Novik Chimes In

Naomi Novik, one of the two "pro-fanfic" guests on OPEN SOURCE, comments on the radio show and the discussion here on her blog.
To give you a sense of the bizarre logic behind her arguments, she believes
that writing reference books about television (like my book UNSOLD
TELEVISION PILOTS)  is no different than fanfic.

And the books in the last category profit off the creations of others
*without* authorization — because legally you don’t need to have
authorization to report facts. So in the venn diagram of ‘borrowing
characters to write fiction’ and ‘use without authorization’, where
fanfic writers are in the intersection, he’s got one foot in either
camp even while he’s going after the people in the middle.

Need I say more? Okay, a little more. Here’s how she feels about authors who object to fanfic about their work:

I realized after posting, that the joking remark above might seem to
imply an insult any author who does object to fanfic. Not my intention
— I do understand individual authors who feel strongly that they don’t
want fanfic on their own work out there. If an author feels an intense
negative reaction to fanfic on her work, that is a completely valid
feeling. I don’t think that it obliges people to respect that feeling,
but it’s not ridiculous, it’s how she feels, and I personally do
respect that reaction out of courtesy.

Courtesy?? What
courtesy? She isn’t showing authors any courtesy at all. She "respects
the reaction," but not the author.  Her attitude is basically this:
Fuck JK Rowling if she doesn’t like stories about Harry using his magic
wand to have sex with everybody at Hogwarts.  Anything she writes
belongs to me to use however I see fit.

Her arrogance and stupidity is mind-boggling. Between her, and the
guy who made the "We more emotionally attached" comment
, I think you
get a pretty accurate picture of the fanfic community and how they
think. Scary, isn’t it?

(I was amused, though, but her inadvertent acknowledgement of the central hypocrisy of fanficcers. If someday fanfic is written based on one of her
novel, she won’t read..

  …any of the fanfic anyway (just not worth the
potential legal headaches), so what difference does it make to me?

That statement says so much. Fanficcers see absolutely nothing wrong with stealing the work of other writers, even if it the author of the work is opposed to it, but
would sue any novelist or TV producer they think may have stolen something from their
fanfic.  Their work should be protected, it’s everybody else’s that up for grabs…)

48 thoughts on “Novik Chimes In”

  1. She also didn’t want any of her friends writing fanfic about her stories before they were actually published. They assured they were only teasing. I wondered if she worried it might mess up her actually going to publication. Then I wondered if it mattered if everybody were writing fanfic about Rowling’s sixth book before it was published. Then I remembered that it didn’t matter because in Rowling’s case we’re talking about an interpretive community being required to create the text. Then I remembered I’m behind schedule and went back to my own writing.
    I’m popping corn and mixing up a big batch of margaritas to watch the reaction to this thread.

  2. What you selectively edited from Novik’s blog:
    “Lee makes a particularly bad spokesman for objections to fanfic anyway because from all available evidence he makes most of his living writing scripts for series television, tie-in novels, and (as my fellow guest pointed out to me) fact books about television shows — things like Unsold Television Pilots, and Television Series Revivals.” -just before your first quote of her.
    “I do think that the people who compare fanfic to defilement or rape are making a ridiculously overblown and self-defeating argument. Being even violently offended is not the same thing as being traumatized and assaulted. And when you’re going out of your way to insult and offend other people, you’re putting yourself on shaky ground when complaining that they are offending you.” -to put her comment about courtesy into context.
    Not that I don’t love your blatantly hypocritical stance on fanfic while making your living off writing someone else’s characters and universe, and questioning other people’s courtesy and respect while having none in return. Please, continue…

  3. I fail to see the hypocrisy in her comment. She has nothing against those who would write fan fiction based on her work. As she stated, actually READING the fic other people write could open her up to litigation (as it did with Marion Zimmer Bradley), so she doesn’t intend to do it.
    There’s just no hypocrisy there.

  4. Oh God.
    Sorry, but I’ve only just stumbled onto this blog coincidentally. Wow!
    Up until now, the name “Lee Goldberg” was unknown to me, but now I know here’s one author I don’t want to read.

  5. Naomi rocks! You are stupid! Fanfic rules the earth! We are smater and better writers then you are one!
    Fanfic writers will out-sell all other writers one day becaause fanfic RULES!
    You will wither and die under our mighty brains and are pens!!!
    If you knew what your talking about you would write fanfic but you don’t! FANFIC RULES!!!!!

  6. Not that I don’t love your blatantly hypocritical stance on fanfic while making your living off writing someone else’s characters and universe, and questioning other people’s courtesy and respect while having none in return. Please, continue…
    Listen, the difference between what Lee does and what fanficcers do is the difference between making love and rape. It amounts to one word: permission.
    Historically, I wasn’t horribly opposed to fanfic, mostly because I don’t think it’s terribly productive to be so. I can’t see the point of getting all worked up about something that people are going to do no matter what anyone says.
    But let’s be clear, shall we? What fanficcers do is illegal and unethical.
    Fanfic is illegal because copyright law says that the creator of a work has exclusive right to that work, and to derivative works.
    Fanfic is immoral because taking what isn’t yours is immoral.
    Fanfic is unethical because passing the work of another off as your own is unethical.
    You know, I’ve said several times in this whole discussion that this has been enlightening, and it has. I think I’ve actually changed my mind. I used to think that fanfic wasn’t so bad, but I do believe that I’ve changed my viewpoint.
    It’s people like you, people who somehow feel that they have the right to take whatever they want and do what they want with it just because they can, that have changed my opinion.
    Lee is legally in the right. He is morally in the right. He is ethically in the right. You, and your ilk, are in the wrong, and you don’t even have the common courtesy to admit it.

  7. Perverse logic indeed, and, the same sort of pretzel logic used by vanity authors, only that isn’t plagiarism on its face as this is. It’s a strange cult and nothing more. They should be sued, except it’s doubtful they’re worth anything, or will ever be since they have no moorings. Or talent.

  8. The legality of fanfiction is cloudy. It certainly *seems* to run afoul of copyright but as an intellectual property lawyer told me when I asked about the legal parameters of fair use before one was “breaking the law.” He said it doesn’t make sense to use terms like “breaking the law” for copyright law because it isn’t criminal law, so you can’t see it the same way because the courts don’t. He went on to say that how the copyright law is worded and how it is applied are not the same. The wording makes copyright holders seem far more protected than case law has shown them to be. Fanfiction is definitely still waiting to see what caselaw will develop.
    Immoral is beyond question — fanfiction writers are borrowing without permission. That’s immoral. As a society we seem to agree that no one should use your stuff without asking and obtaining permission: whether they damaged it during the use or not.
    Unethical could easily be argued but not as Dean has argued it. What little I know of fanfiction seems to be clear that fanfiction writers do realize and acknowledge that they didn’t originate the characters or setting. (Although it wouldn’t surprise me to find some delusional soul who thinks he created Doctor Sloan and the other trappings of Diagnosis Murder). They merely believe they didn’t transcribe episodes but wrote their own — and they did. They may have written really really bad episodes but they did write their own episode.
    Unfortunately, fanfiction writers seem to think the fact that they DON’T claim the work of others as their own removes the stain of borrowing without permission — which is highly disapproved of in our society. We have a strong “ownership” need and when people run afoul of that by tampering with that which we own — we get very upset. And that really is the one area where fanfiction writers cannot build a defense. They may mumble that they didn’t know who to ask — but I wouldn’t buy that if the boys who live behind our house decided to “borrow” tools from our outbuilding and you cannot get creators of original content to buy it from fanfiction writers. If you don’t know who to ask for permission, then it is wrong to “borrow” the characters/settings and share them around. It may not be illegal — but it is definitely wrong.

  9. Morals and ethics are objective terms relative only to the people who use them. They have no set definition for any two people or society as a whole. To use such terms to try to win an argument simply means that you can’t back up your side and instead try to cloud the issue with feelings.
    I mean if you want to talk immoral I’d have to say equating one of the most horrific acts a person can experience(Rape) to copyright violation(Fact is fanfic has yet to be defined as such) is disgusting and a horrid use of hyperbole . What next comparing us to child molesters? Oh wait you have.
    Hey look up ahead is that a Nazi reference I see coming?

  10. Perhaps, Shadowed, though it appears that many fanfiction writers ALSO feel “borrowing” without asking bad. Since this discussion began — I’ve looked at a bit. It seems MANY of the writers ask others not to write different story based on the fanfic writer’s own story. If fanfiction writers feel that sense of “ownership” about their own work and are uncomfortable with others doing new stories based on their creation — then it seems to suggest they agree that ownership is a moral concept and one they expect to see respected in relation to their own writing.

  11. Right ownership isn’t a moral concept it is a legal one. That is why I felt it pointless to use a morality argument.

  12. Just curious: to the people who are arguing that using the characters and settings created by other authors without permission is “stealing” and therefore immoral: what’s your response to Tennyson’s Ulysses?

  13. This is an official, public notice for fanfic writers:
    I, Holly Lisle, do not, in any manner, format, or medium, authorize, permit, or condone the use of my characters or worlds in fan fiction, also known as fanfic. Any such use will be construed as the knowing and intentional creation of a derivative work, which is prosecutable by law, and which will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
    I don’t do this to be a bitch, but to protect my rights to my own characters and worlds, which are my livelihood.
    I’ve posted this elsewhere at other times, but the issue keeps coming up, and some fanfic writers demonstrate not just blatant disregard for, but active antagonism toward, the wishes of individual authors on this issue. I don’t want there to be any confusion about where I stand.

  14. *In response to above post*
    First who the hell are and why should I care? Your name didn’t pop up(if it did I can’t find it) so why do you feel the need to make that statement?
    As for
    “Any such use will be construed as the knowing and intentional creation of a derivative work, which is prosecutable by law, and which will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
    You can try to make it that but I seriously doubt any reasonable person would think that. Of course I’ve never heard of you so I have no idea if fanfic about any of your work exists or not. We haven’t even begun to touch about how you would find any works let alone track down these people. That and the question of why you’d want to destroy your income(your fanbase) as the suit would do far more damage to you than fanfiction would(or could) do.

  15. Shadowed, Holly Lisle is the subject of this blog, two posts on.
    And as far as your arguments about moral and ethical considerations being something you only lean on if you have no real facts, that’s complete bunk. All laws are about moral and ethical judgements. Murder isn’t wrong simply because it’s written down in a book; it’s in a book, in the law, because it’s morally and ethically wrong.
    Copyright law is how it is because the courts deemed it morally wrong for people to deprive authors of their ability to make monies from their own works. So, yes, this IS a moral and ethical argument, and people who try to dismiss it because it is only that are the ones resting on slim facts.

  16. No murder is wrong because it violates the rights of the person being killed(In that case the right to live). Copyright is property law. It’s about their right to make money nothing else. While it might be considered wrong to people with or without a law being there. If however it wasn’t a law then trying to bitch about how I shouldn’t do it because your ethics deem it so would just be idiotic.
    If you want to argue ethics and morals that’s fine but you need to understand one thing. They don’t matter, not in any sense when debating about legality at least.
    To be fair you should also probably remember that 99.9% of the rest of the world couldn’t possibly care less about what you think is immoral or unethical. Why you ask? Cause they don’t need to as they have their own definitions about it.
    As for Holly Lisle the fact is you’ll be lucky to get more than a couple fanfics about your works(At least from what your books appear to be like) So while they do NO harm(Regardless of how you feel about it) any case you would bring would simply get people hate you(including fans you already have and potential fans)
    Hell Ann Rice did it and people respected her about it. Problem about that is now everyone thinks she is a total bitch(According to some a crazy one)

  17. Forgive me Lee for playing moderator on YOUR blog, but this was a comment by “Tim” on one of your other posts and I thought it was VERY relevant to this discussion and what Natalie Novik says about authors.
    Note: the following does not reflect a like/dislike for fanfic, but addresses a real issue that goes hand in hand with fanfic.
    17 U.S.C. Sec. 106: “Subject to sections 107 through 122, the owner of copyright under this title has the exclusive rights to do and to authorize any of the following: … (2) to prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work ….” (Note that the law does not protect the author’s right to profit from derivative works, but the right to prepare derivative works, which is broader than the right to profit.)
    17 U.S.C. Sec. 101: “A ‘derivative work’ is a work based upon one or more preexisting works, such as a translation, musical arrangement, dramatization, fictionalization, motion picture version, sound recording, art reproduction, abridgment, condensation, or any other form in which a work may be recast, transformed, or adapted. A work consisting of editorial revisions, annotations, elaborations, or other modifications, which, as a whole, represent an original work of authorship, is a ‘derivative work’.”
    Here’s one of the problems with fanfic: Assume that a fan creates a derivative work that is an “original work of authorship” (albeit unauthorized) and publishes it online. The fan probably isn’t going to have anything worth going after (i.e., no profits and virtually no chance of recovering the statutory damages for copyright infringement) and so the author/publisher is going to be out of pocket for most or all of the costs involved in stopping the fan (court costs, attorneys fees, etc.).
    However, the fan’s work is accessible to the author because it’s online. If the author later writes a book (having never seen the fan’s derivative work) that incorporates some idea found in the fan’s work (even though the author came up with it independently years earlier), the fan can sue the author/publisher (who does have money). After all, the fan created a derivative work and the author had access to the work (one of the requirements for proving copyright infringement and the reason studios return or trash submissions unopened). The fan might not win, but that doesn’t prevent the filing of a lawsuit. In fact, the fan may even argue that the author didn’t stop fanfic because the author used it for ideas. While a ridiculous argument, ridiculous arguments can win in court or at least cost a lot of money to defeat.
    Therefore, like the Marion Zimmer Bradley story related earlier in this thread, the author may be practically (if not legally) foreclosed from pursuing a story in a world that he/she created using characters that he/she created. And arguing that this isn’t a real concern is silly. If an author is making enough money, there is a real possibility that someone will find a lawyer willing to file the suit. This may be indicative of problems with our legal system, but it is our current system, and expecting authors to rely on their fans’ good graces to never file a suit is more trusting than I am. If someone is aware of a way for authors to avoid this problem other than stopping fanfic, or sees a flaw in the legal argument, I would be very interested in hearing it.
    And now on to a few personal comments that I originally promised myself I wouldn’t add.
    Copyrights and trademarks are not given the be all end all legal propections under US law, the confines of intellectual property are sharply timed and drawn in.
    Really? Would you care to discuss that? The only remaining IP consists of patents and trade secrets, neither of which applies here. The law makes it very clear that the right to derivative works is reserved to the author. You may not like it, but that’s the law and sweeping statements about IP law being “sharply timed and drawn in” (whatever that even means) are pointless unless you apply them to the facts at hand.
    Posting a fanfic online is like posting an unpleasant post about someone, it might be hurtful, wrong, and stupid, but hardly a matter for cops and courts.
    Actually, it is. That’s what copyright law is for and, as I stated above, there are real legal ramifications to publishing fanfic where it is accessible to everyone. You may not want to acknowledge the issue or you may think that it is unlikely to happen, but that doesn’t make it go away. If a fanfic writer refuses to respect an author’s wishes, the author has no other recourse than to go to court. Which leads to my next comment.
    I enjoy putting those background characters that will never be fleshed out by Mss Rowling, and giving them the chance to be important. The view is rather limited because of Harry’s perspective, and it’s only fair to me, to give the others the chance to evolve.
    On a personal note, I find it interesting that many (not all) fanfic writers seem to reflect the attitude so nicely summarized in the above comment. “Only fair?” I wasn’t aware that an author owed it to anyone to be “fair.” And I also find it interesting that fanfic authors want to be treated with respect, but aren’t willing to respect the author who created the original material and actually has the legal right to it.

  18. Here’s what I don’t get. Lee Goldberg says he doesn’t like fanfic and hundreds of fan fiction writers go into a tizzy. If he’s the insignificant hack they all say he is, why should they care what he thinks or what he posts on his blog?

  19. Rock The Mic Like A Vandal…And Fan Fiction!

    Y’all will be happy to know that my great love affair with Britney Spears’ reality show has ended. When I found myself saying things like, well, y’all and knowwhati’msaying, and then quoting Kevin Federline as if he were Deepak Chopra

  20. They’re defending something that brings them joy. Others though are simply here cause they think him and the people defending them are just Self-Righteous Jerk-offs who need to be brought down a peg. Of course generalizing is always bad so I’m sure they’re other reasons.

  21. Fan fiction defines itself as deriative work – it either borrows characters (names and defining characteristics), plots and/or settings.
    A story that re-tells ‘Pirates of the Caribean’ from the villain’s point of view is fan fiction.
    A story that re-tells Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’ from Wickham’s point of view is fan fiction by the same logic, although Austen’s copyright has long expired.
    A story that re-tells ‘Hamlet’ from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s point of view is fan fiction by the same logic.
    A story that steals all settings, plot and characters from an ancient Italian novella can be seen as either fan fiction or outright evil plagiarism. Either way: burn in Hell with all the other soulless fan fiction writers, Will Shakespeare!

  22. Here’s what I don’t get. Lee Goldberg says he doesn’t like fanfic and hundreds of fan fiction writers go into a tizzy. If he’s the insignificant hack they all say he is, why should they care what he thinks or what he posts on his blog?
    Let’s try an experiment. Lee can post saying that he doesn’t (or does; either would suffice) believe that the Armenian genocide of 1915 occurred. I assure you that people will show up by the busload, all ready to type until their little fingers get blisters.
    That doesn’t change whether or not the genocide happened, of course. What it means is that when you post a strongly-held opinion on a subject about which other people hold strong opinions, debate is likely to ensue.

  23. Dean- “Fanfic is illegal because copyright law says that the creator of a work has exclusive right to that work, and to derivative works.
    Fanfic is immoral because taking what isn’t yours is immoral.
    Fanfic is unethical because passing the work of another off as your own is unethical.
    It’s people like you, people who somehow feel that they have the right to take whatever they want and do what they want with it just because they can, that have changed my opinion.”

    You seem to assume I write fanfic, I do not. Nor have I published or produced any work based entirely on the original television scripts of others. If you say it is unethical and illegal to profit from a book with your name on it that is actually the work of writers who have not been compensated for your effort, so be it.
    Courtesy does not demand that I admit I am wrong, particularly if I still hold the same opinion. That would be lying, and that’s immoral.

  24. What copyright is.
    … the proposition on the table is that whereas there’s a genuine issue of justice here, the language of “property” has come to distort more than it informs.
    Look, a discussion of copyright infringement that actually contains nuance. Imagine.
    Another comment: I think our sense of justice and fair play requires that we have some kind of system in which creators are appropriately credited and compensated. I think plain old copyright, sans immense extensions rammed through Congress by media conglomerates, did a pretty good job for a long time. I suspect the widespread availability of digital copying means we have to rethink a lot of things. I don’t think this means we toss aside all notions of just credit and compensation for creators. And I wonder whether “property” isn’t a subtly wrong model on which to base justice in these cases.
    I encourage both sides to go over there and have a read. The reason copyright exists is to promote innovation. It allows for a creators to be rewarded for their work, and for society to (eventually) benefit as a whole.
    Copyright, as pnh says in this linked thread, is a bargain between the creators and society. People who violate copyright betray this bargain.

  25. Question still is Harry does fanfic violate it? Regardless of what some here will say, that question has yet to be answered. So arguments about it’s legality until some sort of major precedent is set is a pointless one.
    In fact the whole argument here really is pointless. I of course will continue to defend a hobby I love from false accusation even though it serves no real purpose. Why? Cause I love fanfiction and that just isn’t going to change.

  26. Question still is Harry does fanfic violate it?
    How can any doubt remain?
    Copyright law gives the copyright holder exclusive right to control derivative works. Fanfic is a derivative work outside the copyright holder’s control. That, quite simply, is not allowed.
    You might argue that it doesn’t harm to holder. You might argue that it actually helps the holder. But it’s sophistry to say that we don’t know if it violates the law. It does. I may be, however, that the people most irritated by it haven’t gone through the expense and annoyance of taking a case to court and setting a legal precedent. Or that the majority of the violators of the law don’t give in at the first cease-and-desist letter.
    The real, most-pertinent question is this: Should the law be changed? Does fanfic help or hinder innovation?
    Actually, don’t bother answering that last question–I know what you’ll say. Myself, I haven’t decided.

  27. The real, most-pertinent question is this: Should the law be changed? Does fanfic help or hinder innovation?
    Quick comment because I’m no lawyer and you didn’t want an answer. Who’d be party to that process? Fanfic writers? They don’t have a claim now. Original artists? Why should they have to participate in a fight to protect what’s already protected? The question would be who loses by the law not being changed – the fanfic writers. They have the enchilada already, changing the law just makes it harder for artist’s to protect their work, or impossible for them to protect the work.

  28. This is a real quagmire, I see. I find it humorous that fanfic writers try to defend and protect their writings while borrowing shamelessly from the person who created the world in the first place.
    What I don’t understand is why these fanfic writers–who all profess to be skillful masters of the turn of phrase–don’t just, ummm, write their *own* worlds and characters? To me as a writer, the hard part is coming up with workable, living characters and settings and giving them depth and life. Why should someone else benefit from that hard work and take the easy route?
    To me, it feels like fandom gone awry. A little misguided but otherwise well-intentioned at the start.
    I also see clearly that issues such as these (I have a teen daughter who wrote fanfic for a while when she was a preteen) sound a lot like the arguments for and against downloading music off the internet. I had to struggle for a very long time with all my children over why they weren’t just entitled to anything they could find on the internet (music, videos, etc.). It’s a hard thing to explain copyright law to an 8-yr-old.
    But, they eventually caught on (the whole Kazaa thing helped cure them of illegal downloading), and now they all purchase music legally through proper channels. I told them that THIS was the best way to show their support for artists they liked, because if they continued to hack into their property and “borrow” without permission, perhaps someday those artists wouldn’t be able to afford to produce new music.
    I think the general consensus of the upcoming generation is that the internet has made every piece of data a free-for all. This larger issue concerns me, and we see it coming out in things like massive amounts of readily available fanfic.

  29. What I don’t understand is why these fanfic writers–who all profess to be skillful masters of the turn of phrase–don’t just, ummm, write their *own* worlds and characters?
    One of my hobbies is embroidery. I buy commercial patterns and then execute them. All I’m doing is moving pixels from paper on to fabric; it certainly isn’t art. It’s my hobby; I enjoy it. I have created my own embroidery patterns, small ones, but it’s a lot more like work.
    Similarly, fanfic writers enjoy working within an existing design and palette. It’s a hobby.
    Before you point out that I’m paying for my patterns, while fanfic writers don’t pay creators, stop. Some creators (Joss Whedon, as cited upthread) are happy to have people play in their intellectual creations, and consider fanfic to be a proof of the show’s success. If a creator publicly objects to fanfic, I don’t read or write in the fandom.
    I may add that Joss Whedon’s bond with fandom is symbiotic. Fan outcry couldn’t save Firefly, but it did demonstrate enough interest to make the copyright owners issue a DVD set. The success of the DVD set, in turn, made it possible for Whedon to get funding for the big-screen movie Serenity. Whedon’s good relationship with fandom has been beneficial both to the fandom and to his shows.

  30. “What I don’t understand is why these fanfic writers–who all profess to be skillful masters of the turn of phrase–don’t just, ummm, write their *own* worlds and characters?”
    I dare you to show me the Shakespeare play that doesn’t consists of someone else’s world and characters.
    Doesn’t exist. Shakespeare didn’t invent his own characters or worlds, he re-invented them. Does this diminish his work in any way? Does this mean that he went the “easy route”? Does this mean that the original creators of these worlds and characters were superior to him, just because they “did the hard work”? I don’t think so.
    If I believe your logic than Luigi da Porto is a superior writer to William Shakespeare. Shakespeare should have been ashamed of ripping off poor Luigi and burned his copy of Romeo and Juliet.
    I know my example is extreme, but if I follow your reasoning all the way through then this is the only conclusion left – if ripping off worlds, settings, plots and characters is unacceptable and the mark of a bad writer, then this makes Shakepeare a bad writer.

  31. Who’d be party to that process? Fanfic writers? They don’t have a claim now.
    It’s not about who has a “claim.” It’s about the actual purpose of the institution of copyright. The purpose is the advancement of society.
    Copyright holders retain the rights they do so they have an incentive to create. Some of the rights they don’t retain (i.e. fair use) are not secured because they contribute to the common good. That’s the same reason they lose those rights–the common good.
    So who decided? We do. The whole society does. That includes fanficcers, pro writers, publishers, distributors, and readers. Most of all, readers.
    I don’t know what sort of changes need to be made, if any. I haven’t studied the matter, and I’m unlikely to spend much more time on it. I’m just trying to remind people why we have copyright in the first place.

  32. There seem to be a lot of passionate comparisons being thrown around.
    For one thing: writing fanfic is not like downloading music/videos. In fanfic, the original artist still profits because the fanficcer bought their books/scripts/DVDs. A better comparison would be fanfic and ‘sampling’ a popular song in one’s own musical composition — something which caused a lot of controversy earlier, I believe, but now is a legitimate and acknowledged musical technique. Am I wrong?
    Whatever happened to “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery?” Fanfic writers are not trying to usurp the rightful place of canon works. They are paying homage to the original, and to its creator. They spend enormous amounts of time and care — sometimes years — on their writing. And yes, it’s derivative. It’s MEANT to be. No one is trying to hide the fact they are playing with other people’s toys, or they’d try to publish an original manuscript by changing the names and places, not putting something up on the internet under the category of the fandom it’s written for, without any attempt at profit.
    Many people writing fanfic are not trying to become published authors — at least, not through these venues. They are sharing their appreciation though a creative re-visualization and re-interpretation, which MANY ‘legitimate’ authors have made livings through in the past. But we have copyright now, and fanfic writers are doing this for fun, not profit. They like to entertain and be entertained. (Also, fanfic is a great forum for developing writing skills, if you approach it from the right angle.) The point is: “fanfic writer” does not automatically equate “frustrated writer who can’t get their own original works published.” It’s a whole different breed of writing, with different aims. Those who don’t see the point of writing without profit, yet claim to be the ‘real’ artists, are making an interesting statement.
    Also, the difference in someone writing a fanfic and their outrage at having ‘their’ work copied by another fanfic writer. A fanfic writer acknowledges who they’re piggy-backing off of. If another ficcer decides to blatantly steal from THEIR work, they won’t back it with the standard disclaimer of: “oh, and by the way, I totally copied this story word for word from Such-And-Such.” So the original fanfic writer has every right to be angry, and fight for acknowledgement.
    When someone loves your work enough to try and create things that remind them of it, when they love your characters or stories so much they don’t want to let it go — how is this not a compliment? Why isn’t it being TREATED like one?
    The incident with Ms. Bradley was a very sad one, and I can understand the (legitimate) fear it may inspire in published authors. If said writers wish to forbid fanfiction of their works, they should, and I suppose the legal battle that will ensue as they try to enforce it will be interesting, and inevitable.
    But to generalize fanficcers as a whole as idiotic/immoral/arrogant or whatever slur you want to throw at them — come on, now. This is a bit of overkill, isn’t it?

  33. Some of you seem to be confusing a dislike for fanfic with a dislike for fans. If Lee were saying he didn’t like his fans, well, that’d be a different story. But he’s not. He doesn’t like fanfic. Joss Whedon has a great relationship with his fans, sure – if he suddenly came out and said he didn’t want any fanfic written based on his stuff, would that mean that he no longer respected his fans? No, it wouldn’t. I’m sure writers are glad you love their work enough to produce fanfic, but some of them DO NOT WANT YOU TO DO IT. It’s fairly fucking simple, but instead of respecting their wishes, many of you have thrown around veiled threats, sarcasm, and a whiny “but it’s because we WUV OO!” attitude.
    And Juanita, seriously – fanficcers are not Shakespeare. Please, give that one a rest. If Situation A is similar to Situation B, that does not mean that Person A is equal to Person B. But Jim Morrison was an alcoholic, that means it’s okay for me to have a bottle of vodka for breakfast – I’m not a loser with no prospects, Jim Morrison wasn’t…

  34. If Lee were saying he didn’t like his fans, well, that’d be a different story. But he’s not.
    But Lee has been very rude indeed in various posts on his blog about fans in general and shows no immediate sign of stopping. Nowhere has he, to my knowledge, acknowledged that not all fans are drooling morons aged about 12, nowhere, to my knowledge has he corrected commentators who imply that they are.
    His fans may, legitimately, see that as insulting to them as well as to other fans. That they don’t shows just how understanding his fans are, and I salute them for that.

  35. I’d be curious to see how many people who are against fanfiction also download movies and music for free on the Internet.

  36. LEE: “Her arrogance and stupidity is mind-boggling. Between her, and the guy who made the “We more emotionally attached” comment, I think you get a pretty accurate picture of the fanfic community and how they think. Scary, isn’t it?”
    Accurate? These are the opinions of two people. That’s not painting a picture of anything; that’s just two people expressing their individual feelings. If anyone’s painting a picture of anything, it’s YOU, and if it weren’t for your need to try to paint everyone with the same brush, I’d be willing to respect your argument.
    LEE: “That statement says so much. Fanficcers see absolutely nothing wrong with stealing the work of other writers, even if it the author of the work is opposed to it…”
    Oh please. What is it with you and these broad, presumptuous statements? Can’t you write something that’s NOT absolute?
    If an author requests that fan fiction not be made with their work, true fans will respect this. Of course there’s always the one or two idiots, but that doesn’t mean it’s alright to lump everyone into the same category.
    You don’t like fan fiction. Good for you! The person in question encourages fan fiction. Good for her! You know, just because someone disagrees with you doesn’t mean that they are a meathead.

  37. I only brought up the “downloading music off the internet” thing to illustrate a general attitude toward copyright. I wasn’t equating the two element for element. Whatever else might be said, I could definitely see in my teens a generally lackadaisical attitude toward copyrighted material, whether books or music or videos. It would have been an easier point to make with them had I been doing it a generation ago, pre-internet.
    There is a kind of free-for-all on the internet, and many authors I know suffer from it. Several author friends periodically Google their own names and often turn up unauthorized web pages with whole sections of their work lifted and posted without prior permission. These “fans” haven’t a clue that in the Wild Wild West of the internet, you can’t just copy-and-paste anything you want and put it on your “fan” web site.
    This was my generalization about the internet and copyright law. Nothing more.

  38. The Fan Fiction Rant
    I am not rational on the topic of fan fiction. Well, actually, I can be, and in this essay, I will endeavor to be. But people who know me well also know that this is one topic that can make my eyes spin round like pinwheels and steam come out of my ears. In fact, I would venture to say that knowing this brings them great delight in provoking such a show several times a year when the topic comes up at a convention or in a discussion group.
    So, rather than continue to publicly rant, unreeling endlessly my venomous diatribe against fan fiction, I thought I’d gather my bile and spill it all here, in a logical and organized flow. Hereafter, I shall simply refer those who query to the infamous red shoe gripped by the mad woman in the attic.
    To start my rant, I will first define exactly what fan fiction is, to me. Others may have a wider or narrower definition, but when I am speaking of the stuff I dislike, this is what I mean. Fan fiction is fiction written by a ‘fan’ or reader, without the consent of the original author, yet using that author’s characters and world.
    A few specific notes about this definition.
    ‘Without the consent of the original author’ This means it doesn’t include someone writing a Darkover story, with Marion Zimmer Bradley’s permission. It does include someone writing a Darkover story without Marion Zimmer Bradley’s permission, even if MZB had allowed others to use her world. It does not include professional authors writing Star Trek or X-Files or Buffy the Vampire Slayer stories. All those stories are written and then published with the consent of the copyright owner. Media tie-in novels are not what I’m talking about here. Those stories are not, by my definition, fan fiction.
    Now that I’ve defined it, why do I dislike it so much? What, I am often asked, is the harm in fan fiction? I am told that I should be flattered that readers like my stories enough to want to continue them. Another justification is that writing fan fiction is a good way for people to learn to be writers. A fourth point that is often made is that fan fiction doesn’t attempt to make money off the stories, so it doesn’t really violate anyone’s copyright. And finally, I am usually chastised for trying to suppress people’s creativity, or suppressing free speech.
    So let me take each of those points one at a time.
    “What is the harm in it?”
    I might counter by demanding to know ‘What is the good of it?’ I’ll resist that temptation.
    Fan fiction is like any other form of identity theft. It injures the name of the party whose identity is stolen. When it’s financial identity theft, the thief can ruin your credit rating. When it’s creative identity theft, fan fiction can sully your credit with your readers. Anyone who read fan fiction about Harry Potter, for instance, would have an entirely different idea of what those stories are about than if he had simply read J.K. Rowling’s books. In this way, the reader’s impression of the writer’s work and creativity is changed. My name is irrevocably attached to my stories and characters. Writers who post a story at or anywhere else and identify it as a Robin Hobb fan fiction or a Farseer fan fiction are claiming my groundwork as their own. That is just not right.
    “I should be flattered that readers like my stories enough to want to continue them.”
    That’s not flattering. That’s insulting. Every fan fiction I’ve read to date, based on my world or any other writer’s world, had focused on changing the writer’s careful work to suit the foible of the fan writer. Romances are invented, gender identities changed, fetishes indulged and endings are altered. It’s not flattery. To me, it is the fan fiction writer saying, “Look, the original author really screwed up the story, so I’m going to fix it. Here is how it should have gone.” At the extreme low end of the spectrum, fan fiction becomes personal masturbation fantasy in which the fan reader is interacting with the writer’s character. That isn’t healthy for anyone.
    At the less extreme end, the fan writer simply changes something in the writer’s world. The tragic ending is re-written, or a dead character is brought back to life, for example. The intent of the author is ignored. A writer puts a great deal of thought into what goes into the story and what doesn’t. If a particular scene doesn’t happen ‘on stage’ before the reader’s eyes, there is probably a reason for it. If something is left nebulous, it is because the author intends for it to be nebulous. To use an analogy, we look at the Mona Lisa and wonder. Each of us draws his own conclusions about her elusive smile. We don’t draw eyebrows on her to make her look surprised, or put a balloon caption over her head. Yet much fan fiction does just that. Fan fiction closes up the space that I have engineered into the story, and the reader is told what he must think rather than being allowed to observe the characters and draw his own conclusions.
    When I write, I want to tell my story directly to you. I want you to read it exactly as I wrote it. I labor long and hard to pick the exact words I want to use, and to present my story from the angles I choose. I want it to speak to you as an individual. It’s horribly frustrating to see all that work ignored and undone by someone else ‘fixing’ it. If you don’t like the stories as they stand, I can accept that. But please don’t tinker with them.
    The extreme analogy: You send me a photograph of your family reunion, titled ‘The Herkimer’s Get Together’. I think it looks dull. So I Photo-Shop it to put your friends and relations into compromising positions in various stages of undress. Then I post it on the Internet, under the title ‘The Herkimers Get Together’, and add a note that it was sent to me from Pete Herkimer of Missoula, Montana. Suddenly there is your face and name, and the faces of the people you care about, doing things that you would never do. Are you flattered that I thought your photograph was interesting enough to use? Or are you insulted and horrified? Are you alarmed that I so clearly connected work that is not yours to your good name?
    “Fan fiction is a good way for people to learn to be writers.”
    No. It isn’t. If this is true, then karaoke is the path to become a singer, coloring books produce great artists, and all great chefs have a shelf of cake mixes. Fan fiction is a good way to avoid learning how to be a writer. Fan fiction allows the writer to pretend to be creating a story, while using someone else’s world, characters, and plot. Coloring Barbie’s hair green in a coloring book is not a great act of creativity. Neither is putting lipstick on Ken. Fan fiction does exactly those kinds of things.
    The first step to becoming a writer is to have your own idea. Not to take someone else’s idea, put a dent in it, and claim it as your own. You will learn more from writing one story of your own, no matter how bad it is, than the most polished Inuyasha fan fiction that you write. Taking that first wavering step out into the unknown territory of your own imagination is what it is all about. When you can write well enough to carry a friend along, then you’ve really got something. But you aren’t going to get anywhere clinging to the comfort of saying, “If I write a Harry Potter story, everyone will like it because they already like Harry Potter. I don’t have to describe Hogwarts because everyone saw the movie, and I don’t have to tell Harry’s back story because that’s all done for me.”
    Fan fiction is to writing what a cake mix is to gourmet cooking. Fan fiction is an Elvis impersonator who thinks he is original. Fan fiction is Paint-By-Number art.
    Fan fiction doesn’t attempt to make money off the stories, so it doesn’t really violate anyone’s copyright.
    I beg your pardon?
    Where did you get the idea that copyright is all about money? Copyright is about the right of the author to control his own creation. That includes making money off it. But it also includes refusing to sell movie rights, or deciding that you’re not really proud of your first novel and you don’t wish to see it republished. It’s about choosing how your work is presented. Under copyright, those rights belong to the creator of the work.
    I’ve seen all those little disclaimers on stories at and elsewhere. Legally and morally, they don’t mean a thing to anyone. “I don’t make any claims to these characters.” “I don’t want to make any money off this story.” That isn’t what it is about, and yes, you are still infringing on copyright even if you make those statements. Yes, the author can still sue you, even if you put up those statements.
    If you don’t believe me, please go to and read what is there. They are pointing out to you that fan fiction can infringe copyright.
    “You’re trying to suppress people’s creativity.”
    No. I’m doing the opposite. I’m trying to encourage young writers (or writers of any age) to be truly creative. Elvis impersonators are fun for an occasional night out, but surely you don’t want to spend your life being a Rowling or Hobb or Brooks impersonator, do you? What is wrong with telling your own stories? Put in the work, take the chance, and if you do it right, stand in your own spotlight.
    “I have a free speech right to put my fan fiction on the Internet.”
    Do I have a free speech right to write pornography and post it under your name? Do I have a free speech right to put a very poor quality product in the public eye, and connect it to a work that belongs to you? Please try to think of this in terms of your own life and career. It doesn’t matter if you are a writer or a plumber or an aerospace engineer. You have the right to receive credit for the work you do. No one should take that credit from you. No one should be able to connect your good name to work you did not create yourself.
    You certainly have a free speech write to post your own fiction on the Internet or anywhere else, and I heartily encourage you to do so.
    If you’re really tempted to write fan fiction, do this instead.
    List all the traits of the book or character that you liked.
    List all the parts that you didn’t like.
    List the changes you would make to improve the story.
    List all changes necessary so that the changes you want don’t contradict the world, culture, morality or plot of the original story.
    Change the proper nouns involved.
    Change the setting to one of your own.
    Write your story. Write the paragraphs that describe the world. Write the ones that introduce the characters. Write the dialogue that moves your plot along. Write down every detail that you want your reader to know.
    Then publish it however you like.
    Know that if it’s a bad story, it would still be a bad story even if you had kept the original names and settings. But at least what you now have is your bad story, not your bad imitation of someone else’s story. And it years to come, you don’t have to be ashamed of it anymore than I’m ashamed of my early efforts.
    I will close this rant with a simple admonition.
    Fan fiction is unworthy of you.
    Don’t do it.

  39. Wow, what a nasty match of egos above. Bottom line is that fanfiction is not illegal, period, end of story. You cite me one case in which a fanficcer lost his battle in court and I’ll concede, but the fact of the matter is that it has not happened, not in any country, state, county or other legal jurisdiction. That’s because, though often a derivative work, it does not (ever? hardly ever?) incur any financial detriment to the author nor the brand.
    But seriously, what small potatoes clown of an author (who obviously hasn’t taken their work as far as it should go) can feel anything other than flattery at the hunger of a fan who wishes to see these characters and places go somewhere further, somewhere more advanced, or somewhere more interesting.
    These whining authors lack creativity and are intimidated by the works of their very readers. Reinventing the wheel takes more work than trimming off the corners of a square, and that’s all the original author did.
    There’s no fanfic of the Xanth series because the books took the worlds to all the levels needed by the fans who loved it most… if your work doesn’t meet that criteria you need to start cranking out the brilliance or recognize that someone else will, because if there’s a fan passionate enough to write it, there are thousands of fans interested enough to read it.

  40. Chadwick Saxelid, I need your assistance. We plotted out an outline (the Dr. Sloan/X Files/007 Crossover)together before, and I need your backup once again.
    A successful television writer stands firm on a belief. Thanks to the Internet, his opinions are public. Some people agree with him, but there is an Evil Cabal ™ that wish to argue with him…and some of them wish him harm. Our Hero (I can’t think of a good name for this guy; the best I can come up with is “Dee Holdburg”, and that’s not the right one, but it will do for development/pitch stuff) is forced to go underground, on the run. (Kind of like Richard Kimble). As he roams the country helping people in trouble (we want to avoid cliches here, so he can only help pretty widows, small children, puppies, maybe a kitten or two). And he’s got to be smarter than any policeman/policewoman/FBI Agent he meets in his travels. (Kind of like Mannix.) He begins to learn the reality of how deep the problem really is. It’s an actual Conspiracy(tm) led by Alien Invaders(tm) from the planet Fucktard. “Dee Holdburg” is the only one who tries to explain to people the difference between Right and Wrong, but no one listens. (Kind of like David Vincent).
    Here’s the Hook: “Holdburg” begins to realize the depths of the Conspiracy when he sees how easily people can excuse/rationalize anything at any time, and believe they are clever in doing so.
    “Holdburg” continues to fight the Good Fight, and I’m thinking we could do a really slick title sequence. As he travels the world, he gains a reputation. So in every teaser, someone will say “So, you’re the Infamous Dee Holdburg” or “You’re the Famous Dee Holdburg” and the intro to the theme music plays as a computer keyboard appears over his head like a halo. (Kind of like The Saint.)
    I’m also thinking we could call the Evil Conspiracy(tm) “Fucktards”. There could be different levels of them, such as “Silly Fucktards”, “Stupid Fucktards”, “REALLY Stupid Fucktards”, and the really evil Top Fucktard (Kind of like Jabba the Hut). We can get that past the networks, right?
    I think this concept is fresh, original, and can make us a ton of money. As always, have your people call my people so we can take a meeting.
    And Chadwick? No Chuck Norris, no Cheerleader Ninjas. This has to be fresh and original and exciting.

  41. Here’s what I don’t get. Lee Goldberg says he doesn’t like fanfic and hundreds of fan fiction writers go into a tizzy. If he’s the insignificant hack they all say he is, why should they care what he thinks or what he posts on his blog
    Because he’s the only one up for the argument these days. So it attracts everyone who likes to argue this point. I write fanfic, but some of the pro-fanfic rants above are way, way too long and boring.

  42. Megan wrote: . Fan fiction is fiction written by a ‘fan’ or reader, without the consent of the original author, yet using that author’s characters and world.
    And yet you go on to use HP fanfic as an example of fan fiction, when Rowling has many times endorsed fanfic, and given a fansite award to a site that archived fairly graphic slashfic.

  43. I love this blog. It’s comedy gold. The circle jerking here always peps me up at the end of a long day. Big ol’ pile of egos writhing around like mating snakes. Love it!
    And Brian, in re: your question about what small-minded pinhead of an author would object to the flattery of fans vis-a-vis fanfic, I have two words for you:
    Anne Rice.
    But then, I’m sure that will come as no surprise, seeing how narcissistically batshit insane that creature is.

  44. There is no difference, other than the legal one, between fan fiction based on stories in current media and fan fiction based on old classics, folk tales, and myths. It’s true that publishing fan fiction of the first variety is against the law – even though it does more good than harm in most cases, since it generates fan enthusiasm and can help drive up sales. The economic argument doesn’t change that sharing fan fiction is not legal. However, it is ONLY legal technicalities and profitability of the derivative that separate this type of fiction from writing fanfic based on nonfiction (i.e. history, non-contemporary religious works, or other mythology), works in the public domain, and other stories not protected by copyright.

  45. You’re all a bunch of babies.
    Rowling isn’t the only one who has her work “fanficced.” Any author knows that when they put their work out there, it is subject to the fans…
    Doesn’t mean that it’s right, but get over it, them’s the apples.


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