction Writer to Fear Fan Fiction
- Fan fiction folks might not like you anymore. People who are into fan fiction read a lot, and I do mean a lot, of stories at all levels of quality, from Holy Shit Pulitzer to Holy Fuck My Eyes My Eyes I See the Reaper Coming for Meeeeeee. Many of us also write. And when you do that, when you read and write a lot, you learn things. (Unless there's a baseline competence issue, and some of us do have those, but yay! Mostly not.)
So we've all gotten better at reading, and reading critically, and at interacting with the story. And, yes, that means we might not like you anymore. We might now be painfully aware of how you suck or how you fail, in ways that we wouldn't have been before our time in fandom. And that's scary - readers who are now judging your work and maybe finding it wanting. If you want to rant about that, I will have sympathy.
- Fan fiction folks don't need you anymore. I mean, we still might like you, but the fact is, we can probably get better than you for free. Because, okay, yes, most fan fiction is crap, but so is most published fiction. (Anyone who wants to refute that has to read ten books selected by me first.) And the ten percent of fan fiction that is worth dying for is not just good, and in fact not just great: it's great and it's for us. It's written for our community, with our community standards in mind, by someone who shares at least some interests and probably some beliefs with us. So it's not just that we can get stories for free; it's that those stories are written to appeal directly to us. You can't write for us and you almost certainly don't want to.
That's readers - a lot of readers, depending on what you write - who may not be shelling out for your next book, or who may be waiting for a library copy or the paperback. That sucks for you, and if you rant about that, seriously, I will have sympathy. (And I will try to refrain from pointing out that if you're good to your fans, we're your paycheck. We'll buy your hardcovers forever just because twenty years ago you created one character we love. We'll buy your merchandise. We'll go to cons to see you. We'll buy more hardcovers for you to sign. And so on.)
- Fan fiction folks took your power away. It used to be that the Anointed Few stood at the front of the room - sometimes a tiny classroom, sometimes a giant lecture hall with video cameras catching each golden word for those not lucky enough to hear it in person - and spoke. And everyone else was just audience: the listeners, the readers, the passively entertained. Fandom has turned your lectures into seminars. We keep speaking up. We keep having our own ideas. We don't even have the courtesy to raise our hands and ask to speak. And sometimes we lock you out of the room altogether.
That isn't what you signed up for. I understand that. You want the podium back, you want the breathless admiration back, you want the silent, receptive audience back. You want the exchange to be: I entertain, and you applaud, and that's it. I can understand why you'd want that, and if you want to complain about it, I will sympathize. (I won't promise to fix it or anything, because it's better for me this way, but I understand that loss of power can be painful, and I swear if you want to complain about it I will feel sorry for you.)
- Fan fiction folks are better at the internet then you are. Oh, not all of you (or, for that matter, all of us), but, um. I don't know how to put this gently. A lot of professional writers (and editors, and others associated with the publishing industry) appear to lose their brains and their ability to write (and to understand what they've written) when they're online. It's sad, and it's pathetic, and it's hideously painful for those of us with an embarrassment squick. Meanwhile, fandom is organized, fandom knows the rules (fandom even codified many of the rules), and fandom is - well. If you're making an ass of yourself on the internet ("You're interrogating the text from the wrong perspective!" "You're RAPING ME by writing fan fiction about my characters!"), fandom is mocking you. If you're proving that you're an ass in real life ("There's no racism! It's all classism!" "But there aren't any female writers of SF. I mean, I don't know any, so..."), we're probably pointing that out to you fairly loudly. (And we are not watching our tone.)
And I do see that that sucks, that you think the internet is your playground and it turns out there are actual real people watching you and calling you on your bullshit. I think you could probably solve this problem (either have less bullshit or limit your audience, your choice), but I will still understand if you just want to complain about it.
I'll just read some fan fiction instead.
Also posted at Dreamwidth, where there are comments.