Chelsea Quinn Yarbro says NO to fanfic

Holly Lisle is hardly alone. Celebrated author Chelsea Quinn Yarbro is no fan of fanfic, either.  From her "official" Yahoo discussion group:

Please note:

Any attempt to violate her copyright will result in criminal prosecution by her legal services.
Since becoming the official Chelsea Quinn Yarbro Group we will no longer be able to post personal poetry or other works by members anywhere within the group pages or posts. This is due to recent developments that aren’t with this group, but for other legal reasons.

In Globe and Mail article, Yarbro describes some of her run-ins with fanficcers.

"I have absolutely no sense of humour
        about copyright infringement," she writes. Yarbro has dealt with four
        instances of infringement during her career, including one where a fan
        story was printed in a magazine against her express wishes and the writer
        even mentioned as much in an introduction. Although Yarbro has managed
        to settle these issues out of court, she points out that in the U.S.,
        "willful infringement, meaning you know the writer has said no and
        you do it anyway, carries with it a maximum federal fine of $250,000 and
        a maximum of five years in a federal penitentiary."

When asked whether non-profit on-line fan fiction constitutes
        at least a grey area, she responds: "I think it is nonsense — and
        that is a mild word for the one I would prefer to use — and that fans
        who do it show a profound disrespect for the writer and the work they
        misappropriate in such cases. If fans want to write, they should make
        up their own stories with their own characters. That’s what fiction is
        all about."


20 thoughts on “Chelsea Quinn Yarbro says NO to fanfic”

  1. I’ve been gone for a while, so I’m sorry if I’m asking a question that’s already been done to death.
    Before I ask, let me just reiterate that I don’t have a dog in this fight. I don’t write fanfic, and AFAIK, no one’s fanficced anything of mine. I’m just curious here.
    Assuming for the sake of argument that everything said about fanfic is true: it’s non-creative, it’s stealing. etc. etc…it’s written by FANS, no?
    So, assuming no lost profits here, why go to all this trouble to kick fans in the teeth? Is the harm done by fanfic so great that a writer needs to get as nasty as I’ve seen here towards people who, however misguidedly, love the worlds and the characters you’ve created?

  2. Define “nasty?” It sounds as if any complaint would qualify? They’re pirating and I would argue abusing and defiling copywriten intellectual property. That’s criminal.

  3. Define “nasty?”
    Well, I think accusing fans of being criminals and of “abusing and defiling” the work would probably qualify. As would the “snot nosed adolescents” comment in an earlier post on the subject.
    Maybe I’m just too much of a newbie at this. If somebody even tells me they’ve read my book, I want to take them home with me and feed them dinner. If they told me they’d written a story with my characters in it, I might be somewhat bemused by it, but I don’t think I’d call them names.

  4. I’m with you to a certain extent, Dusty… but I think the strong reaction that some authors have comes after a long history with this stuff. (And this is really more common in the SF and fantasy worlds.)
    I think that if, as an author, one is exposed to enough of this crap over the years, and particularly the really vile forms of it, you’d start to say “enough!” It might be cute the first time, but I imagine it wears thin fast.

  5. The closest thing I’ve had to a fanfiction experience was a very nice fellow who was so moved by a story of mine that he wanted to write a piece in the same universe. He e-mailed me with his idea and to ask permission.
    His idea was really, really good; it just didn’t fit the reality of my story universe. I explained this to him and then told him that I wanted him to write the piece anyway, in a universe he custom built for it. His own universe, in other words, which he could make fit the theme he wanted to explore better than my creation did. Later he sent me a nice synopsis of his idea in his own universe, and it is really a fine, fine idea and setting. I’m still in touch with him, and I keep encouraging him with the project.
    The moral is, I guess, that I was very, very flattered that something I’d written moved someone that much (so flattered in fact that I am turning the short story that inspired him into a short novel). I have no strong objection to fan fiction, though I understand why authors don’t read fan fiction about their own creations (I wouldn’t, for all those legal reasons). At the same time it’s nice to know that my own work was part of the genesis for someone else’s original effort.

  6. This is getting rather pathetic…
    This endlessly ongoing discussion reminds me of the discussion whether mysterynovels are *L*iterature or not. It seems people always want to piss down each other’s necks, just to make themselves feel better or more worth than somebody else.
    In short:
    1. IF fan-fiction is non-creative than adapting a novel, play, whatever is too. It’s actually even less creative, because you rehash not only the characters but the story too. No credits should be given to anybody doing an adaptation then.
    2. Wasn’t it Mr Goldberg hammering on the fact that ideas are nothing, it’s how it’s executed? I think/hope/assume this argument is pretty self-explanatory
    3. The argument that most of fan-fiction is trash, is pretty useless, because the largest part of the books published are pretty much rubbish (in my opinion anyway).
    4. Could somebody explain to me why it’s despicable to write fan-fiction, but not to cover songs? Or does everybody who considers fan-fiction as “evil” think that creating covers is despicable as well…
    5. Fan-fiction being disrespectful to the writer: deal with it. Live with it. Getting negative press isn’t exactly fun either, but you don’t start to nag about the journalist showing disrespect to your work do you?
    BTW i’m not a fan-fiction writer and never will be. I think it’s just rather narrow-minded and “little” to be whining about fan-fiction.
    Of course copyright should be respected just as in any other creative field. But as long as people are posting their stories on the internet for each other to read, I really, really, honestly, truly can’t see any harm in that nor any reason to scoff these people.

  7. Oh goody, another “real writer” to avoid.
    At least these last two are not nutjobs like Hamilton or Rice.
    I’m just a reader of fanfiction and original fiction, and I know we don’t count to the “real writers” here, but I do not read works by authors who take themselves, their works, and their craft so seriously that they refuse to allow fans the fun of exploring the work through fanfiction and fanart.

  8. Fan fiction — write your own stories

    I can’t see the appeal of fan fiction for writers. If you want to write, write. And that means, create your own characters. I agree with Chelsea Quinn Yabro, who’s quoted on Lee Goldberg’s blog: “If fans want to

  9. For those of you who are debating the merits of fanfiction, I’d like to point out an argument I once wrote in favor of Anne Rice asking fanfiction writers to knock it off. It’s pretty explicit as I’m quite irritated with people acting like they have the constitutional write to post fanfiction. If a writer says no, you should be respectful of his or her property.
    This blog entry I’ve written states my own personal reasons for hating fanfiction and why I think writers like Anne Rice, Chelsea Yarbro, and even us lowly writers who have not yet gained momentum deserve a little respect.

  10. As someone who is trying to publish a book (sci-fi) I can say that if I did publish it, and let’s say it became a movie, or TV series or something like that, for sake of arguement. If a ‘fan’ wanted to write a piece of fanfiction, to me that signals that the person not only read/watched what I created but was inspired by it. For people like Lee here, I think of one thing when I hear them talking about fanfiction.
    -It is a sex story, nothing else.
    I’ve read a few fenfiction stories (hey, I love sci-fi stuff), and some of those stories were MUCH better than anything put on TV or the movies.
    Find good stuff is like anything in today’s world. You have to look, you just can’t stop at the first place and go it stinks therefore it all stinks.
    PErsonally, having thought about it, if I published something and no one wrote fanficiton on it, I would be disappointed. Why, it would mean that my story/movie/whatever, sucked and no one liked it.
    I can remember before the internet where you could look around for fanfiction/fan related sites that if a show went off the air, that was it, it was gone. The only place it remained was your mind, and that fades with time until the show fades completely. I guess if many of you want your show/book/movie to fade into nothingness then go ahead, kick you fans sue them, tell them they can’t write anything about it, can’t think about what might be. Heaven forbid the fans actually try adn expand your universe.

  11. It’s quite arrogant to assume that writers will fade into obscurity, just because they won’t allow other writers to plaguerize their works.
    I’m sure people will know who Anne Rice is a hundred years from now. Just like we know who Jane Austin and Emily Dickenson are a century after their deaths, without the benefit of “fanfiction” no less.

  12. Sure, Anne Rice might be remembered, if only for the tantrums she’s thrown.
    But where would Star Trek be today if fans hadn’t kept it alive with fanfiction? What about Doctor Who? The number one series in Britain today was off the air for fifteen years. If it weren’t for fanfiction writers who became television writers and asked to revive their favorite show, the BBC wouldn’t be raking in all that revenue.

  13. May I point out something, before you accuse Rice of throwing “tantrums”?
    Claudia, the child vampire of Interview with the Vampire, was based on Anne Rice’s six year-old daughter, who died of cancer the year before the book was published.
    Lestat, the popular subject of many of these sordid “fanfictions”, was based on Anne’s husband, Stan Rice, who died in 2003, following his own surgical brush with cancer.
    To Anne Rice, these characters have deep personal connections to her. They are the living embodiments of people she loved and is pained to have lost.
    Suddenly, along comes this fifteen year-old AFI reject who writes a story about Lestat shagging Louis. Or about Claudia getting mutilated by Armand.
    It’d be like having someone dig up members of your family out of their graves, only to do a little puppet show with them right before your eyes.
    You’d feel pretty aweful if that happened wouldn’t you?
    Is it such a bad thing to respect her wishes and not do fanfiction? Why do people need to make such a hopeless tirade out of it?

  14. If you know so much about Anne Rice, then surely you know that she has thrown tantrums over things other than fanfiction.
    She’s insisted she doesn’t need an editor and flamed readers who give her negative reviews.
    I wouldn’t compare her to Jane Austen or Emily Dickinson myself. But I’m sure a woman who writes a book about Jesus “in his own words” will be remembered. (

  15. In my opinion once you put something in the public forum is becomes for the most part public domain. Though not in the sense that that term is usually used. Like the first poster says: “Assuming for the sake of argument that everything said about fanfic is true: it’s non-creative, it’s stealing. etc. etc…it’s written by FANS, no?
    So, assuming no lost profits here, why go to all this trouble to kick fans in the teeth? Is the harm done by fanfic so great that a writer needs to get as nasty as I’ve seen here towards people who, however misguidedly, love the worlds and the characters you’ve created?”
    As long as no profit is made, and it’s just serving the purpose of entertainment then I think they need to get the stick out of their butts and deal with it. You put it out there knowing that it is going to be exposed to people, all kinds of people. Some of which want to write about the stories. You need to accept that fanfic is a result of putting out a story, especially a popular story. And as long as no one is trying to truly infringe on any rights, attempting to gain payment or other such things, from the writing of these stories then I truly do not see what the problem is.
    I have to say, Chelsey Quinn made it on my crap list with that comment about how it’s stealing. The character’s are still her, they’re still in her property. She’s still the one writing and making profit. Punish those who may attempt to make a gain from writing’s based on her characters. But leave those alone who are innocently trying to express and increase their enjoyment of a story.

  16. If Yarbro is so adamant that writers should only be allowed to use their own characters, why did she contribute a story about Dracula to the anthology “Dracula in London”?

  17. I would just like to point out the fact that St. Germain, the MAIN CHARACTER of almost all of Yarbro’s books, is in fact NOT her own character. He is an actual historical person. He existed outside of her mond. Also, she is not the first one to speculate that he is a vampire.
    As this is the case, how dare she get all huffy if someone else uses him in a story? He doesn’t belong to her; he belongs to the world.
    I’m not going to get into the whole fanfiction: right or wrong discussion, but I say, if anyone wants to use the man, then so be it. I went on a trip to New Orleans a few years ago where I heard about him for the first time. He is a part of their legends, and they have absolutely nothing to do with Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s books. Hell, I bet they’ve never even heard of her.
    If you are doubtful of my assertions, all you have to do is google ‘St Germain(e).’

  18. Hello I am very late to the topic.
    Nevertheless my best advice would be, speak to an attorney who specializes in intellectual property and copyright.
    They can explain to you why in the eyes of the legal system it is important to protect copyright.
    Failure to protect copyright just one time will establish a legal precedent that the copyright holder has released their rights and claims to the copyright. Once such a precedent can be proven in a court of law, any person may now take the characters and write about them, and profit from the work; while the originator of the characters has no legal claim upon said profits.
    Furthermore, suppose there is an author who writes about a new character that catches the public’s eye. Fanfic takes place. The author does not protect their copyright. The popularity of the new character attracts interest from a publisher to offer a multi-book deal to the originator of the character.
    Any standard publishing contract has will have an exclusivity clause the author must sign, which states that no other person has written anything about this character. The author cannot legally make such a claim, if the author knows of the fan fic and if the publisher becomes aware of the fan-fic, the publisher will rescind their offer, for the publisher will not want to take on a project where copyright cannot be proven by the author.


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