The Fanfic Thing

The Guardian (or one of its on-line columnists, at any rate), has discovered the existence of fanfic, and the predictable kerfuffle has ensued.  This moves me to repost here some of my thoughts from the last time this argument came around, which it does every three or four years whether we need it or not.


If you’re a writer, and you don’t like fanfic, either with regard to your own works or in general:

Don’t waste breath and ink and internet connectivity telling fanfic writers that what they do is morally wrong, because they aren’t going to agree with you.

Likewise, don’t bother telling them that it’s illegal, either, because some of them won’t care and others of them won’t agree with you, and these days — because fanfiction in its modern form has been around for several decades now — some of the people in the latter group are in fact lawyers, and will be happy to debate legal theory with you for as long as breath and ink and internet connectivity hold out.

Your best bet is to state plainly that the whole idea of fanfic about your universe and characters really and truly deeply squicks you out, and that you really wish that people wouldn’t do it. This will, oddly enough, stop a lot of people, and will convince at least some of the ones that it doesn’t stop to keep the stuff hidden away where you don’t have to see it. Which is, frankly, about as good an outcome as you can reasonably hope for.

If you’re a fanfic writer:

Don’t waste time you could be spending on writing and reading fic in arguing with vehemently anti-fanfic pro writers. It’s an emotional thing, and you won’t convince them any more than they’ll convince you.

If an otherwise sane and rational writer says he or she doesn’t want fanfic written about his or her work, at least consider not writing it. Or at the very least, don’t go out of your way to write it just because their arguments got your back up, because spite is a lousy reason for writing something. And if the muse is riding you hard and you just can’t stop yourself, at the very very least don’t wave the resulting fic around in places where the writer can’t help but take notice of it.

Also — it’s pretty much never a good idea to send a copy of your fanfic to the author in question. Even if they’re known to be kindly disposed toward the idea of fanfic in general, their reaction to fanfic about their stuff in particular is not to be relied upon — they may find it embarrassing, or may feel obliged to object to it for legal reasons regardless of their actual feelings, or may be concerned that reading someone else’s interpretations of the material will influence them unduly.

Common sense, people.  Exercise it.

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