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A Few More Last Words

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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Comments

( 184 comments )
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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.
stray_mikeneko
May. 9th, 2010 07:29 am (UTC)
The things fans do for love...
Why do people get so incensed? For us, I think it comes down to the fact that fanfiction is such a huge part of fandom culture, especially for women. (This is a rather stereotypical generalization, of course, but I have the impression that guys are more likely to hang out on discussion boards like Westeros, trying to construct timelines and arguing about who would win against whom in a fight, while women prefer LJ communities and produce more fanworks.)

I think we tend to get so immersed in that culture that we take it for granted, and it’s a shock to learn that some of our favorite authors disapprove of what we consider to be one of the staples of fandom. It’s not pleasant to be told that your way of being a fan is just plain wrong, or worse, that your hobby is sick and disgusting, which is what Diana Gabaldon was saying. Fans may be especially sensitive about that, because there’s a stigma against having fannish interests to begin with, and it hurts to find out that even other geeks think you’re too geeky.

Personally, when I find myself wistfully thinking that it would be nice if ASOIAF could have an active fanfic community, it’s not the stories themselves that interest me, so much as what those stories could tell me about other fans’ viewpoints. Every fanfic is an interpretation, and some even constitute arguments, such as all the BSG fics that try to subvert the messages of that cracked-out final season. Then are the “fix-it fics,” as you described. I find that if someone has written a decently believable story about how your favorite character survives after all, it really does dull the pain a little. You can think of this story as a little parallel universe in which things turned out differently.

(I suspect I’m going to end up longing for one of those after ADWD. You should know that you’ve already managed to traumatize me with a yet-unpublished book. That’s partly the fault of my horrible taste in favorite characters (*cough*), but I honestly doubt that any fanfic author could do a better job of torturing your “children” than you do. Please take this as a compliment!)

So, this isn’t really meant to be an argument…just my attempt to explain some of the emotional reaction from the pro-fanfiction side.
scriva
May. 9th, 2010 08:06 am (UTC)
Dear George R. R. Martin,
first I thank you for sharing your thoughts on that matter in such a detailed way. I don't think that the legal consequences of fanfiction are really as prolematic as you might think. However, that's the one area where a modern author is rightfully protected, so he or she could live of his work.

In regards to the readers' or fans' reactions to the characters or the world, the author has to let go, as harsh as it sounds. Seeing the characters as children is actually a very apt metaphor, because parents have to let their children go once they are old enough and let them make their own experiences and meet people with the disapproval of their parents. In the consequences, the children will affect other people without direct involvement of their parents and will incite incalculable reactions.

Books are just the same, once they are printed and published, they are out of reach for the author. Authors can not control the reactions to their texts. They might disapprove of those reactions, but they can not forbid them or prevent them. The interactions with the text, including fanfiction, will just happen with or without consent of the author.

Fanfiction has only a little bit to do with the original author who is the aknowledged creator, because it consists of stories from fans for fans. It could be considered as an exclusive dialogue between readers over the text, independently of the quality.

The internet has certainly changed the forms of the readers' dialogue over the text and has contributed to a greater publicity of this dialogue, compared to the Symposion of Plato. ;) But I don't think that this increase of publicity will stop within the next years/decades, so people will continue to post their fantasies over imaginary characters on the internet with or without consent of the author and the readers will continue to feel insulted when authors call them immoral or pervert.

I can understand that authors want to protect their characters, just as parents want to protect and guide their children, but, as I said, once the book is in the hands of a reader, the further consequences are out of their reach. The moral conflict between authors and readers (and the reason for the passion in this discussion) arises from the conflicting relations to the text and the characters, the author considers those readers who write new stories about his/her characters basically as robbers or (in the worst case) as rapists, while the readers consider themselves as lovers of the characters and the disaproving author as the father/mother-in-law from hell. ;)
However, authors can ignore the existence of fanfiction or say that they don't want to know about it, and imo, that is the only solution that settles the matter for both sides.

I hope I could explain my position with the right words.
I wish you all the energy you need for your writing.

Best Regards
Cornelia
daisakusha
May. 9th, 2010 08:16 am (UTC)
I think you make an interesting point about fanfics, one I had not previously considered. I have read fanfic in the past, but have mostly moved on to my original addiction, which is original fiction. (It has been supposed that I do not in fact read books, I absorb them. The number of books that sit on my shelf and that have been read would argue against that though, lol!) I can totally understand how they could be disturbing at best to some authors, and I feel bad that I had not realized that before. Thank you for opening my eyes to that.
Also, that's an awesome song, and I'm glad you posted it. I am going to share it, and maybe someday look up what she is singing in French, lol!
redscribe
May. 9th, 2010 08:37 am (UTC)
Bravo, you are quite right.
snakehoof
May. 9th, 2010 09:15 am (UTC)
For the record, I never liked that Ahab, he's a complete jerk.
balinares
May. 9th, 2010 09:27 am (UTC)
Thank you for the insightful post, George.

I'm surprised and pleased that the tone in that last discussion remained generally civil overall. It was an interesting debate that left me feeling like both sides (insofar as there are sides to such a grey area anyway) left with a fair understanding of the opposing view.

I wonder if I'm the only one who came in this with a different idea of what fanfiction was. I was only aware of the much milder borrowed world, original characters flavour; what's likable about a character stems from the unique voice his author gives him, and to me the notion of hand-puppeting the character behind the author's back feels kind of hollow.

Still, I've been wondering. Perhaps in the end, the essence of good writing is the creation of characters who are credible and likable enough that other people can appropriate them through reading, and bring them to life in the inner worlds of their minds; do characters even exist without that appropriation? Maybe fanfiction of the character-borrowing kind is what happens when the minds in question leak outside somewhat.

Oh, and lastly:

> Why do both sides get so incensed about this issue?

The Internet is exothermic. Science yet has to explain why!
sunajus
May. 9th, 2010 10:10 am (UTC)
Everyone will re-imagine stories they love, superimpose their own interpretations, secret scenarios, cherished characters that are the brainchildren of other authors (or their own characters, or their actual selves). It will happen. Honestly, I doubt any author would be against such imaginings.

One would also say that fanficters have a ‘right’ to communicate their ideas and musings to others under article nineteen of the U.N. backed Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as individual Constitutions from varying governments around the world (and of course, The Bill of Rights in the U.S.).

Now, that being said, while I would never say they could not express their ideas concerning stories or characters under a “what if?” scenario in a public area designed for other people to critique or enjoy their work, such as fanfiction.net, I would have to say that they probably shouldn’t.

Not because you, Mr. Martin, are protective of your babies; hell, I would be as well if I were you. Not because it shows a certain amount of respect; let’s face it, they must be impressed somewhat with your creations, else why labor in your realms with your characters? No, it is because I think part of writing is in creating your own worlds and characters.

I am all good with people writing fanfiction for their personal purposes. I am absolutely fine with whatever goes on in their heads along said lines. However, to people who write wonderful (or dubious) prose without creating their own backdrop: you sharing it does not necessarily get you props from writers. Indeed, some become protective of their hard work, while you miss out on fundamentally bringing something of your own to life. You play Dr. Frankenstein and usually create abominations stitched together from truer creations. In some cases, these abominations might be lovable but are tragic nonetheless. Of course, as I am not a writer, I could very well be talking straight out of my nether regions. Still, my opinion.

Ultimately, so long as they do not attempt to violate copyright law, I would weigh in every time in their favor for their right to express themselves, even if I disagree with what they are expressing. Of course, I personally would respect any decision from any author concerning THEIR original works and characters if I was a writer of fanfiction, but that is me and I am not.
spearofsolomon
May. 9th, 2010 10:19 am (UTC)
Comic books and characters
The topics of character continuity and fictional reality are actually more interesting than the topic of fanfiction, but I'll drop my two cents on fanfic first.

Just like with real children, once they are out in the real world you can't control what happens to them. You can wield the long arm of the law but you and I both know that the law won't be able to stop people sharing their ideas until we have a fascist state. Ultimately, if someone tells your story better than you did, hers will be remembered and not yours. See: Shakespeare. Your expressed opinions will influence your respectful fans and not your disrespectful ones.

So, comic book characters. This was an unfortunately poor choice of examples for making your point, because there are many great "what if" comics. The Dark Knight Returns / The Dark Knight Strikes Again, Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow, etc. On top of which, with comic book characters, part of parcel of us reading the comics is that we cannot believe that these are "real stories." We cannot believe that a man can live six chronological decades and age eight chronological years, or not age at all. We cannot believe that a man can go through the trauma of seeing everyone he knows abused or tortured or killed by his nemeses at one time or another and remain sane. We cannot believe that the same superpowered people can continue to fight each other for years without inflicting mortal injuries at some point. We cannot believe that the people who died can continually come back to life or were only "fake dead." Grant Morrison said that he liked to believe that everything that is in a character's history actually happened to a real person and it's all there somewhere in the character's past - I think that's the dumbest possible attitude, although I do like Morrison's crazy writing anyway.

In order to be able to engage in the story I'm reading (in a comic book) I have to believe that this story, right here, is the only story, and it will always be the only story. These characters are the characters, and they will always be the characters. I will be able to come back and read about them at any time, forever. Those are the rules, and there are exceptions to the rules. The exception proves the rule.

I think comics are a weird exception themselves to the rules that you outline in your post about the unwritten contract between creator and listener. I also hate retconning, and I've also never seen the third Aliens movie for the reasons you describe. The recent Star Wars movies are a kind of retconning in the sense that the older movies promised that Darth Vader and Obi Wan had a past that was noble and terrible and above all epic, and the newer movies crapped all over that idea, so I pretend that I never saw them and imagine adventures and betrayal of a much higher order.

Great work so far on the books, and best wishes.
jupiter_star
May. 9th, 2010 10:32 am (UTC)
I think the crux of the issue is this; fanfic-writers love the author's works. Usually that translate into loving the author, if only for creating the world and characters they enjoy. If an author has no problem with people playing with their creations, fine; but if someone loves the world and creations enough that you feel like you want to explore them more, then shouldn't they respect the creator's wishes if told not to do so?
serapheen
May. 9th, 2010 10:39 am (UTC)
Love...
Part of why I love your books above all others is because I know how much you love your characters. I don't mind waiting years between them, because I know you're not just going to throw some words down and say 'done,' you're going to take your time to make it as damn near perfect as it can be, which is what I want. I have never been as absorbed in a book or series as I have been with Ice and Fire. I cried when I read the Red Wedding (and actually threw the book across the room), I laughed until I cried when Tywin died (not because he died, but because of the line about his poo) I jumped for joy in Feast when Littlefinger revealed his plans to Sansa. If someone had written those same events in their own version..I would not have had nearly the emotional response that I have, because like you said, it wouldn't have been REAL. That's pretty much my stance on 'fan fiction' (for lack of a better phrase). Maybe people love to write it and read it, but I usually don't bother, because it isn't what really happens. Even if they wrote the most amazing story ever, and everything turned out just like I'd always hoped, I'd know that it wasn't the truth, and the original creator may have done it differently, which would completely kill the emotional response that I get when I read about a character that I love.
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