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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 05:40 am (UTC)
As "narrator" in our biweekly Song of ice and fire roleplaying Game. (Green Ronin)
I tackled the task of trying to write in your shoes, a storyline for the campaign. Your houses are there. Your characters. Still alive, Haha.
Does this also rankle? Some may argue that its not a story. I find that insulting considering I have never worked so hard on the story in an RPG. Of course those are mighty large shoes to fill. None-the-less, It would be good to know your feelings about people "abusing" your creations in this way. I know its intended/expressed consent and its not like people are publishing the games, But does it bother you to know that one of my players wants to "rape" Stannis? Targarian loyalists... hating their liege.. what can you do? ;)
May. 8th, 2010 05:59 am (UTC)
Re: RPGs
The Green Ronin rpg is a fully licensed and approved product. Green Ronin outbid half a dozen other games companies for the rights, and paid me a substantial amount of money. All their artwork and text is personally vetted and reviewed by me (the game stats and rules I leave to them).

It's hardly the same as fanfic.
Re: RPGs - barristans_sqir - May. 8th, 2010 06:13 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: RPGs - billyabbott - May. 8th, 2010 07:45 am (UTC) - Expand
May. 8th, 2010 05:40 am (UTC)
Sorry for the length, I missed the day they taught brevity.
Ok, let's start with I have read all of A Song of Ice and Fire, and I'm looking forward to the next book (take your time, I'll just be counting on you to make it worth the wait), and I tell all my friends to read the series as well.

And with that I'll wipe the brown off my nose. Let me say, I'm not a fan of unauthorized derivative works (well except for Art of the Saber, a Star Wars fan film, I mention it for a reason). I do, however, personally applaud the stance that George Lucas takes. "Just don't try to make money off of it." It's worked pretty well for him, and although I've seen many works inspired by Star Wars, I haven't seen (many) blatant rip offs (in the interest of your wish for no name calling I'll not name names).

Stephen King has a policy, as I understand it, of allowing film students to option his short stories for $1, as long as they do not attempt to profit. Again, I see influence, but few rip offs.

Now there is an obvious difference between George Lucas and Stephen King and many other authors. They have made enough money that they will not be ruined if one of their sources of income is compromised. I don't know if that influences their thinking, or if it is that they have enough money that if they see something they feel crosses the copyright point of no return they have the resources to combat them the the culprit without coming within bowshot of their last dimes.

I believe that authors have the right to request fans stay out of their worlds. I also believe that fans have an obligation to follow an author's wishes. For those that choose not to, however, I feel that, if they have obviously made no attempt to profit from thier works, that they have done nothing worse than be rude, I don't know if it is fair use, but it is fairly meant.

There is something I would like to ask Mr. Martin, however. I apologize for the hypothetical nature of the situation I will propose, because I know they are inherently fuzzy and commonly inapplicable to the real world, but please bear with me.

What I am curious about I will outline in three cases and ask for how you would respond, I'll understand if you do not want to commit to a comment on such things, in case a similar (yet not identical) situation ever presents itself.

First would you consider it an infringement if someone wrote a story set in a fantasy world of medieval technology and wide ranging peoples and geographies, specifically if in this world there was a sworn brotherhood, let's call them Sentinels of the Shieldwall. Men of various and commonly unsavory backgrounds who swear their lives in service. What if this brotherhood had once been well thought of, but in recent years had seen it's shine fade?

Second, and this specific one did happen, I was writing a story about an orphan who was to one day found an empire. It wasn't very good, in fact it was just a backstory for a character in a (non-Song of Ice and Fire) RPG. I knew your stance on fan fiction, but I really love your idea for naming bastards. I mean, I really do. The image, the sort of band of unwanted that the last name makes. Anyway, I could only think of naming my character X Hill, and have it be because the "hills were his father because no one else would claim him." Again, knowing your stance, I chose not to use that name. I left him without a last name. Now for a case like that, would you object to someone using that one idea in an otherwise totally different world? Would it matter whether the story was only written for 4 or 5 friends to read or if it was posted online, or if it were published formally?

I thought I had a third, but if I did, I forgot it. And regardless, I've gone on too long, I think.

Allow me to say in closing that I thank you for your books, they've given me joy. And though I disagree with your stance, and the absolute nature of it, I believe I understand your reasons for taking it and I respect it. If I were someone who would write unauthorized derivative works, I would refrain from doing so with your creations. If you choose to respond I thank you in advance. For all of those who took the time to read this, thank you. For all of those who feel that time was wasted, I apologize.
May. 8th, 2010 05:47 am (UTC)
I'm going to lead with hearty gratz on maintaining a charged thread that hasn't devolved into name calling by the jungle gym. I'd be interested in seeing a prune meter letting us know how many posts have been scrubbed.

As I read through the OP and a few of the comments from the peanut gallery I couldn't get this image out of my head. I kept seeing these four greasy faced tweens in a garage pounding out a barely recognizable version of Black Sabbath's "Paranoid". They are terrible, btw. The singer has no concept of tone, pitch, or key. The drummer is constantly trying to add fills and riffs where they don't belong, the guitar player is plinking every other note, and the bass player just isn't quick enough to hit the important quick notes between lines. If Ozzy Osbourne or Tony Iommi had heard us... err... them they would have cried at the utter train-wreck that had become of one of their most iconic works.

My mind then jumped to Metallica, shrieking incoherently about Napster one minute while creating one half of a double disc album consisting solely of cover songs the next. An album released at every music store nationwide and selling millions of copies.

That may have been a bit of a rambling preamble, but take from it what you will.

I have a somewhat specific angle on this. What about other types of media?

Sorry to spill my nerd all over the screen, but if you stick with me I'm confident my point will emerge. My buddies and I have been intermittent table top gamers over the years and have played campaigns in a variety of worlds created by a variety of sources. Originally we played in the generic D&D world, then we started trying out some of the campaign settings. We favored the Forgotten Realms which was created by Ed Greenwood, an author of no small note, and for a period of time we voraciously consumed all the content that he and the good people at TSR (RIP) put out for it.

After a while we were ready for more, so we started checking out "fan-modules". They were always free with ability to donate (which I did frequently, they didn't make the world, but they but forth a good bit of effort to bring a bit of it to life). Some of these were so popular that they were published with full credit given to the author. Not Ed Greenwood or R.A. Salvatore despite the fact that it happened in Greenwood's world and that the adventurers run into a group of Salvatore's characters that I'm quite sure he considers his children. Is that wrong?

One step further... its been several years since I've done any sort of table top gaming, but recently a buddy of mine and I have begun working on a tabletop version of Stephen King's Dark Tower series. Never, EVER, would I write Roland into a story, but I would certainly have no trouble trying to imagine what Gilead looked like in the time of King Arthur. I'd also do my best to put my players into that place. Would Mr. King mind if our visions are different?

Sorry for the text wall, but this is an intriguing discussion.

May. 8th, 2010 05:50 am (UTC)
I hadn't thought of this in light of the points you made. The most telling of these is, to me, that Marion Zimmer Bradley. As an aspiring writer myself - if one of my works were to become popular enough to have a following, and if those followers wanted to write stories in my world (coming soon to a science-fiction/fantasy section near you!) I'd be upset to realize that I would effectively be barred from using any story device or creative thought that any fan had also had, however obscure. This is a unique issue that faces writers, and thank you for pointing it out in a non-sensational, and importantly - non-judgmental way.

It's far more effective to explain this from a writer's point of view than it is to wag your finger school-marmishly for their dirty sex stories.
May. 8th, 2010 05:51 am (UTC)
I read Outlander on the recommendation of a friend. It was well written, but it didn't seem like anything happened. Like... okay she went into the past and there are these romances.

I like books where in addition to the romances THE FATE OF THE WORLD IS AT STAKE.
May. 8th, 2010 05:52 am (UTC)
Regarding the ERB vs HPL example, I'd say one should also consider this: ERB's works have been fading into obscurity ever since ERB died, while the work started by HPL - and continued, with his encouragement, by other writers - is only gaining in popularity. Of course it's a question of personal priorities - one point of view is "what do I care what happens to my books after I'm gone, except maybe providing for my heirs, assuming I have them and I don't hate them with a vigorous passion", and conversely, history is full of examples of people pursuing a cause to immense personal detriment. I'd say that both points are equally valid, and it all comes down to personal choice.
May. 8th, 2010 05:53 am (UTC)
The thing that bothers me about the defenders of fanfic, often, is rather the sense of entitlement. I've been dealing with copyright issues for years, including the concept of fair use, and the thing that always gets me is that there are some people who behave indignantly to the concept that the creator of a work owns that work rather than the fans. It's mind boggling, as I'm sure you can attest having dealt with the whole "how dare you do anything but write on the next Ice and Fire book" curfuffle.

Of course, I'm also flabbergasted by the common misunderstandings about copyright. I once had a boss who worked in the newspaper business for almost 50 years, and he still thought that, if a work appeared on the Web, it was public domain.

Something that would concern me about fanfic, if I were fortunate enough to have creations that were successful enough someone would want to appropriate them, would be how that fanfic might damage the property. How many people out there, for example, bad mouth Tolkien's work and refuse to read it not because of its own qualities but rather because of the cheestastic flavor of the mass quantities of extruded fantasy product that has been manufactured over the decades? "I don't want to read Lord of the Rings because I tried to read Sword of Truth and it sucked." A different issue, perhaps, but similar enough. (And don't even get me started on slash fanfic. That's just weird.)

Basically, if a market gets flooded with cheap imitation goods, the market for the original products will eventually collapse, which certainly can't be good for producers of highly perishable wares such as writers.

Just adding my 2 cents to the discussion, for what it's worth.
May. 8th, 2010 05:56 am (UTC)
Here's the thing
I completely understand your views, and actually agree with most. There is still an underlying need, to me, to embrace a little of the Creative Commons agreement IF it represents, to you the author, total and complete editorial control - meaning that every single piece of these - let's call 'em 'Ghoul Writers' - must embark on the tortuous endeavour that is your scrutiny.

Having said that, I'd feel a little cheated if I read a SOIAF that wasn't TOTALLY written by you. Specially postmortem, since you would have had no chance to say 'Dude, Jon does NOT rape Brienne! He can't, not after got the crabs from Lady Melisandre'.

This has happened to me in the Wheel of Time. Mr. Jordan is gone. Bereft of the beauty of inhaling and exhaling. The new novels don't feel RIGHT. They're great, sure, but don't feel RIGHT.

And as much as I'd love to see what Frodo would do after the boring boat trip up north, and what the hell happens in TOP and BOTTOM EARTH, Tolkien's legacy is precisely that - a legacy. One that should not be pillaged for a quick buck or a story arc ending of sorts.

SOIAF are your children. What gorgeous offspring you have. Take good care of them. We appreciate the effort.

May. 8th, 2010 05:59 am (UTC)
I'm leaning towards being in favor of derivative fiction/fanfiction, but I have some reservations. Mind you, I'm only a first year law student and one interested in human rights law rather than intellectual property at that, so I can't say I know the ins and outs of copyright stuff in the least. I would hope at some point an actual IP lawyer would make a policy-based argument to make it so one could assert claims against people who are using one's work for one's own profit and prestige, even if one knew and didn't enforce the law against people using it without making a profit and acknowledging that it wasn't originally theirs and make that law. I have no idea if that could even happen based on how the law is now, though.

In theory, I'd think it would be cool to know how one's fans interprets one's characters and world and what they do with them. In practice, however, I know it doesn't work that well... I'm sure I don't have to list any examples of how fanfiction can go horribly, horribly wrong. It would be nice if there could be some generally accepted rules of etiquette, as it was, of dealing with other people's worlds and characters with some level of respect. Of course, the internet and respect seem not to go very well together in many cases, so the system could easily fall apart if some jerk decides that his perceived need to write and post explicit rape or torture fics about characters for no other reason than the fact that he gets off on it is more important than the author's (and the rest of the internet's) wish not to need brain bleach.

However, I've seen fanfiction do a lot to add to a story where the original canon is sort of bare bones, or doesn't address certain questions. Fanfiction (and sometimes fandom-based roleplays) can develop on minor characters whose motivations and histories will likely never be revealed, on worlds and societies that the canon glossed over, and on plot points that could have made sense if they'd had more work.

Also, for canons cut short by cancellation, disinterest, death or other situations like that, fanfiction can keep the fandom alive and allow the series to have some ending or further plot (or many) where it didn't get one officially. I realize that neither of these arguments apply to A Song of Ice and Fire, but in a general "for or against fanfiction" debate, these are a couple of reasons that I think weigh in favor, at least theoretically, of allowing it.

Lastly - and this is a terrible, terrible argument for establishing fanfiction as acceptable, in that I am not a published creator and I don't know how it feels - I just find it interesting, how things can develop and acquire new meanings based on who is working with the material, and what assumptions and interpretations they bring to the table. Sometimes people go way too far with it - to the point where they're using the characters only in name and should very well write their own stories for all the distortion, but other times I can clearly go, "huh, well that's not how it read to me, but I can see how they got there," or "it would've been interesting if that's how things had gone." Again, this is me as a reader, and an amateur fiction writer if even that, but that's why I personally find fanfiction really fascinating and fun to read.
May. 8th, 2010 06:02 am (UTC)
Mr. Martin -

A great many people make "fan art" for A Song of Ice and Fire, and I don't think you object to this. But what about if someone portrays your characters differently from how you imagine them, or puts them in scenes not mentioned in the books? Would this bother you at all? Is it drifting into "visual fan fiction"?
May. 8th, 2010 06:50 am (UTC)
Art is a whole different issue, with its own rules.

Fan art is fine, as far as I'm concerned.

And of course the portrayals are going to be different from my own. Hell, even the PROFESSIONAL artists who have done Ice & Fire illustrations have varied widely in how they drew the characters.

(Of course, once the HB0 series debuts, the faces of the actors will become the faces of the characters in the minds of the vast majority of the public)
(no subject) - malimar - May. 8th, 2010 04:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
May. 8th, 2010 06:16 am (UTC)
A-freaking-men. You wrote it, it's yours. It would be like me copying your patent. F that!
As a fan of SF and fantasy, I have a few friends that love the fanfic. When I complain about missing a world (Hogwarts, Westeros) and want another story in that place, they're always pushing me to read fanfic. Which I don't want to do. I don't want to read what other people think those worlds and characters should be like. I don't want anything not from the author to cloud what I think about from their story. And, from what I understand, a lot if it is thinly veiled smut anyhow. No thanks!
May. 8th, 2010 06:28 am (UTC)
GRRM - Big fan of your work. I'm an IP attorney practicing in LA and one of my major works of scholarship during law school was an analysis of fanfic under current copyright and trademark law in the US. You are absolutely correct in that it does not constitute copyright fair use as that term is applied in the courts, although fair use is so vague as to be unhelpful. Probably the leading scholar in this area is Rebecca Tushnet, a professor of constitutional and IP laws. Moreover, it may be a violation of trademark law where the characters have actually earned trademark protection (i.e. Spiderman, Mickey, Harry Potter), although that is a rather difficult prospect.

The problem with this area of the law, however, is that the defendants are individuals with, largely, nothing to take in a lawsuit, making the entire enterprise financially imprudent, and that social expectations have changed. Like it or not, the vast majority of the buying public thinks that fan fiction might be a silly thing, but they don't think it's illegal. And that's the problem. The real defendant in a case like this would have to be FanFiction.net or Livejournal.com - major user-generated-content (UGC) sites that aggregate tremendous amounts of unauthorized fan fiction. Those sites make a tremendous amount of money from advertising, so they have the pockets to make a lawsuit worth the cost. But then there will be the public outcry. Also, any suit against FF.net or LJ.com would implicate Youtube and Google Books and all the rest of the big UGC interests, which means the whole affair would become both tremendously costly and tremendously ground-breaking on a legal level.

Anyhow, just my two cents on the issue, which, I hope is a bit more helpful than the rest. If anyone wants more specifics on the law as it relates to this, they can message me on LJ here.

Breathlessly awaiting Dance, GRRM. I need something to read other than licenses for intellectual properties.

May. 8th, 2010 06:30 am (UTC)
I don't read or write fanfic. I can't write and I find most of it ohrrifically painful to read. As far as I'm concenre,d your chars, your choice, your perogative.

What I would like to say is:
"No, absolutely not, your character may not rape my character, I don't give a fuck how powerful you think it would be."

Thank you for making a stand on this. Rape is far too overused.
May. 8th, 2010 06:31 am (UTC)
I for one totally agree. If anyone is going to benefit from his creations it should be the creator. Also, authors need to eat too. How much of a "fan" can you be if you don't understand this. But in these days of something for nothing I can see how people would get all emotional because their favorite author doesn't support fan fic.

Thanks for writing this and calling attention to the issue.
May. 8th, 2010 06:32 am (UTC)
Ok, on the legal side of this, I'm with you. If anyone tries to make money out of your verse, the fun and games is over. But there are things like the creative commons disclaimer to avoid exactly that.

The decision to what an extent you let others play with your verse is of course entirely yours too, but I cant pretend I fully get it. During the Suvudu cage matches lots of people wrote little fanfic pieces that had this or that character win and it was great fun. I had no idea that you objected.

I'm also a gamer and I have the Game of thrones roleplaying game, where I'm also playing and inventing stories in your verse. Now if I write a fictive journal for my character and put it on the internet, that is in my mind fanfiction. Even the playing is in a way.

Also a lot of fanfiction is satire. It has an ageold tradition to take another's creation and point out it's tropes and weaknesses. It's part of the creative exchange. In a way Voltaire's Candide is fanfiction (if not very flattering one) to Leibniz "Best possible world" philosophy.

Where does it begin, where does it end to be fanfiction?

To me spinning a tale I'm reading on in my head is a very natural thing. I don't have to write it down and publish it on the internet, but I have trouble seeing the bad in it (again as long as no one tries to sell anything), since it keeps the story living in the readers minds.

I respect your stance on fanfiction, even if get only part of it but I wonder where you stand on the grey zones I mentioned.
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George R.R. Martin
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