No, I am not writing fan fiction.
I never have, but I have certainly read some in my time. For those who do not know (and there are a lot of people who don’t) fan fiction is an activity whereby you use the characters/setting/worlds of a tv show, movie or book and write your own. Sometimes they even surpass the original. Many years ago I read an article that implied Star Trek was one of the original sources of fan fiction, and of the sub genre known as “slash” (not about the GnR guitarist-sorry).
This fascinates me, and also helps demonstrate one my pet theories. Generally good fan fiction comes from sub par development of tv and movies. The fans fill in the back stories and lives of their favorite characters. Star Trek- while a revolutionary tv series etc etc, is not the best character development tv show ever. Hence obsessive fans filled in the gaps. And since one of my favorite writers (Lois McMaster Bujold) started out her writing life by doing so, I can’t say it is all bad. In a way I am impressed by the dedication of the people who wrote and “published” these stories- pre web, pre fax and pretty much pre home computer. They really loved those characters.
But the tv show was cancelled (all the more reason to keep Kirk and Spock going in their imagination)and people found new sources of fan obsessiveness. Star Wars- another good story that kind of has wooden characters. Once again- impressed (and disturbed) by the dedication.
Then the internets arrived. People suddenly found whole groups of people to obsess with- I mean if the collectors of beanie babies could find each other, the people who wrote stories about Kirk and Han solo definitely could. And they found an audience. Boom!
Now there are many sites dedicated to fan fiction now. More than you want to know.
Slash fiction is primarily about relationships between two male characters as in “Han/Luke”. For some reason this is really appealing to fan fiction writers, who are mainly straight females. No, no idea why. I will comment that women seem to demonstrate their fandom by writing fan fiction, men by dressing up in strange costumes and creating fake languages. Interesting.
One of the theories behind the mostly female writing of slash is it is to give the male characters a fuller emotional life. I don’t know. It is not my favoured area of fan fiction, so haven’t really thought much about it.
Anyway there is fan fiction for many things. Dawson’s Creek, Harry Potter, Buffy, and House. Also Full House!? Some is good. Some is written by 13 year old fan girls who don’t understand plot, grammar or spelling. It hurts the eyes and scars the brain. Some involves relationships that you want to scrub out of your brain with a wire brush. (no not telling you- it hurts.) If you haven’t dipped into this weird world, it can be amusing. No really. And I think it can help beginning writers learn, up to a point. After that you really need to write your own characters and your own plot.
I don’t have issues with most of the internet fan fiction writers. They have a hobby, it isn’t hurting anyone and they freely acknowledge that the characters are not theirs. Its the legitimised fan fic I have issues with.
You know the spin off novels- the carry ons. Star Trek has had these for years, they get done for many of the teen and tween shows (we bought Greg’s niece Ava a set of Hannah Montana books for Christmas), and they are used to revitalise the franchise (hello Star Wars and Timothy Zahn). The problem I have with these is that they really can’t do much with the characters- they have to keep them intact for the next tv season. At least the fans can write a story where Mulder and Scully get married in Vegas- the writers of the X files spin off novels can’t interfere with the storyline of the whole series. It is kind of like the antithesis of fan fiction- the characters have to stay even more flat and wooden than the show or movie they are based on. Bujold actually has talked about how when she was asked to write an “official” Star Trek novel she turned it down- it’s someone else’s wold, and their rules.
The only place this doesn’t apply is books. Everyone wants a sequel to Gone with the Wind, or Pride and Prejudice- and because the authors are dead, they get to write what they want. At least the Tolkien estate was smart. No One can write about Middle Earth.
My current pet peeve is the Pride & Prejudice brigade. There are some good ones- like Joan Aiken- ho understand the period and the style and manage to write about peripheral characters, yet fill in the lines about the main ones. Then there are the books like the one I bought last week. Stupid me for not reading enough. The woman who wrote it started a fan fiction page because she loved the Keira Knightley movie so much she had to continue the story. (Gah, mistake one and two- the movie! and if you are going to write fan fic about a filmed production, at least have the wisdom to write about the Colin Firth mini series! ;-)) Then she got a publishing contract and the book I bought was the second book about the Darcy’s married life. Complete with sex scenes. I can quite put into words why this hurts, but it does.
And it is not the only one- there is a whole industry of people out there writing these books. Getting the language wrong, and making Elizabeth a feminist ( sorry but she really isn’t) and a whole host of 21st century attitudes. And so poorly written and observed in comparison to the original. And they are books. Why? Please leave poor defenseless Jane Austen alone.