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A Few Last Words

Spain
I've just locked the comments section of the previous post. We've had about four hundred comments since the post went up last night, and the whole thing is about to collapse under its own weight. I suspect that someone or other has already said everything that can be said on the subject, so now we're starting to go around in circles.

Also, with this many comments, it's becoming obvious that some of the later commenters aren't actually reading what went before. I'm starting to get asked the same questions over and over again -- what about Suvudu? what about the Vance book? what about fan art? what about role-playing games? All fair enough questions, but I have answered all of them in responses to earlier comments. Some I have answered two or three times by now. I am not going to answer them four, five, six, or twelve times, sorry. So if you've posted a question that has already been asked and answered, your post will likely be ignored or deleted. (Yes, I know it's a pain to have to read four hundred comments. Tough. If I have to read them all, so do you. That's the price of taking part in the discussion).

Some comments haven't been unscreened yet. There have been so many of them coming in so fast that it has been hard to keep up. A few have been buried by now, especially comments on comments on comments. Ty or I will get to all of them eventually, I hope, and everything will either be unscreened or deleted.

I want to thank ninety-five percent of the people who took the time to comment. I appreciate your thoughts, and even more, I appreciate the relative calm and thoughtful tone of this discussion, which never degenerated into the kind of ugliness I've seen (and am still seeing) in the comments over on Diana Gabaldon's blog, where the discussion has long since been derailed. I don't know how many minds were changed here, but all the major issues were thoroughly aired, it seems to me, and I hope this generated more light than heat.

There were a few issues raised during the debate that I'd like to address a bit further.

A number of commenters suggested that I was wrong in my assertion that copyrights need to be defended, and suggested that I was confusing copyrights with trademarks. Perhaps so. This was raised often enough that it is obviously something I need to look into further. There were also posters who agreed with what I wrote, however, including some who identified themselves as lawyers or law students, so I don't think the issue is as clear cut as the "trademark" folks are claiming. I'll investigate this, and if I was wrong about this, I will come back here and say so (eventually, this is not my top priority in life). If I was right, I'll come back and mention that as well.

ERB v HPL. I never said that allowing others to play with the Cthulhu mythos was the ONLY reason Lovecraft died in poverty. Actually, I am a huge Lovecraft fan, and not much of a Burroughs fan at all (though Melinda Snodgrass and I did once work on the screenplay for A PRINCESS OF MARS). I know a lot about HPL. His work has been hugely influential on modern horror. But my point stands. I could write a Cthulhu Mythos novel tomorrow, and I would not have to pay a dime to any Lovecraft estate (if such exists) or get their permission. I would never dare write a Barsoom novel, though surely PRINCESS is in the public domain by now. (The later John Carter and Tarzan novels may still be under copyright).

A few people have quoted or posted links to the other side of the Marion Zimmer Bradley incident, the account of the fan involved. Fine, two sides to every story, check it out. At this point, twenty years after the fact, it all becomes she said/ she said. But the version I posted was hardly "urban legend," as one commenter called it. It was the version given by Marion Zimmer Bradley herself in SFWA FORUM, what she told the rest of the writing community. If you want to believe she lied, well, that's your prerogative.

More thoughts as I have 'em. Just now, I have work to do.

Comments

( 111 comments )
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boss_bass
May. 9th, 2010 12:18 am (UTC)
I could write a Cthulhu Mythos novel tomorrow, and I would not have to pay a dime to any Lovecraft estate (if such exists) or get their permission.


I don't really see this as a bad thing, to be honest. Copyright Protection was put in place (along with Patent Protection) as a means of promoting the arts and sciences by giving potential creators a stronger financial incentive to create. That's why there are loopholes in it, for parodies and the like, and why patents have shorter lives than copyrights and trademarks.

Current law, at a minimum, gives the author lifetime copyright if they do it right. I'm not sure I think that's entirely useful towards the end copyright was created for, but it makes authors happy. But why should the families of dead authors get to continue to milk copyrights and constrain the usage of said authors' creations for as long as they can keep renewing the copyright (which, if Disney gets its way, will be forever)? Does that fulfill the purpose for which copyright was created and enforced?
grrm
May. 9th, 2010 12:35 am (UTC)
I understand what you're saying about Disney. And to some extent, I agree.

Still... as a writer, while I recognize there is a distinction between intellectual property and other sorts of property, there are aspects of that distinction that strike me as unfair.

Why should the families of dead authors get to continue to milk the profits of said author's creations, you ask. Well, I say, for the same reason that Parris Hilton gets to swan around the world being a celebrity and milking the profits off all of those hotels.

If you start a business, found a company, build an estate, you want to leave it to your children. The only estate a writer leaves, in many cases, is a literary estate. (Yes, some writers leave piles of cash and stocks as well, but those are few and far between).

Conrad Hilton and Edgar Rice Burroughs were both self made men. If we don't want the descendants of the latter to be able to live off the things their ancestor created, then the descendants of the former should not be able to either. Let's have a general reform of all inheritance laws, not just single out writers.

And if Mickey Mouse is going to enter the public domain, so everyone can draw Mickey Mouse funny books and make Mickey Mouse cartoons, cool... but let's make sure that Coca-Cola's secret formula gets public domained as well, so other companies can enter the beverage field and make Coke identical the original Coke.

Edited at 2010-05-09 12:36 am (UTC)
(no subject) - boss_bass - May. 9th, 2010 03:31 am (UTC) - Expand
idemandjustice
May. 9th, 2010 12:19 am (UTC)
First, please forgive me, I'm a mom of a toddler, and have not had time to read the 400+ comments, and I likely won't have that kind of time. I just got here and am just wading in. Wasn't there another case a couple of years ago, in which some fan of J.K. Rowling had created a lexicon for Harry Potter, and they were trying to publish it while she was trying to publish her own? I don't remember what the outcome of that was, but I felt very angry on her behalf over it.

I appreciate reading your thoughts on this. I have a lot of friends who write fanfiction, although I myself never have, mainly because I just don't feel like I can do justice to someone else's creation. I 100% agree with you, that fans should respect the wishes of the author involved. I do like to write, and hope to publish something if I can ever find the time to actually finish anything, and I've wavered back and forth over the issue of whether I myself would allow fanfiction of my work. On one hand, it's scary, for the reasons you've mentioned. On the other, I have a huge curiosity over what other people would do differently, or what new areas they'd bring up. But I think if I did allow it, I would never admit to reading any of it. I was leaning in favor, but you may have swung me back in the other direction again.

I haven't actually read Diana Gabaldan's post, but my understanding through hearsay (It's been talked about all over livejournal) was that she made some comparisons to rape and murder, which a lot of people found insulting. But they could have been blowing what she said out of proportion.

I think you're one of the few authors I know of that disallows fanfiction but allows for role-playing in one's setting. I've seen so many authors paint the two with the same brush, although I never quite saw them as the same, unless people are writing out their role-playing adventures.
grrm
May. 9th, 2010 12:20 am (UTC)
Yes, the account of what Diana said has been wildly distorted and blown out of proportion.
(no subject) - idemandjustice - May. 9th, 2010 12:21 am (UTC) - Expand
goldvogels
May. 9th, 2010 12:31 am (UTC)
I think all great writers must be good readers, and that one way to learn to write well is to imitate good writing. I confess, though, that I have always had a negative reaction to fan fiction. It seems more like aping than like proper homage. In other words, one might have a style of writing (original stories and original characters) that evokes another writer's style. But to take characters who have lives of their own and use them in one's own idea of what they ought to do....that seems like puppetry. I wish I could articulate it better but I, too, have a toddler (and a baby!), and I will be lucky to stay awake long enough to read one chapter of "Dance" when it comes out (ahem;)).
hokie256
May. 9th, 2010 02:06 am (UTC)
learning to write
I thought the same thing that one way to learn to write better is to imitate good writing. As an artist, I see the same benefit in copying other's paintings to figure out how to make the brush strokes or mix colors like the old masters did. However, I would never attempt to sell a copy of a painting, at least not a direct copy. Picasso repainted Spanish masters like Velázquez but put his own spin on them and made the new paintings his own. I don't actually know if Picasso attempted to sell these paintings or if he kept them for himself, but I think Picasso's interpretation of Velázquez would be similar someone reinterpreting Pride and Prejudice or the old Arthurian legend.

There is a difference between reinterpreting story lines and character traits and using existing characters and worlds to write your own story.
f4f3
May. 9th, 2010 12:42 am (UTC)
Being that America is America and the UK is a long way away, it's moderately possible that you haven't seen this reasonably argued piece from Charles Stross, accepting that others may wish to write fan fiction, and stating that..."I do not mind you writing fanfic using my characters and sharing it with your friends unless you do so in a manner that fucks with my ability to earn a living."

Yes, he does go on to explain how that can happen.

And, with tongue in cheek, I'd counsel you not to read the comments...

http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2010/05/faq-fanfic.html#more
citizenplain
May. 9th, 2010 12:47 am (UTC)
I don't have the legal knowledge to comment on copyright and trademark law. I haven't ever sold a novel or short story, so I'm not qualified to comment on the nature of the publishing business either. All I have are dreams and stories, and I hope that's qualification enough.

Many people here have ably expressed why fanfic is akin to stealing an author's work, and I wholeheartedly agree. My personal belief is that fanfic is written by people want to be writers but don't want to put the work in to be an actual writer. And while I think the point has been made that 'creators' of fanfic have gone on to be authors, I would still submit that writing fanfic is at best a waste of time and at worst a form of mental masturbation.

A fanfic 'writer' could create prose with the eloquence of King (Martin Luther, not Stephen) and still not be a real author of fiction because they are hijacking someone else's creativity. Many people can create a nice sentence, but only a creative mind can breathe life into places like Bag End. World-building, and creating meaningful characters requires time and practice and fanfic robs its creator of that opportunity.

All of the effort spent on fan fiction takes away time that an aspiring author could have spent honing their own skills. I don't want to write the next Hobbit, or the next Dark Tower, or the next Song of Ice and Fire book for that matter, and why would I? I'm too busy trying to write down what my own characters are telling me. Any more voices in my head and I'd go mad...

In short, I'd love to have the grace of your pen, George. But mine will have to do. I'm cool with that.
bronxelf_ag001
May. 9th, 2010 01:28 am (UTC)
I was coming here to say *exactly this* (though I'm NOT a writer in any way, nor do I aspire to being one).

THANK YOU. Cosigned.
affablyevil
May. 9th, 2010 02:55 pm (UTC)
written by people want to be writers but don't want to put the work in to be an actual writer.

If you write something, you're a writer. Whether it's published or not.

An artist who can't (or won't) sell their paintings is still an artist.
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aliciaaudrey
May. 9th, 2010 01:25 am (UTC)
Copyright and trademark are all intellectual property. While I am not an IP lawyer by any stretch of the imagination, I join the ranks of lawyers and law students (I am something between myself--I have completed law school but have not yet taken the bar) who postulate that if you don't show that you object to people infringing on your copyright, it will be harder to protect it later when you feel you need to. Certainly, even if the black letter of the law on copyright is different from trademark on that particular item (I don't know; I just know barely enough about IP to guess that it is probably the same), a judge/jury will be skeptical if you've never made an effort to defend your copyright against multiple infringements...until you suddenly do. Those things matter; judges and juries are not unthinking processors of the black letter law.

To throw in my two cents I can assure you that EVEN IF the black letter of the law is such that you need not seek to defend a copyright in order to not be accused of abandoning it, it is none the less a poor idea to NOT defend your copyright against minor infringements. Appearances, sadly, matter, something I'm sure Tyrion could give us all a stirring lecture about.

I don't think that means authors need to race about batting every fanfic writer over the head with a two by four with the words "CEASE AND DESIST" burned into it, but it does suggest to me that authors who are bearish on fanfic are choosing a wise course in terms of being able to protect their works.
quibby1
May. 9th, 2010 02:01 am (UTC)
During the course of these debates, I've seen a lot of ranting on both sides of the fence over what amounts to the implied right of the fan to write the characters of the author into situations that fit their moods/fantasies/rather imaginative and clever ideas. On the other hand, we have you, the author, stating that this so-perceived "right" is actually an infringement or a generally negative aspect of fandom that detracts from the author's vision and overall goal (not to mention a potential fountain of trouble involving knock-offs and alternate universes).

I understand the why on your part, and it makes a lot of sense, so this question is not so much addressed to you, Mr. Martin. But to those who read this post and the comments within, why do you feel that you can write with the characters of "A Song of Ice and Fire," or any series, for that matter? I'm not trying to start a fight or anything, but I'm genuinely curious about your reasons. (I'm an occasional roleplayer in another author's universe, so I'm intrigued by the whole subject.)
illidanstr
May. 9th, 2010 08:10 am (UTC)
Here goes. Might be a bit more technical than you want, but it supports a variety of legitimate arguments in favor of fanfiction and I've tried to word it carefully enough to avoid looking like a nut or anarchist. I ignore a variety of other (mostly terrible) arguments I see people using, including the utterly abhorrent "he has too much money" nonsense.

I think you've been saturated with culture telling you there's something wrong with it. I can't find any rational explanation to support restrictions like these.

Throughout history, I would not only be encouraged to retell Song of Ice and Fire verbatim with minor embellishments, but I would be allowed to profit from it. There are strong oral storytelling traditions in many cultures, and history's most famed artists stole from each other (and other musicians we barely remember) quite frequently. This was certainly good for freedom of speech and the spreading of culture. Unfortunately, it was bad for getting publishers to invest in highly expensive printing presses. As a result, laws were created giving authors certain temporary monopolies over the use of their creations in order to incentivize this very useful activity.

The idea that authors have an extra-legal right (or moral right) to copyright is contrary to both historical precedent and current United States law (as defined by the Constitution). Basically, any rights G.R.R.M. has exist because it's profitable overall to reward those who make stuff. Nonetheless, I still enjoy and support authors receiving money for the works they create, though seeing them abuse their rights depresses me about the state of humanity.

Any intelligent individual who has studied copyright with a fair and (moderately) unbiased mind will allow that it causes harm through its restrictions. To paraphrase an argument expressed much more eloquently by Thomas Macaulay when he successfully argued against a copyright extension in England some hundreds of years ago, real "moral rights" would never expire. If someone bought copyrights from GRRM's estate, he could legitimately lock them up forever and prevent all use. As Macaulay said, "monopoly makes all things dear". An extreme example like this shows that copyright can indeed cause harm, even if we find an inability to access some particular entertainment to be silly.

Once the restrictions are tight enough and the length long enough, those harms outweigh the good it has produced. I think our current laws have long overreached that point and need massive fixing. Until then, I'll support restricting copyright in undecided cases like fanfiction (though I'm not going to try and argue in favor of it under current law). An author's characters are not their children, no matter how dearly they may wish it! As much as I would hope these night terrors of slash fiction would stop preventing my favorite authors from writing more books, the fanfic authors are in the right here.

An exception would be the utterly insane idea of applying laches (defend it or lose it) to copyright inside the stated term, which GRRM and a couple others brought up.

I'll also note that plagiarism is fraud and scumbaggery and anyone who participates in it really does deserve to be kneecapped. (I have good friends who are artists..)
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tstanton
May. 9th, 2010 02:18 am (UTC)
My problem with fanfiction?
They never get it right. Never.

You touched upon this, a bit indirectly, in your post when talking about the Wild Cards, but I've yet to read a fanfiction which actually got characterization right. Just too many people doing what they want with the characters rather than people staying true to them.

It's why the current state of the Marvel Universe bugs me to no end. Too much doing something "cool" with the characters rather than staying true to their essences.
kosiah
May. 9th, 2010 02:30 am (UTC)
I always wondered why MZB stopped the anthologies. For years, I thought of them as a way for fledgling authors to get published -- as indeed they did, and I had assumed that age and disinterest was the reason for their discontinuation. I guess I have been living under a rock.

I read more of those anthologies than I care to admit, (and most were not that great), but I found it interesting that they existed. Had I been a bit older and less teenaged (thinking it profoundly uncool) I might have even submitted something, because for most of the eighties I was obsessed with Darkover, and made up several stories in my head about what might have been. It's the hallmark of a good author and worldbuilder, in my opinion, that makes us wonder what might have been, or what will be. And I dare anyone to admit they've never done it. Fanfiction gets a bad rap, but we've all wondered, haven't we? What would happen if the elves came back from the Gray Havens? If the Last Battle wasn't some weird Christian metaphor, if the Bene Gesserit (sp) found more male children, if Lew Alton grew a pair, if everyone didn't die at the end of Angel/Blake's 7/what have you? The wondering is the mark of a good story, I think. A good story brings the reader that close. Makes them live it. Makes them wonder.

On the other hand, I am married to a patent lawyer. I do get the intellectual property thing. I've read, mostly for snark value, some truly terrible interpretations of many different sandboxes. I can understand how gruesome it might be to see bad Jamie dark slash -- whether in the Outlander universe or in ASoIaF. (And I am sure it exists in both, although I have not -- and will not -- google.) There is a new trope, perhaps, or not so new: whatever horrific or comedic fate a popular author can imagine for their characters... someone has or will soon publish it on fanfict.net. And, to some extent, there's little you can do about it. And, to some extent, that sucks too.

But don't discount the wonder. If someone is imagining Cersei's fate, they care about it. They care about the sandbox.
stevewood
May. 9th, 2010 02:35 am (UTC)
I believe a fictional character is best written by the creator. It is an extension of the fact that a biography is best written by the person it is about i.e. an autobiography because nobody knows a person better than themselves.

I neither like nor trust respectively any writing from anyone else...I always go straight to the source. Unfortunately, very few people do that...they follow where the emotions are strongest without any regard to what those emotions mean.

I only want stories of Westeros and SOIF from G.R.R. Martin and willing to wait decades for the next book(s). And, I only want stories from MZB...I lost interest in her work and perhaps now I know why...she was including ideas not of her own, strange how things work out. Thanks George for doing your own writing.
mouseworks
May. 10th, 2010 03:59 am (UTC)
Autobiographies are interesting as fictions and as jumping off places for biographers, but the really great biographies are generally better than the great autobiographies. People can't see the backs of their heads, can't know what letters others were writing about them, and can be oblivious to their faults and the society of their times. Wilde's De Profundus is interesting, but only in connection with a good biography.

Characters are strange things in authors' heads. Some people construct them out of sweat and words; other people have them spawn off in their heads and have to write the story to exorcise them. Once they're exorcised by a rite of fiction, they can go run off with whoever finds them attractive.
paulwoodlin
May. 9th, 2010 02:56 am (UTC)
After getting into an argument on another LJ site about this issue, I wrote an essay on my own LJ site about it, looking at fanfiction from a purely economic view, comparing the ideas of Cory Doctorow and Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Then I checked my friends page and ended up here. To sum up:

Technology leads to wealth creation and concentration at the same time. The Internet leads to wealth and information concentration at the same time, because everyone using Youtube, LJ, Facebook, etc, is providing free information for other's profit. Fanfiction consolidates the fan base, possibly resulting in the original author making more money, but other writers (midlist and beginning writers) possibly making less (this depends on if readership in general expands faster than bestsellers concentrate them).

Having read the arguments here, for writers to make use of this economic model, they would have to keep one eye on pleasing their fans and one eye on their copyright rights (I liked the dragon metaphor from Stross). The Lovecraft example has given me food for thought, and I am still thinking about it.

If you want to read my essay in detail, you know where to find me, but please keep in mind it is about economics, not art or law. If you want even more details, The books I used were Taleb's "The Black Swan" and Doctorow's "Content." At the rate people argue about these ideas, I think I'll keep my copies by my computer.
peloquyn
May. 9th, 2010 03:23 am (UTC)
I see fanfic as somewhat akin to P.Diddy using "I'll be missing you" in one of his songs...he felt, somehow, that he could not possibly create a more ideal phrase, so he took it from someone else (permission is moot; it's the idea that you'd actually use someone else's work in that fashion). I find the idea preposterous. I don't like the idea of cover songs, even as homage, and I tend to group fanfic into the same boat. People who love to write (make music, etc.) that just can't quite manage to come up with their own way of expressing an idea just borrow from someone else that they admire. Again, all legal issues aside, it's somehow cowardly to me. You, Mr. Martin, have poured your heart and soul into making characters that we all love (or love to hate, as the case may be) and even if I would have loved to see certain characters live or make different choices, I would never take it upon myself to "improve" upon your stories. You have to take chances and make difficult choices for the lives of your characters and that doesn't give anyone the right to improvise how they'd rather you had accomplished something. They are, after all, yours. It takes courage to kill off a beloved character, as it takes courage to share that with the world.

How is fanfic wholly different than Vanilla Ice thieving a riff from someone else? He didn't create it, but he made a name for himself with it...yes, it is different in that P. Diddy and Vanilla Ice made money from their pursuits (and one apparently had permission and, as we know, one didn't!). It doesn't make it less cowardly. There are many "famous" fanfiction authors out there - well, ok, "internet famous" - but they still have a following because they used someone else's ideas and expanded upon them.

I have often wondered why fanfic has such a large following...as I wondered at the numerous P. Diddy fans that had no idea that "I'll be missing you" was a hugely popular song before he ever incorporated it into his own. Sure, he got permission from Sting to use the original...but even if it is flattering, it's still disingenuous to use someone else's ideas as a familiar delivery device for your own.

Sure people are inspired by other peoples words and works...but using that as an inspiration is not the same as taking existing characters and writing your own version/alternate story/universe. If you're going to pour your passion into something, why not make it wholly yours? The folks that write fanfic clearly have a passion for writing, and I can appreciate that. I don't understand their feelings of entitlement when it comes to using other people's characters in their fanfic - these characters are someone else's brain child(ren) and just because you love them enough to create something about them does not entitle you to do so. I'm even of the opinion that "public domain" works are not fair game for fanfic either...but I'm a purist, I admit. I have appreciated derivative works, to be sure, but I'd much rather read something new and different than rehashing the "woulda, coulda, shoulda" that fanfic tends towards.

Perhaps I'm being too harsh as I know many people that love their fandoms and the fanfic which they have inspired and I don't believe that any of them that participate do it for anything but love. I appreciate their passion...and I understand that creation of your own work takes inspiration from all avenues. I just can't fathom sitting down to write anything using someone else's characters/world. Just as you'd stated that they were like your children, I don't feel like I could take those children and do any form of justice to them on my own and I'd really rather not offend their biological parent!

It's not as black-and-white as all that, clearly. There will always be folks with a sense of entitlement that will want to use someone else's idea to further their own. I don't see it as a legal issue, I see it as an ethical issue. I'd not take someone's music, re-record it and claim it as my own because it's not "right", according to my own moral compass - I don't see how writing fanfic is vastly different from that.
anivad
May. 10th, 2010 06:50 am (UTC)
But there are certain forms of writing that cannot exist as one-off pieces outside of fan fiction; for example, the alternate point of view, the character study, the alternate ending, the tribute (like this thing I wrote for the movie Moon: http://anivad.livejournal.com/832511.html), the crossover.

None of my three fanfic novels to date would have been possible as original works - they're a trilogy about fictional characters entering the real world and having to deal with the realisation of the nature of their existence, along with the existence of other characters played by the same actor who played them. Identity crises and existential dilemmas abound. Can't do that in original writing; first I'd have to create and write the original sources that each character came from, and then people have to read them and be interested enough to stay on for the final story, and it wouldn't have readers being able to draw from their own existing knowledge of those sources.

Example: Most people know who Neo from The Matrix is. Whereas if I have to go "okay, imagine there's this character named Tom, and one day he discovered his world wasn't real and all this stuff happened to him. Imagine that this is a movie, and Tom was played by Actor X. Now here's another story about a kid named Theodore, and one day he went time traveling with his best friend William to finish a history project. Imagine that this is also a movie, and Theodore was also played by Actor X. Got it? Great. Now here's another story in which Tom and Theodore meet and have an excellent adventure."

it just doesn't have the same impact, and that first part feels useless when it's the second part that's the point of the whole story.

And fanfic is often new and different - they provide different ways of looking at something, making something 'old' into something new. They give new insights into that original work, which is really what fandom is being about - exploring the source.

Also, why the assumption that fanfic writers are writers who don't have the creativity/talent/effort to create their own original worlds and characters? Because all the fanfic writers I know do. They write fanfic in addition to their original writings, because it's a different experience.
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meikochan
May. 9th, 2010 03:45 am (UTC)
I have a couple more questions regarding your stance on fanart. I did my best to read through the near 500 comments that have been posted on the issue so far and I don't think these exact issues have been addressed.

So lets say I'm not completely satisfied with existing images of Ned Stark, so I decide to draw a portrait myself and put it online. That's all fine and good. If I make a comic about Sam and Arya having adventures traveling through the Free Cities until they meet up with Daenerys and return to Westeros to rule over, then that's no good since I've made a piece of fiction. But what if I draw a single illustration of Jon and Jaime dueling over Loras' body while Sansa looks on in the background? I've created some sort of (semi-nonsensical) narrative there, but it's not a complete story.

More specifically, how do you feel about something like The Page 100 Project, where comic creators make adaptations of very short passages of books? I had initially considered trying to draw a comic of page 100 of A Game of Thrones, but ultimately decided it did not have the most adaptable content compared to the other page 100s on my bookshelf.
mustbethursday
May. 9th, 2010 04:44 am (UTC)
Thank you
I honestly never thought much on this subject. I've seen fanfiction before, but I've never written any myself. I thought it seemed like a generally harmless thing, but I completely see where you're coming from. As a writer myself who hopes someday to have even a small amount of your success, it brings up some very interesting points that might become important down the road. Or maybe it never will, but it definitely made me think in a new way about it.

I do think it's a shame that something that originally stemmed from a love for the subject material was twisted into something dark and selfish by certain people who look to get money off of another's skill. Obviously it would be nice if we could believe that everyone would play nice and do things for the right reasons, but due to those bad apples no one really gets to play innocently.

Thanks again for the thought-provoking subject material!
hekateras
May. 9th, 2010 01:12 pm (UTC)
I appreciate the way you've handled this, but I can't help but feel that - putting ASIDE the argument of financial risk and legal issues, and focussing on the argument of "I don't want fanfics because these are my children, and the notion of fanfics is unpleasant for me on a personal level" - forbidding fanfiction based solely on personal distaste is a rather selfish stance to take.

Though they may be elevated to near-godly status by some, an author is ultimately just one person who has created something greater than him/herself, and it's the work rather than the person that will be remembered by future generations. (E.g. who Dickinson and Homer really were has largely ceased to matter, it's their works that have helped shape our culture.) A successful creator has made a valuable contribution to the "gene pool" of human culture, something future creators will be able to draw on much as you yourself have undoubtedly drawn on past classics and story archtypes as well as real past events - as far as sources of inspiration go, I see no need to distinguish between fiction and history. Demanding that future contributions to the culture pool be limited and that thousands of your fans restrict their own creativity in order to coddle a single person because of what is pretty much a whim of said person.... I understand why you'd feel that way, but that particular argument sounds very selfish to me.

People are "playing with your children" if they publish a fanfic online, sure. If they write the fanfic without posting it online or neven even write it down and it just remains in their heads, the "playing with your children" part is still there. Even the moment people finish a book of yours and start wondering anxiously about how things might continue, or how a tragedy might have been prevented, or mentally try to fill in the gaps and connect the dots concerning how an event came about, they're "playing with your children". It's going on whether or not you forbid people to post their fanfics online. At the very least, your works will eventually become public domain, at which point said "playing with your children" will still take place, only you'll (probably) no longer be alive by then. Since you, as the author, have the option to just not read any of the published fanfics and remain as unaware of their contents as you would be if they weren't published or if they only appeared many decades after your death, what's the point of and the justification in forbidding it?

I am not trying to be insulting or disrespectful, but it always bothered me that "respecting the author's wishes" always seems to translate to "everything they say overrides the Ten Commandments". Some authors - like one of my favourite ones, Raymond Feist - to my great disappointment even impose their personal preferences on their fans - "It's better to put their creativity into creating their own worlds". In my opinion, it's not their place to decide for thousands of people what the "right" way to use one's creativity is. In my opinion, they've added something great to the cultural vortex of ideas, and their voice will always have great weight as far as building up on those ideas goes, but they have no right to forbid people from doing the same.

The financial risks involved are a completely separate argument - though, again, there are thousands upon thousands of fandoms and only a handful among them forbid fanfiction and it seems more like the exceptions proving the rule - that for the vast, vast majority, fanfics have no negative effect on the fandom whatsoever. But concerning sheer principle, I consider the arguments somewhat pretentious (if in a very human, understandable way) and unconvincing.
gsprigings
May. 10th, 2010 05:07 am (UTC)
Copyrights
So, first off, I am not a lawyer and do not play one on TV. I have not done a whole lot with Copyrights but have been involved with Patents a little. In the case of Patents, if there is a conflict with more than one entity claiming something as their patent, you can defend your claim to using the work if you can prove you had Prior Art. So, in the case of MZB (and assuming similar defenses are options), assuming there was some paperwork between her and her publisher (story outline, email/letter with ideas, etc...) prior to the fan publishing her post, could MZB not have defended her claim to the idea as "Prior Art"?

I have to admit that I am on the fence on the issue... the whole freedom of expression thing versus honoring the blood, sweat, and tears of the author. I think in most cases, it is simply a matter of imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, but I can see how it could put an author in a bind during the nascent phase of idea development. I guess this is where Art meets Red Tape... always want to make sure you have a paper trail to fall back on if you get hit some bizarre claim to your work.

Anyway, it is unfortunate we lost out on a MZB book (never heard about this incident before). While I don't think fan fiction will ever go away (the whole imitation thing above), hopefully those who engage in it understand the repercussions (i.e. potentially losing a book in a cherished series). And no fear from me... as much as I would love to think I have a book in me, this is about as creative as you will get! :-)
djonn
May. 10th, 2010 09:05 pm (UTC)
Datapoint on Yarbro (per thread in prior post)
A subthread in the earlier (now-frozen) fanfic-related post mentioned a situation that arose involving unauthorized fanfic based on Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's works.

I didn't come across that post till after it had been frozen, and so was unable to respond directly to the poster interested in a link to further information on the dispute. For that reason, and since that case is probably the second-most-discussed author/fan conflict in fanfictional history, after the MZB matter, I offer the following:

The Holmesian Federatino (@ fanlore.org)

[FWIW, I have copies of the complete run of that zine, including the issue containing the relevant story.]
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