The Tolkien Estate recently changed their copyright, stating that under no circumstances may a person “create materials which refer to the characters, stories, places, events or other elements contained in any of Tolkien’s work”. Close on the heels of this announcement came the importing of The Library of Moria fanfiction archive into the Archive of Our Own network; an archive with a legal team that works to protect the content hosted there.
This isn’t the first time that an author or estate has laid down the law regarding the creation of fan content under the arguments of copyright and protecting the integrity of the original work. Authors like Anne McCaffrey and Anne Rice have well-remembered conflicts revolving around fanfiction of their books – but what is the future of fan works in a world of cease-and-desists, DMCAs and fiercely-protected copyright claims? The majority of fanfiction and other fan work is created and consumed for free out of a passion for the source material. Is it an estate or author’s right to ban the creation of any and all fan content in the name of ‘integrity’?
Whoever decides to write about this topic, I highly recommend they look at Japan's doujinshi (self-published) community. Many fans will self-publish their own fan-faction of popular franchises, and it is not that big of a deal. Even when the content is NSFW no one makes that big of a deal. It is even encouraged by some creators. The artist for Dragon Ball Super Toyotarou actually started out as a Doujinshi artist for Dragon Ball and was eventually chosen by Akira Toriyama to continue the Dragon Ball series officially. I think it would be interesting to see a compare and contrast of these two different approaches to handling the fan-fiction community. – Blackcat13011 months ago
There is also something to be said about the idea of commissioning fanfiction. The idea of paying someone to write about other copyrighted characters and franchises is debatable and interesting when it comes to trying to figure out whether or not doing so impacts the artists integrity or not. Is it wrong to pay someone that is not affiliated with certain works to make something with the same characters or even the same universe? – Belle10 months ago
Fanfiction is just as much creating as an original story. I think people underestimate fanfiction and fanfiction writers. Sometimes they can create much more amazing things then canon, something more fleshed out and with less holes. In a way fanfiction writers are creating their own world just with familiar characters. – amalhameed6 months ago
While writing fanfiction can be time better spent on one’s own original creative endeavours, are there benefits? I’ve read fanfics that have elevated original works in interesting ways, showing a deep understanding for characterisation, narrative structure, and significantly, the pitfalls those original works might have fallen into. So, can writing fanfiction teach us to be critical and inventive in *what* we write, therefore benefiting how we construct our own original works? Or can its normalisation of appropriation do more harm than good? (Then again, what goes in a post-modern society?)
I get that you're referring more to "artistic benefits" than "financial benefits," but the author might find this helpful nonetheless: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CsTN5ZUnypQ – ProtoCanon5 years ago
When writing on this topic, it will be helpful to think about how writing fanfiction is a stepping stone to becoming a real author, if that's your goal. Although one does not have to create their own characters or setting, the story line is completely up to them and by having already existing characters, it helps the writing to narrow down exactly what the fanfiction will be about.
– Mandymay1235 years ago
Like many things, FanFiction does have benefits, but when writing on this topic, make sure to emphasise how some negatives can impact the writer and how the writer can improve on them. For example, FanFiction writers generally forget to describe the character in detail - and if you plan to write your own work in the future, getting into the habit of skimming your writing isn't great. Make sure the reader is aware of the negatives and in turn knowing the negatives can be beneficial. – DylanThomas5 years ago
I think Fanfiction is a very helpful way to step into writing for those who don’t know where to start however, there are negatives: ie. using other people’s characters and settings can detriment creativity to an extent. – AshTrenwith5 years ago
This is a really interesting question and it actually falls in line with some research I'm currently doing so my PhD. I think to just tack on to what the previous people have commented, pros and cons are key. It can certainly help people develop their own skills, researching and developing characters, practicing structuring stories, experimenting with styles etc. I think it might be helpful also to think about how AUs allow fanfiction authors some real creative freedom to take previously existing characters into whole new worlds of their own. And note how many ideas that originated as fanfiction have gone on to be successful. Dare I say Fifty Shades of Grey? Its not a great example but its there. Plus, a number of published YA writers have started as fanfiction authors. (Cassandra Clare for instance has at least three successful series and a popular tv adaptation now). However, of course I think it's important to note its limitations. As someone already noted, in your own work you can't take the readership's existing knowledge of the characters or worlds for granted. The question of whether people get stuck into certain fanfiction tropes might also be interesting (how many coffee shop AUs are there?). Also, and I don't know if this would be too much of a sidetrack, but perhaps it may be worth thinking about the ethical issues with some fanfiction - real person fiction for instance can be a bit of an iffy thing. – BethLJones5 years ago
A fanfiction is defined as a fiction written by a fan of, and featuring particular characters of, a particular TV series, film etc. When a novel series graduates to the big screen or a popular franchise gets rebooted, the series is arguably getting a re-work by someone who is presumably a fan of the original work. A contemporary example could include David Benioff and D. B. Weiss adapting "A Song of Ice and Fire" as a TV series, eventually pursuing beyond the source material. Another might be Christopher Nolan’s re-envisioning of the classic Batman character through the Dark Knight trilogy. Taking into account the degree of deviation from the original work, could these series’ be considered fanfiction? At what point can a professionally produced piece of film be considered a simple interpretation of fiction by a fan?
An interesting thought process. Now that I think about it, adaptations and reboots can definitely be considered as a form of fanfiction. After all, who amongst us hasn't pictured a book or a movie or any form of art in our own way in our heads? When book to movie adaptations play out differently from what we imagined, we react with shock and sometimes anger. Reboots and adaptations can be the personal perception of a piece of art, which may differ from the original content. This makes me wonder if fan made films should be taken more seriously. Yes, they may not have the resources to produce a film of the same quality as a professional film, but essentially the creators of fan-made films and professional films come from the same place-a love for a piece of work and a desire to see it played out the way they want it to. – SheWhoMustNotBeNamed5 years ago
Fifty Shades of Grey originated as a fanfiction online of the Twilight series in an alternate universe. It’s escalated into its own franchise. Other online writers have the same hopes for their fanfictions. But is this kind of writing appropriate and is it right that authors get to literally take other characters and rename them to make it into an entire new series, sometimes not as well-written?
Who is a "real writer?" In this day and age, isn't it anyone who writes and publishes something, whether traditionally, through self-publishing, or online? – Stephanie M.6 years ago
You can tie this into how English majors or people who go to college for this craft are for or against it as well. I am a fellow English Major and I think all writing is good writing, across all mediums. But, I am sure people out there things the opposite of that. Such as people who write Fanfiction don't and have no gone to school for the craft and etc., not sure if that would work but something to think about on the con side of things. – S C6 years ago
George RR Martin touched on this topic too, on his LiveJournal (he links to Diana Gabaldon's thoughts on the matter as well: http://grrm.livejournal.com/151914.html) There are many sides to this issue -- most professional writers (like GRRM) seem to be less supportive of fanfiction as a concept, whereas others are more sympathetic (like Cassandra Clare). I suppose one's relationship to fanfiction boils down to one's intent: is it better to spend your precious writing hours on someone's pre-established work, or breaking something original? – bloom6 years ago
I would say that fan fiction is just as much real writing as anything. Why? Because there are several ways for one to write, to be inspired, and to create a world. Sometimes it takes one's own version of the story to birth and even greater tale, however until we try, nothing is for certain. Articles: https://www.bustle.com/articles/71438-13-things-fan-fiction-writers-are-very-tired-of-explaining https://psmag.com/fan-fiction-the-next-great-literature-15c99a34d49c#.bq4yb2jb9 – Autumn Edwards6 years ago
I definitely agree with Autumn Edwards on this topic. I would say fan fic is for real writers because in its most basic form, it is a story. Who says that one can't take some aspects from a different story and create something new, or even add on to a story? Writing is writing (as long as it is not infringing on copyright/publishing/plagiarism issues) but fan fic is for real writers and I think that if it IS good enough that it could have some literary merit. – AlbusBloodworthe6 years ago
I agree with Stephanie's comment: it's about quality, not genre. Regarding bloom's comment, professional writers have a conflict of interest, so their weigh-in begs a grain of salt. I would disagree with S C that all writing is good, but, again, wholeheartedly agree that form/genre does not determine quality. – Tigey6 years ago
The issue isn't whether fanfiction is 'real' or not; the issue is that it's wrong to profit off of someone else's work. That's worse than bad writing; that's plagiarism, that's theft. – Sarai6 years ago
As a former fanfic lover, I say that writing is writing. Yes, most fanfics are empty writing fueled by obsessions and fantasies, but fanfiction has the same potential to be good writing. It just depends on who's writing it and with what purpose because think about it, a good story started out as an idea from the writer's imagination... Fanfiction starts out the same way but with already existing background information. A perfect example is the One Direction fanfiction "After" that started out as a wattpad favorite, and is now published and successful. – ValentinaRueda6 years ago
Funnily enough, I actually wrote a blog post discussing this very topic with Fantasy author M.E.Vaughan. While the blog post provides a more in-depth discussion, the long and short of it is that every writer is different. Some see fan-fiction as a helpful tool, whilst others see it as a distraction or, worse, an insult to an original creators work. Whomever decides to write this must keep on mind that, really, there is no such thing as a "Real Writer." There is only the expectation of what I writer should be doing which, when you look at it, is a very subjective and heavily debated topic.
Here's a link to the post, if you're interested in the more in-depth view: https://whywordswork.wordpress.com/2016/08/02/fan-fiction-creative-practice-or-creative-procrastination-featuring-m-e-vaughan/ – ERHollands6 years ago
I think fan fiction has its purpose. A lot of a lot of literary assignments spanning elementary to college is fan fiction. In one of my last college projects I changed the ending of AI. Got a B. Also isn't a lot of science fiction tie-ins work inspired by its source material? – lisa826 years ago
The standard tense that most novels are written in appears to be past tense but more recently, especially in amateur writing like fanfiction, there is a shift towards writing in present tense. Why is it shifting?
Perhaps it is due to the immediacy and the ability to better characterize in the moment that lends itself well to the fast-paced, character-driven structure of fanfiction.
It would be interesting to look at this shift and see if it enhances the writing, if these stories tend to be more popular, and then perhaps compare fanfiction to its published counterpart. Is this same trend happening in novels? If so, why? Does it say anything about the current media-consuming generation’s predilections and preferences in story telling?
You need to be very careful with this topic not to fall too much into personalised opinion! It is a difficult subject as writers might just choose their tense for style or by preference - there might not be enough behind it to build a whole article! But definitely worth exploring :) – Rachel Elfassy Bitoun6 years ago
I hate (present tense, ongoing) reading present tense and, even worse, listening to present tense. "So then he goes..." is just a cheap way to try to make a story interesting. It's either worth telling or it's not and present tense sets off my bs detector that someone's trying far too hard to get me on board. I'll pass. – Tigey6 years ago
It's interesting you bring this up and I suppose I've noticed this too in fanfic vs non. I believe you're right, when it comes to fanfic it's the immediacy, people want to put themselves in the moment. It's less exciting when everything is in past tense so the reader looking for a thrill knows everything is already resolved. Does the tense matter to people and on that note, does the perspective? I recently started writing a novel and am playing with tenses. First person present tense is most engaging and probably easy for amateur writers but does third person present-tense work the same way? Do we care about first person past-tense unless it's an autobiography of someone famous we already care about, would that get boring? Finding a published paper on the popularity of published work and which tense/perspective they used would be very insightful. – Slaidey6 years ago
The wildly popular Fifty Shades trilogy was initially written as Twilight fanfiction. Does this create issues related to originality or creativity? Should there be legal ramifications when a "published fanfiction" becomes as popular as Fifty Shades did? What lines are drawn to differentiate between these two series? Were enough lines drawn between the two? (The relationship between these two series are used as an example– if any other series exist with a similar relationship, feel free to use those instead.)
I haven't read either of these series before. But through osmosis, I believe I've been able to gather that while both series have a similar structure in regards to the development of the relationship between the two protagonists in each, and a similar atmosphere, the respective stories and the routes they travel on are completely unrelated to one another. The names, settings, situations, and general focus of each are entirely different, so I wouldn't think one could officially stake any legal claim to Fifty Shades of Gray being a knock-off or something, because it's different enough that it isn't even Parody, it's its own thing. However, I do believe there are more appropriate examples where the two works are so entirely similar that one could suggest a legal issue could arise. But one does have to be very careful when dealing with that sort of thing, because anybody is capable of coming up with an idea someone else already did, completely autonomously. Two unrelated people, who never met each other, or saw each other's work before, could come up with the exact same idea. It happened with the movie camera, and the telephone. So it can certainly happen with anything else. – Jonathan Leiter7 years ago
I took a class on fanfiction and this was brought up and the only thing that made Fifty Shade not a fanfic and it's own series was the profit. That's really all the difference is that differentiates fanfic from fic-fic or a spin-off is it's acceptance, popularity and revenue. Fanfic isn't supposed to make any money lest they be infringing on creative property so if you just change the names.. presto! "New story." It's hard to draw the line, really, because nothing is original anymore, every plot line has been done somewhere, you just have to take the old and package it a different way. – Slaidey7 years ago
I'm doing NaNoWriMo right now, and many tips I read from fellow writers involve borrowing certain ideas/themes from your favourite books/films, even just to get out of a block. Ultimately, all literature is influenced by life events and things you've watched/read. Arguably, the only difference between books published that started as fanfiction and "normal" books could be that the fanfiction authors admit their outside influences. That could be a perspective to explore with this topic. – Laura Jones7 years ago
I think the wild success of 50 Shades of Grey was certainly something unpredictable, and I believe that the major profit it made is concerning, considering it was blatantly (and admittedly) a fan fiction of another popular series. Fan-fiction fits it's name - fiction made by fans, for fans. It isn't an original product in it's essence, it uses characters created by others, no matter how good the author is in developing plots, it's still based on the work of other's. There was hardly enough lines drawn between Twilight and 50 Shades to make it it's own creative work, in my opinion. – Kathryn Connolly7 years ago
If I remember correctly, there was a time a few years ago when Square Enix (the video game publisher famous for the Final Fantasy series) was actually looking for fanfiction for contest submissions. Nowadays, it's easy to find actual contests/competitions for fanfiction. Some offer monetary rewards, some offer gift cards, and some simply offer recognition and "badges" for the site. Regardless, it's safe to say that published fanfiction as a whole is an emerging market in the publishing industry--one that should be watched carefully, as I think it will soon make its own name for itself as legitimate literature in ways. Good topic idea! – Christina Legler7 years ago