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The Ethics of Fanfiction

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Arthellion, Nov 21, 2019.

  1. Arthellion

    Arthellion Lord of the Banned ~ Prestige ~

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    So, one debate that I've seen regards writing fanfiction for authors who have expressly forbidden their works from having fanfiction. (See George RR Martin). How does one justify writing fanfiction for a fandom where their author has expressly forbidden such? Do you believe an author has the right to ban fanfiction ethically?
     
  2. Agayek

    Agayek Master of Death DLP Supporter

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    Not any more than they have the right to ban parody or any other derivative work. The fact of the matter is, works in the public sphere are, well, public, and people are going to create derivatives of it. The author doesn't have to like that, but they do have to accept it.
     
  3. Zombie

    Zombie Lo-fi Snake Jazz Moderator DLP Supporter

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    It would depend on why the author wants the FF forbidden. GRR has apparently stated that the only fanfiction that is good enough for his series is written by himself. That seems to be an issue where he doesn't like the content that's being posted and how fanfiction writers tend to twist and turn plot points to make other things work.

    For other authors I could see it as a monetary thing. People are making bank of patreon for FF and for Original fiction that follows the identity of a popular series. They could see it as infringing on their body of work and don't want their story confused with the fanfiction that circulates.

    And finally, it could just be because they're a big bag of cunt and don't want anyone to have fun with their universe. Fanfiction is a really old past time. Before people used to submit it to journals and magazines for writing, and now they just post it on a website.
     
  4. Silirt

    Silirt Death Eater DLP Supporter

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    Vergil completed the work of Homer, and I would argue the Aeneid is even better than the source material, but I highly doubt Homer wanted him to create a character who constantly one-upped Odysseus and Hector. Had he thought to forbid everyone from writing fanfiction about the Odyssey, I would consider Vergil a bit of a jerk, while in this reality he could at least argue it was all fair game and that Homer was getting exposure bucks for it.
     
  5. Paradise

    Paradise Paraplegic Dice DLP Supporter

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    The way GRRMs arguement always seemed to me was that, yeah go write fanfiction but you are crippling yourself as a writer. You dont learn how to create settings or characters just use other peoples.
     
  6. Ched

    Ched Da Trek Moderator DLP Supporter

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    I don’t like the idea of using Patreon to make cash from fanfic. It’s been a while since I put into words why, but it’s grey-ish area I side against.

    But if you aren’t making money from it? I have no moral issue. It’s out there and they published it. If you love it let it go, etc.

    Maybe GRRM is right about fanfic gimping your writing skills. Maybe he’s wrong. Either way it’s not his place to police that.
     
  7. TheWiseTomato

    TheWiseTomato Prestigious Tomato ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    I'd argue against that tbh. If it weren't for fanfic, I wouldn't have developed nearly as well or as quickly as a writer. That could just come down to the feedback I got here though. I don't imagine I'd be nearly as good if I'd stumbled across SB before DLP.
     
  8. sonder

    sonder Groundskeeper

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    Writing fan fiction gives you training wheels. Writing requires work. You can write without falling headfirst into "Why isn't my writing amazing?" because you're borrowing. You're learning by mimicking. By tinkering with the source material and, usually, getting a ton of feedback you become a writer who has voice and skill. I've seen fanfic writers just keep mutating a source material until the only thing that links the two is the appearance of the cast of characters. Its original fiction then.

    If an author says no fanfic, I need them to get it together. If you're good (really good), people will be writing fan fiction of your work forever. People will set new media in your work because they love your work so much. (See Pride and Prejudice.) If you're truly legendary fanfic, people will write fanfic of your fanfic. Fanfic is the world's greatest compliment.
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2019
  9. TheWiseTomato

    TheWiseTomato Prestigious Tomato ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    Honestly half the AU fics out there are just original fiction masquerading as fanfic.
     
  10. sonder

    sonder Groundskeeper

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    Gotta boost readership somehow.
     
  11. Chengar Qordath

    Chengar Qordath The Final Pony ~ Prestige ~

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    That's a very fair point. It's all well and good to tell every aspiring writer to go out and create something original, but that's a tall order for a first-time writer. Especially when operating in genres like fantasy and science fiction that require a lot of world-building. Fan fiction is great for providing a lot more of a framework for creators to get started with.

    Also, when it comes to storytelling, the idea that the original author/creator has total ownership and control over all the elements of their story is a relatively modern invention. Especially the modern corporatized and commodified manifestation of it with broad reach. 100 years ago copyright meant "You can't wholesale copy this work present it as your own." It was perfectly normal and respectable for, say, everyone under the sun to write a Sherlock Holmes story and get it published, and all Doyle could really do about it was complain a lot and kill off Holmes in an effort to de-legitimize those stories.

    Humans have been modifying and iterating on existing stories for almost as long as we've had stories. Characters, concepts, and ideas being private property is a recent invention. Personally I wouldn't mind seeing copyright law loosened up a bit to make fanfiction 100% legal, publishable, and profit-friendly. Doubt that'd happen though, considering pretty much every major corporate IP holder would fight tooth and nail against that. Heck, it's common knowledge that the current length of copyright in the US is "However long it takes to keep Mickey Mouse from entering public domain."

    Have to agree on that point. It's a lot easier to get a ready audience for an AU fanfic than for original fiction. I know I haven't had much luck getting interest in my original stories compared to my fanfiction.
     
  12. Joe

    Joe The Reminiscent Exile ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    I feel attacked.
     
  13. TheWiseTomato

    TheWiseTomato Prestigious Tomato ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    You should.

    This I don't agree with. Just the idea of some schmuck making money off the characters I've created and the world I've built sits very ill with me.
     
  14. Gaius

    Gaius Second Year

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    Interesting question. Most of us are taught in school to read literature in a formalist way, i.e. considering not the authorial intent for meaning-making but the text. If we read literature in this way, at a certain point the text is free of its author and we can consider fan fiction a kind of reading that creates meaning with characters, setting, etc.

    Your question also has an underlying presumption that the owner of an idea can control it after the fact, which seems to me to be a kind of capitalist impulse and isn’t necessarily a universally applicable ethical imperative for places with different notions of copyright or in pre-capitalist societies. E.g. Silirt’s Aeneid example. (Except I like Homer more than Virgil.)

    I’d be curious if you or others in this thread think there is an ethical imperative to write fan fiction and in what circumstances that arises. Why would it be an ethical or necessary thing to write fanfiction?
     
    HMM
  15. Chengar Qordath

    Chengar Qordath The Final Pony ~ Prestige ~

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    Why? It's not like they're taking the money away from you. Fanfiction is part of what builds fandom and maintains fandom engagement, and an engaged fandom is very much a good thing for the original creator. I expect in a lot of cases it's actually a net economic benefit to the rights-holder.

    Granted, when it comes to revamping copyright law I'm far more concerned with cutting down corporate privileges than attacking an individual author's creative control. Disney's ability to exclusively own vast swaths of the cultural landscape is a much bigger concern than whether or not one author likes fanfiction.
     
  16. TheWiseTomato

    TheWiseTomato Prestigious Tomato ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    They kind of are though? If someone likes my creation, I want them to pay for it from me, not someone else. When I'm a wildly successful author, I'll still be slumming it on DLP and allowing fanfiction, but if I see someone saying, "Pay me for the next chapter." I'm gonna sic my rabid fanbase on them.
     
  17. Ched

    Ched Da Trek Moderator DLP Supporter

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    @Chengar Qordath - don't you write MLP fanfic via Patreon? Can't remember for sure if that's you or not.

    Not attacking you but since this is a conversation about that it seems relevant for context.

    On that note - would writing fanfiction of something like MLP differ from writing fanfiction about Harry Dresden? Dresden belongs to Butcher - a single person - whereas I assume most TV shows have multiple authors/creators as opposed to a single owner.

    Does that change the ethics of it for anyone? For me it shifts it from a 'don't like it' to a slightly more neutral stance, but I still find myself pushing back (though not as hard).
     
  18. sonder

    sonder Groundskeeper

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    I don’t think one person owning it vs multiple people owning it has any affect on me. There might be an angle I haven’t considered though. Why does it shift for you?
     
  19. Ched

    Ched Da Trek Moderator DLP Supporter

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    I'm not entirely sure. I think a large part of it is the 'who are you taking advantage of' aspect. If it's an author, you're taking advantage of a world that an individual built. It's a personal project for them, maybe even their life's work. If it's a team of people working for a company it feels different. Just like taking money from a rich person would feel different from taking money from a company they own.

    It doesn't make it more right or less wrong, but it makes it easier to accept, maybe?

    I need to think on how to explain this better, because if I can't put it into simple terms I probably don't understand my own thoughts on it.
     
  20. Goten Askil

    Goten Askil Seventh Year

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    Wasn't Marion Zimmer Bradley accused of stealing the work of a fanfiction of her book for a sequel? Not sure, but I think I read that in a GRRM interview about fanfiction (funny how everyone seems to have a different opinion on why he doesn't want fanfiction ^^).

    Plus, @Chengar Qordath , of course a legally-published fanfic could take money from the author. Think only of all the ship wars: don't you think that if there was a good alternative 6th-year book published post-OotP, a part of the Harry/Hermione crowd would have jumped ship? Maybe it wouldn't be a lot, but when you take away a small part of millions, you still lose a whole bunch of money.

    Even with low chances of that happening, I wouldn't want to take the risk, so I sure as hell wouldn't want fanfiction before my books are finished, no matter how hypocritical it is considering how I started writing.
     
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