Recently, we read an article over at The Millions about the state of fan-fiction — a genre of writing written by fans that uses worlds and/or characters from already published fiction — and dissecting its stigma. While some authors support, or at least tolerate, the practice, others vehemently oppose it, citing monetary issues as well as feelings of personal violation and another sentiment that roughly translates to “if you were really creative, you’d make up your own characters.” Funnily enough, of all the big-name fantasy and science fiction authors that have spoken out on the subject, J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer seem to be the most comfortable with the idea, though perhaps that’s only because they’re the two biggest authors among the teen girl set right now — and let’s face it, there’s no real way to stop a horde of rampaging teenage girls when they set their sights on something. You may as well just accept it.
In his Time article on the subject, Lev Grossman points out, “When Virgil wrote The Aeneid, he didn’t invent Aeneas; Aeneas was a minor character in Homer’s Odyssey whose unauthorized further adventures Virgil decided to chronicle. Shakespeare didn’t invent Hamlet and King Lear; he plucked them from historical and literary sources. Writers weren’t the originators of the stories they told; they were just the temporary curators of them. Real creation was something the gods did.” However, with today’s strict intellectual property and copyright laws and the advent of the Internet, things have definitely changed. Click through to read what some of the most popular and oft-borrowed-from authors have to say about fan-fiction, and let us know your own feelings about the genre in the comments!
George R.R. Martin
Martin has always been against fan-fiction, which must be a little sad for the fan-fiction writers out there, seeing as how very many delicious characters he has created. He writes, “Every writer needs to learn to create his own characters, worlds, and settings. Using someone else’s world is the lazy way out.” But more importantly, in a very articulate and informative explanation on the legal and monetary problems with fan fiction, he explains, “My characters are my children … I don’t want people making off with them, thank you. Even people who say they love my children. I’m sure that’s true, I don’t doubt the sincerity of the affection, but still… No one gets to abuse the people of Westeros but me.”
The author of the beloved Harry Potter series takes a more amenable view to fan-fiction, and though she has the same commercial issues as other authors, she’s basically given it her blessing. Unlike Martin (who, let’s face it, wouldn’t have a leg to stand on with this argument), she seems to be most concerned that any Potter fan-fiction remain PG-rated. According to an official statement from her agent, “she is very flattered by the fact there is such great interest in her Harry Potter series and that people take the time to write their own stories. Her concern would be to make sure that it remains a non-commercial activity to ensure fans are not exploited and it is not being published in the strict sense of traditional print publishing… The books may be getting older, but they are still aimed at young children. If young children were to stumble on Harry Potter in a an X-rated story, that would be a problem.”
The wildly popular Anne Rice, author of Interview with the Vampire is one of those authors who is famously and unapologetically against — even offended by — the idea of fan-fiction. On her website, she writes, “I do not allow fan-fiction. The characters are copyrighted. It upsets me terribly to even think about fan-fiction with my characters. I advise my readers to write your own original stories with your own characters. It is absolutely essential that you respect my wishes.”
Like Rowling, Meyer doesn’t take a strong stance against fan-fiction about her books, though she seems to think that the form is a waste of time. In an interview, Meyer explained, “Fan-fiction has become kind of a mixed thing for me. like in the beginning I hadn’t heard of it and there were some that were…I couldn’t read the ones that had the characters IN character. It freaked me out… but there was one about Harry Potter and Twilight that was hilarious. And then there was one that was about a girl who was starring as Bella in the movie and that was funny. And uh, I hear so many people arguing about fan-fiction. This one and that one. It seems like they are not as much fun anymore. I don’t know…. People pour out so much energy and talent into them… It makes me frustrated. I’m like, go write your own story. Put them out there and get them published. That’s what you should be doing. You should be working on your own book right now.”
Ursula K. LeGuin
On her website, the legendary LeGuin writes, “As for anybody publishing any story ‘derived from’ my stuff, I am absolutely opposed to it & have never given anyone permission to do so. It is lovely to ‘share worlds’ if your imagination works that way, but mine doesn’t; to me, it’s not sharing but an invasion, literally — strangers coming in and taking over the country I live in, my heartland. This applies, of course, to fiction only. I have given permission to all sorts of script writers, playwrights, musicians, dancers, etc. to use my stuff for performance pieces, and collaborated happily with many of them. That’s different. That’s a gas! Collaboration is one thing, co-optation is another.”
Orson Scott Card
For Orson Scott Card, author of Ender’s Game and the ensuing books, it’s all about the money. “I will sue,” he writes, “because if I do NOT act vigorously to protect my copyright, I will lose that copyright … So fan-fiction, while flattering, is also an attack on my means of livelihood.” We’ll see how he feels after the film rights come rolling in.
Gabaldon, author of the Outlander series, caused a small internet furor a couple years ago when she posted an entry on her blog that began “OK, my position on fan-fic is pretty clear: I think it’s immoral, I know it’s illegal, and it makes me want to barf whenever I’ve inadvertently encountered some of it involving my characters.” Since then, she has deleted all the nasty comments that ensued, and on her new website, she has written, “You know, I’m very flattered that some of you enjoy the books so much that you feel inspired to engage with the writing in a more personal way than most readers do. Both for legal and personal reasons, though, I’m not comfortable with fan-fiction based on any of my work, and request that you do not write it, do not send it to me, and do not publish it, whether in print or on the web. Thank you very much for your consideration.”
We’re not sure if the proposed Catcher in the Rye sequel quite counts as fan-fiction in the same way that the aforementioned fantasy authors experience it, but we think Salinger’s response would be the same: “The sequel is not a parody and it does not comment upon or criticize the original. It is a rip-off pure and simple.” Prepare to be sued.
Though Stross, author of many science fiction novels and short stories, doesn’t care if anyone writes about his characters, he does care if that practice impinges on his own ability to make a living. He explains, rather eloquently we think, “I am not a precious sparkly unicorn who is obsessed with the purity of his characters — rather, I am a glittery and avaricious dragon who is jealous of his steaming pile of gold. If you do not steal the dragon’s gold, the dragon will leave you alone. Offer to bring the dragon more gold and the dragon will be your friend.”