c is for cat

Rules for Anchorites

Letters from Proxima Thule


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Yeah, with all the retellings I've written, and the secret history series (read: historical fanfic, especially Midnight Hever Come, which has almost no invented mortal characters in it), I'd be a hell of a hypocrite if I spat on fanfic.

Doesn't stop some! Fforde boggles me, but apparently Gabaldon has made no secret of her Outlander series being inspired by Doctor Who.

Which she would undoubtedly say is an example of what she suggested: take the part of the idea that interests you and do your own thing with it, rather than "trespassing" in the author's own sandbox. And she has a point about the difference, I'd say; where she goes wrong is in thinking the difference is one of kind, rather than degree.

As a midway point to demonstrate the spectrum, I point to Colleen Gleason's Regency vampire hunter romances. I read one and put it down, because it felt so very obviously like she made up a Regency-era Buffy fanfic, then filed off the serial numbers. (When your Regency miss is calling someone "Sir Stakes-a-lot, it kind of gives the game away.)

The thing is, so many people just want to have fun, not do all the heavy lifting of creating their own universe and publishing. They just want to play in a sandbox, and that seems alien to some writers.

I don't disagree with you. That's one of the obvious places Gabaldon went wrong -- assuming that everybody should be just as happy, if not moreso, doing original fiction. They scratch related but not identical impulses.

Well, it's *my* sandbox, and nobody asked permission first :P. I get that visceral dislike of fanfic. I did all the heavy lifting and arranged things just as I like, and *now you're messing it up!* That can be very compelling emotional logic, for sure. But for Gods' sakes, don't rationalize that into an argument against fanfic's very existence. If it makes your skin crawl, turn away and don't read it. Pretend it doesn't exist, and recognize your limits in terms of controlling other people's behavior.

"Your" being the generic 'your,' of course. (Guess who's been writing a lot of newsletter articles lately? Style guide says, "write in the second person voice, it's more compelling." Sigh.)

Yeah, that's the thing. You don't have to read it. It's not messing up the sand or the box, which are created by you, the writer, and no one argues you have the right to run it as you please, even to say no one can play there. It's a game people play, that's all.

the problem is that by the time you realize you shouldn't be reading it, your brain already requires bleach and even that doesn't always do the trick. i'm not even a writer and i have had beloved characters ruined for me. the alternative version of the character still pops up in my mind no matter how i try to ignore it. i can only imagine how the authors feel.

I really feel an author has to go out of their way to read fanfic. It's always, always clearly labeled, with ratings and everything.

I want to poke at this analogy a bit more, though... (Not meant to argue with you, because I think in the end, we are saying much the same thing, perhaps.)

The author sets up her sandbox, and arranges it just as she likes, and puts what toys in it she wants. And she doesn't necessarily invite everyone to jump into it with her -- most of the time, she absolutely doesn't (there are some shared-world exceptions). And I really do respect that.

But that's actually not quite what really happens. What happens, upon publication of the "sandbox" (let's pretend a sandbox could be published), is that when I read it, an identical sandbox is created in my own yard. It has everything -- it's arranged generally the same way, it contains generally the same toys, although, they are not exactly the same toys because the toys are created between the author's description and my own imagination. But they're toys bearing the same labels, okay, fine. And the arrangement is probably just about the same.

It's a facsimile of the author's own sandbox in her own yard, for sure. Isn't that what she was trying to do? Describe her sandbox so that I, separated by miles and years, could picture it exactly? And in the act of picturing it, I create my facsimile of her sandbox in my yard. I can't help but do that. The acts (reading/picturing/creating) are inseparable.

I would guess that most of the time and for most people, most of those facsimile sandboxes never get used. They get created and left alone. But of course, when fanfic happens, I go into my version of the sandbox and I start playing there with my just-slightly-unique versions of the things that are in there.

I'm NOT in the author's sandbox. I can't be. That is way over there. I'm over here, in my own. The sand, if you will, is mine. The action figures, if you will, were the ones I bought at the (book)store, and perhaps repainted or customized or created new clothes for -- they aren't her original, official maquettes. Her sandbox is of a certain size -- if I like it enough, I might have built extensions on mine, brought in more sand, made it bigger, deeper, even imported more toys.

Nothing I can ever do will change her sandbox. It's separated from me by miles and years. She can't really look out her window and see mine, either. (I am, like others here, of the opinion that it just is not possible for a published author to "inadvertantly" read fanfiction of her works, let alone, be "forced" to read any.) Really, the only thing she can do is be aware that somewhere, across town, or across the country or the world, there's somebody playing in a sandbox that is more or less a facsimile of hers.

I will certainly make promises, such as, I will never charge anyone to look at what I've done with my facsimile-sandbox. I'm not going to send the author home-movies of myself playing there, either. Beyond that... I don't understand why the mere fact that I'm playing in it, out of her sight and hearing, causes her pain.

Hear, hear!

"Sandbox love never dies."

--Jennifer's Body

I totally understand your analogy, but I don't think that's what it feels like to some authors at all. And that's my point -- well, that and the fact that even if that's what it feels like, that's not an argument against fanfic's mere existence, as you outline.

Basically, I really don't want the argument for fanfic to have to hinge on the original author's feelings *about* fanfic, i.e. "author, you shouldn't be bothered by it on any level whatsoever! You should be flattered and proud! Don't you see? If you only understood how gloriously affirming fanfic really is you wouldn't mind at all!" I don't believe that. I believe fanfic should be allowed space anyway.

*nods* Yes. I do agree with you.

You're right that how you described it is how some authors FEEL it, and their reactions are proceeding from that. So, sure, we can understand authors' reactions that way.

I think what I was trying to feel my way around wasn't so much a defense of fanfic, as trying to come up with a different way to explain the "why it's happening" part. Because in this latest kerfuffle, it seems like that's part of the problem. Gabaldon and GRRM don't even seem to understand why it's happening... and if the model in their head is the sandbox model you articulated, well then, they won't ever get it.

I don't think that their getting it would necessarily make them embrace it as a wonderful thing. I don't think that's a reason for trying to make them get it, really. I think it's fine if they don't like it, whatever their reasons. Just, please don't tell me (authoritatively!) that I'm doing something that I'm not actually doing. If nothing else, I'd like to be able to figure out how to get through to them that the model in their head for what's happening isn't really reflective of what's happening.

I guess what bugs me the most in this iteration is -- okay, authors, you don't like fanfic, fine. Stop there. Stop playing Internet Psychologist in your attempt to explain why this thing exists... and why it, natch, shouldn't. I can spend plenty of time trying to understand why an author doesn't like fanfic... I see relatively little consideration on the part of those authors for trying to understand why it exists. The street doesn't go both ways, which is irksome. (Not that I think that my coming up with an analogy that I like in the comments of a post I'm agreeing with is going to do anything to reach those authors who aren't getting it.)

Apart from that, though, I'm with you -- I think fanfic should be allowed its space, and I don't see the value in trying to argue that it should because of this or that supposedly beneficial side-effect (it's flattering! it's great practice for becoming published! etc.).

Not all fanfic is flattering, anyway. Some is confrontational. Some really DOES proceed from a fan's conviction (or simply, decision) that what she can write is "better" (for her; maybe for other readers as well) than what the writer is still producing. (And sometimes, that seems mock-worthy, such as when speaking of HP fans who "know" that Snape is the real hero of the series no matter what JKR says; but I can't throw any stones, when I have been writing Pern fanfiction since '81 and yet have not actually read a Pern book since '95, because oh my god, my eyes.)

As a fan of analogies, I think you are made of win and awesome.

Thank you for crafting such a creative view of what the fic world is all about.

Buffy fanfic, then filed off the serial numbers

Brilliant phrasing. To judge from an unscientific study of my local bookstores, that seems to be half(*) of what's on the genre shelves nowadays -- kick-ass women, usually with (according to the covers) "tramp stamp" tattoos, who slay monsters and have a demon lover of some sort.

On the subject of more honest and unabashed fanfiction, I just don't read it much, and suggest that sensitive writers have the same option.

----
(*)(The other half, present company excepted, still mostly sounds like Tolkien, except for the ones with titles ending in "-ist" and Harry Turtledove's latest version of some total war or other.)

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