Updated Fanfic Policy
The Snow Queen’s Shadow, draft 2.0, is done! There’s a lot of work to do for draft 3.0, but I have a pretty good idea what the biggest problem is with this draft, and how to fix it. (At one point, I thought I had everything worked out and I might actually be able to wrap this book up with only two drafts. Such a pleasant little delusion…)
I was talking to a friend the other day about my last fanfic post (MZB vs. fanfic), and commented that it’s not the actual fanfic stories that intrigue me. What fascinates me is fanfic as a phenomenon. The fact that there are communities out there devoted to fanfic, that it’s an entire culture.
It’s equally fascinating to see how passionately some profic authors react to fanfiction.1 Some strongly support and encourage fanfic authors, while others view fanfic as the BP of the literary world, spewing toxic crap all over their beautiful works. The anti-fanfic arguments I’ve seen generally fall into several categories.
1. Fanfic is badly written. Forgive my bluntness, but this is a stupid argument. Sure, a lot of fanfic is bad. A lot of anything is bad. With professionally published fiction, you have editors and agents screening out the worst of it, but I’ve still read plenty of published crap. With fanfic, while there are some quality controls in place, I don’t believe there’s as strong of a gatekeeper effect … but so what? If it’s bad, don’t read it.
2. The legal problems. I’m not going to rehash the MZB case, but while the facts found were incomplete, I don’t see where the existence of fanfiction poses a legal danger to me as a commercial author.
3. They should write their own characters/worlds. I.e., anyone wanting to be a “real” author should work on original fiction. Okay, I can buy that writing original fiction is the best practice for writing original fiction, just as the best practice for writing novels is to write novels. But why assume everyone wants to be a commercially published author like me, that fanfic exists only as the means to some other end?
4. They’re miswriting/changing/warping my characters/worlds. Believe it or not, I kind of understand this one. I came across fanfic from my goblin series a while back, and my gut response was that they were writing the characters wrong. In my opinion, the dialogue and the actions were not in character … but again, so what? I don’t have to read it. And even if the characters in that story are fundamentally changed from what I wrote, how does this hurt me?
It’s that last question that finally made me decide to change my policy on fanfiction. Because I can’t think of a single way fanfic hurts me as an author. And I can think of ways in which it helps. I’ve seen first hand as fans found my princess series, got excited about the fanfic potential, and handsold the book to their friends.
If someone convinces me fanfic can harm me as an author, or that I’m better off disallowing it, I reserve the right to change my mind. But for now, I’m updating my fanfic policy to the equivalent of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Please don’t ask me to read it or tell me about it, but beyond that, so long as you’re not trying to sell it, have fun!
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