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09 May 2010 @ 05:25 pm
[Rant]: Professional Writers vs. The People Who Love Their Work, Round Umpty-Snout  
(I realize right now fandom is rightly and deeply upset about a whole other issue. I live in the past, okay? But I know for a fact that this particular one is comin' around again, so. Also, warning: possible triggers.)

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:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
But, well. One thing at a time.

Good Reasons for a Professional Fiction Writer to Fear Fan Fiction
  1. 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.

  2. 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.)

  3. 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.)

  4. 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.
But if you're going to tell me, yet again, that fan fiction is illegal! Immoral! Dirty! Wrong! EVIL! ASSAULT! RAAAAAAAAAAPE!, well, I cannot promise to have sympathy. I can't promise to care. I can't even promise to read your rant, or indeed anything you write.

I'll just read some fan fiction instead.

Also posted at Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments.
Tags: [meta]
 
 
 
lacking in glittertawg on May 10th, 2010 06:42 am (UTC)
This is a really great, mature summary of how this debate should be conducted. So, of course, I went and read over the few previous entries in this blog and, well, I think you're amazing. I'm friending you, if you don't mind.
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV bluethefourthvine on May 16th, 2010 10:45 pm (UTC)
Thank you! And, no, I do not mind at all; I love being friended. (I am, however, a massively dilatory and inadequate commenter and comment-replier. Sorry!)
(Deleted comment)
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV brownthefourthvine on May 17th, 2010 12:05 am (UTC)
Thank you!
out_there on May 10th, 2010 08:35 am (UTC)
....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.

Bwahahahaa! For that sentence alone, I may love you forever! It totally made me crack up.

*adores from a distance*
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV dogtagsthefourthvine on May 17th, 2010 12:05 am (UTC)
*adores back*

Thank you!
littleheaven70 on May 10th, 2010 09:06 am (UTC)
WORDY MC WORD.

I mean, we still might like you, but the fact is, we can probably get better than you for free.

Honestly, since I got involved with fanfic, both reading and writing, I've become so much fussier about the quality of what I read, be it pro or otherwise. Because some of the fanfic I've read is a million times better than published stuff, it's ruined me for a lot of pro writing. I picked up one of my old Narnia books a year or so back, because I loved them so as a child, and couldn't get past the first chapter because of the head-hopping POV. It drove me nuts. And when all the women at work went batty over Twilight, I was absolutely horrified at the quality of the writing. It was SO BAD. If I'd been beta'ing that as a fanfic, I'd have been all up in her grille about active versus passive writing, and the dreadful use of adverbs. I had to read the whole thing just so I could hate it with a qualified opinion, but the book took ages to finish because I kept mentally correcting the writing as I went.

I have the honour and privilege of being friends with a wonderful pro-author who adores fanfic. She's written some herself, and even did an official media tie-in novel for one of her fandoms. She's beta'd some of my own fic. She vids. She lives and breathes fandom. And now she creates it herself, and is tickled that people want to write fanfiction about her characters. It's the ultimate compliment for an author, I think, to have someone love your creation so much that they want to spend long hard hours immersing themselves in your world. She is savvy and gracious and a real example of how pro authors should deal with the situation, IMO. Sure, if she finds someone hocking off scanned e-versions of her books on Ebay she'll smack them down big-time, but she knows the difference between true theft and someone enjoying her universe in a harmless and dedicated way.

tried to eat the safe banana: TFV flowersthefourthvine on May 17th, 2010 12:09 am (UTC)
I picked up one of my old Narnia books a year or so back, because I loved them so as a child, and couldn't get past the first chapter because of the head-hopping POV. It drove me nuts.

You're actually fairly lucky you stopped when you did; re-reading the Narnia books is an exercise in masochism for those of us who loved them as kids. (So. Much. Race and gender fail. And the religious stuff, oh help.)

when all the women at work went batty over Twilight

I admit it, I am now deeply curious about where you work.

I have the honour and privilege of being friends with a wonderful pro-author who adores fanfic.

Oh, wonderful! I'd ask you her name, because I do like to support those who get it, but this is not the place.

And there are many great fan fiction friendly pro authors out there, including some on my friends list. I am going to take a moment to admire them. *admires*
(no subject) - littleheaven70 on May 17th, 2010 07:58 am (UTC) (Expand)
St. Crispin's: Dr. Evil Fairyst_crispins on May 10th, 2010 11:51 am (UTC)
As I commented elsewhere, the authors who complain the most are the ones who write closest to fanfiction themselves.

but the fact is, we can probably get better than you for free.

Yes. And that's the crux of it all.

Edited at 2010-05-10 11:51 am (UTC)
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV glowythefourthvine on May 17th, 2010 12:10 am (UTC)
As I commented elsewhere, the authors who complain the most are the ones who write closest to fanfiction themselves.

Which has now been codified for us as Speranza's Law!

(no subject) - st_crispins on May 17th, 2010 01:56 am (UTC) (Expand)
Raven: Bob - cute - thumb's upraveninthewind on May 10th, 2010 12:36 pm (UTC)
♥you and this post♥
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV Katamari Damacythefourthvine on May 17th, 2010 12:11 am (UTC)
Aww, thank you. <3 back at you!
agehanokoisexybee on May 10th, 2010 01:14 pm (UTC)
Yes. This.

Also, you should totally read marthawells who has written some great books. She's a total fan, has written SGA tie-in novels, supports fanfic of her characters, is smart on the internet, and enjoys well-written female characters and characters of color. This is what she said about fanfic recently:

"On the issue of fanfic, which I don't actually consider an issue, I'm just going to copy what I said in a comment yesterday: I read and wrote movie and TV show fanfic for twenty years, since The Empire Strikes Back came out when I was in high school. I had a huge fanzine collection, went to Mediawest (a big media fanzine convention), and later ran online archives for fanfic. It was always for play, for the sense of fun and community. Like Janni said, for most people it's not writing practice, it's writing for fun, writing for its own sake.

I've never been big on reading fanfic for books, though, because for me that's always been something where only the original could satisfy. But I think it's awesome when people have written fanfic for my books, because I know how hard it is to get it right, and it's pure joy to me that somebody would go to that much trouble because they liked my work so much. I know some writers really dislike fanfic, but it's not an attitude that I have any understanding of at all."

Keswindhoverkeswindhover on May 10th, 2010 05:37 pm (UTC)
Ooh, and now I know Martha Wells has an LJ. (I just hope she isn't going to break my heart like Robin McKinley did.)

p.s. Still sniggering over the notion of Captain Copyright.
(no subject) - thefourthvine on May 17th, 2010 12:13 am (UTC) (Expand)
deepfishy: write jobdeepfishy on May 10th, 2010 02:23 pm (UTC)
This is a tasty, excellent rant! :)

"You're interrogating the text from the wrong perspective!"
"You're RAPING ME by writing fan fiction about my characters!"
"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..."


I can't decide whether it's hilarious or terrible that I recognise each Fail Event quoted here. Hilarrible, I guess.
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV lettersthefourthvine on May 17th, 2010 12:15 am (UTC)
I can't decide whether it's hilarious or terrible that I recognise each Fail Event quoted here. Hilarrible, I guess.

Either way, it means you should come sit by me. *g*
A penis, and a lack of vision.mrsronweasley on May 10th, 2010 09:12 pm (UTC)
*CHEERING LIKE A CRAZY PERSON* THANK YOU.
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV menorahthefourthvine on May 17th, 2010 12:16 am (UTC)
*BOWING LIKE A CRAZY PERSON* Oh, wait. That doesn't work as well. About the best image you can get there is head-banging.

But, um, thank you! I am bowing like a totally NOT crazy person, in your general direction!
Caminando, desaparezcomargueritem on May 10th, 2010 11:40 pm (UTC)
This makes me make a frowny face, because that isn't what they said in Sex Ed.

*laughs*

*coughs*

*nearly chokes on apple bite*
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV shoesthefourthvine on May 17th, 2010 12:17 am (UTC)
*pats you gently on the back and hopes someone nearby knows the Heimlich Maneuver*
X-parrot: happy seal!xparrot on May 11th, 2010 12:17 am (UTC)
Yes! Yes! This! All of it!
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV umbrellathefourthvine on May 17th, 2010 12:18 am (UTC)
Thank you!
Miria: scully shove it by guilty_iconsmiriad on May 11th, 2010 04:17 am (UTC)
2. 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.

Please tell me you're talking about Michael Stackpole here. I listen to the Dragon Page and he just annoys the SHIT out of me re: this issue.
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV bluethefourthvine on May 17th, 2010 12:21 am (UTC)
I'm not. I'm talking about Lee Goldberg. But there's enough of that to go around. *eyeroll*
ghostinthemistghostinthemist on May 12th, 2010 07:07 am (UTC)
How do you read my mind so well? This is exactly how I feel. And thank you for posting it, it's perfect.
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV brownthefourthvine on May 17th, 2010 12:22 am (UTC)
It's clearly a case of sane minds thinking alike. *g*
mentalgurumentalguru on May 12th, 2010 10:14 pm (UTC)
I think the worst thing was is that this served as yet ANOTHER distraction from writing fic I promised.

I have prompts I could be doing. Seriously.

It made me mad, and has increased my writers block. (Actually it's not so much I lack ideas ompletely but: "Gah! Ideas but lack will... to write fic..."

You are indeed kind of helping me to hopefully break through it.

Great post! Made me laugh.
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV dogtagsthefourthvine on May 17th, 2010 12:23 am (UTC)
Then I am definitely glad I posted. Any weapon that can be useful in the War Against Writer's Block is one that should be freely available.
juliet316: Tennant: Salutejuliet316 on May 14th, 2010 03:04 am (UTC)
Came here through a link on another journal. All I have to say is THIS! This lays out the issues spectacularly. Hats off to you.
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV flowersthefourthvine on May 17th, 2010 12:25 am (UTC)
Thank you!