Fanfic as Folklore

Diane Werts, a terrific TV columnist and feature-writer, wrote about fanfic this week and champions a view very different than my own:

Fan fiction has become a booming hobby, with millions of stories written for
cyberspace by ordinary consumers of TV shows, movies, books, even video games.
"Fanfic" recycles well-known characters by taking them down fresh paths,
recounted in epic-length chronicles, 100-word "drabbles," explicit character
vignettes and crossovers between completely unrelated series. The reimaginings
use existing entertainment icons to present an alternative mythology to the
"official" version – a modern grassroots folklore subverting corporate control
of "intellectual property."

I wouldn’t characterize KIRK/SPOCK slash as "grassroots folklore," but I certainly agree that it’s "subverting corporate control of  intellectual property" as well as the authors intellectual property rights (something she makes only passing reference to in her piece).

Diane definitely sees fanfic as something positive and buys heavily into the romanticized notion of  fanfic as modern-day folklore, continuing traditions began around the campfire centuries ago. Obviously, I don’t agree… but since Diane and I are friends, and my views on fanfic are hardly a secret,  I’ll leave it at that.

12 thoughts on “Fanfic as Folklore”

  1. I have no problem with people telling fanfic to each other around the campfire. Publishing it on the internet is another matter.

  2. In that article, note that there are creative people interviewed who (like Werts) are much more comfortable about fanfic than you are, ala:
    <<"Galactica" producer Moore, conversely, is thrilled to hear of even peculiar permutations of his characters. "I always loved it when writers went into strange nooks and crannies and turned the universe upside down in ways that we couldn't. 'Wouldn't it be great if Kirk and Spock were lovers?' We can't do that, but it's great that somebody can.">>
    I also belong in that camp. I have no problem with people writing fanfic about my characters as long as they don’t claim ownership, or try to make money with what they do.

  3. If it were around a campfire, none of us would know about it. It would be hard to find. We’d be blissfully ignorant of people writing pornography about characters in kiddie books, because our own kiddies wouldn’t be stumbling into it. Academics and attorneys wouldn’t be establishing names for themselves trying to dismantle artists’ copyright protections. Authors wouldn’t have to worry that some fanfiction writer is going to sue them for ‘stealing their idea’ or that somebody will be taking their work, changing the names and selling it as their own.
    As a hobby, kept in perspective – it’s fun. Perspective is the key, and that went flying out the window long ago.

  4. I wouldn’t characterize KIRK/SPOCK slash as “grassroots folklore,”
    Oh, come now, Lee. One can certainly imagine that, a thousand years from now, a new civilization will exist that communicates its morals and mores through a mythology based largely on Kirk and Spock getting funky on each other’s space monkey.
    Of course, given that it’s a civilization of virgin nerds who spend all day in front of their computers, it will sadly die out in a matter of days, if not weeks.

  5. You are (still) around 35 years too late to be whining about Kirk/Spock. The opportunity for stopping that passed in about 1970.

  6. David Montgomery Regarding Spock/Kirk forbidden love… who’s the top?
    As a writer, it’s up to you. The world’s your oyster.
    As a reader, depends on who you read.


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