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Someone Is Angry On the Internet

My position on so-called "fan fiction" is pretty well known. I'm against it, for a variety of reasons that I've stated previously more than once. I won't repeat 'em here.

My position is not unique. It is not universal either, I realize. Some writers actually encourage fan fiction (I know some of them, have heard their arguments), others don't seem to care one way or another (I know many of those). Many writers have no idea that it exists, no concept of what it is (in part because of the confusing term "fan fiction," which subject I will return to later), and have given the subject no thought. So there's a wide range of opinion on this matter, even among writers.

There are lots of us who oppose fan fiction, though. One such is my friend Diana Gabaldon, author of the mega-bestselling OUTLANDER series... and the occasional terrific short story and novella, some of which Gardner Dozois and I have been privileged to publish in our anthologies. Diana recently outlined her own feelings about fan fiction -- especially fan fiction involving her own world and characters -- in a series of posts on her blog:


Subsequent to Diana's first post, all hell broke loose. (As it seems to do more and more often on this "interweb" thingie). A thousand comments on her first two blog posts on the subject. It's all there, for those who want to check out the "debate." Which soon, alas, became heated, as hundreds of... what's the correct term here? fanficcers? fan fictioneers? fans of fanfic? defenders of fanfic?... arrived from all over the internet to take issue with Diana. A good number of them seemed to open their posts with variations on 'I don't know who you are and I've never read your books and I've never visited this blog before, but I've come by specially to lambast you.'


I have a colorful metaphor in mind to describe what this reminds me of, but I won't use it. Metaphors seemed to spark much of the outrage here. Writers have a natural prediliction for the colorful phrase, the striking comparison, but in political discussions -- and this is, at base, a political discussion -- that can lead to hyperbole, which can lead to anger.

So let me try to eschew all that and remain calm.

I am not going to rehash the arguments for and against "fan fiction." If you want to read those, go to Diana's blog. In between the shouting and the abuse and the endless restatement of the same three or four points by several hundred different posters, there's actually some fairly cogent posts on both sides, arguing the pros and cons of the issue.

I would like to say a couple of things that I don't think anyone else covered, however (and yes, I read all thousand-plus comments, though admittedly I skimmed some that just seemed to be more of the same).

As I said, my reasons for opposing fan fiction have been stated in the past. They are more-or-less the same reasons as those cited by Diana Gabaldon, and pretty much the same reasons that would given by any writer who shares our viewpoint on the matter. So I won't repeat them here. But I'll add a few thoughts.

One of the things I mislike about fan fiction is its NAME. Truth is, I wrote fan fiction myself. That was how I began, when I was a kid in high school writing for the dittoed comic fanzines of the early 1960s. In those days, however, the term did not mean "fiction set in someone else's universe using someone else's characters." It simply meant "stories written by fans for fans, amateur fiction published in fanzines." Comic fandom was in its infancy then, and most of us who started it were kids... some of whom did make the mistake of publishing amateur fan-written stories about Batman or the Fantastic Four in their 'zines. National (what we called DC back then) and Marvel shut those down pretty quickly.

The rest of us knew better. Including me. I was a fan, an amateur, writing stories out of love just like today's fan fictioneers... but it never dawned on me to write about the JLA or the Fantastic Four or Spider-Man, much as I loved them. I invented my own characters, and wrote about those. Garizan, the Mechanical Warrior. Manta Ray. The White Raider. When Howard Keltner, one of the editors and publishers of STAR-STUDDED COMICS, the leading fanzine of its day, invited me to write about two of his creations, Powerman and Dr. Weird, I leapt at the chance... but only with Howard's express invitation and permission.

So that's the sort of fan fiction I wrote. How and when the term began to be used for what is called fan fiction today, I don't know. I wish there was another term for that, though I confess I cannot think of one that isn't either cumbersome, vague, or prejorative. But it does bother me that people hear I wrote fan fiction, and take that to mean I wrote stories about characters taken from the work of other writers without their consent.

Consent, for me, is the heart of this issue. If a writer wants to allow or even encourage others to use their worlds and characters, that's fine. Their call. If a writer would prefer not to allow that... well, I think their wishes should be respected.

Myself, I think the writers who allow fan fiction are making a mistake. I am not saying here that the people who write fan fiction are evil or immoral or untrustworthy. The vast majority of them are honest and sincere and passionate about whatever work they chose to base their fictions on, and have only the best of intentions for the original author. But (1) there are always a few, in any group, who are perhaps less wonderful, and (2) this door, once opened, can be very difficult to close again.

Most of us laboring in the genres of science fiction and fantasy (but perhaps not Diana Gabaldon, who comes from outside SF and thus may not be familiar with the case I am about to cite) had a lesson in the dangers of permitting fan fiction a couple of decades back, courtesy of Marion Zimmer Bradley. MZB had been an author who not only allowed fan fiction based on her Darkover series, but actively encouraged it... even read and critiqued the stories of her fans. All was happiness and joy, until one day she encountered in one such fan story an idea similar to one she was using in her current Darkover novel-in-progress. MZB wrote to the fan, explained the situation, even offered a token payment and an acknowledgement in the book. The fan replied that she wanted full co-authorship of said book, and half the money, or she would sue. MZB scrapped the novel instead, rather than risk a lawsuit. She also stopped encouraging and reading fan fiction, and wrote an account of this incident for the SFWA FORUM to warn other writers of the potential pitfalls of same.

That was twenty years ago or thereabouts, but that episode had a profound effect on me and, I suspect, on many other SF and fantasy writers of my generation.

Okay, it was one incident a long time ago, you may say. Fair enough. Let me bring up a couple other writers, then. Contemporaries of an earlier age, each of whom was known by a set of initials: ERB and HPL. ERB created Tarzan and John Carter of Mars. HPL created Cthulhu and his Mythos. ERB, and later his estate, was extremely protective of his creations. Try to use Tarzan, or even an ape man who was suspiciously similar to Tarzan, without his/ their permission, and their lawyers would famously descend on you like a ton of bricks. HPL was the complete opposite. The Cthulhu Mythos soon turned into one of our genres first shared worlds. HPL encouraged writer friends like Robert Bloch and Clark Ashton Smith to borrow elements from his Cuthulhu Mythos, and to add elements as well, which HPL himself would borrow in turn. And in time, other writers who were NOT friends of HPL also began to write Cthulhu Mythos stories, which continues to this day.

Fair enough. Two writers, two different decisions.

Thing is, ERB died a millionaire many times over, living on a gigantic ranch in a town that was named Tarzana after his creation. HPL lived and died in genteel poverty, and some biographers have suggested that poor diet brought on by poverty may have hastened his death. HPL was a far more beloved figure amongst other writers, but love will only get you so far. Sometimes it's nice to be able to have a steak too. The Burroughs estate was paid handsomely for every Tarzan movie ever made, and collected plenty on the PRINCESS OF MARS movie I worked on during my Hollywood years, and no doubt is still collecting on the one currently in development... though the book is in the public domain by now. Did the Lovecraft estate make a penny off THE DUNWICH HORROR movie, the HERBERT WEST, REANIMATOR movie, the recent DAGON movie, the internet version of CALL OF CTHULHU? I don't know. I rather doubt it. If they did, I'll betcha it was just chump change. Meanwhile, new writers go right on mining the Cthulhu mythos, writing new stories and novels.

Cthulhu, like John Carter, is in the public domain by now, I know. But it wouldn't matter. Because HPL let so many others play in his sandbox, he essentially lost control of his own creations. That's what I mean by (2), above. The fan fiction door, once opened, is hard to close again.

A writer's creations are his livelihood. Those copyrights are ultimately all that separates an ERB from a HPL. Is it any wonder that most writers are so protective of them?

Those of us, like Diana Galabdon and myself, who prefer not to allow fan fictioners to use our worlds and characters are not doing it just to be mean. We are doing it to protect ourselves and our creations.

Furthermore, we HAVE to do it. That's something no one addressed, in those thousand comments about Diana's blog. There was a lot of talk about copyright, and whether or not fan fiction was illegal, whether it was fair use (it is NOT fair use, by the way, not as I understand the term, and I have a certain familiarity with what is and isn't fair use thanks to my own experiences with THE ARMAGEDDON RAG), but no one mentioned one crucial aspect of copyright law -- a copyright MUST BE DEFENDED. If someone infringes on your copyright, and you are aware of the infringement, and you do not defend your copyright, the law assumes that you have abandoned it. Once you have done that, anyone can do whatever the hell they want with your stuff. If I let Peter and Paul and Nancy publish their Ice & Fire fanfics, and say nothing, then I have no ground to stand on when Bill B. Hack and Ripoff Publishing decide they will publish an Ice & Fire novel and make some bucks. Peter and Paul and Nancy may be the nicest people in the world, motivated only by sincere love of my world and characters, but Bill B. Hack and Ripoff don't give a damn. They just want the bucks.

Once you open that door, you can't control who might come in.

No one would ever do that, I hear someone muttering in the back. Hoo hah. The history of publishing is full of such cases. Even the famously and fiercely litigious ERB estate was famously victimized back in the 60s, when someone forget to timely renew the copyright on a Tarzan book, and a bottom rung comic company noticed and promptly started up a completely unauthorized (and unpaid for) Tarzan comic.

Those are some of the reasons writers like me will not permit fanfic, but before I close, let me put aside the legal and financial aspects of all this for a moment, and talk about more personal ones. Here, I think, Diana Gabaldon absolutely hit the nail on the head in the latest of her blog posts on the subject. And here, she and I agree completely. Many years ago, I won a Nebula for a story called "Portraits of His Children," which was all about a writer's relationship with the characters he creates. I don't have any actual children, myself (Diana does). My characters are my children, I have been heard to say. I don't want people making off with them, thank you. Even people who say they love my children. I'm sure that's true, I don't doubt the sincerity of the affection, but still...

I have sometimes allowed other writers to play with my children. In Wild Cards, for instance, which is a shared world. Lohengrin, Hoodoo Mama, Popinjay, the Turtle, and all my other WC creations have been written by other writers, and I have written their characters. But I submit, this is NOT at all the same thing. A shared world is a tightly controlled environment. In the case of Wild Cards, it's controlled by me. I decide who gets to borrow my creations, and I review their stories, and approve or disapproval what is done with them. "No, Popinjay would say it this way," I say, or "Sorry, the Turtle would never do that," or, more importantly (this has never come up in Wild Cards, but it did in some other shared worlds), "No, absolutely not, your character may not rape my character, I don't give a fuck how powerful you think it would be."

And that's Wild Cards. A world and characters created to be shared. It's not at all the same with Ice & Fire. No one gets to abuse the people of Westeros but me.


I have gone on longer than I intended, but I think this is important stuff. "Fan fiction" -- or whatever you want to call it -- has been around for a long time, but never like now. The internet has changed everything. Whereas before the fanfic might be published in obscure fanzines with a circulation of a hundred, now tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, can read these... well, let's just call them "unauthorized derivative works." (Except in cases where the writer has authorized 'em, which I suppose would be "authorized derivative works.") More than ever, we need some boundaries here.

I salute Diana Gabaldon for opening the debate.

And now I step back, and await the onslaught.

(But a word of warning. I'm not nearly as nice a person as Diana is, and this Not A Blog is screened and monitored by my assistant Ty. Diana was willing to let everything go in her comments section. I'm not. So -- my roof, my rules. Disagree, if you want. Disagree vigorously. Argue your points. But no name-calling, no abuse, no threats. And you can spare me the "I have never read any of your books, but now I'm not going to, and I'm going to tell all my friends not to read your books either" posts as well. Fine, you just want to read books by authors who support fan fiction, go ahead, do that, there are a number of very fine writers in that group, we don't need to hear about it here. No derailing the discussion, please. Let's talk about the issue, not tone. I'd love to see some rational discourse here, thanks).

(And yes, the title of this post is a reference to the classic xkcd cartoon that can be seen here: http://xkcd.com/386/)



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May. 8th, 2010 04:28 am (UTC)
Mr. Martin,
Unfortunately I have to start off by saying I've not read any of your work. But, I fully agree with your point on fanfiction.

As a fantasy writer (With hopes to become a fantasy author someday.) I have to say that the thought of finding some of my beloved creations carousing on the internet is unsettling at best. And that is not even delving into the legal issues on the subject.

I have a few friends that are completely for fanfiction with the sentiment behind it being that an artist put their work out there for the world to see, touch and breath. So the fans have their own right to mold bits of it as their imagination deems fit. And to that end I very much disagree. What I've noticed from a few of the people that actively write fanfiction is that most don't seem to understand how very near and dear our characters, even our worlds are to the writer. Because when we write a story and show it to the world in a way we're showing the world a piece of ourselves. The heroes carry a spark of our own ideals and villains represent something we see wrong in people. Even the world that we place our characters in is a mirror of how we view the world around us. Twisted and magnified by our imagination but it is still that same world. And having other people manipulate it feels incredibly invasive in my opinion.

On the subject of character, I find that no matter how much a person may read, watch and research the creation of someone else and they may get to know that character very well. There will always be subtle nuances that an outsider will never know or even realize about the character. It could be something that the outsider over looked or it could be something the author knows but never put down on paper. But, when it comes down to it, only the author truly knows his character in and out and that is something no other person can hope to completely match.

I have noticed from reading over fan works of others. (And even once making attempt at it many years ago, which didn't get completed or even amount to a full page.) Is that there are people out there with genuine talent and it seems wasted on fanfiction when they could build a world of their own for us to see. Typically I see fanfiction an excuse for people not to be serious with their work. Or it is used as a shroud. Like I said before it's part of the writer he's showing to the world so it's easy to discount something the outsider has written as not completely theirs.

Now I think it's great that the works of others can be a spark of inspiration for a writer. I've had quite a few of those inspirations come from different souces; books, movies, video games, pencil and paper role playing games. (The last which I probably shouldn't have mentioned in a public forum.) But rather than just writing the ideas off as little more than fanfiction. I took those ideas and made them my own. Which covered much deeper issues that I could never have hoped to get into if I were to box myself in with trying to write a fanfiction. Not that I'm telling anyone to go out an plagiarize the works or characters of others. But, it's not bad if someones work gives you a hint of inspiration to get your creative juices flowing and to go out there and build your own worlds and fill it with the characters that are waiting to be born in your imagination.

In a way I see fanfiction as a trap from someone that could have a wonderful story of their own to tell.

But it seems as if I've made this post long enough. However if you could humor me with a completely off topic question, I would greatly appreciate it: How long do you feel it should take to write a story?
May. 8th, 2010 04:29 am (UTC)
Can we work it out where *you* are the one writing stories about young Ned and Robert getting in on in the towers of the Eyrie?
May. 8th, 2010 04:31 am (UTC)
I'm sorry
I don't always agree with you on issues of copyright, and I have to admit when I saw that you were responding to this particular dust up, I fully expected something along the lines of a certain post made by a certain film critic in re video games. What I found instead was possibly the calmest, most reasoned, and well thought out argument against "fan fiction" I've ever read.

My point is, I'm sorry I doubted you. Clearly this is something you've given great deal of thought to, and something you have studied from many different angles. I should have known better than to think you would write something ill conceived or half cocked.

Disclaimer: I don't think my opinion is special. I was impressed and needed to express that in comment form.
May. 8th, 2010 04:32 am (UTC)
This post could've talked about anything and it'd still be one of your best, George, because the title keeps making me laugh. It's such a great comic that that came from.

On subject: I'm not sure where the problem is here. If an author encourages it then by all means enjoy yourself but if an author says no then no, you can't do it. Where's the conflict?

I think Diana came across a little too aggressive in her first post but her later posts were very even-handed and yours was well put together, too. I think your argument is valid and should be respected. Ditto for those in Diana's fanbase.
May. 8th, 2010 04:34 am (UTC)
I feel the Lovecraft example is a little misleading— I admit I am no Lovecraft scholar, but I have read a fair bit about him, and from what I remember he died penniless because he sold very few stories, and a fair amount of those he ghost wrote. Most of the editors didn't like him or his work, and told him he would have to change them drastically in order to publish. In fact, the reason we know who HP Lovecraft is because he encouraged other writers to share his world.

Also, I'm a little confused on your paragraph about disliking the name of fan fiction. What you described also sounds like fan fiction to me— works set in the same universe are also fan fiction, right?

Otherwise, thank you for you writing this. I disagree about fan fiction, but you also make very good points. My issue with Ms. Gabaldon was more with her tone than her point. It seemed disrespectful towards fan fiction writers, and while understandable, is not a good way to convince people of the righteousness of your cause. I sometimes wish our copyright law was more like Japan's, where you can defend your work but fanworks don't necessarily threaten your copyright. It would at least make supporting or ignoring fan fiction easier, even if authors still might not like it.
May. 8th, 2010 04:41 am (UTC)
Here's the thing about fanfiction. I have to admit I find it a bit boring when it's fan fiction based on a novel because it doesn't mean anything. It doesn't develop the plot or further the story, it's written from a completely different point of view and by the time you're done reading it you're left with the feeling that you've wasted your time.

At the same time, think about this; all these people love your stories so much that they decided to write their own fan fictions based on your originals. You have touched the hearts and minds of millions with your imaginations and rather then be delighted at the lengths you've inspired people to go to in adoration of your work, instead you're offended they'd do such a thing? Tell me something, do you get angry when you hear a cover band or see an Elvis impersonator? I don't, it's only natural that people emulate something that has been such a huge part of their lives. I know that to you fan fiction may seem like a violation of your creative property. With this in mind, you might also wonder why people don’t use their creativity to write their own original stories. Well here’s something we can all agree on; to write a story you have to be inspired. You have to be writing about something that you care about. Well guess what the people who write fan fiction care about? The stories you wrote! We have to be honest with ourselves here. It’s not in everyone to be a successful author, it’s just not, so those people who write fan fiction are working with what little creativity they have to do what? Pay homage to you! Fan fiction isn’t a malicious attempt to steal ideas and blackmail people(the case you cited seems like a very rare incident) and it’s not stifling people’s creativity, I prefer to see it as an outlet for people to experiment with their own imaginations that might one day bear fruit. Fruit in the form of their own original stories that you authors could say you played a part in inspiring. Nobody is asking you to like fan fiction or read it, but getting angry at your fans for writing it is like slapping somebody in the face for saying they liked your book. I know that if I had ever written a story that got people to start writing creatively, I’d be flattered, humbled and to be honest, proud of myself. Whether authors know it or not, the books they write and the characters in them have a huge effect on people. Your stories change our lives – change the way we act on earth. Isn’t fan fiction just one of the ways that’s demonstrated? You should be proud, your stories have had a bigger effect on the world then any of us fan fiction writing fans could ever have, they’re more important then all of us here and they’ll be around long after we’re gone. So in a way, fan fiction is kind of one of the most beautiful compliments an author could get. If it were me, I’d just be happy knowing I’d become a part of something bigger and more meaningful then just myself or my book sales.
May. 8th, 2010 04:42 am (UTC)
First of all, I adore that xkcd comic: one of my three favourites from the series, I think.

I do not plan to go anywhere near the comments section where "all hell broke loose". I just came from the ESPN Comments boards on tennis and I'm tired of this particular brand of Internet behaviour. I'm about to read the blog post itself, but at the moment, I'm just interested in putting my tuppence in on the subject of your own post, Mr. Martin.

"what's the correct term here? fanficcers? fan fictioneers? fans of fanfic? defenders of fanfic?"

'Fanficcers', I think.

Anyway, as someone who has a changeable but overall supportive stance towards "fan fiction" (we shall see what my stance is if/when I start getting my own works published), I really see nothing wrong with the term "unauthorized derivative works", or just "derivative fiction" to be simple. There's little inherently 'wrong' with being derivative (though there is something quite wrong with being mindlessly derivative, which is different): it's just extremely problematic in modern times, for reasons such as the incident you mentioned. Considering the fact that there probably isn't a single Shakespeare play with an original plot, but anyway. So I wouldn't consider it pejorative phrasing, personally.

Now, obviously, the term fan fiction has been quite thoroughly locked in to its current meaning, however it came about, and there's no foreseeable going back. I wonder if there could be an attempt to somehow distinguish something that is inspired by a work, but does not actually use the characters themselves (which by the sound of it is what you wrote when you were younger) from stuff that does use the characters. I can't immediately think of a way to do that, unfortunately.

I have, funnily enough, not actually read your books, Mr. Martin, but they're on my summer list.

Oh, one final thing: although I have not read "Portraits of His Children", that point, about characters being the author's spiritual kids, is one that resonates strongly with me. That's the thing I'm most iffy about as a reader of fan fic.
May. 8th, 2010 04:44 am (UTC)
I agree wholeheartedly.
I'm neither a fan fiction writer nor even an amateur writer. I am only a reader. That said, I've never really felt comfortable reading fan fiction. Characters often have very real and emotional connections to their authors, and it always struck me as vulgar to try to toy with that connection. Using another author's characters requires a person to assume a level of intimacy that they have no right to.
May. 8th, 2010 04:44 am (UTC)
I respect your opinion. I don't know whether or not I agree with it and probably won't until I am in the same position. But I probably wouldn't like the idea someone writing about a character I created. Hell, I didn't like it when Peter Jackson totally messed up Faramir's character in The Two Towers. I didn't care what his reasons were. Heh.
May. 8th, 2010 04:45 am (UTC)
Fanfic borrows (oftentimes without asking), but if the creator says you can't have it then it becomes stealing.

I'll admit to reading some when my favorite TV show went on hiatus, it takes the edge off of the withdrawl.

I really can't fathom why someone who is a proposed fan of the original work would willingly do something they know would upset the writer. It would be like walking up to you, telling you they are your biggest fan, then pulling your hair and poking you in the eye.
May. 8th, 2010 04:48 am (UTC)
we agree on something!
As a writer who is not published...yet...I think you and Ms. Gabaldon are spot on the money here. I write for the love of writing, but the blood tears and sweat involved in the process as well as the ownership/copyright issues would have me doing a serious 'grrr-arrgh' if someone were to take my characters and do with them as they would.

I've never understood fan-fic personally, as my mind is creative enough with my OWN stories and characters to venture into that realm. In my mind its always been 'shippers' and lazy or bad writing to fulfill a fantasy rather than to truly be creative and create something new or original.

That said, the flipside to the coin would be Naomi Novik. She cut her teeth writing fan fic, and while I am not a fan of fanfic...I'm kinda' glad she did.

Good blog post!
May. 8th, 2010 04:49 am (UTC)
Fan fiction is a blind date. You could end up with an amazing encounter, you could end up wanting to chew your own arm off at the end of the night.

Having swum those waters my own self, I can't speak for the reasons of others that indulge. My own reason is: It's kind of fun to play 'what if'. For someone that's at least creative enough to thread together a butterfly effect, you get things like, 'what if Arya encountered a benevolent caretaker after she ended up on her own', or 'what if Golden Boy didn't sell out' (I don't think he was yours, but since you're the editor, I figure I'm not too out of line in citing him). For people who enjoy the medium, seeing what could have been can be as amusing as seeing what's set in canon stone.

That said, the permission issue is all. You have made your statement that you do not care for your works to be re-hashed in the hypothetical realm, money notwithstanding. End of statement. Anyone with half a soul should be able to figure out that one. That is your stand, and the vast majority of the fan fiction writers out there will respect that. So thank you for making your wishes known.

While I'm fuzzy on the legalities of fair use and creative commons, there is one thought that sticks with me, and I'm not sure if it's entirely correct or not, but it's what I've had the opportunity to observe: Jo Rowling did not become a billionaire despite or because of her unconcerned stance on fan fiction. She just kept a death grip on the commercial use her work was put to. (Plus, y'know, selling gazillions of copies of 10 books in goodness knows how many countries, plus movie rights, but that's just business sense there, given how well the series was received.)

And fan fiction notwithstanding, I sincerely hope that the HBO production of your work does well for you, and I anxiously await the rest of your stories both written and video.
May. 8th, 2010 04:50 am (UTC)
Two points:

1. I'm not a lawyer. I don't have any IP lawyers on staff. But George Lucas has a host of them. And he famously has been extremely welcoming to cinematic fan fiction, including minor masterpieces like "Troops" and "George Lucas in Love". But the existence of fanfilms has not thrown the Star Wars universe into the public domain. So clearly there's some way to thread the IP needle to allow fanfic without losing copyright. (I think it has to do with restricting fanfic creators from profiting, but again, I am not a lawyer and don't know for certain.)

2. You have welcomed the role-playing community to run games in your universes, including participating in projects such as GURPS Wildcards (which I appreciate, btw: I've been in an on-again off-again GURPS Wildcards campaign that's lasted almost two decades, with, in the best shared-universe spirit, rotating GM's) and the Westeros miniatures that you often plug herein. I've always thought of RPG's as a kind of collaborative fiction-writing. So what's different about RPG's that you welcome fan use of your worlds in that context but not in a fanfic context? (I'm willing to bet that a fair number of campaigns have done things with your characters that would not get the George RR Martin Seal of Approval!)
May. 8th, 2010 06:29 am (UTC)
I am not a lawyer either, so I won't address (1) except to say, when you have as much money and as many lawyers as Lucas has, you can pretty well make up whatever rules you want.

As for (2), as I said in another reply, the RPGs are fully licensed products. I was paid for them, I review the content, and if I hadn't wanted to do 'em, I could just have said, "no, thanks."

Fan fiction does not allow the original creator the option of saying "no, thanks." For me, that's the difference.
(no subject) - drdzoe - May. 8th, 2010 12:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
May. 8th, 2010 04:51 am (UTC)
While I don't disagree with your opinions, I feel I have to disagree with your analysis of the Lovecraft and Burroughs situation. Burroughs' work was extremely popular in his own lifetime, and he stood to lose a lot if he lost the rights to Tarzan. Lovecraft, on the other hand, only sold a few stories in his lifetime, to mostly small circulation magazines. He most likely would have died penniless regardless of the existence derivative works (also he had no children and his wife was estranged, so there wasn't really an estate that lost out either). In fact, it was his encouragement to authors to write in his universes that gave him any notability. His work wasn't popular until a while after he died, and it was mostly due to the efforts of other authors writing in his world. Without fanfiction, no one would likely have heard of Cthulhu.

Also to consider, they were two very different writers. I can certainly understand an author not wanting their children to be taken over by other parents; I certainly would not want that for any of my characters. On the other hand, Lovecraft's work is not generally what I would call character-driven. He doesn't seem to have as much affection for characters as he does for plot, mood, and circumstance. Perhaps this has something to do with how authors fall along the pro/con fanfiction lines.

Secondly, a question: would you support a copyright law system similar to what is employed in some other countries—one that is less punitive to unauthorized derivative works but is much kinder in allowing the author to maintain copyright in the face of derivative works? True, it would mean more people potentially abusing characters, but it seems worth it to overlook that if it means not worrying about losing the characters all together.

Edited at 2010-05-08 04:52 am (UTC)
May. 8th, 2010 12:34 pm (UTC)
I agree with you on the Lovecraft-Burroughs issue. I don't think it's a good comparison for GRRM's purposes, because the two simply weren't equals at any point in time. Burroughs hit it big much more readily.
May. 8th, 2010 04:52 am (UTC)
I completely agree with the points you make in this post. Though I'm not very familiar with the intricacies of the legal issues, it seems only reasonable that your work is yours to continue or end as you choose. For someone else to use your world or characters for their own ends could damage what you have already done, detract from your future work, and, if done for profit, literally steal your income.

On a more instinctive level, the idea of writing with another author's characters seems a bit like wearing someone else's underwear. An outsider may not always be able to tell, but it's a violation of something personal that is just wrong.
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George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

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