UK Prosecutors Target SickFic About Real People

There's a whole sub-culture of fanficcers who get off writing fantasies about famous people having sex with one another and others. You know, stuff like Leonardo DiCaprio giving Jude Law an education in male coupling or the Spice Girls re-enacting their favorite sex scenes from "The L Word." The authors of this kind of SickFic argue that because they are writing and distributing stories about fictional sex between "public figures," it's okay. Well, prosecutors in the U.K don't think so. They think it's obscene and a violation of the law. The Register reports:

The legal world is buzzing at the announcement last week of the
prosecution of 35-year-old civil servant Darryn Walker for the online
publication of material that Police and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)
believe to be obscene.

This is the first such prosecution for written material in nearly
two decades – and a guilty verdict could have a serious and significant
impact on the future regulation of the internet in the UK.

The case originated in summer 2007, when Mr Walker allegedly posted a work of fantasy – titled Girls (Scream) Aloud – about pop group Girls Aloud. The story describes in detail the kidnap, rape, mutilation and
murder of band members Cheryl Cole, Nadine Coyle, Sarah Harding, Nicola
Roberts and Kimberley Walsh, and ends with the sale of various body
parts on eBay.

The piece was brought to the attention of the Internet Watch
Foundation, whose remit includes the monitoring of internet material
deemed to be criminally obscene: they in turn handed details over to
the Police.

The case goes to trial on March 16, 2009 in Newcastle. Other newspapers report that Walker wrote the story under the pseudonym "Blake Sinclair" and posted it on Kristen's Collection, SickFic site that also includes a "Real Person Fic" about raping and mutilating Britney Spears.Article-1066435-02DF55C700000578-300_468x286

I'm sure that the Organization for Transformative Works, which thinks that writing and distributing this kind of swill is a God-given "fannish right," and Dr. Robin Reid, the creative writing instructor at Texas A&M who writes and champions "Real Person Slash" (her favorite SickFic fantasy is Viggo Mortenson and any male actor in Hollywood) will be watching this case very closely. A conviction could lead to a long overdue crack-down on this garbage.

19 thoughts on “UK Prosecutors Target SickFic About Real People”

  1. I’m of two minds on this. SickFic may in fact be pretty repulsive, have no redeeming value, and indicate that the author has… issues, but at the same time I am not sure that someone should face criminal prosecution for a work of fiction.

  2. How would you feel if someone posted a sexually explicit story about your daughter having sex with someone and posted it all over the Internet? What if the story also involved your daughter getting raped? Is it any less objectionable if your daughter is also a celerity?
    It’s one thing to write stories about TV and movie characters coupling with everything and everyone…it’s another when you are writing stories about real, living people.

  3. While the stuff you mention is pretty bad, I think there should be a crackdown on the everyday, flat-out lies that are posted about celebrities under the guise of harmless gossip in tabs like The Sun and The Mirror…to me, this can be a lot more damaging/distressing than an obvious work of fiction.

  4. How would you feel…
    Believe me, I’d want to find the guy who wrote it and kick his ass. I’m still not sure I think he should go to jail. But I don’t want to waste a lot of time defending these people, either.

  5. There will always be words floating around that a person, or even an overwhelming majority of people, dislike or dispise. But if it’s that versus censorship, I’ll take that any day of the week. The 1st A is a pretty cool thing if you ever stop to think about it.

  6. I have to disagree with you, Lee. There are several pitfalls with your interpretation.
    What about stories in which the author acknowledges that a character is based on a real person, but the name is changed? Think Allison Poole from “American Psycho”, a character borrowed from another work of fiction, “Story of My Life”, and claimed by that author to be based on the real-life Rielle Hunter? For that matter, what about Ellis’ inclusion of Tom Cruise as a character in his novel? Should Cruise be able to sue Ellis for including him in what many people consider to be a vile piece of fiction?
    What criteria could you use to determine if the inclusion of a real person in a work of fiction is against the law? Whether or not the work was published? In that case, Ellis would have been breaking the law until the presses started printing.
    It’s a quirk of the law that REAL people are less protected than fictional creations, but if that changes, then what becomes of comedy acts that impersonate famous people? Think of Jerry Falwell suing Hustler for their “First Time” parody.
    The litmus test for whether or not we have enough free speech is pretty much whether or not we’re pissed off about how far someone has taken it. In this case, it’s pretty clear that we’re there.

  7. The First Amendment is crucial to the health of a democracy. The Media is allowed to say what they think about public officials and why. But should this be the case for public figures or private persons?
    It seem to me that each person has a natural dignity no matter what they’ve said or what they’ve done. So I would argue that telling the facts is one thing, and a good thing, but attacking the person’s dignity is quite another and is off-limits.
    For instance, if a female celeb was raped, the media and private persons could report it as the public has a right to know, but to picture this celeb in an imaginary act that is degrading to their dignity would be off-limits.
    Another litmus test, I think, is “to do onto others as we would have them do onto us.” I would never want to see myself written up as a perpetrator or the victim of a degrading sexual fantasy. It crosses the line and would make me out to be a victim of the media.
    Not all free speach is good and useful. We mature as a culture when we can realize what to say and when to say it. If I was on a talk-show and another guest started to verbalize a degrading fantasy about a celeb, I’d speak up and stop them. When its done in print, we also have a responsibility to voice our justified concern.

  8. I do think that there’s a line crossed concerning fanfiction of the like that this entry is about. Unfortunately, this is only one kind of fanfiction, and the other example you made in the comments isn’t fanfiction at all. That’s stalking, harassment, and potential pedophilia.
    I can see where a lot of lines are blurred when taking into consideration the opinions of other comments here. All I can say about it is that if it’s harassment, then prosecute it; otherwise, if it’s not to your taste, then leave it alone.

  9. I think this sort of trash actually incites violence. I don’t understand what sort of a brain gets off on taking REAL people and fictionalizing terrible things happening to them. This is not Fiction this is MENTAL ILLNESS being acted out on the page. Beyond the issue of legal violations – this is encouraging sociopaths to fantasize under the guise that they are being creative. It is a fucked-up attempt at giving merit to demented sickness.
    Please keep us posted as things progress.

  10. As far as legal issuses, I would say that the Clooney/DiCaprio thing could be liable…or slander, I’m not sure which is saying and which is writing.
    The other one, about kidnapping/rape/torture/ebay- actually could be like, i dunno, battery. I do think that, mental illness or just someone getting their jollies, it’s disturbing.

  11. One thing you don’t acknowledge is that the fanfiction world is itself divided into a myriad of views about real person fiction – and I think it’s off limits to write about real people whether they’re having sex or simply shopping.
    Further the First Amendment, while admirable, does not apply in the UK. We have no written consititution to which to apply and, as I understand it, the story is being prosecuted for obscenity – a criminal prosecution – rather than the people in it bringing a private action for libel.
    This means that any outcome will impact on the criminal law in that area, rather than drawing any lines about what can or can’t be said about a person.

  12. “This means that any outcome will impact on the criminal law in that area, rather than drawing any lines about what can or can’t be said about a person.”
    WTF!? OFCOURSE it will draw lines about what can and can’t be said about a person. IF the prosecution wins, then it will be a CRIME to write sexually explicit and violent fiction about real people. You don’t think that’s a big fat line regarding what is legal or illegal speech!?
    I tell you, there may be a “myriad of views” in the world of fanfiction writers, but as a whole, they are oblivious to reality and your statement above proves it.

  13. “I tell you, there may be a “myriad of views” in the world of fanfiction writers, but as a whole, they are oblivious to reality and your statement above proves it.”
    ONE statement from ONE person about fanfiction when they haven’t said that they write it at all doesn’t prove a damn thing. If you’re going to make such statements, then you’re going to have to prove it yourself instead of using someone else’s points out of context.

  14. Been a while…
    It’s actually funny this should come up, since I do recall seeing a discussion of Real Person Fic online a few weeks ago. I think it was on the PPC Board, in fact (if you don’t recall — and I don’t blame you — the PPC kinda swarmed your blog a few years back on the fanfic issue), and I know the entire community came down heavily against RPF in any form, and even more particularly this sort. The Board has, oh, upwards of two hundred people on it, and while of course not everyone commented, there wasn’t a single dissenting voice. What you will find generally is that fandom is /against/ RPF, with only a few small communities breaking that generalisation. Of course, “a few” and “small” are relative terms in a very large community (not even that… we’re not a cohesive whole, just as “the blogging community” isn’t), but nevertheless.
    On a personal note, I absolutely agree that the people who write it should be prosecuted. Whether that just affects living people or historical figures too… I’m thinking the former, since there would be a /lot/ of court cases if we outlawed stories about Julius Caesar, say.
    I am intrigued as to what will happen to cases where real people have been included in published works, though, either thinly disguised or not at all. And what are we to do about Dante, who portrayed all his enemies being tortured in Hell…?

  15. “IF the prosecution wins, then it will be a CRIME to write sexually explicit and violent fiction about real people.”
    If the prosecution win, they will have shown that this particular story was so objectionable as to fall into the arena of obscene and therefore criminal under English law. Every prosecution brought thereafter will have to show that it, too was so obscene…
    It may turn out to be one of those cases which barristers refer to when giving an opinion about whether a particular story is obscene, but that’s far from painting a whole sub-genre as obscene.
    As far as it goes, RPF gives me hives – I don’t really approve of it even when the person being written about is dead, and writing RPF about the dead is perfectly legal. Having said that, I don’t assume that my opinion has anything to do with the law, or with right or wrong.

  16. This case will prove to be interesting. My personal opinion is that this piece of fiction this man has written does sound disturbing. It sounds like the sick fantasies of a disturbed person being lived out in the written word. I think perhaps, works like this do encourage people who are already sick and have less inhibition about committing acts of violence.
    I think the person above makes a valid comment in that [paraphrasing here] How would you feel if your daughter was being written about as the victim of rape/torture/mutilation/murder? That would be extremely upsetting for the real people these characters represent and their family – not only beause its disgusting and uncomfortable to know it exists, but worrying that it could entice someone who is already demented to conduct such an act.
    And finally, I think there is obviously a huge difference between the real disturbing stories featuring abduction, rape and murder of real people or celebrities and little stories written by naive teenagers about meeting their favourite actor or singer and making out with them, or fictional light romances. Sure, it’s probably not appealing to have that stuff written about you either, but it’s certainly a lot further down the ‘sick’ scale to have two people in a consenting romantic scenario (whether with other celebrities, or the writer, and whether gay or straight) than the two particular stories mentioned above.
    The problem is – how to classify these works? How and where can we draw the line? Can we outlaw the posting of fictional stories about real people on internet forums? Will it further affect the media in terms of news reporting? How can this type of media be ‘policed’?
    I certainly don’t like these typs of works, but I’m uncertain about any particular way of dealing with them…


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