I can understand some authors’ negative attitudes about fanfiction. They clearly feel threatened in some way — creatively, legally, morally, or financially. Whether their feelings and arguments are irrational doesn’t matter; I accept the validity of the perceived threat. Anne Rice and Orson Scott Card, two authors who have been outspoken about fanfiction, are entitled to their views on other people using their characters and worlds. Emotionally, they have something to lose.
I can understand the attitudes of pro and aspiring-pro writers…
Fanfiction communities, in general, are pretty damn respectful about the original creators’ wishes. Since fan works are tributes to both the original works and the creators of the original works, fan writers and artists usually abide by the originators’ wishes. For many, it takes some of the fun out of making fan works if the creator doesn’t want them made, just like giving a surprise party for someone who wants their birthday ignored.
Even the aspiring-pro writers’ attitudes are understandable. They obviously have ambitions and are dead set on improving their craft. Since people tend to give autobiographical advice, it’s natural to project their own aspiring-pro goals onto other people. Just like a father telling his kid, “You’re wasting your time playing guitar. You should be studying the stock market, making something of your life while you’re young.”
…even if they don’t understand why some people want to write fanfiction.
They don’t get that:
1) Fanfiction is actually a great way to hone your writing skills with the right mindset. In martial arts class, we had the option of doing full-contact fighting with our classmates. Our teacher created “RCEs” — Restricted Combat Exercises. It was a game where we did fight each other, but we were only allowed certain things. These restrictions made us focus on strengthening certain aspects of our combat abilities that would go untended, just because there are so many variables to worry about in real-time combat. It takes a lot of experience to fight well, and the restricted, but still combative, environment helped us with that.
2) A lot of fanfiction writers don’t want to be published. It’s an enjoyable hobby, and only that. Many of them do not write because they’ve always wanted to be writers, but simply out of love for the original works. You see this same attitude at many open mic nights — the people are obviously amateur (most of them), but they aren’t doing it because they want to be pro musicians. Anyone judging them against pros is missing the point: they are doing it to more deeply experience the songs they love, to really get inside the music. (When I have time, I will join an amateur symphony orchestra, just so that I can be in the glorious, golden center of art music again.)
My blind spot?
But what I don’t really get is why non-authors care so strongly about fanfiction. They have nothing to lose, unlike published authors. After someone commented on my previous fanfiction post, I had to do a little research on people’s attitudes.
Vanessa had said:
I wouldn’t say I’ve seen rancor but there’s definitely an attitude of why bother, you’re wasting your time, you don’t get anything out of it from some aspiring pro writers, even if a person says they’re just writing it for enjoyment. The thought process seems to be you could come up with an original, publishable story in the same amount of time. And of course some people just consider it right out plagiarism.
She is clearly more in tune to the scene than I am. While I had thought that the general attitude was either positive or, “um, it’s kind of lame,” I discovered a lot of non-published authors being actively against it. Arguments showed up such as:
– It’s a waste of time. If people want to write, they can write their original stories just as easily. (Variations on this are, “It’s lazy.”)
– It’s not serious writing.
– It’s plagiarism.
– It’s stupid and no one should do it.
Illogic of these ‘arguments’ aside (why is fun a waste of time?), the interesting aspect of this is: why do non-writers care so much?
If I want to spend my leisure time writing fanfiction — in a fandom where the original creator gave express permission to write it — instead of playing video games, who does it harm?
This sounds like a very teenager-ish, idealistic attitude. “Why should anyone else care if I dress Goth? It doesn’t hurt anyone,” etc. But really, it feels like people have a moral crusade against something that will never affect them. Unless they think it does affect their world for the worse in some way.
If anyone can shed some light on this, please do. I seem to have a blind spot here, and I want to understand.