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A Few Last Words

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

The financial risks involved are a completely separate argument - though, again, there are thousands upon thousands of fandoms and only a handful among them forbid fanfiction and it seems more like the exceptions proving the rule - that for the vast, vast majority, fanfics have no negative effect on the fandom whatsoever. But concerning sheer principle, I consider the arguments somewhat pretentious (if in a very human, understandable way) and unconvincing.


George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

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