Fan Fiction: A Revisionist History And Future

from the it's-crap-cause-I-said-so dept

For fans, the ability to expand upon and share their understanding of their favorite books is an important past time. People can spend days, months, years talking about their favorite books and eating up any new information that comes their way. Sometimes this new information comes from the original creator, but other times it comes from the fans themselves in the form of fan fiction. Fan fiction is a growing area of fan engagement that many authors and creators have learned to love and embrace.

There are some people, though, who just absolutely hate it. Take Ewan Morrison as an example. In a recent essay on the subject of fan fiction, he doesn't hold back his feelings on the matter.
It may seem like a joke, but for many the rise of fanfic is "the end of the world". Fanfic is seen as the lowest point we've reached in the history of culture – it's crass, sycophantic, celebrity-obsessed, naive, badly written, derivative, consumerist, unoriginal – anti-original. From this perspective it's a disaster when a work of fanfic becomes the world's number one bestseller and kickstarts a global trend.
This is absolutely amazing. While many writers try to hide their disapproval of a subject, Ewan decides to just lay it all out in the open so that you know right off what to expect from his little rant. But what exactly has his panties in a twist? Fifty Shades of Grey.
As we all know, Fifty Shades of Grey, originated as a piece of fanfic based on the Twilight series. Since it hit 31 million sales in 37 countries worried voices are asking: is this the beginning of an era in which fanfic overthrows original creation?
Come on. How can fan fiction produce anything of worth? Am I right? Well, Ewan thinks he is right. He just can't believe that anyone could turn fan fiction into a profitable career. Fan fiction is some horrible blight on the entertainment industry, at least to him. Nothing good can come from it, right?

Ewan decides that now is the time to show off just how little he knows about fan fiction in general. He starts off with a nice bit of revisionist history.
If one sees fanfic as "the work of amateurs retelling existing stories", then one would have to conclude that the number one book in the middle ages – the Bible – was a work of fanfic, as Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were non-professionals retelling the same story about the same character. However, such a definition of fanfic is skewed historically. There were no fans in the middle ages, and there were also no authors.
Isn't this lovely. There were no authors in the middle ages. Since there were no authors, then that means there were no fans. All those works that we look back upon came out of ether for us to enjoy. Since there were no authors and no fans, there was no fan fiction. Fans, authorship, fan fiction, all of this is simply a modern construct.
If we see fanfic as "the reworking of another author's characters" then this form really only appears for the first time in history with the invention of legal authorship in the 18th century through copyright and intellectual property laws, after the invention of the printing press. After all, you can't have derivative works or copies if there are no regulations over what constitutes original works, or separates ownership from theft.
Notice the nice equating of fan fiction with theft. But don't let that distract you from the main discussion points here. You see, authorship never existed until modern copyright law was written and passed in order to create such a role in society. Back then, no one was creative. Everyone just stole ideas from everyone else. It was just one big swirling miasma of derivative characters occupying the same roles. No one exercised any kind of real creativity because of this. It makes sense right? We honor Homer and Shakespeare because they were just thieves who stole the work of others to become famous.

From here, Ewan goes on to share a bunch more about what he thinks of fan fiction and the different types of it. One common theme running through this breakdown is a bitter distaste for pornographic fan fiction. He even lets this get in the way of describing slash fic correctly as one commenter to his rant explains.
The first point is a semantic quibble, but it really gets on my nerves. 'Slash' does not refer to all pornographic fanfiction. There may have been a time when it did. Having spent ten years in fandom, I have never heard it used to describe anything but stories about m/m relationships. (A story does not actually have to have sexual content to be considered slash. A story can be slash without so much as a kiss if it involves a male character who is attracted to another male character.)
When you are revising history to fit your preconceived notions, accuracy can get in the way. So perhaps we can just let this one slide. Maybe not.

Another interesting point in his rant is when it comes to crossover fan fiction. He just can't understand why anyone would want to cross universes to create a story.
The most postmodern and aesthetically bankrupt of all fanfic, is when two well-known franchises from the same genre are "crossed over". So you get BattleStar Gallactica, crossed with Star Trek, which results in the story: Star Trek: Way of the Battlestar – author Carson Napier.

One of the problems with this sub-genre is that narratives and character motivations have to be warped to fit convoluted, meaningless mergings.
That he even makes this complaint shows that he doesn't even realize that even original creators have a hard time justifying the crossover conflict. When was the last time an Avenger vs X-Men comic line actually made sense or just wasn't a shout out to fans of certain characters? What about anything DC vs Marvel. Shoot, the DC vs Mortal Kombat game was one big convoluted meaningless merging. And all of those were authorized mergings. If the original creators have such a hard time making a crossover meaningful, why hold fans up to a higher bar?

Then he jumps right back into his absolute hate of Fifty Shades of Grey. After all, that is what spawned this rant, so he can't let it off easy.
Fifty Shades is actually a very generic work of Twilight fanfic from amongst tens of thousands already created. It is, in fact, a piece of "AU het slash Twilight fic", and as we've seen, in all slash fic, sex and sexual violence are the predictable components of the genre.

We should not consider EL James an author in the conventional sense for the same reasons that we wouldn't call someone from before the invention of copyright an author. Rather, her books are like medieval lore – in a sense she doesn't own the content.
To be honest, I haven't read Fifty Shades nor do I have a desire to do so. However, to make the claim that no creativity went into creating the work is beyond ignorant. Despite what he claims, all reports, that I have read, make it pretty clear that it was not simply a location and name change of Twilight. It was massively successful because it was something unique that people wanted. Of course this massive success lets Ewan break into another rant against how it became successful.
The only innovation is not in the story itself but in the delivery system that launched it – Amazon KDP. Without Kindle the book(s) would never have escaped the gravitational pull of fanfic sites and would not have been able to earn their author any money. KDP, has become the Enchanted Duplicator that has monetised fanfic and propelled it into the market. The historic difference, the point we have just crossed, is that now, through the mechanism of epub, fanfic is heading towards becoming the cultural dominant.
Amazon, with its e-publishing service, is what made successful fan fiction possible. Without Amazon, such fan fiction would have been relegated to the various basements and dodgy parlors of the internet. According to Ewan, this outbreak of self publishing is only going to lead to one gigantic mess of fan fiction feeding off each other spawning new works. This is going to be the fall of modern culture.
It is possible that with the enchanted duplication systems of fan-based epub, we might have arrived at a point in history where we've accumulated enough cultural material from the past for fans to remix indefinitely, and as they can now sell this content to each other this becomes a boom industry where none existed before. However, the point where fans become the creators, and a derivative work becomes the new original is also the point at which the culture industries stop needing to create anything new. Fanfic begets fanfic, which then in turn becomes mainstream which then begets further fanfic and so on. When we reach that point our future will not be fifty, but fifty thousand, shades of grey.
What is worth pointing out to Ewan is that we already have this within the established industries. As we have written about many times in the past, everything is a remix of something else. There is no 100% vacuum for created art these days. Someone is inspired by or copies aspects of another person's work. Shoot, some industries are blatant with their remixing of old works. Whether it is endless sequels and remakes of movies, or the dozens of first person shooter games released each year. But this is how culture is built. It is built on the work of those that came before.

Now, if I may add my own little bit of history to the mix, fan fiction, or more accurately derivative works, is an important part of what made our culture what it is today. I am going to bring in two examples of derivative works from the past that had massive impacts on the state of culture today.

The first is Nosferatu. We wrote about this film in the past. Bram Stoker's estate had refused to assign the rights to Albin Grau so that he could make his film. Instead, he went about creating the film anyway, making many changes to vampire lore in the process. Today, much of what we apply to vampire lore comes from Albin's movie not Bram's book. This is example one of the positive cultural impact derivative works can have.

My second example is that of Edison's Conquest of Mars by Garrett P. Serviss (thanks io9 for pointing this out). In this article, Cracked points out six major sci-fi tropes that exist today that have their roots in this unauthorized fan sequel. Of these we have the handheld ray gun, space battles, the space suit, and aliens building the pyramids. If we didn't know better, one would be excused for thinking this book was the result of a time traveling fan of H.G. Wells. Without this book, we may not have had much of what we consider sci-fi today.

So despite what Ewan claims, fan fiction and derivative works can be an important part of the spread of culture. It is how communities are born and grow. Without the ability of fans to expand on the work of their favorite creators, many would become bored as the content would become stale. When they become bored, they stop buying the works of that creator. Why would we want that to happen to creators?


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    Mike Masnick (profile), Aug 28th, 2012 @ 12:22pm

    Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead

    What amazes me about people who dump on fan fiction is that they automatically assume that all of it is bad. One of my absolute all time favorite plays -- Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead -- is nothing more than "fan fiction" around Hamlet, picking up on the lives of two minor characters. And yet, it's considered a classic by many.

    Yes, some fan fiction is crappy, but some of it is fantastic -- just like pretty much all content. Those who crap on fan fiction seem similar to people who insist that YouTube itself is a waste because lots of people create dopey videos, ignoring all of the amazing content that is being produced.

     

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    John Fenderson (profile), Aug 28th, 2012 @ 1:11pm

    Overprotectionism

    Ewan Morrison sounds like an author who objects to fan fiction for the same reason, it seems, that every other fanfic-hating author objects to it: overprotectionism.

    I'm actually very sympathetic to the emotions involved, although I think the authors are wrong. It takes a lot to write a novel, and your story, setting, and characters become family to you. The author is very heavily invested, emotionally speaking, in them. To have someone else come and use them in ways that the author finds distasteful causes an emotional reaction, much like a personal insult.

    I'm sympathetic. But this is truly a case of "suck it up, buttercup". If you've written a work that is used as the basis for some fanfic that you find horrifying, then your option is the same as the rest of us when faced with horrible art: ignore that it exists.

     

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    sehlat (profile), Aug 28th, 2012 @ 1:12pm

    Re: Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead

    Sturgeon's Law pretty much governs ALL fiction anywhere or anywhen. Professional or [sarcastic sneer]fanfic[/sarcastic sneer] doesn't matter. Some of the best stuff I've ever read has been fanfic, along with the usual obeyers of Sturgeon's Law. Same thing applies to professional writing.

    I wonder where Ewan keeps the documents for his divorce from reality.

     

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    ltlw0lf (profile), Aug 28th, 2012 @ 1:13pm

    Entitlement Generation...

    Yet another author who borrowed from culture with a huge sense of entitlement. I don't have a problem with Mr. Morrison borrowing his ideas from culture. But then to have the balls to come up and say that others who borrow from culture are less creative if they base the premise on someone-elses' work, that is rich. There are highly creative fan fics out there, just like there is highly uncreative "original" fiction out there.

    Reading the summaries and reviews of his work, as I couldn't care less about reading his books, I can think of a couple authors he "borrowed" his ideas from. Luckily, borrowing ideas is not against the law or he might be explaining his books to the Huxley and Nolan estates. Too bad derivative works and fan fiction based works don't fall into the same realm, especially when they create an entirely new work even though they are based on a few concepts from the original.

     

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    Dave Xanatos, Aug 28th, 2012 @ 1:13pm

    Fanfiction Problems

    There are two major concerns with fan fiction. The first is that the owner of the copyright on the characters can just come along squash it, legally. The fact that we have allowed copyright on characters or settings is unfortunate, because it enables copyright owners to stamp out new works where their only contribution is the name of the character.

    The other problem is a more personal one. I have no idea how to find good fan fics. I've read some pretty good ones, and some terrible ones, and some I've liked better than the stories they are based off of (so much for Ewan Morrison's opinions). But I need to find a more reliable way to get to the good stuff.

    Those two problems aside, fan fiction is just another example of the explosion of creativity and culture that is happening now in spite of copyright.

     

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    sehlat (profile), Aug 28th, 2012 @ 1:14pm

    Any Parallels to Patents Here?

    After all, one could argue that Samsung's designs are "fanfic." The only difference being, of course, that Apple can call on the government to suppress "unauthorized derivative works."

     

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    sehlat (profile), Aug 28th, 2012 @ 1:16pm

    Re: Fanfiction Problems

    The only way to find good fanfics is either to read them yourself and judge them so, or find a good forum and pay attention to who says what about which work, and keep a track record on their recommendations.

     

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    sehlat (profile), Aug 28th, 2012 @ 1:20pm

    Re: Re: Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead

    Oops! Looked at original article. Read "her divorce" for "his divorce." [embarrassed cough]

     

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    weneedhelp (profile), Aug 28th, 2012 @ 1:22pm

    Tee shirt

    This guy needs a t-shirt that says:

    GET OFF MY LAWN!!!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2012 @ 1:22pm

    Oh let us not get off into derivative works least some one like Disney hears about it. If that's the case surely the Brothers Grimm are owed some serious money, even if they are long dead.

     

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    Keroberos (profile), Aug 28th, 2012 @ 1:27pm

    When an author of fiction starts throwing around the term "derivative" when criticizing another's work they lose all credibility in my opinion. ALL fiction is derivative to some level. And a quick look up on him makes me start to think he's just a pretentious twa--er...artiste.

     

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    Rikuo (profile), Aug 28th, 2012 @ 1:27pm

    The Hobbit is a fanfic of the old Beowulf legend, what with the dragon resting on top of a pile of treasure who gets pissed off when a small piece is stolen.
    Surely Ewan Morrision wouldn't call the Grandfather of Modern Fantasy a hack?

     

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    PaulT (profile), Aug 28th, 2012 @ 1:28pm

    Re: Re: Fanfiction Problems

    Interestingly, you can basically say the same about not only original works, but authorised spinoffs/sequels/etc. Even when released by established authors/publishers/what have you, you don't really know the quality of the work until you read it or people you trust in some way have done so for you. Every reader has been burned by a bad book, even if it was vetted by the supposed experts before pyblication. Sure, many fanfic authors don't go through pesky processes like proofreading or editing, but many fanfic readers are generally not as bothered about those as they are about where the characters are taken in the first place.

    Why, it's almost as though being classified as "fanfic" or "original" doesn't make all that much difference...

     

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    Ewan, Aug 28th, 2012 @ 1:28pm

    dictionary

    For an author to argue that a word doesn't mean what it means (author is not 'person who loves copyright'; it is 'person who writes' :/)
    is pathetic, methinks.

     

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    ltlw0lf (profile), Aug 28th, 2012 @ 1:38pm

    Re: Re: Re: Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead

    Oops! Looked at original article. Read "her divorce" for "his divorce." [embarrassed cough]

    No embarrassed cough. Mr. Morrison is a Mr. The picture is of the author who wrote 50 shades of grey.

     

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    Trevor DeBus (profile), Aug 28th, 2012 @ 1:39pm

    Arrr

    If that's the case, then every procedural cop show since Law & Order, every sci fi show since star trek, abd every superhero anything since the 30s is fan fiction and therefore trash. TDKR was based on three seperate Batman stories, so does that make it 3x trash? (haters, don't hate, I'm making a point. In all seriousness, Cameron's Titanic is TECHNICALLY fan fiction ripped from reporters and newspapers from 1912....

     

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    That One Guy (profile), Aug 28th, 2012 @ 1:43pm

    Re: Tee shirt

    It would probably be redundant, as someone that bitter probably camps out on his porch to scream that very thing to anyone who passes by.

     

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    Nate, Aug 28th, 2012 @ 1:43pm

    Any time someone tells me how derivative fan fiction is I point them at this:

    http://www.grantvillegazette.com/

    That is a 43 volume anthology that has been in production for a decade now. The majority of it is fan fiction.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2012 @ 1:43pm

    So basically fanfic is bad because bad writing is bad.

    And, since there are non-fanfic writing that is still bad, all writing must therefor be bad.

     

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    jupiterkansas (profile), Aug 28th, 2012 @ 1:48pm

    It's interesting that a hundred years ago, a highly cultured person was expected to be studied in the classics, and regularly drew upon them as inspiration and subject matter for their own works. It was considered high art.

    Today, pop culture has largely replaced classical culture. We're more likely to refer to Darth Vader and Batman than Oedipus and Achilles, but the concept is the same. The only difference is the last hundred years of pop culture is locked down by copyright law.

     

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    Issy Issy Willy Nilly, Aug 28th, 2012 @ 1:52pm

    There was a fantastic post going around on Tumblr lately wherein an actual and real professor talks about how old fanfic actually is and why fanfic is good: http://downtothelastbullet.tumblr.com/post/29097051054/tywinning-asked-you-2012-08-09-03-37-as-a

    Some of the good stuff:

    "Most of the history of Western literature (and probably much of non-Western literature, but I can’t speak to that) is adapted or appropriated from something else. Homer wrote historyfic and Virgil wrote Homerfic and Dante wrote Virgilfic (where he makes himself a character and writes himself hanging out with Homer and Virgil and they’re like “OMG Dante you’re so cool.” He was the original Gary Stu). Milton wrote Bible fanfic, and everyone and their mom spent the Middle Ages writing King Arthur fanfic. In the sixteenth century you and another dude could translate the same Petrarchan sonnet and somehow have it count as two separate poems, and no one gave a fuck. Shakespeare doesn’t have a single original plot—although much of it would be more rightly termed RPF—and then John Fletcher and Mary Cowden Clarke and Gloria Naylor and Jane Smiley and Stephen Sondheim wrote Shakespeare fanfic. Guys like Pope and Dryden took old narratives and rewrote them to make fun of people they didn’t like, because the eighteenth century was basically high school. And Spenser! Don’t even get me started on Spenser."

    But the rest is worth reading as well, of course. I'm not a fan of "Fifty Shades," but I am a fan of the community that exists around fanfic and fan creations and the creativity and devotion inherent in those communities.

     

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    sehlat (profile), Aug 28th, 2012 @ 1:53pm

    Re:

    And much of it VERY good stuff, too.

    If fanfic is derivative, Flint, in his role as overall series editor, does know how to integrate. :)

     

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    Baldaur Regis (profile), Aug 28th, 2012 @ 1:57pm

    Gah!

    It's telling that a number of people (myself included) had to look up just who the hell Ewan Morrison is.

    And this quote from the original article:
    ...the point where fans become the creators, and a derivative work becomes the new original is also the point at which the culture industries stop needing to create anything new.
    tells exactly what Morrison is: a card-carrying copyright maximalist who wants to lock everything down.

    But I'll tell you something, Morrison: keep your fucking "culture industry"; I find all the culture I enjoy, all the stories I love best, just by listening to and watching the people passing by my doorstoop.

     

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    Dave Xanatos, Aug 28th, 2012 @ 2:00pm

    Re: Re: Re: Fanfiction Problems

    Why, it's almost as though being classified as "fanfic" or "original" doesn't make all that much difference...

    As far as quality goes, you're absolutely right. Finding reviews of the authorized/established stuff is easier, though.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2012 @ 2:04pm

    fanfic is basically theft, I have no original ability so I will steal your creation and make up stories

     

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    Dreddsnik, Aug 28th, 2012 @ 2:07pm

    Re: Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead

    Maybe I'm dumb or have a very bad memory, but aren't all of the classic OZ books over number 14 technically 'Fan Fiction' ?

     

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    sehlat (profile), Aug 28th, 2012 @ 2:07pm

    Re: Re: Re: Fanfiction Problems

    "doesn't make all that much difference."

    You noticed! :)

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2012 @ 2:07pm

    Re: Tee shirt

    The shirt needs to state:

    GET OFF MY IMAGINARY LAWN!!!

     

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    Mike Martinet (profile), Aug 28th, 2012 @ 2:08pm

    Chew Lookin' At?

    "AU het slash Twilight fic"...

    Wal, Au het pipple wif rechional accints.

     

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    sehlat (profile), Aug 28th, 2012 @ 2:09pm

    Re:

    Ummm. Want to say that to John Scalzi? He did "Fuzzy Nation," which is basically H. Beam Piper-based fanfic. Given his track record, I would say his street cred for "original ability" is pretty rock-solid.

     

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    SujaOfJauhnral (profile), Aug 28th, 2012 @ 2:30pm

    Re: Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead

    It's the same with crossovers! People immediately reject it because they read one or two bad ones and now think all of them are bad. Some of the BEST stories I have ever read/seen have been crossovers! Infact, they are my favorite kind of story.

    People like this just irk me.

     

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    Mike Martinet (profile), Aug 28th, 2012 @ 2:31pm

    Wow

    ...we might have arrived at a point in history where we've accumulated enough cultural material from the past for fans to remix indefinitely...

    This describes a lot of modern pop music.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2012 @ 2:33pm

    Re:

    fanfic is basically theft, I have no original ability so I will steal your creation and make up stories

    They have no originality but they have enough to make up stories? Uh, what?

     

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    SujaOfJauhnral (profile), Aug 28th, 2012 @ 2:34pm

    Re: Re: Tee shirt

    LOL

     

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    SujaOfJauhnral (profile), Aug 28th, 2012 @ 2:38pm

    Re:

    Yup. That mean anyone writes is bad too.

    Meaning Evan himself is a bad according to his own logic.


    Maybe just he's bad and leave fanfiction out of it?

     

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    Muck Bulligan, Aug 28th, 2012 @ 2:40pm

    ...so Paradise Lost by Milton is fan fiction? I guess it is if you consider the Bible to be absolutely true.

     

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    PRMan, Aug 28th, 2012 @ 2:41pm

    Re:

    "Guys like Pope and Dryden took old narratives and rewrote them to make fun of people they didn’t like"

    And Juvenal did the same with his satires in the first century AD.

     

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    SujaOfJauhnral (profile), Aug 28th, 2012 @ 2:43pm

    Re: Gah!

    But I'll tell you something, Morrison: keep your fucking "culture industry"; I find all the culture I enjoy, all the stories I love best, just by listening to and watching the people passing by my doorstoop.

    Ditto!! While you're at it Ewan, take that stick out of your ass, I've read BDSM Care Bears fics better written than 90% of the 'original' content produced by official sources. That in itself is sad. Maybe one shouldn't criticize their reflection?

     

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    SujaOfJauhnral (profile), Aug 28th, 2012 @ 2:47pm

    Re: Re:

    Don't even bother. Just bitter yodeling from trolls with no argument to make.

     

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    Thomas, Aug 28th, 2012 @ 2:51pm

    Re: Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead

    I scrolled down here to post about this, and found you're post at #1. Well done.

     

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    akp, Aug 28th, 2012 @ 2:51pm

    Whatever Mr. Morrison thinks about fanfic, it's pretty hard to defend Fifty Shades of Grey as anything worthwhile. It's not "good fanfic," it's not "just fanfic"... It's just Bad. Horribly, egregiously bad.

    By the measure of any genre, subculture or other criteria you want to apply... It's bad.

     

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    akp, Aug 28th, 2012 @ 2:56pm

    On the other hand...

    ... Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife is a really Good piece of "fan fiction"

     

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    That One Guy (profile), Aug 28th, 2012 @ 3:23pm

    Re:

    I haven't, and never will read it(not my genre of choice, I'm more of a fantasy/sci-fi person), but the fact that it's apparently doing quite well would suggest otherwise.

    Might I suggest a different idea: different people have different ideas as to what is 'bad' and what is 'good' when it comes to entertainment, and they are all correct.

     

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  44.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Aug 28th, 2012 @ 3:30pm

    Re:

    The quality of the work is irrelevant to the point.

     

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  45.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2012 @ 3:34pm

    Re:

    Or if you consider it to be fiction. Or if you consider it to be the Owner's Manual for a '98 Subaru.

    It doesn't matter what you think the Bible is. Milton took characters, settings, events, etc. from the Bible and made up his own stories about them. That's why Paradise Lost is "fan fiction".

     

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  46.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2012 @ 3:35pm

    I checked out this guys other stories on guardian and he seems like quite the entitled jerk. I also went to Amazon.com and read the descriptions of this novels, or tried to.. they sound so terrible I could not even finish reading the descriptions.

     

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  47.  
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    Watchit (profile), Aug 28th, 2012 @ 3:47pm

    Ewan must hate bronies then. Fanfics... fanfics everywhere! and we crossover with everything! In fact one of the most popular ones Fallout: Equestria is longer than war and peace. So popular that it's actually spawned fanfictions of the fanfiction o.0 and looooooots of fan art.

     

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  48.  
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    wallow-T, Aug 28th, 2012 @ 4:03pm

    The current burst of fanfic energy goes back at least 45 years, to the original Star Trek TV series, and fan-written stories distributed in mimeographed or cheaply printed fanzines. ("A fanzine is a blog with staples.") Seems a bit late to be lashing out at a spontaneous cultural form which is nearly a half-century old. The internet has simply made fanfic publishing a lot easier, just as it has made publishing political essays a lot easier.

    I know of one successful author who dabbled anonymously in Kirk/Spock love stories, and I strongly suspect that a decent number of successful science fiction and fantasy writers got their authorial feet wet in the fanfic world. (I've never followed fanfic closely myself, but I have had friends involved in the scene for many years.)

     

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  49.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2012 @ 4:05pm

    Just off the top of my head, 'The Things' by Peter Watts. Fanfic retelling of the movie The Thing from the perspective of the creature. Nominated for at least six literary awards (including the Hugo) in 2010/2011 and won at least one of them (not the Hugo). You can hear an audio adaptation of it for free on the Escape Pod podcast and judge for yourself. Whatever anyone's opinion of a specific work though, I find it difficult to take anybody seriously who makes sweeping remarks about any aspect of human endeavour being worthwhile or not.

     

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  50.  
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    silverscarcat (profile), Aug 28th, 2012 @ 4:12pm

    Re: Fanfiction Problems

    "The other problem is a more personal one. I have no idea how to find good fan fics. I've read some pretty good ones, and some terrible ones, and some I've liked better than the stories they are based off of (so much for Ewan Morrison's opinions). But I need to find a more reliable way to get to the good stuff."

    Oh, I can help!

    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/FanficRecommendations

    There you go, enjoy yourself

     

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  51.  
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    silverscarcat (profile), Aug 28th, 2012 @ 4:18pm

    Re:

    "fanfic is basically theft, I have no original ability so I will steal your creation and make up stories"

    Yes, of course it's basically theft. I mean, it in no way is free advertising for fandoms that you've never heard about and never knew were any good.

    It's not like I've ever read a fanfic, then got interested in a series because I liked the author of said fic, then looked up said series and found that I liked it...

    Nope. Never happened. *

    *Except for Ranma 1/2, Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha, Fate/Stay Night among others.

     

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  52.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2012 @ 4:53pm

    Re:

    Let's not even THINK about discussing Disney's Winnie-the-Pooh knockoffs!

     

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  53.  
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    Mega1987 (profile), Aug 28th, 2012 @ 5:18pm

    Like Ewan Morrison is not like that in his younger days, no?

    Fanfiction and it's derivatives is a way how we, the Fan, enjoy, understand and appreciate the original works.

    Enjoy-because there's so many random element in our life, you'll be surprised to see what will the character will do or react if a situation, different from the canon/original work, was introduced to the story. Or seeing a badass poses that the official artworks that was never made. Or even a Hell lot better version of a music made from remix. And some might even invoke rule 34 somewhere, just to appease certain people...

    Understand-It gives nearly anyone who don't know the series some what an outline of what just happened in the original works, especially if the fanfic follows the station of the canon/the original plotline. Even with certain discrepancies like Original Characters joining the cast, crossovers and/or different choices/actions was made was thrown into the mix but the true essence of the story is remained untouched.

    Appreciate-If we, the Fans, like something, it's gonna be spread first to everyone we know who'll like the story. Without us Fans, Your story will rot in whatever storage you place them. No matter how good is that original works if there's no one appreciate it, other than the creators/publisher, then the expecting fame and fortune will be nothing more than just a dream that you can't reach.

     

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  54.  
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    Mega1987 (profile), Aug 28th, 2012 @ 5:24pm

    Re:

    But that doesn't mean we can get a nice doze of CRACK fanfiction from a bad writing for some barrels of laughs...

    around a truck-full if that crack is THAT good. XD

     

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  55.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2012 @ 6:11pm

    Re: Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead

    " Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead -- is nothing more than "fan fiction" around Hamlet, picking up on the lives of two minor characters. And yet, it's considered a classic by many."

    So wait, all that Disney stuff... is it a rip off or a classic?

    Seriously though, you are taking the case of a book written about characters long since in the public domain, and trying to use that as a justification for people who use characters, settings, and often the "universe" defined by the original author.

    Most fan fiction isn't based on 300-400 year old characters, is it? You are being somewhat misleading going there.

     

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    Watchit (profile), Aug 28th, 2012 @ 6:39pm

    Re: Re: Fanfiction Problems

    Wow, am I glad I have a lot of free time tonight. I'm gonna need it! :D thx

     

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  57.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2012 @ 6:43pm

    Well, 50 shades of grey is... 50 shades of grey. That particular fanfic is hard to defend in terms of "Being well written" and not "Bella x Edward dominatrix wankfic".

     

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  58.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2012 @ 6:47pm

    Is he for real?

    When someone says something like "enchanted duplication systems of fan-based epub", I can't tell whether they're being serious or not. Maybe Morrison's just trolling us?

     

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    a science fiction fan, Aug 28th, 2012 @ 7:06pm

    The Enchanted Duplicator

    Regarding the underlying original article:

    I find it rather amazing that Ewan Morrison knows of "The Enchanted Duplicator," and yet he completely misunderstands it. (By Walt Willis and Bob Shaw, both of whom published professionally.) "The Enchanted Duplicator" was originally published (mimeographed and mailed) in the 1950s, and prior to the Internet era one was extremely unlikely to know about it outside of science fiction fandom.

    It is not "fan fiction," as that term is commonly used.

    It is a parable of the journey of a science fiction fan within the community, on the quest to publish the perfect fanzine. It has iconic status in certain portions of science fiction fandom because it so accurately captures the agony and ecstasy of amateur publishing in the pre-Internet era.

     

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  60.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2012 @ 7:13pm

    Re: Arrr

    Star trek is a cross between Forbidden planet and Wagon Train, Law & Order is a traditional cop show meshed with a traditional lawyer show, superheroes are the gods of mythology updated. You have to go back much further than your example to find non-derivative works!

     

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  61.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2012 @ 7:13pm

    Re: Arrr

    Star trek is a cross between Forbidden planet and Wagon Train, Law & Order is a traditional cop show meshed with a traditional lawyer show, superheroes are the gods of mythology updated. You have to go back much further than your example to find non-derivative works!

     

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  62.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2012 @ 7:29pm

    Re: Fanfiction Problems

    Check out the Archive of Our Own at archiveofourown.org. That should keep you busy for a while.

    I find it interesting that nobody is mentioning that fanfiction is a mostly-written-by-women-for-women activity. I sometimes wonder if there isn't a dollop of misogyny mixed into some of the hatred of fanfiction I've seen.

     

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    Divide by Zero (profile), Aug 28th, 2012 @ 8:04pm

    As a wannabe author, I'd be fucking stoked if something I wrote was popular enough to inspire fanfic. Like, ABSOLUTELY OVER THE MOON. Even if I hated any particular fanfic, the fact that someone liked my story/plot/characters/setting/whatever enough to have a go with them themselves would make me very very happy. I just don't understand authors who refuse to acknowledge (or even actively demonise) the people who are arguably their biggest fans, because I've never met a fanficcer who didn't love the source material enormously.

    Maybe Morrison is just bitter no one wants to write fanfics of his work.

     

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  64.  
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    Trevor DeBus (profile), Aug 28th, 2012 @ 8:13pm

    A Funny Thing...

    I have been looking for some new books to read on my Kindle Fire, and because of this post, found (free, because it is public domain) Edison's Conquest of Mars. Who would have thought Techdirt would empower readers to search out content. Watch out, you might get some DCMA notices if you're not careful, pirate enablers! Arrr!

     

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    Coyote (profile), Aug 28th, 2012 @ 8:30pm

    Re: Re: Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead

    Regardless of whether or not it's in the public domain, the point stands that it is, technically, fanfiction; it takes two minor characters from the book and follows their lives, presumably in the same setting as 'Hamlet.'

    Public domain does not mean it isn't fanfiction, though it can create derivative works of fiction inspired by, or perhaps taken by, the author in question.

    Also, you seem to be lumping in everything as taking characters, settings, and universe for every section of fan fiction out there, when while it is often true, does not hold true for ALL cases.

    For the most part, I'd say it is indeed fanfiction, yet still classic literature by its' own merits.

     

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  66.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2012 @ 9:47pm

    Re: Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead

    Mike Masnick, commenting on techdirt articles instead of replying to techdirt comments?

    It's more likely than you think.

     

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  67.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2012 @ 9:50pm

    It's not like officail works are always top notch.

    Take a look at dragon's lair for nes or plumber's don't wear ties on 3do.

    Meanwhile some fan fics manage to be better than the canon of the series it's a fanfic of.

     

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  68.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2012 @ 9:52pm

    Re: Re: Re: Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead

    Damn spring of drowned girl making thing all confusing!

     

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  69.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2012 @ 9:59pm

    Re: Re: Fanfiction Problems

    Wait, fanfics are written by those horrible things with vaginas?

    NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

    DAMN IT YOU RUINED IT FOR ME! PREPARE TO DIE! *starts swinging combat umbrella at other ac*

     

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  70.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2012 @ 10:00pm

    Re: Re: Re: Tee shirt

    Legends of Llamas?

     

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  71.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2012 @ 10:03pm

    Re: Re: Re: Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead

    Technically, it's fan fiction - but the difference isn't in it being fan fiction, it's the availability of those charters and that universe for copying. Using an example from the public domain isn't exactly honest - unless of course you are willing to concede that all of the Disney stuff is "fan fiction" as well...

    Sheesh!

    "Also, you seem to be lumping in everything as taking characters, settings, and universe for every section of fan fiction out there, when while it is often true, does not hold true for ALL cases. "

    Even if you take only characters, but not the universe, you are still relying on the fame and knowledge of those characters in their previous incarnation as a basis by which people can understand your writings. A fan fiction of Star Trek, example, would not require very much in the way of character development to get the show on the road, everyone knows who the characters are.

    Doing that with Copyright characters really is just lazy.

     

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  72.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2012 @ 10:03pm

    Re: Arrr

    Reminds me of a personal website that had "world war II fanfiction" Many an lol wut was had that day

     

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  73.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2012 @ 10:04pm

    Re: Re:

    Evan's naughty and needs to be fifty shades of spanked

     

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  74.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2012 @ 10:07pm

    Re: Re:

    Yeah, there's a lot of fanfiction that provides entertainment value because they're so terrible.

    With the term "so bad it's good" being a thing it's amazing that people think only quality works provide value

     

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  75.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2012 @ 10:12pm

    Re: Re:

    I have gotten interested in various manga and anime stuff after reading about them in fanfiction crossovers with ranma 1/2.

     

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    Watchit (profile), Aug 28th, 2012 @ 10:55pm

    Re: Re: Fanfiction Problems

    I think it depends on the fandom really, and the type of fanfic. For the Twilight fandom, having mostly female writers would be true. But, if we look at for say the Battletech fandom? Hugely male based there.

     

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    Watchit (profile), Aug 28th, 2012 @ 10:59pm

    Re:

    ^My sentiments exactly, right here.

     

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    The eejit (profile), Aug 29th, 2012 @ 12:20am

    Re: Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead

    Yes. I want to refer you to a story poseted on a Final Fantasy forum I frequented (called The Sniper) hich was an incredibly dark retelling of the FFVIII story...and was written by a 13-year-old as a thought ecercise.

    And it was good. That same author has a few others dotted around the web and she was incredibly inventive with her derivative work.

     

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    PaulT (profile), Aug 29th, 2012 @ 12:53am

    Re: Re: Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead

    So, what's your specific complaint here? Is it a major problem that Mike has stated an opinion on an article he didn't write? Or is there some bullshit comment you wanted a reply to and he hasn't graced your lies and distortions with a response on this occasion?

     

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  80.  
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    PaulT (profile), Aug 29th, 2012 @ 1:01am

    Re: Re: Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead

    "Most fan fiction isn't based on 300-400 year old characters, is it? You are being somewhat misleading going there."

    No, as ever you're the one who's being misleading.

    What's the actual complaint you have about fan fiction? If the complaint is that it's "lazy" or that the creation of fan fiction inevitably leads to lower quality work as a result, then the age of the original is irrelevant. Even if Stoppard chose a work that's been in the public domain for hundreds of years, the actual process of creating it was the same as if he'd chosen to make a James Bond or Star Wars fanfic instead. There's legal differences in his ability to do this, but creatively there's no difference whatsoever.

    So, why the nitpicking? If I've misread your comments, please feel free to explain them.

    "So wait, all that Disney stuff... is it a rip off or a classic?"

    That's sort of the point - it can be both.

     

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  81.  
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    Julian Perez, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 3:36am

    Re:

    Would that successful author friend of yours happen to be Della van Hise, by any chance?

    http://fanlore.org/wiki/Della_Van_Hise

     

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  82.  
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    Craig, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 3:45am

    Elitism

    Ewan is elitism at its worst. He thinks that any derivative work such as fan fiction is a pale imitation or at worst a corruption of the original narrative. His thinking is that the original author is on the pedestal and his ideas come on high to the unwashed masses. If any of these masses then wants to use the ideas that are presented they corrupt the original narrative the author has created. Fan fiction may at times be inferior to the original but there can be gems in it. Fifty Shades of Grey is an example. This book resonates with readers. That is the point. If it doesn't have meaning to the readers then it doesn't mean anything. Fifty Shades might just be cotton candy, but it does enhance the experience of the reader whether it is derivative of Twilight or not.

     

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    Exegetic, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 5:06am

    Now, I'm not one to put too much stock in the bible...

    ...but technically it must be said that it's been verified to have been written well before the middle ages.
    Not that that's a big thing or anything... but if you're going to spurt nonsense, try spurting nonsense that's at least semi-correct.

     

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    silverscarcat (profile), Aug 29th, 2012 @ 6:05am

    Re: Re: Re:

    you too, huh?

    Glad to know that I'm not the only one.

     

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  85.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 6:18am

    "Back then, no one was creative. Everyone just stole ideas from everyone else. It was just one big swirling miasma of derivative characters occupying the same roles. No one exercised any kind of real creativity because of this. It makes sense right?"

    Isn't that what we do still?
    We always "steal" ideas.. I think the real issue is that if people just copied and copied but never used it to make new results.. Wait, unless you mean that.

    But anyway, culture in the dark ages did that (Copy from somewhere) and made a future of patterns all based on the past.. And we still do this. It's just now we have Intellectual "Property" laws trying to stop the nature of that.

    I also think it's creative to make up a new story for someone in a book or so. Because it can help you make new ideas.. If that isn't creative, then nothing is. Since there really is no originality. And in a way, we always "Used something from somewhere else".


    By the way, I sometimes love "Fan-Fiction" even though everything might be that. I hope a lot of stories, characters, etc goes into the Public Domain someday. :P
    Although there is one thing, I heard you can't Copyright characters (Names), but you could sometimes trademark there name...

     

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  86.  
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    Dave Xanatos, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 6:37am

    Re: Re: Fanfiction Problems

    Crap. There goes my productivity.

     

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  87.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 7:06am

    Re: Re: Re: Fanfiction Problems

    You''ll notice that Battletech fandom, big as it might be, is dwarfed by the size of Twilight fandom. Women invented media fandom with Man from Uncle and Star Trek circuit stories and fanzines and continue to dominate the thing they invented to this day. It would be ridiculous to say that men don't write any fanfiction, but their numbers are low, even now, compared to women. Not all but most fandoms are dominated quite heavily by women when it comes to writing. That said, when it comes to monetizing the activity, men have always left women in the dust--I consider Neil Gaiman a Fannish writer who has been great at making his fanfic pay! Women write for free. Maybe women will finally learn the lesson of how to make their fanfic pay with the example set by Fifty Shades.

     

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  88.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 7:14am

    Semi-correction for the article. Slash isn't male/male, it's same sex. Janeway/7 of 9 would be slash as well, though it would often get the modifier "femme" in front of it, as in "femme slash". But you could still just call it slash and get away with it.

     

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  89.  
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    Jeremy Lyman (profile), Aug 29th, 2012 @ 7:18am

    Re: Overprotectionism

    The term "culture industries" really jumped out at me in Ewan's rant, and I have a huge problem both with its use and the philosophy behind it. Essentially it says "We will create the culture and let the plebes look at it when we're ready; for a price."

    This "hands off, professionals only" concept certainly began to rise as Ewan suggests with the advent of copyright, however it bastardizes the original intent from "You can earn" to "Only those who earn". Take a look a the evolution of IP laws over the last 600 years, they're mostly a battle of privileged "owners" of culture battling technology that would enable the engagement and contribution of "unsanctioned" public masses.

    But that isn't the way culture works, it is not a commodity held by the few, packaged up and doled out as a finished product. It is a collaboration and interaction of every individual expression of freedom and identity... Which surely must be disappointing to "culture industries".

     

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  90.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 7:25am

    Re: A Funny Thing...

    You can download fanfic in many e-reader formats at archiveofourown.org, mobi included.

     

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  91.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 7:31am

    Re: A Funny Thing...

    You can download fanfic in many e-reader formats at archiveofourown.org, mobi included.

     

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  92.  
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    Jeremy Lyman (profile), Aug 29th, 2012 @ 7:43am

    Re: dictionary

    I imagine he means a "professional author" could not exist before copyright. Which may be true depending on further semantic wriggling on whether benefactors sponsored "professional authors" or merely extremely talented "normal" authors. The same could be said of painters, surely most of the greatest painters in history were not professionals.

    Which confirms that "professional" is not a measure of talent, as I think Ewan believes, only that their primary motivation is money. (Wasn't sell-out a derisive term indicating compromised artistic integrity for money?) Surely there are many talented "authors" and even more untalented "professional authors".

     

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  93.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 8:19am

    Re:

    I triplify this notion

     

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  94.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 8:22am

    Re: Re: Re: Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead

    Don't assume I'm compaining.

    It's just I don't often see him commenting on here unless he's debating.

    Was surprised is all

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 8:23am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead

    Cpomplaining not complaining!

    I need to proofread more often. :/

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 1:06pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead

    "Just" lazy implies that there's no reason someone would rather create or read fanfiction about, say, their favorite movie, tv show or book. We live in a world where pretty much all of our culture is copyrighted. To say that to be inspired by copyrighted culture is "just lazy", you're saying that to be inspired at all is lazy. Unless, of course, you only find inspiration in the distant past.

     

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    Keroberos (profile), Aug 29th, 2012 @ 1:46pm

    Re: Gah!

    The "culture industries can do whatever they want, human culture will get along just fine without them (just as it did in the past).

     

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    Keroberos (profile), Aug 29th, 2012 @ 1:50pm

    Re:

    Fiction is basically theft, I have no original ability so I will steal your creation and make up stories
    FTFY

     

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  99.  
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    PaulT (profile), Aug 29th, 2012 @ 2:05pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead

    "Cpomplaining not complaining!

    I need to proofread more often. :/"

    Lol :)

    Seriously though, fair enough. But, he actually does take part in conversation but he may miss some threads. I do too, I haven't been on here for nearly a week due to film festival attendance and a few other things I spend craploads of money on. Then I come back here to be accused of wanting everything for free, of course...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  100.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2012 @ 11:48pm

    Re:

    You clearly don't understand what motivates people to write fanfiction.

    It's not that fanfic writers have no ideas of their own, they just love a series so much that they devote time to writing stories with their favorite characters.

    Plus you contridicted yourself there. You can't make up stories if you have no original abilities :P

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  101.  
    identicon
    Patent Attorney, Aug 30th, 2012 @ 8:38am

    Inspiration

    Authors get inspiration from other authors. The only differences are that NOW, a) more people are reading and b) more people are able to write in response.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  102.  
    identicon
    Sheogorath, Sep 2nd, 2012 @ 1:04am

    Fanfiction is asinine

    The Dovahkiin's Soliloquy.

    To kill Cicero, or not to kill Cicero? That is the question: Whether 'tis saner in the mind to suffer the pains and trials of outrageous wisecracks, or to take arms against a sea of riddles, and by opposing, end them. To die, to sleep no more. For during sleep, would I not be confronted by the Wrath of Sithis, that most faithful and insidious of all the Night Mother's agents? Would I not face the condemnation of Sithis himself after my death? Yet how am I to keep hearing the same tired nonsense from that jester and not become insane myself? How can I laugh when he sings about burning bards and still retain my fragile grasp on reality? Is he truly a servant of the Night Mother, or a lackey of Sheogorath's? It is because of him that I sometimes do not know the difference between a hobby and a handsaw, no matter the direction from which the wind is blowing. Alas, poor Cicero. I knew him, Veezara; a killer of infinite jest, and a fellow of most putrescent fancy. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!

    Copyright © 2012 Romersa's Protégé. Individuals and groups are free to copy and share this work for non-commercial purposes. All other rights reserved.
    (Adapted from 'Hamlet's Soliloquy'; Public Domain. Produced under licence from Bethesda Softworks.)

    OMG, I totally ripped off both Shakespeare AND BethSoft! I am SUCH a crappy writer I might as well give up and shoot myself in the head! *Shuffles to the corner and stands facing it, whimpering like a whipped puppy.*
    For anyone who doesn't think the above piece was crap, you can find the rest of my works on FFN, all featuring highly original writing, by searching for Walks-in-Shadows as the author name.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  103.  
    identicon
    Sheogorath, Sep 2nd, 2012 @ 1:11am

    Re: Fanfiction is asinine

    I meant to say in my original comment that I am a crappy and unoriginal writer. Sorry for the omission. *Takes off the safety catch.*

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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