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Old 05-18-2006, 10:21 PM   #1
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When is fanfiction not fanfiction?

I like to ask this question whenever I find a new place to discuss the topic, so here goes:

When does a work of "fan" fiction, become just plain "fiction"? In other words, when you do go so far off the beaten "canon" path, that you've effectively created a piece of fiction that has no distinguishing characteristics to the original piece of work?

Let me provide a example using Harry Potter.

Many works of fan fiction explore the idea of characters being gay. From a purely source material standpoint, what if there is no indication of that? Case in point, the Harry Potter books have no fore-shadowing of Harry prefering same-sex relationships. Let alone with characters such as Draco or Severus. Do works with have this quirk have the right to be called "fan" fiction, or by completely re-writing the basic core of Harry/Draco/Severus (sexual preference is considered a major consideration on a persons character) still allow enough freedom for the story to have enough relation to the source material for "fan" fiction?
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Old 05-18-2006, 10:43 PM   #2
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IMO, any fic, even *shudder* slash, is a work of fanfiction as long as the author makes a logical deviation from canon. No matter how outstanding the change is, if there is still a basis in canon, the work is fanfiction.

Take a fic where Harry joins Voldemort for example. Would that ever happen in JKR's world? No. But, as long as the we can see how Harry got from canon to joining Voldemort, it works. Such a situation may occur like so...
  • Voldemort's statement, "There is no good or evil, only power and those to weak to seek it," has a profound impact on Harry.
  • He sees the logic behind this statement.
  • He begins seeking ways to gain power.
  • He sinks into the dark arts.
  • Dumbledore's camp attempts to break him of his strange affinity for dark magic.
  • Harry's journey toward becoming all powerful is being hampered by Dumbledore.
  • Harry escapes from their watchful eye.
  • He is kept on the run, now wanted by the Ministry as well for practicing illegal magic.
  • He runs to Voldemort, the only person who can hide as well as teach him.
  • His respect for Voldemort grows and he eventually joins him.

This is not complete fiction because it shows the progression from canon to fanon. If a fic were to randomly start with Harry on a spaceship hovering over the planet Ogaboogah, whilst preparing for galactic war thirteen with the lizard-men, then it would be complete fiction. Well... if a fic got that far AU then it would be pure fiction IMO even if they showed a logical progression.
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Old 05-19-2006, 01:48 AM   #3
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That argument is really a given. My question of the issue deals specifically with the so-called "grey" area. Perhaps the slash thing wasn't a good example. Let me try another:

I found a story that had Harry becoming a Sith Lord, and by your argument, it would be considered a "fan" fiction because it started with Harry at his Uncles house. However, essentially it boiled down to "Suddenly a Sith appears with an offer" only expanded into three or four paragraphs. Does that qualify as a "fan" fiction despite how outragous and baseless the possibility is?

Note: The crossover aspect has nothing to do with it, the problem is no... well, not even an EFFORT to make the jump. As fiction, you can make anything work, but how can you call a story a piece of "fan" fiction if your only relation to the original works are background story. No effort is made to mold the characters into their new persona, and wild events happen without any explanation/consequence.
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Old 05-19-2006, 01:55 AM   #4
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Old 05-19-2006, 02:24 AM   #5
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Many fanfiction authors see fanfiction as a chance to hone their skills. It is undoubtably extremely difficult to create your own world and characters so borrowing an author's makes this easier.

Some authors like to follow canon events carefully then create a seventh year fics and others develop the characters to fit their own needs (Timetravel, AU etc.) This is fanficton.

Some authors (a minority) have take it on a next level; and create a world which is almost unrecognisable save the character names. It is these fics which break away from the title "fanfiction".

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Old 05-19-2006, 05:08 AM   #6
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Can't really add much more to what's been said unless I go against my own views. I agree with Master Slytherin.
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Old 05-19-2006, 10:32 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Master Slytherin
Some authors (a minority) have take it on a next level; and create a world which is almost unrecognisable save the character names. It is these fics which break away from the title "fanfiction".
I disagree. Some fanfictions will deviate so drastically and horribly from the acceptable canon that only a small instance of a name can be recognized. (Is it Harry Potter fanfiction or Rakhesh fanfiction, to reference one of the most popular?) For me these are all still fan fiction.

So I would say the division of pure fiction breaking away from fan fiction is not found in the content, but instead in the audience. Taking Miranda Flairgold's Second Chance at Life for example, if it weren't a work of fanfiction, but instead a work of fiction, how many of us would have read it in the first place? If it's a completely original fiction, my interest in it wouldn't have been there. Even using the same themes, the same style of "magic" and effects, etc... it wouldn't be there. My interest is invested in these established characters. If you get your readers based off of the interest of another's characters, to me, that's where it becomes a work of fanfiction. The author may completely change the characters, or kill off all the ones you recognize, but my interest was drawn because of JKR's world, not my respect for author X's talent.

Yes, arguably influence and similarity between fiction authors will exist, but for me I think the line can be more clearly defined by what about a fic attracts readers to it. And that's where fanfiction and fiction cross.
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Old 05-19-2006, 01:36 PM   #8
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If it has no major characters at all from canon, then it is not fanfiction. Second Chance at life does have some of the major characters, so it is still fanfiction, but it sure as hell deviates.
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Old 05-19-2006, 04:51 PM   #9
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There is a fine line between fiction and fanfiction. One is usually a completely original piece of work. The other is based on what another author has written. The great thing about fanfiction is you can pick and choose what you want to use in your particular story. I.e, there may be parts of the original works you want to elaborate on. Take Mrriddler's The Secret of the Male Veela for example - he wrote a greater in-depth look at the veela cultures and things like that than Rowling even began to go into. Granted, most of that is pretty original other than the names, but it doesn't deviate too greatly from J.K.R’s world. That keeps it in the realms of Fanfiction.
A Second Chance at Life is, well.... There's just no way you can identify it with anything Rowling has written, bad plot devices and all.
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Old 05-19-2006, 10:31 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Taure
A Second Chance at Life. That's when fanfiction isn't fanfiction.

Have to agree with that statement.

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Old 05-20-2006, 01:32 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by nonjon
I disagree. Some fanfictions will deviate so drastically and horribly from the acceptable canon that only a small instance of a name can be recognized. (Is it Harry Potter fanfiction or Rakhesh fanfiction, to reference one of the most popular?) For me these are all still fan fiction.
I'd like to agree here (Even if I don't quite know what Rakhesh FF is *Blank stare*), I've read far too many fics that go bizzarely out of the way of anything remotely related to cannon (and I normally hate cannon). There is a very fine line to this sort of thing, but it's surrounded by a lot of grayspace (an oxymoron, I know.). Mary Sues and the like can turn fanfiction into a very tedious 'chose your own adventure'/smut/fluff/god power/jealousy/angst fic controlled strictly by the author. Unless controlled, I say that this is not fanfiction.

I kind of follow a rule of thumb, if all I recognize of the character and cannon relation is the name and possibly (I emphasize this word because a gigantic pet peeve of mine is drastic makeover!character plot) the appearance of it. Then it's deviated off into the floaty space known as extreme!AU fanfiction. This usually turns into pure fiction and should be treated as such.

On the other hand, if the writer is heck-as-all brilliant and can control her/his/it's urges to screw around with cannon to the unrecognizeable degree. Then they've succeeded in keeping with perfectly acceptable (and recognizable) Au/Fanfiction. And for the most part, those fics are usually the funnest to read because they take you just far enough out of cannon where it's experimental but not so far where it's not even fanfiction.
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