Funny how things can explode in parallel in several different parts of your life at once. This past week there was a veritable eruption (no, not of Eyjafjallajökull) over fanfiction, on multiple people's blogs.
This time 'round it was personal, since many of the people advancing their opinions (good, evil, indifferent) were writers. Some were people who had their creations fanficc'd; some were published writers who wrote fanfic of other creations and were proud of it. Discussions of what was legal/illegal, right/wrong, polite/rude, etc. unfolded. Many jaws were broken on both sides.
Fanfiction is strange stuff (that is, to the uninitiated) It evokes squeals of glee from some, wrinkled noses from others. From a few, it evokes vomit. Not just the stories themselves (although I think most of us gagged on all the Legolas-Gandalf slash floating around out there), but the mere idea of it.
Both sides, as one of the other bloggers pointed out, are rooted in emotional attachments in different things. Those who do it, do so out of love for the material; those who stand against it, also do so out of love for the material. The former show their love by transforming the original; the latter show their love by defending it against what they perceive as corruption or dilution.
I can see where both sides come from. Maybe a little too well, which is why my take is a mix of left, right and center:
I've written fanfiction myself. It was, I freely admit, pretty bad stuff (no porn, just bad writing), and most of that material has mercifully faded from memory. It might still be floating around out there; I haven't looked for it. I stopped producing it after I started concentrating on my own original material, mostly because a) I got more satisfaction producing my own material and b) it took up what time I had to devote to such things.
That doesn't mean I assume everyone else who has the urge to go pro will feel the same way. Or should. Many pros now are former fans who still keep a strong connection with their fandoms, and resent being told that they need to put aside childish things and join the Grown Ups at the Big Dinnertable.
The one big takeaway for me from all this has nothing to do with fanfic at all. It's the simple tenet that nobody who takes their work or play seriously wants to be lectured about what to do, not do, or how to do it — by fellow practitioners, ardent devotees, or random strangers. You can make your case pro or con, but the more strident the attack, the greater the odds of someone smacking their forehead and saying "My god! I've been living all wrong!" asymptotically approaching nil — and the greater the odds of the other party simply feeling they're all the more justified in dropping anchor in their current spot.
On a side note, this reminds me of a project I noted down and then shelved: a kind of shared universe, where the story, setting and characters have been created for the express purpose of allowing fanfic to be derived from them. I'm fairly sure someone's taken a stab at doing something like that, but it's something I might be interested in setting up later on. After I get my current book off my back, for instance.
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Other Lives Of The Mind