This is going to be a quick and unedited post, but this topic has been on my mind. Names omitted to protect the parties involved.
Here’s the situation, and I’m sure it has happened more than once.
Someone wrote a novel-length, pretty good fanfiction story in a well-established fandom. When my friend went to look for it, years later, it was gone. Not unusual, right? Fanfiction archives come and go. But she rediscovered… it as original fiction! The author had turned her fanfiction story into an original novel and is now selling it through one of the M/M niche presses.
Is this cool?
As I have discovered from my own efforts, some fanfiction is so far off from the original story that you can’t really say it’s fanfiction! I couldn’t claim that my own story had any place whatsoever in the fandom (such as it is), but was only “inspired by” the original. Many of the better AUs I’ve looked at fall into this category for sure.
I’ve always thought that fanfiction is 50% original, anyway. FF writers bring their own ideas and life experience into the existing work, creating a synergy that is half theirs. Is this part of why fanfiction is such a gray area?
Anyway, when I heard about this, my reaction wasn’t automatically, “OMG she’s trying to make money off fanfiction, that’s so wrong!” If the writer could sell the manuscript without her characters smelling like the originals, chances are, her story had very little in common with the parent work in the first place.
“I’m never going to have an idea as good as this one.”
I used to be a mass-market product marketer. Now, I have become an art, entertainment, and info-tainment marketer. I work with artists, and one of the biggest obstacles I run into is their belief in good idea scarcity.
They don’t want to give away anything for free because they’re afraid they will have nothing left. Or that their next work may not be as good. This is usually BS, of course, but that fear creates the reality. One of the hardest parts of my job is convincing artists to offer free samples when possible… to give more of themselves and their work than they are comfortable with.
Writers are the worst offenders, but musicians are the coolest about this. Some writers are totally cool, too, but they are usually the experienced ones used to deadlines. The authors with the confidence and proof that their well will never run dry, even under adverse circumstances (like writing books “by committee” under a Big Name Publisher.)
My own reaction.
I don’t think it was morally wrong to turn what must have been a serious AU into original fiction. And yanking what used to be a freely available story, making minor alterations, and putting it behind a pay wall… well, I would never do that, but I guess it was her right? I’m not too sure about what I think about this — hopefully comments will help me clarify my own reaction.
What I felt the most was sorry. I don’t know the reality of the situation, but it smacks of “I will never write something as good as this again.” If she were truly confident in her ability to write more good stories, would she have done that?
Dunno. What do you think?