Hitchhiker's Fan-Site Started By Douglas Adams Shows Why Authors Shouldn't Panic Over Derivative Works

from the bring-a-towel dept

We’ve talked a great deal about how content creators handle derivative works in the past, be it musicians, TV/film makers, or authors. The responses are predictably varied, with some creators embracing derivatives, some abhorring them, some that draw the line on commercial use, and others that use derivatives to build even further works. The least controversial of the lot is work done by fans, of course. Few creators want to go to war with fans that love their work so much they make fan films, or write fan fiction. But what would happen if a creator not only allowed derivatives of their work, but actually made the conscious decision to build an entire platform for it themselves to encourage the practice?

Well, you’d end up with something like h2g2, otherwise known as the fan-created build of the Earth-version of the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. They recently posted on April 28th to celebrate their 14th “birthday”, congratulating the community on making the site a wonderful place for Hitchhiker fans to contribute with their own submissions. They also rightly said thanks to the book series’ author, Douglas Adams, as it was Adams who started the site from the beginning.

Although h2g2.com might not yet quite be a complete guide to Life, The Universe and Everything it is a thriving online community, where Hitchhiker’s fans and many other creative folks can work on The Guide and help fulfill Douglas’ vision of a real-life, mostly useful, Earth Edition of his fictional Guide (not, incidentally, a real-life version of the Encyclopedia Galactica).

Today we welcome everyone, active and returning researchers, new researchers, visitors and viewers, to celebrate. Thanks to Douglas Adams, who saw a way to bring his idea of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy into an actual Guide, the Earth Edition, we have been around for 14 internet years!

Resulting in, or from, the immense popularity of the Hitchiker series, h2g2.com is hugely popular with fans. Whether the books caused the site’s popularity more than the site has caused sales from the book is an unknown, but that each has an effect on the other is undeniable. The site’s history is interesting and somewhat convoluted, but what is unquestioned is Adams’ wish to embrace fans of the books and set them off on building their own guide of Earth. And, while ownership of the site has transitioned several times, from Adams to the BBC and so on, it is back in the hands of die-hard fans that have an allegiance to its community. Hell, the site puts out its own broadsheet newspaper.

All of this thanks to an author who wasn’t misguided in seeing derivatives as a threat, but rather as a wonderful way to connect with fans, all the while pointing them back to the original works off which they were based.

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Comments on “Hitchhiker's Fan-Site Started By Douglas Adams Shows Why Authors Shouldn't Panic Over Derivative Works”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Deeper than that

It goes deeper than that. To properly enjoy a lot of the derivative works, you have to know well the original.

For instance, most fan fiction does not try to rewrite the original, but instead adds to it. You have to already know the characters, setting, and past events, else you will miss lots of details. Some of these details might completely change the meaning of some scenes.

So it is not just “what was the original like”. It is also “I have to check out the complete original and then check out this derivative work again, so I can understand it properly.”

out_of_the_blue says:

Superior sense: if you like HHGTG, DON'T WATCH THE MOVIE!

Confession: I mis-spent some of my precious youth reading all three HG books on advice of friend. — I knew better and was confirmed. — Mildly amusing in places, but much better if you skip attempts at continuity between scenes that even the author internally admitted were infinitely improbable. If you can’t keep your brain from analyzing, you notice how lousy it is; for teens at best.

Decades later I made the severe mistake of watching the movie. To my horror, it points up the lack of sense and the flaws in the books. So after a few minutes I just held down the fast forward key, slowing only to gasp at HOW bad it was, a new reference low. And of course I’m not alone in that opinion.

Anyhoo, what Timmy has taken for topic isn’t new, it’s just clutching at yet another “Oooh, LOOKY HERE! This author doesn’t mind fans!” as if only true in the internet age.

But the real question is: HOW the HELL could Adams let such crap as the movie be made? — Notice I don’t ask WHY, ’cause was for MONEY he didn’t need. — But IF Adams had ANY common sense or perspicacity, he would have avoided the movie deal.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Superior sense: if you like HHGTG, DON'T WATCH THE MOVIE!

I listened to the radio version, then watched the tv mini-series. I should have avoided the movie.

I read the books when I was in junior high, had a “borrowed” copy of the radio play from BBC (did I just admit to being a pirate?,) the original miniseries from the BBC on video, all six books in both paperback and hardcover (and now in e-book format,) as well as all of Adams other books.

I don’t understand why people didn’t like the movie. It wasn’t at the same level as HHGTG, but it also wasn’t written by Adams either. It had a lot of the original work, and a couple “new” things from Adams (the point of view gun was awesome Adams,) but for the most part it was written by an American who, like myself, missed a lot of the original English Comedy when we read the book (it took me five years to get the joke about moving little green pieces of paper around, and that wasn’t particularly English humor.)

I enjoyed the movie, knowing full well it was called Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy but was really little more than a homage piece to Adams.

And Blue, there were five original books written by Adams for HHGTG, six if you include Mostly Harmless (which I do.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Even if a derivative work does outshine the original in popularity, so what? It’s called “fair market competition.” The idea behind copyright is to promote the arts, not to promote any particular person’s art. If a fanfic writer can sell better than the original author, good, let ’em.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“Even if a derivative work does outshine the original in popularity, so what? It’s called “fair market competition.””

For example, the James Bond films are far better-known than the original novels.
I enjoy both, and accept/acknowledge the differences, but most people I know have seen nost or all of the movies and never read the books.
OTOH, the Arthur Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes novels are more popular than any one media incarnation of the character…

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