By Rachel Krueger
Diana Gabaldon either needs to stop writing such effortlessly good historical fiction, or she needs to keep her ignorant viewpoints on fan fiction to herself, because I am having trouble reconciling my shameless adoration of her Outlander series with my urge to kill her blog with fire.
Ditto goes for George Double-R Martin, whose Song of Ice and Fire series I love with unfettered (now somewhat fettered) glee, and whose screed against fan fiction is less inflammatory than Gabaldon’s but who still uses dubious bogeymen to assert that fanfic = author-poison. Gabaldon has since called off her anger monkeys and removed her post (and subsequent posts [and predictable onslaught of furious comments]), opting instead for a a Pleez Don’ Fan My Fic policy on her official site. Martin has let his stand.
Leaving aside as unworthy of comment Gabaldon’s sweeping blanket descriptions of fanfic as porny (it’s as porny as the internet, which is to say, a lot but not entirely and with much else to recommend it), DGal’s, GRRRRRRM’s, and any other author’s repeated cries that It Mustn’t Be Done are like so much shouting into a hurricane. The internet is an inexorable sandbox, and everyone has a play space. Insisting people shouldn’t write fanfic is like insisting 16-year olds shouldn’t stage renditions of If You Wanna Be My Lover in their cousin’s backyard (say). Ees gonna happen.
But just because it’s doomed to happen doesn’t mean we need to quietly accept it, you say? Isn’t there valor in fighting a righteous but losing battle? Mayhaps. But it is only so much wasted energy when your enemy hurts exactly no one, especially not the authors whose work they are advertising for free. Fanfiction does not dent sales the way a cheap ereader might make me think twice about a Kindle (I’m a-lookin’ at you, Kobo); there’s no way reading Jamie and Claire go to Mars is going to make me pass up on Outlander: Original Sauce.
Because sometimes, yes, fanfic gets published and people make teh moneys. Blogger Aja Romano has compiled a list of literary and filmic works that rip off other works, to greater or lesser (but mostly acclaimed) success, among them Geraldine Brooks’ March which fanfics off of Little Women, and the no-end-in-sight collection of ‘Jane Austen meets gimmicky monster’ novels. But who’s going to read March who hasn’t already read Little Women? Contrariwise, how many people now have increased sense and sensibility, due to the application of a few sea monsters?
There are obviously more legal snakes on this plane than addressable here, but one of the more harped-on frights is that if an author cops to being aware of fan pieces, said author ostensibly loses the ability to later fight those pieces. Author Catherynne M. Valente, who sees fanfic as the sincerest form of flattery, offers an absurdly basic solution to this problem: don’t read them. Ignorance is bliss, both rhetorically and legally.
It may be worth noting at this point that both Gabaldon and Martin take a heinous long time between books and may be suffering from Absent Boyfriend Syndrome (in this metaphor, Fanfic becomes the gentleman of dubious but available quality who moves in on the forlorn and abandoned fan). In which case, relax, my darlings. Fanfiction and I were just making out a little, while I waited for you to stop embarrassing me like this.