Geek Girls Rule! #127 – Fanfic, Authors and How not to ask people not to fic your works.

If you have any familiarity with the Fanfic community, you have by now heard of Diana Gabaladon’s epic misstep about Fanfic.  She has since offered up a sort of, kind of, ok maybe I misjudged but I’m not really apologizing and I stand by what I said about you being thieves statement. The gist of this whole thing is, Ms. Gabaladon saw some not very good fanfic, and some (in another fandom) that outright plagiarized some of her work (plagiarism is, btw, illegal and not fanfic), so now all Fanfic authors are thieving, lazy, non-creative, perverted, stalkery, did I mention thieves?

ETA 4: It appears Ms. Gabaladon, in a VERY principled move, has deleted all three entries from her blog.  Apparently we’ve not heard of archive sites.  If anyone is interested, I’m sure I could track one down.  Could she BE less net-savvy?

ETA 5:  A posted policy that is neither snarky, nor accusatory.   Was that so hard?

ETA 6:  Kate_Nepveu on LJ has archived DG’s posts here.  This is not a place for wank or commentary, just an accurate archive of what DG said.  Including her disbelief that we could think she called us names.  (I mean, Geez, she just said we were LIKE creepy stalkers and other criminals, it’s not like she said we WERE…  Oh get real.)

ETA 2: http://voyagesoftheartemis.blogspot.com/2010/05/fan-fic-iii-final-word.html Non-Apology the second.  But, hey, at least she has a coherent official policy now.  And I have to say, after reading her blog, no wonder her books are so long.  Geez, I thought I was Queen of the Run-On.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, Fanfic is where FANS (hence the word FANfic) of a creator’s work take elements of that work (characters, setting, etc…) and further explore those works by creating their own stories inspired by the original work, often answering “What if?” questions, filling in gaps in the timeline, or continuing the story past where the author took it.  They do not do it for money.  The vast majority of Fanfic writers post disclaimers on all of their work stating something along the lines of “I did not create these characters/this setting/etc…), many will include something about how grateful they are to that creator for the existence of the original work they are playing with.

Fanfic exists in a weird legal gray zone.  There is debate over whether or not it’s illegal, or even copyright infringement, although the case is stronger for that than strict illegality.  ETA 3: Please see this post by Bookshop on Livejournal for a more links.   And some awesome wit.

Copyright law, itself, is fairly nebulous and differs from country to country.  In the US at least, each case is decided on its own merits and the court asks several questions.  Is the person accused of copyright infringement profiting from the works?  Are they trying to pass off the original creator’s creations as their own?  Are they attempting to mislead people into thinking the original creator actually created their work?  Two key factors that go into deciding a case of copyright law are intent and monetary worth/damages to the original creator.

By and large, Fanfic passes those tests.

While US courts (and bear in mind copyright law differs from country to country) do not consider fanfiction to be either “parody or criticism,” they do consider it to be covered under the concept of Fair Use, which does not require that it be either of those two things to be legal.  So you can’t just say “Fanfiction is illegal.”  And because someone will bring it up the two cases cited on the Wikipedia page were someone who wrote a sequel to Catcher in the Rye and wanted to sell it for profit, and someone who wrote a Rocky V script, and wanted to sell it for profit.  THAT is illegal (until the work passes into the public domain, then all bets are off), but the majority of fanfic writers don’t do anything illegal.  They don’t make money or even try to make money on what they write.  They write as a tribute.  Granted, I will not debate with you the quality of the majority of those tributes, but they are tributes all the same.

And yes, because someone will say, “But there are some unethical people who do things that are legally actionable with fanfic!  So there!” Yes, there are, and they are a tiny minority of the fanfiction community, and, once word gets around, largely shunned by others in the community.

The problem with what Ms. Gabaladon said was not that she does not like fanfic, nor that she doesn’t want it created with her characters.  Several other authors have said that they don’t want fanfic posted of their works, and by and large the fanfic community repects that.  The problem is that she likened people who write fanfic to people who seduce other people’s spouses, to people who stalk other people and terrorize them by sending them long, written-out sexual fantasies, and she called them all criminals.

For the most part debate in those comment threads has been respectful.  But there’s an awful lot “Nuh uh”-ing going on in response to the careful responses and citations of Fanfic writers.  But honestly, the legality of fanfiction is only really an issue in so far that calling people thieves, who are not, is slander.  And hurtful.

The real issue is that the Fanfiction community were angered by the disrespectful tone and the insults.  As I said before, several authors have come out and said, “Please do not post fanfic of my worlds/characters” and done it politely.  And for the most part their wishes are respected.  Large fanfiction sites will not have maintain listings for those authors, and most fanfic writers will not post anything in those fandoms, because as FANS they love and respect those writers.

Basically what upset everyone is that Ms. Gabaladon did the equivalent of someone else famous saying that all Gabaladon fans are rape-fetishists because they’ve only seen rape-y excerpts of her books, and therefore believe that’s all there is. *  I daresay being called a bunch of pervy rape fetishists would piss off Gabaladon fans pretty damn hard.  And they’d defend themselves, and get increasingly annoyed at continued responses of “I’ve only seen the rape-y bits, so that must be all that she’s written!” or “Well, I’ve never read any of her stuff, but my favorite author says you suck, so there,” coming from said Famous Person’s fans.

As a disclaimer, you will note I have not actually commented on Ms. Gabaladon’s writing.  She’s been on my “to read” pile for ages because my mom and several of my fanfic writing friends (ironically enough) have previously highly recommended her, but unless there is one spectacular apology forthcoming, I don’t think I want to support someone who thinks I’m an evil beast because I wonder what would happen if Snape had fallen in love with one of his older students.

Basically it boils down to:  If you are a famous author and you do not want fanfic of your worlds/characters out there, all you have to do is say that you don’t want it.  And you have to do it somewhere people will see it, say in the FAQ on your website where Anne Bishop made her request.  Saying you think fanfic is icky on a Compuserve** forum in response to someone else’s post, is not really posting an official position.  Although, granted, many of the people who responded to this latest hoopla said that the reason there was already damned little Outlander fic out there was because word had gotten around that Ms. Gabaladon didn’t like it.  But really, if you don’t want it done, just say so.  Don’t name call, and don’t cast untrue aspersions.  Just state:  “Do not post fanfic about my characters/setting.”  That’s it.

And for the record, if I actually get my original fiction published, I hereby give all of you permission to fanfic the CRAP out of my stuff.  I’d consider that a brilliant tribute and would be pants-wettingly excited about it.   Just no Real Person fic about me, please.  That does squick me to hell and gone.

*Yes, I’m plagiarizing one of MY OWN responses in the threads.  That’s me saying those things over there.  I just had to get involved didn’t I?   “SOMEONE ON THE INTERNET IS WRONG!!!!!”  (thank you XKCD).  It’s a character flaw.

**I had no idea Compuserve even still existed until this all exploded.  Learn something new every day.

ETA: Per Frog, Jim Butcher has updated his views of fanfic. Not due to this, he actually implemented it several months ago, but still cool.

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17 thoughts on “Geek Girls Rule! #127 – Fanfic, Authors and How not to ask people not to fic your works.

  1. Wha? Compuserve still exists? That takes me back to the days of DOC and Citadel BBSes. Aw come on. I had a BRILLIANT real person fic involving you and Costco.

    Her response isn’t making me want to read her books, either. I tried reading the first one, but I’m not a huge fan of romance. Romance with explosions, big guns, and giant robots? Sure.

    I’m coming from a fandom where fic and fan-produced stuff was all we had for a good sixteen years. Out of that, you got groups like Big Finish (some of whom are now writing for Doctor Who when the series was revamped) and the Virgin/New Adventures line (Justin Richards, who wrote for them, is now heading up the book end of the Doctor Who franchise.) It’s fandom that kept the show alive and made its reemergence on TV possible. Should the show go off the air again, it’ll be fandom that keeps it going once more.

  2. My first response to the Compuserve thing was, “I thought they’d gone under when we invented the REAL internet.” Not very nice, I know, but that was my first thought.

    Yeah, there are several fandoms like that. I think of all the awesome thing fandom groups have done, and I just get madder and madder about it. I’ve spent the last two days following this and responding and while some of the initial “Fanfic is icky” folks have changed their tune after the mostly reasonable and logical responses of the fanfic contingent, but there are a lot of folks who… the less said, the better.

  3. I write fanfiction. Not so much anymore (I more… write accolades to other works I enjoy) but when I did I was possessed of the same hubris many other fanficcers were – “I’m improving the enjoyment of the original,” with my viewpoints on the characters and designs. As far as I’m concerned, that’s what good fanfic does – it improves the original experience. It’s like stereo in a way, surround sound if you’ve got a lot of good media tie-in…

    There is one author I follow who has a “no fanfiction” policy. (I am very tempted to break it to write the trilogy-conclusion this author has been promising for 14 or so years.) This author also does not want anyone playing in an RPG of their world.

    Funny, my gut says it’s OK to respect the first request, no matter how grueling, but the second I just don’t entirely understand, I guess. I think my thoughts are mostly, “Um, it’s your loss, toots. You want to keep people interested in the investment? Let them play in the world. You can change it up – just write the book you promised.”

    Um, not bitter.

  4. Yeah, I write fanfic, I post it very, very rarely though.

    I’m under no illusions about my work expanding understanding, as I’m a fairly porny ficcer I mostly think other people might just find it as hot as I do.

  5. I’ve only seen it cited by others, haven’t been able to find a direct quote or reference myself, but I’m given to understand that one of Ms. Gabaldon’s main characters was based upon a character in Doctor Who, to the extent that the character bears the last name of the actor who played the role.

    Which, if true, adds an entirely new dimension of hypocrisy to her rants. (But as I said, I have not been able to confirm this directly.)

  6. If you check back, she’s deleted all three of the posts you’ve linked. There’s nothing more recent on her blog than April 27.

  7. For quite a while now, John Scalzi has had a policy toward fanfic which boils down to “do what you like, but I don’t want to see and you can’t sell it”. In the wake of the Gabaldonia, Charlie Stross has made a similar statement. Most authors seem content to let the fanfic thing be.

    My understanding (limited though it is) of this fanwank is that Ms. Gabaldon based one of her characters on her husband, and felt a strong emotional reaction to that character having sex in a fanfic she saw. Too bad for her, and a fine warning to authors not to base any of their characters too closely on a real person to whom they have an attachment, or, if they do, to separate the character from the person in their head asap.

  8. See the first paragraph above. The most recent fic she saw was actually written in another fandom, but plagiarized some of her sex scenes. Then this poor woman who was part of the Save Stacie auctions, asked for permission to write Outlander fic for the winner of the auction. Which is what really set off the wank.

    Everyone agrees the plagiarism was an issue that would piss off anyone, but she vasty over-reacted.

    The major issue on the side of ficcers was, she called fanfic illegal, which so far it is not, and all fanfic authors perverts, and the equivalent of creepy stalkers, and white slavers.

  9. I’m sure my comment will be promptly removed here, but I agree with Diana. She gave her personal opinion on her personal blog and has since been under attack for doing so. Diana’s words have also been greatly twisted, as I see here as well.
    Some authors don’t mind if fanfic is derived from their work, but the authors that aren’t comfortable with it should be respected.

  10. As I’ve said repeatedly, no one says she has to approve of fanfic, and the fanfic community as a whole has agreed not to do it.

    What we do object to is that she compared writing fanfic (and I read her posts) with seducing her husband and stalking a neighbor’s teenaged daughter, theivery etc… She blundered badly, and has yet to apologize.

  11. No, she didn’t apologize for what she said, she apologized to those who “thought she said something about rapists.”

    So she didn’t actually apologize for saying that people who write fanfic were lazy, incompetent theives, like people who seduce other people’s husbands, or the creepy neighbor who writes explicit porny letters to your teenage daughter.

    That, is what we in the business of reading comprehension, call a non-apology. She apologized because we “thought” she was being offensive, not because she was actually offensive. “I’m sorry you were offended,” is not an apology.

    “I’m sorry I said offensive things,” is.

  12. I disagree completely with your point of view on what Diana wrote. However, I’m not going to degenerate this conversation(?) further by trying to insult your reading comprehension as you attempted in your previous post. In fact, I apologize for even posting a comment to this biased article and won’t be returning to read your further attempts at insults. How’s that for an apology? Toodles!

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