Jim Winter writes:
"I agree with a lot of your points even though I am a recovering fanficcer. I say this because I went in to that particularly literary ghetto with my eyes wide open. I never wrote "slash" or hurt/comfort, and anything resmebling a Mary Sue got personality and depth hammered onto it.
But Lee, you haven’t dealt with the worst of the fanfic community — the Trekkies. Yes, that was the world I inhabited. My approach was to invent an entirely new cast whose adventures took place in a time not likely to be hit upon by any of the series. Until Enterprise (which convinced me I’d overstayed my welcome in fanfic), I pretty much was able to adapt to anything the writing staff threw out there. Others were less accomodating.
To which I, Lee Goldberg, say: no offense intended, but why bother? If you are creating a "new cast," why not just write an original novel that takes place in space? Using other people’s characters seems like a collosal waste of time and talent. Jim writes:
I cannot believe the sheer numbers of people who really believed that Kirk and Spock were so gay that they made the Queer Eye guys look like cousins to The Rock. The worst case was one group, who like me did an original cast of characters, that threw a very public temper tantrum when Deep Space Nine changed writers and upset the intricate little universe they created.
I, on the other hand, and a few others knew we were just having fun with our favorite show (though I’d come to really hate it by the end of Voyager’s first season), that we were "playing in someone else’s sandbox," and that none of us would make a dime off of this. (Hell, I lost money on a fanzine and still give the evil eye to anyone who says, "Hey, Jim, you should try editing.") Several of us had to post reminders on a few Usenet groups that what we wrote was subject to the whims of someone else, and no one in Hollywood was bound by anything "established in fanfic."
By 2000, though, it occurred to me that, if I was as good as my friends were telling me (and every fanfic writer who gets a following hears this), I was wasting my time on copyright infringement that would make no one any money. I also realized I never really liked reading science fiction much. So I switched to crime fiction. I went from being an obscure fanfic writer to an obscure crime fiction writer, dropping fanfic altogether when I wrote my first novel.
Money and copyright aside, what an incredible waste of creativity. Why toil on characters you don’t own in a world that’s not your own? It’s not even literary masturbation. It’s more like the literary equivalent of having sex with an inflatable woman who looks like Halle Berry. I honestly don’t get it.
Sixteen years ago, my then-girlfriend (and now justifiably acclaimed novelist) Karen E. Bender was trying to break in to publishing. I got her a job working as an editorial assistant at Starlog magazine, where one of the editors gave her this sage advice:
"You want to break in to writing, the best place to start is with a Saavik story. Writing for the secondary characters is where the literary giants of tomorrow get their experience. If you make a mistake with them, it’s a lot easier to fix in later fanfic. But blow it with Kirk or Spock, and your reputation as a serious writer is ruined." (I later used that quote in my book "Beyond the Beyond").
He also said writing sequels to movies, like his own to "Planet of the Apes" and "Superman," were good ways to hone her craft. The poor schlub didn’t see any difference between the fanfic world and the literature.
Last I heard, he was still living with his mother. Jim writes:
So, Lee, I really do sympathize. I hope to God I never come across any Nick Kepler fanfic. I understand the motivation and the appeal of it, but really, 95% of it proves that Shatner was right during his SNL skit. Or, at least, the evil Captain Kirk from… um… 10? "The Enemy Within".
Or was he really saying just pay attention to the movies?"
UPDATE: Jim expanded on his thoughts about fanfic in a lively rant on his own blog.