I’ve found this passionate discussion about fanfic fascinating and informative. And I have to say that some of your well-considered, heartfelt arguments have made me seriously reconsider some of my long-held views on the subject.
In particular, a comment yesterday from “Morgul” really got me thinking…
“Would you be so offended if, in one of your episodes one of the characters died of cancer, a fanwriter chose, instead of writing the Slash and MPreg you are so fond of mentioning, to write about that person when they realised that they were going to die? Or perhaps go AU and make that person live a year longer, exploring what that character would chose to do with that time?
Because, if you had an episode in which a character died of cancer, you’d get truly Godawful stories that would tell how true love will conquer all and be boring, but you would also get some amazing stories about how the character’s family coped with that loss, or even how the nurses and doctors that looked after the character reacted. You may have to sift through dirt, but there are gems out there.
That’s what we’re trying to get across to you here. The people who are taking the time to tell you what they think are the people that truly care about their fandoms and would never desecrate them like the people who use fanfiction as a form of masturbation.”
I think he’s right. I think my exposure to the fanfiction community – first with Seaquest and later with DM fanfic – didn’t show the field, or its writers, in the best light, establishing and strengthening my negative views.
I went back today and found that GUNSMOKE fanfiction I stumbled on some time ago… and yes, it’s very good and, as a GUNSMOKE fan, I enjoyed reading it very much.
In retrospect, I believe I have made some unfair generalizations about fanfic and the people who write it. But that’s not to say I don’t still have some strong objections to fanfic.
Defending fanfic on the basis that it’s not copyright infringement is silly. It is infringement, and it violates the intellectual property rights of the author/creator. You know it. I know it. Any reasonable person knows it. While the issue of copyright infringement/violation of intellectual property has strong ethical and artistic importance to me, it’s obviously a meaningless issue to those who write fanfic, so I won’t try to argue that any longer. We’ll have to agree to disagree on that score.
We can debate, however, the other arguments/defenses for fanfic, for which there is no clear-cut right-or-wrong —
a)it’s a way to learn how to write, a stepping stone to writing your own, original work.
The arguments here have persuaded me can be… but I still believe it’s a mistake for an aspiring writer to spend too much time and effort on fanfic… that they are better off, and will learn more, and will develop their own voice, by putting that effort into original work. It might be a useful exercise for a 12-year-old, but I think anybody, particularly an adult, serious about becoming a professional writer should concentrate their efforts on original work. That is the only way you will truly develop the skills you need to succeed (and, I believe, any aspiring or professional writer should respect the intellectual property rights of their fellow authors).
b) it’s the only way to get real feedback of your writing from a wide audience of people.
I’m unpersuaded. Personally, I don’t think this is a valid argument at all. There are many, many ways to get feedback on your writing without having to do fanfic.
c) it’s a way to explore aspects of the shows/novels/movies that the film-makers/authors don’t.
This was something I didn’t fully appreciate until Morgul’s post. My view has been far too influenced by all the slash/mpreg/hurt-comfort/etc. sludge out there and by strident fans who think their fanfic is the canon the TV writer/producers should be following. But his post opened my eyes.
d) it’s a way to celebrate and enjoy shows/novels/movies that you love with other fans.
I can see the point. .. though I think you can enjoy & celebrate a show/book/movie without writing and disseminating stories based on them.
e) it’s an expression of appreciation to the film-makers/authors
I suppose it is when you’re doing the things “Morgul” was talking about. But not when you pervert the authors intentions with garbage like mpreg, slash, hurt-comfort, etc. That isn’t flattery or appreciation. It’s aggressively offensive.
f)it’s self-policing…when fanficers violate the canon and write out-of-character stuff (mpreg, slash, etc), they get slammed for it.
I’m not persuaded… there’s far too much of the swill out there to believe “self-policing” is at all effective.
g)it’s harmless fun, give us a break.
On this, I have to say… you’re right. I’m a schmuck.
h)It’s a challenge to the ‘business model’ and thereby a political act.
This is a popular rationalization among all kinds of copyright infringers and product pirates and I simply don’t buy it.