A little earlier today, a fine gentleman I’m leaving anonymous (only for the sake of leaving him out of it if this thing gets comments-laden) posted a perfectly nice answer to “how do you feel about fanfiction?” It amounts to being cool with it, but not being able to read it for legal reasons. This is fine and totally understandable.
One thing he said — “I don’t see how one can not be in favor of it. Maybe I’m missing something?” — got to me, though, because in my day, I have heard from writers who… weren’t so welcoming. ;) I was trying to explain some of my feelings on that to someone else the other day, and how all of this affects what the fandom experience is like, and I suspect did a bad job of it. I feel like I want to get the basics down and out of my system at least once, though, so bear with me while I try:
While a lot of writers — especially in genre, I suspect, where so many have written fics themselves — are pretty understanding about fanfic, others aren’t. Some creators are rather noisily opposed to it. I’ve heard several variants on “it makes me uncomfortable because my characters wouldn’t do that,” or in extreme cases, for authors to state that they don’t allow fanfic based on their works at all. A couple of my favorite authors are in this category. Whether or not this actually stops it is another question, of course, but the edict has been made, and the major fanfic archiving sites tend to make a point of honoring this wish. For the sake of respecting the authors in question and in the spirit of not being an asshat, I appreciate the gesture. However, those kind of constraints aren’t something you hear a lot about, say, fanart. Particular TYPES of fanart (erotic especially), yes, but blanket I-forbid-it statements, no.
While I understand the protective instinct, for the most part — you’re going to hear a lot of me saying this :) — the defending-my-territory-at-all-costs attitude can sting, and particularly, as I suggested by the comparison above, when it’s rarely leveled en masse at other creative branches of fandom.
Fanfic writers are pretty much expected, even in the best, “it’s awesome but I can’t read it” circumstance, to never really admit to what they’re doing except amongst each other. Everyone else gets to show off. Fanartists, cosplayers, crafters, cookie bakers, whatever else you do, you’re judged on the quality of your work more than the mere fact that you’re doing it, and chances are, if you’re awesome at it? The creators will tell you.
Meanwhile, we can’t share a word of what we do with the writers who inspired us, which is kinda high on the irony scale.
Again, from a legal/liability standpoint, I get it. I do. (And to make a small break for clarity: I’m not even touching the legal issue right now of making actual money off fanworks/art, because that’s a whole minefield and I’m trying to keep my limbs, thanks. When I say “legal/liability,” I’m mostly speaking of the problem of “authors worrying about getting sued by fanwriters for copying ideas out of fics,” which is the classic reason for Why Authors Can’t Read Fics.)
But… I’m still saying that it doesn’t suck any less when your lot in fandom is to hide under a pen name and pray no one official in any capacity will find your stuff and get pissed off. It’s not even solely an issue of ducking the legal banhammer; it’s a question of attitude. I’ve seen rape metaphors get deployed when it comes to fic, REGARDLESS OF ACTUAL CONTENT. It’s not fun getting viewed that way when it’s sure as hell not what you meant by playing around with story ideas about stuff you love, and when your friends with other creative hobbies get to be a whole lot more public with them, without such suggestions about what they do.
(I do have sympathies here. I write original material and am trying to get it published, and of course I feel protective of this stuff. But I’d be fine with fic of it existing. Even when it comes to more problematic content, I can be objective about where the lines are. If someone went and wrote incest fic of my sibling characters from one of my books, which is downright likely given the way fandom works, you can guarantee I’ll be creeped out. It’s not my thing and I have OPINIONS about these characters, namely: NO WAY EVER. But it’s not like I’m going to go unhinged and view it as a personal insult, or that it’s trespassing on my space or tainting my work. Doesn’t have anything to do with me at that point, unless they, yes, I know, try to profit or misrepresent what I actually am willing to endorse. Some writers don’t take it that way, though.)
I’m not saying it’s perfect for anyone in fandom. I’ve seen artists get dinged with truly petty take-down orders, I’ve seen all sorts of spiteful nonsense and unwarranted personal criticism, and again, I know, I honestly do: shit happens. I’m still pretty sure that no matter how many disclaimers I slap on this, everyone with a bone to pick about how people get treated in X corner of fandom is going to leap all over me. I don’t mean it that way. I’m trying to be fair, I don’t mean to whine, and I don’t mean to point fingers.
But this is a large part of why people sometimes feel they should ask if creators are okay with fanfic. It’s hard not to get a little paranoid, and honestly, a little lonely.
/gets off soapbox, and prays she said all this reasonably clearly, ‘cause wow has it been one of those days…