If you ever want to expose the inner recesses of adulation and fervor for fictional characters or settings, you need to look no futher than Fan Fiction. This would be referring to the practice of fans of a particular book, movie, or television series to start writing stories about their favorite characters and sharing them out among other fans. It started out in its current incarnation in the 1960’s with the Star Trek series, and thanks to the internet, such stories are now legion, covering properties from Seinfeld to Hellraiser, sometimes even in the same story.
In this modern age along with the internet we have copyright law, and since these stories are written without the express permission of their creators, this makes them quite illegal. Personally, I find fan fiction to be quite benign. The writer’s don’t make any money from it, and most of the pieces are so terrible that they are practically unrecognizable from the original product. In a legal sense, though, they are diluting the copyright of the writers who actually pay for groceries with the money they make writing these characters. After hearing the fan perspective on this issue for so long, I find it interesting when writers take a harsh view of this practice.
Lee Goldberg is one case in point. He is a working, Hollywood writer of such shows as “Diagnosis Murder” and “Monk” who has taken on the unenviable task of denouncing fan fiction in his blog, The Writer’s Life. Taken from his perspective, it’s easy to see why most fan fiction is such contemptible crap. So-called fans can take your work and turn it inside out and backwards, in essence creating the literary equivalent of something that slurped out of a David Cronenberg film. Techniques Slash, Mpreg, and Mary Sue Characters are used to create abattoirs of egotistical wish fulfillment so terrifying that you would flee from the keyboard before I could tell you what the hell those words mean.
Worst of all, it’s a time sink that detracts from the real writing you could be doing. At the end of her very caustic rant against fan fiction, Robin Hobb/Megan Lindholm describes, step by step, how to get your story out of the ghetto of fanzines and copyright infringement and get you back to practicing your craft. I believe that this makes fan fiction different from drawing fan art, or participating in a garage band. With a few paragraphs you can make a written story fundamentally different from the creator you so desperately want to emulate.
That being said, I should tell you all about the time I wrote someone else’s characters.
If you google my name, chances are you’ll come across the comic I wrote for a few years back called “Shifters”. It was kind of a Teen Wolf meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer series about a girl named Farrah who suddenly discovers that she’s a werewolf. It was drawn by Marie Tary, a friend who ran table top role-playing games with my friends in college. She had this comic online and was at a loss for what to write in it. So, being a bit of a scribe myself, I took up the task for a few issues, adding some new characters and helping the comic build a bit of a following. As I started getting into my upper level CIS courses, I found I no longer had the time to keep up with the comic, and so I left in 2002.
The question is, while Marie is carrying on her comics, what have I been doing? Aside from a short monologue and a blog or two, things have been rather quiet on the publishing front for me, internet or otherwise. I’ve even started drawing in the past couple of years. Looking at those essays and rants on fan fiction revealed to me something. I’m afraid I’ll write fan fiction.
I just want to go on the record saying that I don’t have a problem with fan fiction. Heck, even I tried it a couple of times. However, I never published my stories on the net because of the ugly realization that I was writing someone else’s story. The idea that I could put so much effort into crafting a story only to find out later that it’s already been done is a great fear of mine. The idea that my pet obsessions could get in the way of my story is also frightening.
Looking at these stories, I realize that their purloined trappings are but a shackle for real story inside. When I started them, I wanted to take the properties to places they had never been to, or never could go for fear of violating their series bibles. Why not just make my own? As I mentioned in other posts, much of my writer’s block stems from a lack of courage. True, I can’t go off writing 500 pages of exposition like some people, but that shouldn’t stop me from writing 250 pages of story. It might be crap, it might be something. But until it get’s on the page, who’s going to know?