Contented Reader

just point me toward the nearest library

What is fan fiction?

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Twice in the last month, I’ve encountered people having serious arguments about fan fiction, and what it is.  “How do you decide what is and isn’t fan fiction?”  the defenders say.  “How can you say that ‘Grendel’ isn’t fan fiction in the ‘Beowulf’ universe?  My Star Trek story has legitimate literary merit; who is anyone to say that it is mere ‘fan fiction’ when Star Trek novels are on the self at the Borders?

(ARE Star Trek novels still on the shelf at Borders?  I read them like they were popcorn in 1989, but that was a long time ago, and I haven’t looked for any lately.  I suppose whatever is on the shelf at Borders today is on deep deep discount in the closeout sale, anyway.)

I will now definitively solve the question, so no one else will need to debate it.

It stops being ‘fan fiction’ when it is published by a legitimate publisher.

When a publisher pays you to write it, you are no longer a ‘fan,’ but a ‘professional writer.’  So it is no longer ‘fan fiction,’ but ‘media tie-in.’

‘Legitimate publisher’ means no, Lulu doesn’t count.  And releasing it yourself as an e-book definitely doesn’t count.  Not even if you have a fan base who loved it on your blog.  Just because it’s available on Amazon doesn’t make you a published writer.

No, that doesn’t mean your fan fiction is bad.  There’s good fan fiction.  There’s some very good fan fiction out there.  And when you’re a fan writer, you aren’t accountable to anyone else, and can write solely to please yourself.  Don’t fight over terminology.  Yes, if you aren’t published, you’re writing fan fiction.  Embrace it.  Love it.  Love the freedom it gives- after all, you know that the copyright holders wouldn’t license that amazing trilogy of Doctor Who/ Doctor Horrible erotic novels you are writing.  You have the freedom to do that because you are writing fan fiction.  Go.  Have fun.

(I just made up the Doctor Who/ Doctor Horrible erotic novels, assuming that they do not exist.  However, Rule 34 makes me afraid to search and find out.  If it turns out they don’t exist, then, under Rule 34A, I have a responsibility to the Internet to create them, and I don’t think I am up to it.)

To sum up:  If it isn’t published, it’s ‘fan fiction,’ no matter how good it is.  If it’s published, it isn’t ‘fan fiction,’ no matter how bad it is.  Self-publishing doesn’t count until you win a major award.


Written by Contented Reader

August 1, 2011 at 7:38 pm

Posted in Opinions


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