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A Few More Last Words

Spain
And one more thing...

All this debate about fan fiction, here and on Diana Gabaldon's blog and Charlie Stross's blog and ten or twenty or a hundred other places on the internet, has generated (I hope) a certain amount of light and (I know) an enormous amount of heat.

Why is that? I wonder. Why do both sides get so incensed about this issue?

There's a lot been said about copyright and trademark and infringement and fair use and who has the right to make money off what, and all that's well and good, valuable stuff, worth discussing and debating... but the fanfictioneers keep saying that it's all about love, never about money, and as I ponder this, I think they're right.

It is all about love.

On both sides.

Let's forget about all the legal and financial issues here. We've discussed those to death. Let's just talk about the emotions.

Here's the thing. I think the fan fictioneers write about certain characters because they love them. And I think the writers who object to having their characters written about do so because they love them too. Which brings us back to the "my characters are my children" thing, which may be central.

Now, not all writers feel this way, certainly. Some will say, "Do whatever you want with my characters, I don't care, so long as you don't impinge on my ability to make a living. If you start f*cking with my income stream, I'll shut you down. Elsewise, have fun." Which is fine, if you share that view. But y'know, I don't. I'll never say something like that. I DO care what you do with my characters.

Fiction is fiction. It's all made up. Dreams and visions made of word on paper. Every writer who isn't insane knows that. Every reader too. But still...

When I was kid back in the 50s, I read a lot of comic books, including Superman books -- SUPERMAN, ACTION, LOIS LANE, JIMMY OLSEN. At that time, those comics would occasionally publish what they called "Imaginary Stories." Even as a kid, I knew that was a stupid name. I mean, ALL the stories were imaginary, weren't they? Today we'd call them "What If" stories or "Alternate Universe" stories. They were stories outside the usual Superman continuity. "What If Krypton Never Blew Up" and "What If Superman and Lois Got Married," stuff like that. Some of them were pretty good stories. Lots happened in them -- more than ever happened in the "real" Superman stories of the 50s. Even so, they never completely engaged me. Because they weren't REAL.

Of course, Superman himself wasn't real. None of the stories were real. I knew that, even when I was eight years old. But there's a contract between reader and writer. I'm telling you a story, trying to make it all as real as possible. And you, the reader, while you're reading the story, you're going to pretend that these people are real, that the events in the story actually did happen to them. Without that pretense, why would you care?

(Once, at a Milford Conference several decades ago, I got in a long and heated argument with two New Wave writers who put forward the proposition that since fiction is not real, it should not pretend to be real, that good fiction is all about the words, that stories should celebrate their "paperiness" the same way abstract art celebrates its two-dimensionality, as opposed to earlier styles of painting that tried to create the illusion of three dimensions. Maybe that's why I have never liked abstract art. I certainly don't like stories that celebrate their paperiness. I want the illusion. I want the stories and the characters to be as real as they can possibly be, at least during the time it takes me to read them. And maybe afterwards as well).

The imaginary stories were intellectually interesting, as "what if" stories, but they never engaged me on an emotional level. I knew, as I read them, that nothing in them really mattered. If Superman or one of his friends died, well, it was no big thing. They would be back next issue, unchanged. On the other hand, a few years later, when Gwen Stacy died, I was almost as devastated as Peter Parker. Gwen Stacy was real to me.

(Which is also, by the way, why I hate hate hate the retconning that has become so f*cking common in today's comic books and films. It seems to me to be a breach of that unwritten contract between writer and reader. You told me that Peter Parker married Mary Jane, you had me read a decade's worth of stories where they were man and wife, you never said they were imaginary stories, you claimed that this was what was really happening to Spidey in his real life... and now you turn around and tell me, no, not only are they not married, they were NEVER married, none of that actually happened, nyah nyah nyah, but keep buying our comic, now we're going to tell you what really did happen. Sorry, no. Strike up the Who, I won't get fooled again. I say it's spinach and I say the hell with it).

As a reader (books, comics, whatever) and a viewer (television, film), I want characters I can care about, engage with, believe in. If I don't find them in the work, I'm going to lose interest very quickly. If I do find them, though... well, even though I know such creations are just fictions, I will nonetheless begin to care very deeply.

F'rinstance, I have never seen the third ALIENS movie. I loved ALIEN and ALIENS, but when I read the early reviews of ALIENS 3, and learned that the new movie was going to open by killing Newt and... what was his name, the Michael Biehn character?... well, I was f*cking outraged. I never went to the film because I did not want that sh*t in my head. I had come to love Newt in the preceding movie, the whole damn film was about Ripley rescuing her, the end was deeply satisfying... and now some asshole was going to come along and piss all over that just to be shocking. I have never seen the subsequent Aliens films either, since they are all part of a fictional "reality" that I refuse to embrace. Not even the film with Ron Perlman in it, and Ron is a both a friend and an actor I greatly admire.

Thing is, it hasn't worked. Though I've avoided seeing the films, the reviews I read still poisoned the well. I know too much about what happens in ALIENS 3. I know Newt dies. And just that little bit of knowledge has seriously crimped my ability to enjoy ALIENS itself. It's still a fine, exciting film, but now when I get to the end, when Newt is climbing into the tube and asking Ripley if she'll dream, instead of the frisson of emotional satisfaction that I used to get, the little teardrop at the corner of my eye, I remember, "F*ck, Newt has an alien inside her, she's going to die," and I get pissed off and sour all over again.

All over a character who does not exist, has never existed. I know that. It does not make the feelings any less strong.

And if I can feel that strongly about characters created by other people, can you possibly imagine how strongly I feel about my own characters?

That's why I liken them to my children. I can care about Newt and Gwen Stacy and Frodo and Captain Ahab and the Great Gatsby and on and on... but I care about the Turtle and Abner Marsh and Tyrion Lannister and Jon Snow and Haviland Tuf and Daenerys and my own guys a thousand times more. They are my sons and daughters.

There are lots and lots and lots of people like me, I think. And it's that which accounts for the emotional vehemence of these debates on fan fiction, on both sides.

The fan fictioneers fall in love with a character or characters, and want to make things come out right for them... or come out the way they want things to come out. I know that much of the old BEAUTY AND THE BEAST fanfic was posited on the basis of Catherine and Vincent consommating their relationship and living happily ever after, with occasional adventures. There was certainly a ton of it based on wiping away our entire third season; many B&B fans feel about Catherine's death just as strongly as I feel about Newt's. They want to undo it. I would strongly suspect that out there somewhere there must be ALIENS fanfic where Newt does NOT die horribly too. It's love of the characters that prompts people to write these things. Hell, if I was ever hired to write a new ALIENS film, the first thing I would do would be to say, "Hey, remember how at the end of ALIENS Newt asks if she will dream? Well, she will. All the films from that moment have just been her bad dreams. We'll open my new movie with Newt and Ripley waking up..." Which would be a sort of retconning, I know, which I just denounced. So sue me. Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds. It would also be the most expensive fanfic in history, I guess. Too bad I'll never get the chance.

But let's turn it on its head, and look at the things from the writer's perspective. As much as the fans may love our characters, we love them more. And suddenly we are confronted with stories in which other people are doing all sorts of things with our children... things we never envisioned, never authorized, and may even find stupid and/ or repugnant. Characters we killed come back to life. Living characters are killed. Villains are redeemed. Straight characters become gay. Romeo and Juliet don't commit suicide, they survive and live happily ever after and have seventeen children.

Sure, we could shrug and say, "None of these things really happened. These stories are not canon. They're just imaginary stories. They're not REAL." And I'm sure many writers do this. But I can't. All legal and financial aspects aside, I don't want to read your fanfic where Gatsby and Daisy run off together, and I certainly don't want to read the ones where Gatsby runs off with Tom Buchanan, or the two of them and Daisy have a threesome, or Gatsby rapes and murders Daisy... and I'm pretty sure F. Scott Fitzgerald wouldn't want to read 'em either. Now, plug in Jon Snow and Jay Ackroyd and Haviland Tuf and Daenerys Targaryen, or any of my characters, for Gatsby and Daisy and Tom, and I'm pretty sure that you can figure out my reaction.

It's like with Newt. I don't want those pictures in my head. Even if they're nice pictures, if you love my characters and only do nice, sweet, happy things to them. You're still messing around with my people. I won't use any analogies here, I know how that upsets people... but there is a sense of violation.

It's not rational, perhaps. These are all just made-up people. Words on paper. Who cares what happens to them? Let's just all celebrate their paperiness.

But I'm not wired that way. And neither, I suspect, is Diana Gabaldon.

This has nothing to do with money or copyright or law. It's a gut-level emotional reaction. And it's all about love. On both sides.

Or to put it another way:

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( 187 comments )
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jpclemen
May. 9th, 2010 04:29 am (UTC)
Morality and Copyright
The fact that so many recent legal copyright battles have stemmed from corporations enforcing distribution rights which they in turn obtained by forcing contracts of adhesion on brilliant creative minds has cut in to our cognizance of the moralilty and justice of copyright. The most basic right of all is for a person to have freedom of thought. Close behind is the freedom to express those thoughts. Authors use those two basic rights to share new and entertaining worlds, from their imagination to our consciousness through whatever medium they work in.

You see, copyright isn't fundamentally about the right to make a profit off of one's own creative output. That's just a side effect of the more basic right to control one's own thoughts and expressions.
p_zeitgeist
May. 9th, 2010 07:08 pm (UTC)
Re: Morality and Copyright
copyright isn't fundamentally about the right to make a profit off of one's own creative output.

Well . . . yes and no. At least in the United States, there's a significant extent to which it's about precisely that. The provision in the constitution that gives Congress the right to grant copyrights reads, in its entirety, as follows:

"To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;"

That is, the overall purpose is to encourage the production of intellectual property, for the good of the nation as a whole; the method of encouragement is to give the author or inventor who comes up with something good the right to make a profit off it. This makes U.S. copyright law somewhat counterintuitive for many people, and particularly for many writers and artists, who tend to assume that the law is intended to give them moral rights (or, as you put it, to allow them to control [their] own thoughts and expressions. Not so, at least in this country -- the author's period of control, far from being the purpose, is the price we pay for what we want, which is both the production of the work in the first place and the future work that may be built on its foundations when the day comes that everyone is allowed to use it.
stillking
May. 9th, 2010 04:35 am (UTC)
focusing on this post, not fan-fiction

For what it's worth (cold comfort though it might be), Newt does not (did not) (never had) an alien in her. THAT would, truly, have been unforgivable.

The third film is nonetheless not great cinema, though the bar-codes on the napes of the prisoners' necks are a mildly-funny remnant of the initial Gibson/Red script, at the end of which seven survivors gathered round Ripley sleeping (or possibly dead) in her hypersleep chamber. (Get it, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, glass coffin, yes I'm serious, yuk yuk yuk.) This proto-finale did not make it to screen.

I love your series; I want it to end, and to end satisfyingly; do what you have to do.
ravenclaw_eric
May. 9th, 2010 04:37 am (UTC)
Retconning, in comics, always puts me in mind of 1984. "He doesn't exist. He never existed. The Party says so. 2+2=5."
maine_character
May. 9th, 2010 04:45 am (UTC)

The song puts it across well. Anyone can sing “Wish You Were Here” around the campfire and not owe Pink Floyd anything but thanks.

But if they start to sing, “Wish You Were Beer,” then whoa. That’s changing the story. That’s not why they put that song out there, and that’s not the feeling they want people to take away from it.

I can well understand the pull of fanfiction. Thirty years ago I made up tons of stories with my Star Wars action figures. Great galactic battles with surprising twists and brave heroics the screen has never seen. I loved exploring that galaxy with those characters.

And yet, as you say, no one knows your characters the way you do. ‘Cause me, I had Luke killing Vader and running to Leia and making out and more. It was Oedipus without the mother. But I didn’t know that, and those characters sure didn’t deserve that.
ailsaek
May. 9th, 2010 04:46 am (UTC)
I can understand that. Part of the reason I don't read fanfic is that so many of the stories violate my idea of the characters (the other part being my fear of bad writing). I know people have thrown Miles and Ivan into bed together, for instance, but I can live without reading it.

Fanfic about TV and comic book characters doesn't bother me as much, because the characters are written and rewritten by so many people, and I'm already rejecting a fair amount of canon for some characters (Impulse is not dead, but Jean Grey is). One could view all writing about comic book characters after the first writer leaves as fanfic.
box_life
May. 9th, 2010 04:51 am (UTC)
I've never gotten the urge to write in your universe before for a variety of reasons, but if I did get the urge now, I would almost certainly resist it. It's not because of anything you've said before now per se. It's because of this: you don't like it, something feels funny and wrong about someone else using your guys. That's okay. That's enough. All the other arguments seem like justification for that feeling. Isn't that feeling enough?

So I guess I'm saying thanks for the honesty. In the end, that's what I'll respect.
barristans_sqir
May. 9th, 2010 04:57 am (UTC)
bravo.
Well said.
Only the weak of mind could fail to grasp that.
Or perhaps some will fall back on selfishness
"well... I still really want to..."

I was not 100% behind you before.
I am now. Or at least really close to it.
methe
May. 9th, 2010 05:14 am (UTC)
The point you make about love is well taken.

This isn't a subject I've put a lot of thought into, but phrased in that light, some of my own reading choices make more sense.

I don't read fanfic about stories from individual authors. I just don't. Most authors have story lines that begin and end. That's the story, no additions needed.

Comics are different though. The bend, fold and mutilate the characters at will. Authors change, story lines get dropped, reconned, alternative universes rise, fall and are forgotten. And there's no satisfactory ending to many of the stories. Ending the stories. giving characters some closure, would mean Marvel or DC loses their revenue stream.

There is a small number of internet authors that have brought comics storylines to a satisfactory conclusion. I'm pretty certain those authors actually care about the characters, unlike Marvel/DC/etc.

Otherwise, I'm pretty much on board with your position. I would never read any fiction based off a novel. It just strikes me as wrong and unnecessary.
specialj8d
May. 9th, 2010 05:16 am (UTC)
It's interesting that you're so quick to condemn the writer of the third Alien screenplay for killing off a character you were very engaged with. More interesting, perhaps, is your statement that your own characters are 1000 times more dearly loved by you than the character of another writer..

These are interesting, of course, because you have the reputation for seeming apathetic toward most of your characters...based, I am sure, on your penchant for killing off so many important characters, the protagonists with the antagonists.

I'm sure you'll hate* the comparison (indeed, I hate myself for thinking it), and it will justifiably draw scorn, but the case could be made that Jordan must harbor a far greater love for his characters. In a dozen length novels, not a single primary protagonist character has found a lasting demise. In contrast...Eddard, Robb, Robert, Renly, Drogo..and those are just the "good"-aligned characters with any decent screen time.

As we await the day when we can open our copies of Dance, I am confident that one of most common thoughts among readers is this: Which of your children will be given the red smile in the next installment?
grrm
May. 9th, 2010 05:54 am (UTC)
I have a reputation for being bloody minded and vicious and killing a lot of my characters, I will agree.

I don't think that translates to apathy, however.

It hurts to kill your children.
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mauvais_pli
May. 9th, 2010 05:20 am (UTC)
This is much more to the point, I feel, and again, your perspective is perfectly understandable and worthy of respect, but one-sided.

You said the writer and the reader engage in a contract of sorts, and you go on to describe what the contract means to the writer. What about us the readers? We come to love the characters and care about the reality of them very much indeed. We are given by you this wonderful world filled with things to explore and, apparently, a big fat warning sign saying DON'T TOUCH. What are the terms of that contract again?

I think you completely disregard the fact that reading is a creative process, too, understanding the stories and characters and making them real in our heads. Even as we read, our perceptions may differ from what you intended, and that's where fanfiction comes from, because it actually encompasses much more than putting this character and that in this unreal situation. It is a way of processing the book, and then, eventually, of interacting with people who similarly love the book and its characters.
subgirl
May. 9th, 2010 05:25 am (UTC)
You are a brilliant author, and this is why I keep re-reading what you've written in (patient) awaits of ADoD instead of EVER reading fanfic.

I don't want to dilute your story.

Plus, it never has the correct voice, no matter how lovingly done it is. I just can't see fanfic correctly.

(just had to comment, as I feel I may post a link to this in reference to why I don't read fanfic, no offense to those of my friends who write it, since I am not as eloquent as you, obviously.)

Thanks for everything you write! (even the sports)
axechucker
May. 9th, 2010 05:31 am (UTC)
Yeah...

Someone's gonna sample that Safka song and make a rap track outta it.

I'm telling you.
bloodypoetry
May. 9th, 2010 05:31 am (UTC)
I totally understand that point of view. Hell, I love to read Joss Whedon fanfic, and some of it squicks the heck out of me.

But (while this isn't really a issue, since you've forbidden fanfic and most authors will respect that), why do you even have to read it? The best way not to be disturbed by fanfiction is to avoid it. Which is pretty easy. I avoid a lot of things on the internets. In order to keep sane, we have to avoid a ton is disturbing crap that lives online.

Also, the term we use for ourselves is 'fanfic writers'. The other kinda makes us sound like mouseketeers. Which, while you might be going for a 'fanfic is written by children' thing, most of us aren't kids.
mjallen7
May. 9th, 2010 05:58 am (UTC)
seriously
george, if i knew they weren't already making another alien film (which i hear sir ridley and sigourney are reuniting to do) i would beg and plead for your "rebooted" version as a followup to aliens. give it the superman returns treatment...while it wasn't great, the idea was to trash the less than stellar 3rd and 4th parts and just create a sequel of sorts to superman 2. heck, bring back michael biehn...i think you would have some serious fan backing for that endeavor. and on spiderman? i was done after that mary jane thing...
awibs
May. 9th, 2010 06:01 am (UTC)
You mean to say you don't like being Cthulhu'd?!
thebesttruth
May. 9th, 2010 06:10 am (UTC)
Immediately after reading this, all I could think of was one thing:

If the deaths of some of your favorite characters in other fiction have made you emotional to the point of irrationality (as in, wishing to ret-con Newt's death several paragraphs after denouncing retconning in general), which is a common response to loss, how then do you cope with killing your own 'children' off?

I've always appreciated the way you approached mortality: with total, brutal honesty. It allows me to invest in your characters in a more authentically, as they are not timeless and immortal. In my own personal way, I grieved over the loss of some of my favorites (Catelyn being a particularly strong example) and while the depths of my passion may not be so deep as yours, I understand the feeling.

That being said, I wonder how it feels to kill your own creations. Part of me says that one of the biggest pains of loss (losing control/being reminded of our impotence) is removed when you have a say in how and when one of your children will die (within the constraints of the story). Certainly, in your role as "The Creator", you are both potent and in control.

But then, you do not have the benefit of being a guiltless god, or so I would guess. Deciding upon and describing the exact events both leading up to and effecting someone's death makes you responsible. Unquestionably and unalterably responsible. Many people struggle with irrational guilt after a death as a coping mechanism designed to impart some sense of that lost control. Were you to feel it, your guilt would be no delusional mechanism.

Or maybe I am way off the mark, and you are a fantastic serial killer, delighting in the destruction of every creation you ever could've loved. I doubt it though.

Either way, I realize it's a complex issue, and I don't expect a large or detailed response. My curiosity, in essential form, might read: do you find it easy to maintain a certain detachment to the deaths of your characters because of the control you have, or does the control make the deaths all the more painful?
grrm
May. 9th, 2010 06:13 am (UTC)
It feels bloody awful.

The Red Wedding was the hardest thing I ever wrote. I skipped over it originally, delayed it for months, wrote the rest of what followed, and only then returned to it when the book was elsewise done.

Even killing the bad guys is hard. They're my children too.
(no subject) - daisakusha - May. 9th, 2010 08:08 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kizeesh - May. 9th, 2010 01:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Horror and loss of control - bastetbabe27 - May. 10th, 2010 07:55 am (UTC) - Expand
marinliliz
May. 9th, 2010 06:28 am (UTC)
My dear sir, I think finally someone got it right! It is about love. Love for one's work and love for the work of others to the extent of wanting to be immersed in it.

As a fanfictioneer, I may disagree with the view of writers such as yourself and Diana Gabaldon on fanfiction but I respect and understand your need to protect your creations. There may be those that don't, but most do and until this post there was a lack of respect for us fanfictioneers as fans of your work. I think that was what hurt the most. Well, and the name calling. We're always seen as the big bad wolf coming to eat your children but never as fans showing our love for your work as others can through fanart or naming their pet/child after a character created by you.

Thank your for acknowledging us as loving fans and for pointing out, elegantly, the view of a loving author.

Oh and the the Michael Biehn character in ALIENS was called Hicks, Corporal Dwayne Hicks.
grrm
May. 9th, 2010 06:34 am (UTC)
Hicks. Thanks. I always get him confused with Hudson.

Vasquez and Bishop I remember. (Lance Hendricksen. Another terrific actor. I had the privilege to work with him once on BEAUTY AND THE BEAST).
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rarewind
May. 9th, 2010 06:33 am (UTC)
Consider me converted
George,

You know, this has been a hotly debated topic for years on the boards. I for one never had an interest in fan fiction nor any need or desire to try and write my favorite authors characters. In fact, I am paying you to tell me a story and I like the arrangement that way.

I must admit I felt you were being a little sensitive about it, and really didn't understand why. Now I do. That was about the best impassioned argument that I have heard in quite awhile, thanks for laying it all out on the table. In fact, I kinda feel like a parent who tries to tell another parent how to raise their kids. That's never a good idea with them, and it isn't for you. These are your creations, your passions, your ability all melded into these beings that your pen brings life to. It's simple. They belong to you, and nobody should try and control them but you. Well said Sir...
flake_sake
May. 9th, 2010 06:37 am (UTC)
I think you're right in that it is about love.

Fanfiction is a lot like the "what if" stories you described, they'll probably never have the weight canon has to me and I wouldn't want them to, but I wouldn't want to miss them either.

I just wanted to give one more reason why a few years ago, entirely too old to be counted as some teenager who is trying her writing legs, and usually writing original stories, I fell in love quite hard with the fanfiction scene (despite all it's misgivings).

I never read or wrote fanfiction on books, but I did for a tv show. The show inquestion was already a colaborative work, it was also hugely successfull and spawned a lot of books and comics to the series. When the tv show ended and I just didn't want the story to end,so I turned to this books and comics, which essentially sanctioned commercial fanfic. Only they were written by people who for the most part were clearly not in love with any part of the original story.
Many were terrible, they were written in bad style, forever prolonging the status quo (while the show had always introduced and executed big changes), the character voices were barely recognizable. I forgot them again as fast as I could.
And then I discovered fanfic, where the lows went far lower than those books ever would. But the highs went so much higher too! The characters were written by someone who really got them, by someone who had something to say about them and also by someone who had no constraints writing.

And that lack of constraint was so freeing that a chosen few of those "what if" stories became insanely dear to me.

We are all lovers of stories, but we are also part of an industry that tries to make money and is governed by the usual power patterns in our society. With tv-shows (far more than with books), the possibilities of what can happen are sometimes incredibly constrained.

When I found fanfiction, I realised that what people were doing here was writing down what I had done from the day on I could read. Reimagening stories, altering stories so that they fit for me. When I was small there was a dire lack of characters like Arya, there were about five female characters I ever could identfy with, in the hundreds of books I read before I was even twelve. This felt horribly constraining and the first thing I did in my head was usually to either reimagening a female character to do something awesome too, or to turn the hero I identified with most into a girl. In a way it was a self defense mechanism, because the image of woman portrayed in fiction was so little, like I felt I was. And while I loved those stories, I always felt like they were kind of excluding me on purpose. My imagination was my way in.

I wonder if other people have had similar experiences and if that's why such a large portion of fanfic writers is female and also why so much fanfic concerns issues that tend to get surpressed by a still largely heteronormative industry of storytelling.

Because breaking those rules, that was what really made me fall in love with fanfiction. Because suddenly everything is possible, not only what is pleasant to watch for white men and what they imagine women to be. Developments that simply would have upset the status quo of a tv-show too much to happen, suddenly could and be played out to their full extent. Sure that also leads to horrible failed experiments with great stories, but those zombies can be put so much easier to rest than when canon turns into one (which as you described with your alien experience sometimes happens), so to me it's worth the risk.

This has little context in connection to fanfiction on books, where the creative descissions all rest in one hand and the story clearly is exactly as it the author intends it to be but the more commercial the art, the more I enjoy it when the story gets set free. It's maybe also an act of rebellion to me, a way to find room in our common imaginary worlds.
bloodypoetry
May. 9th, 2010 01:52 pm (UTC)
Word.
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ponderable
May. 9th, 2010 06:59 am (UTC)
Love And Truth
First of all let me chime in the praise for your essay: You hit the nail on the head about reading.

Then I would venture to say, one major point is truth. So the make believe is woring, we are enjoying a story told to us, and then in the wonderfully constructed truth we encounter something which is very inconsitstent, and kills our believe. Here we have the ultimate treason. (I would rather have Lord Eddard be executed than to back down becoming a spitlicker)

I feel that authors who avoid their protagonists getting killed create ghosts...
mecurtin
May. 9th, 2010 07:02 am (UTC)
Don't be King Lear
You're right, it *is* about love.

As much as the fans may love our characters, we love them more.

This is King Lear (the character)'s fallacy. Yes, we parents love our children enormously, painfully, more than anything -- but that doesn't mean our love is or should be their defining goal.

This is especially the case for writers such as yourself, whose characters are moving from text to live action performance. Once Eddard Stark appears on screen, he will not be your baby anymore, and the love fans feel for him will not be due to you alone, but to the actor, the director, and everyone else involved in the production.

And, boy howdy, there will be a *lot* of love. At present, there is very little fanfiction for The Game of Thrones available in google-able archives, and much of it is of high quality. I guess that there are well under 1000 stories all told, which is a very small number for such a large, important work. Your books are coherent, thoughtful, and complex, and most readers have been willing to go along with your vision.

Once your characters appear onscreen, embodied by some of the most attractive humans on the planet, the game will change. Before the Jackson "Fellowship of the Rings" movie premiered, there were only a few hundred stories in the LotR fandom; afterwards, stories were appearing on the largest archive at the rate of 100 *per hour*. GoT onscreen has many of the same elements going for it -- a complex world; a large cast; Sean Bean -- and it would be foolish not to expect a similar growth in fanfic production.

90% of those stories will be crud. Many, *many* of them will involve characters having sex, in every conceivable and inconceivable combination. Some of those stories will be astoundingly good.

The people who write and read the fanfic will be among your most devoted fans. They will buy all your books -- not just GoT. They will go to conventions. They will keep buying your books and DVDs or downloads of the series for decades. They will love your characters with an at-times disturbing passion, they will fight about and for them, they will *care*. And they will keep caring for the long haul.

Step back, recognize that this is going to happen, and *don't look for the fanfic*. I *strongly* recommend that you have an agent or assistant screen your email once the show airs, because some people *will* be foolish enough to send fanfic to you, and that does no-one any good. But you should know that whether people love your characters the same way you do or not, they *will* love them, and you as their creator.
andstillitmoves
May. 9th, 2010 07:02 am (UTC)
I do understand where you're coming from, at the same time I'm a fic writer. I don't write Song of Ice and Fire fic - although I've been tempted - and I think it's a paradigm distinction as well.

I come to reading and writing both 'actual novels/short stories/published fiction' and 'fan fic' from a more modern, post-structuralist perspective. For me, they're not really YOUR characters - sure, you created them, but they're out in the world now, and every time someone reads your books, that reader 'meets' these people and forms their own judgements, opinions and interpretations of their actions and words that are distinct from yours. You can't possibly limit what's in my mind, or even know what I bring to the table in terms of potential interpretative baggage. I don't know what's in your head - all we have is the medium by which you communicate, those words in your fiction, and they are open to some very broad perspectives.

Fan fic is wish fulfillment, but so is 'authorised writing' - fulfillment on the part of the author to tell the story 'their way.' Often as a fan fic writer I feel that I'm just putting to paper the sorts of thoughts and queries I have as a reader - 'why does so and so act this way? what happened to such and such' - it's a more complete engagement with the actual work I've been reading. Me not writing fanfic doesn't stop me from making up those stories and filling up those gaps in my head - it just means I don't put them out there.

Also, there are writers who I think do a bad job of communicating with their readers. Fan fic is sometimes about exploring those possibilities and loose ends that were never tied up or left fallow by the original author - I fully respect the right of any author to change track or rework their arc midseries (especially in TV, when casting almost always compels a TV producer to change plans) but it doesn't invalidate the first few novels or episodes which indicated that 'X' was going to be important - a character, a place, a MacGuffin - and then people changed their mind. So often fanfic is about taking those indications on the part of the author, about making reasonable or potential readings or interpretations and playing them out.

I think that yes, you love these characters - but they're not yours any more, not entirely, possibly not even mostly. I don't have your brain, so in order to make them come alive I use mine - which creates interpretations and perspectives which aren't yours. It's all very Death of the Author, which I think holds true. Fanfic comes from a place where the fan-writer recognises that just in reading a text they are writing out its meaning as it works for them, and running with it.
dreamflower02
May. 10th, 2010 02:27 am (UTC)
Fan fic is wish fulfillment, but so is 'authorised writing' - fulfillment on the part of the author to tell the story 'their way.' Often as a fan fic writer I feel that I'm just putting to paper the sorts of thoughts and queries I have as a reader - 'why does so and so act this way? what happened to such and such' - it's a more complete engagement with the actual work I've been reading.

*applauds*

There are two ways of engaging a story beyond simply consuming it and closing the cover or turning off the TV or walking out of the movie when it's over.

One is story-external. You discuss with your friends the amazing plot, or that really cool scene, and how well it was done, and you compare it to other books or shows or movies, and perhaps you remark on some current event that may be relevant to how you percieved the story. All of these are things that happen outside the story and are irrelevant to the world of the story and the characters inhabiting it.

The other is story-internal. Why was there such enmity between Glinda the Good Witch and the Wicked Witch of the West in Oz? Whatever happened to Adam Cartwright of Bonanza? What went on in Narnia between The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian? How come Frodo's best friends were so much younger than he? There has to be some backstory in that world that will explain these things, so we look for clues in the story, and we set about finding these things out from *inside* the story!

It is just as valid to explore a story from the inside as from the outside. It's just a shame that some people cannot appreciate the importance of it.
blueseaisland
May. 9th, 2010 07:05 am (UTC)
the same here
It's interesting your comment about being upset for some Alien's character death. That is what happens when you end loving other people's children, you're powerless about their destiny. It happened to me (and I guess to everyone) when I read the death of John Keats' cybrid in Hyperion, or Bazarov's death in Fathers and Sons, or when Leo Vincey decides not to expose himself to the fire, losing Ayesha.

It's true I wouldn't want now to read versions where all these 'people' did otherwise because that would upset me even more that losing them in the original stories.

But I am glad to discover by your Alien 3 comment that you understand what it feels like to lose Eddard Stark or Beric Dondarrion :P Not that I would like now to see them alive (neither Keats cybrid, Bazarov or Ayesha). In a way, when we read and fell in love with other people's 'children' we are a bit in their hands ;)

Thank you for your post :)
zhai
May. 9th, 2010 07:06 am (UTC)
Thanks for posting this. It's important, I think, for authors and creative people who are injured by fanfiction to publicly say so, because in the past few years it seems like it's become an unpopular thing to say -- which feels very upside-down, but what can you do.

I think ultimately it is about love, or rather compassion, from both sides. I think most authors can see that people who write fanfiction are expressing a form of admiration. It just doesn't stop the action and result itself from being damaging.

What's troubling about *part* of the fanfiction community is that there is a righteousness being generated that seems to boil down to "there are more of us than there are of you and you can't do anything about it" -- which is a mob mentality that is genuinely frightening. And it is utterly anti-love.

All of these discussions should come down to respect and compassion. If an author feels that fanfiction injures them -- as a lot of authors do -- that's where the action should stop. I would even venture to say that most fanfiction writers, like most readers, have that respect and compassion. But I'm at a loss as to what to think about the ones who don't, the ones who want to make it into a 'rights' issue, to change laws to remove an author's rights. I don't think they'll ever be successful, but there's a lot of low level lawbreaking that they can do to convince themselves that they're starting a trend, so the behavior continues.
cedunkley
May. 9th, 2010 07:10 am (UTC)
The very first actual physical act of story writing I did was way back when I was in junior high school (which everyone so bizarrely calls middle school these days). I embarked on my own sequel to the Lord of the Rings.

I abandoned it after about a week. I realized it didn't make sense to be writing in Tolkien's world when I had already been, for many years, creating my own universe and characters. It made sense to me to write my own creations. Because of that experience, however, I can see where some might enjoy it. However...

I'm not published - yet - but I get where you're coming from. I could not imagine anyone else writing about my characters or my worlds. It would just seem so strange a thing to behold.

Oh, and I have to mention, Melanie is one of my all-time favorites. I distinctly remember the first time I ever heard her music. It was the 4th of July back in the early 1970s. I still have my father's original LPs.

Thanks for these posts.
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