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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. 10th, 2010 06:03 am (UTC)
I was writing original fiction way before I wrote fan fiction. I continue to write my own original fiction and I still write fan fiction. After I get published in something more than magazines I still see myself writing fan fiction. It's a hobby. It's something I love to do. It's not a 'waste of time' any more than any other form of entertainment is, with the added benefit that fanfic helps me grow as a writer from the feedback and criticisms that I receive from my readers. I can't post my original fiction online for fear of plagiarism, but I can post fanfic because no one will ever be able to copy it and publish it commercially.

It's not a question of effort. If anything, fan fiction requires more effort than creating worlds from scratch. I like the unique challenges that writing fanfic poses - having to stay within the constraints of a character's personality, for instance: such that if I want to get from Point A to Point B in a story with Character X in it, I have to find a way of doing so that fits in with the constraints of that world and in which X remains completely in character. Whereas if X were my own character, it would be far more easier to give him or her a personality that would allow the most convenient way of getting from A to B. Or I could have a magic unicorn appear out of nowhere to assist X. There's less of a challenge involved.

And what do you mean by "All of the effort spent on fan fiction takes away time that an aspiring author could have spent honing their own skills."? Fan fiction IS me honing my own skills. If it weren't for fan fiction, I can say for sure that my fiction-writing ability wouldn't be at the level it currently is.

Being inspired by other's creations and wanting to have stories to share with my other fanfic-writing friends was a far stronger motivator for me to write than anything else. I had characters I loved in a world I loved, with a ready audience who did the same and who would read my stories and give me feedback and let me know what I had done right, what I had done wrong, and how to improve.

I got to know my current writing mentor through fanfic, and now trust her enough to share my original writing with for feedback and without the fear that she might run off with it, but it's a trust that takes time to develop. As it is, I can now send her an original story and get her response alone. Whereas if I write a fanfic, I can post it on fanfiction.net or my own LJ and get reviews pouring in, both good and bad. All that feedback has been extremely useful in my journey as a writer. The good reviews encouraged me and gave me confidence in my skills. The bad ones motivated me to be better.

And another large motivator for me was my love of the original source and wanting to do justice to it. If I loved, say, Marty McFly and Doc Brown, I didn't want to sully their good names with terrible writing. So I did all I could to be better, to be able to write stories that were worthy of them, that would make their creators Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis (who are in favour of fanfic) proud if they were ever to encounter my stories, rather than make them feel violated. It was a really strong driving force to be good enough for them because I admired them and their work so much. When I write my own original fiction, there's no one there for me to be 'good enough' for, save myself.

"I don't want to write the next Hobbit, or the next Dark Tower, or the next Song of Ice and Fire book for that matter"

I don't either, and few fanfic writers do. But am I interested in what Frodo's thoughts might have been as he threw that ring into the fires of Mordor? Possibly.


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

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